Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Best Year of my Life

I’m sorry I didn’t have a post up yesterday on my usual Monday night; I was still celebrating the long weekend with Sweetpea. And we had more than MLK Day to celebrate… Yesterday was the first anniversary of the day we met.

I was in my favorite sports bar watching a Steelers playoff game when she came over to my side of the bar and chatted me up. We went out for lunch the next day and we’ve been together ever since.

From there, it’s been an amazing year, probably the best of my adult life. I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy for so many days in a row. And even when I’m alone at my place, it’s amazing to me when think that I love someone out there and she loves me too.

I’d spent the last three years in a decent place. I wasn’t miserable, I was content. I had the means so I went to ballgames or the movies and just did whatever I felt like doing. Alone. Which was fine… I can make my own fun. I try to have fun wherever I go.

But now this year? Whole different thing. I don’t see as many ballgames, but that’s OK. In 2016 I went to 26 Orioles games, which was a personal record. It was something to do that I enjoyed. In 2017, I saw 10, half of them with Sweetpea. And that was enough because now I had other things to do and someone to do them with.
Here is this year’s Ticket Collage. 10 Orioles games, 1 Ravens game, 1 Penguins game, 6 movies and a couple odds and end.

Over the last year, I don’t think we’ve had one fight. We’ve had some minor disagreements from time to time, but they never blow up into something larger, which I credit to her. After all, she’s an elementary school teacher so she’s been trained in how to handle children (of all sizes).

On occasions where I’ve said something particularly stupid, she never mentions it at the time. Then the next day or next time we’re together, she’ll tell me what was bothering her and it will be something meaningful, not just picking nits.  I’ll admit/retract/apologize as the situation calls for, and learn from it. No stewing, no escalation, no fight. It’s beautiful.

I would say that it works the same the other way around, but she’s never given me reason to be mad at her. But I’d like to think I’d handle it like she does.

Most of the time, our mutual minor screw-ups just become running jokes.

Here in the Age of Texting, we send each other messages constantly, at minimum a “good morning” and good night.” And with texting comes typos. The good ones, we just work into our everyday vocabulary.

For example, “vaby” and “fumny” get regular recurrence. Like I’ll say, “Hiya doin’ vaby?” To which she’ll respond, “Just fine, fumny man.”

Then there’s the stuff she says when she’s asleep.

See, her dog comes in at least once per night, to be let out. He’ll come sit by her side of the bed and let out a continuing sequence of whines and groans. She hears him and gets up, but she isn’t always awake. She’ll talk to him in a barrage of jibberish, her “dog” dialect, and occasionally recognizable words.

Last weekend, she told the dog that the “1st graders don’t know anything.” I’m sure he was puzzled to hear that.

Several months ago, I woke up to see her standing beside the bed and slapping down on the mattress. I asked her what she was doing. She said, “Making pee bread.”

Neither of us has any idea what that was all about, but now I always make sure I know where my toast is coming from.

But my point is that rather than her getting defensive about it, we laugh and bring it up at the funniest opportunities. We just roll with it.

I should probably expand on what I meant earlier by “her ‘dog’ dialect.” She and her siblings have this strange dialect they use when they’re talking to or about their dogs. It was something their mother used to do. To me, it sounds kind of like a coon-ass Cajun accent. But at least I know why the dog doesn’t listen to me. I don’t have the dialect down yet.

It occurred to me last weekend, as we were celebrating our first big landmark, that this could actually be part of some elaborate prank concocted by her and a girlfriend. I’m thinking something out of the movie “Trading Places,” where her friend bets her she can’t bewitch that poor sap of a Steelers fan over there and keep him around for a full year.

All weekend, I kept asking her what time we actually met so I would know when it was a year, exactly. I told her I expected that any minute, her oldest girlfriend would appear, proclaim that Sweetpea won the bet and hand her a dollar.
But no one ever showed up, so I could only assume that the term of the bet is longer.  I told her that my last request was that she at least clue me in before I sell my washer and dryer.

We plan to move in together this summer after she’s out of school. This will be the first time I’ve moved into someone else’s house so it will be an adjustment. I haven’t had a day-in-day-out roommate since the 90s, when I was married, so the prospect is a bit daunting. And just getting all of my stuff in there… well, have you ever heard of stuffing 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag? That’ll be us. I’d better start getting rid of some shit…

But I haven’t been this freakin’ happy since I can remember, so I have no doubts that we can make it work. If I blow it with this sweet, beautiful, tiny little teacher, I might as well just hang it up.

I’m optimistic about it though. We’re past the “every occasion we’re together is a date” portion of the relationship and are getting close to day-to-day life. We’ve traveled, had vacations, spent almost two weeks together over the holidays, and there hasn’t been anything to worry about. We see each other a minimum of 3 days a week. I can’t believe she’s not sick of me.

I’m happy, with a happiness that comes from knowing I’m with the one I’m supposed to be with; the Love of my Life. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Happy anniversary, Sweetpea. I love you, vaby.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Debunkery – The Edition for Those Who Don’t Get It

I really just wanted to debunk some Facebook memes today but have you heard about that book that came out?

Man, that’s all anyone’s talking about for the last week and for good reason. This “Fire and Fury” book, by Michael Wolff, illustrates how unfit to hold office our current president is. And it doesn’t just make charges, it tells you how and why, with loads of details.

Obviously, the credibility of the writer went straight into the GOP crosshairs. I mean, of course it did… that’s Play #1 in the Republican Playbook: call whatever you don’t like a lie.

The biggest problem here is that the president is the most dishonest executive officer this country has ever seen. With well over a two thousand documented and disproven falsehoods uttered in office, how can anyone truly believe anything he says? Only the True Believers, that’s for sure; them and those who just don’t care as long as they get their taxes cut and regulations removed.

It’s also funny seeing them criticize the lack of attributed quotes. Yeah, big mystery why there’s not more of those in the book. Did you see what happened to Bannon? Trump turned on him like a dog who’s found a spot to lie down. And they wonder why more people didn’t speak on the record?
Just because a quote is off the record doesn’t mean it’s not true. In fact, I think it’s MORE likely to be true. No one but a moron would put his name on a damaging quote about this administration. Just ask Sloppy Steve. Hell, even his own brain-dead following turned on his ass, after he criticized their fearless “leader.” They don’t want anything getting in the way of President 45 making America great again for all those poor, persecuted white men. They’ve suffered enough, thank you very much.

Anyway, because the major sellers are out of the book already, I’m going to look into getting the e-book. But on the other hand, I’m almost afraid to hear any more… My faith in the innate goodness of people is already at rock bottom. How much lower can it possibly get?

No, I don’t think any real changes are going to come from the book’s revelations. Supporters will just claim it’s all a lie and continue towing the conservative line. People really don’t want to see this Emperor without clothes. But it does amuse me how pissed off the president got about it. All he wants is praise and adulation from the masses, and the little that comes in is being drowned out by all the laughter at his incompetence and that of his enablers.

In other news, Facebook teed up another one for me last week. I saw this posted on the news feed of a conservative friend:
I know why the writer doesn’t get it.

It’s because he is not smart enough to know when he’s being lied to. He apparently believes everything that emanates from Fox “News” without a second thought.

So here are some second thoughts, bit by bit.

What kind of monster would “lower our taxes…”

He’s not. He’s distributing 83% of this tax cut to the richest 1% of the population and leaving the rest to the remainder of the country. And when you look at the deductions that are being removed, millions of lower to middle-class families will be paying more. And THEN, what little benefit the middle class is getting will disappear in 6 years, because they were made to be temporary. So no, unless the meme was created by a Koch brother or one of his rich allies, there is no tax cut.

“…secure our borders…”

Secure our borders from what? A horde of gardeners and farm workers? The wall is the worst way to actually prevent illegal immigration, not least of it is because they’ll never seal off the river that runs the length of Texas’s border.  There is no wall that people can’t go over or around. Hell, it happens right now with the drug cartels. They build tunnels worthy of our interstates and are probably in better shape, what with our lack of infrastructure spending.

Putting up a wall makes us no better than cold war East Germany. You want to deter illegal immigration, fine companies that hire them. No jobs, no immigration.

“…protect the citizens…”

From what? The tens of thousands of gun deaths that happen in America each year? No, they’re more interested in trumpeting when some immigrant commits a crime. Doesn’t matter that immigrants to America, even the illegal ones, are statistically less likely to commit a crime than native-born Americans. What’s the message there? That we will only stand to be killed by our own kind?

“…create jobs…”

A complete myth. Tax cuts at the top do not produce more jobs at the bottom. It didn’t happen when Reagan did it, nor when Bush did it, nor when Kansas or Wisconsin did it. Corporations pay out their newfound dough to their shareholders and executives. They only hire more workers when there is consumer demand. So the jobs don’t come until the lower and middle classes are flourishing. You want to see that happen? Make the big tax cut package 83% to the lower and middle classes and give the rich the 17%.

“…raise the GDP…”

Same as the jobs thing… production and consumption don’t go up until the 98% is buying. This president hasn’t done jack for the working class.

“…take down DC corruption…”

Are you serious? This Administration is gorging itself on the public trough. Trump, his family, his cronies of industry, they’re all gutting safety and health regulations so to make the least impact to corporate bottom lines. Our safety and health don’t factor into it one bit. The family business is getting fat on the President’s trips to his own resorts alone, let alone all the foreign business coming their way from those states who want to curry favor. 

And when the president stays at his own resort, remember it’s not just him; it’s the entire presidential entourage. Everyone from Secret Service to aides and handlers needs to be put up and fed. Think that’s free?

“…destroy ISIS…”

I’ll give that he’s made progress. But ISIS comes from an idea, one that can’t be bombed into submission. Radical Islam will abate when their lives become better. And if this Administration can’t do anything for the masses in this country, they’re certainly not doing anything for a bunch of foreigners.

“…put America first…”

Putting America first basically entails reneging on our treaties and turning on allies. On the major issues of the day, we no longer have voice or influence because our leader is too busy watching out for himself. Isolation doesn’t work. Show me one isolationist country who’s thriving.

There aren’t any. This is a global economy, now more than ever. Living in a bubble won’t do anything more than suffocate us.

“…fix the healthcare abomination…”

You mean remove healthcare from millions of people? Done. Better hope you stay healthy because the entire system is about to come crashing down, without a single idea on how to replace it. When only sick people buy insurance, insurance companies can’t stay in business without raising rates for everybody, through the roof. What we have now is not a health care policy, it’s a crime against humanity.

“…& strengthen the military.”

Are you fucking kidding me? We have the strongest military in the world and spend more on it than the next top 12 countries combined. We need to worry less about building our arsenal and more about finding ways not to have to use it. But with the systematic neutering of the State Department, that’s not going to happen. You know that story about when the only tool you have is a hammer? That’s us, looking to nail every political problem we encounter across the globe.

“I just don’t get it.”

Yes, it’s obvious that you don’t get it. I attribute that to a raging lack of education and critical thinking skills. You’re too busy parroting Republican talking points to give a thought about what you’re spouting and how you’re really being affected, as your quality of life swirls down the toilet.

Your ignorance is taking the rest of us down with you.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ice Burgh

Happy New Year to you. I wish we could be celebrating under better circumstances, but at least we’re still out here thrashing around!

Today was my first day back at work since 12/21, so in my mind, I’m still day-drinking and watching sports. Only my butt was back at my desk at work. Eventually, my heart and mind will follow.

So what did I do with my 11 days off? I can put it into three categories:

  • Christmas Prep
  • Christmas
  • Pittsburgh

Like I mentioned in the last post, Sweetpea throws a big Christmas breakfast every year, in which in addition to her family, she invites anyone else who doesn’t have anywhere else to go or anything to do. (Translation: Singles and Jews.)

So Saturday and Sunday were spent getting the place ready for the crowd, except for the part on Sunday where I went to the sports bar to watch football. Charitably speaking, I was “getting out of her hair.”

Because of the Christmas morning craziness, we had “our” Christmas and exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve. My favorite gift? This shirt: 
 That’s one of my favorite quotes and I don’t even watch Game of Thrones!

The biggest challenge for Christmas Breakfast, (aside from keeping the dog from barking his head off in desperate attempts to get people to play ball with him outside), (in the COLD!), was getting everyone back out of the place so that we could make a break for my brother’s house and watch the Steelers game at 4:30.

We almost pulled it off, but about an hour before we wanted to leave, Sweetpea’s old 10th-grade teacher showed up, after everyone was gone and all the food was put away. So he supervised the cleanup we were doing, talked sports with me, and we literally walked him out the door as we were on our way out ourselves.

In keeping with the Christmas spirit, the Steelers won handily, so we didn’t have to live and die on every snap. For a change…

On Tuesday, the day after Christmas, we headed for Pittsburgh. I’ve wanted to show her around the Burgh ever since we met. Because we were busy this summer and she won’t get much of a spring break, we decided to use Christmas break for the trip.

On the plus side, the timing was perfect for our schedules. On the minus side, on the day I wanted to show her around the town, it was 11 freakin’ degrees out!

Anyway, we checked into the gorgeous Omni William Penn, got settled in, and then headed out to the burbs to see my family. Sweetpea got to meet 2 aunts, 1 uncle, 3 cousins, and 2 cousins-once-removed (or whatever you call your cousin’s kids).

 As always, we enjoyed good stories, good drinks, and amazing food. Aunt Mary laid out some manicotti to die for!
In fact, she had me email my dad some pictures of the food, just to rub it in that he wasn’t getting any. Yes, wise-assery is a family trait.

We also got to hang out with another special girl, Aunt Mary’s sweet little Samantha.
The Queen, on her throne.

The picture doesn’t really give any perspective, but Sweetpea’s dog probably has 80 pounds on her. This dog could sit in the palm of my hand (if she kept very still).

Somehow, we managed to escape before falling into a food coma, and made our way back to the Penn, to rest up for our Big Day.

I’d been watching the weather for the prior week so I knew it was going to be cold; it was only a matter of degree. (Heh) I was hoping the forecast would change, and it did. It kept getting colder. I had a few specific things I wanted to show off, so I planned a more direct route than I might have otherwise.

So, we knew it would be cold and we dressed accordingly. But still… we stepped outside and WHAM. It was like walking into the side of an igloo. Of course, it depended on where you were. There were parts when we were in the shade and the wind was blowing, and it was like you were going to die right there on the street. Then in other places, out in the sun, it didn’t feel so bad.

So, our points of interest?

The Allegheny River and the ballparks and bridges that line it.
I’ll have to wait until baseball season to show her how awesome it looks, looking the other way around.

Sweetpea, the Ravens fan, hurls obscenities at Heinz Field.

OK, that’s not technically true, but it could have been. We basically had the city to ourselves. While we were down at the Confluence, there was nary a body in sight. It was like we were plopped down in the zombie apocalypse, without the zombies.

I couldn’t wait to show her PPG Plaza, which is gorgeous on most days,
but even better with the Christmas tree and ice rink.

By the time we got to Market Square, we were pretty much done with browsing; we needed someplace to warm up and get a bite to eat. We ended up at Diamond Market.
I was quite happy to tuck into the Colossal Cod sandwich.

On the way back to the hotel, we found a wine and spirits shop downtown, from which we picked up a little bourbon. Once back to the Penn, we poured ourselves a couple of drinks and went down to sit in the lobby.

Sitting down there with our drinks on the couches, it felt like we were movie stars in some 1920s musical. I kept waiting for a flash mob to show up.

Once sufficiently warmed up, inside and out, we retired to the room for a much needed nap. Hey, nobody parties like fifty-somethings! But we wanted to rest up for the main event: The Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets!

We had seats in the 6th row, down by the corner on the side. This was Sweetpea’s first NHL game, so I wanted us to sit up close. The location was good for catching a number of nice pictures:
Unguarded moments…
Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary have a laugh.
…sly smiles…
Sid Crosby laughing at Hornqvist, probably about the missing “u” in his name.
…special moments…
Penguins’ tough guy Ryan Reeves fist-bumps with a small fan.

…and high-speed action.
Carl Hagelin on the move.

So it was a good game… the Pens were down early but fought back to score two in the third period and tie it up. When the Pens scored in overtime, we immediately high-tailed it out of there. The last thing I wanted to do was get trapped down in the lower bowl, waiting for our turn to get out.

By the time we got to the top of the bowl, we heard that they were challenging the goal. By the time we got around the end of the concourse, we heard the goal was overturned. OT went on without resolution so the game went to a shootout.

If we’d stayed in our seats, we would have had a primo angle. But from up on the concourse, our view was more like this:
Actually, this would have been pretty sweet, but once the shootout started, everyone in the place stood up and all we could see were backs and butts, so Sweetpea and I had to watch the monitors.

Still, it was fine. The Pens won by scoring on their first two attempts while Columbus missed theirs. And with that, we were out the door in a flash. We were back up to the room (3 blocks away) before we would have even gotten out of the lower bowl if we’d stayed.

Thursday morning, we had breakfast at the Penn with an old family friend of Sweetpea’s, after which we hit the road. Got back to Baltimore by 2:45, easy as pie.

And it was a good thing we didn’t linger. I saw on the news that night that a semi overturned about 5:00 pm and blocked all three lanes of 1-70 just outside of Baltimore. Jam went for miles and lasted three hours. Count one little slice of hell avoided.

Way back at the beginning when I mentioned the three parts of last week, you may have noticed that I omitted New Years. That was purely intentional… we didn’t do jack. Stayed home, watched some football, watched the fireworks on TV and went to bed.

Thank you again for coming to visit my little corner of the internet. I hope you have a grand 2018 and I’ll do my best to provoke thoughts, laughter, and general crankiness. I’ll be back next Monday with some four-star debunkery.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas ta alla Yinz

Rather than let loose with yet another political screed, I thought it best to just let ill thoughts lie today, so we can all remember events that occurred on this day, so many years ago.
"Now I've got a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho."

I'll be spending Christmas morning with Sweetpea, as she provides Christmas breakfast and drinks to family and single friends who have nowhere else to go. Later on, we'll move on to my brother's place for a festive viewing of the Steelers/Texans game. (In which we will not speak of or acknowledge that game last week. Stupid "catch" rules...)

Then it's onward to The Burgh, where I'll introduce Sweetpea to my relatives and the game of hockey at the Penguins' arena. That means I, once again, have to face one of my ongoing fears...
...Driving in Pittsburgh.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you. Your paying attention to me at my little blog is the best Christmas present I could hope for.

Be well and gather your strength for the fight that will be 2018.

Yippee-ki-ay, MFers...

Monday, December 18, 2017

Odd Bits - The 1984 Edition

I have to admit, I almost lost it when I saw this in the Baltimore Sun this weekend:

This is the sign that we’ve now arrived at Big Brother and 1984.

Changing language as a way to control people’s hearts and minds; it’s straight out of Orwell.

And this sure isn’t George Carlin’s list of the Seven Words you can’t say on TV…


Mind you, these words aren’t banned from some parochial school library; they’re banned from use at the CDC (The Center for Disease Control), a pinnacle of American scientific achievement.

Aside from wanting to pretend some of these terms don’t exist and wanting to kibosh a couple others, the ones that really rankles are the last two. The preferred language now goes like this:

The CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

In other words, it’s the opposite of science. What it says is that our leading public health institution will bend to the will of any backwoods outpost full of misinformed soccer moms and religious zealots who think vaccinations cause autism or IUDs cause abortions.

Science comes from testing and evidence and is independent on the popular opinion of the non-expert general public.

This is your science-denying GOP at work. Ain’t America great? Here’s to hoping these clowns come down with some raging new strain of syphilis.

Let the CDC tell them, “Sorry, guys, Mayor Gladys thinks anyone with a venereal disease deserves to have their willy fall off.

Taxing Situation
Meanwhile, the cancerous tumor masquerading as the current tax bill oozes closer to passage… as if there was ever a doubt. Even the senators who seemed to know what empathy was, back when they were trying to gut the ACA, have shrunk from the pressure of Republican “leadership.” For a Republican to vote against this bill would be political suicide. No more chairmanships, no more legislation passed, no more reelection money, and a whole lot of attack ads from their own party.

Even the ones who are retiring won’t vote against it. McCain may miss the vote, but he said he’d be back to vote for it if they needed him.

And remember, this is only Step One. Next session, these same legislators will start looking to reduce Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (AKA “entitlements), to appease the deficit hawks and make up for the 1.5 trillion-dollar loss this tax bill will entail.

Further remember: every time they tell you how much this bill will do for the middle class, they’re lying through their teeth. If they really wanted to help the middle class, they’d make the corporate cuts temporary and the middle class cuts permanent, AND switch the proportion of both.

But they didn’t do that, did they? Their goal was to siphon money to the very richest among us, plain and simple. The rest of us? We get just enough to provide rhetorical cover for them to hide behind.

Likewise, don’t believe Sen. John Cornyn when he says that they “probably could have made it (the tax bill) better if they had participated (in its writing).

Who does he think he’s kidding? This bill was written in secret by lobbyists and Republican staffers. What possible Democratic ideal would they be amenable to including?

There is none. And it’s equally unrealistic to think that their philosophical opponents are going to do a 180 on their traditional views and add to a bill that siphons money from their voter base with a fire hose.

There’s a reason it’s over 1000 pages long. This tax bill is a wish list for every rich Republican business owner and/or ideologue.

Net Losses
Net Neutrality was in the news this week too, as the FCC took the first steps to kill it, as a big, wet, sloppy kiss to the internet and cable industries. This step was taken even after numerous surveys said that 85% of Americans are against the repeal.

Shows you what the Republicans think of us, doesn’t it? But still, they try to con us, claiming they’re “freeing the internet” for more innovation.

Right. The only innovations coming are ways for Verizon and Comcast to transfer money from our pockets to theirs.

At least, to the best of my knowledge, Congress still has to sign off on the repeal. It is possible that enough legislators could be pressured into bucking the party line. And even if they don’t, Congressional action will be needed to create a standard that doesn’t get reversed with every change in administration. There’s still time to make our voices heard.

Not saying they’ll listen though. More likely, they’ll just claim that the dissenting voices are just robo-comments, unleashed by their enemies. Which non-coincidentally, is how they ended up with over 2 million pro-net neutrality comments on the FCC website.

Once again, the Republicans make a big show out of accusing Democrats of things they’ve already done.

Have you seen this smarmy meme on Facebook lately?
Here’s why it’s bullshit.

This is the logical fallacy of false equivocation. The creator is implying that powerful men pursuing, touching and harassing women around the workplace carries the same weight as a female comedian grabbing the old “bowl of fruit” belonging to another comedian friend while clowning around for publicity pictures.

It’s not even close.

First of all, look at Robin Williams. Does he look harassed? Nah, he’s having a ball. And who’s to say he hadn’t grabbed her first, or even set it up? All we have here is one still picture, which probably doesn’t tell the whole story.

Second, Robin Williams is the king of that group. He’s the comedian with the highest power level… the biggest star by far. The less powerful do not persecute the more powerful; that’s not how it works. If Robin Williams wanted, he could have made it an issue at the time and killed her career (which obviously hasn’t suffered a smidge.)

According to Snopes.com, Behar even brought this picture up while interviewing Robin Williams. She said, “I forgot that I did that, I molested you at Comic Relief.”

He said, “That’s why I’m here.”

Also, Trump “Privately talked about grabbing women?” He said it to a freaking film crew with the camera running. How the fuck is that private?

So no, there’s no validity to Joy Behar “forgetting” this incident, because it wasn’t really an incident. Nice try though. I’m sure it fooled a bunch of conservative apologists who desperately want to slap that noisy liberal woman down.

It’s Mueller Time
The Republicans seem to be working to provide cover for an eventual firing of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, by claiming the investigation is biased. For proof, they cite instances where two investigators had negative things to say about Trump… you know, just like the majority of all Americans, if you believe the polls. Mueller removed these two agents from the case once the messages became public.

If you think about it, the GOP seems to be saying, if you’re not on our side, you’re biased. Right? I mean, is there some kind of test to be applied here?

I say, if you’re running an investigation, you WANT agents with a hard-on for the suspected perp. It still comes down to what you can prove and the evidence is the evidence no matter who digs it up.

With the Republican-appointed special prosecutor and the Republican-appointed Assistant Attorney General, Trump and the Republicans thought this would be a big whitewash, like they were Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack slipping $20 to the field official and telling him, “Keep it fair, keep it fair.”
As far as I’m concerned, they get no respect either.

And when it comes to their charges about how the FBI investigated Hillary, I’d like to remind them that there were 11 Republican-led congressional investigations, all of which found two things: Jack and Shit. 

Were they all biased for Hillary too?

Or maybe all those investigations were just a prolonged smear attempt, so they don't really count.

Monday, December 11, 2017

We See Who You Are

I recall seeing an adage somewhere that said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

That’s what I have in mind when I see the Republican Party apparatus promoting and defending Roy Moore.

That Moore is a sham religious con man is a given. Apparently, everyone in Alabama knew it too, at least in the local malls. When so many people come out of the blue to tell a similar story, (with some offering evidence), none of whom have anything to gain from it, you have to figure that something is there. It’s not even novel anymore when some anti-gay crusader gets caught having gay sex, or morality-pushing judges or senators get caught nose-deep in extra-marital affairs. It’s almost trite.

And now, given the choice between jumping through hoops to support a pedophile or embodying the values they loudly and publicly promote, these are some hoop-jumping bastards.

The only thing that matters to the GOP leaders, no matter who they have to get into bed with, is the accumulation and maintenance of political power. That’s what they’re showing us right now and we’d best believe it.

Even without the salacious scandal, Roy Moore has shown us who he is. This is a guy who has directly and indirectly espoused racism, sexism, disregard for the Constitution and established law.
You know what he’s talking about, don’t you? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. And is there any non-racist basis that this pair of legislative acts is problematic? (And I mean a reason that outweighs the disenfranchisement of tens of millions of US citizens, rather than nebulous perceived indignities felt by those who were no longer allowed to suppress the rights of others for their own gain.)
Moore said, "You know people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended."

And there it is; the paean to Constitutional originalism. Keep in mind that this is conservatism 101… the idea that the Constitution is a static document, to be applied exactly as it was written, much like religious fundamentalists look at the bible. This view allows no room for the advancement of knowledge, philosophy, and science that occurred in the subsequent 240-odd years.

Further, keep in mind that in that original document, a black man counted as 3/5 or a person. And if you were to listen to what they say behind closed doors, that’s what the Republicans would like as well. They tell us that every time they push efforts to combat “voter fraud.”

Next, look at the rights of women. The 19th amendment was needed to give women the right to vote, long after it was given to black men. This is also something Moore obviously would like to see repealed.

And looking at the efforts conservatives have made to dominate and control women and their reproduction decisions, this appears to be a GOP platform item as well. They seek to substitute their own judgment for that of pregnant women by erecting barrier after barrier to not only abortion but basic birth control. They fight insurance that could be used to pay for it, they fight to cut food and medical aid to children, and they shrink from anything to equalize pay rates between men and women.  The only logical conclusion is that they too are in favor of the domestication of women.

The only area the Republicans see for the Constitution to grow and adapt is in making this country a Christian theocracy. See, they have to deal with one unavoidable obstacle:
It’s funny how they don’t see adding official religion to the country’s foundation as an attack on the Constitution. As Roy Moore often says, “God’s will supersedes the laws of man,” which is scary as shit, coming from a (former) judge.

The Republicans are showing us who they are, right now. And when I say that, I’m mostly talking about GOP political leadership. We’ll know more about how the “rank and file” think later this week when the Alabama Senate election is conducted.

Republicans know they need that seat and they’ve said as much. Trump is campaigning outwardly to this end and has taken to smearing Moore’s opponent, calling him, of all things, “soft on crime.”
Money is pouring in from the donor base, who also know how important it is to their interests that the Senate they’ve bought remains in their possession. Do you think the Koch Brothers care if the junior senator from Alabama liked to bone high school girls? Hell no. They only care about getting their taxes cut and reducing any monetary or environmental roadblock to greater profits. There is no human cost as far as the Kochs are concerned; we are a commodity to buy, sell and use for their own benefit, just like every other natural resource on the planet.

To address the deficit their new tax bill will create, the Republicans will be coming after Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid next year. That’s not a secret either. And they’re doing that because that’s what the Koch Brothers and other barons of industry want.

The Republicans are showing us who they are… Callous, conscienceless, greedy, misogynist, racist, anti-scientific, evolution-denying, hypocritical motherfuckers. They don’t even hide it anymore.

We need to accept what they’re telling us and act to fight them.

Or else “us” and “them” will be one and the same… Ignorant. Except “Them” will be loaded and living large, and “Us,” will be broke and scrambling.

We can start by consigning the Judge Creeper to the dustbin of history.

Monday, December 4, 2017

When in Doubt, Check it Out

I got a text from my nephew last week, from his freshman dorm at Penn State. He wanted to know if I think aliens exist. Apparently, he’d watched a video that illustrated the evidence that mankind may not be the only intelligent beings in the galaxy. (I’m talking about centuries-old paintings of spacecraft and alien figures appearing on ancient ruins, not local yokels who claim to have been abducted.)

The video covered several bases, from heavily guarded Area 51 to supposed secret holdings of the Vatican library.

Now, I’m certainly no expert on unexplained phenomena but I have an open mind when it comes to the great unknown. But as a card-carrying skeptic, I want to see evidence and investigate alternative theories.

In this case, I think that with the mind-boggling vastness of space, it’s awfully self-absorbed of us to think we’re the only ones out here, and that’s how I answered his question.

I also pointed out that the church probably wants to keep a lid on all things extra-terrestrial, so to maintain the illusion that we’re God’s only chosen beings, made in his image.

See, this is where faith and science diverge. Religion has its tenets and looks for evidence to back it up. Science looks at the evidence and draws conclusions based on the evidence. And if the evidence changes or new evidence is uncovered, the conclusion adapts. It’s the scientific way. 
So when a scientific conclusion changes after a period of time, that’s not a flaw, it’s a design feature.

It’s the same with journalism.

Proper journalism investigates an issue (or person) and then the story becomes the result of what they find out. And when a journalist gets a story wrong? Heads roll. Just ask Dan Rather. Or more recently, Brian Ross.

Hack journalism (like that of Fox “News” and other propaganda sites like Breitbart) is much like religion in that it starts with the story it wants and then looks for select evidence to back it up while discarding evidence that doesn’t.
And what is considered solid evidence?

That is a relevant question because not all “evidence” is created equal. One must look at where it came from, how it was obtained, and who profits from its existence.

If you’re talking about a video about aliens, I’d want to know who’s producing it? Have they produced any other work that’s credible? Do they have anything to gain (besides clicks) by convincing you that aliens exist?

Personally, I’d think that having a named NASA scientist’s testimony on the existence of space life carries a lot more weight than that of the average schmo.

(And speaking of NASA, I’d love to know more about this alleged space bacteria supposedly found on the International Space Station.)

If you’re talking about a news story, evidence from sources varies greatly. That’s why responsible journalism requires multiple sources, plus a close look at motivations. A good reporter doesn’t take anyone’s word for anything.

As it’s often told, the first thing you learn in journalism school is that if your mother tells you she loves you, you’d better confirm it with another source.

You couldn’t ask for a better example of that than what was provided by the Washington Post when they shut down sham “sting-video” producer, James O’Keefe, who sent one of his minions into their offices to report being raped by Roy Moore.

O’Keefe is the guy behind the dishonestly edited ACORN videos and dishonestly edited Planned Parenthood “they’re selling baby parts” videos. His MO is to send people into offices of those he wishes to smear and have them secretly record conversations, which he then edits until they completely misrepresent the conversation and appear to incriminate the target.

The Washington Post was having none of it. They listened to the woman’s story over a series of meetings and noticed some inconsistencies, so they checked her out. And once they observed her walking into the James O’Keefe’s “Project Veritas” offices, they had even more reason to check into her background.

Now here’s where it hits close to home.

It turned out that Sweetpea’s older brother used to date this woman, many years ago. They bought a house together, which he soon abandoned because “she was a nut job.”

He didn’t know about her affiliation with O’Keefe or anything about her recent notoriety until he was contacted by the Washington Post and asked about her. When they called him, they referred to him by his common name used by friends, rather than legal name, so they were obviously referred his way by another third party.

This is journalism at its finest. They dug deep into a prospective source’s background, to see if she was on the level.  The Post wrote up the entire story, soup to nuts, exposing the attempted smear job. I’d say these conservative con artists were counting on the Post acting like Fox “News” and just running anything that bolsters their corporate philosophy or tears down their rival’s. They never considered that a legitimate news outlet does its homework before publishing.

And then when O’Keefe released an edited smidgeon of his minion’s conversation with the reporter, the Post released the complete audio, which shows how it was edited to change context. Again.

Journalism is under attack in this country. Irresponsible outlets like Fox “News” and AM talk radio has blurred the line between news/ journalism and opinion, to the point that no one believes anything. Then people like President 45 use that blurring to refute truthful reporting when it makes him look bad.

Every day, when you read the news online or watch TV, you must be a skeptical consumer. Look at the news sources. If you’ve never heard of the website, you have no reason to trust it. And the fact that they’re pushing something you may want to believe, should hold no weight. All news outlets are not created equal.

Sometimes, they’re shining examples of journalism done right, like the Washington Post.

Other times, they’re no more reliable than the town drunk hollering at the end of the bar, like Fox “News,” or other agents of disinformation like Project Veritas.

There is news and there is fake news. For the good of the country, please make sure you know how to tell which is which.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Don't Count on Impeachment

Don’t even think about all the calls for the president’s impeachment; it won’t change a thing, except that the sideshow leaves town. Even if Robert Mueller’s investigation brings down his whole team, all of the noxious ideas spewing from Washington will continue

Because he’s the president, everything that’s going on in Washington is being laid at Trump’s feet, but that’s not necessarily the case. What Trump is trying to do comes right from the mainstream GOP leaders and will continue whether he is president or not.

For example, there’s the leadership tussle at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Director of the CFPB resigned recently and named his chief of staff as his interim successor, as stated in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act (which established the Bureau). That successor is to remain in charge until the president formally nominates someone and that person is approved by the Senate.

Meanwhile, Trump named his own interim director, Mick Mulvaney, who is his current director of the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney has also called the CFPB a “sad, sick joke.” As with other organizations that they deem "business-unfriendly, Trump has appointed a “leader” whose top job is to neuter, defang and destroy the organization he’s running.

Remember that the CFPB’s sole purpose is making sure that the public is not being screwed by banks and providing remedies like class action suits when they are. Ask yourself why the Republicans are siding with banks instead of you.

There shouldn’t even be a discussion of who is going to be in charge for the near future. Dodd-Frank spells it out clearly. Elizabeth Warren has been sharing the text of the bill on Facebook. It’s not at all ambiguous. But President Trump is not concerned with what the law says; he wants what he wants and that’s what all the GOP leadership wants… to make things more prosperous for the upper class.

But impeaching Trump does nothing to protect the CFPB. Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and all the boys will step in and continue the process of milking the American public for every dollar they can squeeze out. And they’ll do it without wearing the clown shoes. As long as Trump is in there, every minute they spend trying to keep a lid on his baser instincts is a minute they’re not spending trying to screw us.

Same issue with Net Neutrality… a concept that simply means that internet providers do not have the right to pick and choose what content they provide to consumers or charge based on the type of content delivered. The Obama Administration, via the FCC, classified the internet as a utility, not unlike the gas and electric companies. The power company cannot charge you one price for operating your TV and another for your stove.

This move was hailed far and wide by the internet-using public and decried by Republican leadership as over-regulation. (Whenever there’s a regulation in favor of the general public at the expense of big business, they call it over-regulation.)

The new FCC leader just announced a proposal to roll back Net Neutrality and allow ISPs to self-determine their method of billing, by removing the utility aspect of the internet. At the moment, ISPs like Comcast are falling all over themselves saying they “have no plans” to change the way we buy internet service.

But you’d better believe they’ll have plans once the change becomes official. There’s a reason they’re all fighting so hard to repeal Net Neutrality and it’s not because of some high-minded concept. They’ll want to make your internet service just like cable service… bundles, packages, pay-per-view… It would all be legal with the new federal guidelines.
Without Net Neutrality, your internet service options could look like this.

Impeaching Trump changes none of that. The rest of the GOP leadership has been fighting Net Neutrality since before The Donald even thought about running for office. It’s another situation where big business gets bigger and richer and we end-users pay the price.

And if media consolidation continues like it has been, there may some websites your provider won’t let you access at any price. Right now, Time Inc. just agreed to be bought by an entity backed by the Koch Brothers. And CNN is being aggressively pursued by Rupert Murdoch, with help from the Trump Administration. They are holding up a merger of Time Warner with AT&T until they sell off CNN and other assets.
It’s not like we have that much media ownership diversity right now.

If you have Rupert Murdoch, the source behind the conservative juggernaut that is Fox “News,” running the show, do you think he’s not going to influence content decisions of his new internet provider?

And forget about CNN ever being legitimate again. In one move, he’ll have silenced a respected provider of inconvenient facts and most prominent critic of his Fox empire.
They can block, restrict or extort for a price, the access to progressive sites, political enemies,
None of these activities originate with Donald Trump and they will not cease if he’s booted out.

This is what Republicans do when they have the carte blanche of operating the executive and legislative bodies. The only legitimate course of action we have is the 2018 and 2020 elections.

People need to make sure they’re registered, right now. Republican state governments are actively trying to “purge their voter rolls of fraud,” or in other words, those likely to vote Democratic. They know they’re pissing off a lot of the electorate and they’ve already gerrymandered the House into their own virtual kingdom, but the last thing they want is a swarm of angry voters showing up to vote.

Look for urban voting centers to be eliminated, licensing agencies to close, fees for IDs to increase and misinformation to blossom as to where and when to vote.

Think that can’t happen? It already has, in red states all over the country.

They don’t care about our voice, they don’t count our votes, they ignore our overwhelming will for common sense regulation, be it guns to abortion to birth control. To Republicans, we are nothing but a source of income; a resource to be wrung dry, a commodity to be bought and sold.

We need to speak up in a loud voice, that we will no longer stand for it. And we must do it at the polls.

That’s the only way that counts.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Odd Bits - The Funneling Upward Edition

More Lying
I want you to keep in mind that every time a Republican refers to the current legislative abomination as a “middle-class tax cut,” they are lying through their teeth. (Much in the same way they called an environmental bill that loosened pollution rules The Clear Skies Act, which did absolutely nothing to make the skies clearer.) It’s all in the name of conning you into thinking you’re getting part of the pie.

As I’ve said before, their primary concern is to get a massive tax cut for businesses and the top 1%. Anything aimed at the middle class will be the minimum amount necessary to get the bill passed. In other words, the scraps.

And they know they have to hurry. Republican control of the executive and legislative branches may end at any time, depending on who gets swept into or out of office on the wave of a scandal.

Notice that the tax cuts for the rich are made permanent, while the scraps for the lower and middle classes expire in a few years. That alone tells you where their priorities are. (They ain’t with you and me.)

Also, notice how they’re giving us the scraps with one hand while taking them back with the other. Sure, we may benefit from a higher standard deduction, but they also end deductions for state tax and other deductions commonly used by us non-rich. End result will often be a wash.  Meanwhile, there is no check or closing of loopholes surrounding the cuts for the highest earners.

They’re also trying to do an end-around on crippling the ACA by ending the mandatory insurance requirement. That saves money on the cost of the bill but results in millions of people losing their insurance when the rates go up to accommodate the loss of premiums.

That section might not make the cut, however, because the same senators who shot down the health care bills before might do so again (unless they can be threatened or browbeaten into submission by the party machinery and rich donors.) At least two, Flake and McCain, have nothing to lose, due to their not seeking re-election. And if they don’t vote before the Alabama election, they might lose another vote there.

I’m not optimistic on that front. If it starts to look like the Democrat is in line to win the seat, I expect the state GOP to pull something like delaying the election. They don’t care how bad it looks; Koch Brothers want their tax cut, appearances be damned. (It’s the same way they were impervious to public pressure when they stalled a Supreme Court nomination for 10 months. Their benefactors’ voice is the only ones they hear.)

That deafening silence you hear? That’s coming from the deficit-hawk tea baggers, who proclaimed for the last 8 years that increasing the deficit was the road to ruin. They should probably issue a retroactive disclaimer that deficits are just fine as long as rich, white people are getting their taxes cut.

Just watch, if this bill passes and the deficit balloons, these simpering bastards will start looking for social programs to cut, which has always been the other half of their goal. They’re not going to cut a dollar from the defense budget, believe me… only programs that help the lower and middle class will be in jeopardy.

And the idea that businesses are going to plunge their new-found revenues into more jobs and higher wages? A group of CEOs shot that one down last week. It was almost laughable. An administration flak asked a roomful of corporate CEOs, how many of you “plan to increase your company’s capital investments?” Only a few hands went up.

Why? Companies are already massively profitable. They can push their cash anywhere they choose right now, but it’s better for them if their profit margin is higher. So, you don’t see that kind of investment now and you won’t see it later if this tax bill passes.

That right there undercuts every rationale the Republicans are using to trick you into supporting a tax plan that screws you just to benefit them. This plan is simply a way to take money from the Have Nots and move it to the Haves.

Rest in Peace
There were a couple of well-known deaths in the news over the weekend.

Most upsetting to me was the loss of AC/DC founder and rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young. He had been suffering from dementia and related ailments since 2014. 
I’ve written about my life-long love of AC/DC before. People usually know his younger brother, eternally schoolboy-suited Angus Young, as the focal point and face of the band, but Malcolm was the heart. As the rhythm guitarist, he created some of the most monumental and powerful guitar riffs in rock and roll.  You know the songs…

You Shook Me, Dirty Deeds, Highway to Hell, TNT, Whole Lotta Rosie, Let There Be Rock, and so many others… they’re all songs you know the instant they come on, due to that signature riff, which was played (and probably written) by Malcolm Young.

Writing hooks that catchy and that powerful… it’s not easy. Sure AC/DC is loud and primitive, but they’ve always had that big hook that goes straight to your groove center and that’s something I find sorely lacking in modern music.

Mister Young will be missed, by a legion of old metalheads, like me.

Director’s DVD Commentary: How cool are my parents when on Sunday, my 79-year old dad sent me a condolences text for Malcolm Young? I must have raised them right.

Rot in Hell
In happier news, cancer on mankind, Charles Manson, died in prison this weekend.

It’s about time. Now we can be spared his regular moments in the spotlight every time he comes up for parole. As if THAT was ever going to happen.

It’s funny though, about the timing. Last month, I just re-read the book Helter Skelter, which is an account of the whole Manson saga as written by the prosecutor who put them all in jail. (I’d seen a TV movie based on the book, back in the early 80s, I think, then read the book a few years later.)

What struck me the most during my re-examination of the story, was how horribly the LAPD botched the investigation. They literally had one of the murder weapons in their possession for months, without knowing about it. And they neglected to investigate the area where it was found, or else they would have located incriminating, bloody clothing as well. A news crew found this stash when they followed the lead themselves.

The prosecutor also lamented his troubles in getting them to, well, DO anything. He’d give them leads to check out, based on his interviews with the Manson clan or associates, then check back weeks later to find they hadn’t worked on any of them.

You’d think that a case of such notoriety would have gotten people off their butts, but they seemed entirely indifferent. It’s a wonder he got convictions on ANY of the killers, let alone the guy who never actually killed anyone himself.

The trial itself was a real three-ring circus. Because Manson was not allowed to represent himself, he hired a lawyer known for his dilatory tactics, like objecting to everything the prosecution said and did. Manson repeatedly disrupted hearings, to the point where he was forbidden from attending. He followed the proceedings from a side room.

His three co-defendants, each with their own counsel, caused numerous disruptions as well, which Manson was assumed to have orchestrated.

As a boy, I remember reading about the murders in our Time/Life Year in Review annuals. I found them fascinating as well as horrifying. It all seemed so exotic, and I guess it was. It’s not like we’ve ever seen anything like that ever since.

Anyway, we’re shut of the likes of Charlie Manson now. The world is a better place without him.