Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bad Florida Policy Goes National

Listening to the news on the radio, one big topic today has been the push to drug test recipients of government benefits. Being someone who always asks 'cui bono?' when bad legislation is passed, I immediately realized that this is a welfare program to funnel tax dollars to companies which provide drug testing... in Florida, Governor Rick Scott pushed for drug testing welfare recipients while a company run by his wife stood to potentially benefit. If the Republicans make drug testing mandatory, which well-heeled political supporters will be the recipients of such largesse?

The real bad joke here is that welfare recipients have a lower rate of drug use than people who are employed... no money means no money for drugs. The idea of forcing welfare recipients to undergo drug testing is merely a 'punch down' policy, meant to demean people who are already down. I have only undergone one drug test in my life, a background check and drug test was implemented for all of the coaches in the kids' athletic program I coach for in the post-Penn State atmosphere of due diligence in coaching. It wasn't pleasant- I was given a tiny juice cup while I have a tall boy bladder... I had to choreograph a dance between the tiny cup and golden stream (doesn't quite rhyme). To make matters worse, I couldn't even run the water to wash my hands until I handed the cup over to the testers (can't be reconstituting 'clean' urine now). I basically had to waste half a day to engage in an activity which, at best, wasn't all that pleasant.

Being someone who operates by the 'good for the goose, good for the gander' principle, I suggest that all members of Congress should undergo monthly drug tests until they stop treating the indigent and the unfortunate like shit- these congresscritters receive a hell of a lot more money from the government than some poor unemployed schmo ever will. Hey, maybe Trump can collect all of these samples to usher in a new golden age.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

International Love Fest Masquerading as Brawl

I'm on my way to the annual New York Open Judo Tournament, a team competition held at the New York Athletic Club every March. The US, France, Israel, and Germany have teams representing them. As usual, the main draw is Kayla Harrison, who won gold in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. If anyone represents excellence in the sport, it is this remarkable young woman.

The event draws an international crowd from the NY metro area- I have friends from Morocco, Italy, Switzerland Poland, Brazil, Japan, Albania, Uzbekistan, and the Bronx who will be attending. It's the premier judo event in the tri-state area, and the vibe is wonderful. The action on the mats may look rough, but the event is all about love.

I'm hastily typing this out on my phone on the subway, but I will clean up the post and provide links later on.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Dulce et Decorum Est pro Capitalismus Mori

Tuesday was a busy day for me, between work and drinking, so I didn't have a chance to watch the Gorsuch nomination hearings. Reading The Rude Pundit, I decided to check out Al Franken's grilling of Gorsuch regarding his dissent in a decision about a truck driver who was fired because he abandoned a trailer which had frozen brakes and a non-functioning heater. Put in stark terms, the man had a choice- disobey the orders from his company or die of hypothermia. He disobeyed orders and was fired, then filed a complaint with OSHA about the firing, and Gorsuch dissented from the decision, which supported the truck driver's case. Gorsuch's family made its fortune by retailing ski clothing- the idea that the guy wouldn't know how deadly being stuck without heat in minus-fourteen degree temperature is ludicrous. Here's Franken's amazing grilling of Gorsuch:

Gorsuch's attitude is that Alphonse Maddin, the truck driver in question, should have followed orders even unto death. Basically, he should have been a martyr to capitalism, and obediently frozen to death so as not to negatively impact the company's bottom line.

As much as I've thought Chuck Schumer, my senior senator, has been a Wall St flunky, I am proud that he will fillibuster Gorsuch's nomination. Sure, the excesses of Wall Street are villainy, but they aren't the sort of 'Dead Peasant' cartoonish supervillainy that Gorsuch is comfortable with.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Second Assassination

This week's big local story was a terrorist attack- a white supremacist fatally stabbed an elderly black man in the back. Now, that's deplorable, but even more deplorable was the manner in which Murdoch rag The New York Post covered the fatal hate crime. Not only did they describe the white perpetrator as 'well-dressed', but they reported the 66-year old victim's arrest record... news flash, he was the victim of the crime, stabbed in the back in cowardly fashion while collecting empty cans and bottles for the deposit redemption value. All too often, minority crime victims are treated as if they are the guilty parties- I'm surprised the 'Post' didn't write that Mr Caughman maliciously stained his killer's blade.

Timothy Caughman was assassinated by a white supremacist who wanted to kill a black man in the world's media capital... afterwards, his character was assassinated by a scurrilous rag in a white supremacist's media empire.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Not a Lot of Buzz About this Announcement

I am one of those individuals who never grew out of that childhood phase during which one is compelled to turn over rocks and logs to see what kind of creepy-crawlies are living underneath. I love my precious little bug buddies- I also like lectures about insects, even eating insects. Needless to say, I was bummed out by listening to a report of the rusty patched bumblebee being placed on the endangered species list, with the Trump maladministration reversing its policy of undoing federal regulations in this case- of course, the bumblebees are crucial pollinators, the loss of which would be an utter disaster for humans.

The main threats to the rusty patched bumblebee are the loss of suitable nesting space (they lair underground) to development, the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, and pathogens. Steps should be made to reduce the use of neonicotinoids and to preserve suitable habitats for insects. I have long considered the modern obsession with well-manicured lawns to be pathological, and would suggest a shift to yards which combine native wildflowers, ornamental plants, and herb/vegetable gardens. Well-manicured grassy spaces are more appropriate for municipal athletic fields. I also think that highway margins and medians should be devoted to the planting of native plants (with patches of milkweeds at least every quarter-mile). The maintenance of such plantings would be more costly and labor-intensive than simple mowing would be, but don't we need jobs to make America great again?

I fondly remember watching the bumblebees hovering around the azaleas in the backyard of the family home, those improbably chunky flyers with their noisy wings. I would be upset if this buzz were silenced forever. The implications of the collapse of pollinators are terrifying, though I can imagine a joint venture between Monsanto and Raytheon to manufacture pollinator microdrones after killing off the beneficial insects, which terrifies me even more.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Last night, the call came... my subordinate let me know that the County Board of Elections had dropped off a bunch of voting machines. Somehow, management spaced out on this, and I didn't have any advance notice, so I hadn't arranged coverage. No biggie, I had to handle this one myself, though it would mean I'd get about three hours of sleep. I always joke that the job is very cushy unless it isn't. I was up by three-thirty, out the door by four-fifteen, and at work before five. I received a briefing from the overnight guy and opened the building up for the poll workers, who were expected at five-thirty. Being the guy with the institutional memory, I was able to tell the poll workers where to plug in the voting machines, the best places to put the voters' tables. I know about half of this election's crew, a lot of poll workers are repeats every year.

Shortly after ten, a school group, a bunch of fourth graders from Connecticut, came in for a workshop. They filed into the building in orderly fashion to use the facilities and headed outside for their program. After a few hours, they filed back into the building and had their lunch in a greenhouse behind our gift shop, which still hasn't opened for the regular season. They were very well behaved students, they were quiet, and the poll workers remarked on the kids' manners... they didn't distract from the proceedings in the room next to the greenhouse, where the polling site had been set up.

The election has been quiet- it's a local election, and most of the positions are uncontested. I wonder how many of the voters have showed up to cast write-in votes to show that they still have the power to choose. I don't think a dozen voters have crossed the threshold. I've spent a good deal of time doing paperwork- I am cobbling together the April schedule for my team. Our custodian treated me to lunch in return for me entering his business expenses (mainly mileage) into the requisite Excel spreadsheets and sending them off to the main office.

It's been a quiet day, but I have to admit that I am one tired fellow. My relief comes in around five, and I think I'll just crash for twenty minutes before even contemplating getting behind the wheel of my car.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Infernal Equinox

Today is the vernal equinox, though looking at the amount of snow still on the ground here in the City of Y______, one would be hard-pressed to think of Spring. Rather than discussing the vernal equinox, this post concerns an infernal Equinox, a low-budget horror movie, produced by a crew of amateurs, released in 1970. While not very scary, the film does boast some not-terrible stop-motion special effects- from a practical effects standpoint it 'punches above its weight', given the low budget and inexperience of its creators. The plot, concerning a college student's search for his geology professor, who has gone missing from his cabin in the mountains while trying to decipher a mysterious grimoire, is very reminiscent of the first two films in the 'Evil Dead' horror franchise.

I'm not a big horror movie buff, though I do rate for the 'Evil Dead' films, being a fan of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi. It was interesting to watch Equinox with an eye to comparing the films. My primary interest in watching the movie was its casting of Bastard fave and fantasy juggernaut Fritz Leiber as the doomed professor. While not a speaking role, it was fascinating to see one of my literary heroes on the screen, even in a bit part. Here is the movie in all of its cheesy, low-budget glory:

Oh, and if you ever meet a guy named Asmodeus, run like... uhhhhhh... Hell.