Monday, September 24, 2018

So What Else is New?

With the Kavanaugh circus still in town (and adding more showtimes as we speak), I think it’s time to ramble through some other stuff that I’ve been sitting on for a while. Personal stuff… It’s been a couple months since I’ve “checked in” with you.

But first, let me take a minute to jump on this drug ad billboard I see at my subway stop every morning.

Couple of things at play here:
1.      What the @#$% is this supposed to treat? There’s all that information, typed in great detail, and you can’t read a freakin’ word of it. The billboard is across the train tracks from the platform, so it’s not like you can walk up close and get a better look. The disorder is right at the top and I couldn’t make it out until I took the picture and blew it up. And then there’s all the disclaimers! Who knows what it says in there? It could say in plain English: “This will cause monkeys to fly out of your butt,” but you’d never know unless you showed up on the platform with binoculars.

Apparently, this drug is for “Genotypes 1-6, not previously treated and without cirrhosis.” What the hell does that even mean? Genotypes of what? Best I can figure, it’s liver disorder, based on the cirrhosis mention. Who knows? But is that really the type of thing you need a billboard to advertise?

2.      The name… “Mavyret.” At first glance, I thought it was NavyVet, like it was for crusty old sailors. Who the eff came up with “Mavyret”?” They didn’t even focus-group this one. It’s like they needed a fresh name, so they pulled some Scrabble tiles out of the bag and went with that. Can’t argue with a 15-point score…
Also, what’s with the non-advertising name? “Glecaprevir/pibrentasvir. More Scrabble tiles; either that or it was named in honor of the Russian pairs ice skating champions.

Now skating for the gold medal, Misha Glecaprevir and Irina Pibrentasvir!

               It’s like they’re not even trying anymore. Anyway, that’s enough of that…

Going Yard
It’s been a couple months since I moved in with Sweetpea and it was clear right away that we had way too much stuff to keep; not to mention the duplicates. So all along, we planned to have a yard sale. We had it pegged for September 8th. Sweetpea went up and down the street, trying to get others to put stuff out as well so we could advertise a Neighborhood yard sale.

A lot of people liked the idea, though not so much that they would commit to actually doing anything. A lot of other people were more than happy to give us their crap to sell for them. (NOT part of the deal.) Then the few people that did commit promptly backed out a few days later.

We put up the signs, I put an ad on Craigslist, and we hoped for the best.

Naturally, by the time the big day rolled around, the weather forecast was for rain most of the day. We were stuck because our subsequent weekends were already booked up with various activities, and we already had all the stuff staged for moving outside. We had to go through with it rain or shine, regardless of what the neighbors did. We started moving the stuff outside around 7:00 and were ready, as advertised, by 8:00.
 Ready for business!

About 15 seconds after I placed the last item, it started to rain. Because of course it did. Because we’d planned for it, we had a tarp and a couple of plastic tablecloths we used to cover all the porous items, which was most everything.
Rain delayed.

After an hour or so, the rain let up. I didn’t see any more “green” on the weather radar, so we uncovered all our wares and dried off everything that had gotten wet.

Ten minutes later, the rain began again, even harder than before.


Although it was funny, even around all the covering and uncovering, people were driving by and checking out our stuff. We sold some of our “big ticket” items that way, like my 5-speaker home theater system and her karaoke machine.

Hour and a half later, the rain stopped again and we went back to it.

We never did get many “destination” shoppers; mostly it was just people from the neighborhood who happened by. We ended up doing OK, selling a lot of our larger items... We sold a number of things that we almost didn’t put out because we didn’t think anyone would possibly want them. You never really know what someone else thinks of your junk until you put it out there.

It started raining again around 1:00, which is when we planned to wrap up anyway, so we shut it down. By that time, we’d cleared about $150, which we felt pretty good about, considering how miserable the weather was. We may take another shot at it this fall. But this time, no signs go up until I see a weather report.

Earlier in August, we took a long weekend to visit Sweetpea’s brother and sister-in-law, on the Delaware coast. They live in a community that’s literally being built around them and the thing that got me was the street naming. This is an intersection just down the block:

Are you kidding me? They also had “Serenity Lane” further down the block.

I don’t think that’s the neighborhood for me. I mean, find me the intersection of Heathen Place and the Highway to Hell. Or at least this place:
And that “old school” is the School of Rock!

Game On, Game Over
I was pretty excited for the football season to start. My Steelers opened against the Brownies so I headed down to my local sports bar to watch the game. My game was opposite the Ravens game so I had no choice if I wanted to see it. Of course, I’ve been going there for the games even when the Steelers game is on local TV, just because it’s been fun. Hell, if I hadn’t been out to watch a game that was on TV, I never would have met Sweetpea!

Anyway, my favorite waitress met me at the door with a distraught look in her eyes and told me that the owner was no longer getting the NFL Sunday Ticket package, meaning no more out of town games. Because they did offer a 1-week trial period, she did have my game teed up for Week One, but it would be the last.

At least I didn’t have to scramble that day, but I was seriously pissed! They could have at least put something on their Facebook page, to keep people from wasting their time looking for football. The official line was that it had become too expensive, but I also know that the owner is a Fox “News” conservative and was aggressively unhappy about the Nike/Anthem-Kneeling thing and had been threatening to give up the Sunday Ticket all last year.

I couldn’t help but take it personally. I was like, “Fine, your bar, your rules, but you won’t see MY ass in here on Sundays again. I’ll find someone who will take my money.” (Not that I could tell him directly; he picked that time period to go on vacation.)

The Steelers are playing tonight on Monday Night Football, so yesterday, Sweetpea and I checked out our next best option. There’s a Chinese restaurant about two blocks from our house and it contains a huge bar with scores of TV sets, which include the NFL package. We’ve been getting take-out from them for ages, so I knew the food was good.

We got there about 15 minutes before kickoff and there was plenty of places to sit around the massive bar. But it was clear that this was not anything like the place we used to go. My old bar was in an old predominantly Jewish neighborhood. On football afternoons, it was a pretty mixed crowd; mixed races, mixed ages (although predominantly 40+).

Our new place? Might as well just call it the Dexter Lake Club. Out of 50-60 bar patrons, Sweetpea and I were literally the only white people.
 Hey Otis!”

That’s why I wanted to do a test run when the Steelers weren’t playing. I wanted to be able to bug out if it got uncomfortable. I showed up wearing my Steelers cap and a Nike t-shirt just so there would be no confusion as to where my sympathies lie.

Didn’t really matter though… we had a great time. I’ll definitely go there again. It wasn’t much different than when I ride the Baltimore subway. Probably the same number of drunks there, too.

No one really paid us much mind other than those we were sitting directly beside. It was kind of weird though, sitting at a sports bar and watching all the orders of Chinese food rolling by. They also had the usual bar food, but most people went Chinese. It all looked good to me.

So, I expect that will be my new hangout for when my boys aren’t on local TV. I’ll let you know if anything noteworthy happens. Who knows, I may be the inadvertent key to racial harmony in this town.
Nobody leaves this place without singin’ the blues! (Adventures in Babysitting, 1987)

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Kavanaugh Karavan

The Kavanaugh SCOTUS nomination just got a whole lot more interesting, with the news that his party-rape-attempt accuser unveiled herself. No longer an easily-dismissed accusation from over 30 years ago, there is now a name, a face, and a lot of uncomfortable details to digest.

In a nutshell, California psychology professor Christine Ford says that when she was 15, she was at a party where a blind-drunk Kavanaugh (and another guy) dragged her into a bedroom, held her down, clamped his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream and tried to remove her outer clothing and bathing suit. She estimates they were 17 at the time.

At one point, the “other dude” jumped on the pile and knocked them all to the floor, which gave her the chance to get out of the room and lock herself in the bathroom, until the boys went away.

Now, when I first heard that there were high school-era accusations, my first thought was that I know I’d hate to be judged, in my 50s, by what I did in my teens.

HOWEVER.  Even at 17, I sure-enough knew not to pin girls down and try to rip their clothes off (and whatever else he had a mind to do next). Even drunk, even young, even desperate and hormone-fueled, decent people know right from wrong. This isn’t even close. There is no equivocation; this is wrong.

First of all, if true, this should be a disqualifier for a Supreme Court nominee. Second of all, of course it’s true. Do you think this woman came out in public lightly? Do you think she’s looking forward to the fun of a Congressional hearing about the most traumatic episode of her life? Of course not. No one does this for fun, fame or riches. She only went public because her identity was leaking anyway, and reporters were showing up to her home and classroom.

Her attorney said, “She is willing to cooperate. What she's not willing to do is to be part of this bloodletting that happens in Washington."

She knows she risks becoming the next Anita Hill; who remains a cultural punchline to every joke about pubes in the workplace.

The Republicans are already gearing up to make her testimony as grueling as possible. They already know she has a believable story, because:

·        She told her therapist and her husband about the incident back in 2012.
·        She tried to conceal her identity to avoid the spotlight (unlike someone who’s in it for the fame).
·        She took a polygraph test, administered by a former FBI agent, and passed.

They better tread carefully. The shit that flew during the Anita Hill testimony won’t fly now and they’ll come off like misogynist bullies.

Not that they care though… nothing is more important to GOP leadership than getting a hard-right conservative on the Supreme Court. That’s the whole reason they still support Trump, (now that they have their tax cuts in hand). They need one more of their guys on the bench to make sure their next legislative scams; voting ID laws, gerrymandering, limiting or overturning Roe, stripping environmental and banking regulations, ensuring dark money flows freely to campaigns… all see the final action of being upheld in the highest court.
Ford’s testimony must be compelling if anything is to change. Merely being inconvenient will not move Republicans off this guy. They literally cannot be shamed. They stood fast amid near-universal condemnation when stonewalling the Garland nomination, knowing the result, (another conservative justice rather than a moderate or liberal) would cement their political domination.

Kavanaugh is already running with the Republican playbook, by denying everything. Just this weekend, I read in Woodward’s book that Trump, himself, counseled a colleague, “When faced with accusations from other women, just deny, deny, deny. Never admit anything. Kavanaugh is a quick study.

Right-wing media is already going nuts about this being a “hit-job,” and arising with suspicious timing.

Timing? Let’s talk about timing. They are trying to ram this nomination through, withholding requested documents, limiting hearing times, accelerating the process, for the sole reason of getting him confirmed before the November elections. There are two reasons for this:

·        So they can campaign to their base about packing the court with their guys,
·        In case they lose control of the Senate and risk the Democrats doing exactly what the Republicans did to the Garland nomination.

I don’t think they care what we unwashed masses think, especially not Democrats. If this runaway train is to be derailed, it will only come from fear of losing elections. That means Republicans will have to make their views known that they will not tolerate an attempted rapist getting a lifetime appointment to a position that literally drives the direction of their lives.

But considering the people the GOP already supported, a statutory rapist in Alabama, a pussy-grabber and serial cheater in the White House, I’m not optimistic.

Power trumps morality in the conservative world. Morality only a club used to criticize others.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Odd Bits - The Patriotic Edition

The story of the week has to be the turmoil in the White House brought on from the Bob Woodward book, “Fear,” and the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times written by a “senior administration” figure, both describing the chaos in the oval office. The op-ed goes so far as to say the senior staff has to remove paperwork from his desk before he can damage national security by signing some order expressing the tantrum of the day.

First, let me talk about the op-ed. That one went off like a bomb because it was purported to be written by an administration insider and speaks for other unnamed White House staff members.

Naturally, there was a huge uproar in trying to figure out who wrote it. One by one, administration players spoke out or released statements denying they were the writer.

Early money had it pegged on the VP, because of the appearance of a word, “lodestar,” which Pence frequently uses. Then it came out that it is a common tactic of White House leakers to pepper their leaks with terms known to be used by others.

For example, if a leak read, “Fuckin’ Ivanka thinks she runs the fuckin’ place but she wouldn’t know her fuckin’ tit from a tort. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” everyone would assume the quote came from Bannon.

I think that instead of denying it, every person on staff should have come forward and say that he wrote it, like it was a Spartacus moment.

Or at least like a Life of Brian moment:

Or in this case,

Further leaks indicate that the Prez is tearing the place apart looking for the writer AND claiming he should have taken ownership.

Right. That’s what the writer should do right before he quits because once that’s public he’s gone… fired, and probably prosecuted under the Being Unfair to the President Act. (I’m thinking BUPA is one of those announcements that got lifted from the Resolute Desk.)

The most convincing sleuthing I saw attributed the op-ed to Jon Huntsman, Trump’s Ambassador to Russia. It says the writing style, moral code, and sphere of expertise is right in line the former Republican candidate for president. We’ll see.

Woodward’s book seems to be telling the same story as the Michael Wolff book, in overall point if not the same examples. And like “Fury,” it set off another round of press-bashing and criticism.

What Trump doesn’t understand is that this is what real journalists do. When Woodward publishes something like this, he has it cold or it doesn’t run. He’s used to “News” outlets like Fox, where they basically go, “It’s bad news for liberals? Run it!” Whether it’s true or not doesn’t factor in.

And just because a source is anonymous doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And as Woodward says, the sources aren’t anonymous to him. They’re also corroborated. If someone gives an anonymous account of a meeting, he finds out who else was at the meeting and confirms the story.

That’s how journalism is done at the highest levels, like at the New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, etc.

So even when Trump claims he never said those words, or that he doesn’t talk like that, you have to look at the process. First of all, his being paraphrased by others probably helped him sound like less of a dunderhead.

Second of all, unless the writer is in the room (where an event happens) with a recorder, getting information from others is always like a game of telephone. He must rely on the recollection of others. Even in confirming, it’s unlikely two people will recall a spoken line exactly the same way. It’s up to the writer to first and foremost capture the point, if not the exact phrasing. So pay no mind to the “I don’t talk like that” or “I never said those words” denials.

And obviously, all the staff and cabinet members will deny they said any of it. They have to if they want to keep their jobs. But that doesn’t make the information they provided, knowingly or unknowingly, wrong.

It’s also funny how Trump was lauding Woodward back when he was writing about Democratic administrations. But now that Woodward is pointing at him, he’s a hack. Got it.

Just further evidence that this guy will say anything at any time, as long as it suits him. He has no principles but his own self-anointed infallibility.

The sad part of this whole mess is that, in terms of fixing or changing anything, none of it really matters. The Republicans in Congress are not going to act against their president until their voters make them. And the GOP base thinks Trump is king and everyone else is lying. Or, they just want to be able to shit on non-white people again, like they did back in the good old days.

Even when Mueller files his report, I won’t put it past these clowns if they just shit-can it. They can literally keep this report from ever being made public. Mueller is investigating the president. Only Congress can remove him from office.

Judge Not
The other sideshow in town has been the Kavanaugh hearings. No doubt, he was well trained in the art of not saying a damned thing about what he thinks on any issue. And the Republicans are again engineering the process to their favor while doing the exact opposite from what they demanded from the Democrats when the tables were turned.

They withheld hundreds of thousands of requested documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush Administration, and then release like 40,000 pages at 3AM, the night before the first hearing. The last thing they want is for any information about the guy’s background to leak out and give the public the chance to demand “no” votes from their senators.

Still, plenty has come out, like his belief that presidents are essentially above the law, and that Roe v Wade is not “settled law.”

That last one comes heavily into play because the Republicans need the votes from Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, both of whom support abortion rights. The judge made his case to both of them personally, assuring them that he considers Roe to be “settled.” However, recently unearthed emails of his say just the opposite.

Also, his nomination was cultivated by the Federalist Society, as was everyone on the list Trump used to choose his nominee. The Federalist Society is opposed to abortion rights and it is a guarantee that every judge on their list agrees with them. There is literally no mystery on Kavanaugh’s stance on abortion.

Right now, it appears to me that Senator Collins is tap-dancing furiously to maintain the illusion that Roe is safe with this prospective justice. First-hand accounts from visitors to her office say they’ve seen her staffers taking calls from constituents, telling them they’ll relay their concerns to the Senator, but not writing down or recording a single word.

I think Collins is already in the bag and is merely trying to save face, in the midst of intense lobbying pressure. If she (and Murkowski) vote down this nominee, they’ll be punished by the party leadership (and not to mention donors). If she votes “no,” next thing you know, she’ll be facing a well-funded challenger in the next primary.

Republicans are rushing the whole process because they know there’s a real threat of losing the Senate this November. And if they do, they’ll have no chance of getting a guy like this approved. And the Democrats will be especially salty about how the GOP robbed them of Merrick Garland’s rightful seat on the bench, by bending Senate rules and years of precedent to benefit themselves. There’s no reason the Dems should refrain from doing the same.

Just Boo It
The NFL started up again amid more Anthem controversy, this time instigated by Nike and their Colin Kaepernick ad. Much hue and cry came forth, of course, with zero new ground being broken. There’s still a giant swath of the country that finds it easier to claim offense rather than to see someone else’s uncomfortable point of view.

All this standing at attention and lapel pins and reverence for the flag and an old song… I call it Easy Patriotism. Adhering to it is easy and it costs you nothing in time, effort, or money. It’s shallow toadying; a way to say, “Look at me and how patriotic I am!

You want to impress me with patriotism, stand up for the first amendment when it means having to hear something with which you disagree. Fight to have the rights granted by our Constitution applied to all, not just the white or the powerful or the privileged few. Demand that our leaders work for everyone, not just their rich donors.

People always claim they’re defending the military. You want to defend the military, stop permitting their use as a land and resources acquisition team. The military is for defending this country and its principles, which includes the right to disagree and to protest. And by “protest,” I mean protest where people notice. That’s the whole point! People have to notice.

Those saying, “Not here, not now,” really mean, “Not ever. Or at least not where I can see it. I don’t want to have to think about how others are getting beaten, arrested or killed, on account of not being white.

Because then we might have to do something about it.

Monday, September 3, 2018


Last week, we heard about the racist dog-whistle that the Republican nominee for governor of Florida blew while running against an African-American opponent, when he told a crowd that they couldn’t afford to elect the other guy because he’d “monkey it up.”

I can’t even call it a dog-whistle. That was blatant. Naturally, he claimed that it was just an old expression, but there is no one in his generation or any to follow, who is not aware that any reference combining a black person and a monkey or ape is highly offensive by default, and steer way clear. Hell, Howard Cosell almost lost his career 35 years ago over the same thing and that was an accident. (It was a phrase he’d used on mic in the past, referring to both black and white players.)

With this particular door now swinging wide open, this weekend saw an escalation of blatant racism in politics. In both Iowa and Florida, residents began receiving racist robo-calls espousing principles of white power.

In Iowa, the calls were about deporting all the “invaders from Mexico,” and declaring that America should be white-only.
In Florida, the calls consisted of a caricature of a black dialect, complete with jungle noises, about how if they vote for the Democratic nominee, among other things, he’d make sure that no more black people go to jail.  

When I heard about both of these calls, my first thought was that they couldn’t have come from the Republican nominee or official Republican establishment. There’s no way they are that stupid that they would allow something so blatant. Even if, down deep, they agreed with the content and intent, they’d know that it would eventually be linked back to the source, which could not be allowed to be them.

I thought it sounded like the work of the Russian instigators because this is exactly what they do… drop firebombs into the culture and then fan the flames.

Eventually, I found where the source was identified, right off the bat, to some Nazi, white-supremacist group in Idaho, who runs a blog.

If the GOP is smart, they’ll try to rein these guys in. If these kinds of calls continue, there are a lot of people who won’t bother to find the source; they’ll just assume it’s the work of the new Republican party.
Or, maybe they’ll soft-pedal their opposition because deep down, they believe that white America is genuinely racist, and count on white fear to turn out in November. I guess it remains to be seen.

It could still be the Russians though. Maybe this is how they’re going to work this election year… by backing and funding others. Maybe they had access to phone lists from Iowa or Florida, or the technical capability to conduct a robo-call campaign. I have no idea how sophisticated the Idaho people are. I know if THIS blog ever wanted to conduct a massive phone campaign, I’d have no idea where to even start.

I’m calling it here… don’t be surprised if these calls get somehow tied back to the Russians.

That said, Happy Labor Day, and happy birthday to Bluz Sister, who turns… um… another year older on Tuesday.