The Berry Doesn’t Fall Far From the Dingle

wattersdickJesse Watters, smirky understudy to former Fox miscreant Bill O’Reilly stepped on his own dick the other day by proffering very ill-timed innuendo about Ivanka Trump’s skill at holding a phallic microphone. Ill-timed because the last thing Fox needs now is another frat-boy scandal. The show known as “The Five” – which is coincidentally what Watters calls his masturbatory hand – went to break after Jesse’s suggestive aside. When they came back Watters explained that his admiration for Ivanka’s talent referred to her jazzy-style voice. Everyone knows that during that fitful break, “The Five” producers and staff were frantically trying to come up with an explanation Jesse could offer on air other than “Ivanka obviously gives good head.”

As of this writing, Watters is on “vacation” from the show he just started appearing on – a suspicious turn of events that is reminiscent of O’Reilly’s sudden hiatus that preceded his ouster. Watters, who performed juvenile segments as part of “The O’Reilly Factor” was seen as a kind of O’Reilly protégé which explains his remark about Ivanka’s talent for fellatio. (Sidebar: it’s questionable as to whether milquetoast mannequin Jared Kushner would be able to convincingly confirm his wife’s oral prowess.)

At the rate Fox is burning through its male “talent” we may soon see an entirely reconfigured prime-time line-up anchored by “The All New Penguin Factor.”

nun

Before joining “The Five,” Jesse Watters had a bit segment called “Watters’ World.” (Nothing like taking inspiration from one of the biggest Hollywood disasters of all time.)

Watter’s shtick was to go out on the sidewalks of New York and ambush clueless passers-by to ask them simple or provocative questions. The goal: to prove that most people (read: Obama/Clinton voters) are too moronic to be taken seriously in modern America. This attempt at partisan humor was a standard of radio asshole Sean Hannity who would send his crew out to lob such inquiries as “who is the vice-president?” or “which came first, World War One or World War Two?” Invariably, Hannity’s people would stumble upon a drunk or a challenged individual who would fail the test to everyone’s delight.

Watters copied Hannity’s gig like a shameless Chinese DVD factory. No doubt his interviews were heavily edited to make sure only the stupidest of respondents made the cut. I can only imagine how many takes were discarded in which an irritated New Yorker replied to Jesse with a dismissive “go fuck yourself.”

I always hated this type of bullshit because the likes of Hannity, O’Reilly and Watters would rather use the material more to demonstrate their arrogant superiority than to make an attempt at intelligent humor. I would love to see a crew barge unannounced into Fox studios and pose some of the following questions to the illustrious talking heads.

Could they answer them? Can you?

1. “What’s the GDP of The United States?”

2. “What state has the highest percent of its population on Medicaid?”

3. “How many aircraft carriers does the U.S. have in active duty? How about Russia and China?”

4. “Who was the first president to submit a budget with a deficit greater than $1 trillion?”

5. “Which came first, the Dred Scott decision or John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry?”

6. “Which country gets the most US economic and military assistance?”

7. “What does the Third Amendment prohibit?”

8. “Who is the President of the Senate? Who is the President pro tempore of the Senate?

9. “Does Ivanka Trump really know how to operate a jackhammer?”

jackhammer-photo-u1

1. $18 trillion
2. New Mexico – 33%
3. 10 -1 -1
4. George W. Bush
5. Dred Scott – 1857
6. Afghanistan
7. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law
8. Mike Pence / Orrin Hatch
9. She’s a great jazz singer

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Trump’s Massive Tax Hike on American Corporations

taxenbelope
Trump’s “tax reform plan” on the back of an envelope.

Trump released a one-page list of “bullet points” that was touted by his administration as a once-in-a-generation tax overhaul, but derided by economists as nothing more than a big tax cut for corporations and rich people. What went unnoticed is that by setting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, Trump would inflict a serious tax hike on a multitude of corporations that currently pay a lot less than that. Many in fact pay less than 0 percent. Is Trump prepared to withstand the backlash from aggrieved companies that see his massive tax hike as a betrayal?

Consider Facebook which paid -$429 million on profits of $1.06 billion in 2012. That’s a tax rate of -40 percent. I highly doubt Mark Zuckerberg is gonna press “like” on Trump’s new 15 percent slam. And what about Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, Occidental Petroleum, Duke Energy, Priceline, Corning, Consolidated Edison and the New York Stock Exchange – all of whom had positive net earnings but paid less than zero corporate taxes in 2012? How will these companies continue to exist if they are required to reach the 15 percent threshold?

Then you have General Electric, Verizon, Boeing and Northeast Utilities that paid no federal income tax for five straight years. Hell, GE booked $27.5 billion in profit over five years and paid -$3.05 billion in tax for a rate of -11 percent. If they have to pay taxes, will GE ever bring good things to life again?

Pundits and politicians who bemoan America’s high corporate tax rate of 35 percent never mention that no company with even a half-smart tax accounting department pays anything close to that figure. The juicy loopholes involving inversions, stock options, depreciation, foreign earnings and on and on give corporations a massive toolbox to avoid taxes. Of course it would be irresponsible for a company beholden to shareholders to pay more than their legal requirement – but the solution should focus on the loopholes, not an arbitrary reduction of the top rate.

A one-time Treasury official, Len Burman, summed up the situation well: “In a rational system, a corporation’s tax department would be there to make sure a company complied with the law, but in our system, there are corporations that view their tax departments as a profit center, and the effects on public policy can be negative.” Knocking out the complicated loopholes and setting a rational rate would allow companies to downsize the tax departments, and bring some needed equity to the system.

But there’s no reason for optimism. Loopholes are like weeds – even if Congress eliminated the most egregious of them, within a year corporate lobbyists would succeed in adding back dozens of new ways to game the system.

Meanwhile, rank and file citizens who have few if any tools in their tax-avoidance toolbox are sitting ducks. Most middle class people will see minimal reductions, and many who live in states with high local income taxes may actually see their federal tax burden increase. At least these losers will have the satisfaction of knowing that when they press “send” in Turbotax that someone in GE’s tax profit center will be pressing “receive.”

This Week’s Biggest Asshole

The award goes to Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies – a group that “studies immigration” and concludes there must be less of it. He’s also the author of “The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal” whose cover captures the true spirit of the American dream. I suppose Lady Liberty put her hand up after Krikorian’s ancestors came through Ellis Island.

krik

Unlike most of his anti-immigrant ilk, Krikorian is not a big fan of Trump’s border wall for the simple reason that it won’t work. Nevertheless, he now advocates for it because of its symbolism. “Following through on wall construction is one of the ways that the political class can win back trust on this topic. It’s a tangible thing. You can take pictures of it and imagine it in your head.”

That’s right. You can take pictures of it! And imagine it! In your own head!

That’s pretty stupid, but what makes Mark Krikorian this week’s biggest asshole is his shameless call to spend billions on a worthless piece of shit. He says, “Even if the border wall did no good at all to control immigration, it would be important to build. Even if it did nothing, even if it was completely ineffective, it’s important politically.”

Perhaps in parallel with building the beautiful wall, we should commence a mission to send men to colonize the sun. Even if that was completely ineffective, it would make for some good pictures.

(Sidebar: No doubt picking next week’s biggest asshole will be a contest among the tax-cutting Republicans who will suddenly forget all about the crippling effects of ballooning deficits they harped about for the past eight years.)

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | Comments Off

“O” Zone Depletion

Bill O’Reilly articulates his feelings about getting the boot from Fox

In his most recent and ill-timed book release titled “Old School,” one-time king of Fox punditry Bill O’Reilly – sounding like a crotchety bastard who demands of neighborhood kids: “get off my lawn!” – bemoans the loss of such wonders as land-lines, and misses the days when a kid could enjoy the freedom of falling off a bike and breaking his skull instead of having to wear a doofy-looking helmet that might save his life. Those who disagree with Mr. O are derided as “snowflakes” – presumably a swipe at people who now attend “New School.” This is just what America needs right now: a clueless screed by an angry white dude who remembers the world through the eyes of Ward Cleaver who was often justifiably “hard on the Beaver.”

olddrool

Another observation O’Reilly makes of the “old schoolers”: “Boys never bothered girls because of the ‘Brother and His Large Friends’ rule.” I interpret that to mean that if it weren’t for those annoying protectors, O’Reilly and his fellow O.S.-ers would have been free to cop feels, slip tongues, reach under plaid uniform skirts, and otherwise take advantage of the fairer sex. Contrast O’Reilly’s righteous defense of girls from “Old School” to his alleged (and now infamous) “loofah” comments to Andrea Mackris who sued him in 2003:

lawsuit

I guess Andrea didn’t have a brother with large friends at the time.

In any event, O’Reilly’s dalliances with women who find him repulsive go back a long way, and have left a trail of million-dollar settlements – ultimately paid for by 21st Century Fox corporation and its shareholders. Despite the continued misbehavior, Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch stood by his ratings beast O’Reilly whose prime-time cable show brought in disproportionate revenues for the company. Until it didn’t. After a scathing front-page story in the New York Times (and a steady drumbeat of follow-up coverage) detailed Mr. No Spin’s sordid behavior, advertisers headed for the hills. The loss of revenue coupled with more derision than even hard-boiled Fox execs could bear drove the Murdoch’s to the same decision they arrived at with portly blob Roger Ailes this past summer.

Despite paying the $13 million bill for O’Reilly’s misbehavior, Fox kept him in the prime-time slot, judging the settlements a simple cost of doing business. But all good things must come to an end, so O’Reilly has taken his $25 million severance and left what had long been known to his critics as the “Oh, Really? Factor.”

Once he takes a well-deserved vacation – perhaps Thailand where he can proposition pre-teen sex workers who are too young to sue – Bill O’Reilly can start work on his next book, a sequel this time.

boldfresh

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Easter Charade

fifth
“On the Avenue….Fifth Avenue…”

Ever since Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and with the help of a bunny rabbit saw his own shadow thus predicting 2,000 more years of Christianity, followers have celebrated the event by hiding and seeking brightly painted eggs. The tradition of rolling Easter eggs across the lawn became a staple at the White House starting in 1878 after Ulysses S. Grant signed a law banning such activity at the Capitol grounds.

The tradition continued this past Sunday at the Trump White House (no, not Mar-a-Lago – the other one.) Here are some of the highlights.

trumpeaster
Trump kicks off the festivities by nominating his new head of the National Science Foundation.

President
Trump starts the race to see which foreign kid will be first to run back across the border.

tiffhunt
A lucky girl finds the one-of-a-kind Tiffany egg.

trumpivanka
Trump thinks he found two hidden ostrich eggs.

spicer
Spicer and Kim Jong-un debate who walked on water better – Jesus or Dear Leader.

melania
Melania hides an egg where no one will find it.

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged , | Comments Off

Alien Abduction

trumpalienThere’s only one explanation for it: Trump was abducted by aliens and replaced with a hollow orange shell topped by a lemon meringue hairpiece. Sometime after January 20 – perhaps from the rooftop of Trump Tower or the 9th hole at Mar-A-Lago – aliens took over a man who had boasted bluntly about upending the status quo in America, and left the country with a guy who seems to have misremembered everything he promised as a candidate.

On China

Then: “On day one of a Trump administration, the US Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator. I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator.”

Now: “They’re not currency manipulators.”

On NATO

Then: “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago.”

Now: “I said it’s obsolete. Now it’s no longer obsolete.”

On Syria

syria1

syria2

On the Export-Import Bank

Then: “I don’t like it because I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Now: “Actually, it’s a very good thing. And it actually makes money, it could make a lot of money.”

On the Border Wall

Then: “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

Now: “We’re going to get reimbursed. But I don’t want to wait that long. But you start, and then you get reimbursed.”

On Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem

Then: “I’ll move the embassy on day one.”

Now: “I am thinking about the embassy, I am studying the embassy [issue], and we will see what happens. The embassy is not an easy decision.”

On Unemployment

Then: “Don’t believe these phony numbers. The number is probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.”

Now: (Spicer) “I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him for this, ‘they may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

On the Debt

Then: Get rid of the more than $19 trillion debt “over a period of eight years.”

Now: (Mulvaney) “I’m not going to be able to pay off $20 trillion worth of debt in four years.”

On the Military

Then: “We’re going to rebuild out military. Our military is in shambles.”

Now: “It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius. Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five. I mean look, we have, in terms of technology, nobody can even come close to competing.”

On Healthcare

Then: “I know that we’re all gonna make a deal on health care — that’s a very easy one. And I think that’s gonna happen very quickly.”

Now: “Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

On Golfing

Then: “I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

Now:

trumpgolf

Posted in Politics | Tagged | Comments Off

Hungry Monster Interview

hmbr-page-icon

The following is a reprint of an interview conducted with Herb Schultz, author of RonnieandLennie that first appeared April 8, 2017 on The Hungry Monster.

A Turbulent Time

RonnieandLennie is a story about conjoined twins, set in the hippie days of 1960s, which depicts the challenges of being incredibly close to family at all times. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

I’ve had a long-time fascination with the lives of the original Siamese Twins, Eng and Chang Bunker. These two men joined at the chest for their entire lives managed to marry sisters and father 21 children between them. I found that amazing. I tried to imagine how the Bunkers – or any conjoined twins – negotiated life’s private moments in the company of one other. It’s almost impossible to comprehend simple acts like going to the bathroom, meeting a girl, having sex – accompanied at all times by another human being. I assumed any conjoined twins would long to be separated, yet I discovered in my research that sometimes newly freed siblings would suffer from chronic adjustment disorder. Being attached to the same person for decades then suddenly cut loose could be the foundation for an interesting conflict. I built the story of Ronnie and Lennie around their picaresque lives together in a turbulent time contrasted with tragic setbacks that arise following their accidental separation.

Ronnie and Lenny are fascinating characters with much depth. They go through many trials throughout the story. What is one obstacle you felt was important for their characters?

Again, going back to the Bunker’s, Chang was the dominant brother over Eng which was the basis for a good deal of conflict and animosity between them. Unlike normal identical twins who seem to me to be highly compatible with very similar interests, I imagined conjoined twins having great difficulty living in harmony. Ronnie is dominant like Chang, Lennie is more submissive like Eng. So the biggest obstacle for Ronnie and Lennie is their physical attachment to one another. But equally challenging is their innate, fraternal desire to make each other happy. The conflict impels them.

The story is set in 1960’s America. Did you grow up in this time? I felt that you captured the essence of this time well. Why did you pick this era for your story?

Once Ronnie and Lennie are introduced, the bulk of the story takes place as they grow up in the 1960s and early 1970s – which is when I was a kid around the same age as them. Perhaps because this was my first novel I fell back on writing about an era with which I had first-hand experience. As Ronnie and Lennie are rather feral kids raised by their single, middle-aged aunt, I wanted to put them in a time when kids could behave with wild abandon – before the world became paranoid and protective. I wanted them to do crazy things. Experiment with sex, music, drugs without helicopter parents hovering about to ruin the adventure. I also needed to set it in a time when separating conjoined twins was impossible or at least too risky.

I also set the beginning of the story – before the twins are born – in 1950s Las Vegas which is a fascinating time and place. Big hotels and casinos are just starting to boom. The army is blowing up nuclear bombs in the desert. It was great fun researching and writing about those times.

What is the next book that you’re writing and when will it be available?

After RonnieandLennie, I wrote two more novels and a collection of short stories. Another genre that I enjoy is the tale of the con-game and revenge. My second novel, “Architect’s Rendition” is the story of an architect, determined to marry his mistress, enlists three associates in a complex scheme to murder his wife, and each other. The third is “Double Blind Test” in which a professional mediator is conned by identical twin businessmen who sought her help to resolve a dispute. She later meets another woman in a suspiciously similar circumstance, and the two women team up to take down the con artists.

After the publication of the short story collection “Sometimes the Sun Does Shine There,” I started writing screenplays, and have spent the bulk of my energy in that dispiriting endeavor.

Find RonnieandLennie at majorterata.com.

Posted in books | Comments Off

Untied Airlines

munoz

A United Airlines passenger who had paid for a valid ticket and was sitting in his assigned seat – locked and in the upright position, tray table stowed – was forcibly removed by thuggish “airport cops” because the airline needed four seats for some crew members. The story has reverberated around the globe and much opprobrium and vitriol has been justifiably spewed United’s way – including some harsh treatment for the CEO Oscar Munoz.

Among the more asinine things Munoz said in defending the removal was that poor United Airlines crew aboard the flight from Chicago to Louisville “were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight.” That’s right: United had no other choice but to manhandle the guy out from his seat, bang his head silly, and drag him down the aisle like a deer shot in the woods.

You can throw a dart in the internet and likely find a story that takes a shit on United’s and Munoz’s head (just click here ); this blog is about the completely stupid practice of purposefully overbooking flights. Although legal in this industry at least, it seems patently unfair – and bad business – to sell seats more than once and then play a game of chicken at the gate (or on board) with your customers when more than 100 percent of them show up for a service for which you already took their money.

The airlines execute this practice because they have observed that some customers don’t show up for the scheduled flight – and the financial wonks at the airlines cravenly see opportunity to make a few more bucks. You never see such behavior at a Broadway show, a baseball game, or at any number of venues where tickets are purchased in advance. If someone buys a ticket to sold-out “Hamilton” and on the way to the theater is involved in a car accident, that person’s seat remains empty when the curtain goes up. You don’t see flunkies milling about outside the Richard Rogers Theater trying to sell that patron’s seat again. The understanding outside the airline industry is that once a seat is sold, revenue is recognized, so there’s no justification for selling it again.

Nonetheless, the airline industry which for years struggled with huge losses came up with the idea of overbooking as a hedge against flying planes with empty seats. Using powerful computers and data mining software, the airlines calculate the likelihood that on any given flight, at any given time and day, some number of passengers will not arrive on time (or at all). I suspect this works out nicely for the airlines most of the time; they scratch out extra revenue from selling a handful of seats twice. And they get to screw the people who failed to show up by charging them an exorbitant fee to rebook them. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if United would bump the co-pilot if they could sell his seat to a higher bidder.

But from my experience it seems quite common that the airlines flub the bet and are forced to deal with the self-inflicted problem of winnowing out some legitimate ticket-holders. The obvious solution: bribery. Almost always the airlines can entice enough travelers who are not in immediate need of cramming their asses into seats the width of a booster chair to forego the flight with vouchers to be used on future air travel. It’s funny to watch the gate agent play this moronic auction game while passengers sit and stew. The agent starts out with a low-ball figure which everyone knows is not the best and final offer (known as a BAFO), but soon enough a number north of $500 is proffered and some people cave in and relinquish their seats.

But not always. When this happens, the airlines can (again, legally) pick out the passengers for involuntary expulsion. How they do this probably borders on illegal or unethical discrimination. People chosen for involuntary expulsion almost always leave without incident, harboring disgust and revulsion for the treatment meted out by the airline. (Remember: it’s the airlines who put themselves into this public-relations chokehold with their overbooking schemes.)

The weird twist in the latest United Airlines imbroglio is that the people chosen for involuntary expulsion were asked to vacate the jet to make room for four United crew members who had to deadhead to Louisville. That’s right – United kicked paying passengers off the flight so that they could fly employees in their place. One of those people, a doctor who argued that he needed to be in Louisville the next day to see patients, refused to deplane – and the ugly mess was caught on video which has been watched more than 100 million times. (Some pundits argued that United blew it because they didn’t offer him a bigger voucher, but that’s a red herring – as if bigger and better bribery is the always the answer.)

Consider the magnitude of CEO Munoz’s asshole-dom when he said United was “left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers.” Chicago to Louisville is less than a five hour drive, and it probably costs a few thousand to charter a flight, yet United decided it was better to embroil themselves in a public relations fiasco of legendary proportions than to make alternate plans to get the crew to Kentucky. Why would United repel their own customers by acting like fascists? If you have to ask that, you haven’t flown in the past decade. (Sidebar: when the four crew members finally took their ill-gotten seats, the derision from the other passengers was devastating.)

As I write this United stock (UAL) is down $2.50 a share which means that since the forced expulsion became widely known the company has shed $750 million in market cap. But hey, they had no choice.

united crash
United crash lands on Wall Street

Posted in Business | Tagged , | Comments Off

Abolish the Senate

capitolThe Republican majority in the Senate, as expected, voted to eliminate the filibuster rule as it applies to Supreme Court nominees. If the trend continues and the filibuster is eliminated altogether, then the Senate should be abolished as nothing more than a less-democratic, more-pompous duplicate of the House of Representatives. What’s the point of having two houses of Congress if each does the same thing in more or less the same way? Why have two chambers each conjuring up their own moronic laws which have to be reconciled by yet another committee of morons? Why spend over a billion dollars ($10M per senator) a year to retain this foppish group of do-nothings? (Sidebar: the Republican “majority” of 52 Senators represents fewer than 45 percent of Americans – another reason to get rid of this unfairly constructed body. See table at bottom.)

Republican Senator John McCain, outraged at the notion of cancelling out the filibuster, said, “Benjamin Franklin is somewhere turning over in his grave. Why have a bicameral system?” Maverick McCain went on to vote to eliminate the filibuster anyway, thus illustrating another reason for shit-canning this country club of craven old fools.

The whole point of having a Senate was to temper rash decisions made by the House. The Founding Fathers thought this could be accomplished if bills from the House passed through a more deliberative part of the Congress where the minority could raise legitimate issues and get an honest hearing. As the Constitution lets the Senate make up its own rules, a thing called the filibuster was created which allowed the minority to force extended debate on consequential items, compelling members to defend their ideas.

Unfortunately, the filibuster became an overused tactic that infiltrated its ugly, undemocratic head into every motion, requiring 60 votes to do anything – even on votes to authorize votes. Real abuse of the filibuster started after Obama took office and the minority Republicans under Mitch the Bitch McConnell used the parliamentary maneuver as a Swiss Army bludgeon against everything the Dems proposed – even against stuff they themselves championed in the past.

pDgxItZ

I’m not a big fan of the filibuster – after all, if you want government to run like a business keep in mind that any block of a company’s shares that totals 50 percent plus one share calls all the shots. Nowhere in the business world does it take a 60 percent majority to make a decision.

But if you’re gonna have a filibuster, do it right. Today, it takes 60 votes to shut off a filibuster (aka. cloture); change that requirement so that it requires 41 votes to keep a filibuster going. Make the minority work for their intransigence. Require the filibusterers to defend the action by going to the floor and delivering a justification. Disallow filibusters of procedural votes.

Clearly, filibuster reform will never happen, and more than likely the filibuster will be eliminated altogether by the Bitch once the Dems start shutting down everything Trump wants to do legislatively.

At that point the Congress should just pass an amendment to eliminate the Senate altogether – right after they amend the rules so that the vote of a single Senator is enough to pass the bill.

Drug Companies: Stop Encouraging Dangerous Behavior

Depending on the TV you watch, and your proximity to retirement age, you may be deluged with ads for pharmaceuticals of every stripe engineered to cure problems you never knew existed. A recurring ad has been running lately for Harvoni, a drug to fight hepatitis C – an infection that is said to affect a lot of baby-boomers, many of whom have no idea they have the disease. In this ad titled “Let Go” actors playing Hep-C sufferers are depicted releasing floating paper lanterns – presumably an allegory of the new freedom from disease Harvoni can bestow upon humanity.

On the other hand, the floating pyrotechnics could be an allegory for massive wildfires. Aren’t any of these Hep-C people concerned about what will happen when 500 fiery paper lanterns land in a dry, thatchy forest in the next county?

And then you have Xarelto, a blood-thinner seemingly designed to help mostly sports figures. Past ads have featured a golfer, basketball player, NASCAR driver, and now a competitive swimmer. In the latest ad titled “Most Challenging Opponent,” driver Brian Vickers and swimmer Katie Hoff kick it off by complaining about scary afflictions like pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis.

As a narrator explains the drug’s virtues along with a ton of side-effects, Vickers and Hoff are depicted taking part in happy-go-lucky endeavors. At one point Mr. NASCAR and his son build a wooden soapbox derby car (naturally). Here’s what it looks like when complete:

vickers

Slick, but if the car hits a curb does it decapitate Vickers’s kid? (At least the soapbox car can pass for a coffin.)

Makeup of the Senate by the numbers

Picture1

Posted in Politics, TV | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Sneaky Pete’s is Back

sneakyFor more than 50 years Pete Ciacchini and his wife owned and managed a bar that was once a 1920s speakeasy in Erie, Pennsylvania. The bar, which had not undergone a facelift since at least the Eisenhower era was formally registered as the Colonial Inn, but was always known to its patrons as Sneaky Pete’s. “Sneaky” because as legend has it the bar, situated at the time on a remote side country road near the venerable Kawkwa Club, was the ideal place to meet up with someone who was not a spouse for a romantic interlude by the roaring fire in the deep brick hearth.

In more recent times, the Ciacchini’s ran the place together by themselves on Friday and Saturday evenings only, serving routine cocktails and the oft-ordered “Sneaky Pete” – a concoction of brandy, crème de menthe (or was it crème de cacao?), and heavy cream blended to silky smoothness to resemble a benign milkshake (albeit one that could twist the head of an unsuspecting patron who downed six or seven of them.) Pete mixed the drinks and his wife Laura delivered them to the drinkers sitting at the tables draped with checkerboard tablecloths beneath the fake Tiffany lamps.

Pete was the archetypal bartender dressed in a white shirt and black tie, apron wrapped around his bulging midriff. He loved to bullshit with the regulars who sustained the business while casting glances of disdain for the occasional transients who made ill-advised attempts to rearrange tables to accommodate parties larger than four, and to request drinks directly from Pete at the bar instead of waiting for Laura to take their orders at the tables.

Although the signature “Sneaky Pete” was always in high demand, Pete refused to premix a large batch of the gooey drink, opting instead to “hand-craft” each one individually. For this reason – and his penchant to bullshit to distraction – patrons at the bar might have to unduly wait for service. I believe Pete tested his customers’ patience in an experiment to separate the worthy from the non. Not that the service was the attraction. Nor the quality of mixology for that matter. Most of the liquor choices were stale brands mostly found in the wells of most geezer bars, and Pete was certainly no expert on the finer points of mixing classics like the Sidecar, Old Fashioned, Sazerac or Negroni. Hell, I doubt a bottle of Campari ever crossed the threshold at Sneaky Pete’s. Once he concocted a dirty Martini with pickle juice because he had run out of olive juice – content in the belief that all condiment runoffs were the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me he had made a Bloody Mary with ketchup and a dandelion.

No, the reason Sneaky Pete’s was always an iconic place to drink and socialize was its genuine authenticity, its faithful homage to another era. It was a throwback to a time when jukeboxes played great music, transactions were made in cash only with no receipts, restrooms offered condom vending machines, and drinks featuring fancy-schmancy ingredients were a thing of the future. There were no distracting signs defiling the walls explaining the Heimlich maneuver or listing the maladies of drinking whilst pregnant. The place wasn’t ADA compliant, had no sprinkler system, no beer taps, no intrusive TV and no stinky food bubbling and popping in a nearby fryer. Just pure 1950s “Mad-Men” ambiance. It was not unusual to walk into the bar and find couples dancing to Cole Porter.

A couple years ago, Laura hung up her black and white waitress uniform for good, and shortly after Pete mixed his last Sneaky. The bar closed and the couple retreated to the attached residence. I’m sure Pete retired under duress.

I drove past the joint on Swanville Road last summer and was surprised to see a notice affixed to the door indicating that someone had applied for a liquor license. Could it be someone was going to reopen Sneaky Pete’s? And if so, to what extent would they screw it all up?

Happily, Sneaky Pete’s has reopened under the same name (no, not Colonial Inn) and the new owners have done minimally invasive adjustments, deciding to maintain as much of the old ambiance as reasonably could be expected. The old crank cash register and ornate wooden shelves remain. The layout hasn’t changed, and the big hearth still burns sweet hardwood. I suppose it was necessary to serve food (for cash flow, and maybe to acquire the Pennsylvania liquor license and operate on a full-week schedule), and although they serve what you’d expect along the lines of pub food (this is Erie after all) the new Sneaky Pete’s also offers some ambitious dinners on a menu that changes weekly. Expect to find something along the lines of sautéed chicken breast topped with Southwest flare and goat Cheese served with corn and poblano chutney. I can’t vouch for it yet, but in a town where people eat boiled turnips with a spork, poblano chutney is a bold move.

What I think sets the new Sneaky Pete’s apart from other Erie estabs is its solid assortment of charcuterie. They offer cured meats and cheeses from the major producing regions, and apparently have good supply connections. I had the jamón ibérico which is always a nutty treat – and at Sneaky’s the portion is very generous and the price seemed close to what you might pay if you bought it yourself (assuming you could find it.)

char

Check out the place if you ever get sick of the ambiance at Applebees and their Little Friskies tuna salad appetizer.

Posted in Restaurants | Comments Off

Trump and His Executive Odors

trump-executive-order
NAFTA-hater Trump signed two executive orders this past Friday that are intended to lay the groundwork for new policies and stricter enforcement of trade laws. In a ceremony akin to the recognition of a Nobel laureate, the Orange man scribbled his moniker in a wide-tip sharpie across leather-bound vellum beneath words he probably never read – or cared too much about. Then he held up the orders for all to see like a proud second-grader proving that in addition to being able to tell time and draw a circle using a coffee can, he can also write his own name.

People who heard “Artist of the Deal” Trump on the campaign trail repeatedly froth at the mouth about NAFTA (“the worst thing that ever happened”) and claiming he could cut a better deal starting day one might be confused by his newly subdued approach to the mostly-copacetic agreement among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Rabid Trump candidate has turned into Flimsy Trump president. Instead of ripping up the deal, wiping his ass with the scraps, and going it alone, Trump has reduced himself to signing banal pieces of paper ordering his underlings to study stuff.

As reported in the New York Times, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, “These actions are designed to let the world know that this is another step in the president fulfilling his campaign promise.”

The operative word here is “designed.” Because Trump’s regular autograph sessions in the White House amount to nothing more than bad theater. He just wants to check off campaign promises – whether truly fulfilled or not. The man is a flagrant checker-offer! What really happened in this solemn signing ceremony was Trump ordering his Commerce Department to conduct a 90-day study of abusive trade practices that contribute to the United States’ trade deficit.

Understand this: Trump calls in a bunch of staff, advisers, family members, various sycophants and press photogs to witness him giving a subordinate an assignment. Nothing more. That’s like Jeff Bezos of Amazon calling in all his senior VPs, half the board of directors, and the top reporters from the Seattle Times to watch him direct a warehouse manager to conduct an inventory of Thighmasters.

A dysfunctional Congress won’t let Trump pull off anything substantial, so he’s left with no other escape than to sign inconsequential orders that would normally be handed out in a routine closed-door staff meeting. I was gonna say “SAD!” but “pathetic” seems more apropos.

O’Reilly Wigs Out

Bill O’Reilly made fun of Rep. Maxine Waters’s hair, comparing it to a wig reportedly worn by soul-master James Brown. He later apologized.

Maybe the 78 year old Waters does sport a wig which would put her in the company of Sean Connery, John Travolta, Stevie Van Zandt and Burt Reynolds, but calling her out for a hair faux pas made Mr. Factor seem just a bit douchy. Especially since he once screwed his hair on like this:

bo

Furthermore, given the fateful history of others who have made cracker wise-cracks about blacks, O’Reilly’s snarkiness was also stupid. Consider these famous people who cracked wise and found their livelihoods subsequently crimped.


After dominating radio for decades, Don Imus was forced off the air for making some unflattering remarks. By using the word “hoe” ofay Don sounded like both a racist and a farmer.


Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller blew a nice endorsement contract after dissing Tiger Woods. Never a good move to bring up fried chicken and collard greens unless you’re a guest on Rachel Rae’s cooking show.


The Greek was over the hill already, but why go out like a drunken plantation owner?

Posted in Politics, TV | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Showing Some Thigh

daily-mail-legs-it

Last June, citizens of the United Kingdom shocked the Western world when they voted 52 to 48 percent to leave the European Union. Interestingly, the Scottish voted quite overwhelmingly 62 to 38 against leaving the EU, also known as “Brexit.” Now that the UK has formally initiated the break off with the continent, Scotland is reconsidering making a break from the UK rather than allowing themselves to be dragged away from the EU against their will.

The other day, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon met in Glasgow to discuss the issue of Scottish independence, and the Daily Mail chose to run the above front page story.

That’s right. Never mind Brexit – focus on the gams of the countries’ leaders and weigh in on your favorite. The reporter who penned the piece noted that Sturgeon’s legs were “more flirty, tantalizingly crossed,” adding, “her stiletto is not quite dangling off her foot, but it could be.” (Sidebar: Foot fetishists call the dangling of high-heels “dipping.”)

Unsurprisingly, blowback from some who live in the 21st century was swift and fierce – although it’s unclear to what extent the lads in the pubs took offense. Given the lengthy history of the English tabloids running cheeky, exploitative material, many readers, however, simply shrugged.

In any event, the Daily Mail isn’t the first tab to tantalize readers with a challenge to pick the better of two female politicians. Consider Jared Kushner’s New York Observer:

nyobserver

Fuck you Delta

Airlines clearly enjoy the sadism of irritating their customers as any sad sack coach jockey can attest. Everyone has suffered the effects of ridiculous fees to make simple itinerary changes, claustrophobic seats and shitters, and insufficient overhead space. Airlines retort that these steps are necessary to deliver travel at prices people demand. I get that – even though I believe many tortured flyers would opt to spend a bit more for basic comforts if only some airlines would offer them in coach.

But one thing I can’t comprehend – because it’s incomprehensible – is the pricing models these geniuses dream up. Consider my upcoming trip to Madrid.

I found a non-stop flight in coach from JFK to MAD on the dates I want for $574. I have been a Delta Skymiles account holder for a long time, and I sincerely loathe coach, so I called Delta to inquire about my options to upgrade the coach ticket to first class. (This flight has no class between coach and first.)

After some clicking and clacking, the Delta rep told me the $574 fare was not upgradable. But I could purchase an upgradable coach ticket – for about $4,000. Thinking I heard wrong, I asked her to repeat it. Sure enough, Delta sells a $574 ticket for $4,000 so you can upgrade it with points.

Okay, fuck it. Then sensing my hesitation and disdain, she informed me I could purchase a first class ticket for around $3,000. Now I’m totally confused. The upshot: I can buy a coach ticket for $4,000 and use points to upgrade it to first class, or just buy a first class ticket for $1,000 less. Is this incompetence or some kind of head game to make the $3,000 ticket suddenly feel like a bargain?

I wasn’t yet fully ready to reject the offer, but considering that for 5 times the price I can sit in a wider seat and drink liquor from a big-boy bottle, I demurred. “How many miles do I have in my account?” I inquired. “110,000.” That’s more than I thought, so I pressed on. “How many do I need to get the first class ticket?”

“330,000, sir.”

I guess I can get the first class ticket if I fly to the moon in the next two weeks, or purchase a Lamborghini with my Delta credit card.

Fuck you Delta.

By the way, here’s how the $574 ticket breaks out. What’s wrong with this picture?
delta

Posted in Newspaper, Travel | Tagged , | Comments Off

The AHCA Turns into an ACHE

ryan-AHCA
Paul Ryan explains what Congress’s new toilet paper will be made of.

A man rolls into an emergency room with a large but routine gash on his leg. Expecting to have his wound stitched up, he’s instead told that the doctor wants to amputate the leg. Naturally the man refuses the procedure. The doctor informs him that since he refused the amputation, he’ll just have to live with the wound. The doctor is confident the leg will become gangrenous, and when that happens the man can come back to the ER (if he’s still alive.)

That’s kind of how Trump reacted to defeat on the crappy Republican health bill called AHCA. When he couldn’t check off his promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, he said fuck it – let it explode (or maybe implode . . . who knows?)

In the seven years and several days since Obamacare became law, the Republicans in Congress, in a long-running performance of the theater of the absurd, has voted more than 50 times to repeal it outright. As recently as January 3 – on the first day of the 115th Congress – HR 175 was introduced; its essence: “Effective as of the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148), such Act is repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by such Act are restored or revived as if such Act had not been enacted.”

In layman’s terms: repeal. That’s it. Not repeal and replace with something terrific. Just repeal. That’s what the Republicans successfully passed dozens of times with no whining or hand-wringing from any member of their caucus. Of course, as they banked on, the bills always landed DOA on Obama’s desk where they succumbed to a predictable veto. And after each and every one in a string of vetoes, the Republicans waxed philosophical: if only they had a Republican president in charge, they could once and for all slay the Obamacare abomination.

Then they got their moment, and instead of laying the same repeal bill on the desk of another, more like-minded president, they tried to fashion a replacement as well. They had no choice because Trump ran around telling his minions that he would provide better coverage to everyone for less money – in his words, “something terrific.” (Funny how people never hear “terrific” and realize it comes from “terrify”.) Like Reagan before him who promised to increase military spending, cut taxes and balance the budget, Trump painted himself into a corner where the best he could do was two out of three.

The Republicans conjured up a bill that didn’t do any of the things Trump promised, yet the Orange Man enthusiastically endorsed it anyway – because he only cared about checking off the promise. He doesn’t give a shit about health care.

Now that AHCA has gone down, Trump is short-selling Obamacare. Much like short-sellers such as hedge funder Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital who bet against a stock, then run around badmouthing that stock to force down its value, Trump is hoping Obamacare completely shits the bed so he can say “I told you so.” I fully expect him to take actions to facilitate the law’s demise – just like the Ackmans of the world do to companies like Herbalife. Trump wants the Dems to take it in the head for passing Obamacare in the first place, and he’s willing to amputate the leg rather than close the wound.

ack
Investor in Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital after reading his latest statement

Bang the Gong Slowly: RIP Chuck Barris

barris

Chuck Barris, producer of such fine TV fare as The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game died the other day at age 87. After many years producing, Chuck came out of the office in mid-career and went in front of the camera to host the outrageous Gong Show, where contestants performed mostly hideous acts in the hopes of finishing before one of the three celebrity judges gave them the hook by banging a big gong. It was said that because Barris was uncomfortable performing he went insanely over-the-top when introducing acts – often with his eyes closed.

The Gong Show might have been the first on TV to genuinely celebrate awfulness – something that seemed to fit perfectly in the decade of the 1970s.

I watched the stupidity with regularity during my college days, and like many viewers had my favorites.


Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine (featuring Jaye P. Morgan flashing her boobs!)


The Unknown Comic (wish I could find the clip of him doing his impression of the first man on the sun.)


The Popsicle Twins (no sound, but you get the picture.)

Posted in Obits, Politics, TV | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Tears for Sears

searsOn page 48 of the 2016 Annual Report for Sears, a company that was a venerated retailer for more than a century until a thing called “the internets” intruded, we find this remarkable passage:

“Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. We believe that the actions discussed above are probable of occurring and mitigating the substantial doubt raised by our historical operating results and satisfying our estimated liquidity needs 12 months from the issuance of the financial statements.”

The “actions discussed above” include an amazing array of doomsday scenarios that the board of Sears deems plausible in the near future. Practically everything short of an impact with a comet is cited as a reason for imminent failure.

  • The lack of willingness of our vendors to do business with us or to provide acceptable payment terms could negatively impact our liquidity and/or reduce the availability of products or services we seek to procure.
  • If we do not maintain the security of our member and customer, associate or company information, we could damage our reputation, incur substantial additional costs and become subject to litigation.
  • We rely on foreign sources for significant amounts of our merchandise, and our business may therefore be negatively affected by the risks associated with international trade.
  • Our failure to attract or retain employees, including key personnel, may disrupt our business and adversely affect our financial results.
  • We may not realize the full anticipated benefits of the recently closed Craftsman Sale transaction.

Ah, yes – the Craftsman sale. Although sites like Amazon probably doomed Sears along with icons like J. C. Penney, Kohl’s, Bloomingdales, and perhaps even Macy’s, many analysts have pointed a finger at Sears’s misguided, short-term strategy of selling off popular brands like Craftsman and Land’s End for a quick (roe)buck.

However, despite these ham-handed moves, it’s more likely that the beginning of the end for Sears was its publication of a men’s underwear spread in the 1975 catalog that revealed the model’s penis tip. All the company’s woes most certainly emanate from that fateful issue. Once that taboo was breached it was all downhill from there.

searscatalogmanon602detail_thumb_436x445
The tell-tale tip.

Sears Roebucks has ran some provocative ads in their hefty, door-stop of a catalog, but exposing a man’s junk was no doubt the inflection point precipitating a long downward slide. As Sears rides off to the sunset, recall some of the more memorable ads from catalogs past.

uKF9n1AZaXEx1GC_1Qc9aEBxas8DhjM6smky9IdxWZM
Oddly shaped device is found to optimize stimulation.

jqwAU4Z
A companion to Slope in a Wonton?

7D1Yi-1443477522-blog-18
Family-friendly overalls famous for their ability to hide shart stains.

sears-catalog-racist-negro-halloween-1912
This may be the “funniest and most laughable outfit” since Sears itself.

IMG_2273
Manly men hiking the manly trails of the manly ports of Key West and Provincetown.

8340ea33a7599d48688cef4b8b272e5e
Uhhhh. Next, please.

There Go the Judge

It seems that Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano – a former judge from New Jersey who likes to wear his hair in the no-brow, Homo-Erectus style – got the boot from Club Murdoch for pulling a story from his asshole about UK wiretapping of candidate Trump. I often believe that hacks like Napolitano are contractually obligated to spew out BS that captivates audiences and fuels tirades by like-minded partisans who have no fear of downstream contradiction because such contradiction is relegated to back-page status long after the damage of the original falsehood has settled in. However this time it was none other than a Fox personality – Shepard Smith – who called out “the Judge.”

nap
Missing links, or do these guys just go to the same barber?

“Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary. Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way. Full stop.”

Wow. Full stop? That’s TV journalese for “no fucking way.” Has Trump veered so far from the asylum that even Fox can no longer enable his persecution complex?

Might Fox soon be reporting the musings of one President Pence?

Posted in Business, Politics | Tagged , | Comments Off

Not to Be Confused With

Although the Trump Administration is already 50 long days into the term, most of his key advisors and cabinet members are still unknown to many Americans. Perhaps it’s because few of them have ever served in public office before, and are therefore unknown entities. More than likely, however, it’s because several bear passing resemblance to others who have similar names and better name recognition. As a public service, Major Terata has compiled a short list of top Trumpists who could be mistaken for another, more established character.

06

05

04

08

03

02

01

07

Posted in Politics | Comments Off

NSA to Wikileaks: 404 Page Not Found

assange wantedBy now it should be clear that Wikileaks and its slithery founder Julian Assange exist explicitly to hurt and embarrass the United States – not that the U.S. doesn’t deserve some reprobation for its decidedly covert, undemocratic actions. But the selectivity with which Wikileaks treats the material it publicizes demonstrates its egregious bias. Maybe Wikileaks started out with grandiose goals to speak truth to power, but it’s now really nothing more than diplomacy’s version of TMZ.

Virtually every high-profile Wikileaks release contains damaging info about no country other than America. And during the 2016 presidential election, are we really to believe that the Democrat’s servers were eminently hackable while the Republicans were impenetrable? That there was no lowly and disgruntled GOP underling willing to disgorge some fugly facts about Huckabee’s eating habits, Santorum’s sexual deviancies, Carly Fiorina’s gender, Jeb Bush’s favorite brand of white bread, or Trump’s taxes and/or the secret to his cantilevered hairdo? Obviously, Assange – who hates Hillary Clinton – decided to dribble out damaging info (most likely with assistance on timing from Trump insiders) to tilt the election against her. (Trump’s sentiment last Fall: “I love Wikileaks.” Indeed.)

The salient question: why won’t the NSA or the CIA (two top U.S. cyber agencies exposed and insulted by Wikileaks) take down the organization’s ability to operate? I can’t believe it’s for a lack of ability – after all, the two agencies should be capable of running roughshod over a ragtag bunch like Wikileaks after slurping up tens of billions of taxpayer dollars every year.

C’mon spooks – get mad. Take down this Ecuadorean Embassy squatter, send him back to Sweden, and force feed him lutefisk until he reveals the other half of the Wikileaks’ treasure trove – including the video of Trump and his golden shower party.

lutefisk

King of Pork meets the Art of the Eel

Right after Trump recited his speech from the Teleprompter to Congress without going postal or breaking off to tweet scorn over some Hollywood b-lister’s crappy ratings, Mississippi Senator Thad “King of Pork” Cochran issued a statement : “I appreciate President Trump for his enthusiasm and energy to lead our nation. He has presented an ambitious agenda to keep our country safe, to improve the economy, and to make the federal government work more efficiently for its citizens.”

Now, in a move that makes as much sense as removing the lock on your back door so you can have two locks on the front door, Trump has proposed major cuts to the Coast Guard and the TSA so he can scrounge up enough scratch to pay for more border patrollers and 2,000 miles worth of masonry.

First in line to call foul? Thad the Cockroach. As the leader of the Senate appropriations committee in 2015, Thad was successful in pushing through a deal to spend $600 million for a new Coast Guard cutter to be built in, yeah, Mississippi. Trump’s new order calls for the cutter’s cancellation. Uh oh.

Maybe Thad can get some leftover “beautiful wall” bricks sent over to build some more museums in, yeah, Mississippi.

cochran

Media Never Learns

On the front page of today’s New York Times under the headline “After Halting Start, Trump Plunges Into Effort to Repeal Health Law:”

“President Trump, after a halting start, is now marshaling the full power of his office to win over holdout conservatives and waffling senators to support the House Republicans’ replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Trump is deploying the salesman tactics he sharpened over several decades in New York real estate. His pitch: He is fully behind the bill to scotch President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, but he is open to negotiations on the details. In so doing, Mr. Trump is plunging personally into his first major legislative fight, getting behind a bill that has been denounced by many health care providers and scorned by his base on the right. If it fails, Mr. Trump will find it difficult not to shoulder some of the blame.”

Mr. Trump will find it difficult not to shoulder some of the blame. Are you kidding???

Will the Times and the rest of regular journalism ever get smart? For decades it’s been Gospel According to Don that Trump never, ever, ever takes the blame for anything. Ever! Events like bankruptcies, court-ordered judgments, billion dollar losses, and picking a guy like Mike Flynn to be National Security Advisor would normally be considered failures, but in Trumpworld, they’re spun into glorious illustrations of his majesty’s brilliance. When a Navy Seal was recently killed in a raid in Yemen, Trump was quick to blame “the generals” instead of “shouldering” some of the responsibility for green-lighting the mission. That’s the way Trump rolls – and always will be.

If the Republican’s new Obamacare replacement shits the bed – as is likely given that it will be shown to raise the deficit thus allowing the Dems to filibuster – don’t expect Trump to shoulder a goddamned thing. He’ll be the first to gin up and tweet out a new phony scandal (time to bring back Anthony Weiner?) that outlets like the New York Times and CNN will follow dutifully into the rabbit hole, leaving Trump shoulder-free to take on the next non-problem facing the country.

Posted in Newspaper, Politics | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Wire Fraud

badsick
As soon as he completes remedial spelling, Trump to call for Congressional investigation into whether Obama is bad, or just sick.

There are plenty of reasons to disbelieve Trump’s claim that Obama issued an order to “tapp” the Orange man’s phones. The president is not authorized to unilaterally wiretap a U.S. citizen; the FBI says it didn’t happen and has gone so far as to ask the Justice Department to publicly deny it; the former National Intelligence chief scoffed on live TV; hell, even Republican witch-hunter and Draco Malfoy doppelganger Trey Gowdy has gone on record as saying there’s no evidence of wiretapping. Most likely, the reasons for Trump’s bizarre claim are his desire to divert attention away from his own mistakes, and his odd fascination with right-wing conspiracies dreamed up by the likes of Mark Levin (most grating voice on the radio) and the goons at Breitbart. Trump can’t help himself. Someone throws a Frisbee – Trump’s gotta chase it.

But even after the Birther controversy that Trump beat to death until he finally disavowed it, there are certainly still many people who are apt to believe the current flap over the supposed wire-tapping to be true. The most common position of Trump supporters will be that it’s obvious Obama would order some eavesdropping to gather poop on Donald’s erratic campaign, and come to the aid of Hillary. But one must also acknowledge the possibility that if Trump and/or his minions were tapped, it must have been for a legitimate national security reason. After all, despite your belief that Obama hired some guys to break into Trump Tower disguised as Verizon employees, real wiretapping is done after a Federal court is convinced by law enforcement there’s enough evidence of wrongdoing.

So it comes down to a stark set of options:

1. Trump was never wiretapped; it was a figment of his dodgy imagination that he felt useful for directing attention away from his administration’s foibles.
2. Wiretapping did take place on the orders of Obama whose secret cabal skirted Federal laws and risked major punishment to eavesdrop.
3. Wiretapping did take place because evidence of wrongdoing was sufficient to convince an independent court to grant permission.

The right will go for option 2, the left will go for option 1 but wish for option 3.

Trump Discovered his Pen has an Eraser

Making America Great Again is a challenging affair, what with all the Muslims, illegals, transgenders, fake newsies, and overall poor people running around unshackled. Clearly the path to greatness is paved with jobs, and so Trump has embarked on a mission to institute “a historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations.” He’s on a tear to tear up intrusive regulations that stifle progress and interfere with peoples’ rights to fuck up themselves and those around them.

donald-trump-book-signing
Trump signs executive order repealing boob-job-killing tax.

Just imagine how many millions (billions?) of new jobs will be spontaneously generated when hunters can use lead bullets when shooting at things on federal lands, and mentally ill people on Social Security disability will be able once again to purchase and own handguns. Demand should soar immediately for EMTs, surgeons and toxicologists.

North Korea’s New Secret Weapon

North Koreas’s newest missile dubbed the “Kim Dong-Wha?” was recently test fired from the site of a former distillery that once converted urine into vodka. Experts claimed the bulbous, nook-ree-ar tipped missile flew 600 nautical miles before it blew its payload and limped into the Sea of Japan.

kimdong

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | Comments Off

This Week in Boners

jc

It never ceases to amaze how often highly-paid, so-called professionals screw the pooch. Here is a brief synopsis of just some of the boners pulled this past week.

The Oh, Really? Factor

Fox News stooge and formerly bow-tied dweeb Tucker Carlson recently hosted a Swedish filmmaker who, as part of his movie “Stockholm Syndrome” had interviewed a couple Swedish cops about rising crime in the country that brought us Anita Ekberg, Ingrid Bergman, Absolut Vodka, and Abba. The gist of Carlson’s interview with Ami Horowitz was that thanks to Sweden’s policy of unfettered immigration of less-blonde people rampant terrorism had infiltrated the fair country. But the cops Horowitz interviewed took umbrage of having their comments taken out of context. One of them protested, “It was supposed to be about crime in high risk areas. Areas with high crime rates. There wasn’t any focus on migration or immigration. We don’t stand behind it. It shocked us. This is bad journalism.”

Such bad journalism that Trump included it in his speech at an ego-caressing rally in Florida.

Immediately afterwards, Trump’s observation was challenged by Swedish government leaders as uninformed cornpone. On command, partisans from both sides began their appointed routes either to vilify the Orange man or defend him to the death. In the latter category was Bill O’Reilly who just couldn’t wait to come to Trump’s defense; so motivated to prove Trump right that he failed to do a smidgen of due diligence. O’Reilly happily gave lucrative airtime to one Nils Bildt who, as a so-called Swedish Defense and National Security Advisor, corroborated all the fairy tales.

swedish

Sure enough though, within moments of Bildt’s 15 minutes of infamy, the Swedes came forward once again with something called “reality” and denied that Bildt was ever an advisor to their Defense and/or National Security apparatus. Proving he’s Fox-worthy, Bildt placed the blame on O’Reilly and team for the calamity, claiming he was just a U.S. based analyst and had nothing to do with being called a Swedish operative.

The show’s not called the Oh, Really? Factor for nothing.

Anti-Leak Meeting is Leaked

Trump is pissed that highly sensitive national security type shit is leaking out of from his cadre of lieutenants. That the material being leaked is almost universally negative about the inside operations of his nascent administration is the primary cause for Trump’s irritation; if the leakage was less anal – say a release about how Trump beat Putin in an arm-wrestling match – you can bet Mr. Orange would have no complaints. Don’t forget, Trump was a master of planting exaggerated stories about his love life and business dealings when he trolled the celebrity soirees of Manhattan’s night life.

Nevertheless, leaks from within the White House are no laughing matter. Given that much of the activity described in leaks passed through the press office, Press Secretary Sean Spicer took it upon himself to ferret out potentially nefarious activity perpetrated by his underlings.

He called and all-hands meeting where he confiscated everyone’s personal devices to be examined for evidence of misbehavior. When the inquisition was over, Spicer forbade everyone from mentioning that it ever took place.

Within minutes the existence of Spicy’s anti-leak meeting was leaked. So much for well-tuned machinery.

Is DeVos plural for Devo?

You’d think that after coddled billionaire Betsy DeVos secured the position of Education Secretary by the absolute narrowest of margins she might make at least a token effort to redeem herself with a demonstration that she had a clue. But no.

As part of a gathering in the White House of leaders of historically black colleges and universities, poor Betsy made these remarks:

A key priority for this administration is to help develop opportunities for communities that are often the most underserved. Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution. HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice.

It’s beyond refute that DeVos is smitten with the promise of privatization of education (fondly known as “school choice”). She longs for the day when all public schools in America collapse to be replaced at taxpayer expense by Catholic schools run by the likes of Father Feely and Sister Mary Torquemada.

But to suggest that blacks who established their own institutes of higher learning because they were barred from attending whites-only colleges is somehow an illustration of school choice is just fucking addled. I suppose Negro-only drinking fountains were a form of beverage choice back in the good ole 1950s.

Give Betsy time. Perhaps she thought she had been appointed to head of the Department of Ejukashun.

devos

Rumors Greatly Exaggerated

One of my favorite segments of the often dreary Oscars ceremony is the “In Memoriam” tribute to key figures – actors, directors, producers, editors, screenwriters – who have succumbed in the past year. It’s the only part of the ceremony that looks back at the movies’ rich heritage.

Not everyone cited is a household name which is a reminder that movies are more than what appears on the silver screen (or a 3.5 inch LCD).

Such is the case of Janet Patterson, a costume and production designer specializing in period costume from the 19th century, and a four-time Oscar nominee. No doubt her most famous movie involvement was with “The Piano” starring Holly Hunter and Harvey Keitel. The Academy deemed Patterson worthy of a spot in the “In Memoriam” but not her likeness – for which they mistakenly substituted in that of Jan Chapman, a producer friend of Patterson’s who also worked on “The Piano.”

Most of the time the biggest controversy surrounding the “In Memoriam” is when someone connected to Hollywood croaked but didn’t make the cut. Examples include Abe Vigoda, Dennis Farina, Jonathan Winters and Adam Sandler’s career. This year however someone who didn’t croak made the cut – and for that we witnessed the biggest boner of this year’s Oscars!

Well, maybe not.

PwC heading to Ca Ca Land

For more than 80 years, PwC has been the sole accounting firm to handle the secret Academy Award voting, including the management of the dozens of sealed envelopes that hold the names of winners across all the categories. That means they’ve overseen the distribution of envelopes probably a couple thousand times without incident. Face it – although the job of handing envelopes to the stars who present the awards appears to be glamorous, it really is a job for monkeys. You take an envelope from the briefcase and give it to the famous dude in a tux. The whole process could be replaced by one of those machines that spits out a ticket before you drive into the parking garage.

Still, there is a lot of heritage at the stodgy Academy that would seem to rule out automation – and given PwC’s lengthy, spotless stewardship, there was never a reason to veer from the proven process. Until this past Sunday when a PwC partner named Brian Cullinan who was goofing off near the end of the show handed the wrong card to Warren Beatty who along with Faye Dunaway strode out in front of a billion people and announced “La La Land” as the Best Picture winner, when in fact “Moonlight” had taken the honor. Cullinan tweeted a picture of Emma Stone who had just won Best Actress for her role in “La La Land” – and apparently in this moment of distraction failed to move the Best Actress card to the dead pile, setting up perhaps the biggest gaffe in Oscars history, as well as a massive embarrassment for PwC who may lose the contract with the Academy, or at least suffer heavily in future contract negotiations. (Sidebar: Like many accounting firms that merged over the years, PwC was once called PriceWaterhouseCoopers, but from this point forward will be known as ProducedWrongCard.)

It’s a wonder flummoxed Warren Beatty didn’t reprise his role as Clyde Barrow and mow down all the PwC jerks with a Tommy gun.

warren

The host for the evening’s festivities, Jimmy Kimmel said, “This is very unfortunate what happened. Let’s remember, it’s just an awards show.” I’m sure all the Academy brass appreciated that sentiment. Just an awards show? That’s like telling a Catholic that the Resurrection was just a magic trick.

After the biggest boner in Oscars history, don’t be surprised if the Academy ditches PwC. Maybe they can get the guy who did such marvelous work for Bernie Madoff.

Posted in Movies, Politics | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Trumpus Interruptus

Pffft

All-Trump-all-the-time is beginning to wear thin. Major Terata will lay off the Orange man and the gaseous cloud that envelops his fantasy world for awhile. We’ll give him leave so he can climb aboard Marine One and pursue new elixirs for whatever malady has impaired his follicles. (Damn, Trump looks old. He looks even worse than William Henry Harrison did after his first month in office.)

New blogs coming soon. Culture Justly Scrutinized.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Forget Fact-Checking; Just Call “Bullshit”

cpac
Trump at CPAC in front of streamlined Constitution. Now with 66% fewer amendments!

Thanks to a last-minute invitation from a group of gay Republicans, Trump snagged a speaking slot at the 2011 gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference where he was met with a sprinkling of applause, derisive laughter and boos. The CPAC organizers had not wanted the Orange man on their hallowed stage for fear he would use the platform for rank self-promotion. Now that rank self-promoter is president.

Trump again delivered a speech this week to the CPAC assembly consisting of his usual bluster, hyperbole, hypocrisy and disdain for the media which he labels “fake” and “phony.” Almost immediately, the “failing” New York Times responded with a piece devoted to the pronouncements that fell out of Trump’s mouth headlined “Fact Check: Trump Blasts ‘Fake News’ and Repeats Inaccurate Claims at CPAC.” Among the topics he smudged: polls, cost of wars, border security, Obamacare, terrorism in Sweden (?) and U.S. military strength. Of the military, retired warrior Trump said, “we’re very depleted, very, very depleted.” That’s a strange claim to make given that America spends more on Defense than the next eight countries combined. Besides, hasn’t Trump consistently complained that America is carrying too much of the world’s security burden already? What’s the point of spending billions to undo the depletion if we’re no longer going to police the world? Prepare for invasion by Trinidad AND Tobago?

generaltrump
Future commander-in-chief Trump fresh off the battlefield with two POWs he captured at Cam Rahn Bay.

Anyway, following the publication of the fact-check piece, the Times along with CNN, the LA Times, Politico and Buzzfeed was barred from participating in an informal press conference led by Sean Spicer. Those allowed to attend included Fox News, Breitbart, Washington Times , CBS, NBC, ABC, the Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg. Time and AP were also invited but declined to participate in protest over the black-balling of fellow journalists. (Sidebar: It’s rich that Trump has such a hard-on for CNN which played so prominent a role in his successful run for the presidency by affording him millions of dollars worth of free publicity by covering every one of his meaningless rallies as though they were actually newsworthy.)

Pity the “failing” New York Times – they take on the never-ending, thankless job of exposing Trump’s prevarications, and in return get the snub by a lightweight like Spicy Spicer. It’s doubly troubling when, instead of devoting hours of research to debunking BS, all the Times has to do is post this clip after every Trump speech:

Forget J. Edgar at Your Peril

FBI-director-J-Edgar-Hoov-007

Trump also has a hard-on for the FBI which he claims is a leaky sieve of insider information about the administration’s questionable behavior. He’s ordering an investigation of the investigators which smacks of Nixonian paranoia, and is bound to rile up the gumshoes who have enormous resources to fuck up peoples’ lives if so provoked.

Just because vindictive J. Edgar Hoover finally died decades ago doesn’t mean the FBI no longer has the capability to unearth dirt on anyone it feels like. And with a character like thrice-married, multi-bankrupted Trump who undoubtedly has several designer closets full of skeletons, it should take the FBI all of an afternoon to assemble a dossier of devastation to be “misplaced” in a “failing” newspaper’s mail slot.

Push too hard, Donald, and your little leaks could become the gash that sinks HMS Trumptanic.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , | Comments Off

No Reach-Around from CPAC for Milo

miloConservative, gay rabble-rouser Milo Yiannopoulos (nee. Hanrahan) was thwarted recently from making a speech at U.C. Berkeley by rowdy students who didn’t appreciate giving the flaming flame-thrower a platform to disgorge what they considered hate speech. Based on Yiannopoulos’ past, the students’ opprobrium for him was understandable – although one could agree that shutting down the speech played into the hands of right-wingers who love to bash weak-kneed liberals over their thin and delicate skins. Still, it’s fair to say that anyone afforded the opportunity to address a broad audience on a noted college campus should earn the right by having something useful to say – and Milo is not that person. The phony, provocative bullshit he’s produced at Breitbart News would seem clearly disqualifying. Some observations from the big Y:

  • The solution to online ‘harassment’ is simple: Women should log off
  • Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy
  • Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage
  • Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?
  • There’s no hiring bias against women in tech, they just suck at interviews

My guess is that Yiannopoulos doesn’t actually believe any of this shit – he just wants to stick out in an evermore bizarre world of online cretins. Sort of like a less-funny, right-wing version of The Onion. He more or less confirmed this in his recent appearance on Bill Maher’s show.

Anyway, back to the U.C. Berkeley episode: after Yiannopoulos decided it better to retreat from the angry college students, Trump felt naturally compelled to tweet out a dollop of ignorance. Tweeteth the Orange Man: If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS? Clearly the so-called president strongly supports freedom of speech, if not the function of the government’s appropriation and disbursement laws.

Then just the other day, CPAC, another bastion of liberalism, withdrew its invitation for Milo to speak at their upcoming convention. Apparently, after it was brought to CPAC’s attention that Yiannopoulos had espoused the benefits to young boys for having gay sex with older men, the Conservative Political Action Conference got cold feet. Here’s some of the spicy banter that turned the stomachs at CPAC:

Milo: In the homosexual world, particularly, some of those relationships between younger boys and older men — the sort of ‘coming of age’ relationship — those relationships in which those older men help those young boys discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable, sort of rock, where they can’t speak to their parents.

Interviewer: It sounds like Catholic priest molestation to me.

Milo: But you know what? I’m grateful for Father Michael. I wouldn’t give nearly such good head if it wasn’t for him.

And so now the world awaits a tweet from the world’s greatest defender of free speech – and nary a chirp. Most likely, Trump is too busy investigating the threats building among reindeer-herders plotting terror in Sweden.

Cueball meets the Rug

hair

End note: the Wonders of AI

I recently purchased a piece of luggage on eBay and was advised of some related purchases I might wish to make, including this one right at the top.

peepee

C’mon, eBay – AI means “artificial intelligence”, not “ignorance.”

Posted in Business, Politics | Tagged | Comments Off