Monday, August 29, 2016

Apparently Double Standards are the Only Standards They Have

This week’s political controversy is practically laughable.

You mean people pay politicians in order to have access to them?  Holy fuck, when did this start? 

I’d say right around the time the first presidential campaign fund was announced.

I can’t believe this Clinton Foundation “scandal” is a real thing.  I’ll be the first to admit that it looks pretty shady, but that’s just because it’s pulling the veil off of the entire facade.  Money has always equated with access in politics and thanks to the Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices and the Citizens United decision, the amount of money is limitless.

The Koch brothers own the US Senate lock, stock, and barrel, and Senate Majority Leader McConnell will do whatever they want him to do… like deny a hearing to a Supreme Court nominee, indefinitely.  And now they want to complain about the Clinton Foundation?  An actual, certifiable charity, whose business deeds and dealings are a matter of public record?

What, exactly, has Donald Trump ever done for anyone who doesn’t have the last name of “Trump?”  Nada, that’s what.  For all the charity he touts, there is precious little evidence to back it up.  In fact, even in his most public charitable forum, The Celebrity Apprentice, whenever he told a contestant  that he's giving “X” thousand bucks out of his own pocket to their charity, it was NBC’s production company that actually sent the check.

When he put on that big charity show to benefit US veterans, he never provided a single dime until he was hounded into doing so by the press, after they started asking questions about where the money went.  (You know, because that’s what journalists do.)

Unfortunately for reasonable people, Fox “News” viewers lap this Clinton stuff up without even a second thought.  Or a second’s thought.  But that’s what they’re used to getting from Fox… one big, hairy, double standard after another.  No wonder they don’t notice; it’s the go-to ploy.  The GOP accuses Democrats of doing everything that they, themselves do, without as much as a whiff of embarrassment.

Like presidential vacation time.  Have you heard it again this week?  They bring it up every time President Obama goes on vacation, despite the (verifiable) fact that he’s taken far less vacation time than his Republican predecessors.

This is from December 2014.  I apologize for not finding a more recent graphic.

As this article describes, there always seems to be something that comes up when Obama is on vacation, for which they accuse him of shirking his responsibilities.  But the thing is, it’s a complicated world.  There is ALWAYS a crisis happening somewhere.  If any president waited for a time when there’s nothing going on, he’d have to work four (or eight) years straight.

Same with speaking fees.  Every successful politician cleans up after serving, via speaking fees to friendly organizations.  I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it is what it is.  But they make a big deal out of Hillary’s speaking fees because… well, because they can and no one notices that she’s the only one being held to that standard.

Republicans love to talk about big-money Democratic donor George Soros, oblivious to the fact that the GOP has dozens, if not hundreds of Soroses.  The reason I’m not nervous about Soros is even though he’s donating to a group that will probably raise his taxes and cost him money, he does so anyway to benefit the greater good of the country.

The rest of these rich ratfucks are simply trying to protect their nut, and to hell with anyone else.

How about gerrymandering?  Here in Maryland, the local Republicans have filed suit to have the extremely Democrat-favorable congressional boundaries redrawn, because gerrymandering is… bad?  I guess?  When it’s done by Democrats, anyway.

Maryland is one of the few badly gerrymandered states that benefit Democrats.  There are hundreds of contorted Republican districts across the country, but you won’t hear the GOP complain about those.  Only the Democratic ones, because it’s only a travesty when a Democrat does it.

If you ask me, they can completely redraw the Maryland districts into nice even little squares… JUST AS SOON as they do it everywhere else.  But Republicans hate it when they get beat at their own game.

Remember how long Trump clung to all that Birther bullshit?  He charged and accused and intimated, and even when faced with irrefutable evidence, far more than any other candidate has ever been asked to provide, he still refused to admit he was wrong.  And forget about having the decency to apologize.

Now he’s demanding all records from the Clinton Foundation be turned over while refusing to provide his tax records.  (And lying about why he won’t.)  He’s demanding Hillary open up her medical records, while he provides nothing but a sham doctor’s note that’s already been discredited.  She’s already provided the standard level of a presidential candidate’s medical disclosure, which he has not come close to meeting.  But she’s the one hiding something, right?

The big talking point now is about how Hillary is dishonest and untrustworthy.  Seriously.

Their candidate was racking up between 75-95% “lie” determinations on Politifact, compared to what, 25% for Clinton?  Over and over again, research is showing that Donald Trump wouldn’t know the truth if he built a shitty casino on top of it.  And they’re crying “Liar.”

See, they’re not trying to be decent human beings, they’re trying to win elections.  And their research shows that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes indistinguishable from the truth to those that want to believe it.  That’s the reason Trump repeats “Crooked Hillary” every single time he refers to her.  To him, it’s just branding.  He knows most people are swayed by emotion and not facts.

The temptation would be to lie right back about him.  Of course, that’s unnecessary.  All the Dems have to do is tell the truth. 

When the subject is Donald Trump, the truth is indeed stranger than fiction and far more disturbing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The One Where I Call Out the Liberals

If you’ve spent more than 15 seconds on this site, you know where I fall along the political spectrum.  I’m pretty hard-left.  But that doesn’t mean I support everything labeled as a “liberal” idea.

For example, I keep seeing all these shots at Donald Trump’s comments about his daughter, which include insinuations that there’s something creepy going on.

Now far be it for me to be seen defending the likes of Trump, but in this case, I think it’s a case of liberals looking for anything they can use to throw mud at an opponent.  Granted, this is what Republicans have been doing for years, with Obama and both Clintons, but that doesn’t make it right.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with a dad being proud of his gorgeous daughter and saying so.  He might not articulate that pride in the clearest sense, but then this is a guy who’s using a 4th-grade vocabulary to campaign in the first place.  So it stands to reason there was room for innuendo in his comments.  But that doesn’t make it pervy and it diminishes our side to dwell on it.  There are so many more relevant things over which to criticize him.

He should just turn it around on people and say, “I condemn you for Dad Shaming.”  That’s another big thing now with the Left… you can’t suggest, even in the mildest terms, that something might not be up to snuff with someone or it’s “shaming.”

You know, sometimes people might be better off learning they’re not wrapped within the aura of fabulousness they imagine for themselves, and it serves them, and those around them to mention it.

I say you condemn the big stuff as shaming, like calling someone out on the air for daring to purchase birth control, or publishing names of those who have sought abortions, or publicly ridiculing someone using food stamps.  That’s shaming. 

The rest of this stuff?  That’s just life.  You have to learn to deal.

Used to be that you went to college to drink beer, meet other young people, and occasionally learn things.  If you’re lucky, you learn some mental life skills.  But now it seems to be all about “safe spaces.”

On the surface, that’s fine.  It would be grand if college students felt safe from assault, attack, and ridicule while on campus.  But "safe from attack" has morphed into "safe from being challenged," which should be the very goal of a college education.

There’s no need for spaces safe from feeling uncomfortable, especially if one’s discomfort stems from having their beliefs and attitudes challenged by things like “science,” “evidence,” and “logic.”

If one’s only goal is to be told that everything they already “know” is actually true, one has no business on a college campus, other than to deliver pizza.  Parents who want their kids to come back from college with the same mindset they had when they went in, should save their dough and just keep the kids living their old bedrooms.  Maybe let them out for church.

Colleges aren’t there to hand out participation medals to every little snowflake like it was just another soccer league.  And that’s another travesty: the participation medal.  I hate that “no winners or losers” philosophy, because the second the kids move past childhood, there absolutely are winners and losers, and those expecting to be handed a trophy just for showing up on time will be in the latter group.

Heaven forbid you refer to them losers, though, or you’ll be guilty of loser shaming.

I am so tired of the verbal gymnastics you have to go through, just to refer to someone in particular.  Everyone has a special multi-syllabic preferred descriptor now.  We’re a society that is completely carved up and dealt with by applied labels and demographics, but we aren’t allowed to refer to them in plain language.

The Onion made fun of it, back in the early 2000s:

Courtesy of my The Onion Day by Day Calendar.  (#3 still makes me LOL.)

When did we get so hung up on superficialities that we ignore intent?  For I just don’t see a problem with saying “That black guy,” or “That white guy…”  To me, they’re just descriptors, without value judgment.

I’m old enough to have seen Blazing Saddles in the theater (as a junior high student, with my whole family, including my younger brother and sister.)  This morning I just read an interview with Mel Brooks, who is celebrating the 42nd anniversary of his western spoof, and he was lamenting how it could never be made in the current environment.

By today’s standards, someone would be there with a clicker, counting ever time the N-word was used, and that alone would  kybosh the film.  Thankfully, back in 1973, someone was paying attention to the context, in which the idiot townspeople were the ones using the N-word and the black sheriff was the smartest guy in town, defeated the bad guys and won over the townspeople. 

That’s how you defeat racism; not by becoming the word police.

Obviously, I’m not coming out in favor of using pejorative terms for people.  I think we should be polite, respectful, but direct.  In other words, try not to be a dick.

And I suppose I should apologize to all the dicks out there now, who I have just dick shamed.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Black, White and Blue: A Police State

I know it was mentioned on national news last week but it’s still reverberating here in Maryland; big time.  I’m talking about the Justice Department’s exhaustively documented investigation of the Baltimore City police department, which for more than a year, cataloged mountains of instances of blatantly unconstitutional behavior and institutionalized racism, from the top of the force to the bottom.

As bad as people on the street thought it was, the reality was actually worse.

It was thoroughly predictable how fast the apologists came out.  Among other complaints, I saw one letter to the editor which claimed the findings couldn’t be taken seriously because the DOJ neglected to charge Hillary Clinton.

Aside from the apples to oranges ridiculousness, it’s a complete misapplication of reason.  The report provided details upon details of instances personally witnessed by the investigators, of illegal behavior on the part of the police.

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

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

I made this point in the past, as it applied to the shootings of unarmed black men, but it applies here too.  It seems that this kind of behavior is so ingrained in the organization, even while under the microscope, they still do it.  It’s just the way things are done.

Among the other findings:
  • Blacks are nearly three times more likely than whites to be stopped by police in Baltimore (and that’s after accounting for the higher black percentage of the population).  More than 400 people were stopped more than 10 times from 2010 to 2015 and 95% of them were black.  One middle-aged African-American man was stopped 30 times in four years, without a single citation or arrest being filed.

  • Arrests for minor transgressions like loitering, disorderly conduct or failure to obey a police officer, were recorded against African-Americans far more than is reflected by their percentage of the local population.

  • Blacks are 37% more likely than others to be searched in pedestrian stops and 27% more likely to be searched in vehicle stops.

In reality, the real story is even worse, because of gaping deficiencies in police record keeping.  The DOJ’s numbers only reflect the things that got officially reported.

Ever since Ferguson, police apologists have gone out of their way to blame everyone but the police.  “If they’d just do what the police tell them, they wouldn’t have a problem, would they?

It’s so easy to sit back, wrapped in the aura of white privilege, and pass judgment on how other people should behave; other people whose everyday challenges would turn the critics even whiter.

I know people who have said these very things, but I guaran-damn-tee you that if they were ever stopped by the cops day after day after day, for doing nothing but driving legally, or standing and talking with friends, they’d be singing a completely different tune.  They’d be more than ready to rumble.

So when they smugly go all, “All lives matter,” they don’t understand the bigger picture, that of course all lives matter, but all lives aren’t the ones being systematically persecuted; the black ones are.
Inevitably someone brings up the recent targeted cop killings, inferring that it is the police who are under siege and it can’t be helped if they feel they have to defend themselves.

Of course, the facts say differently:
It just seems like all these things are exploding now because unlike in previous eras, now we hear about every incident.  Thirty years ago, if a cop gets killed in some backwood jerkwater town, only those in proximity to said jerkwater town heard about it.  There was no internet with which to get people fired up all over the country.

There really is no siege, just a few dangerous characters, probably not very bright, definitely suicidal, who are bent on taking out some cops.

So we’re back to the over-arching problem of institutionalized discrimination in big city police departments.  (If you think this is just a Baltimore problem, you’re kidding yourself.)

Now, what do we do about it?  That’s the question, isn’t it?

I wrote my thoughts on how to address this mess, back in December.  Band-Aids won’t work; it’s going to take a major philosophy change.  It won’t be quick and it won’t be cheap.  But it has to be done.

My opinion is that having a police force of one ethnicity with complete authority over a population of a different ethnicity is a recipe for suspicion, mistrust and not so spontaneous combustion.  But it will take a great deal of time to change any of that, if it’s even possible. 

If the schools are jungles and the students are poor and hungry, we’ll never find enough qualified people to join the police force.  So all we have to do is solve poverty and education and we’ll be home free!


In the meantime, recent events have shown that increased outside scrutiny does nothing to curb abuses of power.  Nothing will any different until there are agents of change on the inside.  Until police supervisors cease to tolerate these abuses, and good cops stop covering for bad ones, this predicament will never change.

The events in the DOJ report happened right here in this city.  And no amount of feel-good videos of cops playing games or dancing with kids will change the fact that police supervisors are specifically ordering their subordinates to do things that violate the Constitution, not to mention the standards of civilized society.

This has to be addressed in a meaningful way or else it’s going to stay blazing hot out there on the streets for a very long time.

Monday, August 8, 2016

What I Did on My Summer Vacation - Part 3

I gave you the first two days last week; now on to the rest of the adventure.

I probably should have mentioned this in the last post, to remain true to my chronologically ordered intentions, but on the way down from the airport, my buddy the VP called up his 87-year old dad and told him we’d be there to pick him up to go to the tavern in about 15 minutes.

His dad answered, in his distinctive Kentucky accent, “Why that’d be fine as frog hair.”

I love those old country sayings, especially the ones I’ve never heard before.

I probably spent half the week working on the leftover pulled pork and corn on the cob from Sunday’s feast.  Luckily I still had enough room for grilled brats.  (I’m sorry I don’t have any pics… but if you’ve seen one sausage, you’ve seen ’em all.) 

Afterwards, we went to the tavern and met up with my fearless friend, Sherry, she of the 52 at 52 Series.  

Important note: Sherry’s book, based on her experience of stepping out of her comfort zone once a week throughout her 52nd year, will be published in 2017.  I can’t wait to read it!

The big event of the day was going to see the World Famous Toledo Mudhens.
They play in a beautiful downtown ballpark and I never miss a chance to go.  Of course, the Hens probably aren’t too crazy that because they’ve gone 1-9 during all the games I’ve attended, including the 3-0 loss Tuesday night.  Sorry guys.

Barbecued chicken was the order of the day.  The VP did up three chickens, from the rubdown…

…through crispy completion.
After eating, we hit the tavern again, and when they threw us out of there, (due to an 11:00 closing, not because of our behavior), we headed on over to the smaller bar down the street.  The CFO’s daughter was working late and wanted to meet us there afterwards.  She needed some help from the “Council of Elders,” so we made this one a late night.  I hadn’t been out ‘til 2:00 AM in ages.  No skin off my ass, though… I could sleep in.

This was the day we decided to go fishing on the Maumee River.  The VP found a little fishing dock and we cast our lines around 9:00 AM.

Morning on the Maumee River

We probably should have come later because we didn’t catch anything for the first three hours but sunburn.  Eventually, the sun moved so we caught a bit of shade for the rest of the day, as long as we stayed about 5 feet back from the railing.

Later on, we started seeing some action.  The VP pulled in a sheephead, and then I caught a couple, as well.
I had an even smaller one earlier.

Highlight of the day was pulling in this channel catfish.
Next thing you know, I was catching my own bait.
I don’t even know how I caught this thing… must have just swam into the hook.

I tried reusing it as bait, but that was it for the day’s biting.

It wasn’t like we were trying to keep any to eat; we had plenty to fill our bellies that evening when we went to my old college haunt, Myles Pizza, for the biggest pie you’ll ever lay eyes on.

God, I love this pizza!

We had a big group, with me, the VP, the CFO, his 3 kids, and his oldest daughter’s 3 kids plus fiancĂ©.  And we still had leftovers! 

The CFO’s youngest daughter and beneficiary of the wisdom passed down by the Council of Elders.

The CFO’s son and I square off for our annual “Who’s Tallest Now?” contest. 

As you can see, I have him by about a frog hair.  Of course, there are ¾ inch cushions in my sneakers, plus a Dr. Scholl’s gel insert, while the boy was wearing what looked like dock shoes, so I was totally cheating.  Age and treachery, baby!  He’s just going into his junior year of high school this fall so I expect he’ll have passed me by my next visit, whether I’m gellin’ or not.

When we got home, there was no room for beer, but we’d planned ahead.  We had some incredible Woodford Reserve whiskey instead of beer and killed the night watching a Naked Gun marathon.  Life is good.

The CFO and I went out to watch the new Jason Bourne movie that afternoon.  If you like the other Bourne movies, you’ll like this one.  It’s good stuff.

For a culinary finale, the VP barbecued up some awesome pork ribs and baked potatoes, which we attacked with our customary enthusiasm.

I’m pretty sure I should stick to salads this week, after last week’s Meat-O-Rama.

After the rib feast, we went back to the tavern once more, but this time entailed a reunion.  That morning I’d heard from my old buddy Bruce, whose co-worker we convinced that we were brothers, just so I could get a discount at the toy store where they worked, and then kept up the ruse for more than a year.  He and his sister were in town from the west coast and it was my last night in town, so we had no choice but to meet up.

I hadn’t seen Bruce or his sister (another Sherry) since the early 80s so it was great to catch up.  You can tell a friendship is real when no matter how long the layoff, whenever you get back together, it’s as if you were just hanging out the previous week.

It was a nice way to end the week.  Old friends are the best.

L-R: The VP, The CFO, and me.

Thanks for putting up with me again this year, guys.  And I can’t believe we made it through a presidential election year without talking about politics!

Monday, August 1, 2016

What I did on My Summer Vacation - Part 2

Greetings from rustic Whitehouse Ohio!  I'm out on my annual pilgrimage to the land of my youth, the farmlands outside Toledo, to visit my best buddies, the Chairman of Fuck Off (The CFO) and the Vice President of Hell No (The VP).

I've only been here since Saturday so I don't have a lot of adventures to report just yet, but there's enough for a short post.

After the VP picked me up in Detroit, we thought we'd never get out of Michigan.  All the interstates seemed to be under construction, with the corresponding traffic jams, so we had to procure some alternate routing to get back to friendly territory.

After we met up with the CFO at the local tavern, we stopped at the grocery store for a supply of beer for the week. (OK, next couple days, probably.)
I just wonder what came with the full-service restroom...

When we got back to the garage, I noticed the VP's charcoal supply.
If that garage catches fire, they'll never be able to put it out, they'll just have to have a community barbecue.

On Sunday, the VP did up some pork butt, for pulled pork.
Fully spiced and ready to smoke.

Then when it was done...
it was a sight to behold.  And a smell to besmell too.

We also did some cooler corn, with the watchful oversight of the CFO's dog and grandson.

Later on, the boy demonstrated his magnetic personality.

Tonight, we're looking at grilled brats, (that's as in the sausage, not rotten kids) and a night back at the tavern.  Later this week, we have a Toledo Mudhens game, some river fishing, and a trip to my favorite pizza place in Bowling Green.  Stay tuned for what's sure to be a fascinating story...