Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Conservative U.S. Supreme Court to sick and dying Americans: Drop Dead!

"They say drug prices are too high? Shove the prices down their throats!"
The fearless defenders of the right to life of fertilized eggs, blastulas, gastrulas, and fetuses have new reason to rejoice at the appointment of right wing justices to the United Stated Supreme Court.

The right-to-life-loving justices have just delivered a message to the sick and the dying: Be sick and die. We don’t give a damn. We have obscene drug company profits to protect. Not to mention the right of rich corporations to pillage the little guy.

Maryland’s humanity 
vs. conservative greed

All of the above emerged when an attempt by the State of Maryland to regulate the outrageous prices of generic and out-of-patent drugs — drugs that help sick and dying people — was rejected first by an appeals court and then effectively by the so-called conservative Supreme Court.

Reports from Reuters and other news media, this one for example, say the Supremes refused to review the case, which was originally brought by a drug trade association representing manufacturers of generic drugs, and decided in their favor by the appeals court. 

The drug makers took deep umbrage at a Maryland law that would prevent, for example, companies like Mylan and Turing from hiking the prices of drugs whose patent has expired (or their generic equivalents) to stratospheric levels — within Maryland's borders.

This would have undone, in Maryland only, a practice that presents  many desperately ill people with a simple proposition: Your money (if you have enough) or your life.

Pay up or die

Just to remind you of what we’re talking about here, Turing raised the price of Daraprim, an anti-parasitic drug that was keeping AIDS victims and others alive from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill. And yes, you'll need a lot more than one pill.

And Mylan, raised the price of EpiPen, an injection device that prevents allergy sufferers and others from going into anaphylactic shock and dying, raised the price of its product from $100 for a two-pack in 2009 to $608 in 2016.

Martin Shkreli, the former head honcho of Turing, is currently blogging, not always completely coherently, from a prison cell, where he belongs. He still has, according to his blog, 30 months left to serve on his sentence. The sentence is for an unrelated or loosely-related crime. And no, I’ll be damned if I’ll voluntarily link to his blog. Ever.

Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, is less likely to do time, for any reason. That's because it’s who you’re related to, and not basic human decency or ethics that counts. Bresch’s father is U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who also flacks against controls on global warming for coal interests. He says he’s a Democrat. Sometimes our tent is a little too big to suit my personal taste.

Maryland tries to
save its citizens. 
Lotsa luck on that.

Remember, the awful, unconscionable, outrageous thing that Maryland attempted to do was to regulate prices for generic drugs within its own borders. That law was struck down by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals last spring on the grounds that controlling prices in Maryland would somehow regulate trade outside of Maryland’s borders.

I’m not going to get tangled in the weeds concerning the finer points of law here. Feel free to go here and read the technical details until your eyes cross, which I can almost guarantee they will. 

Suffice it to say that the convoluted argument in favor of raping and pillaging sick people is ridiculous, and the legal justification is contradicted by other drug industry practices around the nation.

But your Conservative Supreme Court in action refused to review the lower court’s ruling, much less to change it. 

So much for the right to life when it stands in the way of making a quick and sleazy buck. 

Boof on that, Mr. Justice.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Is Jeff Bezos a good guy or a bad guy? Also: cockroaches, meerkats, a deadly snake, and an app for persecuting women.

Is this your ex-lover? Don't answer until you read the post below.
I’ll get to Jeff Bezos in a bit. Just bear with me while I explain that I’m old enough to remember when television only came in black and white. I’m talking 1948-ish. The screens were so small that some television sets were sold with a giant magnifying glass that stood on a pedestal in front of the screen — the better to see the grainy, static-y images.

Since all television shows were new, there were no reruns. The closest thing to old television series were old westerns, full of good guys, bad guys, and people jumping on and off horses.There wasn’t much room for subtlety on those grainy little black and white screens, so the cowboy movies made the job of telling good guys from bad guys easy-peasy. The good guys, who were all good, from their pure intentions to their boot-shod toes, wore white hats. The bad guys were all bad, from their evil scowls to their nefarious intentions, and wore black hats. 

In real life, especially in this day of color screens that can be big enough to cover a wall (or small enough to slide into your shirt pocket) things are a bit less subtle. And not only television programming. Case in point?

Jeff Bezos. Should Jeff Bezos be wearing a white hat or a black hat? Considering that the guy appears to have two heads, I’d say both.

On the one hand, one Jeff Bezos good guy head has had the courage (admittedly backed by more money than you or I are likely to even imagine having in a lifetime) to stand up to what appears to be a blackmail threat from David Pecker, the head honcho of American Media and, by some strange coincidence, a pal of Donald Trump. This led, unsurprisingly but delightfully, to tabloid wordplay headlines that will last long past the scandal.

So Jeff is a good guy, yes? Yes, indeed. But also no, no way. Which brings me to Jeff’s other head. Because Bezos is also also a very, very bad guy.

First of all, he got into this pickle with American Media by carrying on an extramarital affair. This happens often, to many people, but it’s never good guy stuff.

More importantly, Bezos is a sonofabitch. In his search for a second Amazon headquarters, if you want to call it that, he baited and switched cities like a polished con man. It costs tons of money and time for a city to put together a proposal for Amazon, and in some cases, according to this report, Amazon had no real intention  of ever locating in the cities that Bezos baited. The sole objective was to scare the hell out of other cities, so they’d pile on more incentives for Amazon to choose them.

It used to be, the reason anyone would want to live anywhere near an industrial behemoth like Amazon was that the beast would throw tons of tax money into the city coffers. These days, it’s the opposite. Instead of paying taxes, monster corporations insist that taxpayers pay them to locate nearby. 

Yeah yeah, I know Amazon will employ some people — at least until Bezos finds robots that will be able to do most of the jobs for no salary at all. But inevitably, the benefit to those people could be more efficiently distributed if the government just sent a check to all the Joe and Josie Dufuses in the neighborhood.

Not to mention that Bezos hates unions and New York is still a union town. Trust the Jeffster to start pumping for local laws that cripple unions, if he locates his second headquarters here. 

On the other hand, Bezos bought the crusading Washington Post, thus assuring its survival, at least until he gets bored with it. Pat the Bezos head that wears the white hat. 

But on the other hand, the Jeffster’s management style at that newspaper has been all black hat. Just ask the journalist in charge of the union bargaining unit at the Post. Last year he said: “We are toward the end of settling this contract, and it’s not going to be a great contract. We know that. We’ve basically spent a year fighting off bad things.”

Personally, I’d like to bang both of the Jeffster’s heads together, good and hard.

P.S. The day after I posted this, Amazon announced it was pulling out of New York. Or at any rate, that it's not coming here. That's a good thing, not done for a good reason. As best I can figure it, Bezos wanted to punish New York skeptics who had doubts about giving him a huge tax break to change a Queens neighborhood, drive up rentals and force out the mostly working class folks who are hanging on there by the skin of their teeth now, enrich real estate speculators, and try to impose a silicon ethos on New York. Well, consider us punished, Jeff. Oh boo hoo!  And to the next municipality that thinks it's doing itself a favor by paying Bezos to locate his sweatshop there — lotsa luck. You're getting the head with the black hat.

Cockroaches and meercats. Speaking of bad things, do you have an ex who you dream about running into —  with a speeding Mack truck? Have I got an event for you! Down in El Paso Texas….No no! Calm down! This is not about Trump's wall!

Down in El Paso, the local zoo recently announced a Valentine’s Day event which enabled irked ex spouses and significant others to name a cockroach after their exes. But that’s only the beginning.
One of these adorable little critters may have just eaten
your former main squeeze
You could then watch the disgusting creature named for your ex get fed to a meerkat. (Who knew that such cute little animals ate such disgusting things?) Anyway, there’s the proof, if you ever desire it, that revenge is a dish best served up lukewarm and crunchy.

Then there’s the deadly snake — and no, you smartass, I’m not talking about Stephen Miller. A zoo in Sydney, Australia, held a contest to see who could name its new acquisition, “one of the world’s most venomous” snakes. Contestants were required to donate a buck (I assume an Australian buck, the equivalent of 71 cents, American) along with a brief essay explaining why your ex deserves the honor. Heck, it’s almost worth going to Sydney just for a better chance of naming the snake. Maybe you could go during feeding time and hope it’ll choke on a rat.

And now for some high tech persecution of women. It’s a Saudi invention. Moreover, in more ways than one, it's a 12th Century leap into the technological present. Turns out the in Riyadh they created a cell phone app that enables men to track their wives (yes, plural), daughters, sisters, and any other women they more or less own, so that the guys can tell if any of the women are traveling anywhere without patriarchal permission.

Speaking of big business and big bucks, the app has been installed on Google Play more than a million times, according to a report in the Washington Post. (Thank you White Hat Jeffster.) Apple also supports the app because, umm, hey, you wouldn’t want those girls sneaking out of the harem and getting lost while driving around in the desert without permission. If they dare try it, you'll just have to give them a good beating when they get home. Now the app makes it easier.

Amnesty International has complained that human rights abuses of women are “facilitated by the App, and mitigate the harm that the App has on women,” the Washington Post story continued.


Well at least it’s a bit more up-to-date than the bone saw that one Saudi agent was wielding in Istanbul a while back.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Mini rants, random ravings, muttered micro-babbling, and other stuff that’s too short all by their individual selves to make a blog post. But all together? Try this:

Which way is it, Mr. Trump? Delivered with all the sincerity he could suck off a teleprompter, Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech last night was a matter I’ll leave largely to pundits wiser and better briefed than I. However, there was one glaring inconsistency that I feel I must point out. He told us that economically we’ve never had it so good. We have more employment, for better money, for more people, than ever and ever hallelujah! And then he got into immigration, and how  immigrants are taking away all our jobs and driving down all our wages.

No no, Donald. You can have it one way. Or you can have it the other way. But you can’t have it both ways at once. (Except maybe in the case of those two hookers with full bladders in Russia.)

Trump and his damn wall. If he really wants to keep people from walking across the border, all he has too do is lay a minefield. Yes, people would get killed and maimed. Not to mention jackrabbits, field mice, gophers, rattlesnakes, and the occasional curiosity seeker and minefield tourist. What’s that you say? We don’t have minefield tourists now? Lay a minefield and we will. As P.T. Barnum, (or was it H.L. Mencken?) once said, nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. You want proof? His name is Donald J. Trump.

How to make college — and prescription medicines — affordable at the same time.  I think I’m serious about this. Or partly serious. Or sort of serious. I mean it’s a crazy idea. But like flying into the sky with the help of an internal combustion engine attached to what’s essentially a pinwheel, which is in turn attached to a pair of giant dragonfly wings (thanks, Wright Brothers!) …or like curing previously deadly infections by injecting some kind of mold into peoples’ veins (thanks, Alexander Flemming)…or spending billions to fly men to the moon just so they could plant a flag there and burble some stuff about small steps and giant steps and mankind (thanks NASA and the Congresses that funded it)…this might work. I’m not saying it will. Just that it might. If we try it.

Suppose we pass a law — yeah, a radical law — that restricts all government funding of pharmaceutical research to not-for-profit universities. The universities would be entitled to earn a small-but-reasonable profit on drugs they invent, perfect and test — not the obscene profits private drug companies earn. 

Moreover, the universities would be required to apply those profits to tuition reduction for their own students. Some of the research would have to be farmed out to small liberal arts and technical colleges, and they would then share in the profits proportionately. (If the the small institutions don’t have the labs and technical chops for the drug research, let them handle the statistics and other details for the clinical trials.)

Bottom line: Drugs become less expensive. College becomes less expensive. America becomes healthier. Martin Shkreli’s and Heather Bresch's heads explode. I mean, it’s all nothing but positives. And now back to Donald Trump.

Can Trump be tricked into having a giant public meltdown? I’m not talking about an itty-bitty cursing fit, or another coded racist diatribe about good people on both sides. I’m talking about a screaming, yelling, kicking, table-pounding, foaming-at-the-mouth, foul-language explosion that reveals his inner six-year-old. Okay if you insist, not-so-inner.  How can we make that happen?

Let’s start calling some of the Trump organization’s Russian ventures what they clearly appear to be to many people, myself included: Treason, committed for reasons of venality. And let’s start demanding the death penalty, which I believe is still on the books for treason. Let’s start waving banners and chanting, “Trump. Treason. Death Penalty.” Let’s put it on bumper stickers. Let’s encourage the press to ask about it at every turn. I’ll betcha one of Howard Schultz’s Grande Venti Trenta super moccicato skim milk cold-brewed hot lattes that at some point, if we all keep up the treason pressure, The Trumpster loses it in public. I mean really, really loses it.

Speaking of Howard Schultz have you noticed that since he announced he’s considering running for president and everybody, me included, jumped down his throat and then crawled out of it again just to poo all over his bright idea, things have been quiet on the topic of the Barrista Presidency? Let’s make sure he lets the idea die a merciful death. To do so, we saner bloggers ought every so often to jump on Schultz’s not-so-bright idea and rip him a new one, just to remind him that a barrista  should stick to his espresso machine.

Where’s Kaepernick? Where’s Kaepernick? That’s not me asking the same question twice. That’s a proposed chant that ought to be chanted at every NFL football game. Colin Kaepernick is being punished for protesting racial violance. His protest was expressed by getting down on one knee during the salute to the American flag. It was visual. But it was also respectful. He didn’t turn his back, thumb his nose, spit, or walk off the field. He knelt, just as people in some churches do when they pray. A bent knee is always — I mean always — a sign of respect, not the opposite. 

The real disrespect to the flag — and to the people who died for it — is by those who would punish peaceful and respectful protest, the very thing our Constitution grants us and that the American flag symbolizes. But imagine if every football game from now on were delayed while the crowd chanting Where's Kaepernick?

Chant it over and over again: Where’s Kaepernick? Where’s Kaepernick? Where’s Kaepernick? Where’s Kaepernick? 

Remind the NFL every chance you get that they have furthered the cause of racism to make a filthy buck.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

I’ll Have a Skim-Brained Grande Idioto — Hold the Arrogancia

This arrogant and self-deluded idiot with his fake Italian coffee
nomenclature will create a real disaster for America if we don't 
stop him.
Howard Schultz once had a bright idea — create an ersatz Italian-style (sort of) chain of cafés with their own ersatz Italian language that bears little or no relationship to meaning.

For example, “grande” or some variation thereof in any Latin-based language means big. At Starbucks, it means you’ll get the a medium size. Or is it the small size? Hard to tell which is which in the abstract, because the product names are fake Italian.

He also figured that if you were stupid enough to fork out over four bucks for forty cents worth of coffee in a paper cup, you’d also be willing to tip the poor schnook who made it for you, after you stood in line for twenty minutes. Table service like you get in real Italian cafés? What’s that? 

Schultz got rich in part by paying coolie wages and letting the customers make up for it with tips for kitchen work. I’ll tell you what I used to put in those little lucite tip boxes near the cash register before I stopped patronizing Starbucks altogether — a Post-it note saying: “Here’s the best tip you’ll ever get. Join a union.”

Meanwhile, Schultz tried to throw a sop to his downtrodden workers’ feelings of worthlessness by giving them a fake title usually awarded to beginners at law firms that pay $160,000 for employees during their first year out of school: “associates.” That’s just as meaningless as “grande.” "Sucker" is a more appropriate title. Associates at law firms make good bucks. Associates at Starbucks make coffee — when they're not swabbing the toilets.

All his fake Italian nomenclature and tight-fisted greed made Schultz a very rich man. And as F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, the rich are different from you and me. 

Or at least a whole hell of a lot of them are. (I’ll make an exception for Warren Buffet. And perhaps, but only perhaps, for Bill Gates.) 

Most really, really rich folks develop a greenbacks-fueled thought process that seems to makes them believe, “If I’m so rich, I must be smarter than everyone else.” 

Case in point #1: Donald Trump. Most recent case: Howard the ElectionWrecker.

Look, I know I come to criticizing this latest facet of American idiocy late. Half the blogs on the planet have already sounded off on Schultz and the problems he'll cause running for President as an 
"independent." But I really must join the fracas because I think it’s important to nip this one in the bud, before that egotistical idiot splits the independent vote and thus guarantees that the other big idiot, Donald Trump, will serve a second term in the White House.

Here’s what we need to do:

First — boycott Starbucks. Start now, before it’s too late. True, Schultz is no longer CEO. But guaranteed, he owns enough Starbucks stock to sink a squadron of private jets enroute to Davos. 

Starbucks closed at $67 and some pennies the day I’m writing this. If we all boycott Starbucks starting right now, if we drive the price down to, say, $47, it’ll personally make Howard many, many, many millions of dollars less rich. And earn him the opprobrium and rage of his fellow stockholders.

Second, from time to time, stick just your head in Starbucks’ door and shout a quick slogan. “Don’t be Schultz’s barista bitches. Join a union now!”

Third, remind that egotistical nincompoop (Schultz, not Trump) any way you can, every way you can, that when he splits the Democratic vote and gets Trump elected,  he will become persona non grata everywhere in America — another loser like Ralph Nader, only with greater visibility. 

People passing him in restaurants will spit on his plate. He will be booed for the rest of his life whenever he appears anywhere in public. Starbucks will lose billions in value, including his own stock. By running as an independent, he will become a pariah.

In short, let him know that he is a stugotz. Oh, pardon me. In Starbuck-ese, that’s a Stugotzi Venti Americano.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Seven Genuine Political Nightmares That You Haven’t Had Yet (But I Have)

Note: Please don’t tell me these nightmares are inconsistent with each other. These are nightmares, damnit, not legal briefs or footnoted term papers.
Ms. Gingrich wearing the
official platinum- painted steel
helmet that comes in sizes S,
M, L, and XL
  1. I have gone to sleep. I wake up because the TV is blaring that there has been a coup d’état. The good news is, Donald Trump has been deposed. The bad news is, he has been deposed by Newt Gingrich. Gingrich’s first decree is that every woman must wear a hairdo like his wife, Callista’s. Those who for reasons of incompatible hair cannot do so will be issued platinum-painted steel helmets in the shape of Ms. Gingrich’s hair. In the midst of all this, I go to the men’s room, where some nincompoop who thinks he’s playing a practical joke slaps a Calista helmet on my head. Next thing I know, I am arrested by an enraged cop bearing a strange resemblance to Mike Pence, for using the wrong bathroom.
  1. Government employees, entering their ninth year without pay, go on strike. President For Life By Popular Acclaim Trump calls out the Army to arrest them. The next day the employees go to court, insisting their arrest is illegal under the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude. Within 24 hours, working on an expedited basis, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker of the House Rick Santorum, and the Republican governors of 57 of the 60 states (California has been divided into six smaller states; Wyoming and Montana have each been divided into two, and something else happened in Texas but I forget what ) ratify the 13th Amendment’s repeal. While they are at it, they outlaw contraceptives and restore Prohibition.
  1. A big scandal arises when Ann Coulter is caught in bed with Donald Trump. Enterprising journalists discover that Rudy Giuliani has paid Melania Trump $170,000 to shut up about it. But she still keeps bringing it up with Donald, night after night, making it impossible for him to tweet.
  1. The following week, Trump is found in bed with Rudy Giuliani.
                          
  1. While Sarah Sanders is on vacation at an evangelical summer camp, a crazed atheist activist with an icepick runs up to her and stabs her in the backside. This sets off a spurting nine foot high geyser of yellow fat that will not stop, and cannot be stopped no matter what paramedics from a nearby ambulance corps and a team of doctors attempt. The fat forms a mighty river, complete with rapids, that flows into the ocean and creates a massive bloom of purple algae that kills all sea life and also peels the paint off boat bottoms. I wake up from this nightmare feeling terribly shaken and go to the kitchen for a glass of water. However, water from the tap is full of purple algae. I then realize that waking up from the nightmare is part of the nightmare, too. I slap myself across the face several times, and finally really wake up.Then I turn on the television set. Donald Trump is still president. Now I’m not sure whether I’m still having the nightmare or not.
  1. I am at sea in a lifeboat with Mayor Bill De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, both of New York. Suddenly, a malevolent swordfish comes by and pokes a hole in the bottom of the boat with his bill. The boat begins taking on water fast. I grab an empty coffee can that for some reason has Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s picture on it, and begin to bale out the boat. It is exhausting work. I can barely keep up. Finally, panting, I tell De Blasio and Cuomo I can’t do it any more, and ask them to help. They immediately begin arguing, each insisting the other should bale out the boat. Finally, the lifeboat sinks. De Blasio and Cuomo both swim away. I start to drown. Fortunately, the swordfish comes by again, feels some remorse, and lets me climb on his back while he swims to shore. When I finally stumble onto the beach, I am personally arrested by Donald Trump on suspicion of being an illegal alien because I did not enter the country at a legal port of entry.

  1. There is a sea of humanity. A massive wave of people —tens of thousands of them — are waving placards bearing political slogans. Suddenly, Kim Jong Un parachutes from a helicopter to a platform on the Mall in Washington, D.C., carrying a big red box wrapped in festive paper and ribbons. He walks up to Donald Trump, who happens to be sitting on the platform on a folding chair, and tries to hand him the package. “Season’s greetings!” Kim says to Trump. “From now on, we’re all saying Merry Christmas,” says Trump. He folds his arms across his chest and refuses to accept the package. “Season’s Greetings, you slimebag,” Kim says. “Get ‘him out of here!” yells Trump. “Get him the hell out of here. Rough him up on the way out!” Just then, Kim presses a previously unnoticed button on the side of the box and the nuclear bomb inside explodes. Washington D.C. goes up in a mushroom cloud. When the smoke clears, the city is a flattened wasteland of ashes and rubble. Just then, a manhole cover in the street is pushed up from below. Mitt Romney climbs out of the hole and declares himself President.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Brave editor of The Storm Lake, Iowa, Times takes a strong stand. Well, okay, only sort of a strong stand. Well, honestly, just a stand. Well, actually not so much of a stand. Umm, would you believe TWO stands?



The editor here seems to change identities when he writes
 op-ed pieces for the other Times, the one in New York
I learned while I was still a college student that editing a small town newspaper is like walking a tightrope 50 feet off the ground, while balancing a flaming pinwheel on your nose.

I was educated to this fact of life by osmosis. I edited a college newspaper that was job printed by the local weekly in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Whenever I went downtown to the weekly, to read galleys, or check on layout problems, or deliver copy and engravings, or to pick up copies of the paper on Friday night and haul them back to campus, I watched the two owners of the weekly, Keith Howard and Ken Champney, sweat out their own newspapering problems.

There’s a big problem at small town papers. The people you write about are not only your subscriber base, but often also your advertiser base. Denounce the local asshole who’s running for town council on a platform that he’ll arrest people for using birth control, and there goes one precious subscription and $3,000 a year worth of advertising from the asshole’s seed and animal feed depot. Favor Obamacare and you’ll never display a used car ad from Catastrophe Cal the Car Trader again.

The Internet has only made matters worse. Now in addition to balancing that flaming pinwheel on your nose, you have to ride the tightrope on a unicycle, and the tightrope is getting frayed.

In Yellow Springs, Ohio, it was sometimes even worse than that even well before the Internet. I remember being told that on occasion, in the late 1940s or early 1950s, pacifist publisher Keith, and Ed the local feed mill operator, a right wing zealot, would set out on a collision course from opposite ends of Xenia Avenue, the main drag. 



Swiped from the Yellow Springs News 
The annual knockdown. When they met face-to-face, Ed would knock Keith to the ground. Keith would then pick himself up, brush himself off, head to the police station, and swear out a warrant against Ed. It was an annual ritual for a while, I was told. Sort of like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in grade school,  or fireworks on the 4th of July.

Keith and Ed have long since passed on, Keith most assuredly to that great small town news room in the sky; Ed, I wouldn't be surprised, to a stinking pit in hell reserved for remorseless right wing Republicans. Ed's son is now Ohio Congressman Mike DeWine. And the Yellow Springs News is still going strong — now the work product of six women, two men, and a  large shaggy dog named Destiny the News Hound. 

So I was heartened when I saw in the New York Times what appeared to be a bit of honest, straight-ahead reporting on racist Republican Congressman Steve King’s prospects for re-election — written by Art Cullen, editor of the Storm Lake (Iowa) Times, paid circulation 3,386, in King’s Congressional district.

I don’t know if Storm Lake has a diner, but since he’s not a visiting fireman from Big City Journalism, Inc.,  Cullen didn’t need one. Like any good small town editor, he knew exactly where to find the local dog groomer, the woman who “proudly plants a huge red ‘KING’ sign every two years in her yard along Lake Avenue, the main drag,” and the local Snapper dealer. (For some mystified city slickers, let me explain that a Snapper dealer would be the guy who likely sold you your new tractor or riding mower.)

Relentlessly, each person Cullen quoted stood by their Steve, evidently mystified that language from King that shrieked “White Supremacy” to the rest of the world had any negative connotation at all. On the contrary, it meant to them that Steve is the kind of guy who “tells it like it is.”

Cullen’s conclusion? While there are some rivals to King in the wings, including a Democrat, “…from the sounds I’m hearing, Mr. King has not exhausted his appeal.”

Okay, fair enough. That one half-sentence at the end makes this an op-ed piece. Other than that, it’s an non-judgmental report on a newsworthy topic, and Cullen is an unbiased reporter in the heart of the heartland. Or so I thought.

Feeling delighted, I searched for the Lake County Times on the Internet, hoping for more unbiased, insightful reporting from the heart of Real America. What I found instead, was a very different take, on the same matter, from the same journalist. Cullen wrote:
With respect, we disagree with our friends at The Des Moines Register and Sioux City Journal who this week called on Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, to resign over his remarks involving white supremacy, white nationalism and western civilization, as it were. They argue that he is not fully representing the Fourth Congressional District because the House Republicans just stripped him of his agriculture and judiciary committee assignments, and that his statements do not reflect mainstream Iowa values. 
King should not resign. He was just re-elected in November to a ninth term with everyone knowing full well what his views were on race and culture. Nobody should be suddenly shocked. Voters took all this into account before casting their ballot. Perhaps nothing is better known about King than his views on Latino immigrants. 
In fact, the government is shut down because President Trump took up King’s long crusade to build a wall that spans the US-Mexico border and has made a national crisis out of it. This is what the people voted for. 
King losing his committee assignments is inconsequential in a House controlled by Democrats.
And so on, and so forth. The gist is, as I interpret it, “Hey, we voted for more racism, so damnit, we’re entitled to more racism.”

While Cullen (whose publisher, by some coincidence is also named Cullen)…while Cullen presents the face of impartiality to the big city, he presents the face of a King supporter to his local readers. 

The way I count ‘em, that’s two faces.

Or to put a bit more tolerantly, Cullen gets to present us city slickers with his straight-shootin' reporter credentials, and to keep his Snapper dealer's advertising, too.

And I'm still counting. And that's still two faces.


Monday, January 14, 2019

“Nice country ya got heah, youse Democrats. Be a shame if somethin’ happened to it.” — Donald Trump

Donald Trump is in effect holding the entire nation hostage and
blaming it on the Democrats. It's no different than kidnapping
for ransom. Lock him up.

“The Democrats are stopping us and they’re stopping a lot of great people from getting paid,” says Donald Trump.

What?

Trump says it’s the fault of Democrats that parts of the government are slowly grinding to a halt, and government workers aren’t getting their salaries. Which means, he’d have you believe that it’s not because he refuses to sign a budget which would authorize their pay.

He blamed the Democrats after he prevented Mick Mulvaney and the rest of his staff “from negotiating on his behalf to compromise on his demand for $5.7 billion for border wall funding,” that would entice him to sign off on the rest of the budget, reports the New York Times.

“He castigated Mr. Mulvaney for proposing a compromise figure between Mr. Trump’s desired $5.7 billion for a wall and the Democrats offer of $1.3 billion for border security, as a way to end the shutdown,” the Times also says.

And he shot down a proposal made by Senator Lindsey Graham, to re-open government temporarily “in an effort to jump-start talks with Democratic lawmakers on funding a border wall. " 

In other words, when Trump says the Democrats are refusing to negotiate, what he really means is that either they capitulate to precisely what he demands, on his terms, without compromise, or he will bankrupt thousands of innocent government workers, and also endanger millions of other innocent Americans, whose lives, and futures, and health are being destroyed by the Trump Shutdown. If need be, he will destroy the nation to get his wall. 

What it boils down to is, “Do what I tell you or somebody’s gonna get hurt."

They used to arrest, try, and imprison criminals who pulled similar stunts. And then throw away the key.

Somehow, Trump’s behavior also brings to mind the 1973 kidnapping of oil billionaire J. Paul Getty’s sixteen year old grandson. The boy was held hostage for five months, while the kidnappers demanded $17 million.

In a typical “look what you made me do” gesture that characterizes thugs like Donald Trump who hold other people hostage, they chopped off one of the boy’s ears and mailed it to a Rome newspaper when Getty refused to pay. It was all Getty’s fault, the crooks said. He should have coughed up exactly what they asked for.

Now the President of the United States is kidnapping our government workers’ paychecks — and with them our national security and our economy — to satisfy his own egotistical demands. 

Sooner or later, the folks who work for the Coast Guard, the people who inspect our food, the air traffic controllers, the people who track hurricanes and blizzards for us, the people who protect us from epidemics, and many others will quit and go to work elsewhere to hold body and soul together.

When that happens, ordinary citizens will begin to die from eating tainted food like lettuce and shell fish. Small businesses will go bankrupt. People will drown because they didn’t know a storm was coming. Airliners full of people will either crash, or will fail to take off, crippling not only the airlines, but all the forms of commerce that depend on airlines. Drug and arms smugglers will have a field day landing contraband on shorelines no longer guarded by the Coast Guard. We will suffer from epidemics of diseases like Ebola as the Centers for Disease Control goes on hiatus. And that would be just the beginning.

In our country we’ve historically detested hostage-takers. And our own government never pays ransom, because we know that if the hostage-takers succeed just once, they'll do it again and again.

That's why we search them out, wherever they are. If they’re at home, we throw them in prison for life. If they’re abroad, we shoot them, bomb them, or spirit them away to places like Guanatanamo and let them rot there.

Now our entire nation is being held hostage by the thug in the White House.

So let me ask you. What should be done about Donald Trump?