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happy 75th, LSD!

April 19, 2018

So, 75 years ago today, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann took the first intentional acid trip, now known as Bicycle Day as fleshed out here.  Hofmann had accidentally absorbed some of his synthesis a few days before, which piqued his scientific curiosity.  The rest is history and the potential of this drug is still unlimited, although ignorance and hysteria is doing its best to, well, limit it.

The traditional gift for a 75th anniversary is a diamond, so please enjoy this gift from Steely Dan.  It’s a paean to the excesses of the 60’s, based loosely on the exploits of counter-culture legend Owsley Stanley, with a nod to Ken Kesey.  And this:

“Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl. You turned it on the world.  That’s when you turned the world around.”

Enjoy your day.

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“Roseanne” and Ronnie

April 12, 2018

I was not a regular viewer of “Roseanne” its first time around, although I appreciated that it expanded the blue collar presence in sitcoms that “The Honeymooners” and “All in the Family” established.  I watched the first episode of the reboot along with 18.5 million others, mildly curious.  The advance hype centered on a gender-fluid grandchild, a mixed-race grandchild and the promise of epic political clashes between Roseanne and her sister Jackie.

The ratings dropped by 3 million the second episode, then held for the third episode.  I’m wondering if that will hold, though, because the show has quickly settled into sitcom complacency.  After a few generic dust-ups regarding Trump, the sisters have apparently settled their ideological differences.  The mixed-race grandchild was on screen for a few minutes the first episode, but not seen since.  The gender-fluid grandchild had many scenes in the opener, but also is MIA since.

In non-Hollywood news, I am chagrined, as a veteran, by Trump’s choice to replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.  Trump fired Shulkin for excessive travel expenses on an official trip to Europe.  The day after his dismissal, Shulkin told NPR that he felt he had adequately addressed the issue, and that the White House had forbidden him to comment on it until he left office.

Shulkin is a career health care management specialist, a leader in patient centered care.  An Obama appointee, he says he was under pressure to have the VA privatized, a pet project of the Koch brothers.  I’m all for accountability in government, but Shulkin’s sins are nowhere near as egregious as Scott Pruitt’s outlandish choices.

Trump has nominated Admiral Ronny Jackson, a physician, to replace Shulkin.  I appreciate that Dr. Jackson treated wounded Marines in Iraq, but his recent gushing assessment of Trump’s health is an embarrassment.  Jackson lauded The Donald’s “incredible genes”, “excellent” cardiac health, and how he did “exceedingly well” on a cognitive test.

Mind you, this was the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, and we here in Canada take coherence quite seriously.  To ace the exam, Trump had to correctly draw a clock and identify a picture of a rhinoceros.

Jackson had to fudge to avoid labeling Trump obese.  Donny weighed in at 239 pounds, and — even though people are saying that someone probably had their thumb under the scale — the good doctor bumped up his height by an inch.  Jackson somehow concluded that 45 “will remain fit for duty for the remainder of this term and even the remainder of another term if he is elected.”  That sounds to me like Trump dictated it.

Speaking of which, do you remember Dr. Harold Bornstein?  Allegedly Trump’s personal physician since 1980, he released a letter in late 2015 with an even more absurd assessment of POTUS’s health.  According to Bornstein, Trump had “extraordinary” physical strength and stamina, plus “astonishingly excellent” blood pressure and lab results.

Bornstein, who looks like an extra in a Cheech and Chong movie, had a big finale that again sounds like Trump dictated it: “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

A website listed in Bornstein’s letterhead linked to an offer to update a Flash program.  The letter opening read “To Whom My Concern:”.  The doctor later admitted that he wrote it in 5 minutes as a limo sent by Trump waited outside his office.

But I digress yet again.  The VA is the largest department of the federal government, based on the number of employees.  It is so overburdened that it didn’t catch up on its Agent Orange claims until mid-2012.  It took me 4+ years to get disability payments for my Vietnam-related PTSD, and it turned me down once.

Shulkin had extensive managerial experience, Jackson doesn’t.  Privatization will further gum up the works.  One bright spot: at least Trump didn’t nominate Bornstein.

 

 

 

finally, now is the time to talk

March 4, 2018

My most recent post elicited many more comments than usual, usually being zero.  But I’m happy to be any part of a vital discussion that is shaping up to be a top mid-term election issue.  I’m really eager to see how many folks show up to the March 23rd rallies for gun control.

The Parkland survivors continue to impress.  Some of them are journalism students.  Using their tech savvy, they started a GoFundMe campaign the day of the shooting.  Well on the way to their goal of $50,000, they will use the money to print an ad-free commemorative  issue of their quarterly newspaper, plus opening, closing and memorial pages for their yearbook.  Please consider helping them.

Judith, summergale, Brown Brother, Gordon and ALBERT, thank you for participating; especially Gordon as he heroically struggles with Spell Check.  ALBERT, my brother, you’re correct that the idea of arming teachers was suggested to Trump, but he jumped on it immediately and was soon denying that he said it even as he continued to advocate for it.  Classic Donny.

Some of Trump’s most memorable positions were, indeed, just mentioned in passing to him.  Remember the famous “red line” comment?  He said that in a July 2017 interview with Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times.  Hope Hicks could tell you.  She was in the room.  It went like this:

SCHMIDT: Last thing.  If Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah.  I would say yes.  By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?

Clearly he didn’t give it much thought.  Again, classic Donny.

Expect Trump to backtrack on his statements about gun control that enthralled Dianne Feinstein, like he’s already reversed course on arming teachers or someone like them.  Right after he chided members of Congress for being afraid of the NRA, he had dinner with the NRA’s CEO and assured him that he opposed gun control.

I’ve been trying to find an accurate number of NRA membership.  It careens from the NRA’s claim of five million to a third of that.  I have found that one of its lobbyists said the organization has at times counted deceased members.  I guess Charlton Heston was really sincere when he said we could have his gun when we pry it from his cold dead hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“not my crusade”

February 25, 2018

I called a longtime friend/spiritual brother in the Midwest today to get his take on the gun control debate raging in the U.S.  He joined the NRA ten years ago, attracted by its training and safety programs.  Now, he says, he won’t renew his membership because of the recent political histrionics of CEO Wayne LaPierre.  After every mass shooting, LaPierre reflexively spouts the party line about the Second Amendment being in imminent danger of being repealed.  But he has no choice.  Generous contributions from the gun industry and its corporate allies help bankroll the NRA.

Anyway, my friend/brother said LaPierre lost him with his obsession over the alleged gutting of the Constitution.  “Not my crusade”, my f/b said.

The Parkland shooting is starting to really be different this time, mostly because of the survivors.  Since the slaughter, these kids have shown more courage, articulation and rational thought than LaPierre and LaTrump combined.  I hope that — as the vanguard of Generation Z — they spawn massive political interest among their peers.

I witnessed significant trauma in Vietnam as a casualty reporter, but I stuffed it and didn’t own it for 25 years.  I applaud the students for confronting their trauma before the wounds turn to scars.  That’s crucial.

I don’t know if any of the kids will go into politics, but, please, Emma Gonzales.  Run for President ASAP.  At the very least, hopefully they will register to vote in huge numbers.

So as teenagers are being the voice of reason, LaPierre has blathered about the Second Amendment and The Donnie has simply blathered.  In his classic style, Trump pulled –not necessarily the first — but the worst thing out of his ass.  His proposal to arm teachers is not only loony, it would be a boon for the gun industry, which needs more government subsidy.  Remington just filed for bankruptcy.

As the gun-crazy crowd continues to wrap itself in Old Glory, please note that Super Patriot Wayne LaPierre had a Selective Service number in 1970 that placed him in the “most likely” to be drafted pool.  But he didn’t go.  Snopes pooh-poohed an internet rumour that he was spared due to a nervous disorder, then speculated that he got a student deferment.  I’d like to offer an alternative theory: he caught bone spurs from Trump.

happy Valentine’s Day, anyway

February 14, 2018

Trump has created such a crisis-rich environment that it’s difficult for me to keep up with the Olympics and Warriors basketball.  I had intended to e-mail the White House to tell POTUS it would be far, FAR cheaper to watch Patton than to spend tens of millions on an actual pavement-crushing military parade.  And the film is much longer than the two-hour spectacle that enthralled The Donny in France — even if he didn’t watch the credits, which I assume he wouldn’t.

But he dropped the idea like a hot bazooka in the rush of a fresh crop of scandals.  Even as I type this, Wolf Blitzer is unpacking the outrage du jour: V.A. Secretary David Shulkin allegedly misled ethics officials about the purpose of a European trip.  I bet Trump just wants to get through this day and have a quiet, candle-lit cheeseburger with Stormy Daniels.

No, wait.  I just found out that Ms. Daniels wants to open up about their fling.  She feels that since Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen now says he paid her off, that invalidates her non-disclosure agreement.

Can you believe all this?

Take the Rob Porter fiasco.  Please.  The issues and sub-issues radiate from it like octopus tentacles.  There are already five White House accounts of its timeline, with plenty more to come.  Central to these chronological inaccuracies is Chief of Staff John Kelly.  Kelly is rapidly becoming the biggest disappointment in the Trump era since Michael Flynn, and until Don Junior and/or Jared Kushner are indicted by Mueller.  We know Kelly is in deep poo because POTUS is talking about what a fine chap the General is.

That nest of viperous lies aside, the most distressing aspect is the stunning disregard for national safety.  Even with the FBI waving red flags, Porter was given a temporary security clearance.  He handled the most sensitive intel generated.  Thirty to 40 more White House employees also have yet to be cleared permanently.

And where to start with the wife beating?  Without the startling photo of Porter’s first wife Colbie Holderness with a black eye, we still might not know of this.  I laud her, Porter’s second wife Jennie Willoughby, and a girlfriend of his for taking the huge risks of speaking out.  Porter has also been dating White House Director of Communications Hope Hicks, but she talks less than Kushner.

Trump finally announced today that he is “totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind”, with his Conscience Ivanka nearby.  Earlier he had Mike Pence denounce it.  It looked to me that Pence would have much preferred being in the Oval Office measuring for new drapes, but he did admit to Lester Holt that the matter could have been handled better.  Pence hastened to assure Holt that he would look into the matter.

The matter has also caught the eye of politically Born Again Trey Gowdy.  Gowdy is in the early stages of one of the most interesting turnarounds in recent memory.  Two weeks ago he was one of the vocal champions of the Nunes Memo, assuring the Fox and Friends sycophants that it would embarrass Adam Schiff.

Gowdy is best known for spending $7.8 million of federal funds as the chair of the House Benghazi investigation.  Not much came of it.  No charges were filed, although it did help make Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server less private.  Her marathon grilling by the committee did little but show her toughness and boost her campaign contributions.  Trump opined that Gowdy “failed miserably” in his quest.

The Nunes memo turned out to be a piffle, not making Watergate look like a parking ticket, as Sean Hannity promised us.  If Trump is man enough to release the Democratic response, it might be even more diminished.  Gowdy rethought things and backed away, saying the memo would not affect the Mueller probe.

But even before that — in fact, the day after he was on Fox “News” — Gowdy decided not to run for re-election.  And today he announced that, as Chair of the House Oversight Committee, he will begin investigating the Rob Porter situation.

Yet Trump’s approval ratings, based on adjusted averages by the website FiveThirtyEight, has risen three points since January 23rd.  You can’t hallucinate weirder shit than this.

the looming threat of lutefisk

January 25, 2018

I’d like to thank all of you — well, both of you — who commented on my last post.  Oddly, both are former high school classmates.  Al, a fellow Vietnam veteran, spun a far-fetched tale about a Shrek-like ogre named Trump who enlisted My Pretty Pony and Squid Ward to help drain a swamp populated by dinosaurs, Billary, Obowma and his side kick Joe.

The dinosaurs et al. tried mightily to defeat Trump, but the ogre and his American eagles prevailed.  A compelling story, Al, especially considering that you outed yourself as an old guy who knows who My Pretty Pony and Squid Ward are.  You must have grand kids.

Gordon, who actually lives in the swamp, said he’d have to give it some thought.  He’s more concerned about a local “whorey” anarchist who, coincidentally, is also named Trump.

So, thank you, gentlemen.  Your input is appreciated.

Let’s move on.  We have bigger fisk to fry.  The actual Trump is in Davos, Switzerland, talking up the strong U.S. economy as the dollar weakens against the euro and other currencies (Canada’s dollar, for one).  His Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says a weaker dollar will help trade.  This did not calm international markets.  It doesn’t help that Trump has threatened to scrap NAFTA, and Trudeau has reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to the TPP.

If Trump’s economy does indeed continue booming, he’s going to have to get real on immigration.  Good jobs are already difficult to fill.  I don’t see how he can win on this.  If he dumps on the DREAMers, he’ll offend a sizable voting bloc that the Pew Research Center predicted in 2012 could double in size by 2030.  That would be 40 million Hispanic voters.

True, they didn’t turn out as expected in 2016, even as Trump constantly insulted and threatened them, but now those threats are being carried out.  He said today that he wants to offer the DREAMers a path to citizenship.  Breitbart News is now calling him “Amnesty Don”.  Depending on what he last reads or hears, he could change his mind many more times on this.

Add to this the Stormy Daniels turbulence, which has had much better (sorry, I can’t resist) “legs” than I first guessed.  And Michael Wolff’s book quotes Steve Bannon as saying there were many other payoffs for Trump’s indiscretions.  Wolff  hinted on one of his many talk show appearances that Trump is carrying on an affair in the White House now.  He won’t say who, but my money is on 29-year-old Hope Hicks, his Communications Director.  You’d recognize her.  She’s the one who always looks like she’s posing for Playboy.

Is it any wonder that Melania chose to stay home from the Davos summit?  Her handlers cited logistical conflicts.  Then she visited the Holocaust Museum in the Beltway.  How much of a conflict can that be?  The Museum is closed only for Christmas Day and Yom Kippur.

But I’ve buried my lead yet again.  I’m idly speculating that while Trump is in Switzerland, someone will tell him that he is much closer than usual to non-shithole Norway.  Wouldn’t he be tempted to pack Air Force One with Norwegian immigrants to start outnumbering all those Mexicans, Haitians and Africans?  About 350 Norwegians got U.S. green cards last year.  He’d have to do a reverse Berlin Airlift.

If he flooded America with Scandinavians, they would doubtless bring their culture.  That means the U.S. would see much more lutefisk than even now.  Lutefisk is a staple of the Norwegian diet.  It’s made by soaking whitefish in lye.  The lye is then soaked out, but would we know that for sure?

One knowledgeable lutefisk enthusiast assures us that we would know immediately if it had been improperly prepared because our mouth would start burning.   Given how Trump hates regulating things, would we ever be safe?  The only mention of caution I’ve found so far is that the Wisconsin Employees Right to Know Law specifically exempts lutefisk in defining “toxic substances”.

 

 

 

the anarchic story stump

January 12, 2018

As the Fire and Fury, uh, fury recedes, I thank Michael Wolff for keeping Trump’s finger off the nonexistent nuclear button for nearly a week.  I think we might have gotten an extra few days out of it if Wolff wasn’t such a sleaze.  It doesn’t help that he looks and sounds like Mike Myers’ Doctor Evil.

We have bigger fish for The Donny to lie about, anyway.  Shitholegate, e.g.  I love how it’s “s***hole” on CNN during the day, then “shithole” from Erin Burnett on.  I’m not surprised at the extent of the backlash, but the intensity of it is off the charts.  I’ve never seen so many pundits, including presidential historians, so enraged.  Phil Mudd was apoplectic, proudly declaring himself a shitholer because of his immigrant ancestors.  I don’t think we have the technology to measure the depth of anger here.

But I wanted to start the new year on a more positive note, so here goes.

On the road that connects the 60 or so souls who comprise our community, there is this:

On the left side of the road, there is this:

No one will claim setting it up, and I don’t think anyone cares who did.  It is an anarchic story stump.  Anyone is welcome to add to or rearrange it.

And that includes you.  Here are the characters.  Please tell me a story.

 

 

Here’s your opening scene.  Enjoy.