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.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back to the 1800s

 As predicted, the COVID turnaround is turning back around again thanks to the Delta Variant and the dumbasses who reject the vaccine for partisan reasons. From what I’ve read, over 99% of new COVID cases are coming from unvaccinated people.

Of that lot, I’d guess there are, like, 5% who have legitimate medical reasons for vaccine avoidance. The rest are victims of MAGA politics, misinformation, and their own limited capacity for reason. You know, Freedom!

Or as Andrew Dice Clay used to say, “NObody tells me what to do, not even ME!

Nope, freedom is just too important to let some pencil-necks at the CDC tell us red-blooded Americans to get a shot.

I say if they really want to be free, they should also ignore stop signs, one-way street signs, guard rails, smoke alarms, weight limits on elevators, and keeping one’s hand and feet inside the ride.

In red states, there’s a better than average chance that when they careen through an intersection, they’ll hit another like-minded citizen.

The GOP has never had a problem with causing suffering among others, given their stances against insurance, SNAP benefits, Welfare, unemployment payments, and so forth. Might as well get a taste for themselves, by eschewing the needle.

I’m sorry, but if someone willfully rejects the COVID vaccine and then contracts COVID, I have zero sympathies. None. Don't care. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a much-needed gene pool correction.

As a matter of fact, since the Republicans opened the door to weaponizing the Rona by withholding testing supplies from blue states back in the early days, maybe we should engineer some of the same for them.

We have to pick out spots though… killing off 25% of Republicans in a state like Alabama only means that the Dems will lose by 20 percentage points instead of 30. To be effective, we’d have to work in swing states. Like holding giant MAGA super-spreader events in central Pennsylvania, or rural Ohio. Let them have a nice rave-up with yelling and singing with religious fervor, while all mashed together massive cheek to jowl.

Don’t laugh; this may be our best hope of counteracting the spate of red-state voter suppression laws. We should get someone like Jim Carville on it right away.


Now let’s run through some quick debunkery, shall we?

No, these numbers tell you nothing, other than people can use statistics to “prove” any point they want. Here’s why this attempt is bullshit:

Gas prices up 45.1%. I and many others have pointed this out before but the reason the percentage of gas price raising is high is mainly that they’re comparing it to a time when it was extremely low due to the lack of demand because of COVID. Nobody was traveling or vacationing, causing a glut of gas, causing a deeply discounted price.

People are getting out again with summer traveling which caused demand to rise, which caused prices to go back up. Plus there was that gas pipeline shut down a couple months ago, which hurt supply in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. It’s just simple free-market economics, which Republicans usually revere (unless they can use it to make a bogus argument to pin something on a Democratic president. Note that this president, nor any other, had an effect on what’s going on with the price of gas.)

Used car prices up 45.2%. Remember last week when I told you I manage a fleet of cars for my employer? It’s that experience I lean on to debunk this point. Used car prices are up because most auto manufacturers are shut down and have been most of this year. That’s due to an industry-wide microchip shortage. Modern cars have so many bells and whistles anymore that any day now, they will be taking your blood pressure. And all of them work because of microchips. So, without cars in production, new car stock flew off the lots at the onset of COVID recovery, putting used cars at a premium. It’s more supply and demand at work. And note again that no president had anything to do with the microchip shortage. Microchip-producing facilities were shut down due to COVID, plus one of the main manufacturing plants burned to the ground in a fire. This is another bad faith assertion, the argumentative equivalent of throwing mud at the wall just to see what sticks.

Consumer Price Index up 5.4%. I’m no economist or anything but it seems to me that this is very similar to the gas situation. Prices were down last year (aside from groceries) because no one was going anywhere or shopping for anything but essentials. When prices are way down due to an event, the prices returning to where they were will always look like a big price increase percentage-wise. But it’s just the market correcting itself. It’s not proof of some kind of vast political price-gouging campaign.

The numbers tell you everything you need to know about a Biden presidency… Subsidize millionaires and billionaires with radical spending that crushes working families with skyrocketing inflation. Seriously? Democrats are subsidizing the rich? Bitch, please. Subsidizing the 1% is basically the GOP’s platform, it’s their Prime Directive. Why else did they pass a huge tax cut for them and scraps for us? Why else did they just cut tax law enforcement from the bipartisan infrastructure deal? Why else clamor for cutting regulations that keep businesses from poisoning the earth or killing their employees?

Biden is the first president in a long time who’s going to bat for the middle and lower classes. The infrastructure bill is going to help them immensely, but at a cost to big business. That’s the poison pill for Republicans, one they’ll never willingly swallow.

But they can’t admit that, so they make up tweets to point the finger at their opponents, accusing them of doing the very thing they do themselves.

I had to look this one up to see if this was Eric Carmen the former pop star, or just someone similarly named. It appears it’s the former, but I can’t tell for sure because his Twitter account is gone. But this excerpt has been circling around of late and it’s too dumb not to address. It reads like it was written by Eric Cartman.

The thing is that there’s really nothing true in the whole message. Nothing. There are too many successful socialist countries to pretend that they’re all some kind of futuristic dystopia. Do people have to give up their religion in Canada? Do the Danes have no liberty? Do the Australians have no dreams?

Of course they do, and they also get health care without having to go into bankruptcy. Do they all lay around all day watching TV? Of course not. They still have jobs to go to, most of which pay a living wage.

This is just another case of the very rich trying to keep the applecart upright so that they can remain the very rich, at the expense of everyone else.

Eric Carmen should go back to being all by himself.

Charlie Daniels has apparently spent so much time trying to be the Country version of Ted Nugent that he died of a stroke last summer. And apparently, he forgot all about the years between 2009 and 2016, because no one did more to discredit, distort and obstruct a president than his very own GOP. “Our number one goal is to make him a one-term president.” Remember that?

And who was it that stormed the Capitol building in a vain attempt to overturn a legitimate election by force, killing Senators, Representatives and the Vice President if they could? (Killing and injuring police officers in the process.) Gee, that was a conservative mob, not a bunch of liberal snowflakes, wasn’t it.

So STFU about who’s “destroying” who.

You know… in retrospect. I’m pretty sure he’s not doing much punditing any longer. Going from a pot-smoking long-hair in “Uneasy Rider” to Corn-Pone Scott Baio is enough to give anyone a stroke.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Lunatic Fringe Benefits

 The former guy got me good and pissed off again last week when he tried to play dumb about paying taxes on fringe benefits, like cars or housing for executives.

"They go after good, hard-working people for not paying taxes on a company car," Trump said.

"You didn't pay tax on the car or a company apartment. You used an apartment because you need an apartment because you have to travel too far where your house is.”

"You didn't pay tax. Or education for your grandchildren. I don't even know. Do you have to? Does anybody know the answer to that stuff?"

I know the answer to some of that. My job involves managing a fleet of company cars that our employees use. My company has branches around the country, so district and regional managers are given company cars for business travel, which they can also drive for personal use.

According to the IRS, a company can “give” a car for an employee to use for business purposes, for free. BUT, any personal use is considered income and therefore taxable.

Our drivers have to report their business and personal mileage every month so we can calculate the value of their personal use, known as “taxable benefit.” It’s a major operation for which the drivers, the accountants, and I have to devote a significant amount of time to get it right, to remain within IRS compliance.

It would be really nice to just blow it all off but a reputable company can’t do that.

There are a couple of ways to look at TFG’s comments.

One possibility is that he knows damn well what the IRS laws are; he’s just used to flouting them like he does with every other aspect of his business. He’s just playing on the (probably correct) assumption that his fan club doesn’t know anything about tax laws on company cars.

But on the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me either if he really doesn’t know anything about it. It’s certainly plausible that he has his accounting flunkies to work out all the details so he has never had to think about such things. No wonder he’s puzzled… He’s never had to get down in the details before. All he’s ever had to do is say, “Give that guy a car,” or summon one for himself. The details are for the little people to work out.

Speaking of details, let’s go to the debunker portion of this week’s post:

Sounds like solid self-defense at first, but there’s just one tiny detail they overlook: They don’t account for the effect the NRA has had over gun laws and culture all over the country. No one is blaming mass shootings on card-carrying NRA members, but you can’t ignore that through their efforts, gun laws are woefully insufficient to even make a dent in gun-related killings. Even the smallest, most logical efforts to safeguard innocent lives from being cut down are met with howls of Second Amendment hysteria. Like banning people on the Terrorist fucking Watch-List from buying guns, or fingerprint safety guards, or literally anything else that might save a life or make a weapon a bit less lethal.

We have to remember that the NRA exists as a lobbying arm for gun manufacturers. That’s it. Everything else is a side-mission, always secondary to selling more guns!

Because of the NRA, you can walk into a Walmart, buy a semi-automatic rifle on credit and start shooting before the first payment is due. Because of the NRA, people can buy high-capacity clips that have no use in hunting or reasonable self-defense. Because of the NRA, even jurisdictions that do have some kind of gun control laws are unable to stem the tide of killing because of the guns coming in from surrounding areas that do not have such laws.

There is no amount of killing, whether it’s teen partygoers, concert attendees, or grade school children that will deter the NRA from enshrining the right to own any firearm imaginable as a basic human right. The cost in life is irrelevant. The only numbers that count are the monthly receipts. That is the legacy of the NRA.

I also have to laugh at the bar they’re setting, to reap congratulations for themselves. No members murdered anyone this weekend? Whoo Hoo! Hooray for us! Let’s celebrate with a little automatic weapons fire into the air! Our guys went a whole weekend without a murder spree!

My theory is that the weekend in question was over the Fourth of July, so their members were too busy blowing shit up to even bother getting out the guns.  

Just don’t tell the NRA, or they might try to outlaw fireworks.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Fake Patriots

I hope you’re having a great holiday weekend! The good old Fourth of Jue-Lie! That’s the day when social media pages are flush with “easy patriotism,” the kind of token symbolism that passes for true dedication to one’s country. I’m not impressed by sticking flag images everywhere. You want to be patriotic? Support the right to vote without barriers. Support the right to assemble in protest. Support the right chuck religious mythology and support peoples’ right expect scientifically sound solutions to real problems. Any yutz can wave a flag. Supporting democracy is a big ask.

That’s especially true when your team loses. Patriots don’t whine about phantom fraud that’s somehow responsible for their guy losing. Patriots pass the torch with class and double down on voter outreach the next time. Or maybe develop some ideas that garner wider support. Do something substantial, rather than merely trying to convince poor people that poorer people are to blame for their lot in life and rigging the game for the next election. Patriots accept blame for their own actions, they don’t point fingers at others who had no role in their downfall.

You know, if you’re going to storm a government building in hopes of interrupting the implementation of a free election, for Pete’s sake, just own it. Pointing fingers at Antifa or BLM, who had zero involvement with the whole ordeal, is as pathetic as it is embarrassing. No one believes you. Just accept that you’re an instrument of, or support insurrection. Don’t piss on my boot and tell me it’s raining.

Now onto today’s main topic.

I know I’ve mentioned my thoughts on this issue before but seeing such misinformation appearing in print chaps my ass like wet blue jeans.

There are several points of contention regarding this line of thinking.

First, the entire thing is based on the misperception that burger-flippers are the primary (if not only) earners of minimum wage. They’re not, by a long shot, and that upends the very basis of this guy’s opinion. They love to call them “burger-flippers,” but often, the term “Essential” is more apt. You remember the heroes we were celebrating last year, those who risked their lives to put food on shelves or stock drug stores? I bet a significant number of them are working for minimum wage, especially once the “battle-pay” provisions elapsed. Where would we have been without them?

Sure, the military is essential, but how essential is child care when you have to go to work? Lots of child care professionals work for minimum wage.

Another point: Wages for the military and the rest of the public are not related, in that they come from different systems and employers. We can raise pay for military members without having any effect on private sector wages. Republicans can ask for a pay-raise for GIs anytime they want. All they’d have to do is cut back on spending with defense contractors, or maybe kill some of the weapons programs that military leaders say they don’t want or need. (But have to accept because said weapons are being built in an influential congressman’s state.) We spend more on the military than the next 12 countries combined. Don’t tell me there’s no room in the budget for better-paid troops. Lobby your congressmen for that and I’ll be right there with you. But don’t pretend what private employers are paying for minimum wage is a factor.

As I frequently point out, the right loves to target programs that help the lower and middle classes by pointing out that there’s some other more favorable group that’s being overlooked. But when they have the ability to do something about these “favored” groups themselves, it never happens. They’re only interested in military pay or homeless veterans when they’re trying to kill some other program. Otherwise, they don’t do a damned thing about it themselves.

In this case, they want military members paid more than service workers. But the solution should be to improve the pay of the military rather than to suppress the pay of everyone else. If they want to talk about earning gaps, how about figuring out why CEOs are billions of dollars more important than the people who defend this country. That’s the real disparity. It’s the zillionaires who are overpaid and overvalued. You want to sprinkle some dough around that comes from the CEO class? You could pay a hell of a lot of privates and sergeants from a 1% tax on the top 1% earners. Funny, I don’t hear any Republicans asking for that to happen. But they come out full force against “essential service” workers being able to make a living on a 40-hour week.

They can’t support this illusion in any factual way. That’s why they have to base their campaign strategies around preventing those particular people from voting.

Another point of contention is the lack of recognition that these minimum wage jobs are taken by choice. The author seems to think that it’s their fault for being roped into these low-paying jobs because they lack ambition or education.

But tell me, how are they supposed to get this education if they can barely get by on their wages? How can they possibly pay for school without going balls-deep in debt? The price of college has skyrocketed since I went to school.

I paid my way through college by working service jobs (grocery store, gas station attendant, record store clerk). The minimum wage was only 3-4 bucks an hour, but a semester at my state college was less than $1000. But now, it’s pretty much impossible to pay for one’s own degree just by working service jobs.

And I should mention that every single time the topic of raising the minimum wage was broached, the owner-class predicted price spikes and massive job losses, which never, EVER, came to pass when the wage was raised. The argument hasn’t changed since then and it’s still just as wrong.

Republican opposition to a higher minimum wage is 100% based on protecting profit margin. Business owners want wages low and production high. As was then and ever shall be. But that’s not a popular public argument, so they have to rely on stereotypes and distortions like the author above does. We just have to see it for what it is: a desperate attempt to keep the money in the upper class.


On the home front, we’ve had some excitement around these parts, as a family of robins made a nest in the holly bush right by our front door.  I’m sure they felt safe there because holly leaves are full of pickers that will tear you up when you try to handle them.

We’ve been monitoring the progress every day. Then when we came home from out of town last Tuesday, we found they’d hatched. Out of the four eggs, we could see at least 2 babies. So we got used to being yelled at by mama and papa robin anytime we dared use our own front door.

Sadly, our guests came to an unfortunate end.

Late Friday night, in the wee hours, the dog erupted in a barking fit. Sweetpea went out to see what the matter was, and found the dog on the couch, but staring at the front door. Not finding anything worrisome, we went back to bed.

But the next morning, she found that the babies were missing. They were nowhere near ready to leave on their own yet, so we figured that it was a cat or a fox the dog heard, having a midnight snack. Eventually, we found some, well, “parts” lying on the porch, which confirmed our fears.

The circle of life can be a real bitch sometimes.

And speaking of, I never understood all that stuff in the Lion King, with all the jungle animals celebrating the birth of a new creature that was predisposed to killing and eating them. If I was a zebra, I’d be like, “What are you all doing? Let’s stampede that thing out of here before another one of us gets killed! Remember? Last week they got Stan, and Bernie the week before! These things aren’t our friends!

Maybe they just hung around because the songs were so snappy.