Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas ta alla Yinz

Rather than let loose with yet another political screed, I thought it best to just let ill thoughts lie today, so we can all remember events that occurred on this day, so many years ago.
"Now I've got a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho."

I'll be spending Christmas morning with Sweetpea, as she provides Christmas breakfast and drinks to family and single friends who have nowhere else to go. Later on, we'll move on to my brother's place for a festive viewing of the Steelers/Texans game. (In which we will not speak of or acknowledge that game last week. Stupid "catch" rules...)

Then it's onward to The Burgh, where I'll introduce Sweetpea to my relatives and the game of hockey at the Penguins' arena. That means I, once again, have to face one of my ongoing fears...
...Driving in Pittsburgh.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you. Your paying attention to me at my little blog is the best Christmas present I could hope for.

Be well and gather your strength for the fight that will be 2018.

Yippee-ki-ay, MFers...

Monday, December 18, 2017

Odd Bits - The 1984 Edition

I have to admit, I almost lost it when I saw this in the Baltimore Sun this weekend:

This is the sign that we’ve now arrived at Big Brother and 1984.

Changing language as a way to control people’s hearts and minds; it’s straight out of Orwell.

And this sure isn’t George Carlin’s list of the Seven Words you can’t say on TV…


Mind you, these words aren’t banned from some parochial school library; they’re banned from use at the CDC (The Center for Disease Control), a pinnacle of American scientific achievement.

Aside from wanting to pretend some of these terms don’t exist and wanting to kibosh a couple others, the ones that really rankles are the last two. The preferred language now goes like this:

The CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

In other words, it’s the opposite of science. What it says is that our leading public health institution will bend to the will of any backwoods outpost full of misinformed soccer moms and religious zealots who think vaccinations cause autism or IUDs cause abortions.

Science comes from testing and evidence and is independent on the popular opinion of the non-expert general public.

This is your science-denying GOP at work. Ain’t America great? Here’s to hoping these clowns come down with some raging new strain of syphilis.

Let the CDC tell them, “Sorry, guys, Mayor Gladys thinks anyone with a venereal disease deserves to have their willy fall off.

Taxing Situation
Meanwhile, the cancerous tumor masquerading as the current tax bill oozes closer to passage… as if there was ever a doubt. Even the senators who seemed to know what empathy was, back when they were trying to gut the ACA, have shrunk from the pressure of Republican “leadership.” For a Republican to vote against this bill would be political suicide. No more chairmanships, no more legislation passed, no more reelection money, and a whole lot of attack ads from their own party.

Even the ones who are retiring won’t vote against it. McCain may miss the vote, but he said he’d be back to vote for it if they needed him.

And remember, this is only Step One. Next session, these same legislators will start looking to reduce Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (AKA “entitlements), to appease the deficit hawks and make up for the 1.5 trillion-dollar loss this tax bill will entail.

Further remember: every time they tell you how much this bill will do for the middle class, they’re lying through their teeth. If they really wanted to help the middle class, they’d make the corporate cuts temporary and the middle class cuts permanent, AND switch the proportion of both.

But they didn’t do that, did they? Their goal was to siphon money to the very richest among us, plain and simple. The rest of us? We get just enough to provide rhetorical cover for them to hide behind.

Likewise, don’t believe Sen. John Cornyn when he says that they “probably could have made it (the tax bill) better if they had participated (in its writing).

Who does he think he’s kidding? This bill was written in secret by lobbyists and Republican staffers. What possible Democratic ideal would they be amenable to including?

There is none. And it’s equally unrealistic to think that their philosophical opponents are going to do a 180 on their traditional views and add to a bill that siphons money from their voter base with a fire hose.

There’s a reason it’s over 1000 pages long. This tax bill is a wish list for every rich Republican business owner and/or ideologue.

Net Losses
Net Neutrality was in the news this week too, as the FCC took the first steps to kill it, as a big, wet, sloppy kiss to the internet and cable industries. This step was taken even after numerous surveys said that 85% of Americans are against the repeal.

Shows you what the Republicans think of us, doesn’t it? But still, they try to con us, claiming they’re “freeing the internet” for more innovation.

Right. The only innovations coming are ways for Verizon and Comcast to transfer money from our pockets to theirs.

At least, to the best of my knowledge, Congress still has to sign off on the repeal. It is possible that enough legislators could be pressured into bucking the party line. And even if they don’t, Congressional action will be needed to create a standard that doesn’t get reversed with every change in administration. There’s still time to make our voices heard.

Not saying they’ll listen though. More likely, they’ll just claim that the dissenting voices are just robo-comments, unleashed by their enemies. Which non-coincidentally, is how they ended up with over 2 million pro-net neutrality comments on the FCC website.

Once again, the Republicans make a big show out of accusing Democrats of things they’ve already done.

Have you seen this smarmy meme on Facebook lately?
Here’s why it’s bullshit.

This is the logical fallacy of false equivocation. The creator is implying that powerful men pursuing, touching and harassing women around the workplace carries the same weight as a female comedian grabbing the old “bowl of fruit” belonging to another comedian friend while clowning around for publicity pictures.

It’s not even close.

First of all, look at Robin Williams. Does he look harassed? Nah, he’s having a ball. And who’s to say he hadn’t grabbed her first, or even set it up? All we have here is one still picture, which probably doesn’t tell the whole story.

Second, Robin Williams is the king of that group. He’s the comedian with the highest power level… the biggest star by far. The less powerful do not persecute the more powerful; that’s not how it works. If Robin Williams wanted, he could have made it an issue at the time and killed her career (which obviously hasn’t suffered a smidge.)

According to, Behar even brought this picture up while interviewing Robin Williams. She said, “I forgot that I did that, I molested you at Comic Relief.”

He said, “That’s why I’m here.”

Also, Trump “Privately talked about grabbing women?” He said it to a freaking film crew with the camera running. How the fuck is that private?

So no, there’s no validity to Joy Behar “forgetting” this incident, because it wasn’t really an incident. Nice try though. I’m sure it fooled a bunch of conservative apologists who desperately want to slap that noisy liberal woman down.

It’s Mueller Time
The Republicans seem to be working to provide cover for an eventual firing of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, by claiming the investigation is biased. For proof, they cite instances where two investigators had negative things to say about Trump… you know, just like the majority of all Americans, if you believe the polls. Mueller removed these two agents from the case once the messages became public.

If you think about it, the GOP seems to be saying, if you’re not on our side, you’re biased. Right? I mean, is there some kind of test to be applied here?

I say, if you’re running an investigation, you WANT agents with a hard-on for the suspected perp. It still comes down to what you can prove and the evidence is the evidence no matter who digs it up.

With the Republican-appointed special prosecutor and the Republican-appointed Assistant Attorney General, Trump and the Republicans thought this would be a big whitewash, like they were Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack slipping $20 to the field official and telling him, “Keep it fair, keep it fair.”
As far as I’m concerned, they get no respect either.

And when it comes to their charges about how the FBI investigated Hillary, I’d like to remind them that there were 11 Republican-led congressional investigations, all of which found two things: Jack and Shit. 

Were they all biased for Hillary too?

Or maybe all those investigations were just a prolonged smear attempt, so they don't really count.

Monday, December 11, 2017

We See Who You Are

I recall seeing an adage somewhere that said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

That’s what I have in mind when I see the Republican Party apparatus promoting and defending Roy Moore.

That Moore is a sham religious con man is a given. Apparently, everyone in Alabama knew it too, at least in the local malls. When so many people come out of the blue to tell a similar story, (with some offering evidence), none of whom have anything to gain from it, you have to figure that something is there. It’s not even novel anymore when some anti-gay crusader gets caught having gay sex, or morality-pushing judges or senators get caught nose-deep in extra-marital affairs. It’s almost trite.

And now, given the choice between jumping through hoops to support a pedophile or embodying the values they loudly and publicly promote, these are some hoop-jumping bastards.

The only thing that matters to the GOP leaders, no matter who they have to get into bed with, is the accumulation and maintenance of political power. That’s what they’re showing us right now and we’d best believe it.

Even without the salacious scandal, Roy Moore has shown us who he is. This is a guy who has directly and indirectly espoused racism, sexism, disregard for the Constitution and established law.
You know what he’s talking about, don’t you? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. And is there any non-racist basis that this pair of legislative acts is problematic? (And I mean a reason that outweighs the disenfranchisement of tens of millions of US citizens, rather than nebulous perceived indignities felt by those who were no longer allowed to suppress the rights of others for their own gain.)
Moore said, "You know people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended."

And there it is; the paean to Constitutional originalism. Keep in mind that this is conservatism 101… the idea that the Constitution is a static document, to be applied exactly as it was written, much like religious fundamentalists look at the bible. This view allows no room for the advancement of knowledge, philosophy, and science that occurred in the subsequent 240-odd years.

Further, keep in mind that in that original document, a black man counted as 3/5 or a person. And if you were to listen to what they say behind closed doors, that’s what the Republicans would like as well. They tell us that every time they push efforts to combat “voter fraud.”

Next, look at the rights of women. The 19th amendment was needed to give women the right to vote, long after it was given to black men. This is also something Moore obviously would like to see repealed.

And looking at the efforts conservatives have made to dominate and control women and their reproduction decisions, this appears to be a GOP platform item as well. They seek to substitute their own judgment for that of pregnant women by erecting barrier after barrier to not only abortion but basic birth control. They fight insurance that could be used to pay for it, they fight to cut food and medical aid to children, and they shrink from anything to equalize pay rates between men and women.  The only logical conclusion is that they too are in favor of the domestication of women.

The only area the Republicans see for the Constitution to grow and adapt is in making this country a Christian theocracy. See, they have to deal with one unavoidable obstacle:
It’s funny how they don’t see adding official religion to the country’s foundation as an attack on the Constitution. As Roy Moore often says, “God’s will supersedes the laws of man,” which is scary as shit, coming from a (former) judge.

The Republicans are showing us who they are, right now. And when I say that, I’m mostly talking about GOP political leadership. We’ll know more about how the “rank and file” think later this week when the Alabama Senate election is conducted.

Republicans know they need that seat and they’ve said as much. Trump is campaigning outwardly to this end and has taken to smearing Moore’s opponent, calling him, of all things, “soft on crime.”
Money is pouring in from the donor base, who also know how important it is to their interests that the Senate they’ve bought remains in their possession. Do you think the Koch Brothers care if the junior senator from Alabama liked to bone high school girls? Hell no. They only care about getting their taxes cut and reducing any monetary or environmental roadblock to greater profits. There is no human cost as far as the Kochs are concerned; we are a commodity to buy, sell and use for their own benefit, just like every other natural resource on the planet.

To address the deficit their new tax bill will create, the Republicans will be coming after Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid next year. That’s not a secret either. And they’re doing that because that’s what the Koch Brothers and other barons of industry want.

The Republicans are showing us who they are… Callous, conscienceless, greedy, misogynist, racist, anti-scientific, evolution-denying, hypocritical motherfuckers. They don’t even hide it anymore.

We need to accept what they’re telling us and act to fight them.

Or else “us” and “them” will be one and the same… Ignorant. Except “Them” will be loaded and living large, and “Us,” will be broke and scrambling.

We can start by consigning the Judge Creeper to the dustbin of history.

Monday, December 4, 2017

When in Doubt, Check it Out

I got a text from my nephew last week, from his freshman dorm at Penn State. He wanted to know if I think aliens exist. Apparently, he’d watched a video that illustrated the evidence that mankind may not be the only intelligent beings in the galaxy. (I’m talking about centuries-old paintings of spacecraft and alien figures appearing on ancient ruins, not local yokels who claim to have been abducted.)

The video covered several bases, from heavily guarded Area 51 to supposed secret holdings of the Vatican library.

Now, I’m certainly no expert on unexplained phenomena but I have an open mind when it comes to the great unknown. But as a card-carrying skeptic, I want to see evidence and investigate alternative theories.

In this case, I think that with the mind-boggling vastness of space, it’s awfully self-absorbed of us to think we’re the only ones out here, and that’s how I answered his question.

I also pointed out that the church probably wants to keep a lid on all things extra-terrestrial, so to maintain the illusion that we’re God’s only chosen beings, made in his image.

See, this is where faith and science diverge. Religion has its tenets and looks for evidence to back it up. Science looks at the evidence and draws conclusions based on the evidence. And if the evidence changes or new evidence is uncovered, the conclusion adapts. It’s the scientific way. 
So when a scientific conclusion changes after a period of time, that’s not a flaw, it’s a design feature.

It’s the same with journalism.

Proper journalism investigates an issue (or person) and then the story becomes the result of what they find out. And when a journalist gets a story wrong? Heads roll. Just ask Dan Rather. Or more recently, Brian Ross.

Hack journalism (like that of Fox “News” and other propaganda sites like Breitbart) is much like religion in that it starts with the story it wants and then looks for select evidence to back it up while discarding evidence that doesn’t.
And what is considered solid evidence?

That is a relevant question because not all “evidence” is created equal. One must look at where it came from, how it was obtained, and who profits from its existence.

If you’re talking about a video about aliens, I’d want to know who’s producing it? Have they produced any other work that’s credible? Do they have anything to gain (besides clicks) by convincing you that aliens exist?

Personally, I’d think that having a named NASA scientist’s testimony on the existence of space life carries a lot more weight than that of the average schmo.

(And speaking of NASA, I’d love to know more about this alleged space bacteria supposedly found on the International Space Station.)

If you’re talking about a news story, evidence from sources varies greatly. That’s why responsible journalism requires multiple sources, plus a close look at motivations. A good reporter doesn’t take anyone’s word for anything.

As it’s often told, the first thing you learn in journalism school is that if your mother tells you she loves you, you’d better confirm it with another source.

You couldn’t ask for a better example of that than what was provided by the Washington Post when they shut down sham “sting-video” producer, James O’Keefe, who sent one of his minions into their offices to report being raped by Roy Moore.

O’Keefe is the guy behind the dishonestly edited ACORN videos and dishonestly edited Planned Parenthood “they’re selling baby parts” videos. His MO is to send people into offices of those he wishes to smear and have them secretly record conversations, which he then edits until they completely misrepresent the conversation and appear to incriminate the target.

The Washington Post was having none of it. They listened to the woman’s story over a series of meetings and noticed some inconsistencies, so they checked her out. And once they observed her walking into the James O’Keefe’s “Project Veritas” offices, they had even more reason to check into her background.

Now here’s where it hits close to home.

It turned out that Sweetpea’s older brother used to date this woman, many years ago. They bought a house together, which he soon abandoned because “she was a nut job.”

He didn’t know about her affiliation with O’Keefe or anything about her recent notoriety until he was contacted by the Washington Post and asked about her. When they called him, they referred to him by his common name used by friends, rather than legal name, so they were obviously referred his way by another third party.

This is journalism at its finest. They dug deep into a prospective source’s background, to see if she was on the level.  The Post wrote up the entire story, soup to nuts, exposing the attempted smear job. I’d say these conservative con artists were counting on the Post acting like Fox “News” and just running anything that bolsters their corporate philosophy or tears down their rival’s. They never considered that a legitimate news outlet does its homework before publishing.

And then when O’Keefe released an edited smidgeon of his minion’s conversation with the reporter, the Post released the complete audio, which shows how it was edited to change context. Again.

Journalism is under attack in this country. Irresponsible outlets like Fox “News” and AM talk radio has blurred the line between news/ journalism and opinion, to the point that no one believes anything. Then people like President 45 use that blurring to refute truthful reporting when it makes him look bad.

Every day, when you read the news online or watch TV, you must be a skeptical consumer. Look at the news sources. If you’ve never heard of the website, you have no reason to trust it. And the fact that they’re pushing something you may want to believe, should hold no weight. All news outlets are not created equal.

Sometimes, they’re shining examples of journalism done right, like the Washington Post.

Other times, they’re no more reliable than the town drunk hollering at the end of the bar, like Fox “News,” or other agents of disinformation like Project Veritas.

There is news and there is fake news. For the good of the country, please make sure you know how to tell which is which.