Monday, April 15, 2019

Debunkery - The "Compensating" Edition

Let’s look at some more conservative misinformation, harvested in the wild from my Facebook timeline.
This came with the caption: "Don’t think this can’t happen in the USA."

This can absolutely happen in the USA, but not for the reason the poster is inferring. (I presume the author thinks it’s a Muslim or immigration issue, but I could be wrong.)

In the top two segments, the real cause is religious extremism coming into power. It just so happens that these were both predominantly Muslim countries, so the result was Muslim extremism.

Here at home, this is already beginning with Christian extremism. Look no further than the draconian abortion laws passed in Ohio, Mississippi and Georgia, which translate into banning abortions before many women even know they’re pregnant. (Obviously, these laws were created for the express purpose of being tried before the Supreme Court, in an all-out attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, while there is a quorum of conservative justices on the bench.)

When laws are passed to restrict abortions AND birth control, it can only mean that the subjugation of women is the primary goal. If this path continues, it won’t be long until our “USA 2017” picture will look like this:
As for the part of the meme about France, I put forth that it’s not a compelling picture at all. it’s just 4 women in Muslim garb, in a crowd of other people. That could be from anywhere at any time. They could be tourists, for all anyone knows.

This is just willful ignorance.

I’m not even going to address the job approval percentages, because they vary greatly in time and by who conducts the poll. And I’m not vouching for the accuracy of the economic numbers, although I suspect the $665 billion deficit is a little light, especially after the Trump Tax Package passed. I’m really looking at the ratio between the two presidents and it’s clear that whoever created this graphic has produced a laughable case of ignoring context.

Because the creator is comparing each president’s first year in office, that means President Obama was just getting a grip on the recession left for him after the previous Republican’s eight years in office. All the numbers were way down and about to make a U-turn.

When Obama handed off the economy to the next occupant after his own eight years, he was handing off seven straight years of economic growth and falling unemployment. Trump is basically standing on Obama’s shoulders and bragging about how much taller he is.
(This is evidence, not a new meme to debunk.)

The best that can be said for Trump at this point is that he didn’t screw things up (yet). Numbers improved each month and that continued. But it does mean that he doesn’t get credit for the gross number. He should get credit for any gains of more than the economy was already gaining. (And that ain’t much.) 
Because annoying liberals is worth thousands of innocent lives…

Dear Gun Nuts,
If you want to talk about whining, how about the whining that comes from protecting your fetish from those who don’t want to be killed by it?

We are trying to prevent hundreds or thousands of mass gun deaths. You’re trying to protect your desire to have a lethal toy that goes budda-budda-budda-budda.

The truth is on the shirt… you don’t have a rational need for an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. You don’t need it to hunt and you don’t need it to protect yourself. And your target shooting hobby should not take precedence over everyone else’s right not to be shot to bits.

Everyone says, “But I take care of MY gun… I know how to use MY gun… No one can get to MY gunI’ll teach MY kids how to respect it… The mother of the Sandy Hook shooter did everything “right” too. It’s all perfectly safe, right up until it isn’t and by then, it’s too late.

It’s not whiners you should be concerned about… it’s the mourners, like the of thousands of widowed men and women and children who have to grow up without a parent.

Please find another way to create stirrings in your big boy parts and put the military death machines away. I’m sure you can still feel like a real man with a pistol or standard rifle.

Or maybe just go buy a big truck instead.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Just Checking Boxes Isn't Enough

I applaud the election of the first African-American (and lesbian) woman for Mayor of Chicago. Obviously, the race came down to two African-American women, so breaking this ground was a foregone conclusion.

I’m always happy to see ceilings being shattered in this way and I hope she’s the right person for the job. Because if living in Baltimore has taught me anything, it’s that corruption comes in all persuasions.

The last three Mayors of Baltimore have been African-American women and the terms of all three have ended (or will end soon) in disaster. All started with great promise but were brought down by either greed or ghastly lapses in judgment.

Sheila Dixon was mayor was elected in 2007 and served until February of 2010. Before she left, she was indicted on twelve felony and misdemeanor counts, including perjury, theft, and misconduct. The “marquee” offense was the theft of gift cards her office had obtained, which were meant for underprivileged kids. (And the fact that some of them came from her real estate-developer boyfriend made it all the juicier.)

She was convicted on one count of fraudulent misappropriation and resigned as part of a plea deal.

City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake served out Dixon’s and won re-election in 2011. She was a decent and dedicated mayor; decidedly low key and businesslike.

She probably would have been re-elected again but her handling of the Baltimore riots over the Freddy Gray killing made it impossible. Critics say she waited far too long before asking the Governor to call in the National Guard. The Governor said he couldn’t get her on the phone.

And then at a press conference, she made the statement that destroyed her career:

"It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.

There was more to it than that, and context to be added, but all anyone ever heard after that was “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”

That was basically her epitaph. She might as well have said, “Let them steal cake.”

She opted not to run for re-election in 2016.

That election came down to former City Councilwoman and State Senator Catherine Pugh against, of all people, Sheila Dixon, who was trying to come back from the dead. The race was closer than it should have been, but Pugh won out.

She also began her tenure as someone who was getting shit done.

As you may or may not have seen in the national news, Pugh is now embroiled in a book publishing scandal, wherein she wrote a series of self-published "Healthy Holly" children’s books and conjured an insider deal to sell them to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), which operates 13 hospitals across the state. But no one can account for all the books. They know of almost 9000 sitting in a Dept. of Education warehouse, but that’s it. There were around 90,000 copies printed. (To give you a sense of scale, the first run of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was only 50,000.)
See, Pugh is one of 30 board members at UMMS. And as the Baltimore Sun found out, there are eight other board members who have contracts between themselves or their businesses, with UMMS.

Note: The Baltimore Sun basically broke this whole story. Because that’s what good journalism can do… And if I were them, I’d be digging into some of the other “corporate boards” and see who else is working insider contracts.

Mayor Pugh has temporarily stepped aside, for medical reasons*, with the current president of the city council stepping in as acting mayor.

*Mayor Pugh was hospitalized with pneumonia for 5 days, a week ago, so there are legit health issues. But the timing sure makes it look fishy.

Meanwhile, the story keeps getting worse. Other city power players have come out and said they each paid the Mayor $100,000 for a run of books, yet no one ever took delivery. It seems apparent that these book deals are a way to raise campaign funds while getting around donation limits and disclosures. (If there are any left, that is.)

It also came out that Mayor Pugh had her house renovate without obtaining any of the necessary permits. This, despite a city official visiting the site and handing her a list of permits she’d need.

Every time some new twist comes to light, they report that she now has to go back and edit her ethics forms for the last seven years.

I want to know one thing: what good is an ethics form if you can just keep adding shit to it every time you get caught? Why even bother? I say, you file your ethics form and if you omit something important, you lose your job. Period. Maybe if we stop playing around with this corporate and governmental graft and start putting some white-collared butts in jail, maybe we’ll see a higher degree of public service.

Isn’t how they handle the petty crimes of the working class?

So it’s only a matter of time before this next groundbreaking leader disappears with a whimper and wisp of smoke.

Baltimore also has a vast policing problem, as if that wasn’t laid bare by the Freddy Gray case. I’ve written about it before but the Baltimore police department is so corrupt, they don’t even recognize that what they are doing is wrong.

In one of the more egregious episodes, a sergeant sent a patrol officer to stop a group of young African-American men, question them and order them to disperse.  When the officer said he had no valid reason to do so, Sarge told him “Then make something up.”

All this happened with the DOJ agent right in the car with them.

There was also a scandal with what was called the Gun Trace Task Force. This was a group of cops who shook down criminals, drug dealers, and completely innocent people, just because they could. They stole confiscated money, they padded their time sheets with unworked overtime, falsified police reports and generally committed more mayhem than the actual street gangs. And as a side effect, everyone these guys arrested or testified against had to be set free, because everything about these cops was now tainted.

All up and down the food chain, people who could have stopped it looked the other way.

This city has eaten up police chiefs left and right. They all come in looking to change the culture and keep order, but nothing ever changes. And the last candidate, one Mayor Pugh recruited and hired from Fort Worth, hadn’t filed a tax return in several years. So he got booted before he could even get started.

Now we have a police chief who last ran New Orleans. I hope he’s got his dress beads on because it’s like Mardi Gras out here every day. I truly wish him all the best.

My point today is not to throw stones at African-American politicians, women, cops or other public servants. I’m just saying that electing a female or person of color is not a magic potion for Chicago. The real challenge will be doing honest work and serving the public. History is littered with people who couldn’t pass up enriching themselves in underhanded ways if their lives depended on it. (One such piece of litter is our current White House occupant.)

If Baltimore serves as an example of anything, it’s that greed and graft are not bound by race or gender. It seems to be universal. As Dilbert author Scott Adams frequently says, (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here,) when there is a high reward for doing something wrong and low risk of getting caught, people will usually go for the reward.

Maybe we should be happy that a new subset of people is now privy to the self-enrichment schemes previously used exclusively by white men.

So congratulations to Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot. I wish her and her staff all the best. 

Maybe when she’s done cleaning up Chicago, she can send a few pointers our way.

Monday, April 1, 2019

April Fools

I feel like we need a diversion from the political abyss that has been our roster of current events, so let’s talk about something more frivolous, yet topical (for today, anyway).
I love a good prank. I used to be notorious for playing pranks, whether in the office, for April Fools or just for the hell of it. I’ve posted about some of them before, like doing office pranks, including a prank on one of my best friends, more office pranks, and then one from my youth that took about a year to fully play out.

As I learned in my youth, the best pranks are played in the mind, where no one gets hurt and nothing is damaged.

I haven’t done any in ages, though. The closest was the time I was the last one sitting on one end of the floor. I was the only one there for about three weeks. It was a time of upheaval with our company, as we had just moved to a new office building and our company had just been sold.

Anyway, the new department to which I was reassigned was coming to move into my area at the same time I was about to go on a week’s vacation. I wanted to welcome them to my little neighborhood, so since I couldn’t be there, I posted a sign.

WELCOME TO
BLUZVILLE 
NEW REALTY SERVICES AREA
Population: One  18

No, it wasn’t really a prank, just a bit of whimsey, but it was something that isn’t usually done around the conservative hallways of financial services companies.

The funny thing is, when I came back from vacation, the sign was still there. I took it down, wondering how it went over. No one had said a word. Finally, about a month later, I asked someone I’d become friends with, and she confirmed that it was indeed well received. I supposed they wondered what kind of a weirdo they would be working with.

Today I was able to pull one off that I conceived of about six months ago. But to tell the story, I have to start with a little background.

It’s funny how the older you get, the less you give a shit about what people think, and the more likely you are to speak your mind.

In my job, I manage a fleet of vehicles and to do so, I work with a couple of outside vendors. I am their customer and they provide services. And sometimes, they can really bungle things up, sometimes to the point of costing my company money in wasted time and inconvenience.

 For example, they may promise to deliver a car to a new driver, but come the day of supposed delivery, they hadn’t even contacted the driver yet. Our guy is waiting at home, dead in the water, and they’re sitting on their thumbs.

In such circumstances, I get on the phone with the vendor and, well, give them hell. I want to rattle the cage a little bit, to let them know in pointed terms that they are disappointing their customer and costing us money in lost time and productivity. Fix the problem, don’t let it happen again.

And because my office is a low-walled “open-floorplan” cube farm, I am known by my group as the guy who goes off on people. In fact, when I get going, I can hear all the typing and clicking stop, like crickets that silence in the presence of a jungle predator. Occasionally I will hear a gasp, or a giggle, which lets me know the peanut gallery is open.

Also, in most cases, I’m speaking with my account rep, who wasn’t the one who screwed up, but she’s the one who relays my unhappiness to the department that did. I’m basically just venting and she knows I’m not directing it at HER. But that’s a nuance that doesn’t translate well to office eavesdroppers.

I always apologize for the sideshow, because it’s not my intention to infringe on their trains of thought. I don’t want to be mean, either. I don’t berate anyone or curse at them. But I do make it clear, in pointed terms, that I expect better out of my vendors and have no tolerance for excuses, especially for recurring, avoidable problems.

Often, during these “post-mortems,” when I’m telling my group what the story was, the memories will start.

Remember that time when he said…”

Oh and that other time when he said… And I thought he was talking to one of OUR people…”

It was during one of these sessions that I decided that on April Fool’s day, I should really give them something to listen to. The only question was whether I’d follow through on it or not.

I was really on the fence. In this day and age, you never know who’s going to get upset about something or tell a damaging story to someone in charge.

Then this morning I saw the box of donuts in our common area. Score! Nothing like a nice donut to brighten your day. I opened the box only to find a big tray of carrots, celery, and dip. Gah! I’d even seen that trick shown on Facebook but fell for it anyway. (Although there was an actual box of donuts under the one that had the veggie tray, so I still got my donut.)

So, this afternoon, when everything was quiet, my desk phone rang and proceeded to have a “call” with my vendor.

Me: Oh, hi, (vendor rep name) thanks for calling. So did you get that car delivered on Friday? What? Oh, you’re kidding…  You’ve got to be kidding me. We talked about this! I made this request three weeks ago! You mean you’re just getting on it now? This is unbelievable.

I can hear the crickets stop, so I know they’re dialed in. (I was told later that one lady tapped another on the shoulder to get her to take her headphones off and listen.)

Me: I can’t believe you’re screwing us again! This is getting to be a regular thing. You screw us on deliveries, you screw us on motor vehicle reports, you’re screwing us on everything!

I hear a giggle.

Me: Look, you’re not the only vendor out there. Other vendors are ringing the phone off the hook trying to get our business. Maybe it’s about time I started answering the calls.

Time for the kill.

Me: This was supposed to be delivered on March 29th. What day is it today? What day is it TODAY? That’s right, April first. APRIL FIRST… otherwise known as… April Fool’s Day.

That’s right, (laughing) OK, I gotta go. Talk to you tomorrow.

Now I hear laughing mixed with sighs of relief. They’re going, “Oh my God…”

He totally got her!”

I stood up and said, “Yeah, and there wasn’t even anyone on the phone. April Fools!”

I had dialed my desk phone from my cell phone. Much laughter ensued.

The old double-whammy. Works every time.

Monday, March 25, 2019

We've Waited This Long, Why Not Wait a Little Longer?

At long last, the famed Mueller Report came out last weekend, with not so much a bang as a whimper. No more indictments, no serious charges, no conspiracy with the Russians to influence the election.

The reason for the whimpering is that no one really knows what’s in the report yet, aside from Attorney General Burr. All he’s released thus far is a four-page summary which he (or his staff) wrote.

Here’s a guy who was on the record as having been opposed to the investigation from the start and was later hand-picked by Trump to take the AG job. I guarantee that both sides of that last sentence were intertwined like a snake on an octopus.

Is there anyone on Trump’s staff that hasn’t lied to the American public on his behalf? It’s practically a job requirement. So with an issue this big and the possibility of severe liability to the president, how can we possibly trust anything AG Barr has to say about the report?

As far as I’m concerned, we know nothing and will continue to know nothing until the full, unredacted report is released (or leaked).

Obviously, Trump and the Republicans are doing the “No Collusion Mambo” up and down the steps of Capitol Hill. That’s meaningless, as well as being true to form.
Trump has been barking about being vindicated with the release of every Mueller document, indictment, briefing, or horoscope, whether it addressed the collusion issue or not. It wouldn’t surprise me that Trump issued a tweet claiming the last full moon was proof that he didn’t collude with the Russians OR witness any peeing hookers. He knows full well that repetition = perceived truth and that facts don’t enter into it.

The document itself says “this report does not exonerate the president.” So naturally, Trump claims exoneration. That’s the modern political paradigm in a nutshell.

It’s going to be up to the House of Representatives to get to the bottom of the report, either by subpoenaing the AG to release the report in full or deposing Mueller himself.

The sticky question the Republicans will have to answer is: “If the report clears the president, why hold it back?

People only hold back things like this when there’s something they don’t want the public to know. And remember, it was only up to Mueller to gather findings. Those findings were presented to the AG for interpretation as to whether crimes were committed. But there was zero chance this Trump stooge was going to determine there was criminal activity committed by his boss. To do so would invalidate the reason he was put in the job in the first place.

If they release the full document, other legal experts can chip in with independent opinions which may contradict the finding of the Stooge General. That’s the last thing the administration wants. So the stonewall is on.

I also wonder why, if there was legitimately no collaboration with the Russians, what were all those people lying about when they perjured themselves? The Trump indictees must have known some pretty serious things for them to risk lying to Mueller’s team or to Congress. I mean, Trump, himself, no longer differentiates his lies from truth, but what’s the excuse for the rest of those clowns?

So, like I said, there’s no sense in getting caught up in this little piece of performance art. Only when the full report comes out, by hook or by crook, will we know what really happened.

Meanwhile, the president can turn his attention to what’s really important to the American people… prosecuting Saturday Night Live.

Director’s DVD Commentary: This is just my view from the bleachers. For a top quality deep dive into this mess, check out this post from the Booman Tribune.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Writing Checks and Checking Out

There are two things I want to talk about this week.

Is Maryland the New Oregon?
Two weeks ago, the state of Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill to allow doctors to prescribe to patients with less than six months to live, a fatal dose of medication to allow them to end their lives. The bill passed narrowly, 74-66, with a vote in the State Senate still to come.

Opposition to the bill is coming from usual religious types, like the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, which is not unpredictable. Archbishop Lori said that the bill would “further undermine the dignity of life.

I would ask the Archbishop how dignified it is to live out your final days in agonizing pain, or in a drug-induced stupor, forced to have others tend to your waste processes.

This issue is a lot like the abortion issue, wherein people from outside of your family want to make painful, personal decisions for you, admonishing you to abide by their own morals and not yours.

I would posit that the opposition comes from families who have never had a loved one suffer through a painful, drawn-out death. Or those who have never had to contemplate helping a loved one die peacefully while risking murder charges themselves. Otherwise, they might think twice about putting anyone else through that kind of torture.

Obviously, there should be safeguards in a law like this, preventing patient coercion. Great care must be taken that this is a path the patient chooses to take, for their own benefit and not to avoid the inconvenience of others. Authors of this bill say there are such safeguards, critics say there are not… Just like every other political debate going on. The two houses should be able to bang out some protections to calm any reasonable objections.

Granted, they’ll never calm the philosophical ones, so that leaves us to again fight the MYOB fight.

One thing the law does have in its favor is that the state of Oregon has had an assisted suicide law on the books for years. My friend and Oregonian, the Infidel, may know better, but I haven’t read of any rash of terminal patient suicides; in fact, I heard the number actually decreased after passage. That disarms some of the scare tactics opponents throw around about how people will be lining up to bump off their parents and claim their inheritance. Or people making rash decisions that they will regret, albeit for a very short time.

I know I’ll feel a lot better if this law gets all the way to passage. Then if one day, in what I hope is the very distant future, I’m wracked with pain on my deathbed, I can check out on my own terms without having to drag my sorry carcass out to the car and run a hose from the exhaust pipe.

The College Bribery Scandal
I so wish it involved Colgate University so we could call it “Colgate-gate.” And if Bill Gates was involved but got away with it, the headline would be Bill Gates Skates Colgate-gate. (I could go on, but I already did, once. I hate the whole “Adding ‘Gate’ to Every Scandal” trope.)

It’s only an important scandal if celebrities are involved, right? That’s why the only people we know about who are implicated in this pay-for-admittance deal are the two Hollywood actresses. You’d think it was a whole Hollywood undertaking. It’s always, “These two actresses, (here are their headshots!) and 48 other less well-known rich people, were charged blah blah blah…”

The Press’s knee-jerk use of the celebrities in the lede allowed the Republicans to position this as a “liberal” scandal. Now, I don’t know who else is involved but I’d bet that Republicans predominate, for no other reason but the culprits had to have a lot of money on hand. Worst case, it’s a split, making it an American problem and not a Republican/Democrat problem.

The NY Times referred to this as Snowplow Parenting. That’s a step up from Helicopter Parents, who merely hover. The Snowplow Parents work to clear all obstacles from their offspring’s paths. It’s nice in theory but leaves the children totally unprepared to deal with life’s inevitable obstacles. Or even normal adult tasks.

I always thought a parent’s primary objective should be to prepare their kids to be independent. Knocking down every obstacle and refusing to let your kid try something and fail is a huge disservice. If one can’t handle disappointment, (and life will be loaded with it), it will be a miserable existence indeed.

OK, I guess it would be quite nice if your parents bought your way onto teams and got you into colleges for which you weren’t qualified, but eventually, the snowplowing is going to come to an end, and then what?

Personally, I’m glad I worked for whatever I got. My rewards corresponded with my efforts. My parents always provided a safety net, but I was out there on my own. I did my own homework and my own projects. If they were crappy, I got a bad grade. It was on me.

Side note: I stopped asking the folks for homework help very early in life, after the Math Debacle. I went to grade school in the 60s when the “New Math” revolution was in full swing. My parents could help me with math, but their way had nothing to do with the way I was being taught. So even when I got the right answers, my parents’ methods didn’t lend themselves to the next tasks, when we moved on to other functions.

After that, I had my mom review writing projects and suggest edits, (usually for grammar and clarity.) That was it.

I picked my own college, did my college application by myself, and got myself enrolled. More importantly, I paid my own way through school via part-time jobs.

My folks supported me… I guess you could call it a collaboration. I purposely picked a state college to which I could make a daily commute, so to avoid dorm costs. They helped me with buying books, which was a complete racket. And during my last semester, when I ran out of money, they kicked in the last $500 of my tuition.
They would have paid for me to live on campus but it was important to me to do this on my own. That’s how they raised me. I made it my business to get in and out in four years.

The sad thing, in today’s world, is that this is practically impossible anymore. Not only have tuition costs skyrocketed, there are so few jobs left for teens and young adults to do. The entire retail sector that once was, is now GONE. The stores that are still open don’t have nearly the same staffing level that they did in the late 70s.

I worked at a grocery store, a gas station, and a record store. (There was also one summer in a glass factory, which I call My Summer in Hell.) But that was enough to pay my tuition and gas/beer money.

Now, the grocery store would have self-service cash registers, and the stations with live cashiers have them bag the groceries too. So there would be no bag boys and half the number of cashiers.

The gas station? Well, that was a pretty cheap operation right then. I worked by myself all day and that hasn’t really changed. But they were so cheap, they didn’t even have a cash register… I had to make change out of a cigar box. They were so cheap, they advertised their gas prices in liters. Don’t think THAT didn’t get me yelled at all the time when customers found out gas wasn’t really .49 per gallon. Like it was the gas jockey’s idea…

And record stores? They’re just gone, disappeared from the landscape. And the malls you usually found them in, are either gone too or a shell of their former selves. So what’s left? Food, I guess. Big box stores. Everyplace else is on a skeleton crew. Stores make sure they keep their payroll down and no one gets over 30 hours, lest they become eligible for benefits.

So I feel for kids and parents today, who are caught in this mess. It’s a shame that kids who work hard and do their best are getting squeezed out of the competitive colleges by kids whose parents stacked the deck for them.
But at least they’ll know what it’s like to survive not getting your first choice in life.

Chances are, they’ll handle it better than those who have received everything they’ve ever wanted, but yet spend their nights rage-tweeting about not getting enough credit and respect.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Debunkery - The Glass Houses Edition

So much bullshit, so little time to clean it up. Facebook has been rife with false and misleading memes so it’s time for a little debunkery!

This was a Facebook status that’s been shared an alarming number of times.

I’ll start with picking the nit that Obama didn’t give Iran a dime… he had their assets unfroze to let them recover money that was theirs to begin with.

But the main fallacy here is the false analogy of Obama “bypassing” Congress to “give” Iran money while not being sued, vs Trump being sued by trying to “emergency” his way into obtaining funds for his vanity wall.

On one hand, the Obama administration negotiated a treaty with Iran to (I repeat) unfreeze their assets in return for a stop to all nuclear pursuits. According to independent monitors, Iran was keeping to the deal, even after Trump nixed the US’s participation in the treaty. Foreign policy and treaties are the prerogatives of the Executive Branch, so Obama did nothing unusual in that regard.

On the other hand, Trump is claiming an emergency when there clearly is not, in an end-around attempt to circumvent the powers the Constitution grants Congress; to allocate money for the government. He is attempting to spend money “for security,” although there are far more efficient and productive ways to use that same money, which the Democratic-led House is all for.

So Trump is usurping the Constitution so he can make good on a campaign promise and the country gets $5-billion white elephant with Trump’s name on it. Sounds like a guarantee that he’d be sued over that. In fact, he was probably counting on it… He didn’t name those two partisan judges to the Supreme Court for nothing. I’m sure he’s counting on all Trump-related SCOTUS decisions going his way for the foreseeable future.

Another Facebook status, another false dichotomy. This isn’t an either/or situation so there is no choice necessary. I could end there, but there is still much to debunk.

Illegals being housed and fedreceiving medical” Sounds like the lap of luxury, but in reality, they are being “housed and fed” the same way prisoners in jail are. It’s not exactly Club Med; it’s the bare essentials to keep people alive. And this is AFTER ripping their kids away from them under false pretenses.

Seniors have to choose between prescriptions and food…”
And who is it forcing this choice? The same people who are trying to cut and/or privatize Social Security, so they don’t have to pay back the trillions borrowed from it in the 80s. And trying to keep the minimum wage from rising to a living wage. You think seniors working part-time jobs are making $70k with stock plans? Minimum wage isn’t just for teenagers and that’s been the reality for decades.

Do the Republicans have any proposals to help seniors? Nope… snake-eyes there.

Basically, this comes down to carping about the perception that brown people getting something for nothing.

Obamacare: Months of hearings, testimony, and negotiations, multiple proposals, while Republicans moved the goalposts every time a deal was near. (And remember, this was entirely a Republican idea first proposed in the 90s and executed at the state level by Republican governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Eventually, the 60 Democrats, many of which had just been voted into office for this very purpose, ended the filibuster threat so the bill could pass and go to the president for signature.

Yes, Republicans were given a choice and they chose to obstruct every idea (even their own) that was put forth by Democrats. They don’t get to whine about it later.

Trump’s Vanity Wall: A president flouting the Constitutional powers given Congress, to redirect money marked for other services, to the least effective means of border security, by calling it an emergency even though there is nothing close to one going on.

Yep, exactly alike. Enjoy celebrating a wall that never gets built.

1)      Not an agenda item going in, per Pelosi herself. She is on record as wanting to wait to see where the investigations go before calling for impeachment. No wonder Republicans don’t understand it. They’re used to starting with the conclusion they want and working backward to find reasons for it.
2)      On the super-rich. They always leave that part out. Democrats’ entire goal is to provide meaningful tax relief to those who got screwed with the Trump tax bill.
3)      From what, their kids? It’s a matter of priority, and it’s not a sane one to spend law-enforcement resources rounding up people who are not a threat to anyone or anything. Until Trump changed their orders, ICE was supposed to pick up criminals … dangerous, crime-committing people, not those who overstayed their visas so they can continue to do menial labor our own people won’t do.
4)      If it’s about a gun, conservatives call it gun control, because it sounds scary and Big Brother-ish. The actual agenda is to try to put a dent into the number of people slaughtered by guns every year, by trying to keep terrorists, criminals, domestic abusers and the mentally unstable from buying killing machines. By banning them? No, by doing thorough background checks. What bastards!
5)      If America is so “strong” right now, why do you need all the guns? This is just a Trumpian tic where everything is divided between weak and strong. “Me strong. Them weak. MAGA!

Lastly, the possessive of Democrat is Democratic. This is America, speak English, will you please?

 Seriously? Were you alive between 2009 and 2016? We’ll give Trump the same amount of respect that you teabaggers, nut-jobs, moralists and rich-apologists gave Obama.

It’s like a mass wave of amnesia washed over Republicans, wherein they completely forgot about the abuse heaped on the last president and his family. You don’t like it rough now? You started it, Trump, in particular, with his racist birtherism nonsense.
Michelle got raked by the Right for occasionally going sleeveless and daring to ask children to eat their vegetables. “Ape in high heels,” that was one of the quotes, wasn’t it?

I haven’t heard a peep from a single conservative, ever, in judgment of Melania’s past. (Not that I think anyone should… I’m just highlighting the comparison.)

They should just put it in the Republican National Platform: “It’s only wrong when a Democrat does it.”

If socialism was the problem, then I guess Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Canada will become dictatorial hellholes any day now. A... n... y... day now.

OR, maybe it was a matter of corrupt people coming to power.

Classic logical fallacy… because B followed A, then A must have caused B.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Incubators

In another campaign of mass distraction, it looks like in addition to the fear of gays and brown foreigners, the Republicans are going to fall back on another conservative greatest hit, abortion. They’ve been warming up the disinformation machine already.

As a result of states like New York and Virginia firming up reproductive rights, the GOP has taken to twisting reality in describing the horrors of late-term abortions.

While they get their rabid base all stirred up with graphic verbal depictions of what they think happens during such a procedure, they completely ignore the bigger picture. And reality.

Women don’t wait until late in their pregnancy to have an abortion because they just haven’t gotten around to it. These things become necessary when there is a grave threat to the mother or they know the fetus has a life expectancy you can time with a stop-watch. It’s a horrible tragedy that no one should have to face, let along be browbeaten about it from people who have no business butting in.

So, the prospect of the Smaller Government Brigade presuming to step in and demand access to the patient/doctor conversation is the height of hypocrisy.

The people making these ghastly speeches know this too; they just don’t care. It’s much more important to them to get people riled up for an election year than acknowledge an inconvenient truth. Last time it was selling baby parts. Now it’s murdering infants for shits and giggles.

I’m amazed that I still have to write about this issue. (The first time was here.) (And more recently, here.) For something that’s been settled law since the 70s, the Republicans have found a myriad of ways to chip away at Roe v Wade, so that even if it can’t be overturned, it can be rendered functionally impotent.

They create building requirements that apply to no other healthcare business. They create requirements for the doctors to have admitting privileges to local hospitals (which they then harass into refusing all such accommodations.) They pass laws requiring doctors to read or hand out factually incorrect statements to patients seeking to end their pregnancies, as well as invasive, medically unnecessary tests as a prerequisite. Once they thin out the number of offices that will perform abortions, they legislate waiting periods which often require multiple trips over long distances. They make sure that crowds of shouting, sign-waving busybodies can physically harass and intimidate anyone who enters a clinic, regardless of their intent once inside.

All of these barriers are created to deter women from having abortions. None of them protect women’s health in any way, as proclaimed by the barrier builders.

I know that as a man, my voice comes with an asterisk. However close I’ve been to this issue, every woman on earth is closer. If I were a woman, I would lose my mind on this issue.

How dare some sanctimonious schmuck try to tell ME what’s best for me and my family? How dare some moralistic prig insert themselves into MY family tragedy? How dare anyone other than me and my doctor think they have the right to utter a single syllable to me, let alone set up more hoops for me to jump through because my personal decisions run contrary to theirs? And if heaven forbid, my doctor tells me that if I should carry this baby to term, I am likely to die, I’m supposed to consider some legislator’s moral stance? FUCK. YOU!

I would have a lot to say to these people and it wouldn’t be very ladylike. Good thing for my sanity that I’m not female and I am well past my childbearing years.

Nobody is “for” abortions, as Republicans loathe to acknowledge. Pro-Choice people ARE opposed to letting strangers substitute their morality for ours when we have a personal crisis on our hands. They want us to dance to their tune and then they go waltzing off while we deal with the consequences alone.

Their “Right to Life” boils down to their demanding their right to interfere in your life. Moralize, judge, condemn, then offer no help whatsoever.
Here’s how you tell that the conservative “Pro-Life” agenda is all about controlling women rather than the admirable goal of reducing the number of abortions.

If they really wanted to lower the instance of abortions, they’d be out in full force to provide birth control, the Number One factor in minimizing unwanted pregnancies. But they don’t really care about that.
Remember what happened when the Democrats passed the ACA, which included free birth control? Republicans went ape-shit, generating lawsuit after lawsuit meaning to overturn that particular benefit.

Were they really incapable of understanding that a couple dollars spend on birth control saves hundreds or thousand later in other costs, like SNAP, WIC, medical costs, foster care reimbursement? Of course not. But fiscal responsibility wasn’t their goal.

No, the real goal is to keep a foot on the necks of all women to prevent them from usurping the place of the white male. Or gaining any real political power. According to at least one Republican lawmaker, women are merely “hosts.” Incubators, if you will, for man’s offspring. Hell, women are lucky Republicans even allow them to vote.

And by listening to the speechifying coming from the Right to Lifers, it’s clear they intend to lie, distort, exaggerate and fear-monger to trick people into exchanging their own right to self-determination for the right to be told by strangers how and when to bring children into the world.

But let’s not protest too loudly though or we might encroach on their freedom of religion and we wouldn’t want to do THAT... Someone might take offense.

Late Note: I just noticed that this week, Catholics of the world will welcome another Ash Wednesday. As a boy, I never minded getting ashes on Ash Wednesday. But I would have minded it a lot less if the priest would have put out his cigar first.

Now, as a Recovering Catholic, please allow me to help decipher the various smudges you may see on the foreheads of practicing Catholics.



Monday, February 25, 2019

Rude Mood

Is it me, or this town, or is it getting irretrievably ruder across the country?

Last week I took my sweetie out to see one of her favorite artists, John Mellencamp, play the Lyric Theater in Baltimore. It was her birthday present and we’ve been looking forward to this night out since last October.

The Lyric is a cozy little venue, holding just over 2500 people. I used to like these small venues because they made for such a personal show. But not anymore.

Why can’t people just shut the hell up?

Right off the bat, Mellencamp told us there would be some rockin’ parts of the show and some quiet parts, and if anyone felt like yelling and screaming during the quiet parts, they should go out in the hallway.

Cut to a quiet part, where he was trying to tell a story to introduce a song, and people start yelling out songs they want to hear. He says, “Didn’t I tell you to go out in the fuckin’ hallway?

Big laugh line. He obviously set that up on purpose. So then what happened?

He tried to backtrack and continue with his story and again, he had to stop because of some people talking up front. That’s the thing with these small venues… if you’re yapping or yelling in an arena or stadium, the artist barely knows it. But here, they hear everything.

He told them again to knock it off. He said, “I’ve played over 70 shows on this tour and this is the first time this has happened to me.”

Again, he had to pick up the thread of his story, and eventually, it led right into a song. That’s the thing about performances like this… there’s a rhythm and timing to it. When it gets messed up, it ruins the intended effect.

Not that anyone in Baltimore cared… They were too busy yelling out for Pink Houses.

We were sitting in the upper tier, first row on the side, so we basically had to spend the night looking to our right to see the stage.

Unfortunately for Sweetpea, she was sitting next to a drunken spider monkey. The guy was leaning forward, leaning backward, standing up, sitting down, and thrashing about on his “air drums.”

No one else in the section was standing or dancing and given that he was in the front row, it’s not like he couldn’t see. It’s like I say in the Book of Bluz 3:24:Whether it's at a ballgame, a concert, or whatnot, if you're the only one standing up, you're an asshole.  A complete, self-centered, self-absorbed, inconsiderate, flaming asshole.  Everyone else who bought a ticket didn't pay to see your back all night.”
This was our view all night. Thanks, Asshole.

At least he took a couple of long trips to get more beer. We were hoping he’d get lost on the way back.
  
***

My working theory is that Baltimore is filled with the rudest, most self-involved people in the country. It’s not just of this show that makes me think so, but two others of which I have first or second-hand knowledge.

Exhibit B
In 2014, I went to see comic folk singer, Todd Snider, play the Baltimore Soundstage, another small venue, like dinner theater without the dinner. I’d been looking forward to seeing this guy for years.

I wrote a more in-depth post about my experience, but in a nutshell, he had the same problem that Mellencamp had. But Snider was just a one-man act, with no band to help barrel through the noise.

A table up front kept calling out songs for him to play. He handled it deftly at first… “I appreciate the energy but I got this…”

Then he tried reasoning. “I can sit here and talk to you, but then I wouldn’t be able to play some of the songs you all came to hear me play.

Shortly after that, ushers came down to remove some people from the front of the stage. Snider took a short break at that point, saying, “I can’t be a part of this…”

Even after that, people still didn’t get the message.

I had it on good authority (from a waitress) that he was going to play until 11:30 PM.  But around 10:25, he said, “This just isn’t working out very well, so I’ll just leave you with a couple more.” Which he did, and then left, with about an hour of music left unplayed and stories left untold.

I’d seen setlists from previous dates on the tour posted on Facebook. He only played about two-thirds of the songs on this night.

Now, should he have manned up and not been such a sensitive artiste? Hell yes. But how about if the crowd takes a freakin’ hint, shuts their yapping pie holes and just enjoys the show?

Exhibit C
My brother and his wife went to see James Taylor a couple years ago, in another small theater in town. Every time Taylor spoke to the crowd to tell stories or introduce a song, people in the crowd yelled out for what they wanted to hear.

My brother said he could see Taylor getting annoyed. Soon, he stopped trying to talk at all and just played the rest of his set, one after another, without further comment.

So, is it just Baltimore, is this going on at other venues across the country? Maybe it’s a local thing, or maybe it’s just a sign of a new era.

I’ve been to over a hundred concerts in my life, many at smaller venues. But until the Snider show, I’d never seen a crowd acting so rude. Usually, when a performer told a story, the place went silent, not wanting to miss a word. Now, no one seems to care about any words but their own.

Have you seen this behavior at small venues? Something to the point of distracting/upsetting/ interrupting the performer? People talking over the people they just paid $150 to listen to?

Is this a national thing, or just a sad symptom of “Charm City?”

Monday, February 18, 2019

Emergency

Our feckless “leader” has gone and done it; he’s decided to get his wall money by declaring the border situation an “emergency” and then raiding funds meant for other uses.

In no rational way is this a legitimate emergency, not unless you’re one of those ‘Murcans burrowed deep into fallout shelters, scared to death of the caravans of brown people, who in seeking a better life, want jobs picking crops, landscaping and cleaning hotel rooms. You know… the scary people.

This is a “wink and a nod” emergency. It’s just a way for the Dotard in Chief to circumvent Congress and his vanity wall.
“It’s an emerrrgency, ay? Emerrrrrrgency, ay ay? Wink wink, nudge nudge, say n’more!”

Mr. Cheeky has already admitted it out loud, on camera, saying, “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it (build the wall) much faster.”

Did you see from where he wants to pull the money? Among other things, he’s targeting funds earmarked to upgrade soldiers’ housing. Apparently, there are significant numbers of servicemen and their families living in moldy, rat-infested houses. Sure, everybody gets all weepy and patriotic about military men and women, but let’s divert the money meant to keep them from living in squalor.

He’s also moving funds from border patrol units who manage ports of entry… you know, the places where undocumented immigrants and illegal drugs most frequently cross the border. He’s taking money from units that keep us safe to build a wall which is far less effective in keeping us safe… for safety’s sake.

So far, Republicans in Congress seem to begrudgingly go along with it, but I’m not surprised. I’d be flabbergasted if these Republicans actually put the constitution and the good of the country ahead of their fears of not getting reelected.

I’m surprised that more of them aren’t bringing up their nightmare scenario of a Democrat getting elected president and then using the same executive power to address some actual emergencies.

If I were running for president, it would be part of my campaign promises… “If this emergency end-around gains court approval, on Day One I will declare national emergencies on climate change, gun-related deaths, health care, and opiate overdoses.

Guaranteed that Mitch McConnell develops a massive case of selective amnesia and decries the unprecedented massive power grab. Guaranteed that he will NOT say: “Yeah, I should have seen that coming.

On the surface, it looks like conservative hate-monger Ann Coulter has seen the light. She recently said, “The only national emergency is that the president is an idiot.”

She’s right, of course, but for all the wrong reasons. She thinks he should have kept the shutdown going, leaving millions without paychecks, rather than caving and using the “emergency” maneuver. It’s not like she suddenly developed a conscience or sense of empathy. Or human decency.

Trump is sure his power grab will ultimately be found constitutional by the Supreme Court. After all, he packed it himself!

I think the wild card here is John Roberts. He’s the only conservative who appears to give a shit about keeping the court from becoming a partisan joke. If the lower courts all line up behind calling foul, I don’t think he’ll reverse them.

Best case scenario… the whole thing takes up the next two years so we can elect a new president and he or she can shitcan the whole operation.

That’s going to be a full-time job for the next Democratic president: undoing all the atrocities performed by the current swampers.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Homeless Thoughts

This is the stuff I was going to write about last week before I decided to touch the third rail and suggest we shouldn’t judge people by what they may or may not have done 35 years ago. (And thank you to Infidel 753 for posting a link to it, even though we don’t see eye to eye on this issue.)

So forgive me if this is a wee bit past its freshness date.

Pitch a Mitch
In shooting down the idea of a federal holiday of Election Day, Mitch McConnell basically admitted that his party’s platform has insufficient support nation-wide to win elections. He called the proposition “a power-grab by Democrats.”
Well, that’s the Republican election strategy right there, isn’t it? Do whatever possible to prevent working people from voting. They know that if people ever voted for their own financial self-interest, nary another Republican would ever be elected. Hence the constant focus on wedge issues like immigration, gay marriage, and abortion.

This isn’t to say that I agree about making Election Day a national holiday. I don’t think it will have the effect intended. I mean, look at other national holidays, like MLK day or Columbus Day. How many people really get the day off? No one in the service industries, that’s for sure. Hell, they can barely get Thanksgiving off.

Best I can see, state and federal workers would be off, as well as some in the banking industry. And in many office environments, there are workplace rules in effect which allows people to take time to vote.

We also know now that Mitch received $3.5 million in campaign contributions from a Russian oligarch, who is a business associate of two other Russian oligarchs, who have ties to Putin. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham received hefty donations as well.

So is there any wonder why those sanctions against Russian oligarchs were allowed to be rescinded last month? Not only is Individual One under the sway of the Russians, so are his right-hand men.

This story smells worse with every passing day. Like two-week-old borscht.

And speaking of foul smells, did you see what Mitch tweeted last week?

As I’ve said time and time again: Mindless obstruction is unacceptable. The only way this divided Congress will be able to choose greatness and deliver significant legislation is by focusing on, as President Trump put it, “cooperation, compromise, and the common good.” 2/6/19

Are you fucking kidding me? This is the guy who practically invented mindless obstruction. Anything President Obama wanted was rejected, just because Obama wanted it. They obstructed every Democratic bill offered, from foreign policy to infrastructure repair. He held up a Supreme Court nomination just because it was Obama’s, AND was willing to hold up any Clinton nominee as well!

Mitch, do NOT lecture us on obstruction. You, my man, are the poster-boy for obstruction, like a triple-decker cork and cheese sandwich.

Fox on the Run
A couple weeks back, a reporter for Fox “News” tweeted out a return-fire slam on their deity, President Trump, after he criticized a couple of their reporters for not understanding his handling of The Wall.

By going on Twitter and insulting two of our journalists, @realDonaldTrump is putting a target on their backs. In turn, his followers will then attack @johnrobertsFox and @GillianHTurner in support on Twitter. Bullying journalists is not Presidential. Period.”  Julie Banderas 1/28/19

That’s all well and good, but where the hell has she been for the last two years, as reporters from CNN, NBC, CBS and the rest have been getting lambasted from the presidential pulpit?

I guess the fun and games are over once der Trumper turns his wrath on you, huh? Up until then, it’s just evening the score against the “liberal media.”

Journalists should stick together in the face of presidential devaluation of the fourth estate. It’s just too bad Fox waited 2 years to start and acted only after their own self-interest was threatened.

Threatened Self-Interest Part 2
Speaking of threats to the status quo, you can probably expect the full-on Fox media assault on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to last until the next election. Seems she’s even passed Elizabeth Warren as Republican Enemy Number One. Why? Besides the fact that she’s a Latina and a woman? Because her economic populism scares them.

She has the charisma and intelligence to ask the questions about why so few have so much. And she asks why we don’t assess higher taxes to the rich. I mean, that’s where the money is, isn’t it?

That scares the shit out of the rich, who want to keep their tax rates right where they are… either low or non-existent (after all the loopholes and tax shelters are used.) The only way to head off this class warfare revolution is to have their lapdogs at Fox “News” and talk radio to throw as much shade on AOC as possible, questioning her intelligence, her background, and going through every statement with a fine-tooth comb to look for inconsistencies.

The knives are out for her, big time, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

Reefer Madness
Here in Baltimore, state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby announced last week that she would no longer pursue charges for marijuana possession, regardless of the amount one is found holding. The reasoning, “We need to get serious about prioritizing what actually makes us safe and no one who is serious about public safety can honestly say that spending resources to jail people for marijuana use is a smart way to use our limited time and money.”

I completely agree. Now if only they could get the Baltimore police to stop arresting people for pot possession. That’s right, the cops say they’re going to continue to enforce the laws as written. I’m sure they want to be able to use pot possession as leverage or as an excuse to look for more incriminating evidence.

But that’s how it goes in Baltimore…one step forward, then two steps sideways.

Rather Interesting
Back during the Great Shutdown of 2019 (Part 1), I saw a post by Dan Rather that made tremendous sense. I don’t know if it was on Twitter or Facebook… I searched both but can’t find the original post.

The gist of it was him wondering why they can’t address the border wall issue the way these issues used to be handled. Draft a bill, send it to Congress, hold hearings, bring in witnesses, look at the evidence, lobby for votes and then hold the vote. It either passes or it doesn’t.

Demanding money for a wall and holding the government hostage is not the way to get grand things done.

Staff of Life
Have you read the latest book from inside the White House? Cliff Sims’s book “Team of Vipers” came out a while back with lots of sneak peeks from advance copies. I haven’t read this one yet, but from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t paint any different of a picture than the last two books, “Fire and Fury,” and “Fear.”

The reaction I saw from the White House was low key… just painting the author as a nobody… some low-level staffer.

From the Washington Post excerpts, this “low-level staffer” was writing copy for Sean Spicer, helping the president with his hair products, and generally spending a lot of personal time with Trump.

Here’s the thing: I trust the word of a low-level staffer more than some of the other heavy hitters in the administration. These are the guys that get overlooked in a crowded room. They’re ignored by the upper-level staff, but that doesn’t mean they don’t see what’s going on. I’d trust the gofers to have a better handle on the general atmosphere than the big shots because they’ve got less skin in the game… or at least less ego on the line. John Q Public doesn’t know who they are.

I mean, had you ever heard of Cliff Sims before he wrote the book?