Monday, July 29, 2019

Odd Bits - The Rat-Infested Edition

The news of the weekend seemed to be all about the Current Occupant’s renewed race-baiting attack on Rep. Elijah Cummings and Baltimore. I have a few opinions on this because A) I have lived in Baltimore for almost 22 years and B) Cummings is MY US Representative.

It was interesting to me, the next morning, to see the Baltimore Sun, (the newspaper I still have delivered every day), not so much toss down the gauntlet but smack him in the jowls with it.

As much as I liked reading this in the morning paper, it was even better seeing it float across Facebook.

I don’t know whether the C.O. thought this up on his own or was guided by Fox “News” again, but it’s a clear political winner for him to attack Baltimore in the most graphic ways possible. First of all, he knows he has zero chance of carrying Maryland in the 2020 elections, as it is a solidly blue state when it comes to national politics.

Secondly, it’s more red meat for his deep red racist base. It’s apparent that his strategy for the upcoming presidential race is to abandon the dog-whistles and go straight for the blatant racism.

Aside from being a “blue” state, Maryland is on the C.O.’s “naughty list” because it resists his efforts to let ICE pull all the brown people from the streets, fields, and kitchens and send them to detention areas. That’s another paddle he can use to whip up the white guys’ fear of losing status. So yeah, attacking Maryland is a win for him.

Except, of course, to people who have a problem with fallacies and incorrect statements. Here are a couple of flaws in his attack.

1)      There is little sense in attacking a congressman about the state of his district. This is strictly a local-politics situation. A congressman needs a majority of other representatives to vote together to bring about changes to his home turf, which is usually a matter of providing tax benefits to businesses who create jobs there. (Otherwise known as “Pork.”) The condition of streets and alleys and creation of vermin-deterrent policies is a matter for local politicians… Mayor, city council, zoning boards, or at most, the governor.

Our current governor is a Republican and has been cutting vast sums of from the state budget that used to go toward Baltimore City. You want to blame someone for the trash situation, blame the guy who’s tightening the purse strings.

2)      All cities have areas that can be called trashy and rat-infested. You think rats are indigenous only to Baltimore? There are rats to be found in other cities, like Dallas, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Mobile, St. Louis, Memphis or Charlotte. But he won’t be calling out those states because he needs to win there in 2020.

Anyone can post pictures of a city’s crappiest side. Pics like that have been coming out all over on social media. All cities have some greasy underside that can look bad when brought to light. But you know what? This is also Baltimore:
So is this:

And this:

 See, cherry-picking goes both ways.

I might also point out that when the president tweets that Cummings is “screaming and yelling” about anything, he should really pay closer attention to the other side of the aisle. I remember a hearing, not so long ago, when Rep Jim Jordan of Ohio was literally yelling at Rep Cummings, who was chairing the meeting, and then wanted more time after he ceded his. He continued to interrupt and badger him until Cummings coldly shut him down using points of order, while never raising his voice a decibel. I don’t think his pulse went over 75.

Another Day, Another Atrocity
Some were surprised that after the Robert Mueller testimony, in which he said the Russians were working to influence elections “as we sit here today,” that Mitch McConnell refused to let a couple of election security bills onto the floor for a vote. I was not.

This behavior is 100% consistent with McConnell’s behavior all along, in which nothing will EVER be brought to the floor if it doesn’t help Republicans stay in power. He bottled up the Garland SCOTUS nomination for 10 months on the flimsiest of excuses, regardless of the huge backlash that caused. He just didn’t care because he didn’t have to care. He was doing exactly what his corporate benefactors wanted him to do… take care of their business by making sure the Supreme Court never goes to a Democrat-appointed majority.

The last thing he’s going to do is prevent the Russians or anyone else from helping the Republicans win. And that won’t change until foreign powers start helping Democrats.

The only way to mitigate the damage McConnell does to our country is to take the Senate by a veto-proof majority. I don’t even worry about beating him directly, although that would help with the numbers. Whoever the Republicans put up next to run their part of the Senate will be just like him. If we can’t provide 60 votes, he’ll block up any progress like a triple-decker cheese sandwich on cork. The only remedy is to take away their power.

Taking the Pledge
I see the Pledge of Allegiance is in the news again, with a survey saying that 61% of Americans are in favor of requiring schoolchildren to recite the Pledge every day.

Personally, I’m against having to blindly repeat anything by rote, day in and day out. And if it’s anything like when I went to school, these kids don’t know the meaning of what they’re pledging anyway. To me, it was just something you had to do every day before getting down to business. I never gave it a second thought.

But with that said, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Say it, don’t say it… whatever. Eventually, these kids will grow up and form their own opinions. And some of them will resent being made to take a pledge to a government whose leader calls them animals and tells them they live in shitholes.

It’ll all work out in the end.

This Guy has MY Seal of Approval
I love a good prank, so I was thrilled to see what was pulled on the C.O. last week at his rally with the Republican Youth. As I’m sure you’ve seen, someone on the A-V team substituted a fake presidential seal for the one that was supposed to be projected on the screen behind the president.

It featured a two-headed eagle (which is a Russian symbol), grasping bundles of cash and a set of golf clubs, with the communist “sickle and hammer” logo above the US flag shield and the phrase “45 is a puppet” in Spanish.

I’ve read about the creator of the fake seal, who’d been marketing his wares online, and that they fired the guy who got it projected, but it’s the latter guy I’d like to know more about. His trolling game is STRONG. I’m sure he knew he’d be fired but the opportunity was too good to pass up.

Sometimes, you just have to take the shot when you have it and damn the repercussions.

I know if I had an A-V company, I’d get this guy on staff immediately.

Trolling level: Expert.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Focus Group (Redux)

Director’s DVD Commentary: An old blog friend of mine recently rejoined the fold and a recent comments conversation, I mentioned that I should dust off this old post from 2006 and give it some new air.

I’ve been enjoying the flurry of publicity regarding the movie release of The DaVinci Code… the protests, the defenses, the dialogues… As a Recovering Catholic, I find a great deal of happiness regarding anything that gets The Church’s panties in a bunch. 

As I understand it, The DaVinci Code asserts (albeit in novelized form) that the Catholic Church has for years covered up the fact that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and produced offspring, of which there is still a traceable bloodline today.  (Talk about an intimidating family to marry into!) 

As I also understand it, The Bible was compiled from the writings of various men and translated again and again throughout many centuries, often at the behest of powerful political figures, to ultimately become, in the eyes of the most devout believers, the literal word of God.  (These poor souls must have been sick on that day in grammar school when they covered “metaphor.”) 

(What’s a “metaphor”?   To keep cows in, of course.)

So, there is information from all these different sources… different writers, different styles, different motivations… Who was the editor that decided on what was used and what went to the papyrus recycling bin?  And how did he decide?  I also wonder who he was that he had the right to decide… was he given the Holy Red Quill, with which to make the Divine Edits of God?

The research department here at Darwinfish has obtained an ancient scroll fragment, which indicates a major role played by the Holy Focus Group… a mishmash of average Josephs off of whom the Editor bounced the Hallowed Rough Draft.  The scroll documents a meeting of the Exalted Editorial Committee, as recorded in the meeting’s minutes by a member of the Scribes Pool:

In Attendance: Phil Osteen (Editor in Chief), Ferris Seize (Focus Group Moderator)

Phil Osteen: Well Ferris, what did the group have to say?

Ferris Seize: They have a couple of issues, Chief.  First of all, they don’t like JC’s occupation.

Phil:  What’s wrong with being an accountant?  It’s an honorable position, counting the Holy Beans for the Eternal Revenue Service.

Ferris:  True enough, but they’re just not feeling the heat.  They think it should be manlier.

Phil:  What do they suggest?

Ferris: They’d like him to be a lumberjack.

Phil:  Are you serious?  A lumberjack?

Ferris:  Yes, Jesus, the Lumberjack of Nazareth.

Phil:  But he would have looked horrible in plaid.  Plus, look at all the unintended irony at the end of the Third Act.  I can just see the headlines on the local parchment… “Lumberjack Felled By Tree”…  Can’t do it…we’d be the laughing stock of all the other religions… They’d call us “Bunyonites.” 

Ferris:  Well if we leave him as an accountant, no one but the IRS will be following Him.  We need broader appeal.

Phil:  Who would believe it?  No one can support a wife and kids on what a lumberjack makes.

Ferris:  Oh, they want to lose the family stuff too.  They feel there’s only room for one “Heavenly Father”.  No one wants to think of The Savior doing the laundry and changing dirty didies.  Ruins the “stud appeal”.

Phil:  Ok, what say we split the difference and make Him a carpenter?

Ferris: I can sell that.  Just make sure that no one ever finds out about that Accountant thing, otherwise…

Sadly, that’s where scroll fragment cut off.  But there you have it.  Jesus 1.0… husband, father, and accountant.  Stay tuned for further developments, as the Committee finds something else for Jesus to do during tax season. Also, Jesus turns white.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Dear Hilton,

It’s been busy here in Darwinfish Central the last few weeks. As you may recall, I got married the last week in June. But just as we were coming back from that trip, we had to embark on a road trip the next Friday through Monday, back to The Burgh.

We had a family reunion scheduled for my mom’s side of the family. I wasn’t crazy about scheduling the event so close to our wedding trip, but we don’t get together all that often so if there’s a gathering, I don’t want to miss it.

Besides, this would be the first chance they’d have to meet my new bride. So we basically rolled through the short holiday week and went right back on the road. As we did in Florida, we stayed at a Hilton for a few days. This one was a “Hilton Garden Inn.”

Our family usually patronizes the Hilton brands, so to consolidate reward points, so my brother and sister and their families were staying there as well.

Normally, I have no issues with Hilton or the services and rooms they provide. But this was a relatively new one, which we thought would make for the best stay. Nope.

The main room was mostly fine, but I hated the bathroom. There were several issues I had, which I didn’t think were inconsequential. But none of them were the sorts of things that the staff could reasonably address. My beef was with the architects and builders.

So, when after our stay they began the inevitable pleas to complete their survey, I gave them my considered response. And if I’m going to tell the Hiltons, I might as well tell you.

First, I made sure I told them the staff was fine… I had no complaints about them, as they were friendly and professional. But here’s what was wrong with the room… the bathroom.

·        They had one of those sliding doors for the bathroom door. It made lots of noise whenever you went in or out, which could be bothersome when one occupant needs to take a midnight whiz while the other is asleep. And there were gaps on either side, which left one feeling like anyone could peep in.

·        The fixtures were loose. There was a square base around the handle that turned the shower on and off, and it was crooked. At first, I thought it was supposed to be kind of avant-garde like Tim Burton designed the place. But upon further investigation, it was just loose, and wouldn’t stay straight.

Same problem with the toilet paper holder. It had an open side for the roll to go on but also was not fixed firmly to the wall. Anytime you touched the TP, the arm bends downward and the TP rolled off the bar.

·        The water pressure was terrible and it took forever to get to a temperature suitable for human bathing. Once it got warm, you just felt like you were getting peed on.

·        It was bad enough that the shower stall (no tub) had a clear glass door to it. But they also had a full-size mirror over the sink, directly opposite the shower. Does anyone really need to see themselves soaping up? I don’t want to see that! My only alternative was to do everything while facing the opposite wall in the shower. I only had to do that, though, until the whole place fogged up, because…

·        They didn’t have a goddamn exhaust fan in there! In my book, that’s just unacceptable for a hotel. There wasn’t a bathroom fan in our Florida hotel either, so maybe it’s a standard Hilton practice.

Not only do you need a fan in there to keep the mirror from getting condensation, there are other considerations as well. These are closed quarters. If you have two people cohabitating in such a small space, the last thing either party wants is someone to go in there and befoul the whole room!

Also, consider the poor schmo on the inside. While their loved one is just on the other side of the wall/gapped sliding door, they can hear every grunt, splash and worse. Even if the fan doesn’t actually work very well, the din is a relief for all involved. Believe me, the last thing I want my dearly beloved to think is that she married American Pharaoh. Must we destroy all the illusions the first week of marriage?

·        And if there wasn’t anyone else in the room and you dared to sit on the can without closing the door, you’re staring straight into another full-size mirror on the outside of the closet. Like that’s a view of oneself anyone ever wants to see. What are you supposed to do, pose like The Thinker?

·        And for the one non-bathroom-related item, the carpet stayed wet in front of the A/C unit for the duration of our stay. I’m glad I noticed it when I was barefoot. How bad does it suck when you step in something wet, in your socks? Especially when you only have so many pairs of socks with you in the first place? Shit like that ruins my whole day.

I got a response back from the hotel manager, but it reeked of canned copy. I know there was little he could do… my main beef was with the design. Although he could probably get someone to tighten up those loose fixtures. I probably should have left my room number.

I’m sure they’ll find a way to get even with my ass… probably change the expiration date on all my Hilton Honors points to “next week.”

Maybe next time we ought to just go back to the Omni William Penn, downtown.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Debunkery - The Post-Honeymoon Edition

Several ridiculous memes caught my eye while I was out getting married, so they had to wait for my return to civilization. Let’s catch up.

Oh, and yes, I did take time out of my honeymoon activities to watch both Democratic debates. Obviously, the GOP flaks did too because one theme appeared to strike a chord, either with them or the Russian bot network. 

We pay for hundreds of things that we as individuals think we shouldn’t be paying for. I, for one, find it offensive to pay for oil subsidies, tax loopholes for millionaires, abstinence-only education and war machinery that even the military doesn’t want.

But we don’t get to pick and choose what things our taxes pay for. Put me down as more willing to pay for health care for undocumented immigrants than any of the stuff I just listed. And by the way, just as an insignificant aside, they were also talking about paying for EVERYONE’S health care, one way or the other. It’s not like anyone was proposing some special fund just for one group. They are proposing health care for all.

And even “people” conservatives don’t really count as people are included in the “all.”

“Broke our laws” to get into the country. But let’s not talk about how much more difficult the Trump Administration is making it to get into the country legally. Let’s just pretend this is all just about the sanctity of The Law.

What horseshit.

And buying votes? Someone please tell Charlie Kirk that illegal aliens can’t vote and don’t vote. Hell, you’re counting on them to duck the Census because of the “Citizen Question” but then think they’re going to stick their heads out to try to register and vote?

And as always, they have to throw in the kicker about “vets dying in the streets.”

Name one Republican proposal from the last 2 years that addresses “vets dying in the streets.”

There aren’t any, because Republicans don’t give a shit about veterans except as a bludgeon to use politically in misleading memes like this. If Republicans cared about vets, they would have passed something to help them when they had control of both houses and the presidency.

Hell, they could do it right now if they wanted to. The Democrats would sign on, as long as Republicans could keep themselves from adding poison pill amendments to the bill. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the GOP formulate such a bill and then add a poison pill like funds for The Wall, so that nothing passes but it LOOKED like they tried to do something for vets, while blaming Democrats for the failure.

That’s the rationale for the Republican blaming the Democrats for the situation at the border right now, isn’t it? Dems refuse to approve “wall” money so that makes everything else the Republicans do about it the Democrats’ fault. Twisted logic at its finest.

Easiest debunking ever. In no way are the (implied) Democrats representing foreigners INSTEAD of Americans. Thus the entire supposition falls apart because the base premise is patently false.

Here’s a hint for these meme-sters. GOP congressmen represent foreigners too… they just do it poorly. A congressperson represents everyone residing in their state or district, regardless of how they got there. This just the GOP tacit method of saying that because they haven’t received a donation/kickback, they can’t be bothered to represent this particular group.

And by “foreigners,” they mean, of course, brown, Latin-American foreigners. Not Russian oligarchs. Those checks cleared. And not Eastern-European soft-core porn models. The doors are wide open for them.

I am so goddamned sick of seeing Facebook posts like this. I mean, I don’t post or forward anything in response to other people’s memes in the first place, but I certainly wouldn’t go along with this one in particular.

I call this “soft patriotism.” It takes nothing to post it and it means nothing. It’s soft… it’s easy to do… it doesn’t cost you anything. You push a button and then act like you just earned your Patriotism cred.

You want to impress me with your patriotism? Fight for the free speech of your sworn enemy. Uphold the rights of others to do that which you abhor. Support what it means to be American, rather than fighting about customs involving a colorful piece of cloth.

Fight for freedom and equality for everyone, or take your US Flag lapel pin and stick it up your ass.

Seriously? The party who idolized Trump is casting aspersions on someone else’s hair? Please…

I realize this is a lightweight barb and not a position paper. If you want to go after Bernie, there are plenty of valid topics to choose from. Call me when you’ve got a grown-up opinion.

Pat Tillman would roll over in his grave if he saw his image being used like this.

Yes, Tillman quit the NFL and volunteered to serve in the army after 9/11, and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan (which the army worked hard to cover up). And he made it abundantly clear, before he left and during his service that he wanted no part of anyone making a hero or an icon out of him. He made a decision based on his personal beliefs and refused to become a poster-boy for it.

That someone wants to make a sneaker ad out of Tillman shows, again, how little conservatives think of veterans. They are props to be used to get people to feel a certain way. What the veteran in question thinks about the subject is clearly irrelevant.

Two minutes of research would have told this meme’s creator that Pat Tillman was an inappropriate centerpiece for his creation. But veterans aren’t worth even two minute’s time to these people.

I know that this has been run everywhere already and the cartoonist lost his job over it. But I want it on my site because when I saw it the first time, I thought it was one of the most powerful editorial cartoons I’ve ever seen. It describes the Trump Administration to a tee.

An artist this skilled and incisive should have a list of job opportunities as long as his arm by now. I hope he finds a home.

Monday, July 1, 2019


As I mentioned in last week’s meme dump, Sweetpea and I got married last week on a beach in Florida. We met in January of 2017, got engaged in May of 2018, moved in together in July of 2018, and now here we are, a married couple.

So if you’ll indulge me a bit, I’ll take a break from my usual political material and talk about our experiences last week.

So far, the best thing about being married is that I no longer have to dither about what to call her: fiancĂ©, fiancĂ©e, financier… girlfriend, lady-friend, life-partner or whatever. Now it’s just “wife.”

“This is my wife, Sweetpea.”

“Have you seen my wife?”

“I’m just waiting for my wife.” (Usually spoken outside a restroom door.)

One night last weekend, I started giggling, out of the blue. She inquired why. I told her, as I was contemplating having a wife, that I suddenly recalled a verse we guys used to repeat as teenagers:

I love my wife, for all my life
Especially in her nightie.
‘Cuz when the moonlight flits, across her tits,
Oh Jesus Christ Almighty!”

(We were not a really a group of deep thinkers as boys.)

All along, we wanted a simple wedding ceremony, just 10 minutes on the beach, and out. A guerilla wedding, if you will. We didn’t want a big crowd either, just her parents and mine. This was all her idea and I was fine with it. It’s what she wanted even though it was her first wedding.

I figured I’ve already had my big wedding to-do. If she wanted hers, I’d be game, but I certainly wasn’t against saving 10-grand and doing it quick and easy on a beach.

Because my folks live on the Florida panhandle, we’d have a place to stay and some foot-soldiers on the ground to help us if need be. So we spent the last year or so putting our plans into motion. Minimalist as they were, we’d still need plane tickets, a hotel, a marriage license, a church official and a place to do the deed.

It’s pretty easy to put that stuff together in this day and age. I found a reverend online who would do any kind of service we wanted, wherever we wanted. Last year when we went to visit my parents, we scouted out an isolated place on the beach, out past where all the hotels and condos were.

We flew down on Saturday, to spend the first couple days with my folks. Dad had all his good pool toys out for us:

Two margaritas, a giant Froot Loop, and Turd Ferguson.

We got our marriage license on Monday, three days before the wedding. Because we were from out of state, we didn’t have to wait the mandatory three days that the natives do, but we would be prepared either way.

Wednesday night, we checked into a Hilton hotel that Dad had arranged for us, right on the beach, and it was freakin’ gorgeous.

The view from our balcony.

They had a nice pool on the grounds, a kiddie pool, a bar, and access to the beach. We used all of it,  believe me! (Well, maybe not the kiddie pool.)

Sweetpea and I spend quite a while trying to determine if the art in our room was supposed to be anything in particular or just an abstract blot.

I see a pissed off goat with smoke horns. Sweetpea saw land surrounded by water. You armchair psychologists can make of that what you will.

Her parents came out to the hotel that night, met my parents and we all had a nice introductory dinner.

Thursday was the Big Day. Wedding at 9:00 AM.

All weddings have at least one crisis, and we got off lucky, but not scot-free. Our little bump was when Sweetpea tried on the floral headpiece we bought for around $60. She was anticipating a few simple interwoven sprigs of baby’s breath. When she tried it on, it was bulkier; more like a crown, which when combined with her simple white summer dress, made her look like she was heading to a Delta House toga party.

We worked on slimming it down by pulling off some of the buds, but it was what it was. I didn’t really want to abandon it; hell it cost more than all of our wedding outfits combined! For what it’s worth, I thought she looked gorgeous in it.

Reverend Michelle picked us up and took us down to our beach spot, where all the parents were waiting for us. We rolled onto the beach, went through the service, exchanged vows and rings, kissed the bride, and were done in no more than five or six minutes. Even after posing for pictures, we were still off the beach within 10 minutes, just like we planned.

There were maybe two other people on the beach aside from us. I don’t think they even noticed what we were doing.

We returned to the hotel for breakfast and then the parents departed. We’d have our honeymoon at the hotel until we left for home on Sunday.

We noticed, on Saturday, that another wedding was taking place on the beach, but right there at the hotel. We could see the whole thing from our balcony.

Someone else’s wedding.

No offense to this couple, but this was everything we wanted to avoid… a big affair right out in front of everyone. You can see other people walking around, or watching the proceedings, or just going for a swim in the background. I did NOT want to be a sideshow; that’s why we wanted to get away from the hotels and condos.

As for the rest of our weekend, it was glorious. We’d go to the beach in the morning,

…shower off, go out to lunch, hit the pool in the afternoon, have drinks and go out to dinner. It was like, “Hey, marriage is easy!

Of course, there’s also that expression, “The honeymoon’s over…”

Worst part of our time there, (aside from feeling like a walrus from all the awesome meals we had), was my learning that when you spend too much time in a bathing suit, it can start to chafe the old undercarriage. It felt like the lining of my trunks was erasing my t’aint. Next thing you know, I’m walking around like I just got off a horse.

The weather was glorious all week, up until Saturday. Luckily we were out on the beach early but got to watch this ominous storm roll in before we got outta Dodge.

It looks like the alien ships are coming, yet everyone else is like, “Meh. I paid for this chair and umbrella for another two hours; I ain’t leavin’.”

It was kind of a gradual thing. One minute it’s reasonably sunny, the next, the cows are flying by.

A panorama shot of it going from nice to not-so-nice in one look.

All weekend long, we just kept talking about how amazing it was that we are now married. (Or as I put it, “You’re stuck with my ass now; there’s a strict no-returns policy in my family.”

I have confidence, though, that this one will stick because I learned something recently. This is my second marriage and it was on the 27th. My sister’s second and current 18-year marriage was on the 27th. My brother’s first and only marriage (of 29 years) was on the 27th. So obviously, my family just has to get married on the 27th of the month and it will last forever!

I don’t believe we all have “that one soulmate,” or in divine intervention, but I’m with the person I’m supposed to be with. She’s the best woman I’ve ever met, or at least the best for me. If I can’t make it work with Sweetpea, I might as well just be a hermit, go off to live in a hole, and eat juniper berries.

Future Bluz, if he doesn’t act right.

It’s on me now to be the husband my baby deserves and be worthy of her love.

Thank you for loving me, Sweetpea. I love you.

Obligatory Rings Shot

Next week, I’ll be back to ranting about politics and discussing the things I missed last week.