Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bible II: The Sequel

My apologies for not posting yesterday; I was celebrating Memorial Day with my babeh, and keeping a day of remembrance of those who served and died protecting our right to be batshit crazy.

This morning I saw possibly the dumbest op/ed I’ve ever seen. Granted, it was in the hard-right newspaper/website, The Washington Times, so the bar was pretty low. But still…

Apparently, the reason no one will compromise on gun laws is that the Second Amendment is a God-given right, (along with the First Amendment).

Who knew Thomas Jefferson was the 13th apostle?

After that lead-in, I directly concluded that the rest of the argument could be disregarded out of hand.
But curiosity got the best of me.

According to their opinionator, Citizens of America have Second Amendment rights because they live and breathe — not because government officials have chosen to bestow them with such, as some sort of privilege.”

You mean like the government officials who wrote the original document?

They go on: We know this because our country was founded on the principle that our rights come from God…”

Oh, they KNOW this! Sweet! I’d love to see some proof or evidence as to how they KNOW this!

I know what they’re getting at though. The Declaration of Independence includes a reference to an Almighty: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

But the Constitution, the rulebook, if you will, contains no reference to religion other than the big one, right out of the gate, in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
So we’re supposed to believe that because in a document asserting our right to independence, our founding fathers included God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, that another document which never refers to religion (other than staying out of it), bestows a God-given right to semi-automatic weaponry.

That is indeed a reach of Biblical proportions.

Later, the author makes an attempt at logic to try to refute the common argument that, if there are limits to the First Amendment, so why can’t there be any on the Second? She brings up the “Fire in a crowded movie theater” cliché:

First off, screaming “fire” isn’t speech. It’s screaming “fire.” (OMG, Seriously?) Founding Fathers, when they penned that particular portion of the First Amendment, weren’t trying to protect nuts who falsely scream “fire” for the fun of it. They were protecting primarily those who speak critically of their government.”

I wonder if they ever heard about libel or slander laws. Those are limits on the First Amendment and have nothing to do with nutty public behavior.

Also, were the Founding Fathers trying to protect the right of rich people who claim it’s “free speech” to anonymously funnel unlimited millions to political representatives to buy influence? The NRA relies mightily on that government-given right, which was granted by the conservatives on the Supreme Court when they ruled on Citizens United.

Obviously, this crowd is fine with “government-given rights” when those rights align with their politics.

The writer goes on to criticize a New York Democratic candidate for Congress, Pat Ryan, (which was the point of the whole column), over his plan to ban semi-automatic weapons. Ryan’s quote:

The line to me is, the weapons I carried in combat [in the military] for 27 months should not be on our streets.”

The response?

Well, the line to law-abiding Americans is the Second Amendment. And with all due respect to politicians who want to talk and politick and trade and barter for gain at the ballot box, fact is: God-given trumps government granted.”

Translation: We shouldn’t adjust the Second Amendment because… it’s the Second Amendment.

Seriously, we have a God-given right to military weaponry? God, through the Founding Fathers, gave us the unalienable right to killing machines that wouldn’t be invented for more than another hundred years?

This is what happens when you mix religion and politics… you get a hazy stew of half-truths, misinformation, faulty logic, and self-interest.
Basically, it’s “God gave me Liberty, and my liberty is to own guns that go ‘Budda-budda-budda’ and destroy anything it hits.”

I can never get over how the same people who extol this country’s freedoms and greatness are also trying to turn us into a pseudo-Christian version of Iran.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Odd Bits - The Demanding Edition

We, the People of America, hereby demand that you read the goddamn constitution, or at least have someone else who knows how to read, explain it to you. Merely using King’s Court language does not confer kingly powers upon you. Also, may I remind you that the Justice Department is an independent body and does not serve as your personal hit squad, so you’ll have to smite your enemies using your own resources.

If you’re worried about the cost, just book another visit to your club in Florida. The windfall from that taxpayer-funded trip to your own property should be enough to keep you flush with shysters and goons for the foreseeable future.

Lastly, to fully understand that last part, please have Rudy or Sara explain to you what sarcasm is.

Jesus… to think that they called Obama the “Imperial” president.

With yet another school shooting under our belts, here come even more gun-mania alibi memes…

Mr. Patrick takes the award for the Asinine Comment of the Week Award with that beauty.

Sure, one entrance might be easier to defend against people coming in. But did anyone ever consider how a single door is going to work with everyone trying to get out?

Do you remember that Who concert in Cincinnati, back in the late 70s? The crowd waiting outside the arena, upon hearing the band start their sound check, tried to rush the one or two doors that were open and eleven people got trampled to death.

Granted, they were going in, but it’s the same principle: a large crowd of people trying to pass through a single choke point. That’s a recipe for carnage, even without some maniac firing shots.

What if the shooter, having smuggled in a semi-automatic weapon, counted on the mass of people forming at the doors and opened fire into a densely packed crowd of kids?

Or consider a shooter stationing himself between the only door and all the other students. Fish in a barrel, man.

Yeah, brilliant idea, Dan. It just goes to show how people will say the stupidest things, just to avoid crossing their overlords at the NRA.

As a public service, I will provide, via The Daily Show, this handy translator for use in deciphering the clichés and doublespeak coming from the gun apologists.
If they can widen the scope of this translator, we may be able to use it to completely replace the current White House Press Secretary.

Fallacies R Us
There are two major things are wrong with this meme.

First, it’s a textbook example of a logical fallacy, which states, “Item ‘A’ coming before Item ‘B’ is not proof that A caused B.” For example, you could also say, “The Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Since then, 92% of large mass shootings have happened.” Or, “Bluzdude moved from Cleveland to Albany in 1990. Since then…”

The order in which two items fall on a timeline is not evidence of causation. Period.

The other issue with this meme is that it’s not like the schools were riddled with guns before 1990. Basically, there were few, if any, guns in schools before 1990, and few, if any, afterward. Therefore, there is no causation, or even correlation, that creating “gun-free zones” had anything to do with the increase in mass shootings.

I’d say you’d have to look at the proliferation of semi-automatic weapons among the general public as a major factor, especially in the years since the congressional Assault Weapons Ban was allowed to sunset during the Bush Administration. It stands to reason that the more military weaponry in the hands of the public, the higher the likelihood of one of these killing machines finding its way into the hands of some kid with a lethal grudge and lust for infamy.

But you won’t find any Republicans copping to that truth. The hell with the young lives lost, admitting something like that might cost them re-election.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dear Sweetpea,

By now, you’ve had your ring for more than 24 hours and we’ve both had the chance to tell our story to our friends and family. Yesterday, you made me the happiest man in the mid-Atlantic by accepting my formal proposal to get married. (OK, it wasn’t all that “formal. There were no tuxedos or tiaras involved.)

There has been a lot going on over the last two weeks, including a lot of plotting and scheming, but it really started several months ago. Another guy in my department was about to start shopping for a ring for his girl, so we began a conversation that drew in several others in the area. These friends became my “panel of experts” on how to go about buying an engagement ring.

Initially, when I Googled “Baltimore Wholesale Jewelers,” I found a place downtown near Camden Yards. It wasn’t open on Saturdays and opened and closed within my usual workday, so I knew it would be challenging to get out there. I figured I’d use this week’s Orioles day game as an excuse. I’d take the day off for the game and stop at the store first.

But then a couple weeks back, it occurred to me that their limited hours would be a continuing problem, what with needing to come back for fittings, wedding bands, and whatnot. So I Googled again and focused on our neighborhood. I found one place with the same problem. But then on the map, I saw a couple other places nearby and they were open Saturdays. After consulting the Yelp reviews, I picked a place to start.

Remember that Saturday, two weeks ago, when you took the dog to your sister’s house for a visit, and I ran errands and got a haircut? That was the day I selected your ring.

The jeweler asked me what I was looking for and I gave him your criteria… silver-looking band, round or square diamond cut. He asked for my price range and then went back to pull out some samples.

First, he showed me a simple ring setting in white gold. I thought it was gorgeous… simple and elegant. That was the one; I didn’t even look at any others. Then he laid out 4 envelopes with diamonds in them, and we went through each, lowest to highest.

The first was .94 karats, very good cut and clarity, and ran about $6k. Right there, I knew I’d find something nice because that one was gorgeous. Next, he showed me one that was .95 carats and a little higher quality. To me, it looked just like the first one.

The third stone was 1.01 carats and a little lower in quality. And that one was gorgeous too.

The last one he showed me was 1.05 carats, 3rd highest category in color, 2nd highest in clarity, and outside of the price range I’d given him. But that was the one. I loved it.

I know the differences were imperceptible to the naked eye but I wanted to make sure you knew, when I showed you the papers, that I found you a top-quality diamond. I wanted you to be proud of it. I know you don’t flash a lot of jewelry so I wanted this ring to be a good one. 
 The quality ratings for your stone.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that you have tiny little hands, which will make the rock look that much bigger.

I asked if he offered financing, and he said he didn’t. That surprised me for a moment. I briefly considered getting a bank loan on my own, but then had a moment of clarity that was definitely on the top of the scale, at least a VVS1. I had the money in my checking account; why would I ever want to get financing and pay the interest charges? Dummy! Just write him a check… Done!

He had me put $2k down on my credit card, to make sure no one else bought it out from under me. I had no problem with that… just meant I got some serious Thank You Points.

He told me that it would take about a week and he’d give me a call when it was done.

I wondered if you noticed, later that day when we reconvened at your place, if I seemed brighter and bouncier. I felt like I couldn’t contain myself with the excitement of such a big moment. But I tried to just be cool, lest you catch on that something was up.

The one thing everyone wanted to know was how I was going to propose. I told the jewelers that the only place of any prominence with us was Jilly’s, the bar where we first met. They had some suggestions but I didn’t really like them… I didn’t want the ring coming in food or a drink, or to even let it out of my possession. And I wanted to be the one to give it to you.

So I mentioned a scenario that had been rolling around in my head, where I make a play off of what I told you the day we met, when I didn’t want to let you get away. Rather than spend the rest of my bar-going days wondering if I’d ever see you again, I reached for your arm and said, “Wait, why don’t we just go out?

Well, the jewelers loved my idea, as did everyone I told it to at work (and over the phone and via email. I really should have kept my yap shut. I totally broke my own rule of keeping big news quiet until it was over and done, lest something mess it up.)

But still, when I told people what I was going to do, everyone LOVED IT. Several people told me they got goosebumps. So I basically sent my idea through a Focus Group to get it woman-approved.

I went back to the jeweler the next Saturday but he said he had to send it out to be assembled because he didn’t have that setting on hand. He told me he expected it back by the end of the week. I’d been hoping I’d have a week to prepare my plan, which I was targeting for Mother’s Day. But all things considered, I didn’t really need that much time.

Thursday afternoon, when I was working from home, he called and said it was ready. I went to pick it up that evening and was thrilled. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and exactly what I wanted.
Then I wrote the largest check I’ve ever written in my life. Made me feel like a bigshot! Dude probably raced straight to the bank to make sure it cleared before I got out of the parking lot.

Who knew that my going to the Orioles game Friday night almost ruined the whole thing? I was at my usual pre-game bar with Sitcom Kelly and her Sitcom Sister, telling them about my plans. The bar manager, who’s been hooking us up with discounts for the last five years, was listening in. He asked if he could crash the wedding. (I said he could if he makes it to Pensacola next summer.)

Then you and I went to the Orioles game on Saturday and visited the same bar before the game. I was worried that the bar manager might say something, but he didn’t. But then, the bartender, who I’d never seen before that day, said to us, “So, I hear you’re getting married!

I almost shit. But I thought I recovered well enough.  I said, “Well yeah, eventually… but not anytime soon…" We laughed it off. Then when you left to visit the ladies room, I said to her, in a tortured manner, “I’m going to ask her to marry me TOMORROW.”

Poor girl was horrified. She said the bar manager had told her we were getting married. See, I knew I shouldn’t have been blabbing my plans around town. Almost bit me in the ass.

And speaking of bites in the ass, you gave me one Saturday night, didn’t you? After the game when we were back at your place having a drink and sitting on the couch, we were discussing our future wedding plans. And you said something like “Wedding plans? It’s not like I have any evidence of any wedding plans…” as you waved your ring-less ring finger in front of me.

I was like, “She did NOT just give me a “Put a Ring on it” move…” I was thiiiis close to stomping into the bedroom, retrieving the ring from my bag and going, “OK, fine. Here’s your evidence, SmartassHappy now?” But a plan’s a plan.

Earlier that morning, I had gone down to “our” bar and spoke with the bartender, the one who was there when it all started. As you know, she’s a very stately, white-haired, English woman, who looks like she should be teaching at Hogwarts. I had a role for her in this event and thought she’d be willing.

She totally was. And more importantly, she’d be on duty Sunday, despite it being Mother’s Day. She said she’d make sure my usual barstool was available. I asked her to ask us, when she had a moment, “Remind me again how you two met up?” I said to make sure she said to “remind her,” because she absolutely knew how we met, and you know that. But that was the cue for us to tell our favorite story. I was going to change the ending.

When we were together Thursday night, I planted the seed about going to the bar for a drink on Sunday, after we ran our errands. You seemed quizzical about it… While we do hang out at various bars from time to time, we don’t usually set it up in advance. But I wanted to get a stake in the ground.

And you agreed, thank goodness, even though I could tell it wasn’t very high on your list of things you wanted to do that Sunday. So thank you for that.

While you were getting ready, I was sitting at the table and decided to have a little fun with the ring, so I took this picture.
That’s your ring on your copy of the Sunday puzzles.

Then, when we were in the store and I had the ring deep in my pants pocket, I got the idea to hold up the ring behind you while you were facing away, and take another picture.

But I abandoned that idea because it just didn’t seem like a good idea to tempt fate and have you turn around unexpectedly. But it did make me regret that I didn’t think of it earlier. I could have taken pictures of the ring all over town and all over your house. But again, why tempt fate? I’d probably drop it down a sewer grate.

Finally, it was time to go to the bar, and to our good fortune, the bar area was completely empty. We got our seats; the bartender greeted us and got our drinks. About five minutes in, she came back over and began talking about her husband and how they came to America. And then, she brilliantly pivoted to use her line, to remind her how we got together here.

You began the story, which made me happy. I love watching you tell it. We usually tag-team it to provide both of our points of view. But this time, you blasted right through it. As you were talking, the bartender let out a little gasp and ducked down to grab her phone. She said, “I thought I heard it ringing,” and then set it on the bar.

I thought, “You sly dog… I know what you’re doing. You’re getting the camera ready.”

You continued your story but inside I began to panic. You were getting dangerously close to the part I needed to deliver. So I apologize for butting in so rudely, but it was unavoidable.

I jumped into the narrative and instead of recounting to the bartender how I said, “Wait, why don’t we just go out?” I turned to you and said, “Wait, why don’t we just… get married?

With that, I fished the ring out of my shirt pocket and held it under your chin, waiting for the joyful explosion… that didn’t come. I even waved it a little bit but you didn’t seem to be reading me.

Little did I know that you were first thinking, “Why did he butt into my story,” and then, “Hey, that’s not how the story goes…

But then the lights came on and there was joyfulness onto the world.

And most importantly, you said “Yes.

I tried to put the ring on your finger, but I knew it wasn’t going to go on.

Months ago, I found one of the rings you wear on your ring finger and traced the inside of it onto one of my business cards.
I brought it with me so the jeweler would have a good starting point. But alas, when I picked up the ring last Thursday, it didn’t even fit over the first knuckle of my pinky. When I checked it against the circle on the card, you couldn’t see the circle, which meant the ring was going to be too small.

So I tried, but we’ll have to go back next Saturday and get it resized. At least you have this week to wave it around to all your friends at work. Just stay away from sewer grates.

You told me later that you hadn’t really wanted to go to the bar that afternoon, but you saw that I really wanted to, so you just went with it. And I told you that’s one of the reasons I love you that way I do. You do things like that for me all the time and I want you to know that I recognize it and I appreciate it. And I’ll do my best not to drag you along to places you’d rather not go.

I want to make it my top priority to be worthy of you and your love. You truly make me want to be a better man.

I love you and I can’t wait to be your husband.

Of course, after all the time we just spent trying to figure out who was the fiancé, who was the fiancée, and where the accent marks go, we’d better practice with those titles for a while.

The Obligatory Clasped Hands with Ring picture.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Lies, Lies and More Lies

Everyone knows that this president lies about everything. Whether it’s trivial or a matter of life and death, this guy does not appear to care about the truth.

The Washington Post’s fact checker blog marks the tally so high, he has averaged 6.5 lies per day during his time in office. (And that average would surely be higher if you counted the campaign.)

This point was forcefully driven home last week by the ongoing Stormy Daniels controversy, in which Rudy Giuliani has now enmeshed himself.

In a nutshell, Rudy said Trump knew about the hush money payoff and repaid his attorney, Michael Cohen. That caused an uproar because it contradicted what Trump and his spokes-parrots have been saying since the story first broke.

Then Trump backed up Rudy’s account.

Then Trump backpedaled and said Rudy is new and didn’t have all the facts, and went back to the original story.

In other words, it’s been chaos. They don’t know which lies are official and which are merely the smokescreen.

It’s apparent that any relationship between what this president says and the truth is purely coincidental. He says stuff, it blows up, then he says other stuff, and that blows up, so he says some more stuff.

It’s like they (the president and his in-house enablers) say things that they think will make everything better. When it doesn’t, they try again to seek the Magic Words that will solve their problems. It’s like the White House is run by a team of 4-year-olds who have stolen cookies. They will say anything they think will make the criticism stop. Unfortunately, none of their statements ever seem to be the truth.

I’m sure the psychology behind this pathological lying is fascinating. Why would any rational man lie about so many things that are so easily refutable?
My guess would be that as a wealthy man, he’s surrounded himself with yes-men and sycophants all his life, who does his bidding unquestioningly. Heaven forbid anyone in his orbit correct one of his misstatements; that would rate an economy-class ticket on the rocket ship leaving said orbit.

You could tell that from his Apprentice show alone. Everyone was all “Yes Mr. Trump, No Mr. Trump, You’re right, Mr. Trump,” as he sat in the big boardroom chair and lapped it up.

What’s even more disturbing is how his fan base believe every word he says, or at best, doesn’t care that he’s lying. I figure it’s either tribalism run amok or, the inability or unwillingness to accept anything that runs counter to their favored narrative.

It certainly helps that Republicans have been raging about “the Liberal Media” at every turn. When conservatives spend decades blasting the reputation of the one group dedicated to uncovering the truth, you can’t be surprised when the tribe doesn’t believe anything they hear from said media.

I think that’s where the lack of education comes in. It’s no surprise that Trump’s base is strongest in those states that routinely pull up last in the country in education levels and test scores.

That’s what’s so funny/terrifying about this Facebook status I saw today from the ultra-conservative group, The Federalist.
Trump’s base states are at the bottom of the national rankings in education, like New Mexico (49), Mississippi (48), Louisiana (46), Oklahoma (45), Arizona (44), Alabama (43) Arkansas (42), South Carolina (41) and Texas (40) et al. And they want to call the REST of the country stupid?

I don’t think this blurb is really about education. It’s more of a dog whistle to the Trump racist base. The inference ignores any shortcomings of their own demographic and plays on the perception that the Democratic left is made up of black and brown people. And [nudge-nudge] “you know how stupid and lazy “those people” are…”

It’s a way to take a swipe at welfare, food stamps, Affirmative Action and any other aid that doesn’t go overwhelmingly to white males.

(Yes, I know that states like Kentucky have large populations of white people using all those programs. But that’s not recognized as a part of conservative reality.)

Ignorance is the only way Trumpism succeeds. There aren’t enough millionaires in the country to outvote everyone else voting in their own economic interest. So the more they can harp on emotional “wedge” issues, the more they can keep people’s attention “over there” while they raid the treasury and toxify the environment for profit “over here.”  They’re like magicians, who make the middle class disappear.

Education defeats ignorance. Education allows you to separate fact from wishful thinking. Education allows you to question authority and ask for evidence.

Even the lobotomized should understand that.