Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas Spirits

 Happy Christmas everybody. Yes, a heathen like me still celebrates the holiday, but more out of a fondness for the tradition than any spiritual reason.

With that spirit in mind, I’d like to present my favorite original Christmas carol of all time, along with my favorite rendition of an old classic.

I’ll be back with more political speen-venting and various nonsense in the new year.

Until then, lets finish 2023 with gusto! Everyone sing along!


Monday, December 18, 2023

Social Insecurity and Other Hangups

Candidate Nikki Haley is publicly pushing changes to our Social Security program, out loud. That’s risky and I think it’s necessary. But what she’s proposing and what people who aren’t bought and paid for by rich donors propose are two different things.

Haley wants to increase the age at which today’s younger workers would become eligible for Social Security, and limit the growth of benefits the wealthy receive.

Raising the so-called retirement age on young people is just kicking the can down the road, all the while screwing them dry. It’s so calculated because she knows that young people are the least reliable voters, so she faces much less blowback than she would if she recommended raising the retirement age of older Americans, who have retirement in their sights.

As tough as it is to make a living, it really puts the squeeze on the young. They can’t afford to buy a house, apartment rent is through the roof, and now they have to worry about setting more aside for retirement? Aside from what? I hope “the young” are paying attention because this is a purely Republican offering.

Her other prong is more aesthetically pleasing but ineffective. It sure looks like she’s putting the squeeze on the rich but it doesn’t really amount to much.

No, these billionaires shouldn’t be drawing their $3500 a month from Social Security. It’s like peeing over Hoover Dam... that little trickle isn’t going to make much difference. But the problem is that there aren’t enough billionaires to make these cuts add up to anything.

According to some snappy research I just did, there are 735 billionaires in the United States this year. Now, this $3500 per month comes to $42,000 per year. Multiply that times the 735 billionaires and you come to $308,700 annually. That is NOT going to bail out Social Security. That’s like dumping a soda can over Hoover Dam.

If you want to make a dent, remove the cap on Social Security taxes for people making over $160,000 per year. That will fix the Social Security shortfall. There is no rational reason to have such a cap in place other than a bunch of rich people telling their Congressmen, “But I don’t wanna pay more for Social Security!” and then writing giant campaign checks that ensure such a solution will never see the light of day.

If the rich people don’t like paying into a system where they never get to reclaim it, tough shit. Be glad we don’t close the other tax loopholes too. Say goodbye to stashing your profits in the Cayman Islands.

Speaking of the economy, remember in the late twenty-teens when Republicans used to defend the Trump Economy by saying, “But how’s your 401k doing?” As if that was the only barometer, but OK. So you’d think they’d have to admit that the Biden Economy is doing equally as well.

But no…

Once again, a prediction that the Very Stable Genius made went down in flames. He famously said the market would dive into a depression if he were not reelected. Contrast that with the news that the Dow just hit an all-time high.

Suddenly, TFG says the stock market “is only for making rich people richer.”

I don’t know why I even hope for fair play. Republicans will never admit they’re wrong and easily abandon a principle they espouse the second it becomes beneficial to do so, and espouse the opposite principle.

It’s comical that he goes on to blame the current high prices on President Biden, knowing that corporate price gouging is the reason for it. Inflation is coming down and corporate profits are way up. That’s only possible when their prices are being set higher than the sum of supply chain costs and their earlier profit margin. They’re raking in the dough due to their own greed and blaming their political enemy for it before laughing all the way to the bank.

The thing is, what is it that this president, or any president, is supposed to do about the way companies set their pricing? It’s not like raising or lowering taxes or tariffs would work because the merchandisers are not pricing for costs, but for how much profit they want. Any solution to price gouging would be guaranteed to elicit howls of protest from the Right: Socialism, Price-ism, and No Fair-ism. 

Have you also seen TFG’s new tactic when confronted with video of him saying or doing something that looks bad? He calls it Fake Video, just like he used to do with “Fake News.” What started out as a term for troll-farm disinformation, TFG turned it into a label for him to slap on any news item that he didn’t like or made him look bad.

Now, with AI becoming all the rage in video falsification, it has provided a new defense mechanism. So when someone counters his charges that President Biden is old and feeble-minded with video clips of TFG muttering, mumbling, mispronouncing basic words, and fidgeting around like a toddler, he calls it a fake video. It’s a given that the MAGAs will believe him. At this point, he could collapse on stage right in front of them amidst a pile of gibbering monosyllables and rubbing poo in his hair, and they’d just claim it was someone from Antifa in a Mission Impossible mask. Or Hunter Biden.


I like that Jack Smith has taken TFG’s main delaying tactic straight to the Supreme Court. TFG is charging that a President has broad immunity, so much so that anything he does during his term in office is legal by default. (In other words, the Nixon Defense.) So rather than having that fight court level by court level, where even though he could be confident in winning, the clock would be running out, the prosecutor asked for a judgment from the Supreme Court right now (as opposed to when it would inevitably end up there in the months to come.)

At this point, the issue gets tricky. We know there are 5 or 6 Justices in the bag for TFG. Maybe one, Roberts, might worry about becoming a national joke, should they rule for the defendant.

Compound that with the fact that the sitting president is a Democrat. I think it calls for an appearance from Dark Brandon, to step out and say, “So whatever the President does is legal. Where should I begin?

It should go without saying that such a finding would be disastrous for the nation. We’ve already seen what can happen when someone with neither morals nor scruples holds the office. With such a ruling, nothing could stop him from looting the treasury and national assets for trillions in assets.

So I don’t think the Supremes will make such a broad finding. I do think they’ll find some kind of technicality that will allow them to cover TFG with a narrow scope, without making it a precedent. They have a whole team of legal beagles over there. All they need is a sliver of Constitutional support, theoretical or not, upon which to build this legal house of cards. It’s not like they won’t ignore other more solid and traditional tenets that would suggest ruling the other way. They’ve done it before and will no doubt do it again. They’ve already shown that they treat “precedent” the way a baby treats its diaper.

Monday, December 11, 2023

An Old Rocker Looks at Taylor Swift

You can blame it on Facebook… It’s all because of that “Reels” feature. I sometimes totally go down the rabbit hole looking at those short 1-2 minute videos, one after another, like they’re potato chips. And the thing is, once you watch a video on a particular subject, they show you more of the same. One day, I watched a short clip about Taylor Swift, for no other reason but because that’s one fine-looking woman. Big blue eyes, perfect lips, hair like spun honey, tall and fit, what’s not to like?

She uses that trick Tina Turner used to do by wearing a skirt slit up to her hip bones so it made her short legs seem long, and Taylor’s long legs seem miles long. Soon, I’m sure the dictionaries will show you her picture when you look up the word “leggy.”

So, the next thing I knew, I was getting an unending stream of perfectly Taylored material, plus snippets from her new boyfriend and his brother’s podcast (which is hilarious, by the way.)

One of the byproducts of getting rabbit-holed like this, especially at night, is that I end up dreaming about the subject matter. (It happens with TV shows I binge-watch, as well.) So last night, I woke up at about 1:30 AM, after having a dream where I was concerned with the state of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s relationship. And in that weird state in between sleep and consciousness, I began considering all I’d learned about Ms. Swift and putting together some blog points in my head.

So now, after sacrificing 90 minutes’ worth of sleep to the subject last night, I feel obligated to purge the old mental files, so maybe I can catch some quality Z’s tonight.

I am an old rock and roller. I like dinosaur rock like AC/DC, the Scorpions, ZZ Top, with a big helping of the blues. I am NOT Taylor Swift’s target audience. I’ve heard some of her songs and they’re just not for me. I do admire her talent in that she plays guitar and piano and writes her own songs, which are all things I wish I could do. But no, I don’t do pop music.

But yet, I find myself becoming a fan of her as an individual. I’m amazed by how she’s conducted her life and career. She’s currently performing in one of the biggest and most profitable world tours ever, a real production number. And then, releasing a movie of the tour? Brilliant! Why not? They already have cameras filming everything for the video screens in the venues. In fact, I think every band touring should do the same, for the folks in markets they didn’t visit or couldn’t take out a second mortgage for the tickets.

And what a trouper... have you seen pictures or footage of her performing her shows in a complete downpour? She just carried on. That's what made a fan out of noted Crusty Old Guy (and New England Patriots' head coach) Bill Belichick. He was at one such show with his daughter and commended her for her professionalism, in not letting a stadium full of people down, in miserable weather.

She’s won just about every music and video award there is, not to mention Time’s “Person of the Year.”

I saw an interview with her on 60 Minutes, ages ago, she must have been in her late teens or early 20s, and I was impressed, even then, with her business literacy and savvy. She clearly knew what she was doing and didn’t let anyone tell her differently.

And now, I’m especially impressed with how she delivered a double-decker Eff-You sandwich to the douche-nozzle who bought up her first record label, including her original masters. By rerecording the songs, releasing them herself, and encouraging her fans to only download and stream the new versions, she essentially turned the guy’s several hundred million dollar investment into a money pit. That was icy. A mob boss should deliver retribution so coldly.

One of the reels I saw was a conversation she had with her parents and manager, wherein she told them about her plans to push her fans into not only registering to vote but to vote against Donald Trump and Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn. She spoke passionately about how Blackburn voted against things she held dear like the Violence Against Women Act, pointedly gesturing to herself as she mentioned the anti-stalking portions. It was clear her dad was against such a move but she said she understood it was a risk and she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t use her notoriety to speak out on something so important. The moment gave me chills. I hope she stands up again for the next election. I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet who can mobilize people better than she could mobilize her Swifties.

There were a lot of Reels that featured her appearances on talk shows or being interviewed at events, and she always came across as funny, humble, and self-deprecating, kind of a goofball. She seems like your adorable babysitter from next door. Yet very sharp. She stands up for herself in the face of nitpicking and criticism, defending her choices and pointing out how male artists are rarely characterized the same way.

She talks about how back in school she always felt like the nerd, the outcast, and how she didn’t really fit in. I think that kind of thing stays with you, in that deep down, if you were the outsider, you always feel like that, no matter where your life takes you. I think that’s what keeps her grounded.

Travis Kelce’s dad commented, after their big “coming out” game, that afterward, she was cleaning up the suite herself before they all left. That tells me right there that she’s not the type to “Big Shot” people. She just wants to be one of the family.

Word is that she gifted every member of her crew, from dancers to truck drivers to stage assistants, a bonus of $100,000. I bet her accountant had a heart attack! Generosity like that shows that she has to be massively wealthy. (If there is any money to be had in music, it comes from songwriting royalties. As the writer of all her songs, she has been set up for life.)

I can’t even fathom what it must be like to live like her. Sure the great houses and private jets are one thing, but this person can’t even step out of the house without drawing a crowd of photographers and fans. How does one cope with a never-ending swarm of people, all of whom want something from you? Smile here, sign autographs there, now please pose for a selfie? Can you say something to my daughter on the phone? It’s impossible to win. You can sign and pose until you collapse but there will always be more. Or you can ignore it all and be called a phony or a snob.

I saw a recent clip of her coming out of a restaurant and heading for her ride, surrounded by hordes of fans photogs and onlookers. But then she saw a little girl on the fringes, so she veered from the car door and headed right over to her to say hi and pose for a picture. That was a beautiful thing to do. And I bet there were others in the crowd cursing her because she didn’t come to them.

I would go batshit crazy from the pressure of it all.

Could you imagine what would happen if she tried to do something as mundane as grocery shopping? The place would be mobbed in the time it takes for a dozen people to send a text to their friends… “Taylor’s in the freezer aisle! Come quick!

Taylor, sign this coupon!”

Everybody, Taylor touched this melon. The bidding starts at $100!”

It’s good that she’s rich because fame like this certainly comes with a massive price. But I also heard her tell an interviewer that whenever she feels overwhelmed by it all, she tells herself that she asked for it. This was the dream she knowingly pursued but I’m not sure she ever really imagined her current realm of success. Who could? Yet, I see a young woman handling immense pressure with grace and class.

Can you imagine what would happen if she ever decided to run for office? Maybe she should put her money where her mouth is and run against Senator Blackburn when this term is up. Hell, if an under-the-radar comedian like Al Franken could do it, it certainly seems within the capabilities of Taylor and her Swiftie army. And she could self-finance, to be truly independent of big moneyed interests.

Worst case scenario, her campaign rallies would be a vast improvement over what we see now.

Monday, December 4, 2023

One Clown Down...

… And only a couple dozen more to go! Yes, Congress has finally rid themselves of the corrupt sideshow that was George Santos. Frankly, I’m surprised it actually happened. In fact, I can’t really figure out why the Republicans did it.

I know there were some who were publicly quoted as saying they wouldn’t consider it purely because he’s a voting number for them. Republicans are nothing if not focused on the bottom line of maintaining any power they gain.

Maybe some of them figure that their margin doesn’t much matter during this and next year’s terms because they can’t pass anything that will get through the Senate and be signed by the President anyway. In the best-case scenario, sane/moderate Republicans join the Democrats in keeping the government’s doors open and passing must-have operational bills as needed.

Maybe this was their opportunity to stop looking like jokes and take a reasonable moral stand. Should it be that hard to say, “You can’t remain a Congressman if you make up your entire life story prior to your election and then embezzle campaign money raised from donors?” It’s a low bar, but at least there’s a limit.

From yesterday's Baltimore Sun.

I mean, Santos has only been a Congressman for about a year; it’s not like they’re tied to the guy. Not like with TFG, to whom they're married lock, stock, and barrel. They can jettison Santos, still keep a majority in the House, (they only need one more than the Dems to run the committees, so they have a few to spare), and demonstrate that their party recognizes real corruption. This is a vast change over their penchant for seeing corruption where it isn’t but desperately wish it was, or not seeing it when it’s plastered all over the wall in front of them because they don’t want to admit their Orange Idol is a crooked, raving, maniac, bent on turning the USA into a theocratic dictatorship.

(Yes, I know TFG doesn’t give a shit about the Christianity part of it, but it keeps the Evangelical nutjobs in line while costing him nothing.)

Hunting Season

And speaking of seeing corruption where it’s not, did you see Hunter Biden hand the Republicans their asses last week?

They subpoenaed him for a hearing, to which he agreed, IF it was public. What a move! That’s the last thing they want because they KNOW it’s a giant nothing-burger and the only hope they have of making their case is by cherry-picking the testimony to make it look worse than it is. They know if people are watching the testimony, there will be too many calling foul when Fox “News” and Breitbart twist the facts.

Jaime Raskin is a Representative from Maryland, but unfortunately, not from my district. I really hoped he would have run for Ben Cardin's Senate seat.

So now they can’t allow his open testimony AND then can’t say he won’t appear. It’s a real poser to try to explain why public testimony is bad (for a case they’ve been hyping for years) and a close-door hearing is good. If an open hearing is good enough to distribute dick pics, it should be good enough for serious testimony.

It just goes to show (again) that this class of Republican is only interested in manufacturing outrage and selling it to the voters. They come in with the verdict first, and then cobble together whatever props it up, even if it’s only for one news cycle. They want tit-for-tat revenge for the Democrats daring to impeach their lord and master and use “facts,” “eye-witnesses,” and “evidence,” to do so. Imagine the nerve!

In Sickness and in Health

And speaking of TFG, I can’t believe he’s going after Obamacare again. This guy has literally not learned a thing. People can get pretty sensitive about their health care. The last thing they want is for it to disappear, with nothing left but an empty promise of something better.

I can’t believe he’s STILL telling people that he’s got his own health care plan, all ready to be rolled out soon. Have we not heard that all before?

Republicans have had 13 years to propose a “solution” to Obamacare, including two years where they had unrestrained power, and they couldn’t even come up with a proposal. All they can do is spout inflammatory platitudes about the ACA, with nothing to back it up. It still saves the country money in the long run and insures people who couldn’t get insurance before. It would work even better if Red States actively participated, rather than doing everything they could to bring it down.

I still maintain that the only thing they don’t like about “Obamacare” is the “Obama” part. After all, it was a Heritage Foundation idea in the first place. They don’t like any idea that a Democrat supports, including their own.

Have Republicans ever proposed, anytime in the last 40 years, a program that serves the general public without kowtowing to big business? Republicans just do not DO public service. I guarantee that any health care idea floated by Republicans will be looking out for business interests first and the public’s interest second, if at all. Big business wants out of being an insurance provider in the first place. I think the only reason they don’t support single-payer is that the big insurance companies would go belly up. Plus it would be something else for which they’d have to come up with a way to dodge the taxes.

I like that Biden is reintroducing the idea of a public option. That’s where you can get government insurance if you want it or continue with private insurance. And if they undercut the insurance company’s prices, you can expect that it will go over very well… except with Republicans, who will manufacture a reason why paying less for insurance is somehow a bad idea. (I presume the word “Socialism” will be in the first sentence.)