Saturday, November 22, 2014


          I'm rarely surprised by what my elected representatives in Congress are up to these days, because to be surprised would require something akin to reasonable expectations of sanity.  And no one even pretends to expect Congress to behave rationally anymore.  It would be like opening the newspaper to find that some young, beautiful woman had exchanged marriage vows with convicted mass murderer Charles Manson.  You don't expect to read shit like that when you're still working on your first cup of coffee.

         So I have to admit, I did a bit of a double-take this morning as I perused the pages of The Tennessean (motto: "Now with more mattress ads than ever!") and read the following headline:

         Black sponsors bill to end Social Security for Nazis

         One of our recently reelected members of the House of Reprehensibles is Diane Black, a frequent passenger on the Pander Express, best known for goosestepping along to whatever scandal du jour is being actively promoted by the talking heads on Faux News.  She's not quite as famous as our other female Representative, Marsha Blackburn... you know, the one who debates scientists about the global warming hoax and happily jabbers away in front of the cameras at the drop of a cue card.  Compared to Rep. Blackburn, Ms. Black is a shrinking violet, the wallflower at the back of the class who never raises her hand.  But when she does, it's epic.

           No Social Security benefits for Nazis.  That's the legislation Rep. Black wants her name on going into this lame duck session of Congress.  Because there's so much of that happening, of course.  As it turns out, there have actually been more recorded instances of former Nazis drawing Social Security benefits than there have been verified incidents of voter fraud in America.  And you know how serious Republicans are at ending voter fraud in America.  Why, they're willing to make sure millions of Americans don't even bother trying to vote, just to make certain a cheater doesn't cast a ballot.

            And about the only thing that creeps out Republicans more than fraudulent voting is someone getting a dollar of undeserved money from the government.  They'll go to extremes to cut off a person's benefits for just about any reason... even going so far as to require them to urinate into a little cup first.  One of our state Senators here in Tennessee even tried to link a family's welfare benefits to student academic performance.  Because nothing makes a kid buckle down and succeed at Algebra like taking tests on an empty stomach, or coming home to an angry, hungry family after school.

            So we're on top of the important shit in Washington, thanks to Rep. Black.  No more Springtime for Hitler, by god.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014


             He really didn't understand why I was putting up his food and water dishes last night.  Stared at me as if to say, "What are you up to, man?"

             And when our morning ritual didn't go according to our normal schedule, he knew something was wrong.  I could just tell.  So could he.  Something was definitely different.

             Usually when my lovely (and dangerous) wife's alarm goes off, the cat bounds up on the bed and makes sure we know it's time to get the hell up.  After that, every step I take makes contact with a cat as I go down the hall to the kitchen, because that's where his food is stored.  Can't tell you how many times this cat has tripped me up on those morning hikes... I've considered calling the Titans to let them know I have an eight month-old cat that tackles better than most of their linebackers.

             But this morning Casper didn't get his usual breakfast.  And there's no way to explain that to a cat.  I tried.

             He climbed into the cat carrier as if we were about to play some new game, completely unaware of how unusual this particular morning was going to be.  The vet's office is only two miles from our front door, so he wasn't in the car long enough to even begin to whine.  Raw courage.

             The young woman behind the receptionist's desk at the vet's office asked if we had come up with a name for our stray yet, and I told her his official name was "Casper", but that we usually called him with "you little shit!"...  I told her if they really needed to get his attention, they should use that phrase.  Might as well stick with something he already knows.

              I had to fill out a few forms to authorize the surgery.  One was to give them permission to give the cat an injection for pain after the operation.  I remembered my own vasectomy and how welcome those Mepergan fortis capsules had proven to be, so I agreed to pay for his shot.  The vet asked if we wanted to have a microchip implanted while he was under anesthesia, but that seemed a bit extravagant.  After all, two weeks ago this cat was lost in the woods behind our friends' house.  If he gets lost again, at least he's got experience adopting nice people.  

              As she took the cat carrier from my hand, the vet asked if I wanted her to call us after the surgery to let us know how he was doing.  I told her, "Sure, just put him on the phone." but she said he'd be a little too drunk for conversation.  I even inquired to find out how much extra I'd have to pay to get whatever meds she was going to give the cat, but she must have thought I was joking and didn't answer.

              So now the house is empty.  I mean, really empty.  Cindy's at work, and the cat's going through something I can't even think about without squirming around in my chair.  The living room is littered with cat toys, cardboard scratching pads, boxes, tunnels, and yarn.  And it's quiet.  Too quiet.  I'm even able to type without the cat making editorial revisions as he walks around on the keyboard.

             I hope they're careful with our little buddy.  Never thought I'd worry about a damn cat...  

             Life can take some strange turns.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


          It's not like we don't do enough here in Tennessee to bring scorn and ridicule to our state.  We have one of the most willfully obtuse legislatures in America, produce some of the nation's lowest student academic testing results, are near the top for meth production, obesity, teen pregnancies, teen smoking, and have a millionaire governor who has been sitting on his thumbs for over two years as he promises to come up with his very own plan to expand Medicaid for folks in the Volunteer State who desperately need it.  Given our propensity for providing fodder for late night comics, we certainly don't need to routinely export insensitivity and ignorance.  But apparently, it's one of the things we do best.

           Last Friday the first Muslim prayer service was held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., but the services were interrupted by a 50 year-old woman named Christine Weick who shouted out that she had been sent by God to inform Muslims that a Christian church was no place for their prayers.  Media reports were quick to add that she had "driven all the way from Tennessee" to showcase her particular brand of bigotry and rude behavior.  Here's how she explained herself to World Net Daily, a website that apparently cheers on this sort of thing:

“My blood began to boil as I read the comments of how this is to be such a wonderful event and how religious tolerance can, for the first time, be shown in our nation’s capital.”

“Then it hit me… I had such an angst come over me. Seeing these Muslims sitting on their rugs ready to bow to a god, causing such an abomination in the house of the Lord.”

           A little digging revealed that Ms. Weick isn't actually from Tennessee (she's from Michigan) but was living here in her car when she read about plans for the Muslim prayer service on The Drudge Report, and she just had to drive to D.C. to show her ass.  Gee, thanks, Christine.  Too bad you didn't have time to put on a University of Tennessee sweatshirt before your fifteen minutes of fame got started...

           Now we find ourselves indirectly in the news once again, this time because a man from Brentwood has decided that the racial tension in Ferguson, Missouri really needs a little added spice in the form of an inflammatory billboard.  In a not-so-subtle word play on the protesters chant of "Hands up, don't shoot", a Mr. Don Alexander has secured crowd-sourced funding for a billboard that reads, "Pants up, don't loot."  Isn't that clever?  See what they've done there?  They've taken a chant used by folks who are tired of being murdered by trigger happy cops, and turned it into a racial slap.  How nice.  I'm sure that will make people hitch up their britches and think twice about throwing that brick through an Office Depot window.

            The sad part of this is that our own legislature has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to outlaw "saggy pants" here in the Volunteer State.  Look it up.  It's something that worries conservatives.  If they could outlaw dreadlocks and cornrow hairstyles it would probably be on the agenda for the upcoming session of the General Assembly.  Subtlety isn't really what they do at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville.  They aren't into nuance.  When you have veto-proof majorities in both houses of the legislature, you have a hammer and every "problem" is a nail.

           But apparently their efforts to embarrass the state of Tennessee aren't enough for some folks.  We have to export bigotry and do what we can to inflame tensions.

           We're so proud...



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

COMMON CORE STANDARDS UNITE FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIANS, SMALL GOVERNMENT CONSERVATIVES, AND TEACHERS UNIONS (it must be okay if everyone hates it, right?) Tennessee wants its own "values"...

            Most of us don't have a clue what Common Core education standards actually are, and those that do hate it.  Ask anyone.  Ever since the program began implementation in 2009 there have been so many diverse groups stepping forward in opposition that it's hard to know which side of the argument a truly partisan hack ought to support.  

            Those who believe Common Core ignores America's Christian values are using Common Core like a talisman to urge like minded parents to pull their children from public schools in favor of private religious institutions or home schooling.  Teachers unions who believe the program is forcing untested materials and standards into the system too quickly want it studied more thoroughly.  The Koch Brothers are pouring tons of money into state legislatures around the country to "encourage" conservatives to pass bills that will stop the program's implementation.  And comedians such as Louis C.K. believe the Common Core standards are making school standards testing too stressful for kids all over the country.

            In fact, it's hard to find a subject that makes as many diverse and strange bedfellows as Common Core.  About the only people who wholeheartedly support the program are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  

            One thing EVERYONE seems to agree upon is the fact that our public schools aren't keeping up with the educational standards of many other countries, to the detriment of our future scientific and innovative prospects.

            Here in Tennessee, our newly elected conservative legislature is already hard at work proposing measures to pull Common Core from state schools.  Some are suggesting we establish Tennessee Standards, or Volunteer State standards, and our cocksure Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey insists it's vital for Tennessee to "establish high Tennessee standards rooted in Tennessee values."

             I can already see the new history curriculum exams that will come from a conservative push to impose "Tennessee values" on our state's students.  Here are a few essay questions from a typical middle school history exam we can expect in the future:

"Explain why Andrew Jackson was America's best president ever, with examples of his outstanding Volunteer state grit and determination."

"Why was the Trail of Tears an important improvement in the lives of the Cherokee Nation?"

"Discuss the importance of Davy Crockett in the acquisition of Texas from Mexico, and his influence in the fashion designs of his day."

"Write as many verses to the theme song "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" as possible, with extra points awarded for creative spelling."

Monday, November 17, 2014

REMEMBER THAT SILLY GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN LAST YEAR? WE'RE STILL PAYING FOR IT... (and morons in the House are planning another just like it)

            To quote George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

            Santayana died in the 1950's, but he might as well have written that line about today's House of Reprehensibles.  They can't seem to remember much of anything, especially if it has to do with their own actions.

            Remember the 16 day government shutdown in October of last year?  The one Senator Ted Cruz and his fellow Republican troglodytes insisted upon in their efforts to defund and repeal the Affordable Care Act?  Well, those people seem intent upon bringing us to another impasse just as soon as the new Congress arrives in Washington... and for the same reasons.  They're having a hard time facing the fact that "Obamacare" is working, and that millions of Americans are happy with the changes it requires.  Some of them are making the repeal of the Affordable Care Act their legislative priority, even if it means shutting down the government again.  Because it worked so well the last time, I guess.

            But back to their last government shutdown, the one that no one in Congress seems to remember...  There's a little blurb in today's edition of The Tennessean (motto: "Monday Night Football returns to Nashville, Prepare to Park Your Car on I-24") to remind us that the bills for that ill-fated shutdown are still being paid.  The Senate Energy Committee has passed a measure to repay local and state governments for money spent to reopen National Parks after the shutdown impasse ended.  Why this issue is of a concern to the Senate Energy Committee is a subject for another post on another day.

            One of the unintended consequences of that shutdown clusterfuck was the mandatory closing of federally funded National Parks across the country.  Local businesses that depend upon park tourism for their survival were devastated, and it was estimated that it cost local economies $76 million a day for the duration of the shutdown.  Mom and pop businesses and restaurants had to lay off employees, and a lot of them never recovered from the resultant loss of revenue.

             So what did we learn from the last government shutdown?  Apparently nothing.  There will be a lot of grandstanding at National Mall sites around the Capitol, and men in suits and ties will act shocked that the monuments and memorials are closed to the public again.  National ambulance chasers like Blunder Woman Palin will show up to "support veterans" who want to tour the memorials, and tourists all over America will be denied access to our national treasures, all so that a handful of obstinate old men can climb aboard the Pander Express and tilt away at the Obamacare windmill yet again.

              And somewhere down the road Congress will be forced to cut another check to bail out the communities that are devastated by their inability to remember the past.