Monday, August 29, 2022

Term Limits and Loan Forgiveness

 The prospect of instituting term limits gets bandied about every so often and it’s usually a pointless endeavor because, at the federal level, it’s highly unlikely to change. No politician is going to vote to shorten his period of power and influence, not nearly enough of them to make it happen. But it’s a different story on the local level.

Last week, the Baltimore Sun ran a story about an effort to establish term limits in the City of Baltimore, via voter referendum, which would include Mayor, City Council, Comptroller, and such. Now, I can usually see the pros and cons of term limits… you sacrifice institutional knowledge for new ideas. It can be good to get some new people involved but they spend their first weeks or months not knowing how things really work.

But one thing jumped out at me immediately that convinced me to not be in favor of term limits and that’s because Sinclair Broadcasting wants them.

As you can see, the president of Sinclair Broadcasting financed the effort to collect signatures for the referendum to put the matter on this fall’s ballot. If Sinclair wants it, it’s going to be bad for the community. Sinclair is basically Fox “News” with a larger reach. They own 185 TV stations in 86 markets, including the Fox and The CW affiliates (and one more) plus two stations in DC. Their local TV news broadcasts are always touting their investigations into Baltimore City, be it the schools, crime, or the economy, and it’s always about scaring you to death. They hype their ambush interviews all day long during commercial breaks. They also require their affiliates to run prerecorded station editorials that would sound right at home on Fox and Friends.

If the mayor of Baltimore found a way to cure cancer, their top story would be about city “death panels” deciding whether you get treatment or not.

I’m sure Sinclair would love to have a crack at altering the 100% Democratic makeup of city government, maybe promote a DINO or two that will carry water for them, like their own pet Joe Manchin. Or maybe they just want some of their people to be able to get in, loot what they can, then make room for the next hog at the trough. They may also want to get someone in there who will promote other “connected” businesses for city contracts.

I don’t know why they’re worried about the Mayor though. We haven’t had a mayor serve out 2 full terms since I can remember. They either move up and on like Martin O’Malley, who became a 2-term Governor, get caught with their hands in the cookie jar like Sheila Dixon or Catherine Pugh, or abandon re-election hopes because they said something irreversibly stupid during their first term, like Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Maybe our current Mayor, Brandon Scott, is a boy scout who they’re afraid will be here for at least another term. If he actually turns things around in the city, that would be their worst-case scenario.

But with five stations in the market, Sinclair will wield great influence over what we see on local TV, especially as it gets closer to November. If it works here, Sinclair may try the same plot in other markets they service, like New York, where they operate eight stations across the upstate region.

I’m far less concerned about term limits than I am about the consolidation of the broadcast industry. Since deregulation, we’re seeing more and more stations owned by fewer corporations, giving a select few people an outsized voice on public matters. Sinclair is showing why less diverse media ownership is a bad idea.

Give Us a Break

The bigger news of the week was that President Biden issued $10k in student debt relief to people making less than $125k, with 80% of that going to those making less than $75k. This provoked the predictable gnashing of teeth from the Right, who don’t like anything going to someone they don’t like. The deliberate misleading of the public began immediately, with memes about why common workin’ Joes should have to pay for schooling for a bunch of rich lawyers, which willfully misses the point about how the people making serious bank aren’t eligible. And when they weren’t misleading about qualifications, they were misdirecting on why people go to college, by presuming they’d be paying for smelly hippies to take interpretive dance and basket weaving.

If this stuff is coming from the rank and file, it’s clear they don’t really know what happens in college. And if it’s from the slick right-wing propaganda machine, they know that the rank and file will eat it up and pass it on regardless.

One of the most prevalent complaints is the fallacy that they are somehow personally stuck with the bill… as if they’re going to be required to start sending in $100 checks every month. Again, that’s the slickness of the messaging operation on the Right. They know this stuff will hit home, and their target audience will never realize that every citizen in this country pays for shit they’d rather not… except the 1% who don’t pay for anything (and want to keep it that way.)

The real fun began when the various MAGA Congress people started tweeting about it and the Whitehouse smacked them down by pointing out how much they had forgiven in PPP loans.

It was nice to see the Dems on offense for a change. And all they had to do is highlight the raging double standard put forth by these “public servants.” Loan forgiveness is a sin to them unless it’s their own loan. And hell, it’s not even a sin, it’s a biblical requirement!

Or is the bible another thing that only applies to others? (Obviously.)

The other main nit to pick was from people who either paid their way through school or paid off their own loans, the logic being that it’s not fair to them for someone else to have their loan forgiven after they’ve already paid. To these delicate flowers, I say, “tough shit.” Life isn’t fair, the government isn’t fair, and these predatory, damn-near-impossible-to-pay-off-without-being-filthy-rich student loans aren’t fair.

I paid my own way through college without needing a loan, so I’m in that group. But I realize that back then, you could pay for college with a part-time job. Those days are long gone and if people want to better themselves through education, student loans are a way to go. Up until very recently, it’s what the culture said was the right thing to do; go to school, go to college, and get an education. Of course, now getting educated is tantamount to getting groomed to be a pedophile communist to the MAGA brigade. They don’t trust no fancy book-learnin’, no sirree. And they certainly don’t want to feel like they’re paying for it. And that’s what counts today, isn’t it? Feelings. How we feel about things, regardless of the facts at hand.

I know first-hand how oppressive it is to have these loans hanging over one’s head, especially when a college education doesn’t translate to high-paying jobs. I know college graduates who struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food in the fridge. The way the loans are set up, they have no chance of paying them off, ever. No matter how many payments get made, it makes very little difference in the principle owed. Removing a chunk (or all) of that debt is like getting the boot lifted off your neck, even just a little. If more jobs paid a living wage, the boot would come off a little more. But in the meantime, people living in the margins might have some more money to throw around the economy, so everyone eats better.

I think this is exactly what the country needs right now.

So yeah, I’m not getting any of this new benefit, but I’m OK with those that do. I'm on the side that thinks it didn't go far enough, but I'll take it as a win for now. It will help the community and the economy. The federal budget is a black hole of spending anyway, at least this is something they’re paying for that helps Americans. At least the ones who know the value of education.

Monday, August 22, 2022

GOP Playbook: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

 I frequently mention that the first tenet of Republicanism is that whatever a Democrat does is wrong, just by having been done by a Democrat. I saw that on display again last week with this tweet from Nikki Haley (featuring an on-point counter by Rep Swalwell):

I’m not sure where this story even comes from so I’m certainly not taking it at face value. I mean, how do they even know these 66 were terrorists? Do they carry Terrorist ID Cards now? Did they find bombs in their backpacks? (Presumably looking like bowling balls with wicks stuck in them.) Or do they just have Arabic names? To Republicans, that’s all it takes.

So if these people were terrorists and were indeed stopped at the border, what’s the freakin’ problem? The system worked. Is Biden at fault because someone, somewhere dared to try to cross the border?

Well, yes. Just go back to Rule One, “Whatever a Democrat Does is Wrong.” It’s the Fox “News” Way.

They don’t care that the underlying logic is hopelessly damaged. How much sense would this make:

666 people were stopped for speeding on federal interstates this weekend. Biden has one job: To protect America, and he’s failing. If Biden doesn’t take his job seriously, it’s up to local police to write tickets.”

Can Biden really get in the heads of millions of drivers and make them slow down? Nope, no more than he can make thousands of South and Central Americans somehow stop their plans to cross the border before they get there. All he can do is have a system in place to stop people trying to cross illegally. It would also help if there were a coherent system to guide legal immigration, but as far as I know, it’s still a major CF.

I think Republicans are still nostalgic for those good ole’ Trump days where the object was to make this country so shitty that no one wanted to come because they knew they would be detained by people whose goal it was to make the experience as traumatic as possible.

A Fox Guarding the Hens’ Bank Account

I’ve been munching the popcorn over this story, that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is running out of money.

They raised $173 million, spent $20m on ads, and have $27m left. How the hell does THAT happen, without a massive grift going on?

Rick Scott, on his way to audition for the Blue Man Group.

Anything that gets Republicans fighting Republicans is all right with me. It’s one thing to swindle the taxpayers, but swindling each other? That’s when the shit hits the fan. So let them turn on each other. I’m just waiting for the inevitable moment when they come up with a way to blame the Democrats. But this one’s going to need some serious creativity. I’d guess it’ll be something like “Antifa hackers funded by George Soros paid off BLM supporters to break into Rick Scott’s house and steal the money from under his mattress. The whole plan was explained in Hillary’s emails stored on Hunter Biden’s laptop!

Gas Pains

This is the faux story that never seems to die, probably because the fossil fuel industry, which owns the Republican Party lock, stock, and barrel, won’t let it. I just lifted a new version from Facebook… they never seem to tire of trying to blame the president for the price of gas.

“IT WAS $2 LOWER BECAUSE THE COUNTRY WAS LOCKED DOWN DUE TO THE MISHANDLING OF COVID! No demand equals low prices, that’s Econ 101. It is willfully dishonest to compare the current prices, which have been affected by a giant shooting and bombing war in Europe and worldwide inflation to a price that cratered due to demand dropping off the table, and then blame the president for it. The prices are what they are because the oil companies want it that way. Do you see any of them taking big losses this year? The MAGAs “fall for it” every time. And I guarantee you that if TFG was still president and we had these same conditions, they’d still find a way to blame the Democrats.

The pipelines we approved aren’t pumping enough oil because Antifa jammed them up with red tape, electric car batteries, and Hillary’s emails.”

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Views on a Ballgame

Special Off-Schedule Mid-Week Bonus Post!

You don’t have to bail if sports isn’t your thing. This isn’t about sports so much as it is about the experience of going out to a big public event. Whenever I’m at a concert or a game or anything else, I automatically start looking for things I can tell you about regarding my experience.

Two days after I went to see ZZ Top (and was annoyed by people who dared stand around directly between me and the stage), I took in a ballgame as well. Every year, I like to take what I call a “Ferris Bueller” day. That’s where I take a day off work and go see a daytime baseball game. As a citizen of Baltimore, I’m lucky to have major league baseball right here in town, and given the Orioles' recent past, getting tickets is a snap. The O’s only play one or two (non-holiday) weekday games a year so there aren’t a lot of choices. This one against the Tampa Bay Rays would be the last one of the year.

Another reason I chose this game is that it looked like it would be the last game as an Oriole at Camden Yards for Trey Mancini, an Orioles draft pick, the longest-tenured player on the roster, cancer survivor, and my wife Sweetpea’s favorite player. She calls him her “Sweet Sixteen” (because he wears number 16). All signs pointed to his being traded before the fast approaching trade deadline date and this was the last home game for the next week. I wanted to be there to see him off.

When you see a day game, seating is important. Because I’d rather not sit out under the burning sun for three hours and stew in my own juices, I always get tickets under the deck on the third base side, so I’m in the shade the whole time. On this day, I found a ticket in the first row. I was like, “Great. I am now impervious to people blocking my view.

I totally should have known better.

Naturally. The camera guy is right there between me and the batter.

Since I had to look around anyway, I couldn’t notice this block of fans down the first baseline:

Who knew the students from the Beauxbatons School of Magic* were in town? I thought to myself, if anything weird happens, I’ll know who’s responsible.

One of the cool things about sitting in the first row of this section is that I can see people’s food when they bring it back to their seats. That’s helpful for when I get hungry, then I can decide what looks best to me.

It’s like the wait staff is showing me my options.

It was also from this vantage point that I could see how many people needed help finding their seats. I was stunned. I mean, there are numbered sections, rows, and seats. There are site maps all over the park. How hard can it possibly be to find the seat that matches your ticket?

Let me tell you a quick side story…

Many, many moons ago, my dad took the family to California for almost a month’s vacation in the Bay Area. Well, it was a vacation for us; he had to work out there and took the family along. As it happened, he came into a pair of tickets to see an NFL preseason game between the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys. That meant that for the three serious football fans, my Dad, my brother, and I, there were only two tickets. Being a good dad, he gave the tickets to us. I was 14, my brother was 11.

At that point, I’d been to maybe 4-5 sporting events before, a couple of baseball games, a couple of Ohio State football games, always with the family. But I knew what to do.

Dad drove us to the stadium and dropped us off, telling us where to meet him when the game was over. We went in, and I was able to look at the ticket, navigate my way around the concourse, go in the corridor that led to our section and find our seats. Then we watched the game, took a few pictures with my snappy little 110-Instamatic camera, and we had a blast.

When we were done, we went to our meeting spot and Dad picked us up. No muss, no fuss, no sweat.

Can you imagine anyone doing that today, dropping off 11 and 14-year-old boys at any football stadium, let alone Oakland’s? (To be fair, they didn’t have the scary guys with spiked shoulder pads and black face paint showing up yet.) It was certainly a different time then, that’s for sure.

Anyway, my larger point is that I could find my seat in a stadium I’d never been to at 14 and didn’t think it was in any way remarkable. I don’t know why grown-ass people have such trouble finding their seats in a modern ballpark. It shouldn’t be any harder than finding your room in a hotel. And they don’t even have ushers!

OK, end of side story and back to the observations at hand.

The Orioles have a player whose last name is Santander, which looks simple enough. The snag is that it’s pronounced “Sahn-Tahn-DARE.” It’s too bad because this name is tailor-made for the Baltimore accent. “C’Moon, Sain-TAIN-der! Lets Gewoo Ayooze!” (In actual English, “Let’s Go O’s.”)

Hackwhacker, back me up here!

The Rays have a player named Roman Quinn, which is completely unremarkable other than that during one of the middle innings, he hit a pop foul off the upper deck facing to my right. The ball bounced down, kicked off a seat back, and floated right down the walkway in front of me about eye-high. I reached out and snatched it as easily as plucking a can of peas off a store shelf. Harking back to my Little League baseball and Beer League softball training, I used two hands because these things spin like crazy. But the only thing really running through my mind was “Don’t screw it up don’t screw it up don’t screw it up.”

This was the second foul ball I’ve caught at an O’s game. The other was a big bounce off the warning track when I was sitting down along the first base side. I have a long history of pursuing stray baseballs, foul or otherwise, and wrote about them in 2009.

The best part is that there was zero competition for the ball. I was on the aisle and sitting beside a couple of old ladies. There were no kids anywhere around, so I didn’t have to feel guilty about keeping it. So into my pocket, it went.

Of course later, due to the general cramped quarters found in grandstands, I could feel the ball bumping against the leg of the lady to my right. I kept expecting her to ask me, "Is that a baseball in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"

The Orioles have a female ballpark announcer now. This is her first year. Now, I’m in favor of a woman doing any job a man does and this is included. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound a little weird to me. I’ve seen 209 major league baseball games in my life and 207 of them have been announced by men, so I’m more than a little conditioned to it. And a lot of it is the jacked-up enthusiasm that just sounds fake to me. Like drawing out the names of the home team players? Everyone does it, I know, but now it sounds like a mom trying to hype up the potato sack race at her kid’s birthday party. It’s a “me” problem, I agree. I’ll get used to it with more exposure.

So, round about the last inning, it was time for Trey Mancini’s last home at-bat as an Oriole. There was a nice ovation for him and he seemed to enjoy the moment. Then, with a guy on second, he hit a fly ball to right field. I figured the runner would tag up and he’d end his day with a nice sacrifice fly. However, the right fielder lost the ball in the sun, which then caromed off his face and rolled into the right field corner. Trey hauled ass around the bases and ended up with an Inside the Park Home Run. It must have been the Beauxbatons because this was truly magical! Well, except for that outfielder’s face. I bet that stung for a while.

I’ve seen a lot of shit at ballgames… I’ve seen grand slams, tape-measure dingers, I’ve seen a guy steal home, but this was a real first. The place just went nuts (well, as nuts as a mere 16,000 fans can go), and called Trey back out for a bow. What a last moment for the guy.

So, the moral of the story? Maybe I should get out of the house more often.

*I hate to even explain but just in case, The Beauxbatons School of Magic is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the French magic school that visited Hogwarts, wearing that shade of blue.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Search Me

Last week was the week for schadenfreude, wasn’t it? I probably ought to buy some stock in Orville Redenbacher, based on all of us watching the fallout from the FBI raid on TFG.

I wonder if Vegas has odds on what excuse Republicans are going to use next, trying to defend the indefensible. It sure seems like the MAGAs are using some kind of roulette wheel with an assortment of excuses:

·         Witch Hunt

·         But her emails

·         They weren’t classified/secret

·         He already gave the classified stuff back

·         He declassified them

·         Oh yes he can!

*     The FBI planted evidence

·         Witch Hunt

·         Biden is weaponizing the Justice Department

·         The FBI is crooked

·         Garland has a vendetta

·         Obama took documents too

·         George Soros

·         Hunter Biden

*     They're coming for you next

·         Witch Hunt (this is like a spin again slot)

They’ve got a lot of nerve talking about how Biden and the Democrats are “weaponizing Justice.” This, came from a guy that held open auditions at the end of his term for an Attorney General who would go along with his election-overturning scheme.

Again, I maintain that Republicans always accuse Dems of doing the things that they already do, themselves. From false flags to selling access, to election tampering and engineering, the GOP is already doing it all so they assume Democrats are doing so as well.

This tracks with their other principle, that if a Republican does it, it’s fine; if a Democrat does it, it’s a crime to be investigated as often as possible. Merit has little to do with it.

Lara Trump says TFG has every authority to take documents from the White House. Is she some kind of legal scholar or policy wonk in her spare time? I figured she’d have her hands full just keeping her husband from running down the street in his underpants, trying to snort up the white line in the middle of the road.

It’s public knowledge that a President can declassify certain kinds of documents. But others are off limits. And there most certainly is a process! To TFG, his process is that he waves a golf club and says, “I hereby declassify these and any other documents I want, as long as I see fit and until I flush them down the can,” and bang, it’s official. The key is the “I hereby” part. That’s his secret ingredient. To him, anything that follows “I hereby” immediately becomes the new reality.

But we can’t forget about the ceremony. I imagine that the level of a document’s importance is reflected in which golf club he waves. For the most basic, he uses the drivers. As importance rises, he moves low to high through the irons, until you get the big stuff. Nuclear secrets get the pitching wedge, then criminal evidence draws the putter.

President Obama famously had some documents moved to his presidential library. But he followed the ordained process rather than just having some flunkies load up a U-Haul. That didn’t keep the Trump camp from using him as an excuse, but you can’t blame them. They know their base believes every word, regardless of validity. Just toss out the names Barak HUSSAIN Obama or Hillary and the MAGAs go wild.

It’s too bad we may never know what he was keeping there. I mean, if it’s that big of a secret, they’re certainly not going to tell US.

But there’s a whole realm of documents that may be better classified as “evidence” that may not be so secret. Why on earth he would think something like that should be kept as opposed to flushed into the Potomac, we may never know. We'll just have to wait and see what Garland does for his next act.

It may not be glamorous but getting a conviction on something cut and dried like stealing confidential national security secrets would get the job done. Think Capone going down for tax fraud, or Mitch McDeer nailing his crooked law office on mail fraud for overbilling (in The “Firm”).

So doesn’t sound like a hard case to prove because there’s not much wiggle room. There’s no doubt he took documents from the White House and stored them at Mar a Lago. There’s no doubt that some were still considered classified. And, there’s no evidence he ever went through a process to declassify them either. (I don’t think the law will recognize the golf club waving ceremony.)

A felony conviction would preclude him from running again, with the delicious kicker that his administration made it a felony. I guess part of the original bill that said “for use on Democrats only” got killed in committee.

Monday, August 8, 2022

The Point of Know Return

 Last week ended up being a significant period of Joe Biden’s presidency, with the passage (or near passage) of a couple of important bills, and an important election result.

More Than Just Dust in the Wind

The state of Kansas spoke very loudly when it rejected a measure on the ballot designed to overturn state constitutional protections on abortion, by a margin of about 20 points. No doubt about it, this was great news. Many people are touting how much better the odds are for Democrats in the mid-terms. But I’m wary about extrapolating that success into other situations. I see a couple of big factors here.

For one, the religious conservatives who push for revoking abortion rights are not going to stop trying, no matter what courts or voters say. When was the last time one of these people said, “Hold On, the majority of our state disagrees with our position? OK, never mind. Forget it.”

These people fought a Supreme Court decision, which had been upheld at every turn, for 50 years before getting it overturned. They’re not going to let a little thing like an election stop them from stripping the rights from women. They’ll just go back to other methods, like the ones used before Roe was overturned. There will be new zoning laws for clinics, new procedural requirements, and lots of new hoops to jump through, all for the “safety of women,” of course.

If we were to Play the Game Tonight, I don’t necessarily see the Democrats flipping that many voters. They can gain by hyping the issue but it will more likely be from Independents. I doubt there will be many Republican converts. I think this motion was shot down because it was just an issue. There were no “politicians” tied to it, therefore, no personal baggage or smears. (Although I’m sure there was plenty of misinformation passed around.) I believe a lot of Republicans voted to maintain the right to safe abortions because they could do it without having to vote for a damned liberal snowflake commie Democrat.

And I also think the Republicans will have learned something quite valuable. To support women’s health? No, I’m guessing they learned not to put any more pet issues on the ballot. Even though they thought they had it rigged by putting it up during the primaries, when fewer Democrats were voting, it still got shellacked by their own people, who might not have liked giving up bodily autonomy in favor of team politics. I doubt you’ll see Republicans place any more hot-button issues on state ballots.

But maybe the Democrats should Fight Fire With Fire. It worked for same-sex marriages… I think the difference is that a lot of Democratic Party principles are genuinely popular. If we can just peel them away from specific personalities, maybe we can get back to moving in a positive direction. If a single issue like this can Carry On this Wayward State, who knows what’s next?

That’s the PACT, Jack

I had to laugh, watching the PACT bill finally pass. I haven’t seen a pale, wealthy, men backtrack that hard since Michael Jackson did the “Moonwalk.” I guess it just shows that there IS a level of backlash that will move a Republican senator. 

It helps that the subject was aid for veterans, which is one of the primary flags Republicans use for wrapping themselves. It certainly didn’t look good on them considering all the huffing and puffing they did in claiming that athletes taking a knee were an insult to veterans and the military. And then there they were, torpedoing legislation to provide treatment for the vets they claim to revere, who were injured on the job. Talk about missing the forest for the trees. 

I’m glad there was at least someone on that side who went, “You know, guys? This isn’t just ‘owning the libs’ here, we’re severely pissing off our own voters. We just saw what they did in Kansas… You think maybe we should rethink this PACT thing and find a different issue to use for a political stunt?

Whip Inflation Now

Do you remember the old WIN buttons worn by the Gerald Ford administration to promote their efforts to fight inflation? Not unless you’re at least 50, I guess. But it looks good for the Democratic version, the Inflation Reduction Act, that is expected to pass through Congress. It was a real “sausage-making” experience, with a lot of horse-trading going on, primarily with the usual two, Manchin and Sinema, both of whom watered down the original bill packages considerably. Among other things, they had to cut insulin price reductions, and let hedge fund manager tax breaks and the Trump 1% tax cuts stand, but at least it ended up as a step in the right direction.

As far as I’m concerned, they can come back for the excised issues after the mid-terms, and use them as campaign fodder in the meantime. I mean, how does a politician like Sinema insist that keeping insulin at $1200 a pop is good for anyone but Big Pharma? Whoever runs against her (in 2024) or any other Republican who supports keeping the price that high should beat on that drum every single day on the campaign trail.

Democrats should have some sure-fire, slam-dunk material to use against any Republican who’s voting to keep prices high for their constituents, on behalf of the donor class. How can any politician argue against letting Medicare negotiate drug prices? But I never hear anyone bring that up.

And the great thing is, they can get people all riled up without even having to lie. Just bring out the opponent’s voting record. “Why are they voting for this? Why did they vote against that?”

Yes, I know votes can be misleading, but they don’t have to be. Sometimes a senator has to vote against something because of an odious side issue. That’s part of the sausage-making. But there are plenty of cases, like Sinema stripping insulin price reductions out of a completed proposal. As far as I’m concerned, there are zero good reasons for that other than as a big sloppy kiss to the drug manufacturers.

Very Interesting

There are a couple of angles to the Fed raising interest rates in the last months. The downside, of course, is that getting a loan for a house, car, or anything else, just got that much more expensive. Sweetpea and I have been lucky; our house and cars are paid for so we don’t have anything on which we’ve been paying interest.

But on the other side, savings account interest rates are rebounding as well. I noticed this last month, with my humble little online savings account. I opened it many years ago to take advantage of an offer for a high-interest checking and savings account. I think they were offering between 2-3%. But for the last five or so years, my interest rate has been adjusted down to .3%. The return was practically negligible.

But a couple weeks ago, it went up to .5%. Then .7%. Now it’s at .8% and I’m almost giddy. Maybe in another couple of weeks, it might reach, dare I say it? One by-god percent! A dude can dream, can’t he?


It was with great sadness, today, that I read of the passing of Olivia Newton-John. The cause of death was not announced. She was 73.

I was but a boy when her first songs came out on the radio. I thought this exotic name indicated a trio… Olivia, Newton, and John. I thought it must be Newton who had the deep voice on “Let Me Be There.” (I fully admit, I was not the brightest crayon in the box.)  

I learned the truth when I saw her picture on her first couple of album covers and I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.

I may have been only in grade school, but I was like, “That. I want THAT.”

Granted, I wouldn’t have known what to do with “that” if I had it, but I wanted it anyway. In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to speak a coherent sentence to her.

Even though my music tastes grew to be more BTO and Deep Purple than soft country classics, I always held a soft spot for Olivia and her light, beautiful voice. I was happy to see her continued success with her role in Grease, and then making contemporary hits like “Physical” and “Xanadu,” and “Magic,” the latter two with Jeff Lynne of ELO. She went on to fight breast cancer like a champ and make children’s albums. And I swear to the gods, she got better looking every year.

Rest in peace, dear, sweet Olivia. Here I will remain, hopelessly devoted to you.

Photo by Sarah Morris, Getty Images

Monday, August 1, 2022

Ghost in the Graveyard

In the most “in-character” thing he could do, TFG had his first ex-wife buried on his New Jersey golf course. At first blush, you’d think, “OK, makes sense, I guess.” But then we hear that this burial now qualifies his golf course as a “cemetery” and is thus exempt from property, inheritance, income, and sales taxes.

Isn’t that the most Trumpian thing you’ve ever heard of? And of course hers is a sparse gravesite, with nothing but a simple plaque on the ground, bearing her name, and birth/death dates.

How long before he puts up a tee box on this site? Or an ATM?

I would bet that when he goes to plan his own gravesite, it will resemble a shoddily built Taj Mahal. Granted, that’s only if he can figure out a way to get someone else to pay for it. But looking at how he used Ivana’s death announcement to fundraise, I don’t suppose it will be that hard.

One might think that her offspring would have had some objections to such a muted display. I mean, I’m sure Ivanka could have dropped some of her recently made fortune for a more impressive memorial site. But is it really a surprise that they didn’t? I’m sure they’re just stoked about ducking the estate taxes on the land when their old man finally kicks.

I think the state of New Jersey should revisit its laws on the subject and establish that there be a minimum number of graves on site before bestowing such tax avoidance largesse. I’m sure this wasn’t what they had in mind when the law was written. I mean, hell, everyone could try doing this… just bury Grandma in the backyard and live tax-free for as long as they have the property. They should close this big loophole before it catches on.

I like what fellow blogger Vixen Strangely suggested in the comments of her recent post, in which she hopes Ivanka turns poltergeist.

I think a good haunting is exactly what that place needs and I know just how it should be done. The ghost of Ivana should haunt her ex-husband’s golf game. She could use her powers to push all his drives out of bounds and into the woods and all his putts run short. TFG takes so much pride in his golf game, she’ll ruin it for him for the rest of his life.

Or she can just make his balls disappear. You can take that any way you’d like.

Fascist Q and A

Did you see who’s speaking at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) this week? Hungarian authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, that’s who. In a speech last weekend, he said he “wanted to prevent Hungary from becoming a ‘mixed-race’ country and that countries with racial mixing are no longer countries.

How very Republican of him. Do you think they’re having him there to debate his views on race relations? Or to pick up some tips?

You know it’s the latter. He’s even given them a 12-Step plan on how to attach liberal democracy.

Republicans aren’t even hiding their intentions anymore. They’re just coming out in the open and trying to erase our democracy, right under our noses.

I don’t care how aggressive some Democrats get with getting hyper-woke and bending our language in knots, it’s not nearly as bad as depriving people of equal rights under the law. When Republican apologists among us try to alibi out of this, saying, “I don’t think they’re going to overturn rights to mixed marriage or ban contraception,” I immediately remember all the people having that same conversation about Roe, and we know what happened there. Yes, they will. They’re saying they will, they’re finding out how to do it, they’ve installed a Supreme Court who will bless it, and they will do it at the first opportunity. Why else would they invite a public paragon of racial purity to speak to their convention?  And why else would he go, if he didn’t know he’d be preaching to the choir?

In these upcoming mid-terms, we need to be very cognizant of what is truly important and what is the sideshow. This shit right here is important.

Don’t Get Comfortable

As I mentioned last week, Democrats in Congress are trying to pass bills to safeguard same-sex marriage, abortion, and contraception. I hope they do, if for nothing but to make it obvious who is for what. BUT, in no way should we think it would the fight be over at that point.

If any such law passes, conservatives will begin challenging the law in court before the ink is dry. It will eventually end up at the Supreme Court and I guarantee they will find a way to nullify it. No matter how carefully the bill is crafted, (and I seriously hope they’re making this thing legally fireproof), they will come up with some kind of rationale, however shaky, to kibosh the whole thing. They’re already pretending that a couple of amendments don’t exist to justify overturning Roe.

I mean, that’s why they’re there; exercise the GOP’s will. The Constitution? The Will of the People? They don’t care. If they weren’t willing to rule this way, they wouldn’t have been on the Federalist Society’s list, to begin with. Their votes are already locked and loaded.

A View from the Crowd

I haven’t been out in a crowd for a while but when I do go, some things never change.

Last week Sweetpea and I went to see ZZ Top in downtown Baltimore and decided to have a mini stay-cation, by staying overnight at the Marriott Waterfront, which is right beside the concert venue.

The big, white, tented area is the venue, as shot from our room at the Marriott.

And hey look… Marriott is in favor of keeping abortion legal. This was on the wallpaper near the ceiling…

…Although I could be misinterpreting.

Now, I have seen a LOT of concerts in my day, 108 to be exact, and I always seem to have the same problem. There’s always some jackass standing right in front of me.

Now, I don’t mean when everyone else is standing, that’s normal. I mean when there’s no one else in the area standing up, but there they are, directly between me and the object of my attention.

I call this out in the Book of Bluz, particularly Bluz 3:24, “Whether it's at a ballgame, a concert, or whatnot, if you're the only one standing up, you're an asshole.  A complete, self-centered, self-absorbed, inconsiderate, flaming asshole.  Everyone else who bought a ticket didn't pay to see your back all night.”

The last time I was here was to see Boston in 2014. And there she was, one lone figure planted between me and the stage.

This night, our seats were pretty good, in the middle of the pavilion, behind the soundboard, with about 4 empty rows in between. (Why these rows were empty, I have no idea. They weren’t available for purchase when I was ticket shopping, that’s for sure. So I thought we’d be golden.

But then there was this guy, part of the event staff, who spent about half the show standing behind the people working the soundboard. He wasn’t acting as Security, working the board, he wasn’t doing anything but standing there watching the show. Right in front of me.

Occasionally he would be joined by a security person, who when she wasn’t making people who stood behind the sound area move along, stood right there beside him.

Most of the time I was able to look around the blockade, but it was irritating, especially since they were staff. They should know better than to block the view of paying customers.

The show itself was fine, albeit short. They started their encore songs after an hour and the show was over in 78 minutes. I don’t expect every show to run as long as a Springsteen show, but Bruce’s first set used to run longer than this. With a band that’s been around since 1969 and a huge catalog, they could have played another hour easily, and the crowd would have still known every song.

But while they were playing, it was fine. The bass player filling in for the late Dusty Hill was OK, but he just didn’t seem to have that same synch with guitarist Billy Gibbons that his predecessor did. They used to move together like they were tied to the same string.

It just seemed like they were going through the motions. It was the 5th time I’ve seen them, but the last time was 28 years ago. I guess we all slow down.

I was hoping to produce a couple of decent pictures but alas, when I read the fine print of the venue rules, they allow small cameras, but none with a lens that extends over an inch. Mine does, when it’s zoomed. While I considered bringing it in anyway, there was a risk. I didn’t really care to bring it back to the room, and I certainly didn’t want it confiscated. So that left my cellphone camera, which in the iPhone 8, just isn’t as good as the ones in the newer models. This was the best of the bunch:

By comparison, this is a shot I took of Boston’s guitarist and founder/genius Tom Scholtz, with my regular camera in the same venue:

I don’t know if they had this camera ban in 2014… maybe I just missed it and got lucky.

But anyway, it was a nice night out and something we haven’t been able to do in several years.

Maybe we’ll catch them again in another 28 years.