Monday, February 24, 2020

Debatable Topics

Last week’s Democratic debate in Nevada is the first one I actually enjoyed. Obviously, it helps that the herd has been thinned a bit, so we got to hear from everyone. But man, where the hell has Elizabeth Warren been all this time. She came out like a gangsta and gave it to Bloomberg like she just caught him banging the nanny.

Everyone was kind of testy, weren’t they? While Liz was throwing haymakers, Bernie was grumpy as always, and Amy and Pete were fighting like siblings at the kid’s table. I felt like someone should have put a parent between them.  Joe would start calmly but do a slow build so that by the time he was done, he was rolling like Bluto giving his “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” speech.

It’s not that I want to see some good presidential prospects (and Bloomberg) tearing each other down, but damn, it’s about time someone showed a little feistiness.

Speaking of Bloomberg, watching him “debate,” left me with one dominating thought: “THIS is the guy everyone is so worked up about?” He looked like a barely animated corpse. All he needed to do to complete the illusion is do the soft-shoe and sing “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

I wanted Amy Klobuchar to do better, I really did. A couple weeks ago, I took an online quiz that was supposed to match my opinions with those of the Democratic candidates. My results came out 1) Klobuchar 2) Warren. So that made me want to give her a serious listen. But she just came across like a freshman trying to justify a spot at the cool kids’ table. Then after the debate, she cut a path straight for the exit, passing up the chance to look confident and schmoozy with the others. She looked pissed, which is probably not the image you want when you have a rep for being a mean boss.

The night’s clear winner was Warren. Her demolition of Bloomberg was essentially an audition for the job of dismantling that other crass billionaire, on a debate stage this summer. She has passion and wit and a plan for everything.

Some people like the idea of a president they “can have a beer with.” I say, screw that. If I wanted an amiable drunk, I’d vote for Norm from Cheers. I want the president to be the smartest fucker in the room. I think Liz was the smartest person on that stage by far. She’s honest and transparent about what she intends to do. Her entire career has centered on ending the enormous advantages that Wall Street and the financial sector enjoy in this country, to the detriment of everyone else who’s not filthy rich. Her track record says that she’ll do what she says she’s going to do.

Obviously, that scares the hell out of the 1-percenters, who will do anything to keep her from winning (like ignoring her in news reports and polling projections.) So I think it’s a shame that her debate performance didn’t translate into a better showing in the Nevada caucus. Maybe it was too close to the event. Maybe it was just because it was a caucus, which for the life of me, I can’t understand why they even exist.

Is it not enough just to place votes and count them up? Why go through the whole dog and pony show? This allows a fraction of the voting public to participate in the primary, which then gets blown completely out of proportion. It almost sounds like the system is rigged by a small percentage of people who love hanging out with strangers in gymnasiums for several hours and arguing about politics. I say, the hell with “tradition,” when your tradition is so useless and stupid. Cast the votes, count the votes, declare a winner.

I know the media wants to run the shocking finale before the first act is through, but there’s a long way to go here before anyone gets too anxious about the eventual Democratic nominee. Three states have spoken, we have 47 more, plus a couple territories, yet to come. I read somewhere that there have been only 70-some delegates assigned, out of over 3000 in total.

The media seems to want the story to be about the inevitability of Bernie Sanders. Even the Russians are working for him now. But lest you think it’s because he’s one of them, I think it’s the opposite. He’s the one the Russians (and Republicans) want to run against their puppet Trump. They must have the most confidence in their campaign tactics that involve him, or else they’d push someone else.

It reminds me of that scene in “All the President’s Men” where Deep Throat, (Hal Holbrook) is describing Nixon’s rat-fucking tactics to Bob Woodward (Robert Redford): (and I’m paraphrasing because it’s been so long since I’ve seen it) “Who do the Republicans want to run against? McGovern. And who did they end up running against? McGovern.”

Bernie’s not my guy. If he wins the nomination, I’ll support him, but he’s not my choice. I don’t see the point in campaigning on promises that have zero chance of being met. Even if he wins, he’ll need Congress to go along with his teardown of The System. No matter who’s in control of the House and Senate, I just don’t see that happening.

If we’re lucky, we may end up with a gradual move in that direction and if the Democrats can stack some wins, continue the process until it ends up something like Bernie’s envisioning. But as soon as the GOP regains control of anything, it’ll be killed in its crib.

And all this is assuming the new Trump-appointed judges and Supreme Court majority don’t end it before it can start.

Not Debatable At All
Just to put a bow on last week’s story about the “Ghetto Steaks…”

Sweetpea did indeed turn those tough, gnarly, leathery steaks into something much more fitting.
Over the weekend, she stuck them all in the crockpot and shredded them down. Then she filled some a cupcake pan with the remains, added some vegetables and a little juice, and froze them. Instant dog meals, just nuke and serve.

Now before you get PETA on our case for giving such low-grade meat to a dog, please realize that we have a Labrador retriever. It doesn’t matter how tough the meat is because he doesn’t bother to chew. He just laps down whatever is in his bowl and then comes back to see what else we have. He will eat a filet mignon or a bowl of sawdust with equal enthusiasm.

In our dog’s eyes, as long as we keep putting stuff in their bowl, we’re all Emeril Lagasse.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Odd Bits - The Ghetto Steak Edition

Ten Years of Lying
I saw this meme on Facebook the other day… it was so bad it had to be a domestic product. The Russian troll farms produce better propaganda than this.

When the hell did anyone reputable ever say that these things were going to happen “in 10 years?”

I’ve been reading about “global warming/climate change since the terms were invented and I never once saw anyone claim that “in 10 years” one of these things would happen.

This is a “Straw Man Fallacy” because the creator mischaracterizes his foe’s argument and then attacks that, rather than looking at the consensus coming from experts in the field.

Plus, we can look around us most any week and find new symptoms of a destabilizing planet, from Australia wildfires, to massive ice bergs breaking off, to 70-degree temperatures in Antarctica, to every year setting a new record for global high temperatures.

This meme also doesn’t account for efforts mankind has taken to avert these catastrophes.

Out of oil? We’ve gotten a lot better at finding and extracting oil. At the moment, there seems to be plenty. That won’t last forever, of course. Oil is a finite resource. We won’t run out of oil, but at some point, it will become too expensive to extract it.

Another Ice Age? Frankly, I think the author pulled this one out of his ass. I’ve never, ever, heard anyone prognosticate that another Ice Age is on the horizon. He probably just needed something for the 70s.

Acid Rain? Cutting carbon emissions and other poisons previously released into the atmosphere has been the work of the EPA, right up until the Trump* administration neutered it. Without environmental regulations being what they were, acid rain would have become a more common problem.

Ozone Layer? Same there. Notice how you rarely see aerosol cans anymore. The EPA again worked to get ozone-destroying chemicals out of common products (or at least greatly lessen the amount).

Ice caps gone? I think that one’s too fresh because we’re losing ice cover at the poles at record speed. There’s no easy fix there because the ice caps are disappearing due to the end result of all our activity raising the temperature all over the world.

Then the part about taxes? Taxes go up, taxes go down, they get allotted all over town. But that’s always the big concern, isn’t it? “Oh my God, I might have to pay for something that doesn’t benefit me tomorrow.

Maybe not tomorrow, but a big bill is coming due in our lifetimes. If we don’t figure out a way to get everyone on board, it’s going to suck all the joy out of being able to tell these climate-deniers “I told you so.”

A Modern Fable
The weekend before last, Sweetpea was out running errands. When she came out of the liquor store, she saw I guy hawking his wares out of his car. He had fish, steaks, and ribs, and was selling them cheap. He told her she could have a package of 9 steaks for $25.

She called me from her cell and asked me what I thought. I said, “$25 is a good price for 9 steaks. Take a look at them and if they look good, buy them.” He showed her the top two in the package, they looked good so she came home with the steaks.

Right off the bat, upon unwrapping the package, she saw that there were only eight of them. “Still,” I said, “$25 for eight steaks is a good deal too.”

Upon further inspection, they were awfully thin too, only about a half-inch thick. Plus, some of them were pretty narrow.

OK, so they weren’t very substantial. But what was there looked pretty good. We decided to grill them the next night. How bad could they be?

Worst steak in the world. Sweetpea knows her way around a grilled steak so I know it wasn’t her methods. But these things were tough, like shoe leather. And about as tasty. I could barely even cut through it. I had to hold the bone, sink my teeth in and pull just to get a bite. It was quite a mandibular workout. I wonder if it was even cow.

Plans now are to boil the rest down, mince them up, and give them to the dog.

The moral of the story: No matter how good the deal is, never trust ghetto steaks from a liquor store parking lot.

Bluz on Film
Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen a lot of new movies. Not that the movies were necessarily new but new to me. Saw some on the movie channels, a couple on new DVDs, a couple in the theater. I figured I’d give some quick impressions, which may be helpful if you’ve ever considered seeing any of these.

Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker: (Theater) I don’t know why so many people gave this such a hard time. I guess expectations were just so high… high enough that there’s no way some people won’t be disappointed. I liked it just fine… it was what the Star Wars movies are supposed to be: action-packed popcorn movies.

1917: (Theater) I mentioned this here, when Sweetpea and I had our Baltimore Staycation. I thought it was superb, and I marveled the whole time about how they can maintain the “one-unbroken-shot” motif throughout the whole movie.

Men in Black – International: (Pay-cable) Fun movie but it just doesn’t have the same snap without Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

Long Shot: (Pay-cable) Very funny movie. Seth Rogan plays a schlubby guy who becomes a speechwriter for Secretary of State and presidential candidate, Charlize Theron. (She used to babysit for him, in their youth). I love when the schlubby guy gets the girl, even though I know damn well that it’s as unrealistic as no innocent bystanders getting shot in a Die Hard movie. And by God, Charlize Theron may be the most gorgeous woman on earth.

Godzilla – King of the Monsters: (Pay cable) Also on cable. Monsters fight each other while the government tries to decide which ones are on their side. I love creature features but I have no idea how a movie with so many monsters could be so dull and slow-moving.

Zombieland 2: (DVD) If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. The big difference is that their angle on the zombie genre is no longer new, so it loses that little “zing” of originality. Still, there were some big laughs.

Terminator – Dark Fate (DVD) I’m a big fan of the franchise, but I don’t see why everyone was so down on this movie. I liked it. It’s what you expect from a Terminator movie. It picked up following T2 and ignored everything else. I wanted to see it in the theater, but it wasn’t there long enough. Three weeks and gone.

Birds of Prey (the Harley Quinn movie) (Theater) In my review of Suicide Squad, a few years back, I said, “I would watch a whole movie about Harley Quinn.” And so I did. In this R-rated DC Comics film, The Joker’s ex finds herself missing his protection when all those she wronged before are looking to get even. Another apparent bomb at the box office, I liked it anyway. People are so hard to please anymore. I find the character, as brilliantly played by Margot Robbie, audacious, hilarious, vulnerable and ultimately fascinating. One part of me thinks I could “fix” her, while the other part knows I’d just get screwed over in the end.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (DVD): I love the New Jersey series of Kevin Smith movies (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, etc.) This guy was running the continuing arc of a multi-film universe long before Marvel ever started theirs with Iron Man. Anyway, this one is basically one long series of recurring cameos by stars from the other films. There’s lots of meta-moments and inside jokes that we’ve come to expect. I loved it.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Voting Early and Often

Last week I participated in the first of several 2020 elections. This one was the primary for the empty Elijah Cummings seat in the 7th Congressional District. It was odd because it was the only race on the ballot (what with being a special election to fill the rest of his vacant term).

In April, we’ll vote again for the general election for that seat, as well as the primary for the same seat and other races of interest, like the one for president. The final vote will be the usual one in November.

Sweetpea and I ran right out at 7:00 AM to go vote and it was easily the fastest voting experience I ever had. Sure, only having one race on the ballot speeds things through. But at least at our voting place, they seemed to have their act together.

I was glad I knew who I was voting for when I walked in because if I hadn’t, it might have taken me another five minutes just to read the list of candidates. There were 24 of them, all running for that one seat. (And that didn’t include the seven Republicans running.)

I recognized four of them: one person whose family name is all over Baltimore politics, another was Cummings’ widow, another had spent a buttload of money on Facebook ads, and finally the one for whom I voted, Kweisi Mfume.

I knew he was a former president of the NAACP but I voted for him because he had occupied that same Congressional seat back in the 90s. I preferred to vote for someone who already knew how things worked in Congress, and wouldn’t need a lot of time and orientation. The dude has big shoes to fill. (I grant that someone may need to brief him on the cultural differences in the House between the 90s and now.)

What really got my attention about this voting experience was that they had on-the-spot voter registration. You can walk in there for the first time, register, and then go vote.

And that’s how it should be in every voting precinct in the country. It can’t be that hard… if the staggeringly bureaucracy that is Maryland state and local government can pull it off, how complicated can it really be?

But you won’t see this where Republicans are in charge because the last thing they want is for more people to vote. That’s why they don’t allow on-site registration, they curtail early voting, understaff and under-equip voting sites (especially in urban areas), and systematically purge the voter rolls (especially in urban jurisdictions), all under the guise of “preventing fraud.”

As anyone who’s bothered to look it up knows, on-site voter fraud is a statistically negligible event, even less than the margin of error. All the studies show it, including the one from the Bush Administration, who set out to prove that voter fraud was a serious problem and was being perpetrated by Democrats. The study found two things, Jack and Shit. The few fraudulent votes they found were for Republicans. They had to bury the whole thing because it didn’t accomplish its original goal, to pin voter fraud on the Dems and justify their voter suppression efforts.

A separate 14-year Loyola study found 31 instances of documented on-site voter fraud, out of over a billion votes. And almost all of them were garden-variety mistakes or bureaucratic errors rather than a plan to influence the election.

Yet, every time you ask a Republican about making it easier to vote, they act like there is an army of zombies and derelicts out there just waiting to vote under false pretenses. They love to point to dead people on the voter rolls as evidence of fraud. If anything, it’s evidence of shoddy bookkeeping, which should be tightened up. Wake me up when votes start to appear under those names. It just isn’t happening.

And what’s the Republican fix to dead people still being on voter rolls? Do they run a compare from death notices to the voter list? Hell no. They delete addresses of anyone who hadn’t voted recently or responded to a postcard. The other (accurate) way has no up-side for them.

On-site voter fraud would be the least effective way of election tampering, yet that’s the area where the GOP wants to concentrate their efforts, by requiring official IDs, which are selected specifically to make it easier for their people to vote rather than the enemy. Student IDs… out. NRA membership cards… in.

If you look into voter fraud at all, you’ll see that the most frequent and effective method of voter fraud involves absentee ballots. But nothing they have ever proposed to ferret out voter fraud has touched absentee ballots. I suspect that’s because the military uses them for all deployed soldiers. I suppose even those on-base use them too if they’re still registered in their home towns.

The only way to change any of this situation is to vote out those who created it. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, because of all the chicanery going on. 

Republicans know deep down that there are more prospective and registered Democrats than there are of them, so the only way to stay in power is to rig the system. Hence all the barriers, hence ignoring the Russians, hence the gerrymandering, hence the perverting of democracy while wrapping themselves in the flag.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Telling Those Assholes to Shut Up

Looks like the Trial That Wasn’t is wrapping up now. The prosecution is re-stating what they’ve already shown to be true and the defense will pretend that it never happened and everyone is gathered there for no apparent reason.

Delta House got a fairer hearing from Dean Wormer.

The only real question is which fig leaf would each wavering Senator grasp onto to cover their ass? And really it doesn’t even matter. If one doesn’t work, they just move on to the next one.

The only thing missing from the whole affair is Adam Schiff and the rest of the House Managers yelling “Blowjob” in between coughs.

After the inevitable acquittal, the first order of business back at the House of Representatives should be to subpoena John Bolton, Lev Parnas, and everyone else related to the new revelations. Get that video of Trump having dinner with the Ukrainian henchmen on the record. Get that audio of Trump telling them to “take care of” the Ambassador on every news station. Start the whole process again.

If the Senate won’t give them a real trial this time, keep sending them impeachment articles until they do. (They won’t, but it will keep the heat on Trump.) The case needs to be made crystal clear to the American public. Trump is a criminal and we have the evidence. There is no gray area here.

Of course, the Republicans are already making noises about impeaching Biden as soon as he takes office (should he win), just like they planned to do to Hilary. The big difference is that there is no evidence to back up their conspiracy theory. Hell, Snopes debunked all their talking points before they even became talking points.

Plus, if the Democrats keep the House, how are the Republicans going to start an impeachment hearing? Maybe I’m missing something from my governmental education, but doesn’t it take the House to produce and vote on articles of impeachment? How are Republicans going to pull that off? After the Blue Wave of 2018, I don’t think it’s going to get any better for them in the House. And with some breaks, they might even lose the Senate too.

And that’s exactly what we need because a new Democratic president will not get anything done without cooperation from both houses. Executive orders can only go so far. But at least they can go as far as to erase everything Trump did. The government needs a complete rebuild, after the damage done by this administration.

Republicans finally got their wish and have begun publicizing the name of the alleged Whistleblower. Over the weekend, I started seeing this meme pop up on Facebook.

I made a few edits. The radical right might be spreading this guy’s name and image, but I’m not going to help.

Director’s DVD Commentary: I’m assuming this is the guy but I could well be wrong. I have no evidence or proof that it is.  Nor do I guarantee the images aren’t photoshopped. I only know that Republicans are circulating the name and image and whoever he is, the rednecks are outside looking for him.

This is wrong on several levels, not least of which is blowing up the whistleblower program. There’s a reason for that program: it keeps mob mentality from harming someone serving the public interest. It’s just funny how the fact that none of the information initially provided by the Whistleblower has been proven wrong. In fact, the transcripts released by the White House essentially prove his point.

But that doesn’t keep people with their heads in the sand (or someplace warmer, smellier, and more humid) from going all Keyboard Vigilante on the guy.

But as to the contents of the meme, I have two major points.

First off, who says the WB hasn’t appeared in pictures with Republicans? Some guy working in a Republican Administration may well have pictures with the entire Cabinet. Picking out just these shots to make him look like a Democratic operative is intellectually dishonest. It’s no more valid than those misleadingly-edited Planned Parenthood “sting” videos.

And secondly, who else is left to call a foul on obvious criminal behavior? It’s not like the Republicans did anything about it. The Republicans who were initially involved made the call to move the recordings and transcripts to a secure server, to avoid discovery. And the Republicans in the Senate just showed everyone how seriously they take the concept of “policing their own.”

The dude took his life into his own hands and followed the official protocol to let the Powers That Be know that a serious incident took place, one that had vast legal ramifications. As far as I’m concerned, he’s an American hero.

And now on to the obligatory… “If someone had taken identical actions against Obama, Republicans would be throwing the fucker a parade.”

I’m Paying You to Get a Little Track Laid, Not Jump Around Like a Bunch of Kansas City Chiefs…
Congratulations to the Kansas City (Missouri) Chiefs. I was rooting for them for a couple reasons. The biggest reason is that it’s been 50 freakin’ years since they’ve even been in one. That is a looong-suffering fan base. The Chiefs vs Vikings in Super Bowl IV was the second Super Bowl I ever saw, and probably the first I paid any attention to. (I was 9 and just starting to follow football.)

The Chiefs have also been quite entertaining to watch all year and they didn’t disappoint last night. That was an exciting game all the way through. I like Patrick Mahomes, who has the best name ever. Just calling him by name makes it sound like you’re best buds.

Lastly, while I didn’t have anything against the 49ers in particular, I don’t want them to win that 6th Super Bowl, at least not until my Steelers win their 7th. Petty? Maybe. Do I care? Not even a little.  

It’s bad enough sharing the honors with the damned Patriots.