Monday, May 22, 2017

The Players

For those of you who can’t tell the players without a scorecard, we’ve prepared this handy list of Trump’s cabinet members and their mission statements.

Department Secretary Slogan
State Rex Tillerson Make oil great again.
Treasury Steve Mnuchin Make Wall St. great again.
Defense James Mattis Make America strong again.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions Fill America’s jails again.
Interior Ryan Zinke Make America for sale again.
Agriculture Sonny Perdue Make my family rich again.
Commerce Wilbur Ross Make me rich again.
Labor R. Alexander Costa Make Americans overwork again.
Health Tom Price Make America sick again.
Housing Ben Carson Huh?
Transportation Elaine Chao Make America walk again.
Energy Rick Perry Make fossil fuels great again.
Education Betsy DeVos Make America stupid again.
Veterans David Shulkin Benefit veterans again. Really.
Homeland Security John Kelly Make America white again.
CIA Mike Pompeo Make America secret again.
UN Nikki Haley Make America look great again.
EPA Scott Pruit Make America filthy again.
Small Business Linda McMahon Make America wrestle again.
OMB Mick Mulvaney Make America small again.


And, of course, Trump himself: Make America great again.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Net Futility

Technologists are making a lot of noise about net neutrality right now. The basic idea is that network providers should not be allowed to slow down traffic from sites they don’t like (i.e., sites that don’t pay them enough)

The fact is, the Internet is already dead. Or at least, the Web is. Most sites are so heavily laden with ads, videos, audio and other crap that it takes forever to get to the desired content. Pages take minutes to load, and during that time, portions of the page appear and disappear and scroll up and down in a manner guaranteed to frustrate anyone trying to read them.

A huge portion of all Internet traffic is Facebook, or pages that people have shared on Facebook. Sharing in this case means you mislead your friends into clicking the links to sites filled with ads, animations, auto-play noise, and listicles. A listicle is one of those pages that requires you to keep clicking Next to get through the content, while loading more and more ads, until you finally discover these were not the pages you were looking for anyway.

Forget net neutrality. Sites are slowing themselves down. You want faster Web pages? Leave out the freaking ads!

The other hot topic now is network security. People are talking about encrypting their data to prevent prying eyes from seeing which porn they’ve been searching, and using a virtual private networks (VPN) to hide which Web sites they’re visiting, though these sites already know what you’re looking at anyway.

And everyone is talking about covering your camera with a piece of tape, so no one can turn it on remotely to spy on you. Of course, that only protects you if you like to stand in front of your computer holding up a sign with all your private information on it. What you really want to block is the microphones in your computer.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Stress

One of the dire problems facing our society is stress. We find stress just in going about our lives … getting to work, doing the work, getting home … even trying to have fun is stressful.

And, of course, all this stress is not healthy. Doctors tell us we have to eliminate stress from our lives, that it causes or aggravates other medical problems.

Doctor:
The tests show that you have cancer. Try to relax.
This stress is so prevalent that people now take classes in how to relax. One of the more popular techniques is mindfulness, which is another way of saying “pay attention, for chrissake.”

Seriously, the central idea of mindfulness is just being aware of what’s going on around you … the sights, sounds, smells, etc. No less a newspaper than the mighty New York Times has a regular column on mindfulness that actually tells you what to notice in different situations: Feel the water as it hits your body … When you exit the shower, dry yourself.

Where would we be without the mainstream media?

Here’s a simple step-by-step procedure that could greatly benefit most of us as individuals, and society as a whole:

  1. Put down the goddamned phone.
There. You immediately start to notice things. Hmmm. Smell that coffee. Hear all those birds. Who knew there were so many birds around here? Wow! Look at those people pointing and yelling. Hey! See that bus coming this way!

Now don’t you feel better already?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Apologies in Advance

I want to apologize to generations X, Y, and Z, millennials, and to all future generations, for leaving the world in so much worse shape than when we inherited it. I’m sorry.

My generation had high hopes at one point. We were going to end war, protect the environment, and maybe even add some compassion to the Capitalist system that was growing increasingly indifferent to human needs. We really had good intentions.

But we got busy. We had to finish school. Then we had to move out of our parents’ houses, and that meant finding a job of some kind. Then, unexpectedly, that turned into a thing of itself. Jobs turned into careers. Income turned into assets. And somehow, we started to want some of that comfort that we used to put down the previous generation for.

We still wanted peace and a wholesome environment and all that, but now we thought maybe we could earn enough to give money to these good causes. Better yet, maybe we could invest in good causes, so we’d make money off other peoples’ good deed doing. Nothing wrong with that, right?

But somehow, it all got screwed up. Somehow all these good deed doers we were investing in didn’t manage to save the world as we intended. Sure, they made progress. They learned about and studied global warming, but they didn’t manage to convince everybody. They developed new technologies for education, and even new cures for diseases, but those are never-ending jobs. They even championed policies and politicians who backed all the right stuff, but we see where that led.

So, I guess the bottom line is, on behalf of my generation, I’m sorry.

Friday, April 21, 2017

King Donald the Last

Most of the objections to and outrage at the Trump administration can be understood in light of the concept of America, a concept that Trump and his people reject.

Briefly, the U.S. Constitution embodies a set of ideas about what kind of country the founders envisioned. Largely in reaction to Europe’s history of monarchies, and to England’s King George III in particular, the U.S. was to be, as Lincoln later described it, a country “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

The Declaration of Independence actually lists the reasons early colonists threw off the rule of England, and they all had to do with inalienable human rights, government by “consent of the governed,” and the right of the people to choose a government that will see to their “Safety and Happiness.”

This whole American concept, that government serves the people and not the other way around, was a radical departure from the thousands of years of human history that preceded it. The whole world sat up and took notice. This, above all, is what made America great.

But the Trump crew completely reject this concept. They are secretive, self-serving, and utterly inaccessible to ordinary citizens. Trump regards himself as an absolute monarch … utterly infallible and above the law. He acknowledges no obligations to his supporters, his colleagues in government, the Constitution or tradition. He is King Donald.

Many Republicans want to turn back the clock to a time before FDR. Trump wants it back to before George Washington.

Fortunately, many Americans still remember and cherish the American concept. Many still long for real liberty and justice, and not mere words in an incoherent speech. This is why so many people have been chanting at their representatives, “You work for us!” And many government officials, perhaps even some Republicans, actually comprehend their duty to the people and the law.

May the reign of King Donald be as short as it has been disastrous.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Starfeggio

(To the tune of "DO-RE-MI")



(Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Lord of the Things

Three branches of government with each other vie.
Seven articles of Constitution, which rarely get read.
Nine supreme justices on the Court so high.
One orange lord (who’s a closet red)
In the land of D.C., where politicians lie.

One ass to rule them all, One ass to screw them.
And those whom he fooled deserve what’s coming to them,
In the land of D.C., where politicians lie.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Going Backwards

Executive orders protecting our borders
Are really not likely to work
As it’s known through the land
That the pen’s in the hand
Of an orange-faced wispy-haired jerk

Another big goal, to revitalize coal,
Will go bust with its dust and pollution.
Energy companies can already foresee
There are cleaner and better solutions.

Republicans don’t serve the public and
They are beholden to the one percent.
This constituency donates generously
To their campaigns the millions they’ve spent.

They rob from the poor so the rich can have more
Leaving nothing for food, schools or health.
So let’s not pretend they have any agenda
But redistribution of wealth.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Revenant

Like many of you, I’ve been in shock … complete shock … over the 2016 election results. Seriously! Who could have imagined this outcome? That Arizona would vote to raise the minimum wage!

Some of the other results were pretty surprising too. But now it’s time to move on. We’ll just have to make a few minor adjustments. Specifically,

  1. Health insurance will now be awarded by lottery. The lucky winner will be entitled to full treatment for any and all health-related problems (up to a lifetime maximum of $482.37.)
  2. The Department of Defense will now be referred to as “The People.”
  3. Climate change will be given top priority in determining the President’s weekend travel plans.
  4. Former President Barack Obama will now be known as Double-O Forty-Four.
  5. The orders of magnitude 104 and 105 will be eliminated. Any number larger than 9,999 will be considered “a million.”
  6. Cell phones, music players and other mobile devices will be powered by coal.
  7. Only people wishing to enter the United States from countries containing the letter “R” will be permitted to eat shellfish.
  8. The Departments of Defense, Education, the EPA, State, Health and Human Services, Interior and Transportation will be combined into a single department, to be known as DEEPSHIT. This department will then be eliminated.
  9. There will be a wall around the red states, and Nordstrom’s will pay for it.
  10. The city of Washington, D.C. will be renamed Козырь.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

We Interrupt This Blog ...

I’m not a particularly open person. Most of my social media use consists of posting what I hope are cynical, witty (some would say wise ass) remarks. And even for those, I often hide behind the pseudonym Tech Curmudgeon.

But I’m feeling overwhelmed, and I have this strange urge to come clean. Please disregard the following.

For nearly 4 years, I’ve been dealing with prostate cancer. After going through surgery, radiation therapy, and various hormone therapy drugs, I’m entering a new phase. The next treatments, sipuleucel-T, radium-223 and chemotherapy, will be less gentle but, I hope, more effective.

I’m not mentioning this to get sympathy. I’m not asking for any kind of help. I’m not even looking to promote the cause of cancer research and care (though it certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing to consider.)

I’m really just feeling … and this is going to sound corny as hell … that life is beautiful. I don’t mean in a treacly, Hallmark-card kind of way. I mean really fucking beautiful, in a dramatic way. It’s as if the very fragility of life itself, and the complete uncertainty we all must live with, are what make life meaningful. Maybe that’s existential … the meaninglessness of life is what gives it meaning.

Not everything, of course. Hatred and bigotry win no pageants. And illness is not high on my list right now.

But I’m frequently moved to tears, literally, by movies, shows and events that show people caring about each other, helping each other, behaving not just humanly, but humanely. Of course, some of that is the hormone therapy drugs, but not all of it.

Anyway, my apologies. I’ll try to go back to being cynical and, hopefully, witty now.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Situation

Let me see if I’ve got this straight ...

Thirty thousand people die each year from gun violence, but we can’t regulate guns, because the NRA believes absolutely anyone should be able to buy a gun at any time.

Forty thousand people die on roads and highways each year, but we have to be able to check our email and text messages at all times.

Climate change is destroying our planet, melting the polar ice caps, glaciers, etc., but we can’t limit CO2 emissions because fossil fuel industries might suffer, and we want to drive bigger SUVs.

Immigrants bring fresh perspectives, leading to new ideas as well as cultural expansiveness, but we can’t admit immigrants because a few completely unrelated people committed violent acts.

Thousands of people suffer and die each year from treatable conditions because of inadequate access to health care, but we can’t provide for them because millionaires and billionaires might have to kick in a few bucks in taxes.

The President of the United States is mentally unbalanced, but the only people who can do anything about it, his political party, won’t do anything because it would be embarrassing.

That about right?

Friday, March 3, 2017

This is FNN!


Good evening, and welcome to FNN. Our top story tonight ...

After sifting through reams of data collected over several decades, scientists at several government agencies have concluded that the natural environment may be hazardous. The scientists cite evidence that millions of people died before the period when humankind spent most of its time indoors. They stress that the current emphasis placed on preserving wildlife and the natural environment may be misguided.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Failure of Imagination

In 1967, Astronaut Frank Borman blamed the Apollo 1 fire that killed three of his fellow astronauts on “failure of imagination” ... the inability of the engineers on the project to anticipate the conditions that led to that fire, and to take steps to prevent it.

After the terror attacks of 9/11/2001, The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States concluded our biggest vulnerability was failure of imagination. We simply couldn’t conceive of anything as far from normal behavior as the plan to hijack planes and fly them into buildings, so there were no defenses.

This is the same weakness that stymies us now in the face of the Trump regime. Although safeguards such as the electoral college and, much later, the 25th Amendment were intended to protect against a complete lunatic occupying the White House, these were only theoretical measures. No one imagined anyone as off-the-rails as Trump and his appointees, so these measures have never been tested and re-enforced. In fact, it would take acts of enormous political will for enough electors to defy their states elections to block an obvious demagogue like Trump, and it would take even more brazenness to trigger the 25th Amendment’s removal from office mechanism. 

According to Wikipedia, failure of imagination has also been cited in such disasters as the Titanic’s sinking and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

Clearly, in complex and risky situations, imagination is a far more valuable asset than is usually assumed.

Support arts education.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Let Them Have It

Sometimes I think Trump opponents should drop the resistance. Just stop. Let them have it. Let Trump and the GOP have it. They already own the entire government and, by extension, the country.

When 2018 and 2020 come around, they’ll have no one but themselves to blame. They won’t be able to point the finger at protesters, or obstructionist legislators, or even the media.

If we let them have it, they’ll surely tank themselves.

But then I think … when the GOP sells off mineral and land rights to government land, we’ll never get that back.

When we build pipelines through precious land, we’ll never get that back.

When mining companies dump waste into rivers and streams, we’re not getting those back.

When we lose out on hopeful immigrants who look to the U.S. as a haven of liberty, we’ll never get them back.

When we unleash bigotry and hatred, thus losing our decency as a people, we’ll never get that back.

When we antagonize some of our most trusted allies, we’re never … well, we might get them back, but we’ll have to grovel.

And when the U.S. becomes a laughing stock around the world, completely losing its leadership position and its role as the foremost example of democracy at work … that’s never coming back.

But most of all, while social safety net programs might be reinstated in saner times, the people who, through no fault of their own, depend on these for healthcare and sustenance, may be lost forever.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Taking Back Democracy

Regardless of party allegiance, most people agree that politicians, frankly, suck. They spend most of their time worrying about getting elected and re-elected, and most of the rest worrying about their political parties. They spend more time fund-raising than anything else, and, once elected, they immediately set to work trying to secure their power through gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement and other means. As Shakespeare’s Macbeth famously said on attaining the crown, “To be thus is nothing. But to be safely thus,” his rationale for the series of murders and misdeeds that follows.

The Constitution is very clear about the roles of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the President and the Supreme Court. But there’s not a word, not a whisper, about political parties. Yet a glance at the news anytime in the last century or more suggests that it’s all about parties … that the job of the parties is to beat the opposition, and try to reshape the laws to ensure their continued dominance. This is also true at the state level.

So how to we make government serve the people instead of themselves?

Referenda!

Most policy decisions should be made by direct voting, instead of leaving it up to elected representatives. Because as democratic as our elections are (not very!), there’s a huge disconnect between what politicians want and what voters actually want.

Politicians are like cable TV packages. You can’t pick and choose which policies, or which channels, you get. If you love to watch HBO, you’re going to have to get thirty or forty sports channel with it. If you want the smaller government candidate, you’re going to have to take abortion bans, unrestricted gun sales and a decimated environment with it.

Also, because politicians are so concerned about just getting and keeping control, they flip flop on issues as easily as the wind changes direction. It’s well known that political strategists like Karl Rove seize on wedge issues to incite voters who might not otherwise case about an election, just to help bolster one party.

Now a lot of people are going to object that having a referendum for every issue is too inefficient. How can we handle that many elections?

Of course, that’s based on the two century old model in our Constitution. In the 21st century, there’s really no reason elections can’t be done efficiently on massive scale. In fact, that should be the first order of business. We need to ensure that people who are entitled to vote can vote, and that people who aren’t can’t.

And because a referendum is about one issue, the campaigns will be trying to inform/pursuade voters about that issue. No distractions. No debates about the size of each candidate’s hands or other body parts. No bluster. (There will still be plenty of bullshit, but at least it will be focussed bullshit.)

Politicians should be like engineers … they figure out how to implement the specifications, but the specifications come from the customer … you!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The National Ditty

Irving Berlin’s timeless God Bless America sounds like a plea for divine favor, but the British national anthem, God Save the Queen, practically begs for help. Given the current political climate, we thought it might be appropriate to ratchet up the desperation of our own national ditty. So, we present …

God Save America

God save America.
We’ve plainly failed.
Our new leader
Is a tweeter
Who’s insane like a train that’s derailed.
With the terror, global crises,
And the economic slump,
God save America
From Donald Trump.