Now I know why I opposed the invasion of Iraq. Somehow, I knew we would pay for it. Too many enjoyed our kicking the bejabbers out of some fourth-rate military. One of the ways a nation gets punished is by getting some real crappy leadership that just drives the country into the tank. Well, we 've really messed up this time. There is just no one out there running for President , from either party, who can get us out of the fix we are in now. Rick Santorum sure won't. Once everyone running to vote for him sobers up, they will know it, too. In the meantime, the pain of watching this debacle over the past 12-to-24 years makes me want to chug down some of what the Santorum voters are drinking. Now, what will happen if the GOP convention is deadlocked after this is all over? The media are already sending up a trial balloon to test how we would all react if JEB BUSH became--somehow--the "compromise" candidate. Of course "somehow" means bribery, blackmail, and enough GOP delegates waking up to a thoroughbred's head in their beds to vote for Jeb. Hey, that might just be what we have coming--another Bush. Can you imagine just how bad that could get? Everytime one of those cats gets in the White House, there's some kind of terrorist attack, a war, and an economic debacle caused by brazen rip-offs in the financial institutions. There were times during the previous two Bush Presidencies when nature itself went into seeming revolt. Horrendous region-destroying hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, you name it. It was a wonder we didn't get plagues of frogs, clouds of grasshoppers, and dead people walking around. Well, get ready. There might be another Bush in our future.
After a period of quiet in which nothing much happened to further line the pockets of Wall Street's bubble-making mega banks, a ballyhooed legal settlement was reached Thursday between the federal government, state governments, and the mega banks. After shaking down the entire planet with their mortgage scams, including packaging and selling the worthless mortgages as securities and siphoning yet more money from the entire world, the "Bubble Boys" got off light, as usual.
The settlement calls for the mega-banks, recipients of trillions of dollars of direct and indirect bail-outs, sweetheart loans from their robo-bank, the Federal Reserve, and complete freedom from prosecution, the settlement amounted to a total of $26 Billion, of which $1 billion is earmarked for a purpose not yet revealed to the banker hookers in the "mainstream" (What a conceit!) media.
Now, don't get the idea that the mega banks themselves, like JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Citi Group are going to be on the hook for the $26 billion. Oh, no. It's just another bailout as the money is coming from investors and taxpayers, not from the financial pirates who caused the whole mess, and don't think they didn't have help ripping everyone off and getting away with it. When Bernie Madoff declared that he wasn't the only one, he wasn't kidding, but at least Madoff is in jail. Bernie should have a whole lot of company in the jug with him.
Now, what do the homeowners victimized by these clowns get when this settlement is done? $5 billion in cash payments, including $1.5 billion to borrowers who were wrongly or illegally foreclosed on between September 2008 and December 2011. Borrowers could receive up to $2,000, depending on the number filing claims. $20 billion in "credits" the banks will receive for principal write-downs and other aid to homeowners at risk of default, up to $20,000 per. This tally includes $3 billion for refinancing of mortgages currently under water.
Wow! I get ripped off and kicked out of a $500,000 McMansion and get a whopping $2,000 for being victimized. Who says the bail-outs are unfair? As far as the $20,000 in mortgage principal write downs for those homeowners underwater on their mortgages and still hanging on, the average loss to homeowners in the prices of their real estate is actually $50,000 per homeowner. So, this settlement rips them off by an average of $30,000 per homeowner. This sweetheart deal, most of the money coming from the taxpayers, and no bigshots going to jail means one thing: the scam lives on.
Out here in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, I can enjoy and occassional corn muffin from Dunkin' Donuts. Corn muffin consumption in Pennsylvania is limited to the area around Philadelphia. I can never find any back home in the western part of the state, so when I am out here, I like to pick one up every now and then. Corn muffins are good with hot chili, too. As I approached the door to the Dunkin' Donuts near Glenolden, Pennsylvania, a young woman of slightly above average height and with very long, dark brown hair was approaching from behind me. I opened the door for her. "Why, thank you, sir," she chimed with a big smile. As I stepped inside behind her I minimized opening the door for her by asking, "How many brownie points did I score?" She laughed, so I added, "I sometimes think there is some supernatural woman 'Up There' who keeps the books on these things. I have to keep her happy." The young woman laughed again and said, "Oh, she's keeping score, all right." After she got her coffee-to-go, she gave me another big smile and wished me a good day. It's strange, but giving someone else a lighthearted moment can give you one, too.
I was surfing the cable channels last night when I saw a familiar and very young face answering questions into a hand-held microphone. The man asking the questions was the late Howard Cosell. The very young woman answering was a teenaged Kristy McNichol. ESPN Classic was running an old (1979, I think) Battle of the Network Stars. In 9 years after this event, Kristy McNichol would be co-starring in the NBC comedy Empty Nest with Richard Mulligan and Dinah Manoff, but before that would star in Little Darlings with Tatum O'Neal (1980) and Only When I Laugh, which I think was in 1979. Another contestant was the equally young Valerie Bertinelli, who was then starring in One Day at a Time, which ran well into the 1980s. Watching Kristy McNichol and Valerie Bertinelli run a race through an obstacle course made me wonder where the last 33 years went. Ms. McNichol and Ms. Bertinelli are probably wondering the same thing.
Walking into the Stargate Diner on Chester Pike this morning, there it was on the big flat screen TV all of these diners have now: Newt Gingrich, with that goblin-like grin on his face, alongside politics' answer to Barbie's own Ken, Mitt Romney. "Aw, jeez, not another one of those things!" I groaned out loud. The waitress laughed. Somehow I don't think this bunch of politicians are debating in the style of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. I don't know why they can't debate once and let people download it if they're interested. Oh, wait, no one would. Most people feel about the way I do about seeing any more media "analysis" of these worthless things. We can't take it anymore. Dick Cheney should have used these debates at Guantanmo Bay instead of waterboarding. This is the way I feel whenever these guys are back on TV again:
I ran into my friend of 31 years, Deb, her husband, and daughter Sophie just after Christmas as they were waiting in line at the pharmacy. I asked Sophie if she "cleaned up" at Christmas, and found out that Sophie was now the owner of "Barbie's Townhouse." Deb told me that the townhouse had its own elevator for Barbie's convenience. After congratulating Sophie for becoming a homeowner, I offered some advice, "The elevator is nice to have, but be sure to let Barbie use the stairs once in awhile so Mom and Dad won't have to buy Barbie a personal trainer."
Oh, jeez, I don't know what this Gingrich cat is thinking. When I first heard he tossed his beanie into the ring along with Mitt "Cayman Islands" Romney and Rick "Archie and Jughead" Santorum, I thought it was some kind of Internet hoax. Why would anyone who inspires such negative reaction try to run for President? I mean, what slogan could the guy run on? "I Was There When Things Got Screwed Up, So I'm Best Qualified to Fix It!" Somehow, I don't think that one will work.
The pundits keep saying the GOP needs a more "attractive candidate" to run against Obama. I can think of quite a few who would be more attractive than Newt Gingrich. Since politicians are a lot like cannibals, Hannibal Lechter comes to mind. Jeffrey Dahmer, if he was alive, could give new meaning to the old slogan, "A Chicken in Every Pot." D.C. politicians take office poor and leave multi-millionaires, so guys like Al Capone, Carlos Gambino, and John Gotti would attract more voters than Gingrich. Bob Dole doesn't support Gingrich, but who is Dole to talk about who is electable? That sounds like Arnold Schwartzenegger going on the lecture circuit to defend the sanctity of marriage. Moe Howard stood a better chance against Clinton than Dole did.
Another election that won't change anything, but we can laugh our way to the next disaster.
I accidentally watched part of this strange bit of film from the Master of the Strange, David Lynch, the filmmaker who brought us Blue Velvet and the 1990 television series Twin Peaks. I gave up on it when these miniature old people slipped underneath the door of Namoi Watts' apartment, grew to full size, and started to menace her. The rest is just a blur. Oh, there was a cowboy. What he was all about, I have no clue. He showed up in Naomi's apartment, too, acting like a human alarm clock telling her it was time to get out of bed. The cowboy was sort of a cross between Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers in that ten-gallon hat., but whenever he did utter a line he sort of reminded me of what Boston Postman Cliff Clavin, a denizen of the bar Cheers, might sound like if he was born in West Texas. I caught another glimpse of him at some weird Hollywood party Naomi attended. This movie was a masterpiece of weirdness, and I found out that someone with time on their hands set up a Web site dedicated to trying to figure it out. An African-American acquaintance of mine once warned me of the dangers of "rich white people with too much time on their hands." That probably sums the movie up nicely, along with all the people interested in developing theories about what it all meant.
I found a critic's observations by Googling the movie. There was a lesbian love scene between Namoi Watts, as Betty, and Laura Elena Harring, and this, of course, garnered a lot of attention from the critics. One made the sweeping statement that the lesbian scene was, "so potent it blankets the whole movie, coloring every scene that came before and every one that follows." There's a translation for this, and I think it goes something like this:
"The only scene in this movie in which I understood what was going on was the lesbian scene. I didn't get any of the rest of the thing. I only kept watching because I hoped Lynch had another lesbian scene in it and I didn't want to miss it. (Bleep!) I had to wait years for Black Swan to come out!"
Hey, I think I figured out the whole movie. And I didn't have to dig up any funny mushrooms, either.
On the way to the job site this morning, I stopped into a big Wegman's market complex on Pennsylvania Route 29 just above the intersection with US 30. I was after some Folger's coffee bags for the hotel room. While looking for the coffee section, a song came over the sound system. It was from the early 2000s when the nature of Top 100 FM radio changed. Songs don't always get the playing time in the same way they did on FM radio ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. I had heard this song before and liked its mellow sound a lot. There were a lot of songs like this one, but I didn't know who sang it, or what the title was. On the way to the check out line, I saw a young guy there who was ;probably in his late teens. Thinking he would know recent songs and artists a lot better than me, I walked up to him. "I think you are younger than I am, right?" He had to agree, of course. "Do you know who is singing that song?" I asked.
"I think that's The Fray," he replied. "I'm not sure about the title of the song."
I Googled the group's name and found the song on You Tube. It was How to Save A Life. There were a lot of songs during the first decade of the century that shared that basic sound. In the 1980s they called it "Soft Rock," but these are a lot different than those old 1980s songs. They are laid back songs. They take their time. Since I have to trip over these songs now, as I rarely hear the popular ones on commercial radio. I heard Howie Day's Collide (2004) by watching an episode of Bones. Chasing Cars (2006) by Snow Patrol came over a hotel lobby's sound system on a Sunday evening. I had to look that one up on the Internet, too. Bleeding Love (2007) by Leona Davis was played in a movieplex before the the preview trailers. While looking up How to Save Your Life, I found Michelle Branch's Breathe (2003) on You Tube, which was more like what they called soft rock in the 1980s, but sounded a lot better than most of those songs did. Some of the tiniest girls have the biggest voices, and Michelle Branch is on the petite side. Who knows how that happens?
For some reason something from 'way back in 1986 came back to me. It was summer and I had just decided to go to downtown Phoenixville after getting cleaned up after an entire morning flycasting French Creek. Saturdays back then were pretty slow and quiet in Phoenixville and, for some reason, I wrapped up the afternoon going for coffee at the old Coffee Cup lunch counter. I rarely stopped into the place on Saturday. Nick, the Greek owner of the place, usually closed up on Saturdays at about 3:00 PM and this was about 2:30. I told him all I needed was a cup of coffee, but Nick announced that he had made a deal on some pork chops and still had a couple left. He slid the oven drawer open, and there were still two chops left. Nick told me it would be okay if he ran a bit over closing time if I wanted to have the chops. He served them up, but on a paper plate along with a side of french fries. I got the two chops and the fries for the price of one chop. Why this came to my mind, I don't know as the Coffee Cup is out of business and I have no idea where Nick or any of his crew ended up after he sold the place. There's an accounting firm in there now, but one Saturday afternoon I fell into a nice sit-down meal in there. It was unexpected. Maybe that's why it came back to me.
I was safely on my way to West Chester, Pennsylvania when the Broncos surprised the hometown Steelers in overtime. I got to miss the mourning and wailing back home. In 11 seconds a very trying season of injuries to the Steelers was over. It wasn't just the injuries, but the neglect of making some changes to the offensive line didn't help. They had to call Max Starks back from semi-retirement to anchor the left side at tackle before Rothlisberger got killed standing in the pocket. A lot of the fans were apprehensive about Denver, but "Tebow Time" hadn't been as successful the past few games, so there was some hope. Frankly, I thought Tebow's slide in the last few games would help him. It was like I warned one fan, "Tebow's luck has been short. He's overdue to pull a rabbit out of his ***." Tebow did exactly that and now the "Stiller Nation" has to wait for next season.
John Elway, now the Supreme Leader of his old team, the Broncos, was never sold on Tebow. Elway is too young to remember Joe Kapp of the Minnesota Vikings, who played a similar game. Kapp was more a leader than a classic quarterback. He would run a lot--but not as good as Tebow runs-- turn busted plays into gains, and get lucky on a lot of his passes. But Minnesota was a winner with Joe Kapp. Now, there's Tebow who plays a similar game. Nothing much has changed.
The Closer will be leaving the air soon, as far as the tenure of Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, head of the LAPD's Major Crimes Division is concerned. Kyra Sedgwick's character will depart the TNT series in 2012, which will then be retooled into a different series called Major Crimes, which will involve "Brenda's boys," Provenza, Flynn, Gabriel, Tao, Sanchez, and "Buzz," the media man, after she leaves the LAPD. Kyra Sedgwick brought to life one of the more interesting protagonists in a police procedural series. Brenda Leigh's trademark sweet tooth, the honeysuckle Georgia accent, her oversized purse, which she sometimes loses ("Would someone please help me find my purse? Thank you, thank you s-o-o-o much!"), and her ability to maneuver, manipulate, and trick suspects into confessions will long be remembered by fans of the series. My favorite episodes involve Lieutenants Flynn and Provenza getting involved in after hours capers that result in a case having to be opened by Major Crimes, such as the body that crashed onto Buzz's car when he, Flynn, and Provenza were moonlighting by serving legal papers in civil cases. Buzz loves his Prius. When Brenda borrowed it for a fake "meet" with a suspect, Buzz had to watch her on the small surveillance camera in the car. Brenda was snacking on a pastry. "Oh no, she's getting crumbs all over," Buzz groaned. The best episode of all involved the two women running the halfway house for parolees who were running the parolees over with their car to collect the life insurance they took out on the ex-cons. Brenda tricked them into "confessing" when she exposed that one of the women went into business for herself, naming only herself as beneficiary on one of the policies. The two suspects were soon in a hair pulling match in the interview room.
Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, thank you, thank you s-o-o-o-o-o much!
It looks as if the hackers out in cyberspace are more active and trickier than ever. I had to buy a new laptop in early August 2011 because on July 31st, I got an alert from a keylogger sniffer I installed that told me there was a keylogger on by Toshiba Satellite running Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 3. Keyloggers are notoriously hard to find an clean from a system, so I took that 2007 Toshiba off-line and purchased a new Toshiba Satellite running Windows 7. Unfortunately, that Toshiba was running Windows 7 in 64-bits. The homepage program that updates this site is 32-bits, and there is no 64-bit version of Claris Homepage Generator. They don't make Claris anymore, either, so it is now a legacy system. So, I update the site on the old Toshiba and use a flashdrive to move the new version of the site to the 64-bit machine, and then upload the updates to the site. The good news is that system might be able to be terminated, at least until 2014 when Gates stops supporting Windows XP. I found the source of the keylogging by accident. It was put in a folder inside another folder for a Yahoo media player. It was a false version of a piece of Yontoo software. If the Yontoo software had been legitimate, the file I found, YontooIEClient.dll would have been in the Windows System 32 folder, not in a Yahoo folder. I was able to get rid of the dll file, clean the Registery of more "Yontoo" crap, and then found an entire piece of software, "Yontoo Layers Runtime," sitting in the Programs folder when I brought up the ADD/REMOVE Programs in Conrol Panel. Somehow, the hacker loaded this fake version of Yontoo software sort of like the way Adobe Acrobat automatically updates, but programmed the installation for when I rebooted, which kept it all invisible. Next week, I will load a temporary virus scanner to go along with Malwarebytes, update Windows, and try to get the old machine reinstated on Norton Internet Security. We will be back in business updating the site with one computer, but now will have to keep all the programs and operating systems patched for two computers.
Every year, I try to take advantage of TBS running A Christmas Story for 24 hours starting the evening of Christmas Eve. Once again, nine-year-old Ralphie Parker is in pursuit of a Red Ryder B-B gun to get around his mother's admonition: "You'll shoot your eye out!" This year, I watched early in the morning over breakfast. After all the viewings, you know what's coming, but you still have to laugh. My favorite parts are when the movie simulates the father ("the Old Man"), played perfectly by Darren McGavin,.. letting loose with profanities. It sounds like gibberish, but you can pick up some actual words, or something that sounds familiar. The Old Man's favorite target for swearing is the family's coal furnace. After a long trail of simulated profanities, Darren McGavin ends with "You Mundane Noodle!" At a loss for the right swear word over his smashed "major award," a plastic leg lamp equipped with fishnet stocking and stilletto pump, he shouted, "Nuddah-Fingah!"
Every once in a while, I stop the remote at Spike TV's 1,000 Ways to Die, which depicts true stories about how some individuals have suffered death in some bizarre ways. One thing I discovered in the few times I tuned in is that beer plays a major role in many of the fatalities. Some of the more interesting "death by brew" incidents include:
1. There was a heavy equipment contractor who tried to operate a steam roller over a vacant lot and consume several six packs of beer at the same time. Inevitably, the inebriated roller driver had to stop and use the port-a-potty. He was too drunk to remember to set the brake, so, after he entered the port-a-potty, the steam roller took off on its own, flattening both the port-a-potty and the drunken operator.
2. Two yo-yos were consuming cans of beer torn from one of those carriers made of those plastic rings the environmentalists hate. The two finished off the last can when they stumbled onto a small business that rented out time inside one of those huge hollow balls of plastic that people move around from inside. Their last brewski gone, and the six connected plastic rings tossed so that some innocent duck could get tangled in it, the two decided to hijack one of the plastic balls and take a ride for free, since the owner had gone inside his little shop building. Everything went pretty well for the drunken pair until they steered their plastic ball over a cliff, bouncing over rocks, stumps, and logs all the way to the bottom of a ravine. The bouncing ride caused the two to keep banging into one another. That, along with the trauma inflicted by all the rocks and other obstructions the ball hit, killed them.
3. One loser polished off a beer breakfast and decided to take care of lunch by ripping off a convenience store. The owner of the convenience store caught the staggering drunk trying to steal snacks, but the thief defiantly grabbed a jumbo dog from the rotating cooker on the way out. He made the mistake of sticking the jumbo dog in his mouth as he dashed out of the store, accidently jamming one end of the hot dog into his wind pipe. The hot dog suffocated him.
The lesson is, if you want to stay alive, be careful where you are, and what you are doing, after drinking a lot of beer.
On my latest trip across most of the length of Pennsylvania, from Oil City to the Delaware River near Lansdowne, my local rental car company provided me with a vehicle that has the most high-tech dashboard I've seen. Almost every appliance is controlled by push buttons that bring up a menu of choices on a small computer screen. To make the heater blow more warm air on the windshield, you keep pushing a button while the screen shows an animated fan that has its blades colored in with each press of the button. Radio stations are on drop down menus on the screen. When I first took delivery of the car, a young woman picked me up at home to take me to the rental office. When I went to get out, she couldn't find the door lock button, which was also on the dashboard. During the trip, I put the radio on an NFL station, to listen to reports about the football games. When I was out of range of the station, I turned it off rather than risk a crash working the on-screen menu. The heater control image was the last straw for me. I decided that the only way I would rent another one of these cars would be after I signed up with one of those Web sites offering mail order brides from Russia. I could bring one over here and have her sit in the passenger seat and work the controls on the dashboard while I concentrate on driving ("Olga! More hot air to the windshield and see if you can get an oldies station playing 70s and 80s music!").
In the olden days of low-tech cars, the only distracted drivers were guys like John Dillinger, roaring down the road firing a tommy gun with one hand while steering with the other. Now, we shave, brush our teeth, and flip pancakes while doing 75 on I-80.
Poor Jon Corzine, former Goldman Sachs CEO, Governor of New Jersey, Senator, and economic advisor to the President, a real Insider's Insider, can't seem to figure out what happened to the hundreds of billions of dollars his victimized customers at MF Global found out were lost when Corzine put MF Global into bankruptcy. Instead of investing the money, Corzine treated it like a line of credit at the Bellagio. Corzine had to testify before Congress just this week. Despite the media lionizing Corzine over the decades for being a "genius," which is how the media usually treat those close to big money and big power, the Goldman Sachs "financial genius" just had no recollection of what happened to hundreds of billions of dollars.
It is time for an intervention. Someone has to start a twelve step program for big shots who abuse other peoples' money. I have the first step figured out for Jon Corzine.
I was working for about two weeks in Levittown, Pennsylvania, near the train station. It just so happens that an immense flock of Starlings likes to roost in the trees over the parking lot near the "client's" office building. The result is a real profit boost for all the local car washes as this picture glaringly illustrates. The owner of the van didn't wash the vehicle the entire week as there was little use as long as he had to park in the train station's lot. There were other vehicles in even worse shape.
We were all taken by surprise when the news about the arrest of retired Defensive Coordinator for the Penn State Nittany Lions, Jerry Sandusky, hit the news. In reality, this investigation has been going on since at least 1994 and resulted in an indictment, but the District Attorney for the county, Ray Gricar, decided there was not enough evidence to proceed in 2002. It should be noted that an indictment constitutes probable cause as it reflects a Grand Jury's judgment that further action against an accused is warranted. This could have meant search and arrest warrants, subpoenas being issued for witnesses to produce themselves for interviews and for various banking and telephone records. In 2005, DA Gricar disappeared and hasn't been seen since then. Gricar was declared legally dead earlier this year. The DA's car was located, and his laptop computer was found in the Susquehana River with the hard drive missing. The hard drive was later recovered with all data unrecoverable. There will be some who consider this a "coincidence," but we've been through the use of that noun in the past. Yes, it is co-incidental that the DA that pursued this case has been declared dead and his laptop computer found in the river without its hard drive. The "coincidence argument" does not suffice to cut off all inquiry into whether or not Gricar's disappearance and declaration of death has anything to do with the child rape case. These facts are co-incidental, but that is why there should be an investigation to determine whether or not they are related. Was Gricar's disappearance related to the child rape case? That is up to a new investigation to determine, not the intellectual filing of these facts in a folder marked "Coincidence." The demands to "Move On" or "Find Closure" should not deter law enforcement, either.
One of the last things my mother said to me when she was still conscious was to say, "I know you. You are your brother's keeper. Don't change." In earlier days, when I would tell her about helping someone out when they were being beset by bullies, my mother would warn me that the person I helped would just respond favorably to phony overtures of friendship from the bullies and then the person I helped would turn on me. I always understood what she was saying, as most of the time that is what would happen, and has happened only very recently. The problem is, I have to help such people as it is a way to balance the scales.
The most recent example turned out exactly the way my mother always warned me that it would. The target of the bullies was having their reputation smeared from one end of the workplace to the other. I intervened, and even though the slanders still live on as the "toothpaste can't be put back into the tube," the target was gratified by the bullies' sudden overtures of (false and convenient) friendship and has basically cut off all contact with me, and has probably "thrown me under the bus" to them, to quote one of this person's frequent colloquialisms. I think this target has a basic sense of decency, which is why the person avoids me. There is an element of shame and embarrassment at work there. Not knowing how to approach me, the person just stays away instead.
This person is not helping themselves at all. In fact, with the slanders still out there as part of history, some of the target's present behaviors are inviting the same talk to start all over again, but the bullies are being so "nice." It is "nice" to have "friends," isn't it?
Would I help someone else against workplace bullies? Probably, despite the fact that this very phenomenon has happened almost every time, with the victim of some cowardly outrage turning on the one person who tried to stop it.
After all the news stories about victims of school and workplace bullying either turning to violence, suicide, or both, someone has to do something; to draw a line in the sand. Sometimes, it works with people. It did with me a long time ago.