Monday, April 29, 2019

Really, We CAN Handle the Truth

I wasn’t going to mention the rampant falsehoods coming from the Oval Office again this week but hey, I’d be remiss if I didn’t celebrate a milestone.

Over the weekend, Individual One passed a landmark when his prevarication count passed 10,000 lies told since inauguration. Hail to the Chief! That’s some serious dedication to the Falsifying Arts. From now on, they should just replace the Eternal Flame in Arlington with this:

He passed the 10k level with 49 lies on Friday, 24 of which came at his speech to the NRA. For an encore, he lied 61 times at his big shake-'em-up rally in Green Bay.

All totaled during his time in office, he’s produced 10,111 lies in 828 days, for an average of 12 per day.

It’s so bold, you almost have to laugh, until you realize how tremendously unfunny it is. I mean, people actually BELIEVE this stuff.

Just look at the conservative letters that come into newspapers and such. So many of them start with one of his lies as the base from which to make their point. Crisis at the border. Mueller exonerates Trump. Mothers and Doctors collaborate on killing healthy babies.

I would be interested in seeing these lies broken down into recurring categories; I’m sure it would be informative. The more he lies about a subject, the more important it would be to him that we believe it.

Obviously, The Wall would be a big chunk; you’d probably need some sub-chunks to cover the various areas in which he’s lying about his vanity project. Russia would be another big chunk, as well as anything to do with covering his ass from legal proceedings.

I’ve always said that people will believe anything if you say it enough times, especially if it plays to their biases. Trump knows this well and should be cast in bronze as Exhibit One. The sooner the better.

More Debunkery
This week’s misleading meme, harvested in the wild from Facebook:
(Killers voting)

This exists because there are proposed laws afoot that would restore released felons’ right to vote. This scares the hell out of the GOP wherever plays out because they think “Released Felons” = “Likely Democratic Voters.”

I guess it all depends on the nature of the felony. I’d bet you white collar felons, what few there are, would skew heavily Republican. I was going to say “banking industry felons” but when the hell do bankers ever get convicted of anything?

So in the continuing effort to suppress probable Democratic votes, we have this attempt at skewing the perception of voting ex-felons.

On the surface, this vote for a vote meme might seem like a valid idea, but what is omitted is more important.

How many “killers” get released from jail, compared to all other felons? I’d bet it’s damned few.

Compare the “damned few” to the total number of ex-felons and you begin to see the whitewash. There are thousands of non-violent felons who have been released from jail, either on parole or from time served. There is no rational reason why these people shouldn’t be eligible to vote, and “We’re afraid of who they’ll vote for” wouldn’t count.

They want to suppress the voting rights for thousands because the potential votes of a few might be distasteful. The goal is to make you look one direction, at the murderers, and use them to get you to support depriving a bunch of other people of their vote.

We all have the right to vote. Nothing in the Constitution takes that right away. I can understand and support depriving the vote from prison populations… there are costs when you commit crimes (and you’re not rich and white).

Freedom of speech is the same way. If we support freedom of speech for ourselves and those with whom we agree, the same has to be true of those with whom we disagree.

But once you’re out? The whole idea of prison is supposed to be based on rehabilitation. You do your time and then get to go free. If you did something so heinous that they never let you out, so be it.

But once you’re free, you should be able to vote again. Voting is a civic duty and is something that could help bring ex-cons back into society. It’s a way to take responsibility for what’s going on around you.

This meme is pure voter suppression masquerading as empathy for victim’s rights. We know THAT has to be wrong.

Since when did conservatives have empathy for anyone (that’s been born)?

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Truth Shall Set Us Free

If the release of the Mueller Report has shown us anything, it’s the ease with which the current administration lies to us, not only from the Prevaricator in Chief, but all the way down the food chain.

That Trump is a degenerate liar is, at this point, obvious. But then to keep up with the boss, everyone else who wants to keep their jobs has to back up the lies with lies of their own.

Just look at the tap-dancing that newly-appointed Attorney General Barr has done in the last couple of weeks. First, he pens a soft-soap “summary” that was edited with as much integrity as those Planned Parenthood “sting” videos. Up means down, yes means no, and “not exonerated” means “is exonerated.

Also, we learned that if you’re not smart enough to know something you did is a crime, you get a free pass if you’re white and wealthy. 

 And then we learned that if you’re upset, the crimes you commit afterward don’t count.

Both of these whoppers were especially egregious because they were put forth by someone who is supposed to be the nation’s top law enforcement official, and presumably knows better.

So, we had a whitewashed “summary,” that changes the conclusion and omits major plot points, then a press conference to further muddy the waters, as if we weren’t going to be able to draw the opposite conclusions by reading the report, redactions be damned.

And all this was after a feverish attempt by the GOP and the Administration to keep the report from being released at all.

And now that the redacted report is out, the White House is trying to discredit the report (again,) which is pretty ballsy after spending the previous two weeks talking about how it exonerated the president.

That’s probably the only truthful thing he’s said in ten years.

Sarah Sanders got roped into the Mueller report as well when he questioned her about where she got her information about James Comey losing the support of the rank and file FBI staff. She had to admit it wasn’t based on anything real, or in other words, she made it up out of thin air. Later, during damage control, she claimed it was a slip of the tongue (that she repeated multiple times).

If I were running for president, I’d make truthfulness a major plank in my campaign. I’d make it a primary concern to reverse the culture of falsehoods that pervade the oval office and all who seek its approval.

I remember back in the 70s, after the Nixon years, Jimmy Carter won the next election by (among other things) campaigning on how he’d never lie to the American public. Couldn’t hurt to make that an issue. (Of course, said candidate would then have to live up to that while coping with a press who would investigate every syllable from then on.

More Debunkery
They really have the knives out for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, don’t they? She must really scare the Powers that Be. Look at this one:

As if any of these things preclude being a US Representative.

You could say the same thing about Paul Ryan when he won his first term in Congress.

Ryan was not married, nor had children. He never ran a business, nor bought a home. “Professional” job? He worked for congressional staff, was a marketing consultant for a construction company, but he also worked as a waiter and fitness trainer.

Oh, and he was also 28 when he won his first term.

No one was casting public aspersions about his experience. He won his election fair and square, just like AOC. (Maybe not as dramatically thought… she beat a 10-term congressman by 15 points.)

But then he was a well-to-do white guy and that meshed with his future actions to further enrich well-to-do white guys at the expense of the poor and middle classes.

Besides, like with a myriad of other “faults,” it’s only a problem when it’s a Democrat. Or a young woman of color. Because it’s not like Republicans clamor for their own people to have personal experience with the issue they’re legislating…

Funny how they didn’t mention education. AOC graduated cum laude from Boston University, with a BA in international relations and economics. But yeah, criticize her about not having a family.

Right. What about the one SHE GREW UP IN? Do they really think you can’t learn something about family life from being a daughter or sister? Please…

If the Right wants to criticize, they should stick to things like her positions or actions. That’s fair game if you don’t believe in what she’s doing. Memes like this are just more noise and yammering.

It’s just more mud to throw at the wall to try to affect the cultural narrative regarding a political opponent. That’s why I think it’s important to debunk this BS at every turn.

The truth needs to win out… The REAL truth, not some gilded Trumpian facsimile.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Debunkery - The "Compensating" Edition

Let’s look at some more conservative misinformation, harvested in the wild from my Facebook timeline.
This came with the caption: "Don’t think this can’t happen in the USA."

This can absolutely happen in the USA, but not for the reason the poster is inferring. (I presume the author thinks it’s a Muslim or immigration issue, but I could be wrong.)

In the top two segments, the real cause is religious extremism coming into power. It just so happens that these were both predominantly Muslim countries, so the result was Muslim extremism.

Here at home, this is already beginning with Christian extremism. Look no further than the draconian abortion laws passed in Ohio, Mississippi and Georgia, which translate into banning abortions before many women even know they’re pregnant. (Obviously, these laws were created for the express purpose of being tried before the Supreme Court, in an all-out attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, while there is a quorum of conservative justices on the bench.)

When laws are passed to restrict abortions AND birth control, it can only mean that the subjugation of women is the primary goal. If this path continues, it won’t be long until our “USA 2017” picture will look like this:
As for the part of the meme about France, I put forth that it’s not a compelling picture at all. it’s just 4 women in Muslim garb, in a crowd of other people. That could be from anywhere at any time. They could be tourists, for all anyone knows.

This is just willful ignorance.

I’m not even going to address the job approval percentages, because they vary greatly in time and by who conducts the poll. And I’m not vouching for the accuracy of the economic numbers, although I suspect the $665 billion deficit is a little light, especially after the Trump Tax Package passed. I’m really looking at the ratio between the two presidents and it’s clear that whoever created this graphic has produced a laughable case of ignoring context.

Because the creator is comparing each president’s first year in office, that means President Obama was just getting a grip on the recession left for him after the previous Republican’s eight years in office. All the numbers were way down and about to make a U-turn.

When Obama handed off the economy to the next occupant after his own eight years, he was handing off seven straight years of economic growth and falling unemployment. Trump is basically standing on Obama’s shoulders and bragging about how much taller he is.
(This is evidence, not a new meme to debunk.)

The best that can be said for Trump at this point is that he didn’t screw things up (yet). Numbers improved each month and that continued. But it does mean that he doesn’t get credit for the gross number. He should get credit for any gains of more than the economy was already gaining. (And that ain’t much.) 
Because annoying liberals is worth thousands of innocent lives…

Dear Gun Nuts,
If you want to talk about whining, how about the whining that comes from protecting your fetish from those who don’t want to be killed by it?

We are trying to prevent hundreds or thousands of mass gun deaths. You’re trying to protect your desire to have a lethal toy that goes budda-budda-budda-budda.

The truth is on the shirt… you don’t have a rational need for an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. You don’t need it to hunt and you don’t need it to protect yourself. And your target shooting hobby should not take precedence over everyone else’s right not to be shot to bits.

Everyone says, “But I take care of MY gun… I know how to use MY gun… No one can get to MY gunI’ll teach MY kids how to respect it… The mother of the Sandy Hook shooter did everything “right” too. It’s all perfectly safe, right up until it isn’t and by then, it’s too late.

It’s not whiners you should be concerned about… it’s the mourners, like the of thousands of widowed men and women and children who have to grow up without a parent.

Please find another way to create stirrings in your big boy parts and put the military death machines away. I’m sure you can still feel like a real man with a pistol or standard rifle.

Or maybe just go buy a big truck instead.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Just Checking Boxes Isn't Enough

I applaud the election of the first African-American (and lesbian) woman for Mayor of Chicago. Obviously, the race came down to two African-American women, so breaking this ground was a foregone conclusion.

I’m always happy to see ceilings being shattered in this way and I hope she’s the right person for the job. Because if living in Baltimore has taught me anything, it’s that corruption comes in all persuasions.

The last three Mayors of Baltimore have been African-American women and the terms of all three have ended (or will end soon) in disaster. All started with great promise but were brought down by either greed or ghastly lapses in judgment.

Sheila Dixon was mayor was elected in 2007 and served until February of 2010. Before she left, she was indicted on twelve felony and misdemeanor counts, including perjury, theft, and misconduct. The “marquee” offense was the theft of gift cards her office had obtained, which were meant for underprivileged kids. (And the fact that some of them came from her real estate-developer boyfriend made it all the juicier.)

She was convicted on one count of fraudulent misappropriation and resigned as part of a plea deal.

City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake served out Dixon’s and won re-election in 2011. She was a decent and dedicated mayor; decidedly low key and businesslike.

She probably would have been re-elected again but her handling of the Baltimore riots over the Freddy Gray killing made it impossible. Critics say she waited far too long before asking the Governor to call in the National Guard. The Governor said he couldn’t get her on the phone.

And then at a press conference, she made the statement that destroyed her career:

"It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.

There was more to it than that, and context to be added, but all anyone ever heard after that was “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”

That was basically her epitaph. She might as well have said, “Let them steal cake.”

She opted not to run for re-election in 2016.

That election came down to former City Councilwoman and State Senator Catherine Pugh against, of all people, Sheila Dixon, who was trying to come back from the dead. The race was closer than it should have been, but Pugh won out.

She also began her tenure as someone who was getting shit done.

As you may or may not have seen in the national news, Pugh is now embroiled in a book publishing scandal, wherein she wrote a series of self-published "Healthy Holly" children’s books and conjured an insider deal to sell them to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), which operates 13 hospitals across the state. But no one can account for all the books. They know of almost 9000 sitting in a Dept. of Education warehouse, but that’s it. There were around 90,000 copies printed. (To give you a sense of scale, the first run of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was only 50,000.)
See, Pugh is one of 30 board members at UMMS. And as the Baltimore Sun found out, there are eight other board members who have contracts between themselves or their businesses, with UMMS.

Note: The Baltimore Sun basically broke this whole story. Because that’s what good journalism can do… And if I were them, I’d be digging into some of the other “corporate boards” and see who else is working insider contracts.

Mayor Pugh has temporarily stepped aside, for medical reasons*, with the current president of the city council stepping in as acting mayor.

*Mayor Pugh was hospitalized with pneumonia for 5 days, a week ago, so there are legit health issues. But the timing sure makes it look fishy.

Meanwhile, the story keeps getting worse. Other city power players have come out and said they each paid the Mayor $100,000 for a run of books, yet no one ever took delivery. It seems apparent that these book deals are a way to raise campaign funds while getting around donation limits and disclosures. (If there are any left, that is.)

It also came out that Mayor Pugh had her house renovate without obtaining any of the necessary permits. This, despite a city official visiting the site and handing her a list of permits she’d need.

Every time some new twist comes to light, they report that she now has to go back and edit her ethics forms for the last seven years.

I want to know one thing: what good is an ethics form if you can just keep adding shit to it every time you get caught? Why even bother? I say, you file your ethics form and if you omit something important, you lose your job. Period. Maybe if we stop playing around with this corporate and governmental graft and start putting some white-collared butts in jail, maybe we’ll see a higher degree of public service.

Isn’t how they handle the petty crimes of the working class?

So it’s only a matter of time before this next groundbreaking leader disappears with a whimper and wisp of smoke.

Baltimore also has a vast policing problem, as if that wasn’t laid bare by the Freddy Gray case. I’ve written about it before but the Baltimore police department is so corrupt, they don’t even recognize that what they are doing is wrong.

In one of the more egregious episodes, a sergeant sent a patrol officer to stop a group of young African-American men, question them and order them to disperse.  When the officer said he had no valid reason to do so, Sarge told him “Then make something up.”

All this happened with the DOJ agent right in the car with them.

There was also a scandal with what was called the Gun Trace Task Force. This was a group of cops who shook down criminals, drug dealers, and completely innocent people, just because they could. They stole confiscated money, they padded their time sheets with unworked overtime, falsified police reports and generally committed more mayhem than the actual street gangs. And as a side effect, everyone these guys arrested or testified against had to be set free, because everything about these cops was now tainted.

All up and down the food chain, people who could have stopped it looked the other way.

This city has eaten up police chiefs left and right. They all come in looking to change the culture and keep order, but nothing ever changes. And the last candidate, one Mayor Pugh recruited and hired from Fort Worth, hadn’t filed a tax return in several years. So he got booted before he could even get started.

Now we have a police chief who last ran New Orleans. I hope he’s got his dress beads on because it’s like Mardi Gras out here every day. I truly wish him all the best.

My point today is not to throw stones at African-American politicians, women, cops or other public servants. I’m just saying that electing a female or person of color is not a magic potion for Chicago. The real challenge will be doing honest work and serving the public. History is littered with people who couldn’t pass up enriching themselves in underhanded ways if their lives depended on it. (One such piece of litter is our current White House occupant.)

If Baltimore serves as an example of anything, it’s that greed and graft are not bound by race or gender. It seems to be universal. As Dilbert author Scott Adams frequently says, (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here,) when there is a high reward for doing something wrong and low risk of getting caught, people will usually go for the reward.

Maybe we should be happy that a new subset of people is now privy to the self-enrichment schemes previously used exclusively by white men.

So congratulations to Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot. I wish her and her staff all the best. 

Maybe when she’s done cleaning up Chicago, she can send a few pointers our way.

Monday, April 1, 2019

April Fools

I feel like we need a diversion from the political abyss that has been our roster of current events, so let’s talk about something more frivolous, yet topical (for today, anyway).
I love a good prank. I used to be notorious for playing pranks, whether in the office, for April Fools or just for the hell of it. I’ve posted about some of them before, like doing office pranks, including a prank on one of my best friends, more office pranks, and then one from my youth that took about a year to fully play out.

As I learned in my youth, the best pranks are played in the mind, where no one gets hurt and nothing is damaged.

I haven’t done any in ages, though. The closest was the time I was the last one sitting on one end of the floor. I was the only one there for about three weeks. It was a time of upheaval with our company, as we had just moved to a new office building and our company had just been sold.

Anyway, the new department to which I was reassigned was coming to move into my area at the same time I was about to go on a week’s vacation. I wanted to welcome them to my little neighborhood, so since I couldn’t be there, I posted a sign.

Population: One  18

No, it wasn’t really a prank, just a bit of whimsey, but it was something that isn’t usually done around the conservative hallways of financial services companies.

The funny thing is, when I came back from vacation, the sign was still there. I took it down, wondering how it went over. No one had said a word. Finally, about a month later, I asked someone I’d become friends with, and she confirmed that it was indeed well received. I supposed they wondered what kind of a weirdo they would be working with.

Today I was able to pull one off that I conceived of about six months ago. But to tell the story, I have to start with a little background.

It’s funny how the older you get, the less you give a shit about what people think, and the more likely you are to speak your mind.

In my job, I manage a fleet of vehicles and to do so, I work with a couple of outside vendors. I am their customer and they provide services. And sometimes, they can really bungle things up, sometimes to the point of costing my company money in wasted time and inconvenience.

 For example, they may promise to deliver a car to a new driver, but come the day of supposed delivery, they hadn’t even contacted the driver yet. Our guy is waiting at home, dead in the water, and they’re sitting on their thumbs.

In such circumstances, I get on the phone with the vendor and, well, give them hell. I want to rattle the cage a little bit, to let them know in pointed terms that they are disappointing their customer and costing us money in lost time and productivity. Fix the problem, don’t let it happen again.

And because my office is a low-walled “open-floorplan” cube farm, I am known by my group as the guy who goes off on people. In fact, when I get going, I can hear all the typing and clicking stop, like crickets that silence in the presence of a jungle predator. Occasionally I will hear a gasp, or a giggle, which lets me know the peanut gallery is open.

Also, in most cases, I’m speaking with my account rep, who wasn’t the one who screwed up, but she’s the one who relays my unhappiness to the department that did. I’m basically just venting and she knows I’m not directing it at HER. But that’s a nuance that doesn’t translate well to office eavesdroppers.

I always apologize for the sideshow, because it’s not my intention to infringe on their trains of thought. I don’t want to be mean, either. I don’t berate anyone or curse at them. But I do make it clear, in pointed terms, that I expect better out of my vendors and have no tolerance for excuses, especially for recurring, avoidable problems.

Often, during these “post-mortems,” when I’m telling my group what the story was, the memories will start.

Remember that time when he said…”

Oh and that other time when he said… And I thought he was talking to one of OUR people…”

It was during one of these sessions that I decided that on April Fool’s day, I should really give them something to listen to. The only question was whether I’d follow through on it or not.

I was really on the fence. In this day and age, you never know who’s going to get upset about something or tell a damaging story to someone in charge.

Then this morning I saw the box of donuts in our common area. Score! Nothing like a nice donut to brighten your day. I opened the box only to find a big tray of carrots, celery, and dip. Gah! I’d even seen that trick shown on Facebook but fell for it anyway. (Although there was an actual box of donuts under the one that had the veggie tray, so I still got my donut.)

So, this afternoon, when everything was quiet, my desk phone rang and proceeded to have a “call” with my vendor.

Me: Oh, hi, (vendor rep name) thanks for calling. So did you get that car delivered on Friday? What? Oh, you’re kidding…  You’ve got to be kidding me. We talked about this! I made this request three weeks ago! You mean you’re just getting on it now? This is unbelievable.

I can hear the crickets stop, so I know they’re dialed in. (I was told later that one lady tapped another on the shoulder to get her to take her headphones off and listen.)

Me: I can’t believe you’re screwing us again! This is getting to be a regular thing. You screw us on deliveries, you screw us on motor vehicle reports, you’re screwing us on everything!

I hear a giggle.

Me: Look, you’re not the only vendor out there. Other vendors are ringing the phone off the hook trying to get our business. Maybe it’s about time I started answering the calls.

Time for the kill.

Me: This was supposed to be delivered on March 29th. What day is it today? What day is it TODAY? That’s right, April first. APRIL FIRST… otherwise known as… April Fool’s Day.

That’s right, (laughing) OK, I gotta go. Talk to you tomorrow.

Now I hear laughing mixed with sighs of relief. They’re going, “Oh my God…”

He totally got her!”

I stood up and said, “Yeah, and there wasn’t even anyone on the phone. April Fools!”

I had dialed my desk phone from my cell phone. Much laughter ensued.

The old double-whammy. Works every time.