The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being:  USA! USA! USA! Edition

I was really interested in the Canadian trucker protest, so when I read that there were American truckers who wanted to imitate it, I was initially worried because of how much Americans love their guns. There was talk of driving into Washington, DC on the day of the State of the Union speech and of driving by the White House to tell President Biden how they felt about mask and vaccine mandates. Washington, DC is shut down pretty securely for the SOTU speech, so the big rally on The Mall turned out about 2 dozen people, most of them there … Continue reading The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being:  USA! USA! USA! Edition

Vlad the Dissembler

  Well here we are, the place we never thought we’d be at but the place we always knew deep down we’d get to. Russia, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, has without reason, provocation, or seemingly sanity, has invaded the sovereign country of Ukraine because…well if I could figure out why I’d be on the Kremlin Desk at the Company and briefing the bigwigs in the White House. In other words, I can’t figure it out and anyone who says they KNOW why he did it is just blowing smoke up that proverbial backside. Some of the reasons expounded by the experts … Continue reading Vlad the Dissembler

Hire A Clown, Expect A Circus

Everything is pretty horrible right now. But there are some good things bubbling below the surface. Keep reading for a mid-week pick-me-up. There are little victories everywhere., Back in January I wrote about the issues the new governor of Virginia, Governor Fleece Vest, I mean Glenn Youngkin, was going to face and how they were rooted in his own deficiencies as a politician and as a human being. And, as I predicted, his executive order eliminating all mask mandates was overturned by the state supreme court because in Virginia governors do not have the power to undo legislation by fiat. … Continue reading Hire A Clown, Expect A Circus

Door Dash Dis

 

Door Dasher on Motor Bike

 

Last Friday the wife (Cruella) and I wanted to go out to dinner. We have a favorite Chinese restaurant we frequent and the desire for their Barbeque Pork Chow Fun combined with our desire to get out of the house neatly.

We have been to this restaurant numerous times, in point of fact we discovered it during the pandemic, both to dine in and to get take out (or take away if you are reading this in the UK). Never a hassle, good food, and most importantly a chance to get out of the house and eat at a different table and gaze at something other than, well, each other.

As has become custom during the pandemic I went to their website to make sure of their operating hours and if they were continuing to offer dine in service. Nothing had changed, so off we went.

Much to our surprise their doorway was blocked and a small sign taped to the glass window announced that since the previous Tuesday they had gone to “Take Out and Door Dash Only”.

While we probably should have gone in search of other eating arraignments, our appetites were craving that Chow Fun, so we scrapped our plans to dine in and ordered to go. While waiting for our order to be completed I counted four people coming to pick up orders they had placed online or via the phone and a stunning seven Door Dashers. That’s eleven total orders in the span of ten minutes.

The other thing I noticed is that the prices had gone up. The chow fun, an order of garlic shrimp, and an order of potstickers came to $36, about 30% higher than we would have been charged prior to the pandemic. Now there is inflation to factor in, plus trying to make back some of what was lost when the restaurant was closed early in the pandemic, but 30% higher? That’s when it hit me. Actually it was the woman from Door Dash who hit me because she was staring down at her phone and not looking where she was going.

I’m being asked to subsidize all of their Door Dash sales. And so are my fellow diners.

You can dash on to more by clicking the link

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Excess and Access

National Baseball Hall Of Fame, Cooperstown New York
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY

.A warning before we start. This is going to be a sports essay. If you are not into sports, hang on till the end, I promise I’ll bring this around to current affairs.

You may have heard the gnashing of teeth and grinding of axes over the non-induction of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to the baseball Hall of Fame. This was their tenth year of eligibility and I don’t have the time or desire to explain the ins and outs of HOF voting but suffice it to say the two most dominant players of their era were told by the voters “so sad, too bad, you juice you lose”.

The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) are the folks who vote for or against induction into the Hall. Enough of them have taken the stand that anyone who used performance enhancing drugs is a cheater and should thus be banned from induction. So far major names from the steroid era, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, A-Rod, et al have failed to win election and either have or will soon fall from the ballot without induction.

Except for the guys they really liked and who, in the voters minds, might have used PEDs, might not, we’re not sure so we’re gonna just take a pass and pass them into the Hall or in other words, give them a hall pass. Like the one player who did get elected this year, David Ortiz. He was only tangentially mentioned in the Mitchell Report, MLB’s investigation into PED use that was released in 2007.

There are two things I think that are important to remember about the Steroid Era ™. The first is that it indeed was an era. It lasted from the late 1980’s or thereabouts until 2003 or thereabouts. In 1991 Major League Baseball banned the use of any PEDs, but they had no testing for it until 2003. Think about that for a moment. For twelve years players could use PEDs pretty much without fear of retribution because without testing there was no way to prove players were using. It was during that period that the record for most home runs in a season was broken twice and the Mark McGwire vs. Sammy Sosa “Long Gone Summer” took place.

While I think it’s absurd to think every major leaguer was using, I don’t think it’s absurd to think most major leaguers were using. In fact I think there were so many who were using that the level playing field moralists are always arguing steroids upended was actually level. If enough players were using then they were all back on even ground. Should they have been using? It’s easy now to say they shouldn’t have, but back in an age when there was no mechanism to see who was and who wasn’t, the pressure to use must have been acute. I’m not talking about pressure from teammates alone. I think the pressure to use came in subtle forms from managers, coaches, and even owners.

“Gee, we’re really looking for a shortstop who can give us 25-30 dingers a year and you’re only popping 10-15. What do you think you can do to get those numbers up? If you can’t, we’re gonna have to look elsewhere and we don’t want to do that since we’re gonna offer you a new multi-year, multi-million dollar contract”.

Money talks, the “pure” ballplayer walks on four pitches to first, down the foul line,  and out the bullpen gate.

Bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, click below for more

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The Senator From Sonoma

Krysten Sinema Instagram Photo
Photo by Krysten Sinema, United States Senator, via Instagram

Yesterday El Grande Hefe de First Draft wrote about the early political obituaries for Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema. Today I come here, in the words of Shakespeare, not to praise her but to bury her.

In an American Oak wine barrel filled with Sonoma Chardonnay.

Sinema of course has gained fame and notoriety for basically telling all the folks who helped her get elected, both the political classes of the Democratic Party and the good citizens of Arizona who voted for her, that her idea of being a maverick is to do everything she can to prevent the implementation of laws designed to give people the certainty that elections will be held in fair and honorable means. She wants to muck up every chance her party has to turn the hatred of Trump into a solid watershed moment to beat down incipient fascism and create an America where all truly are created equal. She wants to in effect take a parliamentary procedure not mentioned in the Constitution, something not even codified till near 50 years after the Constitution was written, and make it a permanent fixture of congressional debate going forward.

In other words she just loves her some filibuster.

You shouldn’t be surprised. If you have followed her career in politics at all she is the winner of the “Most Likely To Say One Thing But Do Another” award. I mean this is the woman who ran as a moderate Democrat wanting to help the poor of her state then showed up on the floor of the Senate dressed like a teenager heading out to the mall to squash the $15 per hour minimum wage. Not that I have any statistics to back it up but I have a feeling many of the people who voted for her could have really used an upgrade in their minimum wages to help with things like, oh I don’t know, food, shelter, clothing. Especially in the middle of a global pandemic. But hey, she made all Gen Xers yearn for the good old days of Debbie Gibson.

Now I know it’s hard to believe, but we here in Sonoma have a tie to the peripatetic Ms. Sinema. One that is, to say the least, a bit strange. You see, back in the summer of 2020, the Senator from Arizona spent two weeks here in Sonoma as a paid intern at the Three Sticks Winery just a few blocks from my house. How I never ran into her I don’t know. It’s a small town and word of strangers with big names gets around quick.

Let that sink in for a moment. A United States Senator, making a salary of $170K a year, decided to take two weeks off and go learn how to scrub out wine barrels. Not only that, but she got paid $1117.40 per week for the privilege. A quick bit of math shows that means she was paid $28 per hour, nearly twice the minimum wage she voted against. She did it in the middle of a pandemic, five months before the rollout of the initial COVID vaccine, and in the middle of a presidential and congressional election that just might have been the most consequential in the history of the country. I’m sure some of her constituents would have liked her to have been working on programs to save their jobs or even their lives. I’m sure the Democratic Party would have liked her to have gone out stumping for congressional candidates to shore up their House majority or to swing into some swing states to help Joe Biden.

Instead with all that going on she decided to take a couple of weeks off to leave the humidity of Washington and the “but it’s a dry heat” of Arizona to come up to the warm during the day, cold at night temps of Sonoma to learn the ins and outs of winemaking. It shouldn’t be surprising though. Sinema had been called out before the pandemic for missing critical senate votes so she could compete in Ironman Triathlons in such nearby locales as New Zealand. At least the winery was in the US.

But she wore her Ironman garb even better than Tony Stark and that’s all that really matters in the end.

More on this rather strange story by clicking the link

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Chinese Checkers

Beijing Winter Olympics 2002 Logo

In two weeks the Winter Olympic Games ™ will begin in China.

I won’t be watching.

I will be boycotting these games. My physical attendance was never going to happen, so my boycott will be of the television kind. And I strongly urge you to join with me on this boycott journey.

First of all let’s face it, nobody really cares about winter sports unless they or a family member are playing them. Strapping boards on your feet and sliding down a mountain trying to be one tenth of a second faster than the other guy is not compelling sports viewing. Really, it is like auto racing, we’re just waiting for the crash. Don’t get me started on ice skating, a “sport” tailored to be a cesspool of corruption. Ice hockey? I have the NHL for that, if I really need it. Luge, bobsled, cross country skiing? Fine things to do, but a bore to watch. Now curling, that’s something I could get into, but until they let the curlers (don’t call them athletes) play it in their natural habitats, ie, with a beer can in their hands, I’ll pass.

But all that’s just my distaste for winter sports. That’s not the real reason I’ll be boycotting.

Did I mention these games are taking place in China? You remember China. The land that censorship loves so much it bought a timeshare there. The land of suppression and repression. Where surveilling leads to jailing. Where human rights are thrown into the back seat of a police car never to be heard from again. Yeah, that China.

China, or to be more correct the city of Beijing, was selected to host these Olympics through some pretty dubious means. Back in 2014 when the selection election was held, Oslo Norway was the leading candidate. That made perfect sense since, well, Oslo is well known for it’s winters, i.e., they have plenty of naturally occurring snow and ice. But at the last minute the International Olympic Committee (IOC) threw in demands such as:

“Diva-like demands for luxury treatment” for the IOC members themselves, such as special lanes on all roads only to be used by IOC members and cocktail reception at the Royal Palace with drinks paid for by the royal family. IOC also “demanded control over all advertising space throughout Oslo” to be used exclusively by IOC’s sponsors, something that is not possible in Norway because Norway is a liberal democracy where the government doesn’t own or control “all advertising space throughout Oslo” much of which is privately owned and has no authority to give a foreign private organization exclusive use of an entire city and private property within it.

Now the IOC is pretty well known for being a little footloose and fancy free when it comes to demanding things from potential host cities, but that was ridiculous. It actually sounds to me like the IOC made these requirements with the idea of gaming the election so that ONLY Beijing would be able to win. As it stands the only competitor for these games after Oslo pulled out was Almaty Kazakhstan, another Asian country with dubious credentials when it comes to human rights (but notably better than the Chinese).

So Beijing becomes the first city to ever host both a summer and a winter Olympics and they will have done both in the span of 14 years, far quicker than any other two time host city ever has. Then again, while once upon a time cities fought tooth and nail to get an Olympics now they mostly have an ambivalence about them, especially the winter games. Let’s face it, as a ski destination you only have a few months to make money and if those months have to be given over to preparing for and then hosting an event you don’t make money on, well thanks but no thanks.

But having the IOC game the system for them is the least of my problems with China hosting these games. Let’s talk about what they are requiring of those attending the games, both participants and partisans.

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Conceding Is The Point

Great concession speeches

There was an election in Florida (why do these stories always come out of Florida?) last week. The winner, a Democrat named Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, won that election with 79% of the votes cast.

Back in the day, they used to call that a landslide victory.

It’s not surprising though. The district, Florida’s 20th, has a 5-1 Democrat to Repugnicant voter registration. Joe Biden won the district in 2020 with 77% of the vote, so Ms. McCormick actually outdid him. The Repugnicant candidate was perceived as a Boston carpetbagger. Third party candidates picked up enough of the vote so that he actually got less than 20% of the vote which means he couldn’t even get some of the registered Republicans to vote for him. In the past his status as a perceived carpetbagger would have been the attributing factor in his shellacking, but not in 2022 America.

Well you know where this is headed. The Repugnicant refuses to concede the election.

Now they called the race, I did not win, so they say, but that does not mean that they lost either, it does not mean that we lost

Forgetting for a moment his inability to speak the English language clearly, this has become the Repugnicant playbook with all elections. Never concede, send in lawyers, try to get the vote overturned. Use, I would say abuse, the system in any way you can. In a fractured political environment where most elections are decided by narrow margins, you just might get the right judge or the right secretary of state or the right governor to hand your candidate a victory the voters didn’t award to them.

Under those conditions the noted dumb play callers the Dallas Cowboys could petition Roger Goodell to just hand them the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions every year.

What I really want to talk about is the importance of conceding; formally, graciously, and with a sense of tradition and humility that is entirely necessary for the idea of the peaceful transition of power to become a reality.

John McCain once said

I didn’t like the outcome of the 2008 election. But I had a duty to concede. A concession isn’t just an act of graciousness. It is an act of respect for the will of the American people, an act that is every American leader’s first responsibility.

Respect. Wow, there is a word you don’t hear in connection to politics much these days. Respect the process. Respect the institutions. Respect the history. Hell, respect your opponent and what he or she had to do in order to come out on top. Take your lumps, leave with your head held high, and make sure your election district, your state, or your country can come together to work on the great problems we face in this world.

One political party seems to do that pretty well. The other, not so much. The problem is we can’t even agree on which party is which in that scenario. Well I’ll tell you which one is in the wrong, it’s the Repugnicants. It’s always the Repugnicants. It’s always them because the only way they can win elections is to rig the game ahead of time. They gerrymander districts. They impose ridiculous voting restrictions (I want to be the first guy to go to jail for giving someone a bottle of water while they stand in line to vote in Georgia). In counties they control they make it easy for white voters to cast their ballots by having plenty of voting precincts in the areas where whites live and hardly any in areas where blacks live. In states where early voting is allowed (most of them) they have restricted when or how those early ballots can be dropped off.

Don’t concede, keep reading by clicking the link

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It’s A Medical Mystery

Couple flummoxed by medical bills

So a couple of weeks ago the wife (Cruella) went to the doctor for her annual “well woman checkup”. If you are a woman you know what that means. If you are a man, ask a woman, and it would be best to ask a woman who understands your tolerance for the realities of the female anatomy, to explain it to you.

Cruella checked out just fine as she knew she would. She went out and had lunch with her friends, then tootled on home and thought nothing more of it. The next week an envelope arrived from Palo Alto Medical Foundation, the medical corporation that her doctor works for. In it was a bill for the “well woman checkup” to the tune of $493. Well that’s a surprise since our Blue Cross insurance should have covered the entire amount charged for the check up.

Here’s an important thing to know about my wife. Years ago she had a thought to get into a new line of work and decided medical billing would be an interesting application of her skills. Thus she took courses and bought text books on how to “code” as they say in the biz. Code refers to the various permutations of numbers and letters that are used to define the procedure a patient comes in for (in this case a well woman checkup) and the diagnosis the doctor comes up with (she’s fine, come back in a year). Those codes are the basis on which the doctor or the corporation he works for charge your insurance company and you. Suffice it to say that even though she never actually entered that field, the information never left her head. And the textbooks became fixtures in our bookcase.

It turns out that we got this bill because instead of the visit being coded as a well woman checkup, it was coded as a well woman checkup WITH a diagnosis that something was wrong. Z01.411 versus Z01.419. I am not making these code numbers up. Getting on the phone she called the doctor’s office and was told, no we in the office coded it properly, you’ll need to call the corporate billing department to see if they changed anything.

Ah yes, welcome to the third circle of hell. When you go to the doctor at Palo Alto Med, which by the way is actually owned by a larger corporation called Sutter Health, the doctor’s office is responsible to code the reason for and result of the visit. That information is sent on to the actual Sutter Health billing department, ostensibly to double check it was billed properly, before it is sent on to your health insurance company so they can pay the bill. In order to make sure the code is correct, or perhaps to justify their code, the doctor also sends on their notes from the visit.

Oh you thought your medical records were private. How quaint.

So now Millie in billing gets to read all the doctor’s notes on your visit and can decide, nope, we gotta change this code or add in another code here because in the notes there is a mention of maybe possibly kinda sorta if I squint real hard there might be a potential problem. Thus Z01.411 becomes Z01.419. Then she ships it all off to Blue Cross happy in the knowledge she has served her corporate masters well. She kicks back, puts her feet up on the desk, takes a long sip from her martini glass and pulls out a Kool Menthol to celebrate her achievement. That’s assuming she redid the coding in an honest attempt to be as correct as possible.

Thing is, Sutter Health is actually kinda known for not being the most reputable when it comes to doing honest coding. To the tune of a $90 million dollar fine by the federal government.

Does that have you intrigued? Click the link below to continue on

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Ahh For The Good Old Days

The Game of Risk

In the last two years COVID has inspired lots of people to embrace nostalgia for the past. TV shows from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s are the “go-to” viewing for millions. Safe, warm, inviting, and you know how it all turns out anyway (Rachel doesn’t get on the plane). People are rereading or reading for the first time books from out of their past, even the ones you had to slog through in English Lit 101 and couldn’t understand why anyone ever thought this was any good (looking at you Jane Austen).  Baking bread became a talisman for happier times when you came home from school to the tantalizing smell of something Mom just pulled out of the oven, a pleasant certainty in a time of complete uncertainty.

Even in politics there seems to be a desire to return to what we grew up with. A time when the President of the United States didn’t call Nazis “good people”. A time when Supreme Court nominees were distinguished legal scholars or experienced jurists who got a full and fair hearing in front of the Senate. A time when street protests were the province of the left and editorial handwringing was the province of the right. A time when the violent overthrow of the government of the United States was the stuff of political suspense novels. In other words, a time when you knew who the good guys were (us) and who the bad guys were (them).

So thanks Vladimir Putin for bringing back a remnant of an earlier time: Russia versus America in The Great Game. Just when you were thinking there would never again be a solidly black and white issue where we as a country stood together against the Evil Empire, Vlad decided it was time to sprinkle his troops along the border between his country and Ukraine and threaten to invade. All that’s missing is Brezhnev’s bushy brows, Nixon’s nattering nabobs, and Kissinger’s krafty kreepiness. Geo-politics is always better with alliteration.

Yes, Russia has it’s troops poised to invade Ukraine like so many plastic armies on a Risk game board. Meanwhile Russian and American diplomats hold talks in that citadel of diplomacy and spy craft called Geneva to try and hold off any sort of military confrontation. You can almost feel the strings being pulled by the various players and emissaries. In the meantime George Smiley is sending his people back into the cold. The main difference this time is that the ideological aspects of the Cold War are gone. This isn’t the Communists versus the Democracies, it actually harkens back to an even earlier version, the Fascists versus the Democracies.

And I hate to say it, but it’s a bit frightening to harken back to that earlier era of confrontation, mostly because we know very well how it played out and how it played out was not all that well. The similarities make it even more frightening.

Wanna see more? Click the link below

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The Power Of The Dogs

Dogs playing off leash

The wife (Cruella) and I live in a 55 and older community that has its own set of rules and regulations regarding, well, just about anything that might happen in the community.

It’s one of the truisms of life that for whatever you want to have you have to give something in return. In this case, in order to live in a community where young families are not present (not that we have anything against them, it’s just past our time of life) and to have the amenities we want (clubhouse, pool, jacuzzi, etc.) we have to give up some of the freedoms we would have living elsewhere. No, we’re not constrained in any way from socializing with any others or anything so drastic. We just have to do the garbage a little differently, have a mailbox instead of having the mail delivered to the house, maintain our yard to a certain standard, in other words, typical homeowner association stuff.

Which brings us to dogs. The rules say you are perfectly fine having a dog, though they prefer the dogs not be too big or too mean. When on the public street dogs need to be on a leash and need to be picked up after. Those are the only rules about dogs.

We don’t have a dog. Three of our neighbors on our court, each a single woman living alone, do. While I understand a woman in that situation would want a dog, these dogs are not voice trained, won’t come when you call them or heed a warning from the owner. Those three neighbors love to let their dogs play together in the center of the court, unleashed, for a good amount of time each day. Many is the time I’ve had to slam on the brakes as I turn into the court because these dogs are right in the middle preventing me from getting to my driveway. I’ve politely told the owners they need to have their dogs on leashes, as per our HOA rules, but their response has been to accuse both myself and Cruella of not liking dogs.

Let me say this right up front. We like dogs. We have owned dogs in the past. My kids grew up with a dog. My younger son currently has a dog. Here’s a picture of her:

Scout The Dog
She’s very well trained

We love dogs so much that we don’t want to see them run over by cars. When I mentioned this to the three ladies their reply was “well everyone on the court knows they are here” to which my reply was “yes, but the UPS, USPS, FedEx, and Amazon vans that come in here nearly every day DON’T”.

The HOA has sent the three amigas the slap on the wrist, don’t do it again letter reminding them that our rules say dogs have to be on a leash when on the public street. By the way, that’s the county rules as well. It has of course engendered ill feelings between them and those of us on the court who don’t have dogs because, well, it sucks to be wrong and be called out on it.

But now it’s unlikely that any of those dogs will get run over by a van. And that’s the point of making rules, so that people and property don’t get harmed. Those who don’t want to follow the rules have to be upbraided, not only because of the harm they themselves might do, but as an example to those who might think it okay to also break the rules.

Which brings me to Novak Djokovic and Elizabeth Holmes.

Want more? Click the link:

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Welcome to the New Normal

The New Normal

How’s your 2022 going so far?

I know it’s only a few days into the new year and you might still be recovering from your New Year’s Eve party/day.

On the other hand, maybe you’re not. That’s the point. After nearly two years (yes, that’s right, two years) of pandemic it’s time to admit we have entered a new normal. Large groupings of unrelated people milling about for hours, drinking, carousing, perhaps even exchanging bodily, um, connections, those days are over for the foreseeable future.

I’m here to say, don’t be afraid of the new normal. It’s just the latest in a long line of them.

Granted a new normal is usually after some kind of war has ravaged a country or several. Buildings stand, if they still stand at all, damaged to an extent ranging from a need for a good cleaning to a need for a good enema. Populations redistribute to areas where the damage is less (sometimes called being a refugee) alternately causing a need for more in one area and a need for less in another. Once stable supply systems are taxed and/or destabilized to the point of incompetency. Governments are changed either through the ballot or through the bullet. Niche groups rise up to take advantage of the power vacuum, usually niche groups on the far extremes of the political spectrum.

Does any of this sound familiar? Replace “war” with “COVID” and there you are.

If I may go off on a slight tangent, if the COVID pandemic is the equivalent of a war, wouldn’t those “soldiers” (aka citizens) who refuse to get vaccinated be guilty of dereliction of duty or perhaps even disobeying an order from a superior officer (AKA the president)? As such shouldn’t they be thrown into prison? I won’t go so far as to say shot, but a forced jab might be in order.

Make no mistake, the time will come when you are old and grey and your grandchild is sitting on your lap looking up and asking “What did you do in the great COVID pandemic Grands?” What do you want to tell them? That you did all that was asked of you? Or that you didn’t believe any of it was true which is why you’re tethered to the oxygen tank little Billie is idly playing with the valves on as you chat.

But I digress.

The need to mourn what was should be superseded by the excitement of what is to be.

Wanna know more about what the new world will look like? Click the link

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