Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Talking Dead

     This is Ben Carson's idea of what to do in a mass shooting scenario: Offer up oneself as a bullet catcher for the common good and take several for Team Z (and maybe do a few lively steps from West Side Story in the act of dying).
     Does this lunatic Carson think we live in The Walking Dead? That the answer to mass shootings is to make their job easier and rush at them simply because of superiority in numbers? The Persians had superiority in numbers and look what the Spartans did to them at Thermopylae.
     Ben Carson is simply the most brainless brain surgeon like Bill Frist was the most heartless heart surgeon ever. And he seriously needs to shut the fuck up about guns and what he'd do in such a situation. To hear him talk, he'd be all Rambo and show us how a real man would handle it... Oh, wait. He did. Let's just say I'm far from impressed.
     Let me give you the benefit of my experience:
     Believe it or not, despite what I used to be in the Navy, I never once had a loaded weapon drawn on me. But seven and a half years after I was mustered out of service, an incident happened in Gulfport, Mississippi in early 1990.
     My then girlfriend's son Bubba (Yes, that was his name) was jilted by his girlfriend. He somehow got a bottle of Jack Daniels then reached under his grandfather's pillow where he knew he kept his .38 revolver. When his mother saw the gun in his hand, she freaked out and tried to get him to relinquish the weapon. At one point, he pointed the gun right at her head. When I found out what was going on, he pointed the gun at me.
     Now, I'm going to hit the pause button here for a moment to compare what I then did to what Ben Carson would tell me I should've done.
     We had to assume the revolver was fully-loaded. The old man wouldn't have kept an unloaded gun in the house. That's just how these people do it. If I had rushed at the kid, I would've taken a bullet and all Hell would've broken loose. I also could've gotten my girlfriend or anyone else killed.
     The kid retreated into the bedroom and sat on the bed while his mother sat beside him. By this time, he'd put the gun against his side, with his finger in the trigger well. Knowing guns as well as I do, I knew the only thing keeping him from partially disemboweling himself was about four pounds of pressure. He told me not to approach him so I didn't.
     Instead, I calmly leaned against the door jamb and softly talked the kid down. I'd like to think between his mother and me, we calmed him down long enough for his father (Also named Bubba) to arrive and finish the job. We peacefully disarmed the kid without even calling in law enforcement (Down there in the sticks they tend to keep things internal).
     It wasn't until after we'd taken the gun from him that I realized it was the kind of .38 that didn't have a safety. And if I'd lost my head, or did what Ben Carson suggested, any number of people in that house could've gotten killed, including me. I wasn't a hero one way or the other. I simply kept my cool and the situation as defused as I could, kind of like applying frozen nitrogen to a live bomb.
     So Ben Carson seriously needs to shut the fuck up about guns and lecturing us about what we should do, especially when he talks about others willing to take one or two for the team.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ben Carson is the Worst Person in the World

     ...for saying he won't attend the funerals of the UCC shooting victims but that he may attend the next round of funerals the next time a lone wacko shoots up a school. Oh, and if that isn't enough, Carson's also doubling down and actually blaming the victims for their own deaths and that he'd be manlier in the face of death.
     Piyush "Bobby" Jindal is a close second for blaming the shooter's father and not the gun nut mother who stockpiled weapons later used by her son because she a'feared Obummer was gonna steal her arsenal.
     These honorary white supremacist assholes are beneath contempt but as the 2016 Election staggers and stumbles on for the next 13 months, I'll try to dig deep and find some for them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why is Donald Trump So Popular With the Right Wing?

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
     It's a question eminently worthy to be included with other great queries of the ages such as Who Was Jack the Ripper, Why Do Dogs Sniff Each Other's Butts and Why Won't Soccer and the Metric System Take Hold in the US? To anyone who doesn't watch NASCAR and Fox "News", it's all supposition. It's like trying to get in the mind of a cat to determine why it shits behind your couch when it has a clean litter box to use.
     And the Donald's improbable and seemingly inexplicable appeal to the right wing denizens living at the base of Jon Stewart's Bullshit Mountain has proven to be an enduring mystery since Trump announced his candidacy from his own hotel back in June. After all, what's Trump saying this year that he hadn't back when he was just an umber-faced buffoonish alsoran in 2012? That campaign was immediately exposed for the right wing performance art that it was and before anyone knew it, Trump decided to terminate his campaign and sulk back to Celebrity Apprentice.
     So what's so different with the current goat rodeo? Since 2012, the only ways that Trump's changed is he's gained a few more pounds and his increasingly transparent double weave is the worse for wear. He's changed remarkably little since a suppressed 1989 documentary was made about him when he was still in his 30's.
     Well, this time around, he's attacking minorities and women with renewed vigor, even right wing Fox icon Megyn Kelly, and is more than a little more brash than he was in '12. And considering the hostile climate Republicans have made since that year for women, minorities and other tried-and-true targets of the right wing, this has emboldened the Neanderthal wing of the GOP so their completely batshit insane positions have the illusion of being mainstream or on the verge of being so (Thank you again, Joe Overton).
     Humans never change no matter how long our shit- and blood-spattered lineage stretches. One of those ways is in whom we tend to surrender ourselves whether it be favorite writers, spouses and soulmates and politicians. It's a foregone conclusion that many humans seek out those who have commonalities with us. Whether it be someone who looks like us, thinks like us or has common values with us, as a generally egoistic species, we tend to be attracted to those in whom we see the most of ourselves. 
     And, if one is tactless and hateful and virulently defensive to those who don't share your views, you'll tend to be attracted to someone like Trump (although it could be said distance, like absence, makes the heart grow fonder). Indeed, Donald Trump's entire candidacy can be boiled down to the word "Mexicans" and a derogatory imperative.
     While being canny and devious to make himself a multi billionaire through one tax avoidance scheme after another, Donald Trump is not an intelligent man. He comes across as a thug that just made his first million, as someone who'd hijacked third base at gunpoint and thought he was born on it. The radical Teabagger faction that is not only indistinguishable from white supremacist factions but are the one and the same see their rancid values shared or pretended to be shared by a huckster who's barely smart enough and more than cynical enough to see the profit in doing so.

Not Racist But #1 With Racists
     Right wing mouth-breathers who scream about government overreach and the elites have always had an uneasy alliance with the 1% who still successfully pull the football from them like so many Lucy Van Pelts every election cycle. They get the vague sense they're being butt-fucked from behind but as long as the GOP and Wall Street keep telling them the liberals are out to get their guns, every time they look in the mirror to see who's sodomizing them, all they'll see is Michael Moore and George Soros.
     So how cool is it when, instead of buying a candidate, someone in the 1% decides to run for President and it happens to be someone who shares their values? 
     Guns are cool! We shouldn't have gun free zones! We should just bomb the shit out of this nation or another! I'd get rid of inner city gangs in a New York minute! I'd build a wall around Mexico who imports their rapists to our country! Menstrual blood squirting out everywhere! Sure I read the Bible. It's my favorite book! I'd fuck her if she wasn't my daughter. Deport all 11,000,000 of them!
     20 years ago or less, such a candidacy would've been seen only in a political satire courtesy of Hollywood and dismissed, as was Trump's last stumping stunt, as pure right wing performance art. But as I said earlier, the GOP establishment that's popping Advil like beer nuts over Trump's antics has only itself to blame because they got into bed with the Teabaggers who then elected their own ideological soulmates into Congress by the dozens, setting the stage for a rancidly recidivist nation that seems bound and determined to catapult us back to beyond the beginning of the Civil Rights and Suffrage movements and clear into the 19th century.
     As stated, it's inexplicable how anyone could so fanatically support such a thoroughly revolting carbon-based life form such as Donald Trump. But it's notable that among those who support Trump the most vocally are some of the stupidest, most misinformed voters and most virulent racists in the US. If you don't believe me, just consider for a minute that disgraced racist Hulk Hogan publicly stated he wanted to be Trump's running mate.
     So it's refreshing for the right wing to get behind a One Percenter who seems to share their values and avoids looking like an elitist without ever being burdened by the suspicion that he's merely cynically using their prejudices and fears to political advantage. It's enough that he's not too self-conscious to step into a WWE ring and make a flaming asshole of himself or to trash talk anyone of consequence who even mildly questions his vague and substanceless positions.
     And the more companies and other corporate entities that dump Trump, the more he gets to play the victim card, to a "persecuted" white right wing base that sees white people, gun owners and Christians like Kim Davis as under attack? That only adds to the appeal.

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Monday, October 5, 2015


     Gee, isn't it heart-warming that Trump and Fox got over their 24 hour-long lover's spat so they could get back to the right wing lunacy such as blaming the UCC shooting on liberals and their evil "gun-free" zones? But for those of us who aren't as sentimental about the reconciliation of Vidal Baboon and Roger Ailes, here's a reality check:

  • 1) It's ironic for Trump to say shootings are inevitable since virtually all his properties, including the Trump hotels and casinos, are gun free zones. So's NRA HQ and several of the venues of their events, btw. In other words, For Thee and Not For Me, Motherfuckers.
  • 2) The UCC campus is NOT a gun-free zone. Oregon law forbids such a thing. Schools and campuses ought to be exempt but aren't. Another right wing lie amplified by Fox and Trump.
  • 3) Cars, Tucker, are built for transportation only. Guns are built for one purpose and that's to kill people. Very bad, very threadbare right wing analogy that doesn't even require linkage to refute.
  • 4) Since Port Arthur, Australia hasn't had a significant mass shooting since they enacted strict gun control laws in 1996. This is no coincidence. But to the idiots at Fox & Friends, this is having a "chilling effect" on the rights of the patriots of... another country
  • 5) A vet was at UCC with his gun at the time of the massacre and decided not to engage the shooter lest he be mistaken by the police for a gunman. That decision very likely saved his life.
  • 6) Students have said in polls and surveys about guns in the schools that they'd be hesitant to raise controversial issues if there were guns in the classroom. Classrooms are places of learning and ought to foster a spirit of intellectual curiosity and not impose a, well, chilling effect on it. This is why classrooms ought to be safe havens for education
  • 7) Gun free zones do not attract right wing lunatics such as the UCC shooting. They go to schools with which they have ties (such as Adam Lanza in Newtown or Harris and Klebold at Columbine) or target individuals for whom they harbor a seething bigotry (such as the Sikh Temple shooter or Dylann Storm Roof and the church he shot up because it was full of black people).
  •      Don't let the right wing Wurlitzer establish the terms, data and tone of the debate. Educate yourself and stop accepting these mealy-mouth right wing tropes that always seek to protect the rights of gun nuts like Adam Lanza and Dylann Storm Roof without giving more than brief lip service to their victims.

    Saturday, October 3, 2015

    Just Bend Me Over an Oil Barrel and Call Me Your Bitch

         (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
    (Crosspost on Daily Kos here, with a survey.)
         Because we are so fucked.
         If my conservative and more moderate readers have any stubborn dingleberry doubts that the Republican Party is actively hastening the end of Mankind or at least the United States, consider the case of Kevin McCarthy.
         When Eric Cantor took over as House Majority leader just after the Teabagger revolt of 2010 that handed the lower chamber back to the Republicans, no one batted an eye. And even though many had questioned, "Who the hell's Steny Hoyer?" when he became Nancy Pelosi's right hand man before that, at least no one questioned the man's intelligence. And that's because both Cantor and Hoyer have, at bare minimum, at least an adequate intelligence. And, just to give the Devil his due, Eric Cantor's a pretty smart guy, albeit in a sociopathic "Don't Ever Turn Your Back on Me" sort of way.
         But when Cantor was voted out in his party's own primary a couple of years ago, he was immediately supplanted by a nonentity named Kevin McCarthy. And people began asking, "Who?" As Rachel Maddow pointed out in her segment on McCarthy, this guy has apparently made over $350,000 over the last two years for essentially doing nothing. The author of two pieces of passed legislation (one of them renaming a post office in his district after Buck Owens), it seems this guy is the House's version of Mitch McConnell, someone who mysteriously holds onto power every two years without actually accomplishing anything.
         Except McConnell's no idiot, either. He's a devious, obstructive asshole, sure, but he's no idiot.
         Now, in some Fuck You coup de grace courtesy of the GOP, McCarthy is set to actually become the House's version of Mitch McConnell and then some because he's already been anointed by his party to be the Speaker of the House, or the man third in line to the presidency.
         If Hollywood wanted to make a dark comedy about an moronic politician, they could do a lot worse than use Kevin McCarthy as a template. Because it takes a hell of a lot of stupidity to make one yearn for the days of Dan Quayle, George W. Bush, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.
         McCarthy's presser after being inexplicably anointed the next House Speaker made George W. Bush's worst, most malapropism-impregnated speech look like Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech by conspicuous relief. It sounded as if it was written by Sarah Palin after an Anchorage kegger or by some devious prankster from the Daily Beast who'd slipped in the speech in place of the real one.
         By calling Hungary "Hungria", and talking about "the band on America", McCarthy not only looked like a flaccid penis, he lacked even the self-correcting ability of a professional politician who can spot mistakes in texts and make the necessary corrections on the spot. And, even though he was reading from a prepared text, the look on his face unmistakably betrayed a man who plainly had no idea what the fuck he was talking about or that he sounded as if he was vomiting magnetic poetry tiles.

    We Must Stop ISIS From Placing Applesauce on My Sailboat
         As Maddow pointed out in her September 30th segment, the world's going to hell in a handbasket. Syria is fast becoming the new Vietnam with us bombing that poor country on behalf of the Syrian rebels while Russia bombs the shit out of the same country in support of Assad's murderous government. It's indistinguishable from the war of aggression we fought in Vietnam until four decades ago when we were actually fighting Red China and Red China was fighting us through the proxies of North and South Vietnam. It's like Moe and Larry having a fight where poor Curly takes all the slaps and punches. And it's created a humanitarian crisis and exodus that hardly anyone outside of Germany wants to deal with.
         And yet, the power-mad, borderline insane psychopaths who are murdering these innocents in Syria and all over the world are judged even by the normally rational Maddow as men qualified to run their countries. Obama may be a deceptively bloodthirsty cocksucker who sleeps very well on French linen every night after having ordered and justified blowing up a wedding party and killing dozens of innocents because he may have gotten one Taliban commander.
         But he's no idiot.
         Kevin McCarthy is. Unmistakably. Undeniably. Indisputably. He makes his namesake on Edgar Bergen's lap sound like George Santayana on a really good day. If he was any stupider, they'd be harvesting his organs right now at Walter Reed and pumping formaldehyde through what's left in his neck.
         He's the Republican establishment's idea of what a safe choice should be. Let's not forget why Boehner was elbowed out of his Speakership. He was judged by the radical right wing, the Teabagger psychos who thought his constant obstruction of President Obama's every single nomination and legislative agenda was too liberal. Not wanting to give the minority teabagger caucus a say in the matter, the GOP establishment chose McCarthy.
         Which makes no sense because McCarthy can make no sense even when reading from a prepared speech. They had literally hundreds of other men and women in their caucus from which to choose. Yet it seems as if they'd deliberately chosen to succeed Boehner the one person in their party whose mind is weaker than a Taco Bell burrito. I mean, seriously: Not even canny insider Paul Ryan? Evangelical nutbag Louis Gohmert?
         And maybe that was the intent all along, to elevate to the US House Speakership, one of the most powerful offices on the planet, a man who's about the closest one could get to a tabula rasa, a man with a mind as blank as a blackboard in July. Someone too stupid to know when he has a grimy hand up his ass and his mouth manipulated by psycho legislative ventriloquists.

    Thursday, October 1, 2015

    Leftover Meme Day

         Since I spend way more time on Twitter than is healthy for any writer, I often waste even more time conjuring clever little memes that largely go ignored. Many of these don't wind up here at Pottersville. Therefore, since I have a full day planned that'll be devoted to paying bills, doing shopping and continuing my new thriller, Gods of Our Fathers, time for blogging will be nonexistent. So here are some memes that I've put up on Twitter and my apologies if you've seen them here.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2015

    Twenty Bucks, Same as in Town

         Blogwhoring. You do it, I do it, we all do it. What have you been up to?

         Tengrain says, Let’s Open The Box With Schrödinger’s Candidate Rand Paul! Because apparently being Preznit's not enough. Paul's pulling a Lieberman and is also hedging his bets by running for his Senate seat at the same time. So when we look in the box come next November, will it be President Paul, Senator Paul or fake Doctor Paul?

          He was on such a roll. Frankie Goes to Hollywood for Ugly People, makes Boehner resign the next day, throwing the GOP in even more disarray than usual, then... Then he has to do something stupid like meet with Kim Davis in secret and validate her kind of like John McCain validating Sarah Palin and turning her into the spittle-flecked fame monster she is today. Way to go, Frankie. We all got it when you took a swipe at gay marriage during your congressional address but the last thing Kim Davis' ego needed was for you to turn her into this century's answer to Joan of Ark. Chuck Pierce agrees.

          Tom Sullivan over at Digby's place warns us about the outcome of the last legislative session of the sons and daughters of Pat McCrory and it's a giant foam middle finger in the puss of progressivism that might be foolishly taken up by local governments. Yes, the party that passionately believes in limited central government basically went all Bund on city and county governments in NC and these are the arsenic-tipped bullet points (emphasis not mine):
      Many of the new restrictions are highly charged, including provisions that could allow local landlords to deny housing to veterans and seniors, permit local businesses to discriminate against their customers based on their sexual orientation, and prohibit city and county governments from passing living wage and paid sick ordinances to boost their local economies. One shocking provision may even stop local governments from requiring landlords to provide heating, air, and ventilation in their properties.
         This is the government you wanted, you confederate flag-waving racist hillbillies. Reap the rancid whirlwind.

         Meanwhile, on Brownback (aka Bullshit) Mountain, the Rude Pundit shows us what's going on in the Zombie Belt. Because, apparently, October is "Zombie Preparedness Month". Yes, the government that desperately wants St. Ronnie to make a George Romero comeback is also warning us in a pointless publicity stunt wasting money better spent on education and social services that teh dead are coming back. Like, what the fuck? Halloween's one day out of the year, Gov. Samhain Brownback.

         Rounding out the list of the usual suspects is d r i f t g l a s s who, in, "Bernie Speaks Truth" reminds us, as does Bernie Sanders, about what should be truly important to liberals. Sanders recently said to Obama stooge David Axelrod on his own podcast that Obama was incredibly naive about the GOP's willingness to work with him. It was kind of like a black man crashing a KKK rally in full regalia and fully expecting they'd hand him the torch so he could immolate our constitutional liberties and civil rights as they cheered in the background. I'd begun warning you about this guy seven fucking years ago and I was sneered at, ignored and finally my readership abandoned me in droves. Well, in the end, who was right?
         And maybe, if my spot-on appraisals of the Obama administration back when it was still the twilight hours of the Bush administration didn't make an impression on you, maybe Sir Drifty's words will. Or, maybe not. But Bernie Sanders said it out loud and clear enough for you limousine liberals to hear while you stick your heads in the sand and conveniently forget about short-stroking Israel, bitch-slapping liberals, bailing out Wall Street, drone strikes murdering thousands of innocents, continuing torture, fucking the labor/union movement and infesting the government with literally tons of Wall Street insiders because... post racial!

    Tuesday, September 29, 2015

    Open Thread

         Does this express flight to hell come with a meal and a movie?
         This is just to let y'all know we're still kicking either against the pricks or otherwise. I'm going to be hard at work until at least the middle of next month drafting out my new historical thriller, Gods of Our Fathers while at the same time trying to do right by whatever few readers I have by providing you guys with some fresh content on at least a semi-regular basis.
         In the meantime, I'm still waiting for Penguin-Random House and about a half dozen film production companies to get back to me regarding Tatterdemalion.
         But I'd also like to take this time to remind you, if you haven't seen it yet, that our last fundraising drive has met with less than stellar results and we could still use a significant amount of help since we're spending on bills way more than we're taking in.
         That said, you'll be hearing more from me whether or not the government shuts itself down (which would directly affect our food stamp allotment). Probably more often if it does. And just think about what happened the last time the Republicans shut down the government: 13 months later during the last midterms, they not only widened their lead in the House, we also gave them the fucking Senate, to boot.
         Don't ask me why they think they can shut it down again with impunity.

    Saturday, September 26, 2015

    Good Times at Pottersville, 9/26/15

    Friday, September 25, 2015

    Top 10 Reasons John Boehner Will Resign From Congress

         At an emotional meeting with his fellow Republicans today, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that at the end of October he will resign his post as House Speaker and from Congress after a quarter century of service. Speaker Boehner will leave a Republican Party fractured and in disarray especially after the 2010 Tea Party takeover with the election of dozens of radically conservative Republicans who'd actively sought after his ouster. The reasons why Mr. Boehner had decided to resign remain murky. So, what were his top 10 reasons for resigning?

  • 10) Resigning to spend more time with his tanning booth.
  • 9) Could no longer justify to Finance Committee running over his Kleenex budget for crocodile tear pressers.
  • 8) Was tired of Nancy Pelosi silently replacing the speaker's gavel with a giant inflatable squeaking clown hammer.
  • 7) Could not live down the shame of not being allowed to hand out checks from Big Tobacco lobbyists on the House floor.
  • 6) Couldn't stand the thought of another Halloween of President Obama carving a lifelike pumpkin with his face on it.
  • 5) Congressional duties cutting into his time taking tours through Jameson distillery.
  • 4) Noticed Pope Francis wiped his feet before leaving Boehner's office.
  • 3) Joe Biden's whoopie cushions slipped under him just before States of the Union Addresses.
  • 2) Wanted to leave just after shutting down the government "just for old time's sake."
  • 1) Just before joint address to Congress, Pope Francis told him unless he resigned immediately, he'd spend all of eternity giving head to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
  • Thursday, September 24, 2015

    EVP Stands for End Violence Permanently

          I was going to write a snarky, light-hearted post today about the Pope's address to Congress and him blowing off Congressional leaders to eat with the homeless, instead. But then I heard about what happened to Mark and Debby Constantino and decided this was more important.
         I never divulge what TV programs I watch because, why should I? But one of my favorite shows ever is Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel. Roughly once or twice a year, host Zak Bagans would invite them on the show as guest investigators because the Constantinos were excellent EVP specialists. (For those of you who don't know what an EVP is, it stands for Electronic Voice Phenomena, or voices captured on digital audio that cannot be heard by the naked ear).
         I watch such shows because as keen an interest as I have in politics and baseball, lately that's been paling in comparison to my fascination with the paranormal. Not only have I had a couple of possible paranormal experiences myself, but I believe I'd picked up several EVPs of my own in our apartment over the years. And since I have a special interest in EVPs, I would enjoy the episodes that featured the Constantinos.
         Two days ago in Reno, NV, Mark took his estranged wife Debby hostage and eventually shot her dead before turning the gun on himself. It was eerily reminiscent of those two cosplayers who'd shot two cops and a civilian dead in Vegas June of last year. You may remember them. They were so super, radically, ultra right wing, they were actually kicked off the Bundy ranch.

         Mark and Debby Constantino with former Ghost Adventures crewmember Nick Grof.
         According to one source I'd read, just six weeks before the murder/suicide, Constantino and his daughter Raquel (from a previous marriage), ganged up on Debby and Mark nearly choked her to death. She'd gotten a protective order against Mark but obviously he did not honor it. On Debby's Twitter account just weeks before her death, she was looking forward to "flying solo".
         If you've ever seen Ghost Adventures, especially the episodes featuring the Constantinos, one would never think anything was amiss. Debby would be almost constantly hanging off her husband and he seemed to love her just as much. This is why the apparent murder/suicide was so shocking because, to those of us not in the loop, it came completely out of the blue. It was a carefully constructed public persona with ratings and career opportunities in mind. And far from this incident being preceded by anything so salacious as a demonic possession that suddenly turned Mark into a bad guy, this pattern of spousal abuse was longstanding. There is no supernatural causation here.
         As with the Las Vegas police massacre over a year ago, this touches on a whole raft of issues that we ought to be more substantially addressing. We ought to be addressing the epidemic of gun violence in this country and the stricter gun control laws that have been proven time and again to mitigate gun-related homicides. We ought to also be more substantially addressing domestic violence against women and how shelters, funding allocations and counseling should be made more readily available.
         HMOs should also better subsidize mental health care instead of offering a pitiful 25% coverage rate. And, however redundant this may prove to be, it never hurts to spread the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

    Tuesday, September 22, 2015

    The Man Who Poisoned America

         The man who supposedly apologized to the relatives of some of the nine victims of his tainted peanuts seemed at stark odds with the executive who'd fired off an email to a manager alerting him to salmonella contamination, "Just ship it."
         Unmoved, Federal Judge W. Louis Sands, a Clinton appointee, sentenced Stewart Parnell to 28 years in prison for knowingly sending out tainted food products, obstructing the investigation and falsifying evidence (conspiracy). In other words, this sentencing, which was 775 fewer years than the judge who'd found him guilty wanted, was nonetheless the toughest one ever handed down to a major executive in a food borne illness and death case.
         Stewart's poison would kill at least nine people, sicken 714 others (half of them children), which doesn't include how many pets were killed or sickened, across 46 states. His peanut butter paste was sold by his brother to Kellogg's, which used it in snack crackers and his product even found its way on airplanes, meaning his salmonella could've been exported to countless other countries, which could've theoretically produced a pandemic. Indeed, when the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has to calculate the human carnage of your greed, you know you've taken a wrong turn around the bend.
         What's getting less press is his former QA manager, Mary Wilkerson, who got a surprisingly light sentence of just five years for obstruction.
         Let's focus on that for a minute, shall we?
         As some of you may recall from my prior comments and posts from time to time, just prior to and after 9/11 I used to be a QC inspector for an automotive/aerospace/aeronautics firm. We made silicon rubber gaskets, seals, hoses and all kinds of applications for silicon rubber. My job as the only non-dedicated QC inspector in the lab was to do all the day-to-day inspections that didn't require specialized and certified expertise (such as GE's aircraft engine parts, which required DSQR certification and a week's worth of classes).
         This required I know the rudiments of good quality control, which is a whole 'nuther animal from Quality Assurance (but more on that later). Part of a good skill set from a QC inspector is knowing when to ignore executive management when they pressure you to rubber stamp CoCs (Certificates of Compliance). This usually comes toward the end of the month (the last Friday). The sooner we ship something out, the sooner they can invoice it. The sooner they invoice it, the sooner they can grab their commissions and bonuses.
         Each CoC is supposed to be validated by the inspector's name or initials as well as their inspector number. Assuming the Peanut Corporation of America was ISO-certified, this would've been mandated. No one likes to fall on their own sword but this is nonetheless an unspoken rule in quality control/assurance. Sometimes, when you're given an order by a President and CEO of a corporation that's a leader in the field, you have to defy orders when human lives are at stake.
         Now, I'm going to get a bit into the difference between QA and QC. QC is the art of saying, "You didn't do this right." QA is the art of saying, "You're not doing this right." The difference is something called SPC, or Statistical Process Control. I'm not going to bore you with the science and mathematics involved in SPC but let's just say QA is a much safer and cost-effective way to inspect your product because it requires you remove at least one person in your lab and put them on the production line.
         From a purely cost-effective standpoint, QA makes sense because if the inspector, during a spot inspection, finds a grievous flaw in the process, s/he has the power to stop the presses. Manpower hours and the cost of raw materials is saved and the inspector doesn't sit on their ass in the lab waiting for the entire order to be filled.
         And with both QA and QC, at times scientific tests and lab results are crucial to making a determination if a product is fit to be shipped. What Mary Wilkerson did probably was either fudge, falsify, switch out or outright bury a lab result that one of her subordinates would've needed to make a wise and informed decision.
         There are several possible reasons why she would've done this. She could've acted to protect her boss or herself or both. Either way the last thing either she or Parnell wanted was for the material to get RMA'd back then have to explain at an executive MRB (Material Review Board) why the initials and inspector number of one of her subordinates got sent out with her blessings along with a ton of tainted food. The MRB is often months after the fact and the fastest way to lose one's job when asked how this could've happened is to point to the CEO and say, "Ask that asshole."
         See how long that CEO and the shareholders will let you stick around after that.
         Now, I could make a case as to how this got by Kellogg's and the other food companies that had bought Parnell's poisoned product but that'll be a post for another day. (I will say, however, that every ISO-certified company is mandated to have incoming QC inspectors whose job it is to test the standards and viability of any product that comes through their shipping bay. Why this was never questioned is a mystery).
         Parnell made his standpoint clear when he sent that terse email to his manager who'd voiced concerns about potential salmonella contamination. When he said, "Just ship it," he'd encapsulated a universe of meaning within those three little words and ten letters. "...or you're fired." It's the kind of unambiguous directive from on high that every QC person understands and dreads, especially when their name and number goes on the bottom of that cert.
         And the fact that PCA had a QA setup makes the sanitary conditions of the plants especially unforgivable. A good QA manager or inspector should be almost preternaturally aware of their work environment, especially in plants where food is produced and/or processed and cleanliness is paramount. Inspectors found evidence of vermin, roaches, bird droppings, mold and a leaky ceiling. In other words, Parnell's plants were the perfect breeding ground for the vigorous cultivation of salmonella.
         That's another fact I'd like to address: From having worked in manufacturing plants much of my life, those of you who also have know that regulatory agencies such as OSHA, FDA, Board of Health etc always, for some perverse reason, announce their inspections ahead of time. It always struck me like telling a batter what pitch you're about to throw him and how fast it'll be. But in advance of such visits, nervous managers always hand out the goggles and any other form of PPE, appropriate and mandatory signage and anything else that'll make the inspector happy.
         We're getting no indication of that. Even if only to pass a health inspection, you'd think PCA would've cleaned the place but they didn't think that was important. Maybe Parnell had thought hiring a roofer for a day or two to fix a leaky roof or devoting a person to do janitor duty (I get the impression they didn't have a janitor, since they were a company employing just 90 people) was a drain on the bottom line.
         In the end, Mary Wilkerson set herself the impossible task of trying to shield herself and/or her boss from scrutiny and prosecution. The product was tainted with salmonella. At that point, when your lab results confirm that, the QA game gets real simple, much simpler than mine ever was. Whereas we had the option of scrapping or reworking a certain defective product or arriving at some sort of other corrective action, their choices were simpler: Throw out the batch and clean the shit up off the floor that had caused it. But she did not think to do this. If she had fallen on her sword or at least made some attempt to report Parnell to the proper agencies, nine people wouldn't be rotting in their coffins right now.
         But corporate profits will always win out over human lives.
         We need to fund the programs that are geared toward strengthening food regulatory agencies. We need to invest the FDA and the USDA with recall powers instead of making recalls a purely voluntary function.

    Monday, September 21, 2015

    Passing Papers

         They say when celebrity deaths come, they come in bunches, typically threes. The same could come with life-altering changes.
         Those few who have stuck with my and Mrs. JP's travails since the spring of 2009 have known that we've been living in the same apartment for six and a half years. While our current landlord leaves much to be desired, one of the good things about him was he'd kept our rent the same since August of '09. Even so, being out of a job all these years while still trying to make our bills always means living in a state of excitement the Chinese call in their infamous imprecation, "interesting times."
         An hour ago, we just got a text from said landlord that he's about to pass papers with a highly motivated buyer. It's a crappy way to find out since as of the first of October we'll have by far more seniority than any of his tenants. But that aside, even to old liberals such as Mrs. JP and me, change isn't always welcome, even though last April we'd briefly flirted with the idea of actually moving out.
         But we're not nearly as flush now as we were last April. That was when I had my last fundraising drive (you may recall that was during the same time Mrs. JP was in Florida during her mother's final decline and I had to make a significant outlay of cash in a very short amount of time.). No one is more sick and tired of these constant fundraisers than yours truly, which is why, even though we by necessity have to spend more money on bills than we have coming in, I'd decided to give you guys a break from my passing my constant, neverending problems onto you.
         And one of the reasons for our white-faced trepidation is our being unsure what the new presumptive owner's plans are regarding this property. It could very well be, pending approval by the bank appraiser's inspection this coming Wednesday, when he takes over he could invalidate all the existing leases and jack up our rent. If it comes down to us being made tenants at will, we'd be forced to either cough up the extra money or get out in 30 days as per the commonwealth's tenant at will laws.
         Remember, we've been paying the same $650 a month for rent since Mrs. JP moved in with Popeye and me in late July of 2009 and it could very well be that the new owner will decide he can get a hell of a lot more for our four bedroom apartment than that (and, with some modest modifications, he could with the Massachusetts housing market. I got a firsthand look at that while pricing apartments here last April.).
         Since our cash outlay is already several hundreds of dollars a month more than we're currently taking in (and, don't forget, as well as not having a sofa, we don't have a TV or cable so it's not as if we're living the life of Riley), and with our annual food stamp certification still up in the air, our already precarious finances could take a nosedive in no time flat.
         And, to add drama to our lives, even if the new owner doesn't go all gentrification and jack up the rent to get in a higher class of tenants (what will I tell him when he meets us on Wednesday and asks, "So, Robert, what do you two do for a living?") our finances, already shaky, will be nonexistent when our sole benefactor has to cut us off at the end of April when he retires. So I'll have to ask you all for help again.
         For my part, I'm busting a nut trying to get someone in the film or book business interested in buying the film or First North American rights for Tatterdemalion. I've got a major editor of a major publishing house looking at it now and I've sent out my latest novel to a dozen film production companies in a desperate, last-ditch effort to get something going and some actual earned money into our humble household.
         I'm also literally in the middle of a new novel entitled Gods of Our Fathers, which is about the earliest hours in the history of the Boston City Police Department in 1854 and how it was all hands on deck for them during the riots after the capture and trial of escaped slave Anthony Burns. No one's ever written about this incredible story in a novel before and I know I'm onto something. And, even in first draft, it's turning out wonderfully.
         So anything you guys could do to help would be enormously appreciated, moreso than even my literary abilities could ever articulate.

    Sunday, September 20, 2015

    When In a Hole, Stop Digging

         Or, when you help run your party's clown car into a ditch, stop gunning the engine and spinning your wheels.
         Scott Walker is now polling at literally 0%, according to one poll ironically named the CNN/ORC poll.
         Jeb Bush is polling at 6% nationwide, including California. Despite a trickle of support weaker than Dick Cheney's urine stream from Governors, mayors, members of Congress and an inexplicably sought-after endorsement from Eric Cantor, the first and only minority leader since 1899 to lose a primary, Bush just can't ignite the wet log of his campaign.
         Mike Huckabee can't even get in the news anymore without latching onto a couple of homophobic hillbillies in Rowan County well outside his native Arkansas.
         Marco Rubio is a mere sparring partner in a field of political bantamweights. Ted Cruz is finally getting the national exposure he needs and he's not faring well in it. One doesn't need Barbara Boxer to remind us Carly Fiorina will always be the face of corporate greed. And the rest of the field is too risible to even mention aloud.
         Yes, political wisdom tells us to stop digging when one finds oneself in a hole. But sociopaths like Donald Trump and Ben Carson, the two GOP front-runners, are doing the opposite. And it's working. And it seems the deeper they dig that hole, the closer they get to some political bizarro world that's looking more and more like a throwback to the early 60's.
         The log-jammed Republican field that's resulted in just one dropout (Rick Perry, who had three reasons for pulling out but can't remember the third one) is naturally going to result in low poll numbers for almost everyone and with so many noxious right wing confections to choose from, much support will be withheld until the Republican field is finally culled and mitigated.
         What's notable, however, is that the two Republican front-runners are Donald Trump and Ben Carson, two men with a complete lack of political experience. If this isn't symptomatic of the Teabaggers' dissatisfaction with the Republican establishment, then nothing is.
         Of course, we all know what's saving the day for these two stupendously unqualified men and their only issue that's likeliest to energize the largely white Republican base: Racism and Islamophobia.
         Whether it be Trump calling Mexicans rapists, banning a respected Mexican journalist from a press conference, promising to build a wall around the southern border or failing to object when a fellow Republican makes an Islamophobic remark during the last debate, we all know what Trump stands for and we recognize that he knows his racist platform is working.
         Donald Trump actually thinks he can sneer, bluster, lie and insult his way to the White House, even though his best poll numbers put him nearly in double digits behind Hillary Clinton.
         Unlike his last campaign, which was revealed early on to be pure political theater designed to get him publicity for his NBC show, Trump was shrewd enough to recognize that pandering to the low-information, mouth-breather base that's sick and tired of 6 1/2 years of a Muslim, Kenyan, Commie, Socialist, Fascist, gay, gun-grabbing president is the way to go.

         The fact that so many people, often one percenters like Tom Brady and racists, are rabidly latching onto Trump like shipwrecked sailors on a dead man's chest is disturbing enough. Donald Trump is about as far from qualified for the presidency as one could possibly get. The very fact that the racist, disgraced Hulk Hogan publicly wants to be Trump's running mate alone speaks volumes and, should that come true, we'd literally be living the movie Idiocracy.
         And we can laugh at Trump and the other 15 psychopaths in the GOP field (and we have and will, often) but one fact remains disturbingly clear: One of them has to get the nomination. And the top psycho leading the pack is a spoiled, tax-dodging multi-billionaire who's seemingly based his entire campaign on racist, misogynistic tweets and making an endless series of childish emoji faces during the debates. And the nominee may be him. Since he threw his double weave in the ring back in June, Trump's always been either #1 or a close second.
         What Carson is having right now is a political Indian summer, a brief bump in the polls after his debate performance and saying on one of those talking head shows that he wouldn't want a Muslim as President. It was an astoundingly stupid and pointless thing to say because there's no chance anyone from Islam next year will get elected president. Or it's stupid by implying President Obama is Muslim.
         It's also arrogant and bigoted in its assumption that a Muslim cannot safeguard our nation's best interests.
         Ben Carson will never get elected President because there simply aren't enough mouth-breathers on the seedy side of the tracks to be much impressed with his token status that would convince themselves they're not racist. And one can get anti-welfare/anti-Muslim rhetoric from anyone else on the GOP side. In the end, Carson will be remembered in political circles as the black Republican who tried to pull up the ladder after he'd made it on a steady stream of progressive/liberal programs that made him a neurosurgeon.
         So, since the Trump Bump has turned into a flat, unobstructed highway leading straight to Cleveland, we have to conclude this orange-faced, bellowing baboon will be the nominee. That may prove to be good news for the Democratic nominee, whether it be Hillary or Bernie Sanders. It may also prove to be a nightmare. If anything, we've seen a shocking resurgence in the racism many of us in their 50's had seen back in the 60's.
         We've seen a spate of police shootings and murders of unarmed African Americans, the steady stream of invariably white police apologists who contort their thinking to justify such crimes even to the point of smearing dead children and manufacturing evidence, and, lastly, we've been easily able to draw an unbroken line between the KKK and police on a national scale (a cozy, never-severed relationship going all the way back to early 18th century South Carolina).
         We need to stop feigning shock when a white racist is turned up. They're like vermin: For every John Rocker, Michael Richards or Paula Deen that's turned up, 10,000 more have yet to be. If Trump gets the nomination, it's already abundantly obvious every racist in the nation will flock to him either by default or because they actually love him for mirroring their own virulent racism.
         Imagine a Donald Trump backed by virtually the entire South, the newly-unmasked racist law enforcement apparatus, every Teabagger fancying themself a patriot, the NRA and every sundry and assorted racist asshole who persists on flying a confederate flag or believing Obama is a Muslim Jew hater from Kenya.
         That's a lot more support than we seem to be currently willing to believe Trump would get if he becomes the nominee.
         Because one doesn't have to dig too deeply before finding the worms.

    Monday, September 14, 2015

    Good Times at Pottersville, 9/14/15

    Good Moooooornin', Rowan County

    Dateline: Rowan County, KY Welfare queen shows up at Rowan County Courthouse to collect $80,000 welfare check.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015

    Good Times at Pottersville, 9/10/15

    All Time Classics

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