Monday, February 27, 2017

An Update From Cloud Nine

It’s been about a month since I dropped that little happiness bomb and told you about my new honey.  In addition to being tired of complaining about the new regime, I figured it’s about time for an update.

All I can say is “so far, so good.”

But because that would make way too short of a post, I should probably flesh it out a bit.

We’ve been getting together once during the week and then spending most of the weekends together.  It’s been really great.  She’s such a calming influence on me… very chill.  She has an aura that says, “It’s all good, just relax and enjoy.  Everything’s OK.

I really need that, because I tend to over-analyze things and get worked up over minor details.  She just lets me go off and then reels me back in again.  Always with a smile.

She’ll probably laugh when she sees this because she’s always telling that between her dog, her live-in relative and her friends that pop by most every night, her house chaotic.

And she’s right, but it’s also where I find my peace.  It’s been six weeks and we’ve barely had a disagreement, let alone any kind of spat.  Maybe it’s because as a teacher, she’s skilled at handling small children, I don’t know…

Friday Night Dance Party takes place most every week.  She cranks up the Motown and other fun music and she and her friends drink and dance and carry on.  Best of all, they seemed to have accepted me into the tribe.  What’s not for me to like? 

She’s an amazing cook, too, and remarkably enough, even my well-documented culinary idiosyncrasies haven’t prevented her from feeding me like a king.  She gets me.  She thinks I’m funny and loves the way I put things, in my often-unusual way.  She doesn’t necessarily understand my spreadsheet fixation, my penchant for keeping lists or need to wear game jerseys while watching sports events on TV; she just accepts it and gets out of the way.

Unconditional acceptance is a beautiful thing.

Anyway, meeting her friends was a breeze.  Meeting her dad, however, was unexpected and a wee bit stressful.

It was Super Bowl Sunday.  We planned on doing our own things that day; she was having Dad over for an early dinner because he wanted to be back home in time for the game.  I was going to go to my usual sports bar and watch the game there.  Not expecting a huge crowd, I was planning on getting there about an hour before kickoff, about 5:30, to make sure I got my regular spot at the end of the bar.

Around 5:00 I was just stirring from my afternoon nap and getting ready to jump in the shower, when she texted me, wanting to know if I was at the bar yet.

Do you want to meet Daddy?”

At first, I thought she meant that they’d drop by the bar.  I asked for clarification and she said… well, let me show you…

You come now here.”  That didn’t sound like a suggestion.  In fact, I don’t know what that sounded like… maybe Arnold Schwartzenegger after too much wine.

Anyway, at that particular moment, I was thinking, “Oh HELL no…”

I mean, I was all set to watch the game at the bar and had planned on getting there at just the right time to get my usual seat.  I’ll admit that I don’t adapt to changes of plan very easily.

I hadn’t stewed on it too long before I had a moment of clarity: “Dummy, when your new girlfriend wants you to meet her dad, you get your ass over there.  Period.” 

Thus, I went from an internal debate on what I should do to a planning session on how I should do it.  So I accepted and let her know I had to catch a shower and then I’d be on my way.

Shortly thereafter, she informed me that “Dad left gum.”

I had no freakin’ idea what that was supposed to mean, other than I wouldn’t get there in time because he’d left already. 

Later, we agreed that it had to be an auto-correction, but she had no idea what she was trying to type.  It’s been a running joke between us ever since.

Anyway, it went fine with her dad.  I just had to keep a lid on my liberal attitudes, which I knew going in, even before I saw his bumper sticker proclaiming the value of both Jesus and guns.  (It told me I should pray to Jesus that I don’t get shot.)

Even though I was wearing my “Six Times Super Bowl Champion Steelers” hat, we found common ground that we were both rooting again the Patriots.  I’ll take the win wherever I can get it.

After he left, she and I sat and watched the pregame festivities together while I simultaneously kept an eye on my watch, wondering when I should make a break for it and run out to the bar.

Just before kickoff, I had a second moment of clarity.  This one told me, “Why on earth would you go sit on a bar stool surrounded by a bunch of drunks, as opposed to watching the game all curled up on a couch with a beautiful girl?”

Needless to say, I let someone else fill my bar stool that night.


I learned something else while I’ve been visiting Sweetpea… Did you know that guys and gals stock their refrigerators in completely different ways?  Here, try this test:  One of these is hers and the other is mine.  Guess whose fridge is whose.

Fridge #1

Fridge #2

Wait, are you sure you don’t want to think about it some more? 

OK, OK, right… mine is #2.  Cheese sticks, olive cups, a jar of gravy and cocktail weenies (in the plastic container); that’s the extent of my food.  Although if you count the condiments in the door, I’m stocked to the gills!  And my freezer is full too, for what that’s worth.  But she’s got a veritable produce department in hers, as well as a vast assortment of meats and cheeses.  YES, including cheese sticks!  (But they’re for the dog.)

We also differ as to what we consider a “find” in the store.

Last weekend, we went out to a local “overstock” store named Ollie’s.  It’s one of those “Big Lots” kind of places where you never know what you’ll find in there from week to week.

While she was consulting the Great Wall of Dog Treats, I went in search of my own treats, which led me to the Pop Tart aisle.  Have you ever seen these before?

I’ve never heard of Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts before… I wasn’t exactly coveting them; I thought it was merely a curiosity.  Didn’t see how they could possibly be any good, not without whipped cream, anyway.  But then I heard someone call out from another aisle, and what he said caused me to investigate.

Maple. Bacon. Pop Tarts.

Holy crap, it’s the Holy Grail.  I could hear a choir of angels as I gazed upon the box.  Again, I’d never even heard of these things before, yet I knew I had to try them.  Sweetpea thought I was nuts, and indicated such by making gagging and retching noises.  Undaunted, I put them in the cart anyway.  I figured I owed it to YOU, my bacon-loving friends, to determine if Maple Bacon Pop Tarts are the real deal or just another lame stab at the bacon craze.  (Plus... a dollar ninety-seven!)

Then I also came across these:

Off brand Fig Newtons, made with blueberry instead of fig.  Worth a try, right?  Mom always told me I was obsessed with blueberry Pop Tarts as a kid… when I could get them from Grandma! 

Cut to Sunday morning, as I conducted my food experiments. (Or in other words, ate breakfast.)  Here is what I concluded.

While warming up, the Pop Tarts smell like a Denny’s… a combination of maple syrup and bacon.  So far, so good.  But they actually tasted like a regular brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tart.  So essentially, the Maple Bacon Pop Tart is a brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tart wearing bacon cologne.

As for the blueberry faux Newtons; they’re pretty good.  Not overwhelmingly good, just pretty good.  They’re only marginally different than regular Fig Newtons.  Maybe they just dyed the filling blue.

So that’s the news on the home front.  All systems: Go.  Next week, I’ll be back to bemoaning the state of the Executive Branch.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Debunkery - The Mismatched Fruit Edition

I often get the urge to “unfollow” friends who keep posting “alternative facts” on Facebook, but then I remember that I’d be cutting myself off from an endless source of blog material.  So much better to copy the meme and then tear it apart here.

This one’s too easy.  Ahem… Who says we’ve spent all our infrastructure funds?  We haven’t… as if there is any such earmark for this sort of thing.  Congress can spend money on anything they please.  The only thing keeping the money from being spent on repairing roads, bridges, and dams is the Republican congress who would rather front 20 billion for a wall.  Or the Republicans who voted down infrastructure spending bills for the last six years while they controlled Congress.

Notice how Republicans only seek spending offsets (cuts to counter proposed spending) when the spending in question benefits the general public.  No one ever mentions offsets when passing bills that benefit big business or the defense industry. 

Funny how they always look for the offsets in those tiny little orange slices.

Instead of taking potshots at foreigners and the downtrodden, this meme should really say, “That awkward moment when you realize that the wall you’re building to keep the Mexicans out should have been built around Oroville, to keep out the floodwaters from the neglected dam.”

Right, because that’s the real tragedy… the handful of Americans killed by illegal immigrants.  Because we’re all fine with the tens of thousands killed by native-born Americans every year.  We obviously can’t do anything about those, or else the gun fetishists might not be able to get their hands on military-grade assault weapons whenever they get the itch for a new fix, without the crippling inconvenience of waiting a few days.  Or without being told, “No, because no civilian needs a gun that shoots 16 rounds per second.”

Someone wake me up when it’s time for the telethon to benefit those killed by pasty, squinty-eyed, racist, ex-military white men.  I’m pretty sure it won’t be carried by Fox “News” though.

Another complete "apples to oranges" comparison, which should have come with the hashtag, #IdiotLogic. People coming up with arguments like this are either too stupid to know any better or willfully ignorant of the details.  Or just a partisan hack bent on persuading poorly educated people.

The president (or his shills) telling you to buy his family’s line of clothing is a conflict of interest as described in the Constitution.  Said purchase benefits only the product owner and the person who buys the clothing. 

Same with creating the scenario in which foreign delegations throw business to a chain of hotels owned by the president and his family to curry favor with the administration.  It’s blatantly unconstitutional and if it was a rich Democrat hotelier in power, Republicans would be screaming bloody murder about the conflict of interest and threat to national security.

Being compelled to buy health insurance is one piece of a larger puzzle in which in return for paying premiums, customers receive health insurance and those in need of coverage avoid being declined.  The whole system saves money for the population in general.  Poor and uninsured people using the ER for general medical assistance and then not paying the bills cost the taxpayers money, in addition to clogging up the ERs.

If the GOP-controlled states would have genuinely participated, instead of refusing to get involved because of partisan politics, the costs would have come down over time.  More customers beget more insurers in the game, which begets competition, which begets lower prices. 

Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but where are the complaints about the same government FORCING US TO GET CAR INSURANCE?  It’s the same deal… you’re required to have car insurance so that the taxpayer don’t have to pay for your accident.  Just like with the ACA, you have to buy health insurance so that the taxpayer doesn’t have to pay for your treatment. 

Sure, you can refuse to own a car and get out of the insurance requirement.  But we all have a state of health and that will continue right up until the time we needn’t worry about insurance (or anything else) ever again.

This wasn’t a Facebook meme; it was a letter to the editor in the Baltimore Sun this morning.  Here, the writer proposes another "apples to oranges" comparison, because it leaves out one very important point:  When Obama made the comment about having more flexibility after his election, he was talking about his second election.  He was already the president!  He was indicating there was room for agreement once he didn’t have to worry about how the opposition party was going to skew the news.

That is a situation light years from the one with the Trump administration-to-be.  Foreign powers deal with the executive branch, there can only be one chief executive at a time and Trump wasn’t it yet.  Then, of course, there was that whole “cover-up” thing and “lying to the VP” thing, but why quibble?

But yeah, sure, the two situations are exactly alike, and it’s only biased reporting that keeps the problem from coming to light.

Sometimes I think the newspaper only runs letters like these just to show the void of political thought from the right.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Debunkery - The Freedom Edition

I had no idea what I was going to write about today, but luckily Facebook came to the rescue.  I can always count on my conservative friends to provide some alternative facts in need of a good debunking.

Short answer: No, not unless we’re trying to become a theocratic dictatorship.

Why is it that for as much as they condemn Middle Eastern theocracies, conservatives usually want to do the same things that they do.  They want to pass laws banning enactment of Sharia law, (as if that’s even possible, under the Constitution, to enact), all the while pushing for more Christian influence over government activities.

The religious right is all for “religious freedom,’ as long as it’s THEIR religion.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a large swath of the Bible belt that would like the outfits in the top picture banned as well.  Or at minimum, pixilated.  (Even in real life.)

Another attempt to bolster the legitimacy of their asterisked President. 

Republicans have a vested interest in keeping the Electoral College for no other reason than it has given them two of the last three presidents.  It’s in their own self-interest.  And I guarantee that if it went the other way around, they would be itching to scrap it.

For some reason, conservatives seem to think that their loss in the popular vote can be mitigated by trying to separate California from the rest of the states.  But it really boils down to this: “Yeah, Trump would have won the popular vote if only you didn’t count all the people who voted for him…”

Democrats could say the same thing… “Without Texas and Oklahoma, Trump loses the electoral vote.”

When it comes to the presidency, the state by state breakdown shouldn’t really matter that much.  The president represents the whole country.  It’s Congress that was designed to level out the non-uniform population of the states.  That’s why we have a House of Representatives that is tied to population, a Senate that provides the same level of representation for every state, and every law must pass both houses before being brought to the president.

How people are arranged throughout the country should not be a determining factor in a presidential election.  Major cities have more population than the entire state of Wyoming.  States that contain these cities should have more of a say than a state where people are outnumbered by cows. 

A vote is a vote and Trump lost by almost three million of them.  There’s no way to massage the numbers to make it not so.  (Well, other than to claim they were 3 million fraudulent votes and they all went to Hillary, and then provide no proof whatsoever.)

This one came with a plea to just give the man a chance.


We’ll give the man the same chance Republicans gave the previous president.  Which is to say, “None.”

Let’s take this one line by line, shall we?

“He didn’t say you couldn’t have an abortion, he said you have to pay for it yourself.”

If that was true, then he didn’t have to say anything at all, because that’s been the way it is for years.  There are no public funds used for abortions.  Zero.  Yet he’s joined the Pence push to defund Planned Parenthood, which means they’re really preventing money from going to reproductive health care and birth control, the latter of which is the number one way to lower the need for abortion.  If Republicans were serious and genuine about reducing the number of abortions in America, they’d double or triple the funding for Planned Parenthood. 

He didn’t say refugees were not welcome… he said let’s make sure they are not here to harm us before we let them in.”

Refugees already had a 2-year vetting period, wherein the government made the determination that they (meaning the mostly women and children) were not a threat.  Stopping all visa and green card holders, many of which had already been living here peacefully for years, is a knee-jerk reaction to white people’s sense that they’re losing their influence.  If this were really about safety, why were the countries who supplied all the 9/11 terrorists exempted from the order?  (I mean, besides the fact that Trump and a bunch of oil execs/big GOP donors have substantial business holdings in those countries.)

He didn’t say Mexicans couldn’t come in… he said come in the right way, not through the back door.”

No one debates that we should try to prevent illegal immigration.  But he’s spending 20 billion dollars on a wall to try to keep them out, even though it’s the most ineffective deterrent available.  With the same kind of executive order, he could decree that there be stiff penalties and jail time for hiring undocumented immigrants and send the justice department out to find violations.  The jobs would dry up and thus the flow of illegal aliens.  Granted, a salad would cost us $25…  But the GOP is not going to do anything to stymie business owners.  Better to blow all that money on a wall. 

Meanwhile, conservatives moan about how we can “pay for refugees but not war veterans.”  

It's not an "either/or" proposition.  We can do both.  But I think the Republicans prefer to keep the veterans issue as a political bludgeon.  If they were interested in solving that problem, it would be done.

He’s not taking away anyone’s freedom, he’s keeping us safe and unfunding things that should never have been funded in the first place.”

This one’s hard to dissect because it’s so vague, I have no idea to what the author refers.  But I can see several freedoms Trump and his moralistic “advisors” are seeking to remove:

·        Freedom to choose if and when to reproduce, by seeking to defund (and therefore close) the most common places to obtain an abortion (or long-term birth control.)

·        Freedom to vote without jumping through expensive hoops, designed with “surgical precision” to prevent non-Republicans from voting.

·        Freedom to come and go from this country as we please. (The “we” being limited to anyone born (or whose parents were born) in select Muslim countries.)  Contrary to the prevailing conservative wisdom, the Constitution applies to everyone within our borders, not just citizens.  So sayeth the courts.

·        Freedom of the press to report on matters of interest to the people of the United States.

·        Freedom of LGBT folks to marry who they choose.

So far, the only freedom the right seems to be promoting is the freedom to discriminate based on one’s religion.

Then there are the things they’re trying to “unfund,” like:

·        Planned Parenthood, the most important source of health care for low-income women.

·        National Endowment for the Arts, the cost of which can only be seen with a microscope, when compared to the defense budget or oil company subsidies.

·        The Affordable Care Act, which SAVES money for the country over time, by providing preventative care and staves of using the ER as a primary care service, often at taxpayer expense.

·        Public schools and the EPA.  Both departments had cabinet members appointed who have stated intentions to blow up the institutions they now run.

That’s simply the way I see it… if I’m wrong, please correct me.”

You’re wrong.  See above.

Monday, February 6, 2017

How Does This Serve the American People? (Updated)

OK, enough with the happiness that has descended over my life and continues unabated.  Let’s get back to how this country is swirling right down the tubes.

We know Donald Trump campaigned aggressively about “draining the swamp” and reining in Wall Street influence over the financial policy.  And now we know how hollow those promises were, as he promptly installed a series of billionaire bankers and Goldman Sachs executives into cabinet and senior advisory positions. 

Now he just signed an executive order to look into unraveling the Dodd-Frank banking regulations law, which was passed in the wake of the Bush financial crisis and recession, to ensure that bankers can no longer place high-stakes bets with taxpayer money to bail them out.

Such a law seems like a no-brainer, right?  Protect The People from reckless banking schemes?  You have to ask, “Who does it serve to strip Dodd-Frank of its bite?

Well, it serves the bankers, who would love nothing more than to go back to the way things used to be, when they could do as they pleased, with no oversight or social conscience.

Trump stated, “We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank because, frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, who have nice businesses who can’t borrow money. They just can’t get any money because the banks just won’t let them borrow because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank” 

Seemingly within minutes, former congressman Barney Frank called him out as a liar.  The congressman, who is the “Frank” in “Dodd-Frank” co-authored the bill and said that there is nothing contained in the bill that applies to preventing companies from obtaining loans.  He said, “There are no restrictions on lending in this bill. There are restrictions on the manipulation of derivatives of complex financial instruments like the ones AIG used that got people into serious trouble.”

This seems to be the theme of Trump’s first weeks in office.  Who, exactly, benefits from these executive orders?  Doesn’t seem to be us…

The House Republicans also wrote plans to eliminate the rules designed to keep guns from people with severe mental disabilities.  Jesus, isn’t that exactly who we don’t want running around with guns?  Same with known terrorists… no wait… they already killed plans to check the Terror Watch List before allowing a gun sale, during the last term.

Someone explain to me how the public is served by allowing terrorists and people with severe mental health problems to own the lethal firepower of their choosing because I’m at a loss. 

Whenever there’s yet another mass shooting, everyone says, “We have to do a better job at treating those with mental problems.”  Can’t we do that first, before we suit them up with a semi-automatic rifle?  (Of course, that’s only if the shooter is a white guy.  If it’s a brown person, the only answer is to close the borders.)

Congressional Republicans drew up and passed a bill to kill anti-bribery and environmental regulations.  How, exactly, does the American public benefit from making it easier to bribe energy company officials?

And speaking of the energy business, last week the House GOP voted to eliminate regulation that prevents mining companies from dumping coal mine waste into nearby streams.  Who exactly thinks that streams are a good place for mining waste?  Besides coal mine operators?  This is another example of Republicans being indifferent to even the most basic environmental concerns if there’s money to be made.

It’s not like we’re talking about killing construction projects because they threaten some fish that no one’s ever heard of.  It’s dumping toxic chemical and mineral waste into running streams.  You do know that water ends up somewhere, right?  How does the American public benefit from poisoning our waterways? 

They don’t, obviously.  Only coal companies do… companies who give big to Republican politicians, who they count on to remove any disincentive to mining in the least expensive way possible.  (“Screw the worker safety precautions!  We’ll just get more miners!”)

Was this really what Trump’s voters wanted?  I mean the “rank and file” voters, not the big business voters who supplied all the ad money.  Obviously, it’s exactly what THEY wanted.

He didn’t run on propping up big business, he ran on a populist agenda to help the average American.  Granted, “average Americans” who believed him are guilty of wearing the rosiest of rose-colored glasses. 

At no time was Trump ever interested in doing anything for people who aren’t filthy rich.  He just played to everyone’s prejudices and fears in order to get their vote and then turned on a dime once elected. 

This will be an ongoing point I’ll be making for the next four years: how are the president’s actions benefitting the American people?

I’m pretty sure you’ll see that any correlation between a new Republican-sponsored law or executive action, and a benefit to the average American, will be coincidental at best.  But each and every one will benefit the rich and powerful.

Other than the anti-gay/religious freedom stuff.  That’s earmarked as bones to be thrown to the Pence/Evangelical voters who got Trump the presidency.  Trump gives less than a fuck about gay rights or religious freedom, but Pence does.  Trump will go along with it because it doesn’t really cost the rich anything, plus it keeps the rest of us distracted from his real plans.

Stay tuned.

Late Update
I saw in Tuesday's newspaper that Trump signed another executive order which delayed the implemenation of an Obama rule that would change how brokers advise their clients.  From the Baltimore Sun:

"Under the rule, proposed by the Obama administration last February, brokers who sell mutual funds, stocks, bonds, annuities and other products must meet strict standards requiring them to put their clients' best interest above all else when giving investment advice."

I ask you, in what way are the American people served by eliminating a rule that makes brokers serve their clients' best interest??  I mean, it's amazing that such a rule is even necessary.  But Republicans want it gone and the only conclusion one can draw is that they are eager to let brokers continue to use their clients as suckers upon whom they can sell whatever goods will bring back the biggest bonus.

Republicans are not on our side; they care only for their rich benefactors and this executive action shows that clearly.

But everyone was worried about Hillary's ties to Wall Street, right?

Nice analysis there, America.  You deserve every screwing this administration heaps upon you.