Monday, September 25, 2017

Appetite for Distraction

President 45 has once again played this country like a symphony maestro.

Here we are again, on the precipice of losing insurance coverage for tens of millions, thanks to the newest ACA repeal bill Republicans are ramming through Congress. And what is everyone talking about this week? Football players taking a knee for the national anthem.
At a speech in Alabama, (where else?), he said that he’d like to see any player that knelt during the anthem get fired, and he referred to such a player as a son of a bitch.
He knew full well he’d generate a response from the NFL, and the owners, players, and coaches didn’t disappoint. Most of the owners released statements supporting the players’ right to protest as they saw fit. Teams held team meetings to decide how they should handle this provocation.

Some teams linked arms along the sideline. Others had some players stand and some kneel, according to their respective consciences. Still others (including mine) stayed in the locker room during the anthem, so to stay united as a team and not to isolate any one player.

And as if on command, the nation’s self-appointed “Patriots” on duty, all lavishly swathed in red, white and blue, had a conniption fit.

As usual, much of it was factually untrue.

No, the NFL commissioner did not fine the Steeler players one million dollars apiece for failing to appear on the sidelines.

No, there is no passage in the NFL game rulebook addressing requirements for the national anthem. The article and section numbers cited in the graphic led to various other mundane points of gameplay. In fact, there isn’t a single line in the entire rulebook addressing the national anthem. (About 90 seconds worth of Google research debunked that meme.)

It’s also worth noting that players standing along the sidelines for the anthem is not exactly a longstanding tradition. It only began in 2009, after the US Dept. of Defense paid the NFL $7 million in taxpayer dollars to buy patriotic participation in the pregame ritual. Senator John McCain called it “Paid patriotism.”

Facebook “Patriots” seem to be in love with the Steelers’ left tackle, (and former 3-tour Army Ranger) who stood for the anthem alone at the mouth of the tunnel. This is ironic since I’d bet if you asked his new supporters a week ago about what they thought of Alejandro Villenueva, they’d say he should be deported with all the rest of the illegals. They wouldn’t say that to his face, of course, because Al goes about 6’9”, 320 lbs.

When I wrote about this last year, I pointed out the inherent disconnect of a group of people viciously “protecting” the virtue of our Free Country, while simultaneously denying people the very freedoms this country specifically and pointedly protects.
When Colin Kaepernick first protested, everyone made much of how privileged he was and how he (and other rich NFL players) had no legitimate reason to protest. (Empathy is not a quality that conservatives understand.)

And then back at the beginning of this month, NFL player Michael Bennett wrote about his shameful treatment at the hands of the Las Vegas police department, where he was thrown to the ground, cuffed so tightly his hands went numb and had a cop’s knee between his shoulder blades to the point that he couldn’t breathe.

The reason? Officially, someone thought there were gunshots somewhere. Unofficially? He was a big black man who looked like trouble.

This shit goes on every single day. In the old days, you never heard about it in the media. Now in the era of cell phone cameras and social media, we hear about some of it. We heard about this one only because the victim was of such a professional stature that he had a microphone through which he could publicize his story.

What’s going in the Take a Knee backlash is a philosophical bait and switch. These “Patriots” are uncomfortable with the charges of institutional racism at the root of the player protests, so they pivot to Soldiers and The Flag and This Great Country of Ours. On that, they can pontificate for days.
I understand… it’s easier to wrap yourself in the flag than to address the serious problems with the way this country polices itself. But that doesn’t make it right.

We always hear, “This is not the time,” and “That is not the way to protest.” But no one ever, EVER explains when it IS the time or what the “Patriot-approved” way to protest might be. But I’m pretty sure it involves staying in one’s house with the doors shut, the blinds closed and the phone off the hook. And make sure it’s not too loud so one doesn’t disturb the neighbors.

I don’t think for an instant that 45 didn’t want this weekend to transpire exactly the way it did.

Congress now has 6 days to pass an Obamacare repeal and the bill under consideration has been harshly criticized by everyone in the medical industry, from health care groups to patient advocacy groups to doctor and nurse lobbies, and even insurance groups themselves. The only supporters are the GOP congressmen and senators who have campaigned for years on how they’re going to repeal Obamacare, plus the fools who Fox “News” has conned into thinking that would be a good thing.

John McCain has come out against it. Murkowski and Collins are leaning against. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have come out against it for not going far enough, although I suspect both will be reeled back in by the threat of the ACA remaining as is.

I’m sure the Republican leadership is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Murkowski and Collins, from threats to massive projects for their states, in hopes of avoiding another vote that falls short.  The last thing they want is millions of constituents blowing up the phones to register their dismay at the prospect of this insurance travesty becoming law.

And next thing you know, with one speech, no one is talking about health care anymore. All we’re talking about is some athletes spending a minute and a half on one knee, which in real terms, doesn’t make one goddamn bit of difference in a single American’s life.

That, my friend, is a master manipulator, playing you like the latest version of Madden for Playstation. The longer he keeps everyone talking about NFL protests, the better his chances of taking Obama’s name off one more thing and calling it a “win.”

It is our patriotic duty to resist this faux drama and to pay attention to what is truly important.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Homeless Thoughts - The Genetic Edition

There are very few ideas bubbling up in me today and none of them contain even enough substance for one of my semi-regular “Odd Bits” posts. So today’s post has been downgraded to Homeless Thoughts.

“Shoot, or I’ll Stop”
Oh look, more police shootings in the news. St. Louis is enduring ongoing protests after yet another jury found a white policeman “not guilty,” after he shot an unarmed black man. The guy, after having fled from the cops, was still sitting in his car. The officer shot him through the driver-side window.

The officer testified he felt endangered because he saw the victim holding a silver revolver when he backed his car toward the officers and sped away.

Prosecutors said the officer planted a gun in Smith's car after the shooting, but the officer's DNA was on the weapon and the victim’s wasn't. Dashcam video from the cruiser recorded him saying he was "going to kill this (expletive)." Less than a minute later, he shot the victim five times.

I’m not sure how you get to “fearing for your life” when the victim is still sitting in his car. Of course, the driver was a black man, so fearing for one’s life seems to be the default law enforcement position.

Granted, I’m not saying the guy was a model citizen or anything. He was fleeing from the cops. But it seems to me like another case of “shoot first, ask questions later.” Disobeying police orders is a crime, but it shouldn’t be a death penalty crime, to be judged and executed by an adrenaline-fueled, pissed off cop.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, cops shot a Trans kid who was an LGBT campus leader, who wouldn’t drop a (folded up) knife. Shot him right through the heart. Kid was slowly walking toward several cops and didn’t comply with their orders.

So armed policemen, in numbers, are now deathly afraid of pale, Trans kids now? They seriously couldn’t wing a shoulder or leg, but feel compelled to go for the stone-cold kill shot?

This is another case that called for calmer decision-making. It’s almost like our nation’s police force just can’t help themselves anymore; they have to kill anyone who disobeys.

I believe in law and order as much as the next guy, but there is a system of judges and juries that are charged by the constitution to deliver justice. No one ever passed a law that said, “Shoot anyone who disobeys.”

Severe punishments for mid-to-minor transgressions is how police-states and totalitarian governments start.

Republicans’ Zombie Healthcare Bill
They’re trying one more time to kill the Affordable Care Act. The attempt at tossing millions off their insurance comes via the Cassidy-Graham bill, which Republicans are trying to ram through Congress before the end of September. That’s the deadline for passing the bill with only 51 votes.

Reviewers already say that this bill is even harsher than the last couple, and it shuffles money from states that expanded Medicare via the ACA (blue states) to the states that ignored the ACA (red states).

If we’re to thwart another attempt at devolving the health market into chaos, there will have to be a concerted effort to get some GOP senators to vote no on the bill. A good starting place would be those who voted no the last time: Murkowski, Collins and McCain. Rumor has it that McCain is onboard this time, but that Rand Paul isn’t. (It’s not conservative enough.)

One Big Family

I sent that out on Saturday, after reading about the promotion in the morning newspaper.

The idea was for the fans to take cheek swabs, seal them in baggies, and put them in bins stationed around the concourse. Then they’d go online and register and eventually get some kind of genetic test results back.

Does no one want hat or pennant giveaways anymore?

And they were all set to go but then Sunday morning, the Ravens postponed the promotion due to privacy/security concerns. I can certainly see that… who knows what could be done with your DNA on file.

If they do follow through with the promotion, I hope the instructions are clear. If they say to take a swab from the inside of their cheek, they better specify that they mean the ones on their face.

Starting Them Young
Speaking of football, my Steelers weren’t on local TV again Sunday, so I had to watch from my local sports bar. This time, my brother met me there.

The last few years he’d bring my nephew along but this year, the boy is away for his freshman year of college. I asked if he was going to bring his younger boy, Sammy, and he said no. But then he texted back later and said, “Change of plans; Sammy wants to come.”

The boy is 11 so he can’t sit at the bar, but that’s no reason not to come watch football with his dad and uncle! Hell, it’s not just a bar, it’s a restaurant, and kids go to restaurants all the time. I sat at my usual place at the bar and I saved them the high-top table behind me.

It was especially nice because there’s a real cross-section of humanity at this place, with some legit local color. I think it’s good for the boy to see people from all different walks of life hanging out and getting along. And if he plays his cards right, one day he may meet the love of his life in a place like that.

I did.

Now speaking of the aforementioned Sweetpea, I ordered tickets today for 2 last Orioles games this summer. That brought my count of O’s games this season to 10. Last year I saw 26, so that was a major change. But for good reason.

In years past, I had plenty of time to go to ballgames because I had absolutely nothing better to do with myself. And rather than cocoon down in the cave, I opted to go out and mingle with the world.

But this summer, with Sweetpea in my life, sure I’ve gone to games, (often with her), but I have other things to do now and someone to do them with. Call it a more well-rounded life.

So while I haven’t been bringing home the Orioles swag like I used to, (from promotional giveaways), it’s not like I don’t already have a dozen orange t-shirts anyway. And I don’t have room for any more bobbleheads.

Spaced Out
I saw on Facebook that it’s been officially decided that leaving two spaces after a sentence dead.

Which is fine. But can somebody tell my fingers? I’ve been trying… reeeeally trying, but it is so ingrained in me, I can’t NOT double tap the space bar after a period.

I’ve been trying to comply for the last couple blog posts. I’ll start out the first sentence or two fine, but once I start thinking about the subject matter, those two spaces just start appearing automatically, then I have to examine every sentence break and remove all the renegade extra spaces.

I must be getting better though… I just went back to check my work and only found two instances.

The downside is that all those abandoned spaces have to go somewhere

Monday, September 11, 2017

Odd Bits – The “Irma Sick’a These Hurricanes” Edition

So how’s the weather lately?

Good God, it’s like Mother Nature is having a fit of projectile vomiting all over the south. Maybe it’s about time we figure out that it’s not such a good idea to pave over every living surface across cities that are at zero feet above sea level.

Mankind may not have control over nature, but we sure have influence. The effects of these storms wouldn’t be nearly as bad if we weren’t cutting every corner in sight just to put up a couple more condos. Why not shortchange barrier vegetation, overlook crumbling dams and pave over every square foot of waterfront real estate? Why let a few worry-wart hippies get in the way of development?

Look, I don’t believe that the existence of these two latest hurricanes constitutes proof of climate change. I do consider them two more pieces to add to the mountain-sized pile of evidence that climate change is happening and is contributed to by humans.

Just look how both of these storms were described.  Harvey was an unprecedented storm; with conditions never before seen in recorded history.  And then a week later, Irma becomes the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.

We’re breaking temperature records year after year after year and contrary to the common arguing point, they’re not just blips.  I’ve posted it before but it warrants reposting.  Check out this timeline, showing temperature variations going back to 20,000 BC. You’ll see slight wobbles that take hundreds, if not thousands of years to take place.

And then you get to the 1930s and 40s where temperatures start to rise noticeably and then BANG, they spike with the 80s and 90s.  There is no 50-year change like that EVER in prior ages.  Only a moron can conclude that humans haven’t had a hand in it.  Or, Republican politicians whose heads are so far up the Koch Brothers’ asses they have to look out their navels.

Take a look around, down in Florida. This is going to be the new normal. The big ones may not come every year, but they’ll come often enough to make it hurt. Where they land will be a crapshoot, but unless we change the way we develop our coastal areas, the results will be the same. The shit that doesn’t get blown down will get flooded out.

So keep disassembling the EPA. Keep cutting funds for NOAA and hurricane research. Continue to ignore our infrastructure and let the rich bastards siphon up all the tax cuts. Eventually, they won’t have any place left to moor their yachts. 

In fact, they’re probably working on an underground luxury condo system in Kansas, right now.

Breaking It Down
Speaking of murderous clowns, I saw the movie “It” this weekend. I loved it.
 The Knights Who Say ‘Ni’ definitely should not see It.*

I was a fan of the book, way back when. And I even liked the 2-part TV movie from 1990, although the special effects are painful to watch today. (They used a lot of stop motion photography, which looks like it’s from the original King Kong movie.)

As you may remember, the story involves a group of seven kids coming together to fight a supernatural monster, who terrorizes the town by abducting and killing children. Twenty-seven years later, the same kids come back to town as grownups, to finish the job.

This movie limits the story to that of the kids (which will be followed by the inevitable sequel, to tell the rest of the story.)

What I liked best about the new movie was the interplay between the kids… you know… ragging each other, mother jokes, sister jokes, dick jokes, aggressive use of profanity… Just how I remember being 13!  It was believable and real. The child actors do an amazing job.

And while the clown bits were definitely nightmare inducing, it was the atrocities committed human to human that were the most disturbing. I don’t remember if it was in the book, or it was from an interview, but Stephen King once said that (and I’m paraphrasing from memory), kid’s lives take place just under the gaze of adults, like it’s a whole different world.  The grownups rarely see what’s really going on and are consequently of little help.

That may be less true now, with the advent of helicopter parents and constant cell phone communication, but it was true in the 50s where the book was set, and it was true in the 70s where I grew up. Bullies had free reign to terrorize. There were no checks on bad or abusive parenting.

Kids just had to make do. Maybe that’s what I like about this story. It’s just kids taking their fates into their own hands and doing what desperately needs to be done.

*DVD Director’s Commentary: Just to explain the picture to the non-Monty Python fan, The Knights Who Say Ni should not see the movie “It” because “it” is the one word they cannot hear, as per “Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail.” Perhaps they could see it with the sound off. I just wouldn’t want to sit behind them.

Another Season Begins
Football season began for me last weekend with the opening game of my Steelers’ 2017 season. I went to my local sports bar for the festivities and it was nice to be back. Sweetpea has kept me well occupied lately, so I hadn’t been out to the bar for most of the summer.

The Steelers opened against the sad sack Browns, which should have been a walkover; like a 5th pre-season game. However, someone forgot to tell the Brownies, who battled a disorganized-looking Pittsburgh squad to a 21-18 loss.  We got the “W” but didn’t look very good doing it.

I just wonder if it was my fault.

See, last week, I decided to use my new window-facing office space for a little municipal smack talk, by pinning a Terrible Towel to the end of my desk, so that it is visible from the main road.

I thought of doing it last year, but the season had already started and I didn’t want to mess with the mojo. I figured if I posted it before the season starts, I’d be all right. And opening against the Browns made it seem like a good bet. I used my 6-Time Super Bowl Champions towel because I didn’t really have much choice. I have two others that are individual Super Bowl towels, which I have displayed at home, and I have my plain, unadorned “battle towel,” for use at games or watching at home.

Now, I’m not sure if it was a good idea. Maybe it was the towel mojo that clinched the win. OR, maybe the Steelers won despite the temptation of karmic smackdown. I’ll have to watch carefully in the coming weeks.

Anyway, I was hoping it would be a visually striking presentation, but I ended up receiving a lesson in “scale.”

This is a shot of my building from a couple blocks away, from my walk in from the subway.  The arrow shows where the towel is.

OK, no one is going to see that from their cars, from that far out. 
This shot is from across the street.

You can kind of see something up there, but it’s hard to tell.  Now if I just zoom in a bit… 
OK, now we’re talking.

Unfortunately, the human eye doesn’t come with telescoping zoom capability.

Maybe I’ll just have to settle for pissing off the people on upper floors of the Marriot and the condo across the street.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Under the DACA Night

President Trump’s executive repeal of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals act, aka DACA, shows he’s finally exhibiting some of that business savvy for which he’s supposedly famous. By creating a 6-month window for Congressional action, he’s insulated himself from any blowback.

The idea of booting kids and people who were brought here as kids out of the only country they’ve ever known is essentially barbaric. It’s as if they’re sub-human. Any such enforced roundup would create an expensive and inhumane mire, from which our country’s reputation may never recover.

So why is Trump proposing that very thing? Politics. This is a move designed to be red meat for his racist base and a poke in the eye for progressives and anyone else with a conscience.
But by dropping final implementation onto Congress’s lap, he’ll seek to escape the blame, however it turns out.

If, by some miracle, Congress can agree on and pass a bill that formalized the DACA principles, then upon hearing complaints from the racist right, he can reply, “I killed the DACA order via executive action.  Blame those weasels in Congress for reinstating it.” (Granted, he’d still have to sign the bill.)

Alternately, if Congress is not able to enact a replacement and the rest of the non-racists in this country protest, he can say, “Blame the do-nothing Congress… I gave them every chance to come up with a new plan.

It’s basically a move right out of a reality TV show like Big Brother or his own Apprentice. One guy comes up with an evil plan, talks others into executing it, then stands by when it blows up, going, “Hey, they did it, not me.
I’m sure this blame-evading malleability played into the decision to have his AG, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions announce the news. Sessions, who looked practically gleeful at the podium, has never had a problem jamming up people who had the misfortune not to be born white.

Particularly odious was his bald-faced lie about providing motivation for other children to come here illegally.  As Attorney General, Sessions knows full well that the DACA only applies to those brought here before 2007.

I swear I am constantly taken aback by how brazenly this administration lies to the public.  Big, shiny, obvious-with-even-a-cursory-fact-check LIE. But they know their base isn’t interested in facts; they’re interested in getting rid of the ferners.

Research into DACA shows that the US would take a loss of over $105 billion dollars in lost revenue over five years.  $105 billion!  That’s a lot of dough to squander over racist posturing.

And yes, that’s what it is… Racism. That’s the only reason left after you look at some of what “dreamers” have to do to qualify:

·        Provide a clean criminal history
·        Have paid taxes for the last three or more years
·        Prove they have been providers for their communities
·        Prove that they are in or have been in school
·        Prove that they have never asked for welfare or government assistance
·        Renew their application every two years AND pay $500 each time.
·        They also pay state and local taxes and cannot collect Social Security.

These are tax-paying, upstanding, non-criminals, which is supposed to be who we want coming to America.

And the claims of, “but it’s illegal…”?  Bullshit. Why does illegality only bother conservatives when there are minorities involved? I seem to recall several bank executives plunging the country into a years-long recession, costing millions of people their pensions and 401ks. To date, not a single one has gone to jail or been convicted of anything. Of course, those were rich white people.

Even right at this minute, the Wells Fargo scandal is widening, where throughout the entire banking chain, millions of insurance and consumer accounts were created out of thin air, defrauding millions in the process. No one has even been fired from their board, let alone arrested.

Unpunished illegal activity runs rampant in this country, but law-and-order people only get upset about it when there are brown people involved. So spare me the platitudes about the sanctity of the law.

If you want to see a demonstration of this point, just wait until Mueller announces the litany of illegalities tied to the Trump campaign and administration that are sure to come, (assuming Trump doesn’t fire him, beforehand.) The silence from those "Sanctity of the Rule of Law" people will be deafening.

So when all those arguments are discarded… criminality, illiteracy, being uneducated, “sponging” off the taxpayers, what’s left?

Simple, garden-variety racism. Fear of those dissimilar to ourselves.

And because of this fear, 800,000 people have to live in terror of being scooped up and tossed into a country they do not know.

How very Christian of the god-fearing Republican party.