Sunday, December 29, 2019

FAKE NEWS! (Iron Clad Guarantee: all news headlines below honestly fabricated with genuine fabrications, or your money back.)

Fake News! People are talking about nothing else. That's whatI've heard. On Sunday morning, Chuck Todd devoted his entire hour to Fake News: What it is. How it gets faked. Who's faking it. Why they fake it. Plus real commentary on fakery from Very Thoughtful People.

Today's Sunday Times devoted most of its Op-Ed articles to fake news despair. The words "Twitter" and "Cesspit" appeared in the  headline and subheadline of the same op-ed piece. Ross Douthat's own headline was, "The Decade of Disillusionment." Ruchira Sharma told us "Economic Forecasters got the 2010s wrong." Only Nicholas Kristof sang out of key, claiming, "This Has Been The Best Year Ever." But hey, it's Kristof.

All of which led me to great feelings of shame for having tried not to lie, misinterpret, or fudge on this blog. At least not intentionally. I mean, at least most of the time. Clearly, I have to rectify that. So herewith, I give you some genuine FAKE NEWS headlines, ripped from...wherever.

DNA Tests Reveal 3 Generations
of Martian Blood On Trump Side of
 Family, Scientist Declares


But Creation Science Would Still Provide
Firm Background for Students Interested 
In the Life Sciences, Education Secretary Says


They won't cover prescriptions, but Trump insists,
"You're gonna save so much on toothpaste and makeup,
you're not going to believe it. Believe me, you'll save."


"What could I do," says Trump, when caught
holding hands with North Korean leader,
"He sent me such a beautiful love letter"


It's all for a good cause, he claims. Transferred funds
to his Swiss bank account "only temporary, for safekeeping"


Blames "too many pinot noirs at dinner"
and insists he was "only kidding"



Sunday, December 22, 2019

What will happen next with “L’Affaire Trump” — an open discussion

Some wiseacre entitled this photograph
"Mitch McConnell and his Merry Band"
Dang! The commentary tank is empty. I’m as dry as a dead steer’s skull on a sandhill in the Sonora Desert. I’m plumb drained of outrage, or anxiety, or indignation, or loathing, or pick your own adjective that reflects life as you see it in the age of Trump. 

So here’s what I’m going to do, people. I’m throwing this post, right here and now, open to you folks in the audience. The question of the day is, what’s the next big thing that’s going to happen relating to the mess that is Donald Trump, not to mention the mess he’s made of America? 

Yes, that young man in the first row?

A premonition? What premonition?

Well, that’s an interesting and entertaining concept, but even assuming that you’re correct that there is a God, I don’t think it’s possible for an actual bolt of lightning to shoot out of the ceiling in the Capitol Building and strike Donald Trump as he delivers the State of the Union Address. Not even if, as you put it, it’s a “divine” lightning bolt. We still have unchallenged laws of physics, even if the laws of the United States are under assault. Any other ideas?

Yes, that angry-looking woman wearing the “Me Too” button and the pink knitted cap? 

Sorry, I can’t agree with you at all. In the first place, I think the whole thing is a misnomer. Even Russian technology must have gotten past videotape by now. If anything, they’d release a pee disc, or even a pee MP3. Or maybe streaming pee from a cloud. But even assuming  they have one, if they release it, what happens to their leverage over Trump? Poof! The leverage is gone. Okay, if you insist, sssssss! It’s gone. So I don’t buy it. Surely somebody out there can do better. Anybody? Yes, you with the T-shirt that says, “And still she persisted.”

Well, I’m afraid the election is still a a very long way away. And then you have to assume that Elizabeth Warren will get the Democratic nomination. And then you have to assume that Trump agrees to debate her. And after that you have to assume that by October of 2020 he’ll be so out of control that he’ll walk up to her podium while she’s speaking and try to grab her by…well, you know. But I agree, if she then hauled off and socked him square in the face he’d go down like a concrete block off a tenement roof and probably start to cry like a baby. 

What? Hmm, I didn’t think of that. You’re quite right. Trump would probably get Bill Barr to arrest her for assault on the President. That would pull her off the campaign trail and do serious damage to her chances of winning, even though at least 48 percent of the nation, and maybe more, would cheer. Anybody have some other ideas? Yes, that boy wearing the hoodie?

No, sorry. Trump’s opponent will most certainly not be chosen by a cabal of Martian space invaders. Well just because the ad says so doesn’t mean it’s true. And I think the Russian ad agency that’s buying space from you to advertise that crap has gone off the rails. You ought to clean up that account, and take down those ads .No, it is not in the spirit of free and open debate. You’re talking about paid-for lies, and you collect the pay. No, just sit down and shut up, Mark. In fact, leave the room. 

All right, I have time for one more contribution. Anybody? Yes, that man waving the big basket full of $500 bills. Come to the front and tell us what you think.

That interesting. I think you might. On the other hand, you very well might not. And if you do win the nomination and the election, what does it say about America? That control of government is a matter of who shells out the most cash for it? That some of the most progressive Democratic ideas are kaput? I mean, like raising taxes sufficiently for the government to provide services every other advanced nation on the planet offers its citizens? 

Well I know you can outspend Trump. But there has to be a better set of criteria than that for becoming President of the United States.

No, I will not shut up! No, I will not! I really mean it, I will not! What? Really? Okay, just wire it to my Swiss bank account. I'll open one in the morning.

Cross-posted (with some modifications) at No More Mister Nice Blog

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Republicans to Nadler: "No fair! You didn't vote on impeachment in the middle of the night!" Plus: The Desktop Escapades and other causes for Republican ragefests.

Meanwhile, firemen have begun a frantic search for freshly
discarded staff and hangers-on from the Trump Administration.
The Too-Public-For-Republicans ballot ballet: After bitterly denouncing Congressional Democrats for gathering evidence in "secrecy" — a rather preposterous claim given that the full complement of Republican membership was there for the closed door hearings before everything went public — Republicans last week had another reason to have a meltdown.

This time, they were upset the the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee were not holding their impeachment vote in secret. Well, half-secret.  Rather than hold a midnight vote while half of America slept, Chairman Nadler postponed the vote until 10 a.m. the next morning, when more of America could witness it.

What happened next? Republican heads exploded, that's what! Here's Fox News (Yes! Fox News!) reporting on this "scandalous" turn of events:
Gobsmacked Republicans made known their fury and frustration late Thursday as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., abruptly wrapped up an all-day marathon hearing on the adoption of two articles of impeachment against President Trump by delaying planned votes on the matter until Friday morning. 
Ranking Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., raised immediate objection as Nadler began leaving, saying it was "the most bush-league stunt I have ever seen."
Right-O, Doug. Bush league because it deprived the Republicans of a bush-league stunt of their own — complaining the next morning that while America slept, those awful Dems passed articles of impeachment in...well, you know what's coming......"The middle of the night!."

What the Republican whining boils down to is simple. When you've got nothing, nothing, nothing at all to complain about, complain about everything, preferably in a very loud voice. Who knows, maybe something might stick. 

Repubs nix press pix. While right-wingers in the courts continue whittling down your expectations of privacy and mine, Republicans will fight to the death for a Congressman's expectation of privacy, even if the Congressman is a Democrat who hasn't complained that his privacy was violated.

Seems that while the Judiciary Committee was taking a break on Thursday, a Reuters news photographer "surreptitiously" snapped pictures of a Democratic Congressman's "notes," a Republican ranted.

Who was the ranter? Why, Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida, of course, who gives the impression that his control nob is frozen in rant mode, a deed that could only have been committed by a subversive prankster with a pot of Krazy Glue. But never mind that.

The stuff spread across Democrat Ted Lieu's desk was in plain view. Anyone passing by could have read it. Except, there was nothing much to read. The most interesting item was a dog-eared copy of The Federalist Papers. (Are the Republicans afraid that people will find out Democrats are better read than most Republicans?) Then there were cover sheets for a couple of reports which, as Congressional business, are public anyway, a folded newspaper, two closed ring binders, a couple of manilla filed folders, a pencil, and a wad of crumpled paper. What a scandal!

I wonder what the fury is all about. Do the Republicans have feelthy pictures atop their own desks? Or little black books of hookers' phone numbers with gold embossing that says, "Hookers Phone Numbers?" I don't know, although I wouldn't be surprised. But here's the actual photograph of the actual objects on the actual desk-top of an actual Democrat. Russia, if you're listening, go back to sleep.

What does a Democratic Congressman keep on his desktop? Nothing that
shouldn't be there. No wonder Republicans flew into a rage over this photograph.

It indicated that they have absolutely no dirt on one of their Democratic colleagues/
The poor photographer got the heave-ho from the House.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

The $150,000 banana, a theory about Trump’s toilet habits, and the Social Security “increase” that’s actually an income cut for millions of retirees

You want proof that a lucky few have too much money? I mean money that would do more for this country if it were taxed away from the one percent, as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders propose — and spent instead on worthy causes, like housing, or healthcare, or education, or infrastructure, or even reduction of the national debt?

Go no further than Miami Beach. Recently, at an exhibition called Art Basel Miami Beach, they were selling — in fact sold — a banana that had been stuck to a wall with a piece of duct tape for $150,000. 

And this was after a big contretemps involving an artist named David Dutana, who ripped the banana off the wall to which it had been taped and ate it.

A banana's lesson in economics

So why was a banana worth more than a garage full of automobiles, and how could it be worth anything at all after it entered Datuna’s alimentary canal?

First things first. Evidently the star of the Art Basel Miami Beach show was the banana, and what made it special was the idea of taping it to the wall. Maybe that’s why the banana on the wall was titled Comedian. Yuck yuck.

The idea of taking an ordinary object and declaring it art isn’t even entirely original. Over a century ago, the Dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp put a urinal on a pedestal, signed it “R.Mutt” and everybody declared it art. 

It's art because Duchamp said so!

So what does that make the banana? Nothing more than a semi-conceptual copycat with an edible center.

Here it is, for all to see:

Shocking? It doesn’t matter. The exhibitor, the Perrotin Gallery, had brought along an extra banana just in case.And they taped that banana to the wall, and hocus-pocus, it was now worth $150,000. Not only that, even after the banana ripens, and then rots, and then begins attracting flies, and then gets thrown in the trash, the buyer will not only have his money’s worth, he’ll have a certificate of authenticity to prove it. 

The transubstantiated fruit

Now just stop that. I don’t want to see your eyes cross again. This is for real. Here’s what Vanity Fair magazine reports on the matter:

“Without the artist's certificate of authenticity, it reverts to being just a banana,” Perrotin said to ArtNet News prior to the unauthorized snacking, evoking a kind of readymade transubstantiation clause.”

 Maybe the buyer is going to go home, frame the certificate of authenticity, and hang that over his mantlepiece. That's a great way to avoid an every-other-day art replacement run to the supermarket produce aisle.

Vanity Fair went on to report:
Most famous, though, is America, a fully functioning 18-karat solid gold toilet. In 2016 it was installed in one of the Guggenheim's rest rooms, for anyone to use. (A security guard was posted outside as people waited in line.) When the Trump White House requested to borrow Vincent Van Gogh's Landscape With Snow in 2017, the Guggenheim offered America instead. The piece was recently stolen from Blenheim Palace in England, where it was on loan. Arrests have been made but the toilet has not been recovered.
Presumbly, if I may haul out an old joke and, uh, polish it up a bit, the mystified occupants of Blenheim Palace are looking urgently, but they have nothing to go on.

Trump’s terribly
temperamental toilet tirade

Speaking of toilets, while the rich were paying $150,000 for a duct taped banana, and God-knows-what for gold toilets, Donald Trump was ranting about how many times he has to flush. This happened during a small business round table conference. Trump went off not on why so many small businesses are being squeezed out of existence by Amazon, or about the competition of cheap goods from abroad, but on energy-saving lightbulbs that he says make him look orange, and then on plumbing, including flush toilets.

“People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So EPA is looking at that very strongly at my suggestion,” The Trumpster gushed.
Who these frequent flushers are, or how our busy and usually incurious President researched the number of times you and I flush was not explained. I suspect that “people” in this case refers to a single “people” whose name is Donald Trump. And I have no doubt that he personally sometimes needs to flush 15 times instead of once. In fact, have a very simple theory about the matter:

That’s what happens when you’re full of shit.

Now even Social Security
has stopped being secure

At the end of November, America’s geezers, among whom I number myself, received what for many of us was a go-screw-yourself letter from the Social Security Administration.

It started out with putatively good news: “Your Social Security benefits will increase by 1.6 percent in 2020 because of a rise in the cost of living.”

The cost of living in what? Here in New York, a one bedroom apartment can rent for more per month than I paid for my first new car. (Well okay, it was a Volkswagon, but even so.) A raw chicken breast in the supermarket meat case costs more than a pound of sirloin cost a few years ago. I pay more to have my shoes re-heeled than I once paid for shoes.

Anyway, 1.6 percent is at least something.  But then, payments from Social Security to my Medicare Part B medical insurance and Part D Prescription Drug Plan were increased — and subtracted from what Social Security sends me. Net net? I take a $48-and-change per month cut in Social Security income. (If you’re retired, your mileage may vary, depending on past and current income.) 

Heaven forbid the government should cut drug companies’ profits instead of old peoples’ incomes. Hey, no need to worry yet, drug companies. It won’t happen under a Trump administration. They’ll just keep redistributing income to you from the poor, the old, the marginal, and the sick.

And yet, many of my fellow geezers just love Trump. Maybe they'll love him less come their January Social Security checks. 

Or maybe they're already brain dead.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Ectopic pregnancy, abortion, and “reimplantation” for dummies. I’m talking to you, Ohio House of Representatives.

Dummy: Ohio Rep. John Becker 
(Republican) co-sponsored a bill that 
requires Ohio doctors to do the 
medically impossible or possibly
face murder charges. But medical 
science is, like, you know, his opinion.
Dummy:  Ohio Rep. Candice Keller 
(Republican) not only co-sponsored 
the ectopic pregnancy law, but also 
“drag queen advocates” and 
“recreational marijuana” for mass 
Uh oh! The Republican rocket scientists in the Ohio House of Representatives are at it again. 

It’s old news by now, but just in case you missed it…

Having banned abortions after five weeks of pregnancy — a ban that was blocked by a Federal judge whose IQ, if it’s merely normal, is probably higher than that of all the Republicans in the Ohio House combined — the House went on to something bigger and dumber.

It's legislative name is HB 182, but it ought to be called the Ohio Medical Nincompoop Act. This one involves ectopic pregnancies. An ectopic pregnancy is a mistake nature makes — okay, that God makes if you pro-life fundamentalists insist — that causes a fertilized egg to attach to the wrong place.

Usually that wrong place is a fallopian tube, where  the egg ends up fatally, instead of descending to the uterus, where the egg can grow normally and develop into a healthy fetus.

If the ectopic pregnancy isn’t terminated, not only will the baby die prior to birth, but the mother very well may bleed to death, too. So the only proper and humane way to deal with this tragedy is to abort the pregnancy. Hey, don’t take my word for it. I get this stuff from the medically renowned Mayo Clinic, which sums it up this way:
“An ectopic pregnancy can't proceed normally. The fertilized egg can't survive, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding, if left untreated.”
 But trust those “Get the government off our backs” Republicans not only to get on women’s backs, but to crawl up into women’s private parts and begin practicing 12th Century medicine in there.

What did Representative Becker come up with? Why, a bill criminalizing abortions of ectopic pregnancies if the doctor fails to do the impossible and “reimplant” the aborted fetus in the woman’s uterus. The doctor who fails to comply with this compliance-proof law would face “abortion murder” charges.

Meanwhile, Daniel Grossman, writing in in the Ohio online journal, tells us:
While HB 182’s focus on a fictitious treatment is concerning, even more dangerous is the fact that the bill eliminates insurance coverage for the standard treatments for ectopic pregnancy unless the pregnant person’s life is in danger. This exception for life is not sufficient, since doctors may feel their hands are tied unless they are 100% certain that the patient is at death’s door. Ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of pregnancy-related death in the first trimester, and as our nation faces a crisis of maternal mortality– particularly among African-American women – it is unconscionable to place obstacles in the way of treating ectopic pregnancy.
I assume that the next matter the Ohio House will deal with is the exorcism of witches from elementary schools. Stay tuned.