Monday, April 30, 2018

Paul Ryan Commits Patricide

I thought it was telling that the Speaker of the House canned the congressional chaplain. According to the Speaker, members of Congress complained to him that they weren’t getting their pastoral needs met. Seriously.

Maybe the other Congressmen expected their Chaplain to wear a derby and drawn-on mustache. (Ignore homophones at your own peril!)

I think the fired Father should have returned with a sheep, and said, “Here, this is for your pasture-al needs.” (So they could fleece it. What were YOU thinking?)

The scuttlebutt is that Father Conroy offered some words in a November prayer that ran contrary to prevailing Republican thought… concern for the poor.

He said he was hopeful that the lawmakers would “be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle” and that they “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

Following that statement, according to Father Conroy, Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”

I think he should have ordered Ryan to the confessional box right then, for using such a douchey term like, “Padre.” Who does he think he is, John Wayne? I bet Tony Gwynn is rolling over in his grave.
I’ve long held that Republicans use religion as a fig leave to cover up their most un-Christian acts, like the tax bill in question, which filled the coffers of America’s wealthiest and (temporarily) threw some scraps to the rest of us. They talk a good game about family values, as long as it’s the Walton family or Koch family.

The good Father called them on it by bringing up a central tenet of that Good Book they all claim to hold so dear. And that, of course, was evidence he was neglecting their pastoral needs of providing religious cover while they tried to pass Sheldon Adleson through the eye of a needle.

Mark Walker, (R-NC) said the new chaplain should be someone with a wife and family, thus disqualifying any and all Catholics from the job.

If that’s true, I’d like to know what these “pastoral needs” are, with which the Congressmen need help. Biblical cover for schtupping the congressional pages? Or someone to tell them that it’s wrong to bang the interns?

If they’re worried about staying on the straight and narrow, they should skip the Chaplains and get some Congressional Nuns in there. In my experience, nuns have shown quite an aptitude for scaring you into doing what’s right. They can't be bargained with. They can't be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until you behave. A nun is like a cross between a penguin and the Terminator. Let Representative Libido (R-AL) explain his pastoral needs to Sister Mary Urethra. That’ll set him straight…

Anyway, after some exhaustive research, I managed to find the real reason some of the Congressmen were complaining about Father Conroy. In fact, one of them wore a wire to Confession and the FBI just leaked the tapes.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Odd Bits - The Naked Breakfast Edition

Now that spring seems to have finally made an appearance, at least here in the mid-Atlantic region, let’s see what’s going on…

Same Shit, Different Venue
Now it looks like schools have stepped onto the back burner and now it is no longer safe to eat at the Waffle House. Early Sunday morning, yet another blank-eyed white guy wielding military firepower shot a bunch of people, this time at a Waffle House near Nashville, TN.
Dude looks like Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber.”

Why a guy from Illinois went to Tennessee for his rampage is, so far, unknown. I figure he didn’t want to get banned from his local eatery, because sometimes a guy really needs a waffle. Or maybe he was an assassin sent from IHOP.

The kicker is that he pulled off this hit job while basically naked. All he had on was a jacket… no shirt, pants or undies. (Perhaps he didn’t know how to fold them properly and they got lost.) He’s still at large,* or if it was chilly out, at “small,” due to the shrinkage.

*Shortly after this writing, word came out that the shooter has been apprehended. I kind of figured he’d be caught sometime today. It’s virtually impossible to disappear in this day and age, without serious preparation. You see the look on that guy’s face? Tell me he knows what to do to outwit the law for an extended period.

Four people were killed, with two more seriously injured. The casualty toll would have been higher, but for the unarmed African-American guy that wrestled the gun away from him, when he heard it jam or empty. Or maybe the shooter took an empty shell casing square to the beans. 

Hero dude burned his hands on the barrel pulling it away from the gunman, then tossed it behind the counter. See, this guy knew he couldn’t keep possession of the gun; if the police would have shown up while he had it, the death toll would have been one body higher.

So how did this psycho get his hands on a semi-automatic weapon? As it turns out, the system almost worked. Due to prior scrapes with law enforcement, his guns were confiscated.

I say “almost” worked because the weapons were turned over to the shooter’s father, who in turn gave them back to his son. Isn’t justice wonderful? If you ask me, “dad” should be held liable for these deaths. If that was my family who got shot, I sue the father for providing guns to his dumbass offspring, who had clearly had no business having them.

What has the NRA/Republicans said about all of this?
Yep, nada. I suppose they’re just going to wait for this one to blow over too. Notice how you don’t hear any calls to start arming kitchen workers. I figure that has more to do with the preponderance of African-Americans in Waffle House kitchens than a change in philosophy. The last thing the white, gun-toting NRA members want is for black guys to be as well armed as they are themselves.

November is going to tell us a lot about what the country thinks. The results of the House races will tell us if NRA support becomes a liability, if Russia still has its grubby tentacles entwined around the voting process, and if millennials can turn out in force to vote.

More Debunkery
Speaking of millennials, I saw this misleading meme on Facebook today:
This shows the logical fallacy of a small sample (of one) being used to distort a much larger pool of information.

See, you could replace the word “Socialism” here with anything. For example:
·        Millennials want to live in a land without heavy industry. / This is a land without heavy industry.
·        Millennials want to live in a land with a big wall. / This is a land with a big wall.
·        Millennials want to live in a land where the military has green uniforms. / This is a land with green uniforms.

This seems to be a picture from Myanmar or North Korea, or someplace like that. There are dozens of other socialist states where there are no such horrific scenes; in fact, most of them show up ranking high in polls measuring general happiness.

To me, this looks like something sponsored by the NRA, to reinforce their talking point about needing high-powered weaponry to deter the government from infringing on their freedom (to play with high-powered weaponry.) But it’s really just a scare tactic designed to influence gun owners without critical thinking skills. Boogeyman politics.

I also take issue with the opening statement. According to what poll do 44"% of Millennials want to live under Socialism? There is no attributed source, nor have I seen any such poll results in the headlines. I suspect, given the rest of the faulty logic in this meme, that there was a survey somewhere that asked opinions about Obamacare or a single-payer health care system. Stands to reason conservatives would label as "socialism" any system where the general public benefits from a program.

If you think I, as a liberal Democrat, have anything snarky to say about the passing of former first lady, Barbara Bush, just move along. I offer my meager condolences to the Bush family on the loss of their matriarch.

I think she was a stellar first lady and only wish she would have been more vocal in the areas in which she disagreed with her husband’s (or son’s) politics. But as she once said, “I don't fool around with his office, and he doesn't fool around with my household.”

President 45 didn’t attend Mrs. Bush’s funeral, but he sent Melania. I will not criticize that. This is in keeping with executive office tradition. Presidents don’t attend funerals for former first ladies.

Of course, you may recall when Republicans all over the map (and Fox “News”) jumped on President Obama for not attending Nancy Reagan’s funeral. Perhaps they learned something from the people (like me) who showed them how full of shit they were.

And it’s a good thing Trump didn’t show, otherwise we might have seen the first dead person rising in over 2000 years.
Thank you to my dad for sharing this on Facebook.

Department of Redundancy Department
Speaking of Facebook, I posted this over the weekend. This was the result of my trying to cancel a magazine subscription.
I followed the directions in the mailing I got, which directed me to either call in or use their website.

Because I don’t like calling anyone ever, I went to the website and pulled up the email tool. I included my account number right from the email.

They wrote back that they did not have my account number on file. I responded with a picture of the letter, showing that exact account number. Then that’s when they sent me the message pictured above.

You know, it’s a wonder we all aren’t out there shooting up Waffle Houses.

And the thing is, you’d figure they want you to call so they can try to talk you out of canceling. (Or in my case, killing the auto-renewal.) But no, when I called, they said they’d take care of it.

Granted, they could be only telling me that. Good thing my credit card expires this month and I’m getting a new card and number. Let them try to charge the old one all they want.

Goofy Shit
Lastly, let me just run a couple of things that cracked me up this week. Be careful though, because if there is a God and he’s a humorless God, we could all be going straight to hell.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Under Where?

Sweetpea and I spend every weekend together, to the point that her place feels like my vacation house. But that’s for me, of course, and not her. She still has her chores to do and I help out where I can.

I’ve managed to carve out an odd niche for myself, because I have a skill that you wouldn’t expect a guy like me to have.

You see, when she does her laundry, I’m in charge of folding her underwear. I’m the Underwear-Folder in Chief. I’m the Duke of Drawers, the Prince of Panties, and the Houdini of Bikinis.

I came by my underwear folding prowess honestly. Back when I was married, (cold chill runs down spine), Future-Ex schooled me in the precise way she wanted her undies folded when I did the laundry. It was a simple method, and it stuck. I even do my own the same way.

The trick with Sweetpea was convincing her that I was really just trying to help and this was something I could do, as opposed to merely entertaining some kind of underwear fetish.

But I have learned a lot about the nature of a woman’s underwear choices. Apparently, there are different cuts and textures to go with different kinds of outerwear. Or weather. Or moods.

This came to light when it was time to put the undies away. Rather than keeping them in some kind of orderly manner, she had them in what Liz Lemon, on “30 Rock,” referred to as “the underwear ball.”

I recoiled at placing the clean, nicely folded undies into a drawer full of lacy anarchy. So, over the course of a couple of days, I made it my business to fold every piece of underwear in her drawer, for easy retrieval of any particular style.
That’s a lot of underwear.

I was stunned that one woman could possess so much underwear. (Because I had to know, I counted 80 pairs.)

Contrast this with my meager collection of around 16. My only goal was to have enough to work with a 2-week laundry cycle. So rather than the Underwear Ball, or Drawer of Anarchy, I have my neat little underwear stack.
Undies to the right, stack’o socks to the left. (And slipper socks in the middle.)

I have three distinct brands, which I rotate evenly through the stack. (Not by design, it just worked out that way.) As a man, I needn’t worry about which kind goes with my pants. They all work under jeans.

And while I’m on the subject of men’s underwear, let me say this: I am philosophically against boxers or boxer-briefs. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why the top section of a man’s thigh needs an extra layer of fabric around it. Hence, my stack is composed entirely out of briefs. In fun colors.

Director’s DVD Commentary: Sorry for the short post. I’m temporarily rousted from my apartment for a couple of days, while they make some repairs. Because I have to post this from my iPad rather than my home computer, I wanted it to be short and sweet. Or as sweet as a post about underwear can be.

At least it was “brief.”

Monday, April 9, 2018

Enact, Repeal, Repeat

With the current White House seeking to overturn pretty much everything Obama and the Democrats accomplished from 2009-2016, I wonder if this scenario is going to become the new normal. Obviously, if the Dems take Congress and the Presidency in 2020, the first things I’d expect them to do is reverse all 45’s reversals. I mean, there’s already a substantial hit list.
I saw this graphic on Facebook. I agree with just about all of it, although there are a few items with a snowball’s chance in hell of coming to pass:

·        Abolishing the Electoral College: Republicans will fight to the death to keep the mechanism that handed them their last two presidential “wins.”
·        Overturning Citizen’s United would take a new Supreme Court and the appropriate case to base on.
·        Strip churches and NRA of their tax-exempt status. Will never happen. They’ve been tax-exempt for too long, plus no one wants to campaign against churches. And the NRA? They don’t really have assets or profits; they’re a lobbying organization. They don’t sell anything but their souls and those of our nation’s children. But you can’t tax influence. Besides, they’d shoot anyone who came to collect.

The other stuff seems possible, given a filibuster-proof majority in Congress plus the presidency. But even then, it would be tough. The Democrats had exactly that in 2010 and it still took Herculean efforts to pass the ACA. The lobbyists for organizations with the most to lose would just move their targets to the other side of the aisle and buy off a new group of legislators.

But then what happens when the pendulum inevitably swings back the other way? Are we going to spend the rest of our lives enacting and reversing the same laws every four to eight years? At some point, there has to be an acceptance. But with our extreme political polarization and media voices bent on keeping it that way, I don’t see any change.

Even the abortion issue, which was settled more than 40 years ago, is still being litigated to the point where it’s harder to seek pregnancy termination now that it was right after Roe v Wade was decided.

We shouldn’t shrink from making the changes though. It’s up to Progressives to convince the rest of the nation that we are right and our opposition is wrong. We need to stand up for what we believe and back it proudly.
It’s not even a complicated case to defend:

·        Believing in science. Those that don’t are heavily influenced by big monied interests who are heavily invested in the status quo. In other words, the fossil fuel industry bends over backward to convince people that climate change is a hoax or outside mankind’s influence, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. All because their profits would dip if they had to do something about it.

The sister-case is the public’s over-estimation of junk they read online vs the word of those who actually know the subject, like the anti-vaxxers. The whole anti-vaccination mess stems from one faulty study, whose author retracted it in the face of scientific contradiction. Yet people still site the study when endangering their kids and community by withholding vaccinations.

·        Allowing people to marry who they want. No one has ever shown damages from same-sex marriages to the community at large. In this country, persons A and B need not tap dance to the religious standards of person C, unless there is a tangible threat to the community. Same-sex marriage has been legal in various states for years. Where’s the harm, anywhere?

·        Don’t want to kick out hardworking immigrants. This always was and ever shall be a country of immigrants. The unheralded result of this administration’s war on ferners is that, without immigrants, this country grinds to a halt. Crops are already rotting in the fields for lack of people to harvest them. Unless you want to start paying $25 for a salad, we better address that.

·        Let women control their own bodies. I’m not a woman, but if I were, I’d be off-the-charts militant toward anyone who thought their opinion of what I could do with my body held a millisecond’s worth of value. And yet, here we find one group after another trying to pass laws to govern the most personal of decisions a human can make. The fact that these are people who believe in less government influence on our lives is the hypocritical cherry on top of the whole presumptuous sundae. It goes to show that their other tenet, the freedom of religion, is limited to their own interpretation of their own religion… that they want everyone else to live by.

·        Want to prevent mass shootings. The bodies pile up and we do nothing because the organization who represents gun sellers doesn’t want to lose profits. So they use disinformation and misrepresentation to convince people their rights are being eroded by enacting background checks or bans on military-grade weapons. Meanwhile, they have complete control of one half of the political spectrum, to ensure that nothing that can hurt gun sales is put into law.

·        Don’t want people to die because they can’t afford health care. We were already a leg up on this problem before Republicans dragged us back down. Again, it’s a money thing. Rich companies don’t want to spend any more than the bare minimum on their employee’s health insurance. Or in the case of the Koch brother industries, they don’t want to pay any of it. Their bottom line is more important than the health of their employees, OR any other citizens living near their pollution-spewing mining, drilling, and refinery sites.

Our healthcare system is a laughing stock compared to that of every other first world country. Higher cost paired with lesser care. We need to move to single-payer and scrap the whole, wasteful system. But expect the established medical and pharmacological networks to resist.

Let’s look at some other conservative disinformation:
Classic misdirection. The two subjects have few similarities, too few to make a valid comparison. The most glaring of which is that these 3828 overdose deaths, (if that’s even correct; it’s completely unsubstantiated) are people harming themselves, inadvertently or otherwise. A person has 100% control over whether they get into opiates. Plus, the deaths are one at a time, case by case, with an infinite amount of variations.

The gun issue is simple… it is a few misguided people killing large numbers of other people and a very short amount of time. And if you remove a single element or two from the equation, (semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines), the issue (mass shootings) almost disappears. So why would you not address gun control? (Aside from not wanting to cost the gun industry any money.)

Obviously there is work to be done to decrease the number of deaths due to opioids, but where is it written that the public can’t consider more than one issue at a time. Life does not come in a binary manner. We deal with multiple things going on every day. This meme (or simple status update, created to be forwarded ad nauseum) is designed to get attention away from dealing with guns, and onto something… anything else. “Hey, look over there! What about that?

Simple meme for simple minds. Apparently, there may be some kids in the country who do dumb stuff. So, the authors use the image of those dumbasses to take down the character and knowledge of a different group of students who survived a mass murder and are working to prevent another one from happening.

The thing is, you don’t have to be an expert in firearms to know that a gun that shoots 17 bullets per second doesn’t belong in the hands of the general public. And as soon as someone can provide a rational reason for the private ownership of semi-automatic weapons, I might reconsider. But as yet, I haven’t heard a single reason that doesn’t portray either lunacy or the simple rationale of, “But I want one…”

And for the love of all that is holy, can we please retire the cutey-pie Willie Wonka memes? Gene Wilder would be rolling over in his grave if he saw his image being used over and over again for simplistic bullshit like this.

Now, this is a graphic that holds up. I only include it here to show how casually this president lies to us. Every time he tweets about Amazon costing the post office money, he is lying.

And the reason he’s lying is that because Amazon’s owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns the Washington Post, who has been the standard bearer in shining light on what the Trumpsters are up to. He knows that whenever he tweets negatively about Amazon, their stock takes a hit. So, he’s really just screwing with the guy to cost him money. And it wouldn’t surprise me that at the same time, he’s having his minions buy up as much stock as they can at the lowered price. Then once he stops harping on the subject, the stock corrects itself and everyone who bought the stock at the lowered price cashes in.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Free Range Kids

No, this post doesn’t have anything to do with kids becoming target practice for assault weapon users. Rather, it’s about something I consider to be good news.

Of all places, the State of Utah was the first in the nation to pass a law prohibiting parents from being prosecuted for raising “free range” children.

From the CNN article linked above, “The measure essentially changes the state's legal definition of neglect, meaning parents won't be prosecuted for letting their children (of appropriate age) do things like walk to school by themselves, go to the store alone, play outside unsupervised, sit in a vehicle alone or stay at home by themselves.”

It boggles my mind that such a law is even necessary, as I fondly remember the unfettered days of my youth when I would leave the house each summer morning and disappear into the neighborhood until lunchtime. And then I’d go back out until dinner. Where? Friends’ houses, the school playground, the drug store (aka the candy store), the neighborhood pool, the mall… wherever the action was.

Obviously, there were no cell phones so there was no verbal contact with home base unless I wanted to eat at friend’s house and called for permission from their home phone. 

I had a watch and I had instructions on when to report back. Mom didn’t need to know the rest of the details unless I was going somewhere new and uncharted. But I had a bicycle and permission to pedal as far as my legs would take me. This was from around 3rd or 4th grade on.

I used to walk to school by myself, a walk that took at least a half hour to 45 minutes. Granted, only part of that was on account of the distance. The other part was that my route sometimes looked like a Family Circus panel.

The worst thing that happened there was that I almost derailed a commuter train. I told the whole story here, but long story short, in 3rd and 4th grade, I had to cross railroad tracks on the way to school. One day I put a piece of iron on the tracks, thinking the train would smash it, as I’d seen it do to coins. The iron had other ideas and stood firm, tossing the train almost up on two wheels before re-settling on the tracks. Scared the living crap out of me. But I learned my lesson and never messed with putting things on the tracks again.

I walked to school right up until I was allowed to bike to school. Fall, winter, spring, it was up to me to get my ass to school on my own. The irony was that when I got to 10th grade, when we moved to our house in the sticks outside Toledo, OH, that’s when I had to take the bus. That was also the closest we ever lived to my school. The bus ride took about 4 minutes. I walked farther in grade school.

Before that, when I was in junior high and living in Columbus, my friend and I wanted to go to COSI (The Center of Science and Industry… it was like a really cool museum with kids’ activities and stuff). It was located off one of the interstates and was too far to bike, so we looked up the bus route and hopped on a city bus. Our parents were totally cool with it.  We got there and back with only minor incidents.

Well, the incident was minor for me. On our way back to the bus stop, a bunch of black kids came up to us. One of them wanted the two Slim Jims I had just bought. I countered that I’d give him one of them. He accepted. I was golden.

 My friend, however, thought cursing at them was a better option. He yelled, “Eff you, N-----s,” then bolted and they took off after him. He was going, “C’mon, Bluz, let’s go!”  I was like, “They’re not chasing MY ass, ya dumb Nazi.”

He got away from them and we met up back at the bus stop. Good thing he ran track. He’s probably leading a White Power Men’s Group somewhere today.

So there were some bumps along the way, but I learned my lessons first hand:

·        Don’t flash your goodies out on the street, in unfamiliar territory.
·        Be nice. That will usually get you out of more trouble than shooting off your mouth.
·        It’s probably not a good idea to lob N-bombs at a bunch of city kids in 1974 unless you’re really fast.
A couple years back, I read about a case here in Baltimore where some parents were brought up on charges for allowing their kids to walk home from a playground alone. They were eventually cleared of neglect charges, but I found it presumptuous and offensive that they were even investigated. This story should have ended once the police brought the kids home and the parents said, “Yes, they’re allowed to go to the playground and back by themselves.”

I’ll give you that some kids should absolutely NOT be trusted to roam free like I did. But others should, and no one is better positioned to know who can or can’t than the parents involved. Local law enforcement should butt out of it completely unless they find the kids misbehaving or in distress. You’d think they’d have something better to do than force “help” on those who don’t want or need it; like two kids just walking down the sidewalk.

Maybe a good intermediate step would be to issue a “free-range kid” ID tag. Or chip implant. Or tattoo. Then the cops could just “catch and release,” if they found it necessary to investigate every juvenile pedestrian they encountered. And the parents wouldn’t have to be dragged into court about it.

I realize many parents will recoil at the idea of letting their beloved offspring off the leash. But with a law like this, they are still free to hover over their children’s every activity if they wish. But those who think a little independence is an excellent development opportunity is free to do what they wish.

But there are so many child assaults, abductions, and cases of abuse! How could I let my child wander out into that?” That’s the common refrain.

I maintain that there really aren’t any more instances of such malfeasance now that there were then; it’s just that with social media and 24/7 news channels, we hear about every goddamned one of them, so it seems like an ever-present menace.

There was a lot of horrific crap that happened in the 70s too. We just didn’t hear about it unless it was local. The fact is, even “free-range” kids are safer now than they were back in The Day. And only a small percentage of child abductions are committed by non-family members.

The danger I see is that by keeping kids on such a short leash, they are being robbed of the chance to learn vital independence and coping skills. The result is often kids who don’t know how to go anywhere or do anything and who must rely on others to pave their way through all obstacles. Through the constant surveillance, we are creating the entitled, helpless kids we eventually complain about never moving out.

I’m not suggesting it will be a painless experience. There will be bumps and bruises and some scares along the way. I know I had my share and I endeavored not to repeat them. All of those little setbacks were great teachers.

I wouldn’t exchange my “free range” childhood for anything. I’m glad that, at least in Utah, more kids might have the chance to wind their way through childhood the way I did. Would that other states follow Utah’s lead.

And that’s probably the most unlikely sentence I’ve ever written.