Monday, March 30, 2020

When They Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

Last week the Republican Senate put their American Values right out there for all to see, when passing the most recent coronavirus relief bill. This says it best:

Eventually, the Democrats were able to get some language added that would provide some accountability and guidance to the $500b corporate slush fund, so whoever received these funds had to be made public and there were restrictions in place to prevent companies from using it for bonuses, stock buy-backs and the like.

Then when the Current Occupant signed it, he issued a signing statement saying he was not going to enforce any of the slush fund restrictions.

You tell me, why is it so important for anonymous companies to receive billions of dollars without restriction or transparency? To be clear, this $500 billion is about half of the entire relief package. And it all goes to companies who can do whatever they want with it and we will never be the wiser.

And those are the same companies who took the giant corporate tax cut savings and used it to pad their bonuses and stock prices, without doing jack for its employees. In other words, they ate their two weeks’ worth of quarantine food on Monday and now they’re complaining about being hungry on Wednesday. Screw’em. They could have strengthened they’re company’s readiness in advance, like many of the big banks did.

After the 2008 recession, major banks were required to have x-amount of dollars tucked away in reserve, to handle future recessions without needing another bailout. Granted they were forced to do that, but it was the right thing to do. Other companies could have done the same, especially after the trough opened up last year with the tax cuts. But they went the route of executive enrichment and a better short-term P&L statement.

In a truly fiendish vein, some Republican politicians and Fox “News” hacks have been pushing the idea that we should let the old people die so to not sink the economy. It’s a good thing. Seriously.

This is where the Family Values people are? Bump off the grandparents so that the 1%ers still get their dividends? That’s so insane. But it shows us exactly what Republican “Family Values” are: To hell with YOUR family, I don’t want MINE to be inconvenienced. The only thing the ruling class Republicans value is the almighty dollar. Everything else (like social issues, racist immigration policy) is just a way to get enough people to vote for them so that they may continue to pursue unrestrained wealth.

I join with a chorus of others, who say, “If you want to sacrifice the old to spare the profits, YOU GO FIRST!

When cruising Facebook on Saturday, I saw someone post a meme about how Congress should forget about the giant anonymous slush fund for corporations and send the people their $1200. Which is fine, but later that same afternoon, I saw the same person post another meme telling people “Come November, remember that Virginia’s two senators voted against the coronavirus relief package.” Which they did because it had that giant, anonymous slush fund for corporations. Unbelievable.

I still see my conservative friends trying to defend the president’s actions regarding the virus. They can’t believe why the media would ask about the gargantuan fuckups from January onward, (“It’s a hoax, it’s not serious, the flu is worse, it’s China’s fault”), before the big U-Turn into “OK, maybe it’s serious.” Completely unnewsworthy. They’re probably just taking their cues from the White House where media criticism continues to flow forth unabated to anyone who dares suggest their hero might have done something an eensy bit better, to prevent the clusterfuck we are now entertaining.

As you can see, there are two opinions, the correct one and the appalling conservative one.

I feel bad for the poor governors he is now quarreling with because they were not grateful enough for his day-late-and-a-dollar-short pandemic response. Like a petulant child, he’s holding up supplies from Michigan, New York and California, who he thinks “hasn’t been nice to him,” and showering Florida with everything they need. Maybe they need to update the White House Application form I unveiled a couple weeks back.

People love to complain about all the non-pandemic-related items ended up in the relief bill, but it seems these people have never seen a bill become law before. You can go back across the last 50 years and find that there are extra items inserted into bills just about every goddamned time. For better or worse, that’s how the sausage gets made.

You want this, you have to give me that.”

You want a $500 billion slush fund for your rich friends? We need movement on mail-in voting. Pelosi is no dummy. In order to allow the slush fund, she needed something that was just as painful for the Republicans to give up. Regardless that it is an antidote to the danger of massive crowds gathering on voting day, mail-in voting goes against every voter-suppression strategy they’ve rolled out since SCOTUS defanged the Voter’s Rights Act. Today, Trump said it himself on Fox and Friends, “They had levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Our Republican president: Friend of Democracy*

*As long as it’s only well-to-do white people and racists voting.

And what is the Republican answer to so many Americans who don’t like their policies? Do they try to reach out to see what’s important to them? Do they propose things that make their lives better, that they could use to seek their vote? Of course not. They just try to keep them from voting.

What’s supposed to be the big deal is the $1200 checks. I just wonder what they’re going to do the next month after the money goes out. It’s not like $1200 is going to go very far. I figure that’s one rent or mortgage payment and some groceries, if that. (Which is heavily depending on where one lives). What about the next month?

I can just hear the Republican Senators bemoaning how the lazy people just squandered their first check so they can ask for more. Again, these guys are ghouls. Racist, country club, fucking ghouls.

At least King Dipshit backed off his Easter Return promises. Someone must have tied him down and forced him to listen to reason. (I’m sure it wasn’t Pence.) But isn’t it funny how he always has to be pushed into doing the obvious “right thing.”  And again, always too late to get the maximum benefit. He’s the poster boy for closing the barn door after the horses have run free.

This is just what happens when your first and strongest instinct is to promote, insulate, and enrich yourself at the cost of millions of others. Millions about whom you don’t give a flying fig.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Life During COVID

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around…” ~David Byrne~

As we begin our second real week of lockdown, there’s a lot going on.

Congress is working on a “bailout” bill but, of course, who gets bailed out and by how much is a matter of great debate. Both sides are pushing the happy talk of the $1200 checks that are supposed to come out to all eligible Americans. But naturally, the Republicans are pushing for a giant slush fund of taxpayer dough to be set aside for big business. The scary part is that they set up Steve Mnuchin to be the sole distributor of the funds, gave no conditions for which the money can be used, and also included language assuring non-disclosure for six months regarding who receives the funds.

So, all the Republican Party favorites would be sure to get their big fat slice of the pie, to use however they see fit, and no one would know until it was ancient history (AND the election is over). Judging by the previous bounty of tax dollars they received, we can assume that their non-executive employees will see zero benefits, but there will be stock buybacks and executive bonuses. You know, GOP BAU.

The Democratic senators found their backbones and voted the bill down, risking being blamed for holding up the checks. (Which started immediately, with Mitch McConnell accusing them of fiddling around while the country burns.) The balls on that guy…

This may be a way to reduce the payout to working class Americans. You watch, the GOP will exchange the slush fund for a reduction in direct payments to Americans. Then they can claim they tried to help and blame Democrats for the reduced sum. Their dogma just doesn’t allow for handing out money for nothing.

Answer: Just as many as those who took their stock dividends after the Obama Recovery.

Getting back to those checks… I hope there’s a way to use the ACH from past returns to allow for direct deposit. Otherwise, there’s going to be a whole cottage industry of dudes following the mailman around (at a distance) so they can steal the checks as soon as they hit the mailbox. It’s gonna happen. All they have to do is avoid houses with cars in the driveway.

In my case, I get an email every morning with a scan of what mail is coming my way. If I see anything “official-looking,” I’ll be out there in a Haz-Mat suit waiting to greet that mailman personally.

I saw that the Current Occupant* now thinks he’s a “Wartime President.” I swear the first time I saw him say that I thought, “Christ, he’s gonna cancel the elections.” Later I saw a few write-ups on how that’s not legally possible because his term will expire regardless of whether there’s a new guy lined up to take over. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try. After all, he’s got his lackeys on the SCOTUS who will do whatever he says. He’ll figure it’s at least worth a shot. You really can’t see him making the argument that his term should be extended because of a crisis, COVID-19 or whatever else he can drum up?

What they need to do is start working on getting the November elections ready to be 100% mail-in. Not that the Republicans will go along… the more election chaos, long lines, reporting problems, the better for them. Low turnout is the easiest way for them to win. You KNOW the rich districts will have enough voting machines.

I saw on our friend Infidel753’s blog that among the current drugs that are being tested for efficacy against the COVID, is the blood pressure medication, Losartan. It would be quite a stroke of good luck it that’s the one the turns out to be effective. I take that right now and it’s one of the cheapest drugs out there. My 90-day supply (at one pill a day) costs me around $5.00.

Now, the question is, by how much are they going to jack up the price if this comes to pass? And they don’t even have to raise it up to Insulin prices… they could just charge $10 and it would still be considered cheap and they double their profit margin. Of course, that would require a degree of restraint and you know how restrained Big Pharma is. The only thing longer than their history of price gouging is the length of the disclaimer on their TV ads.

I understand the 2020 Census is taking a hit from the virus. No home visits for the time being so they have to use other means. I hope they’re not waiting for help from this administration. Republicans will be thoroughly delighted by a massive undercount of citizens, especially non-homeowners. That’s their best-case scenario. They will not cooperate with any efforts to count up all the likely votes against them.

Here in Chateau Bluz, we’re under informal house quarantine. I’ve been working from home since 3/12 and Sweetpea’s school (where she teaches grade school) has been closed since 3/16. As much as it pains me to say, our Republican Governor, Larry Hogan has been doing a good job of handling the pandemic.

While he’s still a Republican and all about propping up business, he’s neither a religious zealot, gay basher, nor a Trump toady. He’s been taking this thing seriously since early in the year and is not pulling any punches, unlike another prominent Republican leader.

Today he just closed all non-essential businesses and while he’s not ordering an official state of quarantine, he’s recommending we act like there is one. I may criticize him on other things, but not on this. He’s doing a good job.

The big question is what they’re going to do about the schools. They started with a 2-week closure that is scheduled to end this Friday. While I think there’s a zero percent chance of school starting again on Monday, they haven’t announced anything further. I understand this is a tricky situation. If students can’t go back, what do you do with them? Pass them on after only a little over a half year’s instruction? Hold them back? Combination of the two? Start school early next year? And more importantly, do the teachers still get paid?

It’s funny what they characterize as “essential” services. For example, liquor stores are remaining open. Maybe that’s to allow room to close all the bars. Or maybe it’s because he realizes that people need to have something to do when they’re cooped up at home all week.

I’ve been trying to get myself out the door to go get a haircut for the last month but never broke the household inertia. Now it looks like Sweetpea is going to have to do the honors. I guess if you’re going to submit to an amateur haircut, doing it during a quarantine is the best possible option. There will be plenty of time for it to grow back before anyone else has to look at it.

While we’re not out there panic-buying, we have been going to the store regularly, just to pick up whatever is available. The grocery stores in our area have been carving out a special time for the elderly to shop, between 6:00 and 7:00 AM. The only problem is that the geezens are buying everything up.

Sweetpea went out this morning to find a whole lot of nothing. The cashier said they were trying to enforce quantity limits but the old people were pitching a fit about it while trying to buy 6 packages of hamburger meat.

I told her that next time I’ll go during the old folks’ hour and I’ll dress the part. I’ll mess up my hair, wear socks and sandals, hike up my pants, wear my eye-doctor sunglasses under my regular multi-focal lenses and throw a bag of Werther’s in the cart first thing. I’ll fit right in.

Yeah, but no LGBT, Jews, Muslims or atheists would be allowed to get the test.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Odd Bits - The Cursed Edition

I Swear
Last week there was a minor stir on the campaign trail when Joe Biden told a Michigan auto-worker he was full of shit (in response to having his gun rights position aggressively mischaracterized by the guy.) This immediately brought me back to 1972 and a similar dust-up in Michigan, only with George McGovern.

I was 11 and when I saw the clipping in the paper, I thought it was the funniest thing ever. In fact, I pressed it into a photo album I was making, which I still have and will lovingly display for you here today.

The salient part:

A youth told (McGovern), “He will beat you so bad that you’ll wish you never left South Dakota.”

McGovern said, “I’ve got a secret for you.”

As the youth leaned forward, McGovern whispered in his ear, “Kiss my ass.”

The young man recoiled and said, “He said a profanity!”

Oh, such innocent times.

I hope this the only facet that will be shared by Biden and McGovern. Must be something about Michigan that makes a guy want to swear. (And as a former Ohioan, I have some pretty good ideas about what it could be.)

Republicans can’t make much hay out of this, not with the way their golden boy swears in public. Either way, this is the kind of thing to which I don’t pay any serious mind. It just amuses me. All I care about is what someone is going to do once they’re in office.

Truth Serum
One thing the coronavirus is doing is exposing where politicians’ priorities lie. For the Republicans, it brings their “Big Business” tendencies right to the front. Doesn’t it seem that every remedy the GOP supports is for the top end? And every solution for us working people, they oppose?

Like the payroll tax, for example. Sure, everyone would like a little extra cash in their pocket, but how does this solve the pandemic problem? That “little extra cash” is not going to pay for testing or treatment (IF you can even find testing). And people who are thrown out of work or have their hours slashed are not going to benefit from it at all.

BUT, weakening Social Security IS one of the long-range plans from the GOP, so they can commence with privatizing it and opening the money spigot to Wall Street.

Yes, it’s Still Racism
Did you notice how the conservatives are calling it the China coronavirus? Rahm Emmanuel may have said they should “You never let a serious crisis go to waste*,” but the Republican line might be, “Never pass up a chance to hang a racist smear on the enemy.”

They do this “China” thing the same way they always called him “Barack Hussein Obama.” And the rednecks always hit that “sein” part extra hard, so that you couldn’t miss that they were tagging the President as “Other,” as someone apart from themselves.

Which is right, I suppose. They were nowhere near as smart as he was.

*The oft-omitted rest of the quote: “And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Poll Vaulting
While it’s nice that polling shows that Biden has a comfortable lead over Trump in a prospective matchup, please be aware that it doesn’t mean jack shit. Hillary had a big lead too, but the problem is that national polls are meaningless.

What are important are the state by state polls, because that’s how we elect presidents… state by state through the Electoral College. (Which the Republicans will NEVER give up because it’s their only means of winning the presidency, given demographic trends.)

So take national polls with a grain of salt. It’s nice to hear good things, but the devil is in the details. It’s more important for Biden to be ahead in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, or any of the other states that Hillary was supposed to win but didn’t.

Pork Barrel Politics
The spread of the GOP Coronavirus reminds me of all the possible-pandemics that came before, Avian Flu, H1N1, Ebola, SARS, and the lot. Back when we were all worried about the swine flu I found solace in this cute little graphic.

I think it’s getting to the point where hand sanitizer and masks aren’t enough. We have to go full-on Naked Gun.

Speaking of cheap graphics, let’s look at some misguided Facebook memes, shall we?

Oh, how things have changed in just 6 and a half short years. This, from a guy who won’t take responsibility for anything that doesn’t end up in ticker-tape parade in his honor.

Are you fucking kidding me? His whole presidency has been for sale to the highest bidder. He never detached from his hotel business, he just pushed it to his sons for safekeeping until he returns. His administration has been a hallmark of self-enrichment, from foreign governments buying up entire hotel floors (without using them) to repeatedly bringing his whole staff and security entourage to his own golf resorts, spending more time golfing than any president in history, and billing the taxpayers for the whole thing. His daughter is cleaning up on recently granted Chinese trademarks. He pushes tax laws that directly benefit his hotel business.

Hell, Trump can be “bought” just by telling him how great he is. The creator of this meme is so removed from reality he probably thinks Trump’s hair looks good too.

Also, are we still pretending that the “Deep State” is a thing? The “Deep State” is a fever dream whipped up by conservative conspiracy theorists as an excuse/scapegoat for whatever they don’t like. Every administration is made up of staffers who agree and don’t agree with the president. Slapping a name on one set does not make it a thing.

With problems like these, it’s not even worth bringing up spelling mistakes.

So, we’re saying that the taxpayers all have to agree with whatever the government spends money on? Great. Now they’ll never spend another dime because someone will always disagree. Or is it that only their side has to agree?

Look, the government spends billions on things most citizens wouldn’t agree to. For example, I don’t agree to spend money on energy company subsidies, Big Pharma subsidies, or abstinence classes. Why is eliminating student debt such a special area?

My theory is that this meme is designed to provide cover. If they just said, “We shouldn’t eliminate student debt because I’m not getting any of benefit,” it would just sound greedy and selfish from a party that claims to be the true moral center of the country.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Mr. President? Mr. Norris on the Phone and He Sounds Pissed

Radio: And now on with our Easy Eighties Pop Favorites…

Juice Newton: “Just call me Angel of the Morning, baby, just touch my cheek before you leave me

[Major Cheech n Chong record scratch]

Not on the face! Not on the face! I know you’re supposed to be an Angel-callin’, cheek-touchin’ leaver, but you’ll have to settle for being an Angel-calling NO-FACE-TOUCHING leaver… I don’t want the COVID!

Radio: Next up, the Georgia Satellites!

Georgia Satellites: “Don’t hand me no lines and Keep Your Hands to Yourself!”

That’s better!

The quote from the Current Occupant is that he hasn’t touched his face in over two weeks, just because. And NOT because the COVID-19 is serious or anything.

I think that’s something he learned from his new Korean BFF. You know how Kim Jong Il used to promote how he made like 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf, bowled a perfect “300” game, and Superman crap like that? Trump is just throwing out these ludicrous claims, letting Rush Limbaugh and Fox “News” pass them on, and BANG, he’s a legend. There’s nothing he doesn’t know or can’t do.

I don’t know what the offspring, Kim Jong Un claims to be able to do. From the looks of it, he can claim that every year he wins the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest in the afternoon and then each night goes out for pizza and beer.

Trump’s younger son, Twiddle-Dumber, just claimed 30,000 people heard his Pops speak at a recent rally… at a venue that held 8600. At this point, these people are so full of shit they might as well start repurposing Chuck Norris jokes.

“Donald Trump can get a woman pregnant by pointing a finger at her and saying “Covfefe!”

“Under Donald Trump's elaborate hairdo is another head of hair.”

“Donald Trump doesn’t read books. He stares at them until someone puts on Fox and Friends.”

“Donald Trump shot the sheriff on 5th Avenue, but he had Michael Cohen threaten the deputy.”

“All those names that appear on the screen after an episode of The Apprentice are not credits, just a list of people who Donald Trump stiffed on the bill for their services.”

“Donald Trump used Monopoly money and a Get Out of Jail Free card to pay off his loans to Deutsche Bank.”

OK, that last one is over the top. Trump doesn’t pay loans back.

Over the last few days, we’ve been treated to more and more bizarre claims from Trump, like contradicting department heads by saying there will be a vaccine in a few months (as opposed to at least 18), that he didn’t want a cruise ship with 21 confirmed cases of the virus to dock because the numbers would (make him) look bad and that no one could have foreseen the spread of this virus (besides all the other countries who have been taking aggressive action for months.)

I made the point last week that it almost seems like he’s trying to spread the virus, as a means of voter suppression, consolidation of goods, and cheap real estate. I just can’t see anyone being so inept and ineffective without it being intentional.

It just seems so bass-ackward. Why exacerbate a health crisis when you’re trying to curtail access to medical coverage? Every time he claims that if it weren’t for Democrats, he’d roll out the best health care plan ever, remember that the Republicans have not put forth a single comprehensive health plan. Their only actions have been to eliminate the portions of the ACA that they can get away with until they can scrap the whole thing. They have nothing to replace it and they’ve had 10 years to come up with something.

It’s kind of like having the stock market crash at the same time you’re talking about cutting Social Security. Republicans have been trying to privatize Social Security for decades. It’s like they can’t stand it that there’s this huge chunk of cash out there that they can’t divert to their Wall Street friends. Privatizing Social Security puts that money into play but then it’s dependent on the whims of the stock market. Which is tanking.

Wouldn't you just love to run into one of those guys who, when arguing politics, just keeps saying, "But how's your 401k doing?" They seem to be hiding out now.

It’s funny that for all the effort to use lies and misdirection to prop up the stock market, it’s falling off the table like Bloomberg’s campaign after his first debate. It’s almost as if people suddenly realized that Trump is out of his depth because a virus doesn’t respond to blustering, manipulating data name-calling, and pointing fingers, it just keeps spreading. Just like TLC reality shows.

Or maybe we just know enough to listen to those who ARE experts in infectious diseases, rather than firing or gagging them.

Maybe if there were still some same voices in the room, our pandemic readiness might have been better. But Trump only hires sycophants and toadies now, who tell him nothing but that which he wants to hear.

Have you seen the new White House employment applications?

Interviews are being held in the cloakroom after 4th period.

Director’s DVD Commentary 1: In advertising, especially on radio, the “record scratch” sound is ubiquitous. Does anyone under 18 even know what that is or why it’s used? I wonder if they just think it’s some strange artifact from radio-land.

Cheech and Chong had a couple of epic “record scratch” moments on their albums, hence my use as a descriptor. One was when the “father” tries to turn off his son’s music on “Earache My Eye,” eliciting shrieks of protest. The other is the last track of one of their albums where “Man” (Chong’s “hippy dude”) tries to put on the “New Cheech and Chong album” and scratches it up so badly the record ends with a repeated skip.

Director’s DVD Commentary 2: If you’ve never heard of Chuck Norris jokes, I apologize for that middle section of the post. Each of those Trump jokes is based on (what I presumed to be) well-known Chuck Norris jokes. If I presumed wrong, please forgive me. (I suppose I could include the original jokes here, but then once you have to explain a joke, the moment is gone.)

Also, despite this post’s title, Mr. Norris would probably not be pissed about these Trumpian claims. After all, he is a devoted religious-right conservative. He’d probably want a taste of the gate, though.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Is COVID 19 the New Covfefe?

Judging from the way the Coronavirus saga has unfolded, the only conclusion I can draw is that Trump wants an epidemic to sweep through the United States. That’s the only way his actions make any sense. Just think, he started preparing for this two years ago.

Getting rid of all the infectious disease prevention experts is an excellent first step. Whether it’s under the guise of cost-cutting or just getting rid of more former Obama employees, it ends up the same: any new pandemic specialists would have to be hired by Trump’s team, after administering a pledge of loyalty, no doubt.

Next step, make sure no government “experts” say anything about the virus to the media and spook the stock market. After all, that’s the important thing with Republicans. Gotta keep those dividends rolling in.

To be sure no one interfered with the plan, he got rid of most of this cabinet and senior staff and replaced them with toadies who would indulge his every whim. And then he put his most devoted lapdog, Mike Pence, in charge of the whole anti-pandemic operation.

This is Mike Pence’s 3-Step program to pandemic mitigation:

1)      Prayer circles.
2)      Remove funding from any medical organization involved in women’s health.
3)      Blame Obama, Democrats, gays, fornicators and atheists when it all goes kerflooey.

With the gag order on, Trump can speak to the masses himself to alleviate their anxiety.

And with that, we would all skip merrily along waiting for Spring to exterminate this over-rated virus. And the April Fool’s Day prank would be on us.

And why would Republicans want a mass die-off of Americans? Easy… voter suppression, less strain on public assistance, more supplies for the rest, and real estate for sale dirt cheap. And the mass fatalities from around the world? Screw’em! America First! 

They went to all this trouble to steal the 2016 election; it would be a shame to give it back after only four years. They already played the “What Russians?” card last time so they know people will be looking for it again. They have to be more creative this time around.

They say those with the highest risk of death from COVID 19 are the elderly and very young. The elderly are the most reliable voting bloc, which is pretty inconvenient if one of your goals is to get rid of Social Security. So when the geezers start dying off, maybe you can get away with privatization without retaliation at the polls.

And the young? Future socialists are a big threat to the Republican way of life. And any hippies, gays, atheists, and minorities that also die off are just the gravy. If enough people die off, it will cover up the gaping holes in the medical health system. And the mortuary business will be thriving!

Yes, they’ll have to make sure that the rank and file Trumpanzees don’t get swept up in this mass fatalities. I suspect that wouldn’t plant the virus in China before they first had a vaccine in hand. I bet all the Wall Street execs and hedge fund managers have already had their shot. They probably come free with the weekend golf package at Mar a Lago.

That would take care of the 1%ers, but to really make it go, they need to ensure the devoted followers known as The Base come through unscathed. Simple fix, though, with an aerosol form of the vaccine, which can be dispersed with the confetti at MAGA rallies.

Is all this far-fetched? Sure it is. But it’s the only logical path given what’s already transpired. It has to be a plan for power consolidation or else it’s just batshit crazy.

Otherwise, it would have to be the dumbest and most destructive set of actions against the health and livelihood of its own citizens that any administration has ever taken.

What are the odds of that one President could be that fucking stupid?