Monday, September 26, 2022

A Confidence Man

Did you see this headline about Sen. Lindsey Graham from last week? I wonder if he really believes his own bullshit here…

Oh, he’s confident, is he? Seriously? Is that because millions of American women are so hair-on-fire mad at Republicans for pushing for women to have fewer rights than dead people? Is that because a referendum on the same subject got trounced in blood-red Kansas? Is that because other Republican colleagues of his are all, “Hey Lindsey, shoosh with that, will ya? Yer gonna get us killed, or worse, not re-elected.”

Unless he’s talking about his local church coffee klatch, I’m confident that a mass majority of Americans would absolutely NOT support a national ban on abortion. It makes me wonder where he’s getting his information. Is he looking at a poll of Federalist Society members? Otherwise, his statement reeks of desperately wishful thinking.

You have to wonder that when an idea is this unpopular, why would any politician go near it? That’s why prospective justices bob and weave and do anything but reveal their true intentions regarding how they would rule on abortion cases. Then after they’ve been appointed for life, they can get on with reducing American women to the level of “breeding livestock.” But they don’t lead with that, for Pete’s sake. It’s bad for business.

The Universal Kibosh

As I’ve often said, whenever conservatives want to squash an idea, they just drag out the issue of homeless veterans… not to provide homes, obviously, but to use them as a blockade against anything that costs money or benefits someone they deem undesirable. So here we are again:

I saw this posted on Facebook. I’m not sure if it’s a patch or a doormat, with the latter being applicable to the way Republicans figuratively step on veterans to prevent anything beneficial from happening to anyone else.

My usual reaction is that this isn’t a binary equation. There’s no reason the government can‘t do something for both veterans AND asylum seekers. We don't have to decide on one over the other.

Republicans had two years of unrestricted power. If they wanted to do something for veterans, they could have. But what did they do? They passed a massive tax cut for the richest among us and made it permanent. Then they tossed some tax cut scraps to the rest of us, and set it to expire after seven years. And that’s about it. They did diddley-squat for homeless veterans when they had the chance.

And hell, Republicans had to be shamed into supporting health care for veterans and 9/11 first responders last month. Their initial action was to shoot it down as payback for the Democrats having the gall to pass a bill Republicans didn’t like. Then Jon Stewart raised enough of a ruckus about it that they had to turn tail and reverse themselves.

This ties in with the Republican trope of using people’s lives as pieces on a board to play an inhuman game of chess. On one side, homeless veterans; on the other, asylum-seeking immigrants, locked into a perpetually stalemated game that no one ever wins. Except for the rich, who rigged the board in the first place, keeping us moving against each other while they pad their bottom lines.

I guarantee you this. If the Democrats ever proposed something to provide housing to every homeless veteran, (and they should!), Republicans would find a reason to block that too, probably while ranting against handouts and socialism. They’d accuse Democrats of political gamesmanship because they only recognize the games they’ve already fixed.

Here’s another angle on why providing homes for homeless vets would never fly: It would be unfair to the rest of the veterans who already bought their own homes. In fact, we may have already heard this argument a time or two, haven’t we?

Why Can’t We Just Go Straight to Jet Packs?

One of my conservative FB friends posted this on her timeline:

I just wonder where this even comes from. Is there a bloc of people raging against the A/C? I’ve never heard such a thing. I’m pretty sure it’s not coming from the mainstream.

But regardless, this is still another example of the Fossil Fuel industry sowing the seeds of misinformation to be spread by conservatives, to try to stamp out the momentum driving toward electric cars. They always seem to want to point out that it takes energy and possible earthly harm to create machines that reduce or eliminate emissions. And I’ll even concede that point, to an extent.

It takes energy to make both a gas-powered car and an electric one. See, both are on an even footing. But then take a look after the cars are built. One operates far more fuel efficient and the other continues to emit exhaust into the atmosphere and continues to require fuel that has to be pumped from the ground and highly refined, which also carries environmental harm.

Yes, electric cars require electricity, but that can be made with far less damage done to the atmosphere. There’s wind, solar, and even nuclear, that when done properly, are more environmentally friendly than drilling for oil and refining it into gasoline. But that’s the last thing the Fossil Fuel industry wants you to think about. They know they’re on the way out and they’re doing everything in their power to delay that from happening.

America needs to get off its collective ass and make progress with creating renewable energy sources. The tech is there, the conditions are there, we just need the collective will to make it happen.

Taking the News by Storm

I love it when hurricane season brings storms with the same name as people I know. I remember a while back when there was a famous storm with the same name as my ex-wife. I was totally on the lookout for clippings I could send her as the storm-ravaged her home state. But I never found anything compelling… most headlines referenced “Hurricane X” or “Tropical Storm X” rather than just “X Destroys Valuable Beachfront Property.” I was probably better off without it though. I doubt she would have accepted the clippings in the spirit I would have intended.

But this morning, I found a headline that I could use on someone else, so I tagged my cousin with it on FB.

That cracked my shit up as soon as I saw it this morning.

Ian appreciated it and wrote back about something similar his family had done regarding his father:

It’s even funnier because his dad is probably 150 lbs of bone and gristle. He could have had a fine career as a spy because he’d only have to turn sideways to he’d disappear from sight.

Lastly, just because this bluzdude has a birthday coming up this weekend:

Monday, September 19, 2022

MAGA Bingo

Hey there political junkies! Tired of listening to the same old excuses from the GOP whenever their Orange Idol steps on his own dick again?

Bored with the same old outlandish lies and blatant misdirections when one of TFG’s minions spills the tea on Republicans’ actual plans?

Why not make a game of it with MAGA BINGO!

When the next news cycle brings another atrocity, just cut out your game card and start playing along! Keep track of what the MAGAs say to alibi their heroes out of hot water and win valuable prizes!*

*Prizes = Sense of pride and well-being for not falling for their bullshit.

Yeah, That’s Exactly the Same

I saw this on my Yahoo news home page last week:

It’s from Fox “News,” of course. Otherwise, they might have realized that their guy spent millions worth of taxpayer money on golf trips, the funds for which were paid directly to his own properties. Maybe Fox should pipe down about a president going to vote.

And aren’t they against mail-in voting anyway? I guarantee that if he mailed in his ballot, they’d come up with some kind of twisted story involving fraudulent ballots. Given their own loyalists’ penchant for voting in multiple places or in precincts to which they don’t belong, they should pipe down about that too. In fact, they should just pipe down about everything… they’ll raise the country’s average IQ by at least several points.

The thing is, a president has to travel by expensive means. That holds true for presidents on both sides of the political divide. It’s a sign of a dishonest argument to castigate your opponent for something your guy does even more. But my point is that it’s rolled into the cost of doing business as president. There are protocols and security issues that are above and beyond the experience of the average citizen, so most comparisons are skewed.

What the president does is important. He should be setting a good example. Being seen in the process of voting is good for the country because it promotes an important civic duty. But then the LAST thing Republicans want is for the unwashed masses to actually vote, especially in person. That takes a whole area of fraud accusations off the table. That’s why restrict the number of voting machines in urban areas and pass laws forbidding the distribution of food or water to people in the lines they just legislated into existence. And speaking of, look at this local issue:

This is from this morning’s newspaper. Dan Cox is a Trumpian, “Big Lie” supporting wingnut who won the Republican nomination for governor, without the backing of the current Republican governor, who thinks he’s a wackadoo. He did enjoy the support of the Democrats though, who spent money on ad buys backing him, because they couldn’t wait to run against this guy.

Remember how the Republicans and the conservative media outlets spent weeks decrying how long it took to count mail-in votes and because of that time delay, insisted it was proof of fraud? I don’t think they want to give up that particular rallying cry, otherwise, authorizing the advance or same-day counting of mail-in votes is a no-brainer. What possible benefit is there to holding off counting the votes? I can’t think of a single up-side, especially when everyone wants results and decisions immediately, Republicans included. But, even more, they want their excuse to protest any election they don’t win. This guy is just trying to keep his alibis in play.

Pawns to Queen Four

I was appalled at the crass gamesmanship employed by Florida Man Ron DeSantis, who borrowed some asylum applicants from Texas and flew them to Martha’s Vineyard on the taxpayers’ dime. ($12 million worth of dimes.)

I haven’t seen such a denial of status as a human being since the Knights jumped the Queen in History of the World Pt 1.

Mel Brooks was joking, but DeSantis is not.

The MAGA adherents he’s trying to inherit from TFG love this kind of thing… it’s red meat for them. Immigrants are sub-human to them anyway so this is nothing. They’re probably patting themselves on the back for giving these people their first plane ride.

What they didn’t get right is the thought of any Lib-owning.

Nothing like this remotely happened. They thought the hoity-toities of the Vineyard would get huffy about it, and they might have if there were even there. But this is “off-season.” Most of the hoities have left, leaving only the common toities to deal with the influx. And that, they did. They got them set up with beds and meals and are working out what to do long-term. DeSantis apparently couldn’t be bothered to even check if the people he was trying to prank were home.

What DeSantis did, with the help of Governor Abbott from Texas, is basically kidnapping. They got them onboard this plane with promises of jobs and quarters, without even bothering to let anyone know they were coming. It was like they were dumping an unwanted dog on somebody’s farm. Or like some big prank, only instead of a stack of pizzas showing up, it was thirty poor, scared, immigrants trying to flee terrorists and criminals. Sounds like they got out of Texas just in time.

The other thing that gets me is that this isn’t even a Florida concern. If he wants to round up some immigrants, let him burrow into his state’s Cuban communities. What the hell did he do, ring up Abbott and ask if he could borrow a cup of Venezuelans? But he just wanted in on some of the good MAGA PR that Abbott was getting. This was nothing but a photo op. And you can tell that for sure because Fox “News” knew they were showing up and sent a camera crew. How is it that they knew but no one from the state or town knew? It’s because the most important thing was that Fox “News” got a story and some footage.

Both “men” disgust me, and it disgusts me even more that there are people who cheer them on.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Getting Down to Brass Tax

There are now three guaranteed certainties in this life, Death, Taxes, and Republicans trying to get out of paying taxes. I saw this a couple weeks ago and it got me thinking: 

First, I don’t know who was “crying” about Elon Musk buying Twitter instead of “solving” world hunger. Yeah, it would have been nice for a guy like Musk to spend some of his excessive dough on projects that would better our surroundings. And he likes to pose as quite the philanthropist, but I think he prefers his vanity projects.

And since when can $80 billion “solve” world hunger? There are far too many factors and variables to make it so that no one is ever hungry again. $80 bil wouldn’t make a dent. It may help a select group of people for a finite amount of time, but that’s not a solution. A serious solution would look too much like Socialism and that’s the last thing people who like this meme would want. Or, it might look like this idea from the 80s:

“It occurred to me that there wouldn’t BE world hunger if you people would live where the FOOD IS!

But I was really more interested in the IRS bit. This Democrat is thrilled that the IRS is getting rejuvenated. The last administration was keen to let the whole organization whither on the vine and die so that the richest among us could still use all the tax lawyers at their disposal to ensure that the national tax burden rested on the rest of us, and not them.

I don’t think the IRS is interested in chasing down us commoners for audits. Where’s the payoff in that? (Other than enjoying the sadism.)

If I’m a guy working for the IRS and I want to produce results, where do I look? I look where the money is, with the rich, and not with the working stiffs. Chasing down the average citizen is a waste of time and resources. I’d want to be able to say to my boss at review time, “I recovered X-dollars’ worth of unpaid taxes,” where “X” is the largest number possible.

Republicans know this, probably because their rich donors pound it into their heads, so they want the IRS to be as under-manned, under-funded, and under-equipped as possible. So when the new funding bill wanted to bolster the T-men, they figured they need to get the commoners good and scared about getting audited by gun-packing federal agents. It’s the tax equivalent of the “death squads” they trotted out to make everyone afraid of Obamacare, and just as misleading.

That’s the Fact, Jack

I saw this a while back and it’s just too ridiculous for words:

You have to admire the chutzpah it takes to attack fact-checkers by citing a book of myths and fairy tales.

The person who posted this on his FB account has posted several anti-fact checking memes in the past, no doubt harvested from the many conservative social media outlets he reads.

And what I always want to say, at top volume, is “Maybe if your side didn’t produce so much pure bullshit, the need for fact-checking wouldn’t be so severe!

I’m sure it does get frustrating to have everything your team tells you to believe turn out to be a nothing-burger. But the solution isn’t to kill the fact-checkers, it’s to cut the crap. Come up with a message that holds up to scrutiny.

But that’s the problem. The people creating bullshit memes know they’re untrue, but the truth wouldn’t be good for business. If TFG taught us anything it’s that you can get ahead but by flooding the market with so much junk, no one can tell one outrage from another. And by the time we get a handle on one thing, ten more have taken their place. It’s the “Hydra” theory of politics.

Game On

I know it doesn’t matter to many but I was thrilled, yesterday, to get back into pro football. Got my fantasy team stocked, got my picks made, got my game jersey mojo spreadsheet open, and I’m ready for some football.

But I also realized that the world of sports can also produce bullshit memes, which seem impressive at first glance, but don’t really hold up under further review. Like this one:

Everyone knows Tom Brady and usually has an opinion. Greatest of All Time? The Anti-Christ? Or maybe something in between. Personally, I’ll be happy when he retires for good because he pretty much owns my favorite team. The sooner he’s gone, the better for me. But I won’t argue that his legacy isn’t impressive. Impressive enough that it doesn’t need a meme like this.

What’s wrong with it? Well, it’s cherry-picked to make his legacy look larger than it is.

Look at the list of other quarterbacks. This meme creator specifically chose big names who didn’t win many (or any) Super Bowls. Where’s Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr, or even Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Bradshaw and Montana by themselves would top Brady. (Each won four.)

Hell, if you really want to pad the list, why not add every quarterback in NFL history who lost a Super Bowl? You’d have to keep paging down just to see them all.

I say Brady’s Super Bowl accomplishments stand alone as some of the greatest ever. They don’t need to be fluffed up by weak comparisons.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Odd Bits - Editia Latina

Republicans are still bellyaching over the president daring to help the lives of ordinary citizens by easing their debt load. As usual, misinformation, misdirection, and outright lies take center stage.

Misinformation: this meme.

One of the main points of the debt relief order is that just getting a job does not solve the problem of paying off the debt. Between the high interest and the structuring of the payment process (to pay interest before principle), it takes a truly high-paying job to make a dent, let alone pay it all off. Lots of people struggling with student debt have jobs. But they also have life expenses like housing, groceries, medical issues, and utilities, all of which are at all-time highs. Unlike non-executive wages.

The simplistic notion of “Just get a job” doesn’t do justice to the situation. In fact, it pretends that’s the solution when it clearly is not. “Just get a job as a CEO or Hedge Fund Manager” would be much more accurate, but sadly, there are not tens of thousands of such job openings.

I saw a commercial last week that was intended to mock the notion of student debt relief. In it, they had people portraying various manual laborers sarcastically talking about how they don’t mind paying for other people to go to college. This brings us to:

Misdirection: Talking about how all these “college graduates” get a free education on the backs of the rest of them.

One of the glaring problems with the whole situation is that student debt is hardly limited to people that got their degrees. When I went to school, I was told that only about a quarter of the freshman class would ever graduate. Assuming those stats are accurate, or close to accurate, that leaves a buttload of people who took out the loans but never earned that degree that was supposed to be key in paying off the loan.

Sure, some partied their way out of school, and others couldn’t hack it academically, but there are also many who had to drop out for other reasons, like having to go to work to support a family, medical issues, or getting pregnant and starting a family. Or any of a myriad of reasons that don’t involve a lack of effort or attention. So right out of the gate, they have to find entry-level (and usually low-paying) jobs and still service a high-interest loan.

Also, consider that $10,000 doesn’t necessarily pay off a student loan. While a reduced payment is welcome, the payment structure is still the same and the lendee still has to make payments aggressively if they are to ever pay down the balance.

Republicans don’t want you to think about those sides of the story, they’d rather you concentrate on getting angry over supporting basket-weavers, navel-gazers, and partiers.

The commercial actors also mention paying the loans for “rich guys,” which brings us to:

Outright Lies: The advertiser knows very well that there is no debt relief in this order for anyone making more than $125,000 a year, which hardly qualifies as “rich,” so this is an outright lie. That’s what bothers me so much; that these guys are broadcasting a 100% verifiable lie, knowing a segment of the population will eat it up. They do this just to make more tax money available for being grifted by the banking industry. Keeping a boot on the necks of the working poor is just a fringe benefit.

Free Speech

You may have heard that President Biden gave a speech last week. Not many heard it first-hand, as none of the major networks covered it live, but the reverberations were massive. Immediately there was a great crying-out from the Radical Right, for having just been called out as fascists. Gee, all they did was try to overthrow the government, there was no need for name calling!”

I saw a conservative Facebook friend writing about this as the most incendiary and divisive speech ever. I was like, “Have you ever HEARD TFG speak before? Perhaps you’ve heard the crowd mooing back about “Brandon?” Christ, the cognitive dissonance is off the charts. Like most bullies, these people love to dish it out but they cry like babies when it’s thrown back. Perhaps it’s because it’s got that extra sting of truth.

I say it’s about time the Dems take the gloves off and go toe to toe. I’d rather be aggressive and win (by telling the truth) than turn the “other cheek” and get pasted.

Free Press

I came across a little editing snafu within the Baltimore Sun this weekend. It seems the Chess column was designed for a niche audience: Popes.

The text is in Latin. Not “Latin-American,” but Latin Latin. Like, Ancient Rome Latin. Medical School Latin. Ancient English Teacher Latin.

And not only that, what’s up with the chessboard moves on the right? They look like redacted nuclear codes sent by TFG. I think they’re playing it a little fast and loose in the page design room.

Local Poop

We’ve had a bit of stress over the last week… our dog came down with a case of the runs. We’re so fortunate I work from home because on Monday, the boy came to me every 60-90 minutes to be let out for a squirt. If we were both away from home for work, well I don’t even want to think about what kind of fresh hell we’d return to at the end of the day.

Sweetpea scheduled a vet appointment for Saturday so until then, we tried to fix things through diet. No more kibble and scraps, our boy dined on chicken breast, rice, broth, and a probiotic at every meal.

Our new preoccupation became trying to get glimpses of what the dog was producing and how to describe it, which wasn’t always easy or successful when he had to go out after dark. And we had to make extra sure we wore shoes out in the yard.

His frequency of going tapered off as the week went past until Friday when he never attempted a poop at all, so we were beginning to worry about the opposite condition taking hold. Like what if he now had a big chunk of rice holding up the works? We wanted to cancel the vet appointment, (“Put him on bland food for the week. That’ll be $300,”) but we didn’t want to be foolish about it.

Then when I got up Saturday morning, Sweetpea was out grocery shopping, but I found this note:

* "At the Loin” refers to the local “Food Lion,” which we always refer to as the “Food Loin” or just “The Loin.”

But yes, that was the top story, that we had finally achieved “poop.” Huzzah!

When she got back and gave me the rundown, she said she’d “Never been so glad to see a piece of shit in her life.”

What really cracked me up is the “we” part of the note, because it read to me like she was crouching down right alongside him. I’m sure the neighbors with Ring cameras would have been shocked. Or amused.

 Director’s DVD Commentary: The post title “Editio Latina” translates to “The Latin Edition.”


Monday, August 29, 2022

Term Limits and Loan Forgiveness

 The prospect of instituting term limits gets bandied about every so often and it’s usually a pointless endeavor because, at the federal level, it’s highly unlikely to change. No politician is going to vote to shorten his period of power and influence, not nearly enough of them to make it happen. But it’s a different story on the local level.

Last week, the Baltimore Sun ran a story about an effort to establish term limits in the City of Baltimore, via voter referendum, which would include Mayor, City Council, Comptroller, and such. Now, I can usually see the pros and cons of term limits… you sacrifice institutional knowledge for new ideas. It can be good to get some new people involved but they spend their first weeks or months not knowing how things really work.

But one thing jumped out at me immediately that convinced me to not be in favor of term limits and that’s because Sinclair Broadcasting wants them.

As you can see, the president of Sinclair Broadcasting financed the effort to collect signatures for the referendum to put the matter on this fall’s ballot. If Sinclair wants it, it’s going to be bad for the community. Sinclair is basically Fox “News” with a larger reach. They own 185 TV stations in 86 markets, including the Fox and The CW affiliates (and one more) plus two stations in DC. Their local TV news broadcasts are always touting their investigations into Baltimore City, be it the schools, crime, or the economy, and it’s always about scaring you to death. They hype their ambush interviews all day long during commercial breaks. They also require their affiliates to run prerecorded station editorials that would sound right at home on Fox and Friends.

If the mayor of Baltimore found a way to cure cancer, their top story would be about city “death panels” deciding whether you get treatment or not.

I’m sure Sinclair would love to have a crack at altering the 100% Democratic makeup of city government, maybe promote a DINO or two that will carry water for them, like their own pet Joe Manchin. Or maybe they just want some of their people to be able to get in, loot what they can, then make room for the next hog at the trough. They may also want to get someone in there who will promote other “connected” businesses for city contracts.

I don’t know why they’re worried about the Mayor though. We haven’t had a mayor serve out 2 full terms since I can remember. They either move up and on like Martin O’Malley, who became a 2-term Governor, get caught with their hands in the cookie jar like Sheila Dixon or Catherine Pugh, or abandon re-election hopes because they said something irreversibly stupid during their first term, like Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Maybe our current Mayor, Brandon Scott, is a boy scout who they’re afraid will be here for at least another term. If he actually turns things around in the city, that would be their worst-case scenario.

But with five stations in the market, Sinclair will wield great influence over what we see on local TV, especially as it gets closer to November. If it works here, Sinclair may try the same plot in other markets they service, like New York, where they operate eight stations across the upstate region.

I’m far less concerned about term limits than I am about the consolidation of the broadcast industry. Since deregulation, we’re seeing more and more stations owned by fewer corporations, giving a select few people an outsized voice on public matters. Sinclair is showing why less diverse media ownership is a bad idea.

Give Us a Break

The bigger news of the week was that President Biden issued $10k in student debt relief to people making less than $125k, with 80% of that going to those making less than $75k. This provoked the predictable gnashing of teeth from the Right, who don’t like anything going to someone they don’t like. The deliberate misleading of the public began immediately, with memes about why common workin’ Joes should have to pay for schooling for a bunch of rich lawyers, which willfully misses the point about how the people making serious bank aren’t eligible. And when they weren’t misleading about qualifications, they were misdirecting on why people go to college, by presuming they’d be paying for smelly hippies to take interpretive dance and basket weaving.

If this stuff is coming from the rank and file, it’s clear they don’t really know what happens in college. And if it’s from the slick right-wing propaganda machine, they know that the rank and file will eat it up and pass it on regardless.

One of the most prevalent complaints is the fallacy that they are somehow personally stuck with the bill… as if they’re going to be required to start sending in $100 checks every month. Again, that’s the slickness of the messaging operation on the Right. They know this stuff will hit home, and their target audience will never realize that every citizen in this country pays for shit they’d rather not… except the 1% who don’t pay for anything (and want to keep it that way.)

The real fun began when the various MAGA Congress people started tweeting about it and the Whitehouse smacked them down by pointing out how much they had forgiven in PPP loans.

It was nice to see the Dems on offense for a change. And all they had to do is highlight the raging double standard put forth by these “public servants.” Loan forgiveness is a sin to them unless it’s their own loan. And hell, it’s not even a sin, it’s a biblical requirement!

Or is the bible another thing that only applies to others? (Obviously.)

The other main nit to pick was from people who either paid their way through school or paid off their own loans, the logic being that it’s not fair to them for someone else to have their loan forgiven after they’ve already paid. To these delicate flowers, I say, “tough shit.” Life isn’t fair, the government isn’t fair, and these predatory, damn-near-impossible-to-pay-off-without-being-filthy-rich student loans aren’t fair.

I paid my own way through college without needing a loan, so I’m in that group. But I realize that back then, you could pay for college with a part-time job. Those days are long gone and if people want to better themselves through education, student loans are a way to go. Up until very recently, it’s what the culture said was the right thing to do; go to school, go to college, and get an education. Of course, now getting educated is tantamount to getting groomed to be a pedophile communist to the MAGA brigade. They don’t trust no fancy book-learnin’, no sirree. And they certainly don’t want to feel like they’re paying for it. And that’s what counts today, isn’t it? Feelings. How we feel about things, regardless of the facts at hand.

I know first-hand how oppressive it is to have these loans hanging over one’s head, especially when a college education doesn’t translate to high-paying jobs. I know college graduates who struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food in the fridge. The way the loans are set up, they have no chance of paying them off, ever. No matter how many payments get made, it makes very little difference in the principle owed. Removing a chunk (or all) of that debt is like getting the boot lifted off your neck, even just a little. If more jobs paid a living wage, the boot would come off a little more. But in the meantime, people living in the margins might have some more money to throw around the economy, so everyone eats better.

I think this is exactly what the country needs right now.

So yeah, I’m not getting any of this new benefit, but I’m OK with those that do. I'm on the side that thinks it didn't go far enough, but I'll take it as a win for now. It will help the community and the economy. The federal budget is a black hole of spending anyway, at least this is something they’re paying for that helps Americans. At least the ones who know the value of education.

Monday, August 22, 2022

GOP Playbook: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

 I frequently mention that the first tenet of Republicanism is that whatever a Democrat does is wrong, just by having been done by a Democrat. I saw that on display again last week with this tweet from Nikki Haley (featuring an on-point counter by Rep Swalwell):

I’m not sure where this story even comes from so I’m certainly not taking it at face value. I mean, how do they even know these 66 were terrorists? Do they carry Terrorist ID Cards now? Did they find bombs in their backpacks? (Presumably looking like bowling balls with wicks stuck in them.) Or do they just have Arabic names? To Republicans, that’s all it takes.

So if these people were terrorists and were indeed stopped at the border, what’s the freakin’ problem? The system worked. Is Biden at fault because someone, somewhere dared to try to cross the border?

Well, yes. Just go back to Rule One, “Whatever a Democrat Does is Wrong.” It’s the Fox “News” Way.

They don’t care that the underlying logic is hopelessly damaged. How much sense would this make:

666 people were stopped for speeding on federal interstates this weekend. Biden has one job: To protect America, and he’s failing. If Biden doesn’t take his job seriously, it’s up to local police to write tickets.”

Can Biden really get in the heads of millions of drivers and make them slow down? Nope, no more than he can make thousands of South and Central Americans somehow stop their plans to cross the border before they get there. All he can do is have a system in place to stop people trying to cross illegally. It would also help if there were a coherent system to guide legal immigration, but as far as I know, it’s still a major CF.

I think Republicans are still nostalgic for those good ole’ Trump days where the object was to make this country so shitty that no one wanted to come because they knew they would be detained by people whose goal it was to make the experience as traumatic as possible.

A Fox Guarding the Hens’ Bank Account

I’ve been munching the popcorn over this story, that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is running out of money.

They raised $173 million, spent $20m on ads, and have $27m left. How the hell does THAT happen, without a massive grift going on?

Rick Scott, on his way to audition for the Blue Man Group.

Anything that gets Republicans fighting Republicans is all right with me. It’s one thing to swindle the taxpayers, but swindling each other? That’s when the shit hits the fan. So let them turn on each other. I’m just waiting for the inevitable moment when they come up with a way to blame the Democrats. But this one’s going to need some serious creativity. I’d guess it’ll be something like “Antifa hackers funded by George Soros paid off BLM supporters to break into Rick Scott’s house and steal the money from under his mattress. The whole plan was explained in Hillary’s emails stored on Hunter Biden’s laptop!

Gas Pains

This is the faux story that never seems to die, probably because the fossil fuel industry, which owns the Republican Party lock, stock, and barrel, won’t let it. I just lifted a new version from Facebook… they never seem to tire of trying to blame the president for the price of gas.

“IT WAS $2 LOWER BECAUSE THE COUNTRY WAS LOCKED DOWN DUE TO THE MISHANDLING OF COVID! No demand equals low prices, that’s Econ 101. It is willfully dishonest to compare the current prices, which have been affected by a giant shooting and bombing war in Europe and worldwide inflation to a price that cratered due to demand dropping off the table, and then blame the president for it. The prices are what they are because the oil companies want it that way. Do you see any of them taking big losses this year? The MAGAs “fall for it” every time. And I guarantee you that if TFG was still president and we had these same conditions, they’d still find a way to blame the Democrats.

The pipelines we approved aren’t pumping enough oil because Antifa jammed them up with red tape, electric car batteries, and Hillary’s emails.”

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Views on a Ballgame

Special Off-Schedule Mid-Week Bonus Post!

You don’t have to bail if sports isn’t your thing. This isn’t about sports so much as it is about the experience of going out to a big public event. Whenever I’m at a concert or a game or anything else, I automatically start looking for things I can tell you about regarding my experience.

Two days after I went to see ZZ Top (and was annoyed by people who dared stand around directly between me and the stage), I took in a ballgame as well. Every year, I like to take what I call a “Ferris Bueller” day. That’s where I take a day off work and go see a daytime baseball game. As a citizen of Baltimore, I’m lucky to have major league baseball right here in town, and given the Orioles' recent past, getting tickets is a snap. The O’s only play one or two (non-holiday) weekday games a year so there aren’t a lot of choices. This one against the Tampa Bay Rays would be the last one of the year.

Another reason I chose this game is that it looked like it would be the last game as an Oriole at Camden Yards for Trey Mancini, an Orioles draft pick, longest-tenured player on the roster, cancer survivor, and my wife Sweetpea’s favorite player. She calls him her “Sweet Sixteen” (because he wears number 16). All signs pointed to his being traded before the fast approaching trade deadline date and this was the last home game for the next week. I wanted to be there to see him off.

When you see a day game, seating is important. Because I’d rather not sit out under the burning sun for three hours and stew in my own juices, I always get tickets under the deck on the third base side, so I’m in the shade the whole time. On this day, I found a ticket in the first row. I was like, “Great. I am now impervious to people blocking my view.

I totally should have known better.

Naturally. The camera guy is right there between me and the batter.

Since I had to look around anyway, I couldn’t notice this block of fans down the first base line:

Who knew the students from the Beauxbatons School of Magic* were in town? I thought to myself, if anything weird happens, I’ll know who’s responsible.

One of the cool things about sitting in the first row of this section is that I can see people’s food when they bring it back to their seats. That’s helpful for when I get hungry, then I can decide what looks best to me.

It’s like the wait staff is showing me my options.

It was also from this vantage point that I could see how many people needed help finding their seats. I was stunned. I mean, there are numbered sections, rows, and seats. There are site maps all over the park. How hard can it possibly be to find the seat that matches your ticket?

Let me tell you a quick side story…

Many, many moons ago, my dad took the family to California for almost a month’s vacation in the Bay Area. Well, it was a vacation for us; he had to work out there and took the family along. As it happened, he came into a pair of tickets to see an NFL preseason game between the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys. That meant that for the three serious football fans, my Dad, my brother, and I, there were only two tickets. Being a good dad, he gave the tickets to us. I was 14, my brother was 11.

At that point, I’d been to maybe 4-5 sporting events before, a couple of baseball games, a couple of Ohio State football games, always with the family. But I knew what to do.

Dad drove us to the stadium and dropped us off, telling us where to meet him when the game was over. We went in, and I was able to look at the ticket, navigate my way around the concourse, go in the corridor that led to our section and find our seats. Then we watched the game, took a few pictures with my snappy little 110-Instamatic camera, and we had a blast.

When we were done, we went to our meeting spot and Dad picked us up. No muss, no fuss, no sweat.

Can you imagine anyone doing that today, dropping off 11 and 14-year-old boys at any football stadium, let alone Oakland’s? (To be fair, they didn’t have the scary guys with spiked shoulder pads and black face paint showing up yet.) It was certainly a different time then, that’s for sure.

Anyway, my larger point is that I could find my seat in a stadium I’d never been to at 14 and didn’t think it was in any way remarkable. I don’t know why grown-ass people have such trouble finding their seats in a modern ballpark. It shouldn’t be any harder than finding your room in a hotel. And they don’t even have ushers!

OK, end of side story and back to the observations at hand.

The Orioles have a player whose last name is Santander, which looks simple enough. The snag is that it’s pronounced “Sahn-Than-DARE.” It’s too bad because this is a name that’s tailor-made for the Baltimore accent. “C’Moon, Sain-TAIN-der! Lets Gewoo Ayooze!” (In actual English, “Let’s Go O’s.”)

Hackwhacker, back me up here!

The Rays have a player named Roman Quinn, which is completely unremarkable other than that during one of the middle innings, he hit a pop foul off the upper deck facing to my right. The ball bounced down, kicked off a seat back, and floated right down the walkway in front of me about eye-high. I reached out and snatched it as easily as plucking a can of peas off a store shelf. Harking back to my Little League baseball and beer league softball training, I used two hands because these things spin like crazy. But the only thing really running through my mind was “Don’t screw it up don’t screw it up don’t screw it up.”

This was the second foul ball I’ve caught at an O’s game. The other was a big bounce off the warning track when I was sitting down along the first base side. I have a long history of pursuing stray baseballs, foul or otherwise, and wrote about them in 2009.

The best part is that there was zero competition for the ball. I was on the aisle and sitting beside a couple of old ladies. There were no kids anywhere around, so I didn’t have to feel guilty about keeping it. So into my pocket, it went.

Of course later, due to the general cramped quarters found in grandstands, I could feel the ball bumping against the leg of the lady to my right. I kept expecting her to ask me, "Is that a baseball in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"

The Orioles have a female ballpark announcer now. This is her first year. Now, I’m in favor of a woman doing any job a man does and this is included. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound a little weird to me. I’ve seen 209 major league baseball games in my life and 207 of them have been announced by men, so I’m more than a little conditioned to it. And a lot of it is the jacked-up enthusiasm that just founds fake to me. Like drawing out the names of the home team players? Everyone does it, I know, but now it sounds like a mom trying to hype up the potato sack race at her kid’s birthday party. It’s a “me” problem, I agree. I’ll get used to it with more exposure.

So, round about the last inning, it was time for Trey Mancini’s last home at-bat as an Oriole. There was a nice ovation for him and he seemed to enjoy the moment. Then, with a guy on second, he hit a fly ball to right field. I figured the runner would tag up and he’d end his day with a nice sacrifice fly. However, the right fielder lost the ball in the sun, which then caromed off his face and rolled into the right field corner. Trey hauled ass around the bases and ended up with an Inside the Park Home Run. It must have been the Beauxbatons because this was truly magical! Well, except for that outfielder’s face. I bet that stung for a while.

I’ve seen a lot of shit at ballgames… I’ve seen grand slams, tape-measure dingers, I’ve seen a guy steal home, but this was a real first. The place just went nuts (well, as nuts as a mere 16,000 fans can go), and called Trey back out for a bow. What a last moment for the guy.

So, the moral of the story? Maybe I should get out of the house more often.

*I hate to even explain but just in case, The Beauxbatons School of Magic is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the French magic school that visited Hogwarts, wearing that shade of blue.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Search Me

Last week was the week for schadenfreude, wasn’t it? I probably ought to buy some stock in Orville Redenbacher, based on all of us watching the fallout from the FBI raid on TFG.

I wonder if Vegas has odds on what excuse Republicans are going to use next, trying to defend the indefensible. It sure seems like the MAGAs are using some kind of roulette wheel with an assortment of excuses:

·         Witch Hunt

·         But her emails

·         They weren’t classified/secret

·         He already gave the classified stuff back

·         He declassified them

·         Oh yes he can!

*     The FBI planted evidence

·         Witch Hunt

·         Biden is weaponizing the Justice Department

·         The FBI is crooked

·         Garland has a vendetta

·         Obama took documents too

·         George Soros

·         Hunter Biden

*     They're coming for you next

·         Witch Hunt (this is like a spin again slot)

They’ve got a lot of nerve talking about how Biden and the Democrats are “weaponizing Justice.” This, came from a guy that held open auditions at the end of his term for an Attorney General who would go along with his election-overturning scheme.

Again, I maintain that Republicans always accuse Dems of doing the things that they already do, themselves. From false flags to selling access, to election tampering and engineering, the GOP is already doing it all so they assume Democrats are doing so as well.

This tracks with their other principle, that if a Republican does it, it’s fine; if a Democrat does it, it’s a crime to be investigated as often as possible. Merit has little to do with it.

Lara Trump says TFG has every authority to take documents from the White House. Is she some kind of legal scholar or policy wonk in her spare time? I figured she’d have her hands full just keeping her husband from running down the street in his underpants, trying to snort up the white line in the middle of the road.

It’s public knowledge that a President can declassify certain kinds of documents. But others are off limits. And there most certainly is a process! To TFG, his process is that he waves a golf club and says, “I hereby declassify these and any other documents I want, as long as I see fit and until I flush them down the can,” and bang, it’s official. The key is the “I hereby” part. That’s his secret ingredient. To him, anything that follows “I hereby” immediately becomes the new reality.

But we can’t forget about the ceremony. I imagine that the level of a document’s importance is reflected in which golf club he waves. For the most basic, he uses the drivers. As importance rises, he moves low to high through the irons, until you get the big stuff. Nuclear secrets get the pitching wedge, then criminal evidence draws the putter.

President Obama famously had some documents moved to his presidential library. But he followed the ordained process rather than just having some flunkies load up a U-Haul. That didn’t keep the Trump camp from using him as an excuse, but you can’t blame them. They know their base believes every word, regardless of validity. Just toss out the names Barak HUSSAIN Obama or Hillary and the MAGAs go wild.

It’s too bad we may never know what he was keeping there. I mean, if it’s that big of a secret, they’re certainly not going to tell US.

But there’s a whole realm of documents that may be better classified as “evidence” that may not be so secret. Why on earth he would think something like that should be kept as opposed to flushed into the Potomac, we may never know. We'll just have to wait and see what Garland does for his next act.

It may not be glamorous but getting a conviction on something cut and dried like stealing confidential national security secrets would get the job done. Think Capone going down for tax fraud, or Mitch McDeer nailing his crooked law office on mail fraud for overbilling (in The “Firm”).

So doesn’t sound like a hard case to prove because there’s not much wiggle room. There’s no doubt he took documents from the White House and stored them at Mar a Lago. There’s no doubt that some were still considered classified. And, there’s no evidence he ever went through a process to declassify them either. (I don’t think the law will recognize the golf club waving ceremony.)

A felony conviction would preclude him from running again, with the delicious kicker that his administration made it a felony. I guess part of the original bill that said “for use on Democrats only” got killed in committee.

Monday, August 8, 2022

The Point of Know Return

 Last week ended up being a significant period of Joe Biden’s presidency, with the passage (or near passage) of a couple of important bills, and an important election result.

More Than Just Dust in the Wind

The state of Kansas spoke very loudly when it rejected a measure on the ballot designed to overturn state constitutional protections on abortion, by a margin of about 20 points. No doubt about it, this was great news. Many people are touting how much better the odds are for Democrats in the mid-terms. But I’m wary about extrapolating that success into other situations. I see a couple of big factors here.

For one, the religious conservatives who push for revoking abortion rights are not going to stop trying, no matter what courts or voters say. When was the last time one of these people said, “Hold On, the majority of our state disagrees with our position? OK, never mind. Forget it.”

These people fought a Supreme Court decision, which had been upheld at every turn, for 50 years before getting it overturned. They’re not going to let a little thing like an election stop them from stripping the rights from women. They’ll just go back to other methods, like the ones used before Roe was overturned. There will be new zoning laws for clinics, new procedural requirements, and lots of new hoops to jump through, all for the “safety of women,” of course.

If we were to Play the Game Tonight, I don’t necessarily see the Democrats flipping that many voters. They can gain by hyping the issue but it will more likely be from Independents. I doubt there will be many Republican converts. I think this motion was shot down because it was just an issue. There were no “politicians” tied to it, therefore, no personal baggage or smears. (Although I’m sure there was plenty of misinformation passed around.) I believe a lot of Republicans voted to maintain the right to safe abortions because they could do it without having to vote for a damned liberal snowflake commie Democrat.

And I also think the Republicans will have learned something quite valuable. To support women’s health? No, I’m guessing they learned not to put any more pet issues on the ballot. Even though they thought they had it rigged by putting it up during the primaries, when fewer Democrats were voting, it still got shellacked by their own people, who might not have liked giving up bodily autonomy in favor of team politics. I doubt you’ll see Republicans place any more hot-button issues on state ballots.

But maybe the Democrats should Fight Fire With Fire. It worked for same-sex marriages… I think the difference is that a lot of Democratic Party principles are genuinely popular. If we can just peel them away from specific personalities, maybe we can get back to moving in a positive direction. If a single issue like this can Carry On this Wayward State, who knows what’s next?

That’s the PACT, Jack

I had to laugh, watching the PACT bill finally pass. I haven’t seen a pale, wealthy, men backtrack that hard since Michael Jackson did the “Moonwalk.” I guess it just shows that there IS a level of backlash that will move a Republican senator. 

It helps that the subject was aid for veterans, which is one of the primary flags Republicans use for wrapping themselves. It certainly didn’t look good on them considering all the huffing and puffing they did in claiming that athletes taking a knee were an insult to veterans and the military. And then there they were, torpedoing legislation to provide treatment for the vets they claim to revere, who were injured on the job. Talk about missing the forest for the trees. 

I’m glad there was at least someone on that side who went, “You know, guys? This isn’t just ‘owning the libs’ here, we’re severely pissing off our own voters. We just saw what they did in Kansas… You think maybe we should rethink this PACT thing and find a different issue to use for a political stunt?

Whip Inflation Now

Do you remember the old WIN buttons worn by the Gerald Ford administration to promote their efforts to fight inflation? Not unless you’re at least 50, I guess. But it looks good for the Democratic version, the Inflation Reduction Act, that is expected to pass through Congress. It was a real “sausage-making” experience, with a lot of horse-trading going on, primarily with the usual two, Manchin and Sinema, both of whom watered down the original bill packages considerably. Among other things, they had to cut insulin price reductions, and let hedge fund manager tax breaks and the Trump 1% tax cuts stand, but at least it ended up as a step in the right direction.

As far as I’m concerned, they can come back for the excised issues after the mid-terms, and use them as campaign fodder in the meantime. I mean, how does a politician like Sinema insist that keeping insulin at $1200 a pop is good for anyone but Big Pharma? Whoever runs against her (in 2024) or any other Republican who supports keeping the price that high should beat on that drum every single day on the campaign trail.

Democrats should have some sure-fire, slam-dunk material to use against any Republican who’s voting to keep prices high for their constituents, on behalf of the donor class. How can any politician argue against letting Medicare negotiate drug prices? But I never hear anyone bring that up.

And the great thing is, they can get people all riled up without even having to lie. Just bring out the opponent’s voting record. “Why are they voting for this? Why did they vote against that?”

Yes, I know votes can be misleading, but they don’t have to be. Sometimes a senator has to vote against something because of an odious side issue. That’s part of the sausage-making. But there are plenty of cases, like Sinema stripping insulin price reductions out of a completed proposal. As far as I’m concerned, there are zero good reasons for that other than as a big sloppy kiss to the drug manufacturers.

Very Interesting

There are a couple of angles to the Fed raising interest rates in the last months. The downside, of course, is that getting a loan for a house, car, or anything else, just got that much more expensive. Sweetpea and I have been lucky; our house and cars are paid for so we don’t have anything on which we’ve been paying interest.

But on the other side, savings account interest rates are rebounding as well. I noticed this last month, with my humble little online savings account. I opened it many years ago to take advantage of an offer for a high-interest checking and savings account. I think they were offering between 2-3%. But for the last five or so years, my interest rate has been adjusted down to .3%. The return was practically negligible.

But a couple weeks ago, it went up to .5%. Then .7%. Now it’s at .8% and I’m almost giddy. Maybe in another couple of weeks, it might reach, dare I say it? One by-god percent! A dude can dream, can’t he?


It was with great sadness, today, that I read of the passing of Olivia Newton-John. The cause of death was not announced. She was 73.

I was but a boy when her first songs came out on the radio. I thought this exotic name indicated a trio… Olivia, Newton, and John. I thought it must be Newton who had the deep voice on “Let Me Be There.” (I fully admit, I was not the brightest crayon in the box.)  

I learned the truth when I saw her picture on her first couple of album covers and I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.

I may have been only in grade school, but I was like, “That. I want THAT.”

Granted, I wouldn’t have known what to do with “that” if I had it, but I wanted it anyway. In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to speak a coherent sentence to her.

Even though my music tastes grew to be more BTO and Deep Purple than soft country classics, I always held a soft spot for Olivia and her light, beautiful voice. I was happy to see her continued success with her role in Grease, and then making contemporary hits like “Physical” and “Xanadu,” and “Magic,” the latter two with Jeff Lynne of ELO. She went on to fight breast cancer like a champ and make children’s albums. And I swear to the gods, she got better looking every year.

Rest in peace, dear, sweet Olivia. Here I will remain, hopelessly devoted to you.

Photo by Sarah Morris, Getty Images