Monday, October 25, 2021

If it Weren't for Double Standards, They'd Have None at All

People seem surprised that almost all Republican Congressmen voted not to pursue charges against Steve Bannon for not obeying a congressional subpoena to testify on the 1/6 Insurrection. After all, it would be a vote recorded against their own investigative powers. Surely they’ll be able to wield it again someday, like 2022 or 2024? So why would they vote to cut off their own powers?

I know why. Because to the modern Republican politician, there is no consistency of principle, other than “Protect the Rich” and be “against whatever Democrats are for.” (Especially when it might cost the rich.)

Forget about the overlying principles, they’re all about the details of the moment.

Do I want this now? Yes. Will I be willing to vote against this very thought if I need to, like if the opposition should attempt to use it? Absolutely.”

If the Republicans should find themselves in the majority again and want to run their own investigations, I guarantee you’ll see each one of them speechifying about how sacred is the power of the Congressional subpoena. They won’t even manage a blink of embarrassment.

Look what they do already. They pursue every means at their disposal to prevent women from exercising autonomy over their bodies when it comes to reproductive rights. But life-saving vaccine mandates? They have the audacity to claim that no one can force them to violate the autonomy of their bodies.

See? They have no attachment to the principle of bodily autonomy, they pick and choose when it’s applicable.

We’ve seen it with the Supreme Court nominees. When it serves their purpose, they steamroll their own nominees through a couple weeks before a presidential election. But when it’s the opponent trying to install a justice 10 months out from an election, they clog it up because “The People need to weigh in.” They have no stance on judicial timetables, other than “We do what we want and you can piss off.” If TFG had lost in 2016, Mitch McConnell was prepared to stall SCOTUS nominees for the next four years. They literally have zero shame.

They investigated Hillary every which way but loose. Every time they came up empty, they just started a new investigation, eventually culminating in an 11-hour marathon testimony. But do any of their guys cooperate, with say, impeachment and Insurrection investigations? Nope. See those are “biased” and “just Democrats playing politics.” Eleven Benghazi investigations? Nah, those were about National Security.

And when TFG and his family turned out to use their own private email networks, and used unsecured personal smartphones, just like Hillary was accused of doing? That’s just business as usual. Because it’s only a big deal when a Democrat does something. The principle of using secure communications networks? Irrelevant if it’s a Republican, national security crisis if it’s a Democrat.

I hope the current Insurrection Investigation continues to show its teeth. Although if the Justice Department doesn’t, it’ll all be a big waste of time. There has to be a penalty for purposefully creating an unlawful breeching of government walls for the purpose of forcibly changing the result of a lawful election. If there’s not, then we’re in for a Constitutional crisis and Civil War within the next 10 years.

Debunkery

Mice don’t understand the concept of a lot of things, so I wouldn’t make that the lynchpin of a political argument. What the writer doesn’t understand is that we already have a society rife with socialism, mostly for the benefit of the rich. How does changing the focus of the benefits from rich to everyone else make it become something to be avoided? (Actually, I’m sure the writer DOES understand, but his job is to distract people from catching on to the fact that the rich are being catered to at the expense of everyone else.)

You can see Fox “News” is still flogging gas prices as a measure of poor performance by Biden. This shirt is in the same vein.

Whoever voted for Trump owes an apology to the hundreds of thousands unnecessarily dead from COVID. That was the cost of your cheap gas last year.

As I’ve mentioned before, any comparisons to prices of anything last year are vastly misleading. The price of gas cratered in 2020 because of a lack of demand as people were isolating themselves due to The ‘Rona. That’s supply and demand. When there’s no demand, the price drops. When the demand comes back, the price rises.

Who the fuck do these people think they’re kidding? We were all around last year. We saw how when we dared to venture out, traffic was always light.

Can anyone explain to me what actions Biden took that directly affected gas prices? I mean, for all the talk of transition from fossil fuels, nothing has passed Congress yet, so there’s been no tangible activity.

Are they really going to denigrate Biden because he dared to tackle COVID head-on and reduce the risk of serious or fatal infection? I’m sure TFG would have the price of gas under a dollar by now because so many more would be dead or deathly ill. Would that be better?

Actually, to many Republicans, I’m sure it would. “Better that I get cheap gas than millions of others to get sick and suffer or die.

More Dad Stories

I wrote this up in 2012:

My dad is a nut.  You know… the good kind.

Remember when I posted about Dad picking his first orange from a tree in his yard?  Well, he’s having a go at figs now. 

It’s an Italian thing… our families often have fig trees.  I’ve never been a big fig eater, but I do acknowledge their importance in the making of Fig Newtons.  But my grandpa used to have a fig tree so Dad was brought up to enjoy figgy treats.

Up north, there’s a whole thing where you have to bury them in the winter to save them from the cold.  Then you dig them up again in the spring.  Fortunately for my dad, that’s not necessary in Florida.  So a while back, he went out and bought a fig tree to add to his burgeoning orange grove.

Over the weekend, he sent the following email, in celebration of his first fig harvest:

After a long hot harvest season, I hired many pickers, helping the unemployment problem and the economy.  Here it is.”

He sent pictures too, of course.



The last one kills me… setting up the place setting for one freakin’ fig.  It’s totally something I would do, so now you know why.

Obviously, I had to respond to the email, so I wrote back, “Glad your crops came in.  Now go fig yourself.”

That’s just a fig-ure of speech.

Then in Comments, Mom told the rest of the story:

You would have liked his encounter with the Cardinal, which happened one evening as we sipped drinks on the porch.  

"...blahblahbla...whaaa! OH! The bastard is...eating our FIG!!!!" 

He jumps up, runs around the pool, yelling and swatting. Of course, the poor bird fled and Dad returned, smiling, with one fig with a big beak hole. It was delicious."

Actually, I was relieved that when he told me a cardinal stole his fig because I imagined worse:


 

Monday, October 18, 2021

It's the Stupid, Economy

 OK, let’s hop back into Debunkery mode, shall we? Because the disinformation campaign never sleeps.

There are two distinct points that make this bit of wishful thinking worthless.

First of all, the writer must never have received even a basic education in how government works. They fail to realize that the very basis of our Constitution is a representative government. We elect people and they represent our interests. (OK, in theory.) That’s how Congress works. We cannot have a government run by 330 million people. This brings us to the second immovable object:

330 million people won’t agree on anything. Ever. That’s why we have representatives in the first place. Representation is sliced and diced to cover very local interests, as in the House of Representatives, and State-wide interests in the Senate. We vote for a President to represent national interests.

So by definition, there will always be someone who disagrees with whatever is going on.

Yes, we pay them to do it (again, in theory, if “we” means the rich donor class.”) It’s up to us, the voters, to keep our reps honest and if they’re not doing what we want, or if they’re only answering to the moneyed interests, vote them out. Just keep in mind that one side wants one thing and another side wants something else. Just because someone isn’t getting what they want doesn’t mean the system doesn’t work.

If there’s a downfall to the whole program, it’s that the Big Money Donors spend their big money trying to convince people that what the donors want is good for everyone, regardless of whether it’s actually true. (Example: Tax cuts for us? That will trickle down eventually. Direct help for you? That’s Socialism!)

Or if unable to convince people to vote directly against their own best interest, distract their attention with other incendiary topics to keep their attention away from the degree to which they’re getting screwed. And speaking of, there’s this:

This is just completely and verifiably false. It’s an out-and-out lie that counts on the target audience desperately wanting to believe it and also not knowing any better. They seem to forget that many others of us were alive and conscious in 2019 and remember how totally Not Great the economy really was.

Two years ago wasn’t even the best economy of the decade. You have to remember that the stock market alone does not represent the whole economy. It’s just the part that’s important to the rich people so they can keep socking away dividends.

In 2019, unemployment was fairly low because people needed multiple jobs just to stay afloat. Stagnant wages are not an indicator of a thriving economy (except to business owners). Big businesses were flush with cash because of the massive tax cuts granted them by the Republican Congress in 2017, tax cuts that were never paid for and never resulted in any measurable rise in jobs or wages. The companies just pocketed the money or bought back their own stock.

The only way to grow an economy is to water the grass. Put money in the hands of people who will spend it on goods and services. When the merchants see the increase in business, they put on more staff. When more and more places are doing well, the pay goes up, and the cycle continues.

They’ve tried the top-down method at various times in recent history, with Reagan, with Bush the Sequel, and again with the former guy. Each time, the economy did NOT roar to life, but times got significantly worse. Because in each instance, the rich took the money and kept it. The only trickling down is when they piss themselves laughing at the rest of us, especially at the poor working slobs who voted their guys into office because they were afraid of whatever boogeyman they were sold during the campaigns.

And aside from that, the gross mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 snuffed out any forward momentum the economy might have had.

Here’s another one that’s just plain false. Consider:

·        Eliminating polio, smallpox, measles, and every other disease we wiped out because everyone had to get vaccinated

·        Ending slavery

·        Segregating schools in Alabama and elsewhere

·        Legalizing same-sex marriage

·        Bringing down road deaths by mandating seatbelt use or motorcycle helmets

·        40 hour work week, holidays, and workplace safety standards

·        Environmental clean air and water standards

·        And other things I haven’t thought of yet in the 5 minutes it took me to come up with this list

All of these things were forced on a segment of the population that resisted, like racists, homophobes, rich business owners, bikers, and kids who hated needles. In each case the forcers were the “good team” and the others were not. The greater good was served and there was no evil power play or nefarious plot to reduce our “freedom.” It made the country safer and fairer to everyone.

And yes, when some people already have the odds stacked in their favor, the last thing they want to see is a fair playing field.

Tough shit.

Here’s another one that completely misses the point.

It’s because there IS a pandemic that a hospital has the need to ensure their staff is ready and able to assist for the long term and not lose staff to death or disability. Not to mention make is less likely to have people actively spreading the disease they’re all trying to fight. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who’s in the medical profession and resists such a well-tested and proven vaccine should seek other work because they lack the basic ability to do no harm.

And in America, there’s also this thing called “Liability.” Such a facility could go broke paying the damages to people who were infected because they allowed unvaccinated or unmasked people to mix with staff and patients.

Another Dad Story

My dad loved to mess with people. It was always something harmless, mostly just mind games. I learned at the foot of the master. These are a couple of quick stories from our time in the Columbus OH suburbs. (Source post: $#*! My Dad Did.)

One of the first stories I remember about Dad messing with people was when I was in early Jr. High.  We lived in a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood and some of the neighbors were known for being a little fussy.  At one get-together early in our tenure there, one of the neighbor ladies was talking about how she heard that another neighbor wanted all of his underwear labeled by day, so it would wear out evenly.

Dad said, “Don’t laugh… I have labels put in my underwear too…” He paused before delivering the punch line…  “January, February, March…”

They gave us a wide berth, after that.

We got along really well with our next-door neighbors though.  They were some nice, down-to-earth West Virginians.  Dad once complained to him about his own abysmal golf game.  (Dad was never much of a golfer.)

I don’t know why I even have clubs anymore, for all the good they do me,” he said.

Later that spring, the neighbor was out in his back yard and happened to look over at our garden, which was right alongside our chain-link border fence.  Dad had his tomato plants staked to his golf clubs.

The neighbor thought that was the funniest thing ever.  “Why in the world are you using golf clubs?” he asked.

Puts iron in the soil,” Dad answered.

For the rest of the summer, whenever the neighbors had guests, he’d drag them out to the back fence to show them his crazy neighbor’s garden.

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Texas Shuffle

 No, this isn’t a post about the political situation in Texas, it’s about last weekend when I found myself traveling there for a wedding.

One of my oldest friend’s daughter, Kyrie, was getting married. I’ve been her “uncle” all her life. I’ve written about her or for her so many times before, I call her my Muse. The Elf and the LeprechaunLetter to a 16-year old Girl, Letter to an Incoming College Freshman, The Pros and Cons of the 80’s, and the time she took me on a tour of her college town, which was MY old college town.

She currently lives in Houston, teaching 3rd grade. Her wedding site was going to be right between 3 cities, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. After consulting Google Maps, Austin seemed to be the closest so I decided to fly in and out of there.

The flight in would be non-stop, from Baltimore to Austin. On the way back, the only non-stop was at 6:30 AM. So to make a 6:30 flight, I’d have to be at the airport at 5:30, meaning I’d have to leave the hotel around 4:15, meaning I’d have to get up around 3:00… the morning after a wedding.

Um, no. Not doing that. The next best option was an 11:50 AM flight that routed through Houston for a 3-hour layover. Not the best, but the other choices were worse.

My buddy, known here as The CFO (Chairman of Fuck-Off, which is the title I’d give him if I ever won the lottery and needed dedicated staff to handle all the donation requests and business “opportunities”) was going to be my personal Uber driver.

Our first stop, after grabbing lunch, was to visit the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan, which we easily found along the river.

A monument to the greatest guitar player I ever heard.

On the way into town where the wedding venue was, we passed a sign that I just had to document. I had no idea I’d be anywhere near this place.

My immediate thought went like this: “Oh I gotta send that to Dad, he’s gonna love… ah crap.”

He would have loved it, had he still been with us. I’m still getting used to him not being here. It’s a process. But I always thought the ZZ Top song “LaGrange” was responsible for turning him from “Turn that shit down,” to “Hey, turn that up!” That Texas boogie just goes right to your groove center.

Now, I’m not going to go into all the wedding bullshit. I mean, no one wants to hear about a lot of wedding stuff for people they don’t know. Suffice to say, it was a beautiful event, the bride was stunning, and I definitely had to swallow hard a couple times.

I’m just going to talk about a couple of things.

First, a deer showed up at the rehearsal dinner. I know we were in a rustic environment but who expects a little deer to amble over to mix with the crowd?

Bambi with the bride’s niece.

Bambi works the crowd.

It was unreal… you could walk up to it and it would just look you over, smell your hand and sometimes rub its head on your leg. A few times it reared up on its hind legs, but the grownups learned they could just put a hand on its neck or chest and it would stay right there.

Eventually, they tried to get the rehearsal in, but the deer wouldn’t leave.

I think we should have called him John. Deer John. Or, John Deere. Whatever.

The ceremony was to be under that amazing tree. Note the deer, making himself at home. Obviously, it was used to interacting with people, probably mistaking us for oddly-colored, misshapen deer.

Eventually, one of the facilities people managed to run it off. Or kidnap it to release later. I’m not sure which.

The wedding wasn’t until 4:30 on Saturday, so the CFO and I had some chores to do that morning. The bride wanted a thing at the reception where they had a bunch of mini Polaroid cameras for the guests to use. The idea was to take random pics, caption them on the bottom, and then pin them to a bulletin board. She had four wine corks with push pins stuck in them so they looked like plastic porcupines. But the base of the push-pins took up too much room on the small photos, so she sent her Dad out to find hatpins to redo the corks. So the job fell to the CFO and me to repopulate the corks with the hat pins.

We started with great enthusiasm, which waned as the minutes dragged on. So this was the “finished product” we later presented to the bride.

She should have known better than to give the two old dudes a crafting project.

The main task of the afternoon was to construct The CFO’s father-of-the-bride speech. He had a couple of key ideas and stories he wanted to get out so with my background in radio broadcasting and public speaking (in my college days), it was up to me to mold it into something resembling a coherent speech.

We spent about three hours in my hotel room working on wording, delivery, and getting the notes down on cards. Our stated goal was to make life miserable for whoever’s speech followed. I made him do run-through after run-through, and we’d tweak wording or emphasis, or add a gesture. We had a lot to figure out regarding how he was going to do some of the “stunts.” It was grueling and at one point he probably wanted to take my head off. But then, deep down he knew I was right, so to his credit, he kept plugging.

As it turned out, his was the opening speech.

Here are a couple of the better bits:

·        [CFO takes out giant stack of note cards] I had some remarks prepared but the Kyrie told me I couldn’t talk about her dating history. [Tosses giant chunk of the note cards down on the table.]

·        I want to offer congratulations to my incredible, talented, beautiful daughter and… um… uh… uh… [from a plant in crowd: “Dom!”] Yeah, thanks.

·        The first time they met, it was in Put-In-Bay. Dom was puking into a bottle… and my incredible, talented, beautiful daughter said, “Someday I’m gonna marry that…”

·        Now, for the primary stunt. The CFO spoke about how it had always been his own job to protect his little girl, but now it’s falling to the groom. Then came the big moment.

But remember, I know some very dangerous people. [Three red dots appear on the groom’s chest.]

All of whom have a “particular set of skills.” [Two more red dots appear on the groom.]

Some of whom are here tonight. [Three more dots light up the groom, who now has eight “sniper targets” on him, which were, in fact, laser pointers handed out by The CFO to select guests.]

But I’m sure it won’t come to this.” [Dots gradually disappear.]

·        Kyrie told me I had to say something nice about the groom. I couldn’t come up with anything, so she made me a few suggestions. [takes new set of cards from jacket pocket]  Let’s see… Nope…. No… No… Uh-uh… {tossing each card over shoulder] Nope… Hell no… Oh here’s one. He’s got a nice beard. [Back to cards] Nope, Nope, [giggling] uhh, no. [Reads card closely, leans over to bride] I am NOT saying THAT. OK, he’s going to inherit a killer Mustang someday.

·        Then in closing, he actually said something nice (at my insistence) and welcome the very good-natured groom to the family.

My friend, this speech killed. They would have carried him off on their shoulders if he wasn’t so busy picking up all the cards he tossed. And I was standing right beside the Best Man, who had to go on next and was NOT happy about it. Mission accomplished.

Sunday was getaway day, which I expected to be a breeze. With the three-hour layover in Houston, I planned to stream the first half of the Steelers game before hopping on the flight home. Such a fool I was.

After the CFO dropped me off at the Austin airport, the first thing I did was check the big board. Lo and behold… my freakin’ flight to Houston was canceled. I looked toward the Southwest Airlines desks and the line was massive. (Mine wasn’t the only canceled flight.) I knew that if I got in line then, it would be hours before I even got to talk to someone, and all the better alternatives would already be taken.

I checked the Southwest app to try to rebook, but all remaining flights for the day were listed as “unavailable.” So were all the flights for the next day too. Talk about playing "Texas Hold'em. So I was well and truly fucked.

Until… I remembered that the CFO was on his way to Houston at that very moment, heading back to his daughter’s apartment. So I made a quick call to see if he could come back and get me to bring me along. Luckily, he wasn’t too far away yet. He was back about 15 minutes later.

Long story short, he got me to the airport about 40 minutes before I had to board my original second leg back to Baltimore. Eventually, I learned that Southwest had a massive amount of cancelations over the weekend. Many people were stuck for days, as I would have been, had I not had two unreal pieces of good fortune: my buddy already heading to Houston and having a 3-hour layover that gave me enough time to call an audible via automobile. I got home at the time I was originally scheduled, unlike so many other poor slobs this weekend.

What I wondered is why I hadn’t heard about the cancelation before I walked into the airport. I mean, I have the FlightAware app… why didn’t it tell me? I checked the phone popups and didn’t see one. But then I scrolled down some more and there it was. It had come in around midnight the night before. And I didn’t have email notifications activated, so by the time I got up and looked at the phone, the flight notification was pushed down, out of sight.

If I’d have known about the cancelation earlier, we could have skipped the trip to Austin and just moseyed down to Houston at our leisure. Oh well. I got off light… I can’t complain.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Know Your Clientele

It’s funny when memes start to repeat themselves. I just saw this one turn up last week:

I can almost just cut and paste my previous debunkery of the meme which similarly complained that the COVID shots were free so why aren’t they giving away insulin and chemo?

The answer to that was:

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 they won’t do, because that would be an admission that they’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.

For this particular meme, the “contagious” point falls away, but I’d also add that there’s no other way for the makers of methadone to make money. Do you think the heroin addicts have cash to spend on methadone?

No, the only way to make money is for the drugmaker to sell it to the government, to provide to the addicts. And as long as we run a for-profit medical industry, the drug companies will need to be paid. Do you want to change that? Support Democrats in favor of a Single-Payer medical system, like the ones run by every other developed country in the world.

That’s the society we want? Street-side police executions for any or all lawbreakers? That’s life in a Communist dictatorship, not America. At least it’s not supposed to be. We’re on our way, led by people who support memes like this.

Look, when a possible criminal resists arrest with lethal force… pointing a gun or wielding a knife, I say they get what’s coming to them. If they’re dumb enough to draw on an officer, they get what they deserve. But those aren’t the cases that people hold marches about.

People protest over the killing of handcuffed detainees, or people just sitting in their cars. They march over people being killed over minor offenses like traffic violations, selling single smokes, passing a bad twenty, or just having a bad attitude. They protest when police become judge, jury, and executioner.

So when the knee-jerk police apologists want to put their idols on an unimpeachable pedestal, just remember that the original police report said he died after a “medical incident.” From the police report:

The officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”

This was the official record, up until the video came out. They obviously forgot to add that the “medical distress” was caused by their officer’s knee on his neck for 9 minutes. And this is just one example. I just wonder how many other travesties occurred in the shadows, without the illumination of video.

Police are supposed to be held to a higher standard, not behave like the criminals they pursue. Without that higher standard, they’re just a paid hit squad.

That’s why we can’t apply this dumbass logic.

This goes hand in hand with the other one but I’m going to take it in another direction.

Police officers choose to go into law enforcement. Not everyone chooses to become parents, especially in this day and age, and ESPECIALLY in Texas. There are qualifications to fulfill to become a cop. There are none to become a parent. Geniuses and idiots alike can become parents.

So, there are a great many kids who don’t have the benefit of having even one stable, caring, knowledgeable parent, let alone two, to advise them on the finer points of police interactions. So maybe it’s not a bad thing for the police to bear the greater burden of behaving better than kids who literally don’t know any better.

There are a lot of factors at play here, poverty, education, subpar housing, and lead paint. It’s easy to sit on one’s big, suburban, well-fed White ass and opine about the raising of children in a world they’ll never see, let alone understand.

Bluz Life

Another story from my dad, who passed away last month. He was always a big proponent of donating blood. He was always proud of my brother and me for carrying on with blood donations when we were kids and ever after. When I blogged about some of my past blood donations, he added a story of his own, in Comments.

The first time I gave blood was at Duquesne University when I was in my junior year. My Principles of Statistics professor was sick in Mercy Hospital and a call went out for blood donors. My frat brothers all passed on it, but I was not comfortable in that class and felt a duty. So I went down to the hospital and gave a pint.

Later that semester my professor called me in and was thankful, and said no matter how bad I did on the final, I was going to get a C at the worst. YES there is a God!

Follow-up at the final exam, fellow frat brothers were sweating, and I mean sweating. I got up and left about 30 minutes into the 2-hour exam. My blue book was blank, except for a note reminding him of our deal. I think I could have passed it, but I had other exams the same day. Great memories of a blood-giving experience some 50 years ago. Dad