Monday, March 1, 2021

Homeless Thoughts - The Un-Presidential Dog Edition

Did anyone catch all the new and exciting ideas that came out of CPAC last week?

Right, me neither. They were pretty much, “We was robbed," and "we’ll do whatever Trump wants us to do.”

If ever there were a time to announce a bold new effort or program, this would have been it. But they don’t have a damned thing they want to do except glorify Trump and cut taxes (for the rich). Sure there’s a lot more that the politicians want to do, but nothing you can really campaign on, other than in the broadest terms.

They can’t say they want to cripple the postal service until there’s no recourse but to make it a private enterprise, but they can claim they’re reducing unnecessary spending and cutting waste. They can’t say they’re killing the EPA, the CDC, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but they can claim they’re cutting red tape. Every action sounds good on the surface but is designed to benefit the richest of the rich, aka big Republican donors.

The only substantive action we see coming from Republicans are taking place in the states, with laws proposed to limit abortion even more and tighten voter suppression laws. The latter has been a big one. Over 160 pieces of legislation have been drawn up, with the sole purpose of making sure we don’t see another turnout like we did last year. And the most Republican part of it all, they’re using the Big Lie, the accusation that there was rampant voter fraud in 2020 which “stole” the election from their hero, to rationalize their efforts. There is still as little evidence to support that as there was when they got laughed out of court, but that doesn’t seem to have much effect. That’s just what the “liberal media” says, right?

So they’re going to eliminate the ways millions of people voted because of voter fraud that didn’t happen. Today’s GOP, ladies and gentlemen!

Sue the Bastards!

I’ve enjoyed watching the new strategy roll out to keep Fox “News” and its imitators from making shit up about companies whose actions they think are detrimental to GOP rule. Voting machine makers Dominion and Smartmatic are suing these conservative propaganda outlets over the lies and accusations that their machines were rigged to hurt Trump’s votes and pad Biden’s. The old “The game was fixed” gambit.

These companies are taking that shit seriously, as evidenced by their multi-million or billion dollar lawsuits. Fox knows that they’ve been making that shit up so it’s been funny to see their talking heads trying to walk it back over the last couple of weeks.

I hope these guys sue the pants off of them. Maybe that will be an ongoing way to cut the lies they routinely toss out when it suits their purposes. Libel is libel, whether they claim they’re not a news channel but an entertainment channel, or not. I hope every private person with the means, or public company, starts suing these guys when they pull something out of their ass that’s damaging to their professional reputations. At least it should cut down on the most egregious stuff.

Who Thought Pissing Off the Dog Lovers Was a Great Idea?

Looks like we have a new “Tan Suit” controversy going. Some dipshit on OAN named Greg Kelly commented last week that one of Biden’s dogs, a 12-year old German Shepard, looked scruffy and unkempt and complained that it wasn’t presidential enough.

Seriously. They’re going after presidential pets now.

I think President Biden should get rolling with the trolling and go to the nearest DC shelter, pick out the ugliest, mangiest, goofiest looking dog they have, take it home and name it Tucker.

I know, that’s not the one who picked on the dog but naming a dog Greg Kelly is far too boring. It lacks character.

You Can’t Complain if You Don’t Show Up

I’m seeing lots of Facebook memes complaining about how there are secret Democratic issues getting funded in the COVID relief bill (which has passed the House and awaiting action in the Senate.) You know, I’m sure there are. And do you know why?

Because once again, the Republicans decided, en masse, not to support the bill, regardless of its overwhelming popularity with the general public.

If, on the other hand, they had decided to work with the Democrats on it, they may have been able to horse-trade out some of the things they didn’t like, and maybe get a few things in that they wanted. But if it’s preordained that no Representative or Senator is willing to vote to approve, what reason do the Democrats have not to put in whatever they want? Screw’em.

If the Republicans want a say in the bill, they have to show up and bargain in good faith.

In other words, “no play, no say!”

Debunkery

Memes like don’t even pretend that it makes actual sense. It’s more important to create the illusion that there is a giant conspiracy afoot that uses COVID to somehow control us for nefarious purposes.

There are ragingly simple explanations for the scenario above.

1.      Commercial aircraft have an extensive ventilation system that swaps out and filters air continuously. With restaurants, it’s iffy. Some may have effective ventilation systems but I’d bet most do not.

2.      People on airplanes are required to wear masks, which greatly reduces the spread of the virus. In restaurants, it’s basically impossible to eat and keep a mask on. The only alternative is spacing, hence the 25% capacity.

3.      The Airline industry and restaurant industry don’t really compete. How does it benefit Southwest Airlines (or any other large company) to keep restaurant capacity low? Both political parties would love to see small businesses succeed, so there’s no upside to them for enforcing capacity limits, other than reducing the spread of the virus. The whole premise doesn’t make any sense.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Powerless

The horrific conditions in Texas should go down as a lesson on what happens when Republicans get to be in charge for a prolonged period of time. Texas is basically a Republican playground; they get to do whatever they want.

And what Republicans want is to make as much money from selling you power as they possibly can. So they have, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, an isolated and deregulated power grid. The goal is to provide power cheaply, which is not to be confused with “reliably.” That’s a whole different story.

They could have spent some money on winterizing their equipment in case of a catastrophic winter storm, but then that would have eaten into the profits. So why bother?

And they could continue to operate some of their systems to provide electricity, but they’d have to do it at a loss. So why bother?

You know how Republicans are always talking about cutting regulations? This is what happens when Republicans have their way with regulations and leave it up to“The Market” to regulate business. The businesses have a great fiscal quarter while “the people” freeze to death in their living rooms. That’s the Republican Way.

Government regulations are the only things keeping companies from operating sweatshops and paying pauper’s wages. When Republicans campaign on cutting regulations, it’s not for your benefit, it’s for their benefactors’ benefit. So they try to sell it to you by calling it “red tape.”

Yes, red tape can be a real pain in the ass. But without it, you won’t feel the pain in your ass because it will have frozen off when the power goes off.

And what do they do when the power goes off because they declined to winterize their gear? They blame “green” energy and the “Green New Deal,” which laughably, hasn’t even been brought to a vote, let alone become a law. The windmills were some of the few things that still worked in Texas.

It’s really amazing when conservatives start talking about green energy because it just shows how little they know about it. They claim that the windmills won’t work in the cold and solar panels won’t work when it’s cloudy, both of which are patently false. They circulate bogus pictures of what they call lithium mines, (used in making electric car batteries) which are often actually copper mines. (Have they ever seen what happens when coal is strip-mined?)

All they know is that Fox “News” told them renewable energy is bad, (because that’s what Rupert Murdoch and the fossil fuel robber barons told them to do,) and elaborated on all the bizarre consequences we’d see if oil and gas markets were to diminish. So it must be true. Besides, criticizing green energy owns the Libs!

Maybe the thought of all us “owned Libs” will keep them warm when their furnaces won’t. If not, they can always take off to Cancun.

Debunkery

Seems the impeachment is still a bitter pill for the Right, so they’re getting themselves all jacked up to hold their own impeachment… they just can’t find anything tangible to impeach over.

This is nothing but a laundry list of things they tried to make into scandals but couldn’t. The headliner was investigated by 11 Congressional committees and they still couldn’t find enough to file charges. And the rest of them, even the most serious ones aren't anything but minor annoyances. Most are fabrications, banal issues they’ve tried to inflate via misinformation and missing context. There’s nothing that rises to the level of an impeachable offense, let alone match the heinousness of violently trying to overturn an election by hunting down and killing Congressmen and women with whom they disagree.

And you want to impeach Obama? Have at it. Obama’s place in history is secure. The only people whose reputations will suffer from such an attempt are the prospective impeachers themselves. If they can’t overturn an election with lies, they’ll try to lie their way through an impeachment, six years after the fact.

And speaking of old news:

Right off the bat, notice how the “2020” has been added after the fact. (It's in a different font.) This is an older cartoon, probably from the mid-term elections. Because in 2020, the Republicans didn’t even bother to create a platform. They just went, “We’re for whatever Trump says.”

But let’s briefly look at the details, shall we?

Border Security: Everyone wants border security, but to Republicans, that just means no more brown people can come in. The Wall, which was supposed to be the symbol of border security, was a disaster. Very little new wall was built; they mostly replaced old wall. The wall they did build was hardly impermeable. People who knew how could climb it with ease, as well as saw right through it. And like all walls, it could be run around, burrowed under, or flown over. Real secure, that wall. Face it, the highlight of the Republican Border Security Effort was how many people they could stuff into cages.

Boom Economy: Are you joking? Aside from the stock market, the Trump economy was a mess, even before COVID tanked it. There was little increase in wages, prices continued to rise, and people needed several jobs just to get by. All of Trump’s efforts went into tax cuts for the rich, which translated into gains in the stock market as companies bought up their own stock, rather than create more jobs or increase pay for the ones already there. And the scraps the rest of us got? They were designed to evaporate over time.

Better Trade: Another joke. Trump’s trade wars cost Americans money because he’s not smart enough to know who pays for tariffs. And then China found other people who would sell them grain or meat, so American farmers had to take government handouts too. Gee, what a business genius!

Infrastructure: I’m dying here. What exactly did the Trump Administration do for infrastructure? There were no roads bills, no bills to repair bridges or shore up our power grid. The only thing even close to something that can be considered infrastructure would be the small section of crappy Wall they built on the southern border. With 100% control of the government, Republicans didn’t do jack shit for the country’s infrastructure. If I were them, I’d be embarrassed to even bring up the topic, let alone publicize it as an accomplishment.

And as far as the Democratic platform goes, they don’t have enough room on the sign to hold it all. I’ve written about it extensively. They wish hating Trump was all we had.

Now a couple of quick ones:

Yes, God cares so much about a canceled oil pipeline deal that He sent an Arctic blast, just like the ones we get on a regular basis. God must be an oilman, I guess. This is fucking ridiculous. If he were the meddling type, wouldn’t he just have Biden undo the cancelation? Or maybe eliminate the Coronavirus?

Why not just sign your name, “I Don’t Know How the Government Works.” This is too stupid to even debunk. All I’ll say is, “How many executive orders did Trump sign while he had both sides of Congress for two years?” (The answer? A lot.) Now sit down and shut up, the grownups are talking.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Mitch, Please!

As expected, we all saw the prospect of an impeachment convicted president go swirling down the toilet this weekend. I almost raised my hopes by a smidgeon at the early Saturday report that there were going to be witnesses. But that evaporated into the ether along with the backbones of 43 Republican senators.

Then to further muddy the water, Mitch McConnell gets up and rails about how Trump was responsible for the Capitol onslaught. I was thinking, “Mitch, didn’t you just have an opportunity to put some meaning behind that claim just a bit ago?

But I see Mitch’s game plan. Sure, he doesn’t want Trump to continue sullying the GOP’s reputation… that’s HIS job. No, really, Mitch wants the guy gone, but he DOESN’T want the responsibility of having done something about it himself. He’s trying to avoid having the MAGA idiots come looking for him, so he’s trying to thread the needle by voting to acquit, to calm the riffraff, and then kicking it to the courts, to save face with the rational people.

It’s all so very principled and courageous, isn’t it?

Mitch will always do whatever it takes to acquire, solidify and maintain power, regardless of the logical paradoxes it creates. If he has to rail against Point A for six months and then turn on a dime to promote the same idea if it should suddenly serve his purpose, he’ll do it and not lose a minute’s sleep over it. (See: Supreme Court Nominations.)

Now we’re being treated to the sight of Trump claiming he’s been vindicated because of course he is. To him, whether he wins or loses, he claims victory, overwhelming victory, landslide victory. In this case, he won over 86% of people from his own party and 0% of opponents. There was no question as to his guilt or innocence. The House Managers had this case signed, sealed, and delivered.

So the Republicans in the Senate clung to the idea that it was unconstitutional to impeach a former president, even though the Senate had just declared by vote that it was indeed constitutional at the beginning of the week.

See, this is the of bending of reality embodied by Mitch McConnell. And for him, it was even more twisted. He refused to schedule the trial before Trump left office, and then cited his not being in office as a reason to acquit. I mean, the guy’s completely shameless.

It’s a tactic the Trump Administration adopted for themselves, to try to influence the election:

·        Spend months claiming mail-in ballots were rife with fraud, were unreliable, and were to be avoided.

·        Assign a lackey to run the Post Office, who takes direct action to slow down mail delivery, to ensure poor performance and erode confidence in the institution.

·        Then, when he’s ahead in the vote count prior to the counting of mail-in votes, he claims he won because the mail-in votes are inherently fraudulent. And he uses the States’ opting to make allowances for the difficulty of in-person voting (extended deadlines, longer early-voting periods, more drop boxes,) as a lever to legally stop the count.

·        He cries that because the mail-in votes are coming predominantly Democratic, it has to be fraud, overlooking the fact that he convinced his party to vote in person and shun mailing ballots. So naturally, the mail-in ballots would skew Democratic, because he ensured it would be that way.

I don’t see how they can look themselves in the mirror after engaging in such obvious ratfuckery. I think they just don’t care, because having power justifies everything. And because they’re in bed with the evangelicals, they claim that whatever they do is blessed by God, just because it was they, “The Chosen Ones,” who have done it. In other words, the "C-Street House Doctrine."

The MAGAs revel in the ratfuckery. You can tell just by the memes they pass around. In fact, they’re eager to do it themselves. I saw this little gem over the weekend.

Right off the bat, I knew it had to be photoshopped, if for no reason but Antifa doesn’t really have a headquarters, spokesperson, or organization. Antifa is anyone who says they are.

Then later, when I looked a little closer, I saw the glaring tell: out of nine words, there were two misspellings. Hah! I saw the Capital/Capitol error right off. Took me a little longer to notice “Responsiblitly.”

I was going to respond to the poster but by the time I found it again, someone else had already made my points for me, plus adding that this wasn’t even CNN’s font, so I decided to let it ride there and just talk about it here.

But here’s the thing I keep coming back to. Someone took the time and effort to photoshop an entirely different headline into that CNN chyron and sent it out into the world to con people. And they knew it was too good to question for people who desperately want to believe it. Whatever it takes to get the blame for the insurrection off them and onto their perceived opponent.

I find that telling. It tells me that these people can’t win an argument on merit so they have to lie and distort and just make shit up. And if you call them on it, you’re just “sucked in by mainstream media.” (It goes back to that “Fact Checking = Censorship” meme I talked about last week.)

So now, when visual misdirection fails, it’s time for a different kind… Good ol’ “Whataboutism.”

This one is supposed to come across as reasonable, but as usual, if you scrape a little bit, most points come off as hollow.

Here’s how this argument falls apart:

·        Who says no one’s looking for many of these people?

·        Who says the people haven’t already been caught?

·        There is a very effective manhunt going on for the Capitol Insurrectionists for some damned good reasons:

o   They’re recorded on tape from security cameras, making their identification a lot easier. And many of those who weren’t immediately ID’d got turned in by family, friends, or exes. (LOL.)

o   There are also the geniuses who put themselves on social media while in the midst of the insurrection, making it a cinch for the feds to go scoop them up.

o   IDs were made easier because so many of these dipshits refused to wear masks.

o   Trying to kill politicians to facilitate changing the results of a lawful election is far more important than mere vandalism. That threatens our very democracy and way of life.

o   They attacked and injured cops, killing one. They did this up close, not by throwing rocks from a distance. They beat cops with flagpoles, for cryin' out loud.

·        There’s not nearly as much useable video of people committing the alleged offenses because much of it was at night and people wore masks. You have to have something to go on for a manhunt, more than "some dude in a hoodie."

·        What federal buildings “burned down?” Yes, there were some Molotov cocktails and fires started but none that destroyed a federal building. Same with the church that “burned down.” One church suffered some minor damage, but hardly “burned down.”  This is just exaggeration to bolster a thin point.

·        If you think there needs to be a manhunt for some schmo who tips over a statue, your sense of priorities needs a massive adjustment. Republicans think all this Portland stuff is bigger than it is because Fox “News” has been running it on a constant loop, like destruction porn.

·        This is an apples to oranges comparison, trying to compare the reaction to a threat to our nation against a series of exaggerated incidents. They’re not the same, therefore the reactions needn’t be. This just another desperate attempt to get fingers pointing in someone else’s direction.


Monday, February 8, 2021

Teachers Have Class

There’s been a bit of upheaval around the house this week. Our Governor is forcing teachers back into the schools, effective 2/22/21. It is not going over well for a number of reasons. My wife, Sweetpea, is a veteran 1st-grade teacher, so this hits home.

Like I alluded to a couple weeks ago, they don’t really have a plan to restart schools safely. All the Powers That Be want is the schools to be open, period. Parents are pushing this as well, as one might expect. Everyone agrees that in-person school is best for kids, for educational and social reasons.

The problem is, in our school district, they haven’t made any plans to make this work effectively. First of all, students are only going back two times a week, so it’s not like parents are just sending their kids off to school again like before. Half the class comes in for two days, while the rest stay home and participate remotely. Then they switch for two more days. This leaves the teachers having to teach both to the class and to the home kids via laptop.

How do you think that’s going to work with first graders? They can barely hear under the best of circumstances, with the teacher speaking right into the mic. How is it going to benefit the in-person kids if teachers have to spend the day with them talking into their laptops? Now, both sets of kids will get a half-assed attempt at teaching.

And don’t say they can just wear a Bluetooth headset. Headsets are out because they won’t work with the face shields they have to wear. And buy, too. The teachers here have to buy their own PPE, cleaning supplies, and do the cleaning.

Sweetpea’s school provided her with one face shield. This is it:

It’s not even clear! Looking through it is like looking through an old shower curtain. It’s ridiculous. But it allows them to claim they handed out some equipment.

Kids are required to eat lunch in their classrooms, which means they’ll have their masks off. The teachers are required to be in there with them. Kids are also required to remain 6 feet apart, so all that “socializing” people have been clamoring for will be limited.

Forcing kids and teachers back into school under such circumstances is not only guaranteeing ineffectual teaching, it’s downright dangerous. The Governor is going around saying that teachers are vaccine-eligible, but there’s no goddamned vaccine to be found!

Sweetpea had an appointment today to get her first shot. But they emailed her yesterday to cancel it, saying the facility at this time was only for second shots. And you should have seen the email… it was atrocious. At first, I was sure it was some kind of hoax because the grammar was so poor and the construction was awkward. It wasn’t until I matched the confirmation email she got Sunday morning with the cancellation later in the day and saw they both came from the same email address, that I believed it was real. They should be ashamed of themselves.

She’s back to square one with trying to get the COVID shot, and it’s like the Wild West out there. No one knows what to do or where to go. There are multiple places to register, but none that do so effectively. There is a gaping need for a single source, whether it’s state-run or federal. There should be one place to register, determine eligibility, track progress, get news on vaccine stock in hand, and notify you when to make an appointment. The slap-dash program that Maryland (and many other states) are rolling out is criminal.

This new plan is dangerous, the educational process will be noticeably less effective, there will be little social upside, so why bother? Because parents want their free child care back. That’s it.

And that’s fine. Just don’t pretend that it’s for the good of the child.

Now that I’m good and pissed off, let’s debunk some shit.

I knew the answer to this one right away, not because I was familiar with this particular speech, but these kinds of Republican memes are almost always out of context, if not just made up. And once I looked it up, I was exactly right. Rep. Waters was talking about “knocking off Trump” in the upcoming election, not killing him.

Republicans know this, but they’d rather stir up the rednecks by using one of their favorite whipping girls, a Black woman US Representative. (Ms. Waters used to be target #1 until AOC drew the fire her way.) They know their cult will believe it instantly and forward it around to all their friends, who will also believe it. They know no one will bother to research the quote.

So when it comes down to it, this is an apple to oranges comparison… equating a call to defeat someone in an election versus calling for the murder of political opponents on top of a real, armed, angry mob storming the Capitol with intentions to do just that.

This meme tells you everything you need to know about the modern Republican:

Do you mean to tell me that you can’t have a political discussion without lying through your teeth? Even if I thought this, I’d be too embarrassed to admit it in public. And this is from the self-proclaimed Family Values Party. I know in MY family, our values were that you shouldn’t lie and if you did there were sanctions.

Republicans have brought lying to an art form and now they want to look for cover. It’s funny how aggressively they misunderstand the concept of free speech. What they really want is freedom from the consequences of saying dumbass things.

But I understand. Their entire party is built on a stack of lies. It’s practically the Republican platform (if, they ever bother to create another one.)

Democrats want to kill babies.

Trump won the election but it was stolen from him.

Voter ID is to prevent voter fraud.

The people coming to the United States at the southern border are mostly criminals.

Democrats want open borders.

There is no white privilege.

Economic breaks at the top trickle down to the bottom.

Being gay is a choice.

The Democrats’ only position is hating Trump.

Every one of those statements is demonstrably false, but it’s still Republican dogma.

I’m sorry, I don’t believe our ancestors fought for the right to spin fantastic lies in the search to acquire and maintain power. If you feel that in order to win people to your side you have to be untruthful, exaggerate, or use words out of context, your side isn’t worth being on because it’s empty inside. Make your case truthfully or shut the fuck up.

I thank my lucky stars every day for the availability of fact-checkers because they do a tremendous service to the country. If we can’t separate fact from fiction we have no chance of living in an effectively run nation.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Horse Trading on COVID Relief

 The news of the week seems to be about the negotiations regarding a prospective COVID relief bill. The Dems have their $1.9 trillion version, to which the Republicans countered with a $600 billion version.

Some of the highlighted differences are that the Republican bill lowers the direct payout from $1400 to $1000 and lowers the level of maximum eligibility from $75k for an individual, $150k for a couple to $50k/$100k, removes the increase of the Federal minimum wage to $15, rolls back the extension of unemployment benefits until June instead of September and resists upping the payout from $300 to $400.

Ten Republican senators came up with this compromise bill and that’s significant in that it will take ten senators to vote with Democrats to get this thing past a filibuster. I’m sure that’s their way of assuring the Administration that they won’t pull the football away from them like they did during the Obama administration.

Some of the changes I can go along with. For example, lowering the maximum income requirement to receive direct checks seems OK to me. Yes, that would eliminate my household from receiving a check. I’m as happy as anyone to receive a chunk of money from the government but I can’t say that we absolutely need it. I think it should be limited to those who literally depend on it. If it will get the thing passed, I’m willing to give up my stake.

Also, while I’d prefer that checks for $1400 go out, how useful are no checks? More is better but none is a non-starter. What Republicans don’t seem to understand is that putting money in the hands of those who desperately need it will end up going right back into the economy. And that’s where they all seem to talk about, the economy. They’d just rather send the money right to all the corporate CFOs and pretend they will lower prices, raise wages or create more jobs. (But they rarely do. Most of it goes toward stock buybacks. Sure pays out for the stockholders though.)

I think Biden needs to hold firm on the minimum wage though. Every single time during my life that an increase in the minimum wage is proposed, conservatives cry that it will lead to skyrocketing prices and massive job losses and then it never does. Again, this is money that goes right back into the economy.

If Republicans hadn’t been so intransigent on raising the minimum wage since 2009, we wouldn’t need to double it now. Incrementally would have been better but they prevented that so now we have to do it in one big chunk. They made their own bed on this one. Every chart you see on the subject shows inflation rising, prices rising, executive pay rising, but minimum wage is flat. This change is long overdue.

They always make comparisons like a full-time minimum wage job would have burger-flippers making the same salary as teachers/EMTs/soldiers/fill in the lofty profession of your choice. All that tells me is these other people are also woefully underpaid. The answer to stagnant wages is not suppressing the pay of another demographic.

Maybe Biden can horse-trade with the 10 GOP senators. A bipartisan bill would be better than it being completely one-sided, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration. Biden should say, “If we can’t work something out together, we’ll pass a bill without you that you’ll hate even more. And we will gain votes by doing it too. So jump in and help us get help Americans or get out of the way.”

And maybe if they can work it out, it could lead to further cooperation on other bills. Wouldn’t that just chap Mitch McConnell’s ass?

Debunkery

The rank and file Republicans remain riled up but are still not capable of making a valid point.

That’s the Republican philosophy right here folks. The 81 million who voted for Joe Biden aren’t really people. We’re sub-humans.

This one is particularly irksome because there is really no cause and effect; just two statements put next to each other, without a causal relationship. Here’s the same argument in other words:

If you get into a car crash, it was probably Russian assassins

This overlooks the fact that you were driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Just like the meme overlooks the fact that an armed mob of right-wing self-proclaimed patriots broke into the Capitol building, beat police officers who tried to hold them back, ransacked the grounds, stole stuff, and attempted to kill legislators.

Don’t you think that m a y b e that had a little more to do with the military protection than a vague assertion that there was a massive effort to rig the election by state governments from both parties, which left no evidence or credible witnesses, no electronic or paper trail, and only affected the presidential race, leaving Senate and House races alone?

Moving on…

First of all, why is the number of executive orders from the first week or two in office matter more than the grand totals? It’s only relevant because they wanted to do the meme now.

The larger issue with this meme is the missing context. No one really complained about the number of executive orders until the Republicans started calling Obama the “Imperial President” because of his use of them, which was, in fact, less than his predecessor. Then Trump came in and issued them like they were pardons for his friends and Democrats objected, apparently thinking Republicans actually disagreed with EOs. Just like with the deficit, Republicans are only against governing by executive order when it’s not their guy issuing them.

Here’s a chart I ran in 2019, showing the number of EOs by president.

You can see that the use of EOs has steadily decreased over time. And then Trump issued 220 of them over four years, for an annual average of 55. Look what that would do the curve. Now, do you see why Democrats objected to Trump's EOs?

So now when Biden comes in with a mandate to overturn the executively ordered malfeasance unleashed by the Trump administration, EOs are a big deal again? Get the fuck out of here with that. This is a fake outrage or at least a hypocritical one.

Our last stop…

Simple. Socialism isn’t what’s deflecting the “caravan” from Venezuela, it’s the power-mad nut job running the country. Venezuela is a dangerous place.

Conservatives love to point to Venezuela when it comes to socialism. They always seem to forget about socialist Canada, Denmark, and the Scandinavian countries, all of whom test higher for their population’s general happiness than the US does.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Deficit Attention Disorder

Annnnd right on schedule, the Republicans are concerned about the deficit again. I’ve said it since the early days of this blog, and I see it everywhere now, Republicans are only concerned with the deficit when someone else is in charge of spending.


And this isn’t a new phenomenon, this pattern has gone on for decades. Republicans spike the deficit but don’t demand austerity until there’s a Democratic administration.


The next time they ask where the money for a tax cut is going to come from will be the first.

The only thing that matters right now is getting a handle on the COVID and giving people the tools to get by until that happens. Biden’s new plan is a good start.

In an emergency, we have to address the problem first, then deal with how we’re going to pay for it. Republicans holding up the stimulus package is akin to if your house is on fire, refusing to let the fire department put out because of what it will do to your water bill.

First you have to put out the fuckin’ fire before anything else comes into play!

This is the viewpoint stated by a lot of conservatives:

The thing is, the checks are what will keep businesses going, whether it’s the general checks that provide spending money or the small business checks and loans that allow businesses to pay their bills and staff. They tried that last year, but it was set up so poorly, huge businesses and connected individuals sucked up the bulk of the money.

People need money to spend. But they also need a safe place to spend it. All the stimulus money in the world isn’t going to make people go out and shop like they used to. Most of us value our asses more than risking a fatal illness just to eat at the Cheesecake Factory.

I’m fortunate that in my area of Baltimore, pretty much everyone is masked up. I haven’t seen a stranger’s face in months. But not all locations are toeing the line on masks.

I say, if you want your friend’s business to survive, wear a damned mask and get your shots.

Teacher Teacher

Speaking of “Wear your damned mask,” (which is our governor’s (Larry Hogan, R-MD) new catch-phrase), after appearing rational about the virus last year, his “Republican” is suddenly re-emerging. He’s exerting pressure on state school boards to get schools open ASAP, or else face the consequences (to be meted out by him.) He proclaims that since teachers have been moved to status 1B and are currently eligible for the vaccine, we should be opening up the schools right now.

The problem with this logic is that while the teachers are eligible, there isn’t any vaccine to be found, nor is there an efficient way of procuring one. Being “eligible” is fine and dandy but it doesn’t mean jack until the shots go into the eligible arms.

Also, the schools, like the one at which my wife teaches 1st grade, still haven’t done anything to prepare for in-person classes. There are still 20+ kids assigned to a class with no room for proper spacing, no dividers, not much of anything except some new posters on the wall urging proper handwashing. Even teachers, like Sweetpea, who desperately want to come back to school are resistant without proper precautions, like the shots.

This whole thing smacks of a political ploy. The Gov knows that people are sick of having their kids taking online classes and everyone knows that’s not the best situation for them. So in setting up the teachers to protest rushing back without protections, he’s shifting the blame.

You don’t like your kids doing remote learning? Blame the teacher’s union.”

It’s a pretty shitty thing to do, just to position yourself for the GOP 2024 nomination. The teacher’s union has no intention of rushing straight into a germ-infested nightmare.

Teachers give their lives to teaching, but shouldn’t be expected to give their life.

Now Back to Congress

I hear that Congress is tied up over their operations agreement. Mitch is holding out for a commitment from the Democrats not to alter the filibuster rules.

I agree with Majority Leader Schumer that doing so is a non-starter. Why on earth would the Democrats agree to give up such a lever? It’s one of the few pieces of ammunition they have. Mitch certainly wouldn’t do so, if the roles were reversed.

If I’m Schumer, I tell McConnell that he’ll first have to show that the Republicans don‘t intend to abuse the power before I yield anything. Odds are, they won’t be able to do that because obstructing every bill is exactly what they intend to do, just like they did with Obama. Schumer knows this, as does Biden. They can reach across the aisle a time or two, but as soon as they pull back a stump, the game’s over, they go it alone.

Republicans never shy from playing pure power politics. It’s about time the Democrats try it themselves.

Impeachment 2, The Sequel 

I’m not optimistic about impeachment anymore. While I like that the Democrats are tending to essential business first, (like cabinet appointments), I fear the Republican stomach for impeaching the former president has turned. Now they’re trying to use Biden’s call for unity against them, by insisting that we shouldn’t prosecute the previous administration, in the name of moving on, which is so very Republican. When they prosecute a political foe, it’s essential for the nation to uphold law and order. But when it comes back at them, it’s divisive.

From my point of view, an impeachment is absolutely necessary for this issue alone: if using bald-faced lies to incite an armed insurrection against the government, by people ready and willing to kill those with whom they disagree, isn’t grounds for impeachment, then what is? There absolutely HAS to be consequences, or else the door is wide open for any idiot with a grudge to try again to overthrow a legally elected government.

This makes Nixon’s sanctioned spying on Democrats look like child’s play. And Clinton’s impeachment? That’s a mere pimple on Trump’s ass compared to launching a violent campaign to pry power back from those who defeated him in an election, fair and square. And remember how Republicans got all dewy-eyed while insisting that telling a lie under oath needed to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, in order to maintain the integrity of the Presidency?

Then their guy tells 35,576 of them in a single term and they don’t contest one of them. Hell, they lined up to support the lies.

If Trump’s actions aren’t impeachable, then there is no longer anything a (Republican) president can do to get thrown out of office. That’s a precedent that can’t be allowed to stand.

And now for a little debunkery…


I’ve seen this one posted several times by my conservative friends. And each time I weep for what’s become of them.

This is the very definition of propaganda. Lots of shaky assertions that seem rational on the surface until you spend about 10 seconds thinking about them.

“No wars in four years.” Only the one against black people who dare to demand not to be harassed, shot, or choked while in police custody. And as far as overseas matters go, we cut and run, hung our allies out to dry, as well as other people on the ground who supported us at great personal risk. Isn’t that what the Republicans charged Obama with when he tried to wind down operations in Iraq? How pride-inducing!

“Job security.” Are you fucking kidding me? Joblessness is at a record rate! People are literally losing everything. Then again, the only jobs Republicans really care about are the high-paying white-collar jobs, preferably on the Boards of Directors, the ones who donate to Republicans. Yeah, those guys are really secure. The rest of us, not so much.

“Oil independence.” We are not now, nor have we ever been oil-independent. We could be, but the markets don’t work like that. Remember that every time something blows up in The Middle East, our gas prices go up. If we were independent, that wouldn’t be so. I suspect this segment is about Biden nixing the Keystone XL oil pipeline project and that’s laughable. The United States wasn’t getting anything out of that. It was a means for a Canadian oil company to get its oil to the Gulf of Mexico for shipping to its overseas customers. The only thing America would get out of it was the environmental damage should an accident ever happen. This is just towing the Republican company line, wherein fossil fuels are the only ones that matter, while wind and solar are just hippy daydreams. Just keep in mind that there’s a finite amount of oil in the ground. At some point, it will cost more to extract it than it will be worth. Then they better hope the hippies will share.

“Gas at under $2.10.” Hah, in Possum Holler, maybe. This weekend, I filled up for $2.29 a gallon. But I get the drift… gas is cheap right now. And do you know why? Because of the Coronavirus! People aren’t traveling or going much of anywhere. Lack of demand brings down gas prices. I found gas for under $2.00 last spring, at the height of quarantining. The most benign reading of this point would be the because of the incompetency of the Trump Administration, letting COVID-19 ravage the country brought gas prices down a bit. Hoorah!

“Stock Market above 30K.” LOL. Stocks took off once it looked like Trump was going to lose the election, and then continued up after Biden won. But yes, the stock market was one (and probably the only) area that thrived under Trump. All it took was crippling the government to pay for the massive tax cuts that big businesses received and used to buy up their own stock. There was little job creation, little in the way of wage increases, just padding for the bottom line. As usual with the Republicans, the rich got richer, kept it all, and duped their followers into bragging about it.

Monday, January 18, 2021

One Day at a Time

With the inauguration of Joe Biden set for Wednesday, this week is supposed to be Insurrection Part 2, The Sequel. I don’t think it’s going to happen that way.

I know insurrectionists were shown not to be the brightest crayons in the box, but I do think they’re smart enough not to try to storm a location that’s ready for them. You can’t escape the reports on TV of the National Guard setting up around the Capitol Building and inauguration area. After all the holes in the defenses on 1/6, from reduced numbers to insider participation, the whole world is watching this time. And they’re vetting which Guardsmen to send as well, to ferret out the closet white supremacists.  There will be no screwing around.

I think the camo brigade knows better than to go up against real military people. The most I expect is some small gatherings around more loosely guarded places or state capitols.

There’s also the matter of underestimating the degree to which their every move was under surveillance. They spent last week watching dozens of people that participated in the Capitol Travesty getting fired by their employers and rounded up from their homes by the FBI. I think Gomer wants to keep his job down at the mill and his ass out of prison.

Although, I’m skeptical about how much jail time these clowns are going to get. These are white people. I bet most will skate with a tap on the wrists. More home detention than prison time.

Still, the blame-shifting and rationalizations continue. I saw this one over the weekend.

As usual, nothing about this is correct. Democrats LOVE walls and cops, as long as they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. Cops are supposed to be the instrument of justice, equal justice for all. We’ve seen that not to be true in hundreds of cases. Walls are supposed to hold up the roofs over our houses and buildings, not to be barriers between free countries. Our greatest national triumph of the 80s was getting rid of a wall.

Not to mention, Trump has had a wall around the White House for at least a year now. This wall from the meme will be taken down as soon as it’s feasible.

This is just a cheap shot using false equivalency, designed to be persuasive to easily persuadable minds.

Status Check

As I mentioned in my post on 1/7, I decided, for the first time ever, to try a #DryJanuary.

I used to be a heavier drinker than I am now. Anymore, I never drink at all from Monday to Wednesday. My initial goal was to only drink on the weekends, but Thursday kind of crept up on me after getting in the habit of working from home on Fridays, which earns me another hour’s sleep. (Which is less important now, since I’m WFH every day.)

But even on those four days, I drink a lot less. A lot of that is due to my regular sports bar, where I’d go to watch football every Sunday, stopped getting the NFL package. I started going there to catch Steelers games that weren’t televised here in Baltimore, but ended up going every weekend because it was so much fun. But that would usually entail 3-4 20-ounce beers.

At home, I can get through two games on two cans. Then maybe have a drink after dinner.

It’s like that old joke…

“What’s the difference between a drunk and an alcoholic?

An alcoholic has to go to meetings.”

So that’s me… more of a drunk than an alcoholic. Maybe even a half a drunk.

But after reading about all the benefits a body gets from going alcohol-free for a month, I figured I’d give it a shot.

I asked Sweetpea if she cared to join me. She had two words for me: “Hell.” And “no.” So I’m on my own here.

I’m doing OK, although events seem to be conspiring against me. Right off the bat, there was a series of stress points that would normally have me reaching for a bottle.

1/6: All hell breaks loose at the Capitol, my reactions to which I’ve well documented.

1/8: We discover that we have a leak under our kitchen sink and can’t get a plumber out here for 10 days.

1/9: I left a bagful of groceries at the store. (I went back for it and they had it for me, so it ended up OK. But it was a pain to have to return there from home.)

1/10: My Steelers got creamed in the playoffs by the freakin’ Browns. That’s enough to drive any yinzer to drink.

1/11: We found out a close family member was diagnosed with an illness much more serious than initially expected. Definitely drink-worthy.

1/11: My Buckeyes got smashed by Alabama in the college championship game. (Yes, I’m a Pittsburgher, but also spent some formative years in Columbus.)

1/12: Learned that my car had suddenly become a target for birdie bombing runs. They must have had a meeting and decided that big blue thing down there was a public toilet and massed in the branches overhead to use it. Every time I’d clean it off, there would be four or five more bombs dropped. One literally covered the top of my side mirror. It got to where I was embarrassed to go through the drive-thru windows. I was waiting for the time I’d get my bag of food and it would have “Shitmobile” written on it. And of course, this was a week that was sunny and nice every day. A hard rain would have been welcome.

1/15: That was the 4-year anniversary of the day I met Sweetpea. No, I don’t consider that a tragedy, but it’s one of the most important days of my life and we usually celebrate. I mean, we did meet at a bar.

Fortunately, that’s been the end of it. Last week contained no atrocities. I’m hoping for the same for the rest of the month. This Wednesday will be the big test.

So yeah, it’s been a test so far but I’ve toughed it out. One of the things that helps is using replacements. I’ll watch a game and drink a can of root beer.

Tasty but not the same.

Or, on Friday or Saturday nights, I’ll pour some ice tea into a drink glass, squeeze in some lemon juice and add ice. It looks and feels like a drink so that’s two issues covered.

It helps that I’ve mentioned it to several people and covered it on my Facebook timeline. The more people know about it, the more determined I am to keep at it.

I’m way too stubborn to give up on a public battle of will.

Although if the inauguration blows up, I might have to go looking for the neighborhood smack dealer.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Still Pissed

As angry as I am at the attempted coup at the Capitol building last week, I’m only a shade less angry at the aftermath, wherein Republicans and Trump followers are desperately attempting to rationalize their behavior, shift the blame on to others, and open up new fronts into which they can project themselves as victims.

I saw a meme one of my conservative friends posted on Facebook that almost gave me an aneurism. In a rare fit of righteous indignation, I set off the following bomb on my own Facebook timeline.

Here's why this meme is bullshit.

It's the fallacy of false equivalency. The Kavanaugh incident was nothing like the one this week. Here's a description from the BBC:

"Thousands of mainly female demonstrators marched through the nation's capital on Thursday, starting at the appeals court where Judge Kavanaugh currently presides.

They converged on Capitol Hill and held a rally outside the Supreme Court, chanting: "Kavanaugh has got to go!"

Police rounded the protesters up in (the atrium of) a Senate office building after they sat down and refused to budge."

Yes, they sat down in the atrium and about 300 were arrested. Unarmed women. (Even in the meme picture, I can only find a couple of dudes.) How many were arrested on Wednesday? Fox "News" says 70. (Granted, that total will rise as they round up the people caught on camera.)

You know what the anti-Kavanaugh crowd didn't do?

Bring weapons.

Leave bombs.

Bring zip ties to kidnap legislators.

Build a gallows to hang legislators.

Overpower police officers and kill one of them.

Break into and ransack offices

Steal stuff.

Break into the House and Senate floor.

Take a shit on the Senate floor.

Do all of this based on an easily disproven lie.

The MAGA people did this. They talked about it online, planned it, executed it, and then bragged about it on social media. There was no Antifa and no BLM, it was all MAGA. Now they need to fucking own it.

Using a weak comparison like the Kavanaugh protest is a desperate display of blame deflection and equivocation of that which has no modern equal.

Trump and his followers tried to nullify a clear and lawful election (yes it was) by use of force and intimidation. There is no parallel anywhere with their political opponents. Now they have to live with the consequences.

My friend whose meme I used commented, “Don’t care.”

And that’s the problem with the current political culture. People don’t care if what they post is bullshit as long as it makes their intended point. That’s why we’re in this mess today and I’ll come back to that.

Another friend facetiously commented that they weren’t really true Kavanaugh protesters… Someone used facial recognition software to conclude that they were MAGA supporters disguising themselves in Birkenstocks and BLM tee shirts, aiming to give the protesters a bad name.

To which I responded, “Don’t care.”

Elsewhere, I’m seeing claims of violations of free speech and censorship because of Trump getting banned from social media, along with other known promoters of violence and insurrection, and Parler getting evicted from their server system.

I appreciate these objections because it shows me who among us doesn’t know how the 1st Amendment works. They yammer on, blissfully unaware that the 1st Amendment is about government censorship of speech. Private companies are under no obligation to support speech that condones violence, illegality, or is just repellent. It’s their platform and they can run it any way they see fit.

The funny part is that the Republicans, themselves, made it that much harder on themselves when they went all out to support bakers and florists’ right not to serve gays. Now when the same principle bites them in the ass, they want to cry about it.

Sorry, no sympathy here.

With all the fingers of blame being pointed every which way, I want to throw mine into the mix. I brushed this a little in my last post but it bears fleshing out.

We now live in a society with two separate realities. One where Biden earned more votes and won an election, and one where Trump won in a landslide but unknown Powers That Be conspired to steal the presidency away from him (and his loyal followers).

There is zero evidence that there was any malfeasance in play to steal votes and if there was, Republicans would have presented it at trial. But they had no such evidence and at each turn, they were laughed out of court.

In a sane society, that would be enough, but that’s not where we are. And why is that?

Conservative media. Fox “News,” AON, Newsmax, Breitbart, Limbaugh, Beck, and all the other pied pipers of bullshit have spent years using military-grade persuasion techniques on those most susceptible to them. They’ve been conditioned to listen only to these sources because everyone else is the “liberal media” (which is owned by gigantic corporations).

Trust US. Don’t trust those other guys. They lie to you. Only we tell you the truth. They think you’re sheep but you’re too smart for them. You just listen to us and everything will be fine. Hey, look at those brown people… they want to take your jobs and steal your property. Look at those religious nuts. They pray to a God who tells them to kill you.”

After decades of laying that groundwork, they can peddle any lie they want and no one will believe any different. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence and in spite of gaping holes in the logic, they believe the bullshit because they want to believe it. They feel good when they believe it.

Then when, inevitably, a complete sociopathic huckster comes along, telling more lies than anyone can even comprehend, they swallow every bite and pledge their devotion.

And that’s how we come to a place where people can be led to attack the center of the government they claim to hold dear, based solely on easily disputed false premises and lies.

They’re only doing what they’ve been trained to do.

There’s only one solution I can see. The government can’t crack down on these outlets, or it could be considered censorship. They could try enforcing “news” standards like they used to, but networks like Fox can just claim that they’re not “news” at all, they’re merely entertainment.

The only people that have leverage are the advertisers, who can stand up and say, “Enough! Stop denying the obvious!” If Fox and OAN can’t make a profit, they will eventually dry up and fizzle out. They have to stay financially viable or they can’t support their own weight.

Now, will that ever happen? I doubt it. There are a few rumblings from companies who are temporarily ending their political spending. Some others cut off their ad buys. But I can’t imagine that’s a permanent change in philosophy. They’ll be back once the heat dies down. And there are too many others who will only be too willing to step in and buy a piece of that audience, who’s already shown that they’ll believe anything.

Maybe, if we’re lucky, all the conservative news outlets will take each other down with in-fighting, bringing a halt to the entire circus.

As a people, we could educate ourselves on recognizing these persuasion techniques and questioning the validity of our media providers, but I’m not optimistic.

From what I can see, people will always believe an attractive lie over an uncomfortable truth.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Just a Heap of Blind Rage

Director’s DVD Commentary: This is an off-schedule post because if I wait for next Monday, who knows what fresh horrors will have taken place in the meantime? Plus, I have to get this out of me or I'll have an aneurism.

I was working at my job from our little home office yesterday when my nephew texted me.

After that, I split time between going back and trying to work, and running into the living room to see what was happening next.

(Pretty much pegged that Antifa prediction, huh? More on that in a sec.)

Our conversation went on:

As you can see, my immediate reactions matched up with pundits and Twitterers all over the country.

How was it so easy for them to break in? While I’m sympathetic to a police force being vastly out-manned, they’ve known for months that the MAGAts were planning on demonstrating, already bragging about how much hell they were going to raise. And then, after hearing Trump’s rile-em-up speech, they should have had every man on the force plus the National Guard already in place. It didn’t take a seer to see that this was going to turn ugly.

And you couldn’t help notice the difference between how the police handled these guys versus the BLM protests. They waded into the BLM crowds with clubs swinging and tear gas popping. Anyone in the way got mowed over… women, senior citizens, everyone.

They practically ushered the MAGAts right up to the Capitol.

It was surreal watching all this on TV. I can say, I had quite a visceral reaction, mostly rage. Watching them go through the halls and offices reminded me of what I’m told having your house robbed feels like… a violation. Seeing a picture of one of those morons sitting in the Senate President’s chair made me sick, as did the shot of that man with his feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk. The inmates were truly overrunning the asylum. It looked like something out of Animal House.

 Is this Pelosi’s office?

The guy with the Buffalo horns looked like he was about to administer the fraternity oath to the pledges.

Outside, people strolled around like they were on the lawn for a Jimmy Buffet concert, like they didn’t have a care in the world.

And these people are supposed to be the Uber-Patriots? The ones who promote originalist interpretations of the Constitution? (Except for when it doesn’t suit their needs.)

Add Trump to that lot. I don’t know how he could think that the Constitution gave his Vice President the power to overturn an entire election, just because he didn’t like the result. I mean seriously? If that were even remotely true, then why even have elections? Just ask the sitting Vice President to decide. Jesus tap-dancing Christ!

This siege has very deep roots and has been building for years. I put the blame right at the source… Fox “News” OAN, Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, and Newt Gingrich.

All have been instrumental in not only pushing stories that were patently untrue and making the Democrats out to be the “enemy,” sub-humans who want to take everything away from God-fearing, White, “real” Americans. People who only want to lay around and take handouts from hardworking conservatives. They invented the zero-sum politics under which we now labor.

Now, they’ve been telling their cult that those evil Democrats have stolen what was rightly theirs. “They cheated! They rigged it! They took everything away from YOU!” And every word of it was a verifiable lie, designed for a single purpose.

When you repeatedly broadcast a message like that to an audience that’s half ego and half testosterone, with a 3rd-grader’s knowledge of civics, what the hell do you expect? Lively debate? Violence was inevitable.

The whole event is a national embarrassment. With the world watching what should have been a shining moment, setting the stage for the peaceful transfer of power, the president urged a mob to take action, which they seemed delighted to do.

Of course, it’s not like they needed the presidential urging. These people came prepared. They brought a supply of zip ties and built a gallows out front. Think that wasn’t planned? What do you think they were planning? Believe me, those zip ties weren’t for trash bags, filled by policing up the grounds when they were done. They planned to take people from inside and hang them, either with a phony-baloney “trial” or not.

I’m looking forward to when the feds start using facial recognition to identify and arrest these “pat-rioters.” I heard they’ve already been appealing to the public to help identify the people caught on camera.

By evening, I saw the first attempts to blame others. I saw a tweet going around saying that Antifa and BLM activists were identified in the crowd.

BLM in the crowd? Seriously? Did you see that crowd? Finding Black faces in there would be like a real-life Where’s Waldo exercise. Who the fuck are they kidding?

They also claimed that some facial recognition company identified Antifa activists. But according to our friends at No More Mr. Nice Blog, such a company exists on paper only. They have no business, no testing, no licenses to operate. And Snopes has a good debunking of the whole issue. So in other words, it’s total bullshit, thrown out there to deflect blame.

You know, if you’re going to make a statement like invading the Capitol Building, you’ve got to own it. No alibis now. This entire episode has to be hung around MAGA. They planned it, they bragged about it, they brought supplies, and they executed it. There is no “Some Other Guy,” in play here. They have to own it.

It’s our job to make sure they do.

Final note: Congratulations to Senators-elect Warnock and Ossoff. Their election will make a world of difference in the next 2 years, even if it’s only for managing the Senate and operating the committees. And I think Biden should give Stacy Abrams any title she wants, including “Queen.”


Director’s DVD Commentary: For the first time ever, I figured I’d try to do a “Dry January.” Starting Monday, 1/4 of course. You don’t start a Dry January on a Friday during a holiday weekend. Boy, do I ever wish they made it “Dry February instead!” With all that's happened this week...