Monday, May 22, 2017

Odd Bits - The Confederate Edition

I have to caution liberals and other sentient beings about trying to get our current president/clown removed from office.

I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be… after all, we’ve never seen such a combination of incompetence, petulance and pure profiteering coming from the office of the President.  But if 45 WAS impeached or forced to resign, what happens next?

I say, there’s no point in removing Trump without also getting rid of the rest of the posse.  Next man up is Pence, and he’s the one who scares me. 

Trump is a pragmatist; I think he’s using the social conservatives and alt-right racists to bolster his numbers so he can go about the very Republican business of bolstering big business at the expense of the rest of us.  So sure, he throws out a couple bones… Muslim ban here, religious “liberty” (to treat gays as second-class citizens) there, and he mollifies his supporters.  But I don’t think he really believes that stuff.  He only believes in making money for himself and his family.

Pence is a true believer.  He really thinks the gay community are undeserving of common decency and respect.  He showed us that by signing one noxious state law after another when he was governor of Indiana.  He is a religious holy roller with a keen interest in promoting narrow Christian ideals into government policy.  Of course, he’ll gladly omit the Christian ideals of healing the sick or feeding the poor, because the needy obviously don’t work hard enough. 

And speaking of healing the sick, the next batter up, Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is known for his draconian budget proposals and help no-one health care initiatives, which further squeeze the poor in favor of tax cuts for the rich. 

If either of these two become president, exactly nothing will change from what we have now, other than they will get these ponderous policy changes passed without shooting themselves in the foot every other day.  They’re consummate politicians, so they know how to get these things passed, in the houses they control, quietly and without disturbance.    The sideshow will leave and be replaced by the icy indifference of loan sharks.

None the less, the whole impeachment debate seems pointless to me.  I mean, the Republicans are going to have to be the ones to pull the trigger and I just don’t see that happening in the House.  The same racists, isolationists, and moralists who voted for Trump also voted for their GOP representative.  How anxious do you think they’ll be for overturning the will of their carefully gerrymandered districts?  No, they won’t buck the Prez until they’re made to by their constituents. 

And what happens when their constituents show up and complain at town hall meetings?  The dissent is blamed on those from outside the district.

I don’t think anything changes with the rank and file GOP until people start losing their insurance for real.  Granted they’ll still find a way to blame it on the Democrats…

Debunkery – The Statue of Limitations Edition
I haven’t enjoyed a good debunking in a while so I’m leaping at the chance to tear up this playground-level faulty analogy.

This issue is that some places in the south, New Orleans in particular, (and even here in Baltimore) are removing statues and monuments erected to pay tribute to Confederate soldiers and ideals.  Naturally, rednecks and racists are complaining about the loss of their “history.”  That brings us to this leap of logic:
In the grade-school level mind of the meme generator and those who re-post it, mosques = statues.  If the statues come down, so should mosques, because 9/11.

Here is the salient difference: The statues and monuments pay tribute to the idea of the Confederacy; a group of states who seceded from the Union because they wanted to keep other human beings in unpaid servitude.

A mosque is where millions of people pray to a different God than the Christians do, in a different manner.  A mosque doesn’t inherently stand for the destruction of the twin towers, other than in the minds of racists who cannot tell the difference between individuals and institutions. 

Sure, there may be mosques that preach revolution against the western dogs, but chances are, they’re located in the Middle East.  Removing mosques in the US serves no purpose but a twisted sense of vengeance. 

But every one of those Confederate monuments supports the idea that it’s OK for a race of people to be subjugated. 

The two examples are not remotely alike in form or function, which makes this an apples-to-oranges comparison and a ridiculous If/Then statement. 

I’m also tired of the argument: “But they’re removing our history!”

You know what?  Not all our history is something of which we should be proud.

People love to bring up Nazi Germany in persuasive arguments, but I’ll tell you what… There is a lot of history in Germany too, but you don’t see the Germans celebrating it.  Modern Germans (skinheads aside) are mortified by their country’s involvement in WWII; they’re not putting up monuments to the efficiency of their concentration camps or celebrating the nobility and devotion of the oven-operators. 

History should be remembered and learned from.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be commemorated.

But then, tell that to the people who are still fighting the war.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday, May 8, 2017

Dog Days

Things have been going swimmingly with my Sweetpea and me; so easily, in fact, that it makes me wonder why things were always so difficult for me in the past.

But the one variable that remains is a dogged one.  And I mean that literally.

Sweetpea has a 4-year old yellow lab, (aka The Beast), who she has essentially raised by herself.  That means they have an intense bond that is scary-strong.

Now, I’ve always loved dogs.  I think dogs are often better than people, especially judging by Facebook postings.  But I haven’t had a dog since I was in college.  In fact, no one in my family has; we’ve been exclusively a cat family for decades.

The Beast has never been mean or hostile to me; on the contrary, I get a huge greeting every time I come in the house.  And I’m not even bringing treats anymore.  Although I will admit that the intensity of the greeting has decreased since the treats have stopped.  I still get a few jumps and face licks, but as soon as he sees my hands are empty, he rapidly loses enthusiasm.  And when his “Mommy” and I come in at the same time, well, I might as well not even be there. 

Director’s DVD Commentary:  Yes, Sweetpea calls the Beast her “Son” and she is his “Mommy.”  And when we first started dating, she said her son needed a “baby-daddy.”  (And I applied for the job.)  I know some people get offended by using those terms with pets, but too bad.  They get to name their own relationships, not anyone else’s.  In my home, our pets were always called our “fur-brothers” or “fur-sisters.”  Ain’t no thang…

The thing about The Beast is that he’s extremely smart AND vocal.  He’s like having an 81-pound toddler with fangs.  When he wants to play, he expects to play.  NOW.  Dog doesn’t care if you’re tired or hungry or sick or have other shit to do; when he wants to play, it’s time to play.  (And it’s always time to play.)

And if we’re busy talking, or heaven forbid, hugging, he’ll start “talking,” in a sort of guttural, back-of-the-throat onslaught of vowels.  “Can’t you see me sitting here?  I’m right here, and I want to play ball!  If I had thumbs, I’d throw a bucket of cold water on you two…”

If you were to hear him, without being privy to what’s going on, you’d be like, “Who is torturing that poor dog?  He sounds like he’s being torn from his soul!

Like toddlers, they don’t understand the concept of “enough.”  She can take him for a 45-minute walk, feed him like a king, go outside and have a session or two of throw-the-ball-and retrieve, and as soon as they come in, he wants to know what they’re going to do next.

Hah!  Feeding… I bet that dog eats better than some of her schoolkids.  If we’re having breakfast, she makes him an egg, and he gets a slice of whatever else we’re eating with it.  If she grills, she makes him his own burger.  His regular meal has blueberries and cheese and broth and whatever else is left over added to it.
No, he doesn’t always get a full platter; he’s just licking up the meat juice.

They have a “training” routine that cracks me up.  She cuts up half of a weenie and a cheese stick and she puts him through the paces.  Sit, stay, leave it, kiss mommy, heel, down… etc., with each feat rewarded with a goodie.  The thing is, the only time The Beast will obey any of these commands is during the Routine.

I often joke with Sweetpea that he is actually training HER and this is really nothing but a highly-ritualized snack producing exercise.  I’m like, “I’ll be impressed when you tell him to stay when he clearly doesn’t want to stay and there is no treat in sight.”

But let me be clear; none of this really bothers me… I kind of get a kick out of it.  I like having a dog around and their dynamic amuses me.  But yes, it can be a pain sometimes. 

Here’s a typical evening.

When I go to her place after work, they’re playing ball (or just finished) and then she makes dinner.  He gets his dinner when we eat ours.  Then he gets a bit of our dinner once we’re done.

After cleanup, it’s back outside for another ball game.

When done, Mommy comes in to sit down with me and have a drink.  Dog stands there peering intently at Mommy, not moving when she implores him to sit with us on the couch.  (He has his own area(s).)
The Beast in his spot.

He brings a toy over, not to hand over for tossing, but to be tugged on, or for us to chase him.  (That’s his favorite thing… to be chased around the room.)  She reaches for the toy, but he backs away, head cocked, still staring intently.

If we go back to what we were doing, talking amongst ourselves, then the vocalizing starts, usually with a grunt or two.  Then it becomes the long, tortured vowel movements where you’d think an alien is about to burst forth from his noble chest.  If there is still no response, (to his liking) the barking commences and that’s when The Beast gets in trouble.

Labs have a Big Dog bark.  Barking inside the house amplifies that into a nerve-jangling knife-edge.  Then either he goes in the crate for five minutes, (bad) or Sweetpea goes in her own room and shuts the door (worse).

The funny thing is that I think he’s barking because we already caught onto his other trick.  When I first came around, when he wasn’t getting attention and the vocalizing didn’t work, he’d go steal something of ours… usually something of mine.  My shoes, my slippers, Sweetpea’s glasses… one time he nosed into my overnight back and pulled out a folded pair of clean underwear, with which he ran around.

So now, when I come in, my shoes go in the closet, my clothes stay in the bag and I zip it up.  There’s not much left of ours for him to steal.

But that’s how smart he is… like, problem-solving smart.  We defeated one ploy so he created another.
The Beast, staring at Mommy while she gets dressed to go out and not play with him.

Remember when I wrote about how we got on well from the start?  That is literally because Sweetpea told him about me and he understood.  I don’t doubt that a bit.

It might sound like I’m just bitching about the dog… I’m really not.  I think the situation is hilarious (other than the barking).  And he’s just a product of his upbringing.  For years, it was just the two of them.  He had her undivided attention for most of the time she was home.  Who would give that up without a fight?  No rooster wants to see another rooster in the henhouse. 

The weekends have a different issue.  On weekdays, Sweetpea gets up around 5 AM for school.  So on weekends, she used to just do the same, out of habit.  Dogs don’t understand weekend sleep-ins, so he was raised to be ready for the day at 5:00. 

I, however, am not.  But we’ve gotten him to where he doesn’t come wake us up until 6-6:30, so that’s progress.  (OK, maybe not “us.”  Sweetpea gets up to tend to him and I fight for another hour’s sleep.)

We had a good time this weekend though.  I found out that he loves to watch horses.  He sat and watched the Kentucky Derby with us and rarely flinched from the screen.
Talk about a dog and pony show…

So now all we have to do is find some horse videos for him, or maybe subscribe to an OTB cable channel.  If we leave it on all night, we just might be able to sleep til’ 7:00!

Anyway, it’s been fun being around a dog again.  I know he’ll get used to me being around.  And I’ll get used to saving rib bones for him from work lunches.

I’ve seen what he can do to a big, thick bone.  I definitely want to stay on his good side.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Odd Bits - The "What Deficit?" Edition

I had this all teed up from last Wednesday before 45 even released his comprehensive 1-page tax reform plan.  An article in the Baltimore Sun caught my attention: 
Mitch showing how much tax relief the middle class can expect. 

I didn’t even have to read the article to get all wound up.  GOP leaders open to tax cuts?  No fuckin’ shit.  That’s their default position!

But this was back before they knew how skimpy and detail-free the president’s “plan” would be.  Not that it really mattered.  Republicans are still clinging to the illusion that tax cuts for the wealthy trickle down to the rest of us.

Senator Orrin Hatch said, “I’m not convinced that cutting taxes is necessarily going to blow a hole in the deficit.  I actually believe it could stimulate the economy and get the economy moving.”

Yes, and elephants “could” fly out of my butt, Orrin.  Anything “could” happen.  But experience and a long memory tell us that it won’t.  Where was all the trickle-down from the Bush tax cuts?  Or from the Reagan tax cuts.  Both led to massive recessions that had to be fixed by the succeeding Democratic administrations.

Also, as I repeatedly state, look at Kansas, who upon gaining the Republican nirvana of control of both state legislature and the governorship, unleashed massive tax cuts for businesses and the top earners, which immediately tanked their economy and triggered large budget cuts to essential services.  GOP wet dream, huh?

When they cut taxes for the upper echelon, the only things trickling down to the rest of us are the tears of laughter from the one-percenters, howling over how the voters bought their bullshit yet again.

The other thing is the ringing silence from the deficit hawks.  There’s no question that these proposed tax cuts are going to run up the deficit.

When Obama proposed, well, anything… from infrastructure fixes to foreign aid, or even hurricane relief, the Tea Baggers howled in protest, waxing dewy-eyed about the deficit and leaving our children a bill they can never pay off.

But put a white guy in office who wants to slash taxes for the wealthiest among us?  Crickets…
It just goes to show how hypocritical the Tea Party movement was, and how racist.  If they were genuinely concerned about the deficit, they would be pitching the same rallies now.  But they’re not.  And that’s how they’ll go down in history: a racist response to a black guy trying to spend “their” money.

Skipping the “Free” part in Freedom of Speech
I keep seeing complaints about how President Obama is getting paid $400k for a speech to investment banker, Cantor Fitzgerald.  Perhaps someone can explain to me why there was no protest of every other former president or politician making paid speeches. 

It’s the same shit again… it’s only wrong when Obama does it.  Republicans practically invented the former pol paid gig, but they want to criticize this guy. 

“I guess some people just don’t belong…”
I bet if Obama had turned down the speaking gig, the lead story on Fox "News" would be, "Obama refuses to speak to 9/11 survivors."*

Granted, Democrats are complaining too, but I don’t see the problem.  He’s the ex-president, with a capital EX.  What’s he going to do for Wall Street that the current administration isn’t?  It was under his watch that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created.  There’s nothing Wall Street would like more than for that to go away so they could go back to misleading their customers with fine print legalese.

*Cantor Fitzgerald was one of the companies decimated in the WTC collapse.

Draft Day
While I didn’t watch any of the NFL draft last weekend, I was keeping tabs on who the Steelers drafted.  I’m pleased with their top pick, TJ Watt, brother of NFL standout linebacker JJ Watt.  But to me, the best news was when I saw they drafted a wide receiver from USC named JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Now all they have to do is draft a guy named “Mojo” and I’ll never have to worry about what game jersey to wear.

As my dad pointed out, Myron Cope would have loved this guy.  Guaranteed, he never would have used his full name…  He’d be just JuJu for eternity.  In fact, I don’t think anyone in The Burgh is going to bother with the “Smith-Schuster” part. 

I just hope this guy’s shoulders are wide enough to fit all those letters on the back.

Hog Wild
Just to finish up on a happy note, did you see the story about how three ISIS guys were killed by, get this, a stampede of wild boars?

There’s only one reaction possible…

AHHHHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA

I know bacon is supposed to kill you, but I always thought it took a while.
This wasn’t even good revenge for the pigs, either.  The ISIS don’t eat no piggins… I say if they wanted real revenge, they should have stampeded through a SEC tailgate party.

And this must have been one great final insult to those poor slobs… killed by the very things they revile. 

The only thing that would have made it better would be if the hogs were wearing bikinis.  Or were educated.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Media Ownership Matters

One issue that doesn’t seem to get much attention is the ongoing consolidation of media ownership. 

There used to be strict rules about media ownership, with rules limiting the number of TV stations, radio stations and newspapers any one company could own, with special attention toward owning multiple outlets in one market.

I saw in the paper today that Sinclair Broadcast Group, based in the suburbs just north of Baltimore, announced plans to buy Bonten Media Group, which owns 14 TV stations across 8 markets.  Sinclair already owns 173 TV stations in 81 markets. 

Uncoincidentally, they made this announcement the day after the FCC relaxed broadcast ownership rules, a choice that plays to the preferences of the new Republican administration.  You rarely see Republicans do anything to impede the prospect of big business mergers.

This also comes on the heels of Sinclair’s prior announcement that they are preparing to buy Tribune Media, a merger which would bring together two of the largest television station owners.

So, why should we care?

Media moves minds, that’s why.  If one entity is servicing several hundred media markets, you have a single voice amplified into all those markets.  Whose agenda do you think it will be serving?

Imagine if a partisan entity like Fox “News” had that many outlets.  Imagine if you had Fox’s viewpoint coming out of NBC, CBS, ABC, CW, UNI and MNT affiliates across the country, all beating the same drum.  People without critical thinking and listening skills (and that’s the majority) can be easily swayed by repeated exposure to a consistent message.

It’s funny though, because what about the liberal media?  Isn’t that the presumption, that the media has a liberal bias?

It’s only a presumption because conservatives keep insisting on it, regardless of merit or data.  There are many arguments to be made but look at it through this one:  If the “media” is so liberal, how come the Republicans are loosening the rules to allow fewer voices broadcast into the market, and the Democrats are against it?

If it really was a liberal media, the GOP would be taking the opposite position and trying to restrict ownership, to allow for a diversity of voices, which would be better to get theirs heard.  But in reality, media companies are some of the largest corporations in the country, prime customers for pro-business, free market conservatism.

Fortunately for us, (thus far), most have independent news departments, who in practicing actual journalism, are obligated to ask hard questions to those in power, whichever party it may be.

The difference is that Democrats answer the questions and Republicans complain about unfair treatment from a “liberal media.”  I mean, that’s part of the strategy, isn’t it? 

When you can’t provide a satisfactory answer, blame the one asking the questions.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Things That Go Boom

In his most effective Russian Problem Diversion yet, President 45 started going all Commander in Chief by dropping bombs.

First, he pretended to avenge the gassing of the children he wouldn’t let in our country by bombing the airfield in Syria, from which the gas attacks were allegedly based.

The following week, he dropped the “MOAB,” or so-called Mother of all Bombs, in Afghanistan, to blow up a tunnel system being used by ISIS.  This is the largest non-nuclear bomb the US has in its arsenal.

In reality, the results were mixed.  In Syria, the airfield was open and running traffic through it the very next day.  It was almost as if the Syrians knew the strike was coming and moved all their aircraft and personnel away from it… which is exactly what ABC news reported.

The White House said that they notified Russia before the strike; it’s not a stretch to think that the Russians then tipped off their buddy Assad, to mitigate the damage.

In Afghanistan, the body count is in the 90s; all ISIS bad guys, they say.  But what the military experts say is that this was not a bomb built for hitting hardened targets like tunnels or underground bunkers.  They have other ordnance for that.

As far as I can see, the entire point of all these explosions was to 1) Divert attention from all the Trump/Russia leaks, and 2) Look like a tough-guy president.

Republicans are never happier than when one of their guys is blowing shit up, and the bigger the boom, the better.  I bet there was nothing but raging wood all up and down the right side of the Congressional aisle.

Granted, it has to be one of their own guys.  Remember when Obama wanted to address Syria and he went to Congress to ask them to authorize military action?  Remember how Congress said no?  I do.  Obama wanted to blow up more than a runway and the Republicans both 1) said it wasn’t enough and 2) we shouldn’t involve American troops at all.

But now with their guy in office, his muted response resulted in his being seen as William the Conqueror. 

I guarantee they used the MOAB bomb for no other reason than it made a big kaboom… one that would play well on the nightly news.  And they knew all the guys in the bar would be thrilled that the old U.S. of A. was back to kicking ass and making fireballs that can be seen from the space station.

They probably wanted to get North Korea’s attention as well, but I’m not sure that would make an impression.  NK is basically a suicidal regime.  The dough-faced tyrant over there doesn’t care what happens to his captives… I mean, citizens.  I’m sure KJU has a tunnel from his presidential palace down to a hardened bunker for himself and the livestock he’s been using to feed his face. 

If you ask me, they’re the perfect enemy to hype up against.  True, they’re batshit crazy, but do you really think they can do damage to the American homeland?  These guys couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn at 20 paces.  If you look closely at their missiles, you can see ACME stenciled on them.  And we think they’re going to get one all the way across the Pacific and hit us?  They couldn’t even blow up the Panama Canal correctly, with the Chechens helping them.
Of course, they could probably succeed in “accidently” lobbing a missile into South Korea or Japan.  So I suppose we ought to clear out.  I bet the natives are restless over there.

The best idea on Korea I’ve heard so far came from Dilbert cartoonist, Scott Adams, who says all we need for a peaceful resolution is a way for North Korea to save face.  He suggests having South Korea give up their half of the Demilitarized Zone, on the condition it’s occupied exclusively by the Chinese.  That way South Korea gives up nothing useful, North Korea gets to claim victory and neither one will cross China.  Everyone wins.

Of course, we wouldn’t get to blow anything else up and where’s the fun in that?

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Whole New Ballgame

As you may recall, I’ve been going to an awful lot of ballgames in the last couple of years.  Last year alone, I went to 26 Orioles games, which was a new personal record for one season.

I go to so many games for a number of reasons… It’s fun, I’m a sports fan, it’s affordable (for a big-league sports event), the facility is nice, it’s convenient, it gets me out of the house, but most of all, I haven’t had anything better to do.

But now, since I met Sweetpea, I do have other things to do, for a change.  But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up the ballgames.  She likes going to games so I can take her with me.  Not to 26 of them, mind you, but a fair number.  And I’ll also have Sitcom Kelly to keep me company on days Sweetpea doesn’t care to go.

Until school lets out in mid-June, it requires special planning to account for her dog, if she’s going to be away for that long.  And to help matters, I conceded that we can get there only one hour before game-time, as opposed to the two hours early that I usually allow.  (If she sat and drank beer at The Bullpen for as long as I usually do, she’d be comatose by the first pitch.)

So it was a beautiful sunny Saturday, last weekend, when we took our first trip to Camden Yards together.  It was a 4:05 game so we planned to arrive between 2:30 and 3:00.  I was eager to share my traditional game-day experiences with her, especially introducing her to my usual bartender and friends down at The Bullpen.

But first, we had our subway ride into town.  I had my monthly pass, of course, so we got her a $4 “day-pass.”  After we got off the train, I had her give hers to me for safe keeping, because chivalry is totally not dead yet.  Plus I didn’t want it getting lost.  I have a little plastic sleeve that I keep mine in, so hers went in there too.

Because the hated Yankees were in town, the place was lousy with New Yorkers and the outside bar areas were mobbed.  There were no seats at the bar at The Bullpen, but we found a place to stand, which was good enough for the moment.  We could nurse a couple of beers and stake out the people who looked like they were getting ready to leave.  (This is why I usually get there so early… there are much better odds of getting a seat at the bar.)

I was bummed because A) I’d left my Bullpen VIP card at home, and B) none of the regular bartenders, nor the bar manager were there.  That meant nobody knew me, so I had to drink regular-priced beer, just like a non-VIP schmo. 

A couple of young girls jammed themselves right in front of us, and within minutes, they swooped in and sat in the seats left behind by the couple whose stools we were staking out.  Little shits!  Duly insulted, we left, which was fine because it gave us time to wander around the ballpark.  Sweetpea had been there before, but not often.  And lord knows I’m a veritable fountain of information, now that I’ve taken the Camden Yards tour

Our tickets were in the left field club section, a place from which I’ve seen quite a lot of games.  I like it because it’s more secluded, has all the club level amenities, yet doesn’t cost any more than the lower left field box seats. 

Our view from section 272.

Nevertheless, our section was still defiled by a handful of Yankees fans, who’d made the trip down from NYC.  At least they were entertaining…

Walking around the club level, I had the chance to tell my fabled story of the time I wasn’t sufficiently careful in choosing the restroom I walked into. 

Anyway, we saw a good game and enjoyed the afternoon, although if I were dying, this would have been the perfect game to attend because it seemed to go on F O R E V E R!  We were three hours in and had only seen six innings.  We took that as our cue to leave.  It was still a close game, with the Orioles down by one, but I figured we’d be home in time to catch the end on TV.

We heard a huge roar shortly after we left the park, so I figured the O’s had tied it up.  I figured I could check it out once we got on the train and it eventually came up from underground (about halfway home).  Again, I took Sweetpea’s subway pass after she used it, and put it in the holder with mine so I could make sure it didn’t get lost. 

Then it took about 25 minutes for a train to show up.  Pissed me off because they’re supposed to run every 10-11 minutes on the weekends.  That’s another thing to do when you’re dying… go sit in a subway station and wait for late trains.

So eventually, a train came and whisked us toward our destination.  And when I checked the box score on my phone, I saw that not only had the Orioles taken the lead right there in the 7th, but they were just closing out the win in the bottom of the 9th.  So NOW they start burning through the innings?  Gah!

The train pulled into our station and we hopped out.  As the train pulled away and we went down the escalator I reached into my pocket to give her the subway pass (which is required to enter AND exit) and guess what wasn’t there.

Fuck.  Me.  The passes were in the same pocket as my phone and when I reached in to pull out my phone, the passes must have slipped out too, and fallen on the seat or floor.  So much for my Knight in Shining Armor routine, steadfastly guarding milady’s day pass…

But worse, my monthly pass was gone and I still have three more weeks of subway rides on it.  Fuuuuck!  Granted, it could have been worse… I’ve been working from home two days a week lately, so that’s an expense of $24 averted.  But still, I’ll have to spend $36 in subway fare this month, that I’ve already bought.

I hope it was found by someone who needed it, anyway.

So the first game with my baby didn’t quite work out as I’d hoped, but I can’t complain.  It was only our opening day and I got to spend a nice afternoon with a pretty girl, watching a baseball game.  We’ll have a lot of other opportunities to work out the kinks.  And I’m pretty sure she’ll be carrying her own subway pass from now on. 

In fact, she should carry mine too.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Odd Bits - The Fox Tales Edition

I don’t have enough material on any single issue to warrant a post today, so that means it’s time for some Odd Bits.

Fox in the Henhouse
I saw this story clinging to my Yahoo home page and I just kept wondering, “Why is this a story?

The click-bait headline was: “Drexel Professor: ‘I tried not to vomit’ when a passenger gave his seat to a soldier.”  The gist was this professor thought the first class passenger offering to trade seats w/ a uniformed serviceman was smug and self-congratulatory, and tweeted about it.

My take: the guy sounds like an asshole, he’s taking a lot for granted about motivations here, and ultimately it’s none of his business.  But it’s not a news story.  Some dude got his pants in a twist.  Happens every day.

Then I saw the source of the story: Fox “News.”  That explains it.

Fox’s angle is threefold.

1)      Fox loves to characterize colleges as a hotbed of liberalism being inflicted on our apple-cheeked youth in a dastardly attempt to turn them into godless Commies.  So anytime a professor can be shown in a negative light, (and this one came gift-wrapped for maximum harrumphing) it’s going to get maximum exposure.   

2)      Fox also has a stake in combatting the education of idealistic young people.  See, if they go to college and find out that a bunch of things they learned from their parents or church aren’t really true, they might not become a reliable red-state voter like Uncle Rupert wants them to be.  The last thing Fox wants if for young voters to decide that fossil fuel ISN’T the best way to go, or that coal sludge dumped directly into running streams might foul up the local fishing, or birth control really IS the most realistic way to prevent pregnancy.  Why do you think these voter ID states don't include college IDs as permissible forms of identification?
3)     This particular professor has made statements in favor of white genocide and generally taking white men to task for the plight of the oppressed.  Fox doesn’t like that because it conflicts with their editorial angle that white men have already solved racism, and the only bigotry left is that of “reverse racism” against whites. 

So, in a nutshell, we have some disturbed white guy sending pissy tweets.  This is not news to anyone but Fox.  Unless it's the President, in which case it gets a half hour’s conversation on Fox and Friends.

Yes, Three’s a Crowd, but also Necessary to Keep the VP from Sexing you Down
The “Billy Graham Rule,” have you heard of that?  If so, that’s probably because it just came out that VP Pence adheres to that rule, or at least he did 15 years ago.  In honor of this rule, Pence declared that he would never eat dinner with another woman, or be anywhere where there are women and alcohol present, without his wife.

Now, I can see an angle of self-preservation there that I can’t necessarily condemn.  If you can’t control yourself, that is, in which case it’s better to keep temptation to a minimum.  But aren’t these super-religious family men supposed to be spiritually prepared to ignore their baser instincts?

As some regular schmo, maybe a guy can pull that off.  But as the second in command of the US government?  That doesn’t seem very fair to women.  (As if the current regime gives a shit about fairness to anyone who isn’t a rich white man…) 

Like on a golf course, the business of government often gets done over dinner.  That’s one of the reasons why country clubs were forced, kicking and screaming, into allowing female members.  So would he use this evangelical throwback of a “rule” as the means not to have dinner with his, say, Secretary of Education or Transportation?  Maybe.

More likely, it just means he’d be less likely to hire a woman into any position of power, with whom he might have to work closely.

The thing that yanks my pubes about it is that it’s just one more way to blame the woman for a man not being able to keep his dick to himself (or to his wife).  It doesn’t matter that she’s qualified to do the job or that she is not remotely interested in the VP’s Department of Schong; the only solution is not to allow her to reach a position of power that entails working closely together.  OR, hiring her but restricting access so that she can’t do her job to the fullest.  

It’s just one of a zillion ways that white men keep a little more prosperity for themselves, at the expense of women of all colors.  But it’s all good because some old religious con artist said so.

But on the Bright Side…
Speaking of con artists, there were new felony charges brought against those bogus “citizen journalists” who accused Planned Parenthood of selling baby parts for profit, via a criminally deceptive video tape.  The two videographers were charged with 15 counts each of filming someone without their consent.  (That’s one count for each person filmed without consent.)

It’s not exactly racketeering, but hey, if they could get Capone on tax evasion, why not?  I’d love to see these clowns do some jail time.  Maybe their next “sting” operation can be of the “How Not to Get Boned up the Ass in the Shower Room” variety.

It’s just funny that these “sting” tapes have triggered more than a dozen state investigations and not one turned up even a sniff of wrong-doing, let alone a chargeable offense.  Yet to this day, state governments still site the tape as “evidence” that Planned Parenthood needs to lose funding.

Social conservatives got what they wanted, though.  They got their election-year headlines.  They didn’t actually need any of it to be true; it just had to be sticky enough to last through Election Day. 

It’s funny how these pricks will stoop to any level of deceit if it will get them what they want.  And they can probably find a Bible verse to back them up, too. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Unlike Generalissimo Franco, the ACA is Still Not Dead

People with health issues and varying amounts of cash to pay for treatment got a reprieve last week when the President and the Speaker of the House pulled the AHCA from considerations.  Despite a week of arm-twisting, leadership was not able to secure the votes needed for passage.
The bill was not expected to pass the Senate anyway.

While at first glance, one might think it cause for celebration; that cooler heads prevailed to keep the American public from getting shafted.  But that’s not really the case.  Sure, there were moderate Republicans who feared the backlash from constituents who would lose their insurance.  But the real obstacle were the hard-right conservatives that didn’t think the AHCA went far enough to remove government aid for the poor from health care.  In other words, 24 million people losing their insurance wasn’t enough.

For example, Rep. Mark Meadow (R-NC), Chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, balked at having essential health-benefit requirements remain in the current law, like maternity and newborn car, and substance abuse treatment.

Yep, they want to save the babies, but they sure as shit don’t want to provide anything for them once they’re born.

At first, the President tried to blame Democrats, but that didn’t gain much traction.  How does one blame a party for refusing to help you dismantle a program they fought like hell to enact?  Their resistance was a given.

The real fault was obviously with the Republicans, who were not able to pass their own bill, even though they had numbers to spare and 7 years to come up with an idea they could all support.  I think it’s a leftover indicator of the Tea Party influence.  Representatives swept into office in 2010 by the Tea Party showed that they were unwilling to compromise on anything and would settle for nothing less than every single thing they wanted.

As Stephen Colbert once said, their thought process was “You scratch my back… and I get my back scratched.”  Now they’re doing it to each other, rather than just “the enemy.”

It’s funny how the GOP still complains about how the ACA was passed so quickly and rammed down everyone’s throats.  I guess it depends on one’s point of view.  It may have felt like it was passed quickly, because passage seemed inevitable, but look at the numbers.

There were 79 Congressional hearings over the proposed ACA, which included over a hundred witnesses, expert and otherwise, who gave testimony.  The hearings went on for a year and a half.  There were also multiple budgetary “scores” from the CBO, as the bill evolved.

Contrast that to the AHCH.  Republicans introduced the bill on a Monday and passed it at 4:30 in the morning, three days later.  They actively kept the bill from being seen by Democrats, as they moved it from place to place.  There were zero hearings, zero witnesses, and zero testimony.  There was no analysis from the CBO until after the bill had passed.

So why did they want to pass it so fast?  Simple answer… they knew how grossly unpopular the AHCA was going to be, once the details went public.  Only 17% of the American people support this proposal.  There’s no way not to see it as a massive tax cut for the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. 
 And once passed, congressmen can go into hiding from their constituents, knowing that in their massively gerrymandered districts, with their high-moneyed benefactors filling their re-election coffers, they’d have nothing to worry about as far as keeping their jobs.  Republicans are nothing if not adept at moving people attention from an unpleasant topic to a trumped up “scandal.”

We haven’t seen the last of the Republican effort to get rid of the ACA.  For the time being, they can continue to do what they’ve been doing: killing it via a thousand cuts.  Trump has already made public his intent to let the ACA crash through benign neglect or outright sabotage and then shift blame to the Democrats.
Then when there’s nothing left of the ACA, they’ll resurrect this loaded diaper and rewrap it for public consumption.  I don’t know what benefit it will be to the average American, but you know it will contain a massive tax cut for the wealthy.  That’s really the only component Republicans really care about.

The only question is whether we will remember in 2018 what they’re doing in 2017.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Welcome to Rock ‘n Roll Heaven; Your Throne Awaits

It was with great sadness, this weekend, that I learned of the passing of Chuck Berry.

There is no possible way to over-estimate the influence of Chuck Berry on rock and roll.  He pretty much invented it, Elvis and Bill Haley be damned.

If it wasn’t for Chuck, the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame would be nothing but an overly-stylized greenhouse.

I know for me, none of my favorite groups would have been my favorite groups, or likely anyone’s favorite groups, without Chuck Berry.

The Stones, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, AC/DC, George Thorogood, Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, The J Geils Band, ELO, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, Motley Crue, The Kinks, Huey Lewis, and practically every rock band that featured an electric guitar, owe their careers to Chuck Berry.  Hell, Angus Young practically stole Chuck’s whole act.  (Although I’m pretty sure Chuck never wore an English schoolboy suit.)

Someone once asked George Thorogood why he didn’t write many of his own songs.  George replied, “Because Chuck Berry already wrote all the good ones.  On his 1990s live album, Thorogood called Johnny B. Goode the “rock and roll national anthem.”

With the latter quote in mind, I had a thought on Sunday, as the Penguins regular anthem singer, Jeff Jimerson, stepped onto the ice:
That might have set off a scandal amongst this country’s “true patriots,” though, who are against anything but dewy-eyed reverence when it comes to the anthem, and the NHL doesn’t need that kind of bad PR.  Maybe they could have done it along with the regular anthem like they do when a US team plays a Canadian team and they do both anthems.  Would have been awesome!  Without Chuck, few of the bands they use in hockey arenas would even exist.

Johnny B. Goode is one of the most “covered” rock songs in history; any garage band worth its salt has a version.  Besides Thorogood’s, Johnny Winter’s version is my favorite.
It’s no accident that the Back to the Future scene where Marty McFly has to play for a 1950s dance, they used JBG.  Not Elvis, not Jerry Lee or Bill Haley, but Chuck Berry.

That’s what gave the scene resonance; if Chuck Berry wasn’t the root of modern rock music, that bit falls flat.

In the last verse of Bob Seger’s Rock ‘n Roll Never Forgets, he name-drops Chuck Berry:

Well all of Chuck’s children are out there, playin’ his licks
So get into your kicks.
Come back baby, rock ‘n roll never forgets.”

I think the musician most closely associated with Chuck is Keith Richards.  It was Keith who was the driving force behind the feature film “Hail Hail Rock and Roll,” which was part documentary, part concert film. 

Keith had a camera crew follow him around as he convinced Chuck to do the project, put a band together (including forging a peace between Chuck and his old piano player, Johnny Johnson), and rehearsed the show.

There’s no question that Chuck was a ball-buster.  The film shows Chuck and Keith going nose to nose when Chuck doesn’t like the way Keith is playing a particular lick and makes him do it again and again.  And Keith takes it, as a show of respect for Chuck. 

That respect is probably the only thing that kept Chuck out of the hospital, on another occasion where he punched Keith right in the face.  See, Keith picked up Chuck’s guitar, which is something he allowed no one to do, ever.

"If that was anybody else," Keith said later, "I'd have slit his fuckin’ throat.” 

Chuck had several quirks that were known throughout the music business.  From at least the 70s on, he never had a permanent backing band.  He’d just roll into town and the promoter would have a local band play with him.  It was a given that they all knew his songs.  Whether they could agree on a key to play them in, was another story.

Chuck insisted on being paid in cash, following his shows.  He did all his business on a cash basis.  And after the royal screwing black musicians got throughout the 50s and 60s, from record labels and businessmen, I don’t blame him.  Those guys got screwed dry by the very machine that made them famous.

There’s one thing that always bugged me:  Out of all the huge, timeless, inspirational hits… Johnny B Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Livin’ in the USA, No Particular Place to Go, Maybelline… his only number one Billboard hit was a ridiculous 1972 novelty song called “My Ding-a-Ling.”  

Just goes to show that there’s no accounting for taste.  (Sure, I liked it at the time, but I was eleven, for cryin’ out loud.) 

So, the next time you find yourself jamming to some glorious, blues-drenched, three-chord rock ‘n roll, give a thought to where it all came from and remember Chuck Berry.

Rest in peace, Chuck.  And just wait till you get a load of your new backup band!