Monday, March 25, 2019

We've Waited This Long, Why Not Wait a Little Longer?

At long last, the famed Mueller Report came out last weekend, with not so much a bang as a whimper. No more indictments, no serious charges, no conspiracy with the Russians to influence the election.

The reason for the whimpering is that no one really knows what’s in the report yet, aside from Attorney General Burr. All he’s released thus far is a four-page summary which he (or his staff) wrote.

Here’s a guy who was on the record as having been opposed to the investigation from the start and was later hand-picked by Trump to take the AG job. I guarantee that both sides of that last sentence were intertwined like a snake on an octopus.

Is there anyone on Trump’s staff that hasn’t lied to the American public on his behalf? It’s practically a job requirement. So with an issue this big and the possibility of severe liability to the president, how can we possibly trust anything AG Barr has to say about the report?

As far as I’m concerned, we know nothing and will continue to know nothing until the full, unredacted report is released (or leaked).

Obviously, Trump and the Republicans are doing the “No Collusion Mambo” up and down the steps of Capitol Hill. That’s meaningless, as well as being true to form.
Trump has been barking about being vindicated with the release of every Mueller document, indictment, briefing, or horoscope, whether it addressed the collusion issue or not. It wouldn’t surprise me that Trump issued a tweet claiming the last full moon was proof that he didn’t collude with the Russians OR witness any peeing hookers. He knows full well that repetition = perceived truth and that facts don’t enter into it.

The document itself says “this report does not exonerate the president.” So naturally, Trump claims exoneration. That’s the modern political paradigm in a nutshell.

It’s going to be up to the House of Representatives to get to the bottom of the report, either by subpoenaing the AG to release the report in full or deposing Mueller himself.

The sticky question the Republicans will have to answer is: “If the report clears the president, why hold it back?

People only hold back things like this when there’s something they don’t want the public to know. And remember, it was only up to Mueller to gather findings. Those findings were presented to the AG for interpretation as to whether crimes were committed. But there was zero chance this Trump stooge was going to determine there was criminal activity committed by his boss. To do so would invalidate the reason he was put in the job in the first place.

If they release the full document, other legal experts can chip in with independent opinions which may contradict the finding of the Stooge General. That’s the last thing the administration wants. So the stonewall is on.

I also wonder why, if there was legitimately no collaboration with the Russians, what were all those people lying about when they perjured themselves? The Trump indictees must have known some pretty serious things for them to risk lying to Mueller’s team or to Congress. I mean, Trump, himself, no longer differentiates his lies from truth, but what’s the excuse for the rest of those clowns?

So, like I said, there’s no sense in getting caught up in this little piece of performance art. Only when the full report comes out, by hook or by crook, will we know what really happened.

Meanwhile, the president can turn his attention to what’s really important to the American people… prosecuting Saturday Night Live.

Director’s DVD Commentary: This is just my view from the bleachers. For a top quality deep dive into this mess, check out this post from the Booman Tribune.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Writing Checks and Checking Out

There are two things I want to talk about this week.

Is Maryland the New Oregon?
Two weeks ago, the state of Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill to allow doctors to prescribe to patients with less than six months to live, a fatal dose of medication to allow them to end their lives. The bill passed narrowly, 74-66, with a vote in the State Senate still to come.

Opposition to the bill is coming from usual religious types, like the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, which is not unpredictable. Archbishop Lori said that the bill would “further undermine the dignity of life.

I would ask the Archbishop how dignified it is to live out your final days in agonizing pain, or in a drug-induced stupor, forced to have others tend to your waste processes.

This issue is a lot like the abortion issue, wherein people from outside of your family want to make painful, personal decisions for you, admonishing you to abide by their own morals and not yours.

I would posit that the opposition comes from families who have never had a loved one suffer through a painful, drawn-out death. Or those who have never had to contemplate helping a loved one die peacefully while risking murder charges themselves. Otherwise, they might think twice about putting anyone else through that kind of torture.

Obviously, there should be safeguards in a law like this, preventing patient coercion. Great care must be taken that this is a path the patient chooses to take, for their own benefit and not to avoid the inconvenience of others. Authors of this bill say there are such safeguards, critics say there are not… Just like every other political debate going on. The two houses should be able to bang out some protections to calm any reasonable objections.

Granted, they’ll never calm the philosophical ones, so that leaves us to again fight the MYOB fight.

One thing the law does have in its favor is that the state of Oregon has had an assisted suicide law on the books for years. My friend and Oregonian, the Infidel, may know better, but I haven’t read of any rash of terminal patient suicides; in fact, I heard the number actually decreased after passage. That disarms some of the scare tactics opponents throw around about how people will be lining up to bump off their parents and claim their inheritance. Or people making rash decisions that they will regret, albeit for a very short time.

I know I’ll feel a lot better if this law gets all the way to passage. Then if one day, in what I hope is the very distant future, I’m wracked with pain on my deathbed, I can check out on my own terms without having to drag my sorry carcass out to the car and run a hose from the exhaust pipe.

The College Bribery Scandal
I so wish it involved Colgate University so we could call it “Colgate-gate.” And if Bill Gates was involved but got away with it, the headline would be Bill Gates Skates Colgate-gate. (I could go on, but I already did, once. I hate the whole “Adding ‘Gate’ to Every Scandal” trope.)

It’s only an important scandal if celebrities are involved, right? That’s why the only people we know about who are implicated in this pay-for-admittance deal are the two Hollywood actresses. You’d think it was a whole Hollywood undertaking. It’s always, “These two actresses, (here are their headshots!) and 48 other less well-known rich people, were charged blah blah blah…”

The Press’s knee-jerk use of the celebrities in the lede allowed the Republicans to position this as a “liberal” scandal. Now, I don’t know who else is involved but I’d bet that Republicans predominate, for no other reason but the culprits had to have a lot of money on hand. Worst case, it’s a split, making it an American problem and not a Republican/Democrat problem.

The NY Times referred to this as Snowplow Parenting. That’s a step up from Helicopter Parents, who merely hover. The Snowplow Parents work to clear all obstacles from their offspring’s paths. It’s nice in theory but leaves the children totally unprepared to deal with life’s inevitable obstacles. Or even normal adult tasks.

I always thought a parent’s primary objective should be to prepare their kids to be independent. Knocking down every obstacle and refusing to let your kid try something and fail is a huge disservice. If one can’t handle disappointment, (and life will be loaded with it), it will be a miserable existence indeed.

OK, I guess it would be quite nice if your parents bought your way onto teams and got you into colleges for which you weren’t qualified, but eventually, the snowplowing is going to come to an end, and then what?

Personally, I’m glad I worked for whatever I got. My rewards corresponded with my efforts. My parents always provided a safety net, but I was out there on my own. I did my own homework and my own projects. If they were crappy, I got a bad grade. It was on me.

Side note: I stopped asking the folks for homework help very early in life, after the Math Debacle. I went to grade school in the 60s when the “New Math” revolution was in full swing. My parents could help me with math, but their way had nothing to do with the way I was being taught. So even when I got the right answers, my parents’ methods didn’t lend themselves to the next tasks, when we moved on to other functions.

After that, I had my mom review writing projects and suggest edits, (usually for grammar and clarity.) That was it.

I picked my own college, did my college application by myself, and got myself enrolled. More importantly, I paid my own way through school via part-time jobs.

My folks supported me… I guess you could call it a collaboration. I purposely picked a state college to which I could make a daily commute, so to avoid dorm costs. They helped me with buying books, which was a complete racket. And during my last semester, when I ran out of money, they kicked in the last $500 of my tuition.
They would have paid for me to live on campus but it was important to me to do this on my own. That’s how they raised me. I made it my business to get in and out in four years.

The sad thing, in today’s world, is that this is practically impossible anymore. Not only have tuition costs skyrocketed, there are so few jobs left for teens and young adults to do. The entire retail sector that once was, is now GONE. The stores that are still open don’t have nearly the same staffing level that they did in the late 70s.

I worked at a grocery store, a gas station, and a record store. (There was also one summer in a glass factory, which I call My Summer in Hell.) But that was enough to pay my tuition and gas/beer money.

Now, the grocery store would have self-service cash registers, and the stations with live cashiers have them bag the groceries too. So there would be no bag boys and half the number of cashiers.

The gas station? Well, that was a pretty cheap operation right then. I worked by myself all day and that hasn’t really changed. But they were so cheap, they didn’t even have a cash register… I had to make change out of a cigar box. They were so cheap, they advertised their gas prices in liters. Don’t think THAT didn’t get me yelled at all the time when customers found out gas wasn’t really .49 per gallon. Like it was the gas jockey’s idea…

And record stores? They’re just gone, disappeared from the landscape. And the malls you usually found them in, are either gone too or a shell of their former selves. So what’s left? Food, I guess. Big box stores. Everyplace else is on a skeleton crew. Stores make sure they keep their payroll down and no one gets over 30 hours, lest they become eligible for benefits.

So I feel for kids and parents today, who are caught in this mess. It’s a shame that kids who work hard and do their best are getting squeezed out of the competitive colleges by kids whose parents stacked the deck for them.
But at least they’ll know what it’s like to survive not getting your first choice in life.

Chances are, they’ll handle it better than those who have received everything they’ve ever wanted, but yet spend their nights rage-tweeting about not getting enough credit and respect.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Debunkery - The Glass Houses Edition

So much bullshit, so little time to clean it up. Facebook has been rife with false and misleading memes so it’s time for a little debunkery!

This was a Facebook status that’s been shared an alarming number of times.

I’ll start with picking the nit that Obama didn’t give Iran a dime… he had their assets unfroze to let them recover money that was theirs to begin with.

But the main fallacy here is the false analogy of Obama “bypassing” Congress to “give” Iran money while not being sued, vs Trump being sued by trying to “emergency” his way into obtaining funds for his vanity wall.

On one hand, the Obama administration negotiated a treaty with Iran to (I repeat) unfreeze their assets in return for a stop to all nuclear pursuits. According to independent monitors, Iran was keeping to the deal, even after Trump nixed the US’s participation in the treaty. Foreign policy and treaties are the prerogatives of the Executive Branch, so Obama did nothing unusual in that regard.

On the other hand, Trump is claiming an emergency when there clearly is not, in an end-around attempt to circumvent the powers the Constitution grants Congress; to allocate money for the government. He is attempting to spend money “for security,” although there are far more efficient and productive ways to use that same money, which the Democratic-led House is all for.

So Trump is usurping the Constitution so he can make good on a campaign promise and the country gets $5-billion white elephant with Trump’s name on it. Sounds like a guarantee that he’d be sued over that. In fact, he was probably counting on it… He didn’t name those two partisan judges to the Supreme Court for nothing. I’m sure he’s counting on all Trump-related SCOTUS decisions going his way for the foreseeable future.

Another Facebook status, another false dichotomy. This isn’t an either/or situation so there is no choice necessary. I could end there, but there is still much to debunk.

Illegals being housed and fedreceiving medical” Sounds like the lap of luxury, but in reality, they are being “housed and fed” the same way prisoners in jail are. It’s not exactly Club Med; it’s the bare essentials to keep people alive. And this is AFTER ripping their kids away from them under false pretenses.

Seniors have to choose between prescriptions and food…”
And who is it forcing this choice? The same people who are trying to cut and/or privatize Social Security, so they don’t have to pay back the trillions borrowed from it in the 80s. And trying to keep the minimum wage from rising to a living wage. You think seniors working part-time jobs are making $70k with stock plans? Minimum wage isn’t just for teenagers and that’s been the reality for decades.

Do the Republicans have any proposals to help seniors? Nope… snake-eyes there.

Basically, this comes down to carping about the perception that brown people getting something for nothing.

Obamacare: Months of hearings, testimony, and negotiations, multiple proposals, while Republicans moved the goalposts every time a deal was near. (And remember, this was entirely a Republican idea first proposed in the 90s and executed at the state level by Republican governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Eventually, the 60 Democrats, many of which had just been voted into office for this very purpose, ended the filibuster threat so the bill could pass and go to the president for signature.

Yes, Republicans were given a choice and they chose to obstruct every idea (even their own) that was put forth by Democrats. They don’t get to whine about it later.

Trump’s Vanity Wall: A president flouting the Constitutional powers given Congress, to redirect money marked for other services, to the least effective means of border security, by calling it an emergency even though there is nothing close to one going on.

Yep, exactly alike. Enjoy celebrating a wall that never gets built.

1)      Not an agenda item going in, per Pelosi herself. She is on record as wanting to wait to see where the investigations go before calling for impeachment. No wonder Republicans don’t understand it. They’re used to starting with the conclusion they want and working backward to find reasons for it.
2)      On the super-rich. They always leave that part out. Democrats’ entire goal is to provide meaningful tax relief to those who got screwed with the Trump tax bill.
3)      From what, their kids? It’s a matter of priority, and it’s not a sane one to spend law-enforcement resources rounding up people who are not a threat to anyone or anything. Until Trump changed their orders, ICE was supposed to pick up criminals … dangerous, crime-committing people, not those who overstayed their visas so they can continue to do menial labor our own people won’t do.
4)      If it’s about a gun, conservatives call it gun control, because it sounds scary and Big Brother-ish. The actual agenda is to try to put a dent into the number of people slaughtered by guns every year, by trying to keep terrorists, criminals, domestic abusers and the mentally unstable from buying killing machines. By banning them? No, by doing thorough background checks. What bastards!
5)      If America is so “strong” right now, why do you need all the guns? This is just a Trumpian tic where everything is divided between weak and strong. “Me strong. Them weak. MAGA!

Lastly, the possessive of Democrat is Democratic. This is America, speak English, will you please?

 Seriously? Were you alive between 2009 and 2016? We’ll give Trump the same amount of respect that you teabaggers, nut-jobs, moralists and rich-apologists gave Obama.

It’s like a mass wave of amnesia washed over Republicans, wherein they completely forgot about the abuse heaped on the last president and his family. You don’t like it rough now? You started it, Trump, in particular, with his racist birtherism nonsense.
Michelle got raked by the Right for occasionally going sleeveless and daring to ask children to eat their vegetables. “Ape in high heels,” that was one of the quotes, wasn’t it?

I haven’t heard a peep from a single conservative, ever, in judgment of Melania’s past. (Not that I think anyone should… I’m just highlighting the comparison.)

They should just put it in the Republican National Platform: “It’s only wrong when a Democrat does it.”

If socialism was the problem, then I guess Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Canada will become dictatorial hellholes any day now. A... n... y... day now.

OR, maybe it was a matter of corrupt people coming to power.

Classic logical fallacy… because B followed A, then A must have caused B.

Monday, March 4, 2019


In another campaign of mass distraction, it looks like in addition to the fear of gays and brown foreigners, the Republicans are going to fall back on another conservative greatest hit, abortion. They’ve been warming up the disinformation machine already.

As a result of states like New York and Virginia firming up reproductive rights, the GOP has taken to twisting reality in describing the horrors of late-term abortions.

While they get their rabid base all stirred up with graphic verbal depictions of what they think happens during such a procedure, they completely ignore the bigger picture. And reality.

Women don’t wait until late in their pregnancy to have an abortion because they just haven’t gotten around to it. These things become necessary when there is a grave threat to the mother or they know the fetus has a life expectancy you can time with a stop-watch. It’s a horrible tragedy that no one should have to face, let along be browbeaten about it from people who have no business butting in.

So, the prospect of the Smaller Government Brigade presuming to step in and demand access to the patient/doctor conversation is the height of hypocrisy.

The people making these ghastly speeches know this too; they just don’t care. It’s much more important to them to get people riled up for an election year than acknowledge an inconvenient truth. Last time it was selling baby parts. Now it’s murdering infants for shits and giggles.

I’m amazed that I still have to write about this issue. (The first time was here.) (And more recently, here.) For something that’s been settled law since the 70s, the Republicans have found a myriad of ways to chip away at Roe v Wade, so that even if it can’t be overturned, it can be rendered functionally impotent.

They create building requirements that apply to no other healthcare business. They create requirements for the doctors to have admitting privileges to local hospitals (which they then harass into refusing all such accommodations.) They pass laws requiring doctors to read or hand out factually incorrect statements to patients seeking to end their pregnancies, as well as invasive, medically unnecessary tests as a prerequisite. Once they thin out the number of offices that will perform abortions, they legislate waiting periods which often require multiple trips over long distances. They make sure that crowds of shouting, sign-waving busybodies can physically harass and intimidate anyone who enters a clinic, regardless of their intent once inside.

All of these barriers are created to deter women from having abortions. None of them protect women’s health in any way, as proclaimed by the barrier builders.

I know that as a man, my voice comes with an asterisk. However close I’ve been to this issue, every woman on earth is closer. If I were a woman, I would lose my mind on this issue.

How dare some sanctimonious schmuck try to tell ME what’s best for me and my family? How dare some moralistic prig insert themselves into MY family tragedy? How dare anyone other than me and my doctor think they have the right to utter a single syllable to me, let alone set up more hoops for me to jump through because my personal decisions run contrary to theirs? And if heaven forbid, my doctor tells me that if I should carry this baby to term, I am likely to die, I’m supposed to consider some legislator’s moral stance? FUCK. YOU!

I would have a lot to say to these people and it wouldn’t be very ladylike. Good thing for my sanity that I’m not female and I am well past my childbearing years.

Nobody is “for” abortions, as Republicans loathe to acknowledge. Pro-Choice people ARE opposed to letting strangers substitute their morality for ours when we have a personal crisis on our hands. They want us to dance to their tune and then they go waltzing off while we deal with the consequences alone.

Their “Right to Life” boils down to their demanding their right to interfere in your life. Moralize, judge, condemn, then offer no help whatsoever.
Here’s how you tell that the conservative “Pro-Life” agenda is all about controlling women rather than the admirable goal of reducing the number of abortions.

If they really wanted to lower the instance of abortions, they’d be out in full force to provide birth control, the Number One factor in minimizing unwanted pregnancies. But they don’t really care about that.
Remember what happened when the Democrats passed the ACA, which included free birth control? Republicans went ape-shit, generating lawsuit after lawsuit meaning to overturn that particular benefit.

Were they really incapable of understanding that a couple dollars spend on birth control saves hundreds or thousand later in other costs, like SNAP, WIC, medical costs, foster care reimbursement? Of course not. But fiscal responsibility wasn’t their goal.

No, the real goal is to keep a foot on the necks of all women to prevent them from usurping the place of the white male. Or gaining any real political power. According to at least one Republican lawmaker, women are merely “hosts.” Incubators, if you will, for man’s offspring. Hell, women are lucky Republicans even allow them to vote.

And by listening to the speechifying coming from the Right to Lifers, it’s clear they intend to lie, distort, exaggerate and fear-monger to trick people into exchanging their own right to self-determination for the right to be told by strangers how and when to bring children into the world.

But let’s not protest too loudly though or we might encroach on their freedom of religion and we wouldn’t want to do THAT... Someone might take offense.

Late Note: I just noticed that this week, Catholics of the world will welcome another Ash Wednesday. As a boy, I never minded getting ashes on Ash Wednesday. But I would have minded it a lot less if the priest would have put out his cigar first.

Now, as a Recovering Catholic, please allow me to help decipher the various smudges you may see on the foreheads of practicing Catholics.