Monday, April 24, 2017

Was Ledell Lee murdered? And if so, who did it?

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson

Trump U.S. Supreme Court appointee Neil M. Gorsuch
Last Thursday, April 20th, in a middle-of-nowhere prison called the Cummins Unit, the State of Arkansas strapped Ledell Lee on his back to a gurney-like execution apparatus. 

Asked to make a statement, Lee declined. Somebody stuck an intravenous needle into him, and pumped a three-drug “cocktail” into his body. About 13 minutes later, he was dead.

You can favor capital punishment or not. This is not about that. This is about the rushed killing of a possibly innocent man, which would make Ledell Lee’s execution a cold-blooded, state sanctioned murder. 

Lee had always proclaimed his innocence. And there is a convincing body of evidence that indicates he indeed was innocent. Consider these excerpts from the Innocence Project’s Death Penalty Blog:
Mr. Lee has always maintained his innocence of the 1993 murder and sexual assault of Debra Reese.  Numerous unknown fingerprints were found at the crime scene, yet none were from Mr. Lee. 
At trial, the prosecution claimed that two small spots of “human blood” on shoes recovered by the police from Mr. Lee were likely the victim’s blood.  Yet despite the extremely bloody nature of the crime, no other blood was found anywhere on Mr. Lee’s shoes, or any of his clothing.  Newly available DNA testing could prove whether the spots were in fact the victim’s blood 
Attorneys are also seeking to test hairs of purported African-American origin that were recovered at the scene.  At trial, the state argued that the hairs came from the defendant, after witnesses reported seeing a lone black male enter and exit the home of the victim, who was white.   
The state’s experts claimed that the hairs were “consistent” with Mr. Lee’s, based on microscopic examination – a forensic method that has since been discredited.
DNA testing could prove not only if the hairs came from Mr. Lee, but a DNA profile could also be identified from the hairs that could help determine who really committed the crime – including comparing it to the millions of DNA profiles in the national DNA databank.  DNA testing and databank searches were not available at Mr. Lee’s trial, but are standard practice in 2017. 
The criminal justice system has completely failed Mr. Lee since he was arrested for the crime.  Mr. Lee was tried by a judge who concealed that he was having an affair with the assistant prosecutor on the case, whom he later married. 
Mr. Lee’s first state post-conviction counsel introduced the evidence of the affair by calling the judge’s ex-wife, who testified about the affair after opposing the subpoena. Mr. Lee’s lawyer, however, was so intoxicated at the hearing that the prosecution asked for him to be drug tested after he slurred, stumbled, and made incoherent arguments. 
Most of the Arkansas appeals court that heard this cased chose to ignore the evidence pointing to the likelihood that Lee was innocent. An exception was Judge Josephine Linker Hart. Again, the Innocence Project reports:
In a dissenting opinion denying Lee a stay issued today, Arkansas Supreme Court Judge Josephine Linker Hart made a powerful argument for why DNA testing was in the interest of justice. Justice Hart characterized Lee’s claim for DNA testing of hairs the state claimed linked Lee to the crime as a “modest request,” noting that the hair evidence had been used against him at trial and “tilted in the State’s favor a very weak case based entirely on circumstantial evidence. 
Judge Hart also emphasized the unfairness and arbitrariness of the Arkansas court’s grant of a stay to Stacey Johnson for DNA testing while denying one to Lee, adding, “I am at a loss to explain this Court’s dissimilar treatment of similarly situated litigants.” Judge Hart concluded by stating, “The court’s error in denying the motion for stay will not be capable of correction.”
Well, it might have been capable of correction had the United States Supreme Court provided a stay of execution until valid forensic evidence could be analyzed. Fat chance. Donald Trump’s newly-minted appointee, Neil Gorsuch, voted with the majority to kill the man first and ask questions later.

I hope the Innocence Project will not let this matter rest even though Lee is dead, and that it will continue to demand a forensic analysis of the “blood” — if it was blood — on Lee’s shoes, and of the hair samples found at the murder scene.

If those are not a match with Lee, the people who in effect will have murdered an innocent man will include more than just the judge and prosecutor in Lee’s original trial, who for all I know may have arranged his death sentence in bed. There are others. Among them:

• Arkansas State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who succesfully fought tooth and nail to get Lee executed before the forensic evidence could undergo DNA testing.

• Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who has been pressing for the equivalent of an excution assembly line — evidently whether the men he executes are guilty or not — because one of the drugs used in the “cocktail” is approaching its “use by” date, and he’ll have one hell of a problem replacing it once it’s expired.

• Perhaps, most shamefully of all, newly appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neill Gorsuch, another “execute ‘em first and ask questions later” judge, who made his bones with his first decision on the high court.

If DNA analysis eventually proves Ledell Lee’s innocence — or if the Rutledge, Hutchinson, Gorsuch and others somehow manage to block an examination of the evidence or allow its destruction, I hope that wherever they go, crowds of  chanting Americans will call them out for what they have been shown to be.

“Murderer! Murderer! Murderer!”

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Take your tech and shove it!

This is where all the trouble began

Okay, before I begin, I need to confess.  More than a half century ago I turned in my press card and took a job in advertising. No excuses. I’m just telling it like it is. Or was.

My first advertising assignment was to write copy for IBM’s corporate campaign. The advertising was designed by my bosses — I swear this is the truth — to convince people that not only were computers incapable of thinking, but that they were also of incapable of taking jobs away. 

Don’t be afraid. It’ll flash
it’ll blink, but it won’t think.

Remember, this was back when a computer was a bunch of metal boxes that could nearly fill a banquet hall, and people were terrified of  those flashing, blinking, whirring “thinking machines.” I was instructed to tell people that computers would “electronically compare” millions of tiny bits of data and use this data to save lives and do other impossibly wonderful things for humanity, 

My first ever-published advertising headline said, “IBM computers don’t think, but they do help find rare blood to save a life.” (The ad had to do with computers browsing blood donor files to find, say, a pint of type AB Negative, so that an army of desperate clerks wouldn’t have to. Instead, I suppose, the clerks were free to anxiously wring their hands.)

Another of my ads revealed that “IBM computers don’t think, but they do help find lost ships at sea.” Yup, another info retrieval story. Notice, in both headlines — and in others that followed — computers never actually did anything. They just helped do the job, which was a task that still belonged to people. 

One ad even joyfully revealed that computers would “help make bank lines shorter,” a considerable benefit back when there was no such thing as automatic deposit or cash machines, and long payday bank lines could eat up an entire lunch hour. Alas, when I last went to a human-staffed teller window at my bank a few months ago, there was still a long line. But there were only two tellers in a bank that used to have over twenty  of them.

The other eighteen tellers? The copy used to say computers were freeing up people so they’d have more time to think. My guess is, they’re thinking, “How the hell am I going to find a new job?”

The TV spot that terrified
an ad agency biggie

Eventually, the campaign got on television and somebody, not I because I was too junior, was assigned to write a TV spot about computerized speech synthesis. (Hey Siri, did I spell “synthesis” right?) At any rate I was there when another proud copywriter unveiled his storyboard, which involved scientists staring at displays of wave forms on oscilloscope tubes, while other scientists spoke into microphones to generate the wave forms, while still other scientists studied how babies learn to speak. 

In the last few seconds,  somebody feeds a piece of film with nothing but a wave form on it into a computer, and the computer was supposed to cry, “Mama!”

The most senior account manager in the room was the first to try to murder the copywriter. “You crazy sonofabitch!” he yelled. “That’s going to scare the living crap out of people! Who hired this nincompoop?”

Needless to say, the commercial was never made, and the storyboard was buried in an unmarked grave.  

All this by way of bringing up a study reported on in an advertising trade journal called “Campaign,” under the headline, "IBM study finds most people are disappointed with digital brand experiences.”

Ya think?

IBM exec is shocked. Shocked!

You bet. In fact, “the results were ‘shocking,’” according to Robert Schwartz, Global Lead of Strategy and Design at IBM’s Interactive Experience Division.” I’ll pause for a moment in case you tried to say that name and title out loud and need to unclench your jaw and catch your breath. 

All set now?

Turns out — who’d-a thunk it? — that rather than spend half their lives pressing buttons or talking their way through phone trees to explain that the cable is out, and they’ve already unplugged the flippin’ cable box and then plugged it back in, and whatever else the machine tells freaked out people to do while they’re missing their favorite shows….turns out people would rather speak to a live human being.

Read between the lines and what you discover is that the “consumer experience” sucks whenever corporations throw people out of work and tell machines to answer the phone and deal with customers. 

Listen up, corporations. “Didn’t work as expected,” was the top reason “consumers are disappointed” with your damn habit of throwing people out of work and having machines answer the phone so that you can reduce your payroll. That’s quickly followed up by “Not convenient,” “Hard to use” and “Too confusing.”

Do the captains of America’s C-suites give a flying microchip? Not if the last incident with United Airlines is any indication. Corporations will try to get away with as much as they can, and let the customer get roasted in hell for eternity, as long as the company gets ever-increasing profits. 

Business doesn’t love you.
It loves profits. Period.

Industry will ignore you. It will have machines that can’t quite grasp your problem talk to you. It will beat the stuffing out of you on an airplane, or rip you off if you deposit at their bank, or chase you to the deep end of hell for the money you owe on your student loan….and the list goes on.

That’s why government regulation is so important, and why Donald Trump has done immeasurable damage to this nation — and continues to do it every time he underfunds, underpopulates, or undercuts a government regulatory agency.

Yes, we need capitalism. We also need vicious guard dogs. But both need to be kept on a tight leash.

Donald Trump, you see, is like a computer. He doesn’t think. But he does help destroy whatever used to be civil in civilization.

Over to you, Congress. Oh wait, I forgot.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

UAL board of directors, it’s time to fire Oscar Munoz. Congress, it’s time to get off your butts and re-regulate airline travel. (Fat chance!)

What next? Will United Airlines throw you off the plane in
mid-air if they don't like your looks?
Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, thinks he can tough it out and not resign, after the horrifying incident in which a paying and seated passenger was ordered off the plane for the convenience of United, and then beaten by a pair of thugs when he refused to go.

After first issuing a line of doublespeak, worthy of George Orwell, about “re-accommodating” passengers, instead of apologizing for beating the crap out of one of them….

After then praising the crew for this incident as an example of  “continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right”…

After United Airlines showed such brutal and wanton disrespect of the implicit contract it signs when you buy and pay for a ticket, that you'll get a seat on the ticketed flight...(And please don’t tell me about the  mind-boggling list of terms and conditions, set in nearly unreadable mouse type, that take it all back somewhere on the back of the ticket)….

After all that, the backlash was so powerful, and the impact on United’s stock so devastating that it created over a quarter of a billion dollar loss for stockholders in just one day. Munoz finally realized he was in deeper doodoo than he at first imagined. 

So he offered a new statement contradicting everything he said before, declaring, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

Not so quick, Mr. Munoz. Your airline beat the crap out of a passenger for legitimately sitting in the seat he had bought and paid for. You defended the practices that led to this atrocity. You changed your mind only when you saw the press, airline passengers, and stockholders coming for you with torches and pitchforks. 

So far as I’m concerned, you’re now speaking with all the sincerity and humanity of a pit viper. And you deserve to be treated like the pit viper you are.

This is not the first time United has affronted passengers. Nor the second. Nor the third, fourth, fifth. They’ve thrown a family off a flight because their teen-aged daughter was autistic. They stranded a ten year old child at a major airport. They even killed somebody’s pet golden retriever. All those stories and others here:

For that matter, they unsympathetically stranded The New York Crank in Dayton, Ohio for 24 hours, as I previously reported on this blog. 

And this just in: "A MapLight/International Business Times review of records kept by the Center for Responsive Politics found that during the last two-year session of Congress, the airline spent $7.26 million to fight legislation that included measures to create minimum airline seat sizes; require airlines to allow families to sit together on flights; and prohibit airlines from charging customers to use an airplane bathroom."

Alas, mistreating paying passengers is so wide spread that even an airline I once adored, Jet Blue, has begun straying  into the passenger abuse business.

So I’m not late to the party with this commentary. I’ve just come back to it with more beer. We’re going to have to stick it out — and keep up the pressure — until we get a Congress and a president who are willing to re-regulate the airlines, so that you’re not risking your life or the shape of your face the  every time you get on an airplane.

It won't happen under a President Trump or a Congress and Senate full or Republicans. But that is simply another reason to stay politically active and throw out the Republican bums in Congress and the Senate. Real change will happen if you never stop demanding. Keep up the pressure!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Hey, Trump supporters who want your jobs protected. Say hello to the REAL threat to your livelihood.

Think he's cute? Wait until you see how cute 
he gets when he steals your job.

Trump lied to you. The jobs aren’t coming back. Coal isn’t coming  because it’s being replaced by natural gas, solar and wind. Factory jobs aren’t coming back, because the Chinese and Mexican workers who are driving you so crazy aren’t really the problem.

The problem is robots.

Call your bank, your credit card company, even the entity you ordered your unspeakable sex toy from, and lotsa luck getting through to a real person. You’re talking to a bot that generally not only asks questions but understands your answers and often closes sales. The “Art of the Deal?” That’s just another algorithm. 

Bots have already taken thousands of jobs on production lines away from people, and more thefts of your work from machines are coming.

If a bots can drive, as they seem to be doing, in a couple of years down the road you’re finished as a cabbie or a truck driver. Or a fork lift driver. Or, in all probability a backhoe or derrick operator. The time is likely not far off where a skyscraper construction site will be staffed by one human being and a bunch of walking, or crawling, or climbing, or rocking, rolling, rattling robots.

And wipe that smug grin off your face, Mister White Collar know-it-all. You’re royally screwed, too. Just as surely as cash machines stole thousands of once-plentiful bank teller jobs, bots are coming to the point where they’ll be able to make programmed decisions and ask programmed questions, that will take away the necessity to employ you as a beat newspaper reporter, a school teacher, an attorney, many kinds of doctors, and a buh-zillions other forms of once-human employment. We don’t need no cops. Cop robots will be able to do much of the work, with fewer police-involved deaths.

These days there are even bot con men. Or at least bot con women. One bot keeps calling me, and when I say “hello” a couple of times,  the bot tells me in a giggly-girly voice, some variation of, “Oh sorry, my head set slipped and I didn’t hear you.” I hang up on Ms. Bot before she can launch into her sales pitch. 

That doesn’t bother her in the least. She just calls an hour, or a day, or a week later with the same girly routine and the same imaginary slipping head set.

Oh sure, there will still be a handful of employees around with collars of different colors to un-stick the machines when they get stuck, or to politely brush off people like me who go ballistic when a phone bot won’t give me what I’m asking for.

And there will always be some CEO at the top, reaching into the corporate cash flow and pocketing fat wads of cash that once had to be distributed as payroll among the working stiffs. But the rest of us are done for.

So what are you going to do about it? Because Trump isn’t going to do it for you. He’s one of the money grabbers, not one of the problem solvers. Getting rich at other peoples’ expense is how he got any richer than the fortune his father left him in the first place.

Smash the machines? A man named Ned Ludd inadvertently started a movement to do just that back in the 18th Century. It didn’t stop the weaving machines, and it didn’t stop any other kind of machine. 

So again I ask, what are you going to do about it? Because, if you do nothing, the extreme likelihood is that you, and most certainly your children, will starve to death, or freeze to death in the gutter.

For openers, we can demand a 20 hour week, necessitating two workers for every job that now requires one worker for a 40 hour week. 

And how will all those workers get paid? To a great extent by limiting the compensation of the CEO and board members, even stockholders like me, and putting the money back into the payroll. Since human “productivity” will go down, it’s also inevitable that prices will rise. But at least there will be paid workers in this nation to pay the prices. Think of the alternative.

But the 20 hour week alone won’t do the job because sooner or later — and probably sooner — there will be hardly any jobs of any kind, except for CEO. So what then?

Well, the government had better find ways to keep us fed, clothed, housed and occupied. For example? 

Free colleges or other forms of classes, but with mandatory attendance and the attendees getting paid for being there. A growth in the arts — the very thing from which Donald Trump is now busy cutting funding — to make life beautiful and to get more of us participating in both its creation and its enjoyment. More beautiful parks and public lands — the very thing Trump is intent on ravaging for commercial interests — for us to enjoy.

The truth is, by doing nearly all of the work, robots ultimately have the potential to turn the earth into a Garden of Eden. Or, if we go down Donald Trump’s road, a Garden of Hell.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

So your Internet browsing history is up for sale? Maybe the legislators who made this happen will have theirs for sale, too. Here's the deal.

Adam McElhaney, privacy advocate 
and net neutrality advocate, sticks it
to Congress. But look before you 
contribute to his Go Fund Me account.
Good old Republican Congress! And Senate! And President! 

They'll fight to the death to keep Donald Trump's tax returns private. Not to mention the contacts of Donald Trump and the people around him with Russian spies against the U.S.  

But when it comes to what you search for on the Internet? You, my friend, are fair game.

Congress has signed and sent to the President's desk SJ Resolution 34, which would allow your Internet Service Provider to sell your browsing history to anyone it chooses. And no point using instead of Google. All your browsing goes through your ISP. 

So your ISP will have everything, absolutely everything, on you. This makes you pretty vulnerable to blackmailers and nosey HR people deciding whether to hire (or retain) you.

But  Congress and the President are vulnerable, too. Maybe. 

An activist named Adam McElhaney is telling us that what's good for the goose is good for corrupt Republicans. He is out there on Go Fund Me, seeking contributions to buy and make public Internet browsing data that would expose embarrassing Internet searches and visits by Republicans who voted for SJ Resolution 34. And to equally embarrass business people who will profit from it.

McElhaney also took a poll to ask who should have their browsing histories exposed first— porn searches, medical "interests" (Hmm, do you suppose there's a reason this married Senator keeps looking up "herpes?"), visits to adultery websites, and so on. 

You can see the results here. However, in case you're not into clicking around, here are the winners, whose porn and other interesting website visits you might want to investigate should SJ Resolution 34 prevail:

• Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House
• Marsha Blackburn, Republican member of the house and anti-privacy advocate
• Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Majority Leader
• Ajit Pai, Donald Trump's appointee to Chairman of the FCC
• Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast, one of the companies that will be able to make a very fat buck selling your browsing history
• Randall Stephenson, CEO of ATT, another company that will be able to sell your searches and then wallow in profit.

McElhaney claims to have collected a war chest of well over $100,000 so far, but before you contribute too, a heads up.

As of this posting, Resolution 34 isn't law yet. Yet, that is. Moreover, it's not clear that, say, AT&T or Comcast will sell McElhaney (or anybody else) individual browsing histories, rather than fat packets of IP addresses and the browsing histories at those addresses.

And while I hate to refer you to a Silicon Valley online rag that caters to Internet profiteers, I feel I must, very unhappily, refer you to an article in TechCrunch declaring McElhaney is a scammer.

Hey, I object to the scammer characterization. However, it is probably true that it won't be easy to find out whether Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell spend their time on chilly Washington nights watching porn stars ejaculate, or whether Roberts and Stephenson have gone looking on a website like Ashley Madison for a little sleazy side action. 

All the same, wouldn't it be cool if they were all hoist by their own petards? Maybe, just maybe, if some pro-privacy coders will take the trouble to write a search program, and if McElhaney manages to buy a packet of data, it could even be more than just possible.

But I still wouldn't count on any exposées. Should the public find the same way into Congressional private lives this new law is about to give business into yours, wanna bet what'll happen?

Here's what. 

There'll be one law about your privacy and mine, and another hastily-written one about Congressional and Senatorial privacy. Just the way there's one medical plan for you, me and Joe Sixpack, and another super-deluxe, all-expenses-paid, medical plan-for-life for Congressmen and Senators.

To paraphrase the late Leona Helmeley, the Queen of Mean, and then filter her through the Republican mentality, laws are just for the little people.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Trump Slump: let me be the first to congratulate the President this time.

Back at the end of January, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average  hit 20,000, Donald Trump stood up and took a bow. He was “very proud,” he said. And his cheering section wildly applauded him.

This was the “Trump Effect,” said Kelly Anne Conway.  Right. He alone could do it.

Anthony Scaramucci, the hotshot young entrepreneur du jour tweeted, “Dow 20,000 = big league.Thank you @POTUS@realDonaldTrump."

But a funny thing happened on the way to the celebratory fireworks. The Trump Boom became a Trump Slump.

For the past three weeks, the Dow has been acting like an overinflated tire with a slow leak. 

Nothing sudden mind you. But on most days, the stock market loses a few, or a few dozen points, and the wheel deflates a bit more. You can practically hear it hissing.

If this keeps up, it’ll be running on its rim pretty soon. Until the wheel comes off.

Hey Donald, what’s the matter? Did you stop taking credit for what happens in the stock market — or is it the economy? — or what?

As for everybody else, repeat five times after me: Trump Slump. Trump Slump. Trump Slump. Trump Slump. Trump Slump.

P.S. It's now a day after I posted the stuff above, and the Dow, as of 3:27 in the afternoon, has posted a 163.8 points recovery. So no doubt The Donald will soon be boasting that he's just pulled the market out of a slump. Unless, of course, tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that, it slumps again.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I have been poisoned by Donald Trump's Russian agents

Self-portrait. Notice that my brains
have vanished. I blame Trump.
I've been trying to post here for days and days. And days.  I have lots of good ideas. But every time I sit down at my computer, I lose the magic. My mind goes blank.

I'm sure it's one of those fancy Russian poisons — the kind Russian agents give whistle blowers who make Putin look bad. Or maybe it's the kind of stuff that sneaks up on you like a south Korean agent, armed with VX and intent on smearing it on your face in the Singapore airport, so you'll die.

Or maybe they're invading my brain via alien brainwave emanations. Whatever it is, they're out to get me.It's a known fact. They're out to get me. Why else am I having a problem filling my blog? 

It should be a piece of cake to write about Donald Trump. Just put his name in a headline and readership zips upwardly about 25 percent. But I type his name into a headline and my mind goes blank. 

So that's how I know. I know it just as assuredly as Donald Trump knows for an absolute fact that Barack Obama sneaked into Trump Tower at 3 a.m. and attached a tape recorder to his telephone and others to the whatever of Kellyanne Conway and  Katrina Pierson.

So I'm laying back for a while. I'll be back to you when the poisons wears off. Or when the brain waves lose their voltage  Meanwhile I would strongly advise that you keep dangerous brain invaders out of your own head just the way our president does it. Here are instructions:

Monday, March 06, 2017

Mad Emperor Ludwig? A six-years-old having a temper tantrum? Cunning manipulator? Common thug? C’mon already, who is Donald Trump?

Which one is Donald Trump? Or is he both?
I’ll tell you who I think Donald Trump is. I think he’s the kid who came to your birthday party, ripped open all your presents and smashed them, then ran up to your room and broke the rest of your toys.

He then dashed back downstairs, found your birthday cake, and threw it on your mom’s carpet, gooey icing side down.When your mom spoke harshly to him, he lay down on the floor and had a tantrum, kicking his legs and screaming loudly.

And when his parents came to pick him up, he whined that none of the other kids were nice to him and that your parents were being unfair to him and making him misbehave. Just before he got into his own dad’s car, he spat in the direction of your house and flipped you the bird. 

Since arriving in the White House this still-mentally-six-year-old has done his best to smash all kinds of regulations including the regulations meant to reduce water and air pollution. He has issued an edict  that would break fuel economy standards, for no good reason at all. He has had temper tantrums galore. And he whines that the press is being mean to him.

Some people say his wild tantrums and crazed tweets are really cunning distractions, meant to change our focus from — well here’s where it beggars credibility — meant to change our focus from some shortcoming of Donald Trump or a member of his administration to….Donald Trump and his administration. 

That’s like cutting off your left thumb so it won’t seem so painful after you cut off your right thumb.

I don’t buy it. I think he’s a six year old with severe behavioral problems, and I think that if he can’t be institutionalized and injected full of tranquilizers, he should be taken out behind the woodshed to get his fanny whupped.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In a moment of enlightenment, Donald Trump’s IQ catches up to a 1992 Barbie doll

Back in 1992 Mattel put out a Barbie Doll  called Teen Talk Barbie. Pull the string in her back and Barbie would utter any of 270 phrases. Most of them were fairly innocuous, such as “I’ll always be here to help you,” and “Do you have a crush on anyone?”

But one line rightfully sent The American Association of University Women and feminists everywhere into paroxysms of outrage. Frequently misquoted these days as “Math is hard,” what Barbie actually said was, “Math class is tough.” The misquote doesn’t matter. It’s the stereotype behind the statement that created the brouhaha.

Women were fighting the image of the shallow, airhead role model who was befuddled trying to work out a solution to two plus two. So righteous was the feminist fury at Mattel for reinforcing this stereotype, that someone in Mattel’s corporate suite in El Segundo, California, flinched. 

No, Mattel didn’t order a recall — perhaps because that would have only made more women aware of the problem — but they offered to swap the loose-lipped Barbie for one who had her microchip partially clipped. It would only speak 269 phrases instead of 270. The one that Mattel aborted was, “Math class is tough.”

Jill Barad, the president of Mattel, fessed up that — shall we call her Math-Challenged Barbie? — was a great big blooper. “We didn’t fully consider the potentially negative implications of this phrase…” Barad wrote to the President of the AAUW.

A quarter of a century later, Donald Trump has caught up to Mattel’s mistake.

His Orangeness declared this week that “nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” 

That was the best confession of air-headedness since “Math class is tough.”

“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” he said of health insurance.

Well shucks Donald, anyone who had anything to do with passing the Affordable Care Act could have told you that way before the election. All you had to be able to do is read  a newspaper. How could you not know unless you’re continuously drugged and unconscious? Or functionally illiterate.

Perhaps Steve Bannon could do a recall and clip your, uh, whatever. That way, when he pulls the string in your back, you won’t sound like the failed airhead version of a 1992 doll.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Donald Trump got your goat? Keep calm and ridicule on.

Sometimes the best defense against the menace of Donald Trump is not protest, but ridicule. At least that seems to be what thousands have decided in western Europe.

While we Americans, with the exception of most of the late night comedians, fume and rage at this blithering idiot, Europe seems to have developed a sense of humor about it all.

Take the case of the “attack” — an attack that in fact never happened — by “terrorist” immigrants who didn’t exist, in Sweden.

Said Trump recently, “You look what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden! They took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

This left the Swedes scratching their heads. Nothing had happened in Sweden on the night Trump referred to. How Donald Trump turned on his TV to Fox and Friends and arrived at this conclusion is a job for the men with the white coats when he finally arrives in a straight jacket at the National Home for Daft and Bewildered Ex-Presidents.  I won’t go into that just now.  

But what is interesting is, how after a few moments of bewilderment in Sweden,  Northern Europe reacted to this nonsense. One word describes it. Ridicule. And it wasn’t just limited to the Swedes.

In neighboring Denmark, the Danes jammed their tongues firmly into their cheeks and organized an event called, “Pray for Sweden.” 

The Danes announced on Facebook:
“After the terrible attack on Sweden, to which attention was correctly drawn by President Trump, the Nordic countries now stand together.” “We invite all citizens to walk past the Swedish Embassy on Friday 17.00, in honour of our Swedish brothers and sisters.” 
The announcement was viewed by more than 250,000 people and 3,000 of them expressed an interest in coming. They were encouraged to bring fake flowers and then post about it afterwards on social media, thus spreading the ridicule of Trump.

The ridicule quickly spread to Germany where The Postillon, the German equivalent of The Onion, published a report about Ikea, the Scandinavian furniture manufacturer. Donald, if you’re reading this (fat chance!) pay attention. Here’s a way to wall out Mexico economically: 

The Scandinavian furniture maker has offered the USA a practical, ready-made solution with “Börder Wåll”. All they need to do is pick it up in a van from the nearest IKEA branch and put it up where they want it to go. 
Totalling US $9,999,999,999.99, “Börder Wåll” is significantly cheaper than a conventional wall. Estimates suggest that a conventional wall would cost between US $15 and $25 billion. 
However, assembly requires two people: one person can hold the wall while the second screws it together”, it states in IKEA’s offer. 
The basic model of the wall is 33ft (10 m) tall and 1,954 miles (3,144 km) long, although the height and length can be extended as desired.  
IKEA has already announced that it will design other products in the next few weeks that will be compatible with “Börder Wåll”.  
According to inside sources, this includes products such as the “Gåwk” watchtower and the “Råtåtåtåtåtå” spring-gun.
Not quite willing to let it go with that The Postillon also has run a headlined story that “Trump wants to deport American Indians to India.” And somebody caught The Donald’s ignorant voice perfectly with this tweet:

You gotta love Northern Europe for bringing Trump down by laughing him up. Alas, if Trump goes on as he has for too much longer, he will also makes the United States the laughing stock of the planet.