Monday, September 20, 2021

Take the Money and Run

With the tragic family events of this month still lingering, I’ve been feeling quite like an exposed nerve, and never so much as when I see people trying to be clever about masks and vaccinations on Facebook. The stupidity is pervasive and insulting. All week I’ve been socking away memes for dissection, for your edification and entertainment.

On the contrary, it is exactly the government’s job to protect the health of its citizens. What do you think the whole notion of national defense is? Defense from outside forces who would do you harm. Not to mention the US government has been in the “health” business since the advent of modern medicine. Vaccination mandates by state and federal governments are why we don’t have smallpox and polio right now. And the only reason measles is still on the board is because of the numbskulls who ducked getting the shot.

So the very premise of this argument is flawed from the outset, long before they tacked on a misinterpreted quote from Ben Franklin that’s been trotted out regularly by so many Freedumb lovers. Franklin was actually describing effective self-government in the service of security as the very liberty it would be contemptible to trade.

Say hello to Mr. False Equivalency! While they probably should ban cigarettes and remove toxins from any and all products, they get away with not doing so because cancer isn’t contagious! That changes the whole equation right there.

We are not a country in which one person’s “liberty” is allowed to cause real physical harm to another. There are laws against that. (At least in theory. In Texas, not so much.) So as the two scenarios being compared are nowhere near equitable, this is a completely invalid comparison.

As it is, this writer is pretending there’s no such thing as a transsexual. Transsexuals have been around for as long as mankind. It’s a real thing in some people’s psychological makeup and not just “pretending.” (Aside from the stray pervs who dress as women just to get a look in in the women’s locker room.)

And again, they’re comparing a personal, psychological issue that only affects the person having it, as opposed to a fatal, highly contagious virus. In other words, just word games mean to “own the libs.” People are dying alone because of ignorance like this being pushed. If they want to own the libs, own that.

From this morning’s paper. The timing was impeccable.

 

This is another faulty comparison because the effects of a group gathering outside one time for a few hours versus a group gathering indoors for 6 hours a day, five days a week, are quite different. If one person brings the ‘Rona into a classroom, the whole shebang will need to be quarantined and many could get seriously ill. Plus, they’re freaking kids, who are required to be there. Every adult at the US Open or a college football game knows the risks and chooses to be there. They can also wear masks as well, although I can see by the crowd shots that few do.

Also consider that masking and proximity rules are made by state and local governments, most of which are using business considerations to establish guidelines, not medical ones, or else everything would still be shut down. The Powers That Be want the money flowing again and that takes precedence over public safety.

So yes, by all means, wake the hell up. Wear your mask and social distance. There are no bravery points for flouting the rules and getting sick. It’s getting old.



Why not just call this one, “I Don’t Know How Science Works.” I don’t even have to parse this one. The following graphic is all that’s necessary.

Science, by definition, changes as it goes, always seeking more data and refining its conclusions. It’s not bound by modern conservative politics, where grabbing onto an opinion and holding on for dear life despite evidence to the contrary, is revered.

Bluz Life

I spent last week down in Florida with my mom, helping prepare for her to come back to Maryland and stay with her sons. There were doctors to see, neighbors to ask for help, arrangements to make, boxes to ship, and bags to pack.

But on the bright side, we had to do our best to get rid of all the perishable food on hand, the meat, fish, fruit, bread, and sandwich fixin’s. It was a job for which I was eminently qualified. It’s my “particular set of skills,” if you will.

One of the things I learned I’d have to transport back up north was my parents’ hurricane “getaway” bag, which not only contained all their important documents, (insurance, pension, investment, tax info, marriage licenses, deeds, etc.) but also around $22,000 in cold hard cash. I almost choked.

Now, I’ve always agreed that having emergency cash on hand is a good idea, especially in a hurricane zone, but I think my dad might have gone a bit overboard. But he was concerned about banks losing power or getting hacked, preventing him from accessing his savings in an emergency. And if his car broke down on the road, he’d be able to buy another one with cash in hand.

I did some research and found that there is no top-end limit to the amount of cash you can bring on a domestic flight, although they recommended you give the TSA a heads-up before the bag goes in the scanner. (No way were we going to trust putting that kind of dough in a checked bag.)

I wondered what kind of hassles might ensue with the cash, even if it’s legal. I know they’re always on the lookout for drug mules and money launderers, so I prepared the story I’d tell:

My father passed away last week and I’m taking my mom home with me. This was their emergency hurricane fund. Here’s my dad’s obit from the paper. Here are our driver’s licenses. Here’s HIS driver’s license. His picture matches the one in the obit. See? We’re all family. Hey, put that Taser down. What are you doing with that duct tape?”

Basically, I wanted to show I had a legit story and could prove it.

When I informed the young guy facilitating getting the bags put through the screener, that I was carrying a considerable amount of money, he didn’t really seem to care. He was like, “Uh yeah, take your shoes out of the tray and put them on the belt.”

Now the scanning agents? They noticed. I found that once I got through the body scanner, they were giving my bag a real good looking over on the screen. Then when they sent it down, an attendant took it and said, “Come down here so we can have a look.”

She went right to the cash pouches, unzipped one, and then said, “Can I get a Lead down here?

A manager dude came down and they both started poking through the wrapped bundles. I chimed in that it was my parents’ hurricane money but they weren’t listening at all. Then they stopped the poking, zipped up the bag, and gave it back to me without fanfare, further ado, or a tasing. I don’t know what they were looking for, maybe dye packs. Maybe they thought we were a couple of geriatric bank robbers. Anyway, we got on the plane and home without further incident.

And no, the money is no longer on the premises. We moved it on, right away, to a place whose security system can't be defeated with a biscuit.

In the last posts, I promised to tell some Dad stories. I figured I’d start by letting him tell one himself. The audio comes from 1992 when I decided to record a conversation with my parents, to keep for posterity. You can find the whole story about that here.

This is a story about a train trip Dad took with his best friend, Frank, AKA, “The Lob.”

Director’s DVD Commentary:  “The Lob” is an old-time term for one’s junk.  I have no idea how the guy came by the nickname, (I suspect it was self-appointed), but I’m sure there are quite a number of people that know him by that name only.

The Lob was afraid to fly so when he and Dad traveled together, they took an Amtrak train The Lob always called “The Rattler.” This is what happened on one such overnight trip. Running time is 4:41.


Monday, September 13, 2021

Coping With Loss

You may have seen from my last post that my father passed away last week after suffering a stroke. If you saw that, you'll know how angry I was and remain at the COVIDiots here on the Panhandle, whose selfishness and self-delusion caused my Dad to spend his last conscious days in the company of strangers and not his family. 

As of this writing, I'm down in Florida tending to my mother. We're trying to tidy things up here so she can come back to Baltimore with me at the end of the week. There is no scenario where she can remain in their Florida house by herself.

As such, I'm not really equipped to whip up a post on national current events today. But some of you have asked to hear more about my dad, who was truly a character. I plan to rerun some favorite stories, but probably on off-schedule days and not until I get resettled back home.

Today, I thought I'd show you the notification I put up on Facebook last week, informing our friends and family of his passing. It was a bit of a tightrope to write... I didn't want it to read like an IBM quarterly statement but also didn't want to go full-on clown-shoes. 

***

Jim's family regrets having to tell you today that he passed away this morning, (9/7/21) several days after suffering a severe stroke. It was sudden, surprising, and devastating. We are all heartbroken at his passing, which was far too soon.
He will be remembered as generous, open-armed, and quick to dispense wise advice over drinks, whether it was how to invest your money or respond to a prank. He had a range of friends spanning his 80+ years, from his own school days to the school friends of his children, many of whom considered him a backup, auxiliary dad.
He was the patriarch of a broad family who enjoyed his visits to Pittsburgh or visiting his Florida home to float in the pool and receive his peerless cabana services.
He will be remembered as a man of simple pleasures, like a stadium seat, a fish sandwich, or a cold drink on a hot day. His passion for Pittsburgh sports was passed on to not only his kids, but to others who seemed to have picked up a Terrible Towel out of sheer osmosis.
Jim and Mary Ann together condoned and chaperoned “The Barn,” where a great many 80s kids in NW Ohio came to party and dance or just listen to music, rather than going out driving around and getting into trouble. Many of us had our first encounters with Mr. Jack Daniels, under his close supervision.
Later tonight, if you can, please pour a drink and raise a toast to our father, grandfather, father-in-law, uncle, cousin, and old or new friend, Jim, and let him know he’ll be in our hearts forever.

Pouring the good stuff.



Monday, September 6, 2021

A Death Wish

This post is not going to be pretty, or fun, or at all light-hearted.

Tonight, my father is dying, alone in a hospital room in Florida. My mom may be able to get to him but we’re not sure. No, wasn’t COVID, it was a stroke. He had to stay in the ER because the hospital is so full of COVID patients, there are no more rooms available.

When I called my folks on Sunday, Dad didn’t feel well enough to talk. He’s been feeling excessively tired, and intermittently cold.

Then he took a fall Monday morning and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. They said he had a brain bleed, but were unsure if it was from the fall or he had it long before that.

Yesterday they learned he had a “venous angioma,” a tangle of malformed veins, which might have been there from birth. The doctors said the blood thinners he was on might have caused a leak. With treatment, they thought he might be able to leave the next day. He talked to my brother on the phone, who said he sounded confused and wasn’t making a lot of sense.

Then overnight, he had a stroke. The subsequent MRI showed there were at least five places in the brain that were affected, including the brain stem, which affects breathing. His condition is grave. The neurologist said she’d never seen a post-stroke MRI that was this bad.

As you know, Florida is ground zero for COVIDiocy and the epicenter of vax and mask rejection. The state-wide vax rate is over 61% with at least one shot. But that’s propped up by Miami. In my parents’ county, on the end of the panhandle, it’s 34-43%. Hence the full hospitals. Hence my dad spending his last hours far away from all who love him.

I am beyond enraged that the head-in-the-sand bullshit of the Florida COVID enablers forced my father to spend his last conscious hours in a nightmare, all because their “tribe” decided this was the best way to “own the libs.” So this is what I have to say to these redneck fucktards:

 

I don’t care about your anti-vax bullshit. You’re wrong and science is right.

I don’t care about your anti-mask bullshit either. Maybe if you pulled your head out of your ass, your mask would fit better. There is no clever semantics that makes wearing a mask a detriment to health or an assault on your liberty. People are dying alone because you don’t want to be inconvenienced.

I don’t care about your “freedom” bullshit. What good is freedom if society perishes in a cloud of ventilator exhaust? Your freedom stops at the point of infecting other people. If you don’t like it, tough shit.

I don’t care about your “research.” Quoting other idiots who don’t know a viral load from their own commode doesn’t make your “research” valid. You know who’s putting a lot of anti-mask, anti-vax material out there? Russian troll farms. This is even more effective at creating societal unrest than their election trolling and people are literally dying because they believe this bullshit.

I don’t care about the inconvenience of mask mandates indoors. Closed rooms are where airborne particles circulate most efficiently, especially the new variant. Why are you so invested in spreading a deadly virus? Because your overlords at Fox “News” told you to? Do you not realize that their only goal is to prop up rich people and the businesses they run? They don’t care how many die as long as Wall St. has a good third quarter. Your ignorance, as ensured by Fox “News” and the like, knows no bounds.

I don’t care about how strong you think your immune system is. Immune systems are only as strong as they’re trained to be, by limited exposure to pathogens, via vaccine or life experience. The ‘Rona is novel; it’s never been here before and your immune system is completely unprepared for it. Believing otherwise is a death wish; either yours or someone you infect.

Look, at this point, I don’t care if you live or die anymore, I just worry about all the people you take with you and the people who can’t get proper help because the hospitals are filled up with self-destructive morons. You disregard the nearly 665,000 American deaths from COVID but I bet you can’t wait to roll around in all that 9/11 anniversary grief next week and gin up your outrage over the deaths of a mere 3000. Maybe it’s different when you have foreigners to blame.

My father spent his last days alone, weak and scared. I hope you do too. Is that's too un-Christian for you? So is leaving people to die this way.

And if you’re one of the people who also deny the efficacy of vaccinations and masks, but live somewhere other than Florida? Screw you too. How many parents and other family members died the same way in some other hospital because you were too wrapped up in ignorance and meritless bullshit to ensure the safety of those around you? The blood of lost loved ones is on your hands too. Maybe the survivors of the souls you robbed of a dignified death will forgive you. But I won’t. Ever.

 

Director’s DVD Commentary: I wrote this last Wednesday, 9/1/2021, the day my father had the stroke. Since then he was moved to the ICU, then his own room, where my mother and brother could visit, and tomorrow to hospice care. He has remained unresponsive and there is zero chance of recovery. We’re just trying to keep him comfortable and waiting for the end. But that doesn’t change the nightmare that was his last conscious days, a nightmare that was completely preventable.

No, nothing would have prevented the medical outcome, but his last days could have been spent with his wife holding his hand rather than being surrounded by teams of unfamiliar doctors and nurses in hazmat suits.

I’ll have more to say about my father in future posts. He was an amazing man who taught his kids how to be responsible, caring adults. He only had three offspring, but he’s got dozens of kids around the country who look at him as another dad. His loss will reverberate among the hundreds who knew him.

This is the last pic I took of my dad: wearing the uniform of his favorite job.

Post update: My father passed this morning, Tuesday 9/7. His ordeal is over, while we begin ours. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

How to Build a Terrorist

 The frenzy is still on to pin the blame for the quagmire in Afghanistan on President Biden. I suppose the Republicans are so dogged on this issue because they finally have something with pictures they can point to and say, “Ooooh. That’s bad.” And they’re right, in that it is very bad.

In the world of GOP politics, no one bothers to see what’s true or not, they just throw the poo and hope it sticks. And in this case, they’re relying on the fact that regardless of the former guy’s hand in “negotiating” our exit with the Taliban and freeing 5000 Taliban prisoners, the mess went public when Biden was president so it must be his fault. Or in other words, it’s the Hot Potato principle of the fault going to the one who last had it.

Everyone he negotiates with seems to be great negotiators. Is there a country out there that hasn't handed him his own ass in negotiations? (Source)

As I’ve said in a prior post, I think it’s a massive failure of the intelligence community. No president is out there gathering intel, they’re dependent on the military and intelligence agencies, both of whom apparently got things horribly wrong.

It just irks me watching Fox “News” and the GOP meme machine working overtime to make it all about Biden. Like with many issues, anything that (verifiably) happened in the past doesn’t matter, only the message that it’s all the evil Democrats’ fault.

Biden didn’t send his Secretary of State to have talks with the Taliban last year. Biden didn’t release the Taliban captives, including many who are fighting us right now and one who is about to assume control of the country. Biden didn’t slow-walk plans to pull our allies out of there in advance. That’s a new angle I just heard about this week, from our friends at Progressive Eruptions.

The story is that Olivia Troye, former national security staff member during the former guy’s administration, personally witnessed Steven “The Anti-Christ” Miller bending over backward to keep the government from bringing any Afghans into the US, regardless of what they’d done for us. She attests to the fact that there was no plan in place to evacuate Afghan nationals.

“I sat in cabinet meetings about getting Americans and our Afghan allies out of the country. In them, Stephen Miller would peddle his racist hysteria. He and his enablers across the government undermined anyone who worked on solving the issues in getting special immigrant visas (SIVs) for our Afghan allies by undermining the system at Homeland Security and the State Department.

I tracked this issue personally in my role at the White House. I met with many refugee advocate organizations who pleaded for help in getting U.S. allies through the process.

“But we got nowhere because Trump and Miller had watchdogs in place at the Justice Department, Homeland Security, State, and other agencies that made an already cumbersome SIV process even more challenging.

“Trump had four years to develop a plan. We could have used that time to lay the groundwork to evacuate our Afghan allies. They were the lifelines for many of us who spent time in Afghanistan.

“They’d been waiting a long time, all the while under the threat of death at the hands of the Taliban. The process slowed to a trickle for reviews and “other priorities.” Ultimately, they came to a halt.”

But sure, blame Joe Biden.

To me, this story tracks with what we see. The talking heads on Fox “News” keep pivoting between “It’s Biden’s fault these poor people may be killed by the Taliban,” and “But we certainly don’t want them HERE!

They just can’t help seeing everything through that ever-present veil of racism. They claim they’re afraid of letting terrorists in, but tell me, if they really are terrorists, why are you blaming Biden for not getting them out? So then if they’re NOT terrorists, why not allow them to resettle here? The chaff that’s threshed out of this conundrum is racism. They know it and we know it. They just won’t admit it.

The conservatives are basically creating a self-fulfilling prophesy. Let’s say some Afghans end up settling here, somewhere or another. By raging against them nightly and scapegoating them for problems real and imagined, their racist viewers will inevitably start confronting these new immigrants in less than welcoming terms. We’ve already seen how “Real ‘Murcans” have treated Asians as of late and every strain of Middle Easterner since 2001. Eventually, some newcomers will tire of the abuse and want to strike back.

Congratulations, Republicans, you’ve just created a terrorist.

On the other hand, I’d wager if these people are welcomed into the fold and treated with respect, you’ll find most become A+ citizens and unsurpassed supporters of America. We’ll have been their very salvation from a life of abuse and depravity. Not exactly a hotbed of terrorism, is it?

But that’s a non-starter for the Fox “News” brigade, who can’t see past the color of their skins or the beards on their chins.

Monday, August 23, 2021

A Weekend in the Life

 Let’s check… Afghanistan? Still a mess but they’re still working on getting the sane folks out. Both parties still blaming each other. California? Burning. Temperatures? Roasting. Hurricanes? Blowing about all over the Atlantic and Caribbean. So basically, not much is new to talk about. So I’m going to do something I haven’t done in ages and write about the mini-vacation Sweetpea and I just had.

It wasn’t anything big, just a long weekend in my hometown of Pittsburgh, attending a family reunion.

We used to have them every year, like clockwork. But they kind of died out and we hadn’t had one since the early 2000s. Some of my cousin’s weddings acted as de facto reunions but were much dressier. So we put this one in the books late last year when it looked like we’d be done with the ‘Rona by late summer of this year. (Oh well…)

The reunion was on Saturday. We decided to drive out to The Burgh on Thursday, because Sweetpea had an old family friend, a priest, who lives there, so we wanted to have dinner with him while we were in town. Then Friday, we’d head to wherever my parents were staying, after coming up from Florida.

So yes, there were plans… which fell apart almost immediately.

Two weeks ago, we heard from my parents that they didn’t feel safe traveling out of Florida, due to the COVID running wild on the panhandle. (Thanks, Desantis.) As much as they wanted to be there with everyone, they were out.

Sweetpea had texted her friend months ago, letting him know we were coming out. He said he’d plan something fun. But when she texted him last week, he never responded. After days of non-response, she started to worry, so she finally just called his cell.

That’s when she found out he died in early July, out visiting California. (No, he didn’t answer, his cousin’s sister had the phone and was answering any calls that came in, from those like us who hadn’t heard the news. He’d had a massive heart attack.

Well, that was a kick in the teeth. It’s one thing for plans to go wrong, but THAT wrong? We were sad, but we dealt with it. What else can you do?  But it left us hanging out there with nowhere to go on Thursday night. (I hate when someone’s tragic demise inconveniences me.)

I suppose we could have canceled a night of our stay, but I wanted to push on. I didn’t want to deal with the hotel, which I got on Thank You Points, and we already had the dog-sitting lined up and my time off work was arranged. I figured we’d find something to do with our Thursday night and Friday day.

Now let me explain how McDonald's was responsible for our getting stuck in city traffic.

Anytime I have to go somewhere, I love to start the trip with some road muffin. And by that, I mean Egg McMuffin. So after packing, I had a couple things to do: gas up, get my road muffins and stop by a liquor store. Neither place is far from the house so after getting gas, I headed to Micky Dee’s. Rolled into the drive-thru about 10:30, only to be told that they weren’t serving breakfast. Shit. I thought they made a big bold move, some time ago, to make breakfast available all day. I guess they folded up that operation quietly. If I’d have known, I’d have left earlier. So while I pondered my next move, I headed for the liquor store. Then vodka in hand, I decided to hit Burger King, which was between there and home. I ordered my usual double whopper via their app, including my specifications. (No ketchup, mayo, or onions.)

Once home, upon digging into my Not Egg McMuffins, the first thing I noticed was an onion. Then upon further inspection, I saw it wasn’t even a double Whopper, it was just a single, with none of my modifications.

Now, I was pissed and angrily commenced to pulling out the onions and wiping the mayo and ketchup off the rest of the stuff, grumbling all the while. Naturally, I had to check the app receipt to make sure I put in my order correctly, and I did. There was a feedback button as well, so I got to express my vast displeasure at having to deal with skeevy ketchup and mayo first thing in the morning. (OK, maybe, like, fifth thing in the morning.)

Anyway, as I was sitting in traffic just outside and then amidst the city of Pittsburgh, I realized that if I’d been able to pick up my McDonald's when I wanted, it would have saved me at least half an hour, which would have made for much less city traffic. It’s all McDonalds’ fault.

We got to our hotel, a Doubletree, and checked in. As we entered our room, we noticed it was marked as a handicap-access room. No big deal, right?

Wrong. Sure there was lots of room to maneuver, but that room was created by removing the furniture! All we had was the bed and a desk chair. It was weird.


 There’s plenty of room for a couch and chair, like we saw in the online pics.

We considered changing rooms, but ultimately figured, we weren’t going to be “entertaining” in there, it really wasn’t a big deal. Just weird. It’s like we could have had a dance party in there.

Another weird thing. It took me at least five minutes to figure out what the hell this thing was:

It looked like a tripod that placekickers use to hold a football upright so they can practice kicks without bugging someone to hold for them, but it was plugged in. I thought it might have been a telescope, but there were no lenses. Eventually, I found a button on the side of it, and lo and behold, it was a desk lamp. Weirdest desk lamp I’d ever seen. Live and learn…

For our Thursday night activities, I got in contact with my cousin, to see if they minded if we came to hang out for a while. That turned into dinner, and by dinner, I mean a feast.

That’s how it is with my family. Anytime family visits, they bring out enough food to feed the Roman Army. We had manicotti, meatballs, roast pork, salad… the works.

And as an added bonus, we got to hang out with the friendliest golden retriever ever. (OK, that’s pretty redundant. I don’t think there IS such a thing as a mean golden.) But come on, look at this smile!

This big boy would sit there and let you stroke and pet him until your arm fell off. Just a big love sponge, with the fullest, softest, most luxurious coat. (I'm so glad our lab doesn't read this blog. He would but he thinks the affairs of humans are beneath him.)

Friday, we decided to poke around my dad’s hometown, a tiny old river town just west of Pittsburgh. It’s basically cut into a mountain. I swear these are some of the steepest roads anyplace not named San Francisco.

We were too full for breakfast so we ended up finding a nice little place for a light lunch. After that, we discovered this town had more antique stores per square block than any place I’ve ever seen. I suppose that stands to reason. Like I said, it’s a very OLD town. I’m sure there have been lots of estate sales, featuring LOTS of ancient stuff.

This was a fountain outside our hotel. Seems to be an homage to “compensating,” I think.

After our walkabout, we went back to the room, cleaned up, and headed for my Aunt and Uncle’s house, for feast #2. It was kind of like the “Pre-Reunion.” Lots of cousins and their families showed up. Dinner featured massive fish sandwiches, as provided by a local restaurant that is known for them. And of course, there was also baked lasagna, sauce and meatballs, veggie plate, pizzelles and biscotti, and other goodies.

By the time we got to the reunion the next day, I’m surprised we could eat another bite. But we managed. We had no choice. Our "reunion" is really just an interactive tribute to comfort food.

The reunion was at a local park, where we had a pavilion reserved. We lucked into a beautiful day and we had a great turnout. As someone who’s always lived far from where my family was, it was great to see everyone and catch up. It’s funny seeing some of the cousins I remember as little kids at prior reunions, now chasing after their own kids.

I’m sure I look far different to them as well. When the reunions started up, I was a teenager and the oldest of the cousins. My brother and I were always picked first when choosing sides for softball or volleyball. This year, I had to sit out the softball game because I knew I’d end up hurting something.

I’ve had rotator cuff tears in both shoulders over the last ten years, both of which have been fixed up with physical therapy. If I played ball, one of two things would happen: either I’d baby it to the point of not being able to throw a ball 20 feet and wound my pride, or I’d get caught up in the moment and let it fly like I used to, and re-tear a ligament. Who knows what I’d tear if I tried to swing a bat?

As they say, Father Time is undefeated.

The reunion rolled on all day and finally broke up around 7:00, after which we reassembled to my Aunt’s house to watch the Steelers pre-season game and have a few more drinks. I’m used to watching my team on my own, with Sweetpea sitting over there in her Ravens gear. It was a nice change to watch the game with my brother and cousins.

We had one more piece of business to attend to on Sunday morning, before leaving town. We had to stop by a local store to pick up Pittsburgh’s famous Isaly’s Chipped Ham and Mancini’s fresh-baked Italian bread. We got the ham easily enough but when we got to the bread aisle, the bread we wanted was conspicuously missing, with several empty shelves as evidence. I didn’t know if they didn’t get deliveries on Sunday, or if it just hadn’t got there yet. But we couldn’t just wait around, so I went to the checkout with just the ham. Then suddenly, Sweetpea got my attention and pointed toward the bread guy wheeling in the bread cart. Not a moment too soon. We took a loaf right off the top and were good to go.

But best of all: before we left I finally found what I’d been looking for.

 Road Muffin!

The drive home was easy enough, with much less traffic than when we came out. I unpacked quickly and then took a nice 2-hour nap. I was beat. (Plus I hadn’t slept well the night before. Forgot to bring my CBD, I guess.)

Dinner was a no-brainer. Ham and cheese sandwiches on fresh Italian bread. Life is good.

Thanks for playing along this week. Next week, it should be back to the usual hot topics and debunkery.

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Hot Potato

 It’s not been a good week for foreign policy, has it? Man, what a mess we left there in Afghanistan.

Now, I’ve been saying it for years, ever since Obama first started talking about getting out of there. I’m for it. There’s nothing there for us. Our troops were the glue holding the whole shit show together, which would be fine but that’s not their freakin’ job. But as long as they were there, the Taliban had to lay low. And they are nothing if not inhumanly patient. They waited us out.

Look, we had to leave sometime… It’s just not in our “charter” to be an occupying nation. And the Taliban knows that. Whether it would take 20 years, 40 years, 50 years… when we leave, they return, period.

That said, I sure wish it didn’t look like the fall of Saigon. We really screwed the pooch on this one. So now it’s time for the blame game.

Naturally, the Republicans can’t wait to blame it all on Biden, even though the former guy set the wheels in motion. He’s the one who told the Taliban we were leaving. He’s the one who negotiated with them without the Afghan government at the table. These guys were ready to move in when they saw the first plane in the air.

Afghanistan has been the bane of four presidents, but sure, blame the current guy. It’s like a game of hot potato. The last one with it, loses.

I’m not saying Biden is blameless, but you have to realize… No president is the one drawing up the evac plans. No president is personally gathering the intel and drawing conclusions. These things are all done by the military and intelligence professionals and presented to the president. I think THEY are the ones to hold responsible for this shit show.

I mean, the estimates for when the Taliban would take Kabul was like, November, not within a week of the announcements. Someone looked at all the information and thought, “no rush, we have plenty of time to get our people out, with time to spare for our allies, equipment, arms,” and so forth.

Whoops.

I think this is what you get when you start believing your own bullshit.

Did they really think the “army” they trained was going to stand up to the Taliban? These guys were in it for a paycheck. They were by no means devoted enough to the “cause” that they were willing to die fighting the Taliban. In Afghanistan, power is local, or tribal. They’re not built for a strong central government.

These guys knew who was going to prevail and needed to make sure they weren’t seen as opponents. Better to join up than getting executed in the public square, alongside your family.

I have a plan I’d like to submit to the president. He should recruit the MAGA Nation… get all the wanna-be soldier boys and ammo-sexuals and send them over to kick some Taliban ass. But not with weapons. Just get close enough to them to be captured and then let COVID do the rest. That way we kill two birds with one stone, plus we improve our gene pool and educational scores.

And now on to some debunkery.

Again, there’s a very simple answer to this and it’s not mysterious at all.

1)      They don’t give away chemo and insulin because this is a capitalist nation and medical care is run for a profit. That’s the way conservatives want it. You can tell because every time a Democrat tries to help lower the cost of medical care or insurance the Republicans kibosh it by screaming about socialism. Do you want low-cost medical care? Vote out Republicans. (Which you won’t do, because that would be an admission that you’re wrong.)

2)      Neither cancer nor diabetes is contagious but COVID is, so there is a risk of disease infecting the entire nation, if not the world. In a national emergency like this, providing free vaccinations is the right and decent thing to do.

3)      Is that really a coherent argument, that we shouldn’t make one treatment free if we can’t do it with them all?  This isn’t like bringing gum to class; this has national repercussions. It would be nice if we could, but the last time someone tried to formulate a full-scale national medical policy, Republicans shot it down so hard it took another 15 years before anyone would even consider doing something with medical care again.

4)      All put together, this is just another hollow argument meant to sow doubt about the COVID vaccine because it’s something Democrats are for.

Listening to Tucker Carlson “could” make you jam knitting needles in your ears. Look, there’s nothing remotely true about this meme. Anything “could” make anything happen. This is just a way to throw outrageous assertions out there to scare people into dying from COVID. To what end, who knows? But that’s the hill Republicans have chosen to die on. 

Lastly, because blogger RO asked, here are some pictures from our beach vacation earlier this month. Because we had a west-facing balcony, we spent each night with music and drinks, watching the sunset. That’s pretty much the only thing we took pictures of. So here you go, RO.


We’re dying to rent one of these Tiki Bar Boats. Too expensive for just the two of us. Next time we go down there with friends, we’re totally doing this.

In other news, we’re dog-sitting Sweetpea’s friend’s puppy for a few days. She gets on well with our yellow lab, although she’s sometimes a bit overenthusiastic, as you can see.

"Deer godz, wen she leeve me 'lone?"

Monday, August 9, 2021

Debunkery - The F.U. Edition

Coming back from (a glorious) vacation, I ran headlong into a bunch of muddleheaded memes that just cry out for a good debunking. Some of them got me pretty cranky.

Just who exactly is it that has enough juice to “tell the world” anything? No one country can tell another how to handle an internal medical situation, not even the US. And obviously, no one tells us what to do either, not even our own government. So right off the bat, there’s a big chunk taken out of the foundation.

To continue the demolition of this house of cards, businesses can make their own rules regarding employment policy, especially in the “At Will” states the Republicans seem to love so much. People can be hired and fired for just about anything but “protected” statuses like age, sex, race, etc. There is no universal Know-It-All to tell businesses anything so naturally, their policies will range from wide-open COVID-Fest to requiring shots, masks, and full-body condoms.

Lastly, situations shift and evolve over time. It would be idiotic to require that everything we do to handle COVID be dictated by what we knew back at the beginning. (Like 40% of the population would opt out for specious reasons.) Sometimes things that looked right on one date look ineffective after months of experience, so the directions change. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

So basically, there’s nothing in this tweet that holds up to the slightest scrutiny. It’s just a series of leading questions intended to deliver the weak-minded into “owning the libs” by infecting themselves and others with a serious disease.

Since there’s a shadowy picture of Joe Biden in the background, (and this came from a conservative FB friend) what law is the President supposed to be breaking (in order to break another one)? Yes, I’m sure the creator of this meme was a constitutional scholar, right Ivan? I guarantee this is nothing but more Fox “News” type assertions meant to damage reputations without a lick of evidence or truthfulness. This is a fishing expedition, meant to stoke the fears of the MAGA base by alleging that one mystery crime has happened and another is on the way.

And since when did the MAGAs decide that a president breaking the law is a problem? The former guy broke loads of them, by enriching himself through taxpayer funding for his hotels and properties (from which he is required to disengage and never did) (no, putting your sons in charge doesn’t count), to withholding approved funds from foreign countries in return for them making up dirt on your political opponent, to strong-arming local election officials into “finding” votes for him or “fraud” to eliminate opposing votes.

But short of that, explain to me what “laws” Biden has broken, or is proposing to break, or sit down and STFU. I’m sure this “law-breaking” is nothing but an unpopular political decision, bent and twisted to look unlawful.

Here we go with St. Ronnie of Hollywood, as someone unearthed a 53-year-old quote about we shouldn’t expand social programs. I’m sure the person who posted this intends it to condemn marches and protests for social justice (in other words, black people “rioting”).

What I want to know is why it’s not applied to the January 6th insurrectionists? I mean, they’re trying to blame BLM, Antifa, the FBI, Nancy Pelosi, and when under extreme duress, (like in court) the former guy. I think these individuals should take a cue from their idol and take a good hearty dose of individual responsibility. Right up the old prison wallet.

One hundred million strong, huh? I guess 20 million decided to sit out the last election. Pull figures out of your ass much? But more importantly, “fuck you” with your “real American” bullshit, which is really just code for “white Christian.” This country is a collection of mutts from all over the world and always has been.

And what are these “morals” that allow you to look away from the crimes committed by the people on the “Real American” team, like the former guy and the vandals who crawled all over the Capitol building on January 6th?

What you saw last November was a real storm, one that your people are willing to rig elections to keep from happening again. Fuck you with your self-serving, moralizing, white bread bullshit.

Yes, the people who revere a guy who told over 36,000 documented lies in office want to complain about fact-checking? Look, you want to have free reign to get your message out? Don’t fucking lie. Don’t make up shit out of thin air. Don’t take a single sentence and strip out all the surrounding context to render a thought that’s 180 degrees from the one that was actually expressed.

You’re just mad that you can’t bullshit with impunity anymore, because the top-shelf organizations like Snopes and Politifact do the research that reveals the lies.

The little dig at Zuckerberg/Facebook? You’re just picking at a Band-Aid. They place labels to warn people to look elsewhere for accurate information. And the things they actually delete? Calls to violence, racial slurs, death threats, and stuff like that. That’s the hill you want to battle on, the right to threaten? Go fuck yourself and your candy-ass Nazi references. You’ve got that shit backward… you’re just mad your own attempts to control information are being called out.

Call this the Racist Manifesto. Almost every statement here has a negative effect on people of color.

Borders: Closed. They don’t even pretend to be non-bigoted by implying they’d be OK with immigrants if they only “came in legally.” Nope, this is just “We don’t want no more brown people in here. It’s a fancier way of saying, “My people got in so now close the door.” I don’t think the writer even knows what “closed borders” means. There go the spring break trips to Cabo.

Language: English. Like this is a real problem. English already is the dominant language, but they’re interested in stamping out the little areas of help that may still be available. How fragile must one’s self-worth be to be so upset by a sign in dual languages, or a 3-second phone prompt? Snowflake

Culture: Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Documents written by white slave owners, designed to keep the power in the hands of the same. News flash: These documents are not a culture, they’re a set of laws. And even then, everyone knows the “rule of law” applies mostly to minorities. White people with private lawyers slide by with slaps on the wrist while everyone else does time.

Drug-Free: Mandatory drug screening before Welfare. Yay, more hoops to jump through before anyone gets the help they desperately need. Never mind that only a minuscule percentage of Welfare applicants get hung up by failing drug tests. “But it’s one more barrier to people getting something I’m not.” Personally, I’d like to see the corporate board members subject to drug tests every time they get a bailout or use a tax loophole. But no, they just go right to the “Approved” basket and claim their millions.

The “And also parts are less racist, but still misguided, especially coming from conservatives.

Balanced budgets: Which Republicans only want when Democrats are in charge or want to do something that helps the lower and middle classes. The former guy’s tax cut bill, passed solely by Republicans, killed any hope of balancing the budget without its repeal.

Tax Reform: As mentioned above, Republicans had their chance to reform taxes but chose to lock in tax cuts for the richest Americans. The only tax reform Republicans want to see is reducing the IRS’s capability to enforce tax law.

Term limits: Not even worth discussing because it will never happen. Politicians will never willing to give up the possibility of maintaining power.

86% will send this on (???) I don’t think so. There are only 35% of Americans dumb enough to buy this crap.

I hope you’re not one of them.

Monday, August 2, 2021

It's on Thee and Not on Me

 As the COVID resurgence picks up speed and the CDC updates their recommendations again, the race is on to deflect and reassign blame. Here’s a new one to me:

I think closing off a Southern border is a great idea. Here’s where it should be.

Technically there should be a few northern states blocked off too, but I wanted a nice smooth wall there.

So that’s the new strategy now… it’s the immigrants’ fault, and not all the pinheads who refuse to get vaccinated because they value the “freedom” to spread a contagious and sometimes fatal disease rather than endure a mild inconvenience. Plus they get to “own the libs,” which will be a nice thing to put on their grave markers.

Even though I saw this meme on a conservative friend’s timeline, I wondered if he or anyone really believed it. Then in looking at the comments, I was disturbed to see that they do, with great intensity. Note the following exchange in confronting someone who noted a mild rebuke:

Illegal voting caused the spike in the Rona, huh? I guess there’s a twisted path there… if Biden hadn’t “stolen” the election, he wouldn’t have been in place to demand that the US transport disease-riddled foreigners into the soft, white underbelly of America, to infect all those noble, red-hatted MAGAs. [Massive eye-roll]

I was about to write off to a fever dream the rest of this nonsense about clandestine overnight flights, but then I realized what they were referring to. In order to alleviate the congestion at the border processing centers, they were moving detainees elsewhere for processing. In other words, traffic control. Republicans were complaining about conditions at the border (as soon as their guy was no longer in charge) and now they’re complaining about how it’s being fixed.

Conservative outlets like Judicial Watch are pushing this hard, the way they push all crime stories when they involve minorities. In looking through their site, I didn’t see a single story on white-collar crime of government grift. Just gang members here and shootings over there, a killer who they found was an immigrant, around the corner.

The part that’s missing from this insane narrative is how these detainees, who moved from one controlled facility to another, translate into a massive COVID spread. First of all, it’s a huge assumption that they’re all COVID carriers. I would suspect no one is going anywhere without being cleared via testing. Why? Because the current administration is taking the coronavirus seriously. It was the former guy who was so cavalier about it, even after catching it himself. (And then getting himself and his family vaccinated.)

Secondly, these detainees wouldn’t be interacting with enough people to cause a virus spread like the ones we’re seeing now. What do they think is happening, someone’s sprinkling these people across towns and villages like so much parmesan cheese? Sneaking them into VFW halls after hours?

And lastly, if the MAGAs were vaccinated to the degree that the rational people are, the spread wouldn’t be as serious.

This is all blame deflection, just like it has been from Day One. “It’s not MY fault… blame those foreigners for the ‘China’ virus!

The other rationale I keep seeing is “medical freedom.” The MAGAs are finally realizing that there’s an argument to be made for bodily autonomy. Unfortunately, they’ll never apply it to women’s reproductive autonomy. As far as I’m concerned, if someone is against the COVID vaccine because it’s a personal medical decision, then they forfeit their right to be anti-choice when it comes to abortion, without being a fucking hypocrite.

They can’t even argue about protecting innocent life if they’re this willing to disregard the innocent lives to whom they transfer the ‘Rona. It’s all about the “me,” not the “we.” They’ll take their rugged individualism right up until they’re taking up time and resources in the ICU.

***

I think it’s a bunch of these same cement-heads that are raging about Simone Biles now. I don’t know exactly what’s going on with her, but neither do these couch jockeys. It’s not like it’s unprecedented for an expert at something to “forget” how to do it. In baseball alone, I can think of three players who went through mental blocks where they could no longer perform the basics of their jobs.

Two years after starring in the 1971 World Series, former Pirates ace Steve Blass found himself completely unable to throw a strike and ultimately retired early. Cardinal Rick Ankiel had the same problem and had to remake himself into an outfielder. Dodger second baseman Steve Sax all of a sudden couldn’t get the ball to first. They even named it “Steve Sax Syndrome.” So it happens.

With Biles, a momentary lapse in concentration can get her maimed, considering the danger of the tricks she’s attempting. Whether it’s physical or psychological, if someone is unable to do their job to the level of their capability, it behooves them to step aside for someone who can.

Sure, a defensive lineman can force himself to keep playing on a broken ankle or something, but that only means the opposing offensive lineman is going to eat him for lunch. How does that “toughness” help the team?

I give her a ton of credit for doing just that and not trying to “tough it out,” and tanking the US’s team scores in the process. She allowed someone else to step up and compete. I think to do otherwise is just selfishness. And criticizing her for it is even more wrong-headed.

I also suspect that if one of those lithe little blonde gymnasts had the same issue, the criticism wouldn’t be nearly as severe.

***

It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Dusty Hill, bass player for ZZ Top. Their music was a staple of our rave-up “Barn Parties” of the 80s. In fact, the famous song LaGrange almost singlehandedly turned my dad from going “Turn that shit down” to “Hey, turn that up!” (That, and You Shook Me All Night Long.)

When we threw a party, we wore out LaGrange, Tush, Tube Snake Boogie, Pearl Necklace, Gimme All Your Lovin, Sharp Dressed Man, and Legs. All were great for jamming or dancing.

Their live shows were legendary; a tremendous mix of spectacle and boogie. I’ve seen them four times, on consecutive tours from 1983 to 1994. Watching Dusty and guitarist Billy Gibbons fall into perfect unison was to observe two guys who knew what the other guy was going to do before he did, like old masters.

Dusty was by far the better technical singer. He could really belt like he did on Tush, Party on the Patio, Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers, and I Got the Six (Gimme Your Nine). And his backing vocals really rounded out their sound on the ones Billy sang.

Billy Gibbons said that Dusty would have wanted the show to go on but I don’t know how they’re going to do it without him. Oftentimes, bass players are like tinker toys and can be replaced without anyone seeing or hearing a difference. I don’t think that’s the case here. They may be able to find someone to fill the gap sonically, but it just won’t look like a ZZ Top show without the little bearded guy on the left.

RIP, Dusty Hill. We’re lifting one for ya tonight.

Source

Director’s DVD Commentary: This post was written mid-last week, as I’ll be on vacation all of this week. If any facts or references have become dated in the interim, I offer my apologies. From the beach. With a drink.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Homeless Thoughts - The Spy vs Spy Edition

 I don’t have a lot to say on any one topic today so we’re going to bounce around a bit.

As a follow-up to last week’s post about the COVID Anti-Vaxxers, I wanted to discuss another meme I saw over the weekend, that’s as dishonest as it is dangerous.

There’s basically nothing true in this text. Again, we have idiots bending statistics to suit their nefarious needs. What they’re doing is twisting percentages… you know, like if one thing happens out of a sample of 100 and there were zero the last time, you can claim a 100% increase. The Washington Post explains it better:

The more vaccinated a population, the more we’ll hear of the vaccinated getting infected. For example, say there’s a community that’s 100% vaccinated. If there’s transmission, we know breakthrough cases will happen. So, by definition, 100% of outbreak cases will be among the vaccinated. It will just be 100% out of a smaller number.

Cue Israel. They are one of the global leaders in vaccinations; 85% of Israeli adults are vaccinated. So, say we have the following scenario:

With an infection rate among the vaccinated of 2% and infection rate of 13% among the unvaccinated, this would give us an efficacy rate of 85%.”

No matter which way the Anti-Vax people try to twist it, 99.5% of COVID deaths in the US are among unvaccinated people. Their claim of 40% new infections among the vaccinated is pure fiction. I wish the danger they’re causing was as well, but alas, that’s all too real.

Here’s another alarmist meme from the weekend:

Of course Socialism won't be attractive because it's completely and willfully misrepresented here.

I can see a couple of ways to go at this. First off, how the hell do they get taking 70% of a salary to give to others? That’s total BS. Any money that’s taken from us to disperse to other programs (Federal taxes) is 25-35% on the average taxpayer. Even if you add state taxes, you still don’t hit 70%. So the example falls apart right there.

Or, one can compare it to our current system, where (to stick with the example) you get $10 from cleaning the bathroom, then have to spend $6 on housing, $3 to $7 (or much more) on medical expenses, $2 on transportation to and from the bathroom (call it a Hallway Tax), and you still haven’t paid for dinner yet. So now you have to clean another room just to eat, keep the lights on and the cable/internet/phones working.

Conservatives would rather endure a system like that than cope with the idea that someone of whom they do not approve might get help that they, themselves, do not.

One might argue that cleaning the bathroom might be worth $15, but conservatives wouldn’t like that either because military members have to clean bathrooms for less.

Again, I posit that the very rich sponsor memes like this to ensure that nothing ever interferes with their place at the top of the economic heap. If The People ever demanded a fair shake, it would be very costly for the 1%, so they ensure we spend our time fighting with each other rather than turning our attention to them.

***

I’m glad Nancy Pelosi told Kevin McCarthy to shove two of his nominees for the House Insurrection Investigation. There’s no question that the nominations of Gym Jordan and Jim Banks were meant to disrupt the examination of evidence and turn the panel into a sideshow. We’ve seen Jordan’s act before, basically acting like a zoo monkey, making a lot of noise and flinging poo around the room.

If the Republicans wanted an actual bipartisan investigation, they could have had one months ago when a full Congressional Investigation was proposed. But now, they shot that down in near-unanimous fashion. (Six GOP votes for it.)

So, you can’t play nice? Screw it, we’ll do it ourselves. And I like that she’s still nominating a couple Republicans to sit on the panel. It must be hard to find one who’s actually looking for the truth about how it happened and who was behind it. And for which Congress members gave guided tours of the Capitol Building to the future insurrectionists. I know there are some Representatives with their sphincters in a knot over wondering how THAT is going to play out.

***

I love the Olympics. Sure, they probably should have postponed these games some more but as long as they’re on, I’m gonna watch.

I started watching the Olympics in 1972 and have enjoyed them ever since. In fact, I’ve written about them a few times before, with my Top Olympic Moments, and general thoughts on the 2018 Winter Games, where I noted that bobsledding looks like a lot of fun, but only if you’re the driver. For everyone else in the sled, it’s like being smuggled into a drive-in movie in the trunk of a car.

There’s also one on the 2014 USA/Russia hockey game, with a nod to its famous predecessor in 1980, and one on how there’s so much more whining about the results than there used to be.

I started watching over the weekend and it was like being a kid again and watching the ABC Wide World of Sports, only it went all day. It’s still too early in the games for much of an analysis tonight, but is it me or is NBC going commercial-happy with their prime-time coverage. I swear they go to commercial every 5 goddamn minutes. I know they paid a lot for broadcast rights but for the love of all that’s holy, how about actually showing the action? It’s not like there's not something going on at all times!

I had one suggestion though, for the opening ceremonies. I know they always do something in keeping with the cultural traditions of the host country. How cool would it have been for them to have Godzilla light the torch with his fire breath? That would have been epic. Maybe they could have had Blue Oyster Cult play and bring their stage monster, if it still works. Just retrofit it with a flamethrower. Easy-peasy.

***

Last week I got to do something I’d only seen alluded to in movies and on TV and I’m quite proud of myself.

See, my cell phone has service from Sprint, which recently merged with T-Mobile. Ever since spring, T-Mobile has been bombing me with messages imploring me to upgrade my phone to take advantage of their new 5G service. But the thing is, I like my phone and I don’t want to change it.

I’m not one of those “phone freaks” who has to have the latest and greatest at all times. I’m still on my second smartphone since 2015, the iPhone 8. It works perfectly well for my needs and I like the thumbprint ID. I don’t want a newer one that has face recognition, that’s I’ll have to pick up and raise when I want to turn it on.

About two weeks ago, they called me to try to get me to upgrade and for once, I actually picked up. After his spiel, I asked, “When you do go 5G, will my phone still work at all?

Yes. But only on LG” (Whatever that is.)

Then that’s fine, I don’t need an upgrade. When my phone stops working, I’ll let you know.”

End of conversation.

Then last week a small package showed up, from T-Mobile. It was a new SIM card, to install in my phone so I can get their 5G service.

Oh, so NOW they admit they can adapt my phone rather than force me into an upgrade. HA! If I hadn’t been an obstinate prick, they would have soaked me for hundreds of dollars for a phone I didn’t want.

So now, the cool part… I had to change a SIM card.

That’s one of those things you always see in spy movies and stuff, when someone doesn’t want to be tracked on their phone, they change the SIM card.

Not having looked at my phone in years without the case, I had no idea where the damned thing went. Luckily there were some simple instructions. As I got down to it, I felt like the Mission Impossible theme song was playing in the background. Or maybe Jack Bauer was out there waiting for my signal to reappear.

Dammit! We’re running out of time!

Once I wrestled it out of the case, I saw a very small covered slot on the side. I needed to take the poker they supplied, (it looked like a paperclip with one pointy end), and poke it into the tiny hole in the slot cover, to pop out the drawer. Once done, I just had to swap the SIM cards, which are a little smaller than the chip on your credit card. I noticed that one corner was cut, so there was only one way to put it in. Of course, in the process of doing that, I dropped the chip right beside the one I just took out, which gave me a moment of panic. What if I mixed them up? Luckily, I found a small T-Mobile logo on one of them, so… crisis averted.  

So, I managed to get the chip back in the phone, reboot it, and voila. I have a phone again, albeit now with “T-Mobile” in the top corner rather than “Sprint.” I'm ready to save the world.

Now watch me crack the screen next week.