Monday, April 25, 2022

Florida Man Chases Mouse

The news was last week that Florida Man Ron DeSantis went full-on Fascist by steamrolling a bill through the state legislature that removes the special tax situation that was created for Disney World back in the 60s, that essentially allowed them self-government. This was not done because a deep dive told him that it would be in the state’s (or anyone’s) best interest to revoke the deal, but because Disney dared to push back on his obnoxious new “Don’t Say Gay” law, going so far as to turn off the spigot of cash donations to Republican interests in the state, so they needed to be punished.

There are some on the right who are whitewashing the story, trying to be all cute, and turning things around on those stupid Libs.

Gotcha, muthafuckas!

No, you really don’t.

Democrats and Liberals aren’t mad because a cozy tax haven got revoked, we’re mad because the tax reversal was done as a punishment for not going along with the governor’s philosophy (that gay people are evil and need to be removed from public view. And that somehow, acknowledging that there are gay people equals grooming children for abuse.)

Pretending this is all about the benefit or liabilities of tax structures is beside the point, in fact, it’s so far away from the point, it’s a complete misdirection. But they know that. It’s the Republican Way: When you can’t defend a point, change the focus to something you CAN defend and run with that.

Whether the governor can win a war against the state’s biggest employer remains to be seen. One could even argue that he doesn’t care if this action sinks the state because he’s looking at the presidency. We all know that conservatives are willing to overlook a little fascism in the name of winning the Culture War.

What this new breed of Republicans is showing us is that they hold no principle higher than complete obedience to whatever they hold to be their current dogma. It used to be Business Over All, (and to many in the Old Guard, it still is), but now it’s all about bringing America back to the 1930s, where Blacks were marginalized, women were powerless, gays were invisible, and it was a very good time to be a straight, white, Protestant man.

We are in the process of selling my parents’ house in Florida. Once the sale closes, I’ll be content to see the whole state break off and float off into the ocean. They can set up their own little island nation: Redneckistan. Instead of a banana republic it can be an orange republic. Or maybe even grapefruit. (And the smattering of progressive people still living there are free to immigrate up here to Maryland, as described in my previous post.)

Where’s Ozzy When You Need Him?

I meant to comment on this a couple weeks ago, but you know… shit happens. The original story was about how a bunch of people started singing religious songs to celebrate Easter onboard a plane.

This would have driven me batshit if I was on that plane, although maybe less so if I had my MP3 player and headphones with me. Nothing like a little Devil’s Music to drown out the noise of a planeload of True Believers pushing their bullshit on a captive audience.

I’m sure there were many people who found this atmosphere off-putting, but naturally, Fox goes after their favorite whipping girl, Ilhan Omar. (Maybe they were already flogging Maxine Waters and AOC on other issues.) So OF COURSE, Fox says she was mocked for objecting. Fox is hip-deep in doing the mocking!

And once again, they turn the issue on its side by using a misleading question like, “Why do you hate Christians?

They know it’s not about hating Christians or anyone, it’s the resentment of these people’s audacity in loudly expressing their own version of morality/reality and recoiling when the intended victims have the nerve to object.

I would love to have seen another group on the plane counter with a rousing version of Highway to Hell. Or maybe even Shot Down in Flames (from the same AC/DC album.) Do they want to turn a simple flight into American Idol auditions? We can play that game too.

Programming Note

Often when I’m writing about police violence and/or corruption, I bring up Baltimore’s infamous Gun Trace Task Force, which blew up into a major scandal a few years back. An elite unit charged with getting guns off the street turned into a real-life version of The Shield, by rolling anyone who looked like they had money, stealing money, guns, and drugs from arrestees, planting evidence, claiming overtime for unworked hours, and finding new and exciting ways to flout the law to enrich themselves. They were essentially a street gang with badges.

If you are an HBO subscriber, tonight begins a 6-part series on the Gun Trace Task Force, called “We Own This City.” It’s based on a book by the same name written by a couple of Baltimore Sun reporters.

This is what happens when a police force has no oversight or accountability. Their actions in no way made the streets safer. In fact, due to the scandal, the members of this unit could no longer be called to testify in court, due to issues with credibility. This allowed those they arrested, from hardcore criminals to violent drug offenders, to those that just got picked up and robbed, to go free.

This is a story to keep in mind when you find yourself debating with some knee-jerk police apologist who talks about bad apples. This little batch of apples tainted the entire police department, a stain that they’re still trying to scrub out.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Welcome to Maryland, Hon

 The news has been awash in the horrors that Red State governments have unleashed upon the lands, so I understand why progressives have been nervous. The mid-term elections could very easily restore power to congressional Republicans, and who knows how much damage they’re prepared to do? (I think their primary accomplishments will be investigations into problems they, themselves, have made up.)

So with states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia locking down abortion prohibitions, (I’m pretty sure they’ll be regulating sex positions* before too long, in the name of “freedom,” of course,) granting themselves the right to overturn election results they don’t like, and removing any school books that might contain actual education, I can see where the woefully outnumbered Red State Democrat might wonder to where they might escape this gleeful repression.

*I can hear the slogans now…”Doggie Style leads to bestiality!” “Man should ALWAYS be on top!” “Fellatio is a Waste-io!”

I say, “Come on up to Maryland, baby!”

Don’t laugh… when you look around at the competition, Maryland has a lot going for it. It’s a reliably blue state. Even with a two-term Republican governor, Maryland is still making progressive waves.

Last week, the state passed a whole slew of laws that actually benefit average citizens. The following are among the new bills:

Legalizing recreational marijuana: In November legalized pot will be a referendum on the ballot and is expected to pass by a landslide. It would legalize possession of up to 1.5 ounces and remove criminal penalties for possessing up to 2.5 ounces. It would also expunge past marijuana convictions for possession.

Abortion: new law would allow medical professionals beyond only physicians to perform abortions and spend 3.5 million for medical training on the procedure. (There was talk this year about codifying the right to abortion into the state constitution but there were too many that didn’t think it was necessary.)

Climate Change: created a goal to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 60% below 2006 levels by 2031. Governor Hogan was expected to veto this bill but allowed it to become law without his signature. But he had already hampered the goal by nixing an east-west light-rail route that Baltimore badly needs if they are to get serious about public transportation.

Paid Leave: Created a statewide family leave insurance program that will cover up to 12 weeks of parental family leave.

Tax Relief: Oh, I like this one, because I’ll be there shortly. The new bill gives citizens 65 and older a $1000 state income tax credit and exempts many child care and medical expenses from sales tax. Who says you can’t cut taxes in a Blue State? (State sales tax is 6%. I don’t know what your state’s is, but when I moved here from New York in 1997, theirs was 8%, so this seemed like a deal.)

Ghost Guns: banned, along with any gun that doesn’t have a serial number.

Jury Duty Compensation: Raised from $15/day to $30. It’s still grossly insufficient to compensate those who lose a day of work, but it’s less of an insult now.

Marriage Age: Raised from 15 to 17, and 17-year-olds can get married without parental consent if they complete a series of steps to show they are doing so thoughtfully and safely. Save the child marriages for Tennessee.

For pet lovers, they also outlawed the declawing of cats, which is barbaric mutilation. If you want a cat, just accept that your furniture might get shredded, and don’t maim your pet.

Most of these bills were vetoed but over-ridden by the legislature. With Governor Hogan holding presidential aspirations, he can’t have approving some of these things on his record or he has no chance in the primaries. The fact that he’s not a Trumper already gives him a stiff headwind.

He did approve making Juneteenth a state holiday and of course, approved a pile of money for the Orioles and Ravens stadiums.

The state is gerrymandered safely blue, although just a little less going forward. Democrats lost a bid to further restrict the only conservative district so now there will be two. It’s ironic that Republicans had the nerve to go to court to fight Maryland’s Democratic gerrymandering while defending against all attempts to overturn their own gerrymandering efforts in states like Florida. I’ve always said that I’d be glad to give up Maryland’s biased maps, but not until the Red States did the same. There is no reward for being noble… Republicans will just pick up the seats and laugh all the way to the House.

But it’s not just politics that should be a draw. Look at the state COVID stats. 95% of state residents have had at least one vaccination. Almost 4.6 million have been fully vaccinated. Testing positivity was at 2.53% last week. It had been as low as 1.5 but has been creeping up with the new variant. Even so, less than 150 people are hospitalized with COVID. And Baltimore is home to one of the best hospitals in the world, the renowned Johns Hopkins. There are other top-shelf hospitals here as well.

Maryland has something for everyone, too. Baltimore and the metro area serve as a cultural center with museums, concerts, and theater, and outside that is a rural landscape. The state is basically Alabama with Baltimore in the middle. But the middle makes the rules.

The street fairs are awesome… there is the Italian Festival, the German Festival, and also Greek, Russian, and Polish festivals. ArtScape is a huge summer party. And you have to attend “Hon-Fest” at least once in your life. That’s where Baltimore gets its freak on.

The weather is fairly stable. It gets hot, occasionally into the 100s, but not for too long, and can get very cold, but again, only for a short time. We don’t get many tornados but might see a hurricane come up the coast every 8-10 years. Any earthquakes barely register on the Richter scale.

If you’re a sports fan, this is a major-league town, with both professional baseball and football. Granted, the Orioles haven’t sported a winning team since 2014, but the stadium is beautiful and very affordable, compared to other markets. (As a Steelers fan, the less I say about the Ravens, the better.) College sports thrive here as well, especially basketball and lacrosse.

Maryland has a great shoreline and nice beaches. The bay is beautiful for boating, fishing, and other water activities. Crab cakes! Crab cakes! And hey, we just unstuck that freighter that was mired in the bay for the last month, so we got THAT going for us!

Of course, it’s not all the land of milk and honey. There are still some serious problems with violence and crime, drugs and traffic. The drivers are terrible. The city school system is a mess. Real estate prices are insane. (Not “west coast insane,” but still vastly overpriced for what you get.) But no place is perfect. But if you stay out of the really rough parts, you can escape relatively unscathed.

So don’t despair if you’re trapped in a state whose goal is to make it 1940 again. Unassuming little states like Maryland are trundling along under the radar, providing a secure place for the 21st century to evolve. It could be a welcome destination where a progressive-minded person can feel at home.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Restroom Signs Revisited

I'm at a loss for subject material today (that I haven't already written about) so I thought I'd amuse you with this rerun of a post I made in 2010, after having a fascinating experience in and outside of an airport restroom. No, there were no Republican Congressmen involved.

 To get to Amelia Island, we had to fly through Jacksonville airport and I must say, they had fascinating restrooms.

First of all, their sinks were amazing, in that there weren’t any.  I went to wash up, (not because I peed on my hands, but because it’s just the right thing to do), and I saw lots of soap dispensers and spigots, but no sinks.  There was only a long flat countertop.  Upon further review, I noticed that the counter was slanted back towards the wall and between the end of the counter and the wall, there was a long trough for the water to run into.

It really doesn’t take much to amuse me.  I would have taken a picture but then I’d be letting women in on all the secret stuff we have in men’s rooms.*  Luckily I found this one with The Google:
Photo by David King via his Flickr photostream.  Apparently, he thought it was as cool as I did.  More importantly, he avoided showing the secret restroom stuff*.

But the real interesting thing to me was the d├ęcor of the restroom entrances.  It seems they put up every existing variation of the restroom symbol of “trouser guy” and “skirt girl” known to mankind.

While waiting for my girlfriend to get done in the lady's room, (which was labeled in a corresponding way) I stood and stared at it for a while, as ideas began to bubble up.  I took a picture of this vast display of manly restroom symbols so that I could come home and bring you these descriptions of some of those to whom I thought this restroom was catering:

There wasn’t room to describe all the symbols, so I picked my favorites.   With one exception, the captions are directly above the arrows that point to the symbol. One of these is rather dated, so I apologize if the meaning isn't clear.**

I was really intrigued by the one I labeled “WTF?”  I mean, how the hell is that “male”?  I checked the corresponding female one and it was practically the same thing, only the curve was upside down.  What is that?  Bowing dude?  Parenthesis man?  Comma guy?  Scoliosis person?  I give up.

*Ok, we really don’t have any secret stuff in the men’s room; I’m just trying to create intrigue.  I know there is secret stuff in the lady’s room.

**If you'll recall the news from 2006, Saddam Hussein's head came off when they botched his hanging.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Bluz Newz Reviewz for Youz

I love that President Biden has come out publicly for a tax on the Super-Rich. It’s about time. But it’s funny seeing so many of the lunch-pail brigade criticizing the proposal as if it wouldn’t make their own lives so much better. It just shows they’ve been well-trained by their overlords at Fox “News,” who bleat about the plight of those poor, trod-upon billionaires, who are only trying to put bread on their family’s tables, just like you and me. And by “bread,” I mean thick bundles of cash and reams of stock portfolios, possibly tinged with the blood of those who did the work that reaped such benefits for the executives.

Already I see lots of moaning about the terrible unfairness of it all, how these put-upon billionaires would be taxed on earnings they haven’t even realized yet. I say, screw’em. All the better to get some of that cash before they stash it in off-shore accounts.

This is a group that has had so much for so long, they don’t even understand how badly the rest of us get screwed. Or maybe they do but WE don’t. All I know is they can afford to shake some cash down to better the lives of the rest of us poor wretches, slaving away in stores, factories, or god-forsaken open office seating areas. And once they’ve been taxed, they’ll STILL be billionaires, with plenty of dough leftover to fund their next yacht.

And if they still want to complain, my counter-proposal would be to keep the tax structure the same but eliminate all the loopholes they use to pay a lower tax rate than do you or I or the janitors who sweep up their offices after they leave. Just pay the taxes as already directed by the tax code, on the straight up. Then we’ll see how they like the new proposal.

Russia Russia Russia!

Did you see this headline/story?

So this is how they’re going to handle the acts of savagery being brought to light in Ukraine… by putting out absurd lies that no one with half a brain cell believes*.

*Except on Fox “News.”

I wonder if Republicans know that this is how the rest of us look at their ongoing stream of bullshit stories. You know… BLM and Antifa were behind January 6th, Democrats are Satan-worshipping, child-eating pedophiles, TFG really won the election, tax cuts to the top trickle down to the rest of us, abortion laws are to protect women, recent local election rules were passed to fight election fraud, etc.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both Russia and the Republicans dissemble information and distract our attention from the truth in the same way. Top Republicans crave the kind of sheer, all-encompassing power wielded by Putin and Kim Jong Un. It’s such an inconvenience to have to pledge fealty to a system of government that sometimes puts them out of power for the flimsiest of reasons, like ““The People” want someone else in charge” or “they totally botched the economy the last time they ran things.” It totally interferes with their siphoning tax dollars into the pockets of those who have the most. The rest of us would just waste it, I guess. Stupid peasants…

Out, Out Damned Twat

Speaking of distractions, did you see the latest verbal excrement from the Colorado half of the famous performance art duo, Heckle and Dyed?

The quick answer is that buying beer or cigs is a decision, whereas sexual orientation is not. And I think most kids know pretty early on regarding where their interests lie. I know that even from my earliest school days, I was interested in holding hands with girls, not boys.

I think that ignoring the signs from your child regarding their orientation would be akin to abuse. Why punish a child for knowing that they’re “different” at an early age? This needs to be an issue between the parent and child, and not the government, least of all some uneducated freshman Representative who’s better versed in attention-whoring than passing legislation.

Knowledge is Knowing That We Know Nothing**

I see a lot of impatience afloat regarding the progress of filing charges against TFG and the rest of the 1/6 Planning Commission. All I’ll say is what I said while the Mueller Report was being assembled: There’s no sense in speculation or even forming opinions because we don’t know jack shit yet. This process has been buttoned up and leak-proof. The wheels are turning slowly and that goes against the grain of our “I Need Answers NOW” culture. If we don’t have the beginning, middle, and end of the story in 42 minutes, plus commercials, we have a collective fit.

Look, you’d like to see TFG get rung up, I’d like to see that too. But they have to tread carefully if they want charges to stick. It will be unprecedented to charge a former US President with such serious crimes. And you know what they say, “If you take a shot at the King, you’d better not miss.” Because if he beats the rap, it will be open season for presidential corruption for the rest of our days. Given what we already DO know, you’d think charges should be obvious. But we don’t know what we don’t know. So there’s no sense in squawking about the lack of progress while we don’t know what progress has been made. So let’s just breathe, huh?

And hope we’re not in for another Mueller-sized swing and miss.

**Most bodacious thanks to So-Crates for the subheading quote.

Happy Birthday…

…last week to one of the great rock guitarists of all time, Angus Young.

Too much “cool” for a single photograph. This was from Keith’s FB page, and said “Happy birthday to the ‘Lil Devil.’”

Angus turned 67 on 3/31. This guy is probably responsible for my ongoing neck and back pain, stemming from the long sessions in my youth I spent imitating Angus’s manic head and knee bobbling at parties, with the AC/DC cranked up. The guy’s a freak of nature and I can’t believe he’s still out there doing it.

And just because everything is better when Samuel L Jackson is involved:

Another Dad Story

OK, not so much a story as a relic. My brother found this while cleaning out my folks’ garage in Florida, the legendary “Bar-Noculars.”

Dad used to use these to get brandy into Cleveland Stadium, among other places, right under the noses of Security.

I’m not sure they would work as well now. I mean, with the giant replay scoreboards, does anyone even bring binoculars to games anymore?  Back in the day, when we used these, the scoreboards only showed stats and stuff. There were no replays to be seen, so you had to pay attention to the actual game. And if you were sitting low in the end zone, like we usually were, you couldn’t tell if a team gained 2 yards or 10, until they posted the down and distance. Binoculars were a must.

I suppose now they’d have to make flasks that look like cell phones.