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Strange what people will latch onto sometimes…

June 26, 2021, 10:10 AM

It’s funny what things people lock onto, take out of context, and run with in the age of the Internet.  I remember when my Code Pink photo in front of the White House became a discussion about President Obama and the 2012 election.  That made enough sense, because while it was a different context than the original one, it was still in the same vein, being anti-war and all.  More recently, though, a very old photo of mine was dusted off by a certain crowd and run in a completely different context than intended.  Remember this photo?

Photo from an Anonymous flash raid from July 2008

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I believe that we have finally reached the other side of this thing…

May 25, 2021, 9:37 PM

On Friday, May 14, 2021, a number of state governments rescinded emergency orders requiring the wearing of face masks in public for people who have had all of their shots for COVID-19, i.e. “fully vaccinated”, on the heels of earlier announcements providing dates for when nearly all COVID restrictions would be removed.  And with that, I think that it is safe to say that we’re finally on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that life will return to normal.  Ever since the middle of March 2020, when the response to a novel coronavirus started becoming out of proportion to the actual threat, and fear began driving the narrative, I’ve been looking forward to this time, when the world finally started returning to normal.

Truth be told, I took a dim view of the official response to this thing from the beginning.  From the outset, my stance has been that almost all of these various “precautions” were unnecessary, and that the best advice for the public was (A) wash your hands at frequent intervals, and (B) be careful about how much you touch your face.  This is the same advice that we give about nearly every communicable disease, and it’s served us quite well.  I didn’t see any reason why this one should have been any different.  Lockdowns, social distancing, masks, limits on gathering sizes, closed restaurants, closed drinking fountains, plexiglass shields, one-way aisles, contactless everything, the constant cleaning and “sanitizing”, temperature checks, and all of the rest of it is all just security theater, i.e. “the practice of taking security measures that are intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to achieve it.”  In other words, these measures were there primarily to placate a certain vocal subset of people who were afraid, and their fear was then projected onto the rest of us.  In the end, though, as long as there was no vaccine for it, there was nothing that most of us could reasonably do to prevent its transmission.  It was a problem that was beyond most of our capabilities to solve.  With that in mind, I wasn’t worried about it, and trusted that the scientists whose job it was to solve it would come through.  For the rest of us, there was only one single action that was “doing our part”.  That action was getting vaccinated against COVID-19 when it became available.  Nothing else made a bit of difference.  But until that time came when a vaccine was available, we just had to wait.

Unfortunately, though, we all know how much people hate to be told that they have to wait for something to be solved, and can’t do anything about it in the meantime, especially when they’re scared.  And for a mass hysteria event, we apparently just can’t have that.  Unfortunately, telling people to wait doesn’t look good for politicians, whose constituents will demand that something be done about it after the media has whipped them up into a frenzy – especially during an election year when many of them were trying to keep their jobs.  You know that people would practically crucify any elected official who got up and said, “I’m sorry, but there is really nothing in my power that I can do to solve this at this time.  Until a vaccine becomes available, we just have to wait.”  So, instead, they pander to the masses, going out and doing things that make it look like they’re doing something, i.e. security theater.  When they make it look like they’re doing something, the masses eat it right up.  They stepped in and shut down businesses (and destroyed many people’s livelihoods in the process – see my Gordmans entry), enforced social distancing rules on everyone, and required masks.  Everyone was impacted in some way, and it sure looked like something was being done while we waited.  Especially with the use of mask mandates, they put the pandemic in your face – and on your face – all the bloody time.  As far as the politicians were concerned, mission accomplished.

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Gordmans, we hardly knew ye…

May 7, 2021, 10:03 AM

Recently, while working through my very large backlog of photos, I processed the various photos that I took of the Gordmans store in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.  For those not familiar, Gordmans, in the form that I experienced it, was an off-price retailer owned by Stage Stores.  Stage was in the process of implementing a major strategic move, repositioning itself away from department stores and going all-in on the off-price model (like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or Ross).  With that, the company had begun to convert all of its department store nameplates, i.e. Stage, Bealls, Goody’s, Palais Royal, and Peebles, to Gordmans.  The goal was to have all of its 738 stores in 42 states converted to the off-price format under the Gordmans name by the end of 2020.  The Waynesboro store was originally a Peebles, and was an early conversion to Gordmans.

As you probably guessed based on my wording, world events caused a change in Stage’s plans.  With the COVID-19 pandemic, the various “lockdown” orders issued meant that all of Stage’s stores, considered “non-essential” businesses, were shuttered for several months.  With the stores closed and the resulting lack of sales for an extended period, this pushed Stage off of a cliff, financially speaking, which lead to their filing for bankruptcy.  It was ultimately determined that the best course of action was to wind-up operations, and as such, when the stores reopened, they immediately began going-out-of-business sales.

My first experience with Gordmans was on June 1, 2020.  Elyse and I were out doing some photography in the Hagerstown and Waynesboro areas, and happened upon the Gordmans store in the Wayne Heights Mall shopping center, at an hour when it should have been in operation, if not for government orders requiring that it be closed.

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I could have told you that was going to happen…

February 14, 2021, 4:48 PM

So the story of former president Donald Trump’s second impeachment has come to an end.  And it ended exactly as I predicted, with Trump’s being acquitted by a comfortable margin.  While a majority of senators did vote to convict, it did not reach the two-thirds majority (i.e. 67 votes) required to remove.  I am always a little bit amused to see people watch the whole process, including the chatter from the various senators involved telling the media how they are going to vote, and then act all surprised when a conviction does not happen.  Truth is that a conviction was never going to happen.  The Democrats didn’t have enough votes to convict without substantial Republican support, and they knew that going into this.

And to this I say, sometimes, I hate being right.  I admit that I was rooting for a conviction on this, even though I knew it didn’t have a snowball’s chance of ever happening (hey, one can hope).  But I also stand by what I said in my earlier post that an impeachment was unnecessary.  With Trump’s having fewer than two weeks left in his term when the triggering event occurred, it would have made enough sense to just wait it out and let the prosecutors have at him as soon as he left office.  As it happened, the entire impeachment charade was a moot point, because Trump was already out of office.  The whole thing also showed me that the Democrats under Pelosi seem to be extremely petty, and it has lent some credence to the idea that they were simply out to get Trump, throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick.  This was their second attempt at removing Trump from office within the span of a year, after all.  Practically speaking, you really only get one shot at impeachment, because after that, you start to sound like the proverbial boy who cried wolf, and shoot your own credibility with every subsequent attempt.

In addition, this whole impeachment charade has cost us much in terms of legislative time wasted in both chambers for political games.  There are people who are hurting pretty badly right now due to the economic effects of the pandemic, and the time spent impeaching and then trying Trump could have been spent working on economic stimulus packages and other measures to help people survive until things turn around.  After all, let’s be honest: politically, Trump is old news.  He’s no longer the president, and as such, he is no longer relevant as far as current politics goes, and as such, Congress has more important matters to attend to than to worry about getting revenge on him.

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Categories: National politics

So what’s the point of impeaching at this juncture?

January 25, 2021, 9:37 PM

First of all, I am happy to breathe a sigh of relief that Donald Trump is no longer the president.  A four-year mistake is over, and the grown-ups are back in charge.  I look forward to hearing what happens in the White House now that people who are actually halfway competent at governing are running the show again.  I hope that the next four years see the country do exceptionally well, and I hope that the Biden administration succeeds beyond everyone’s wildest dreams.

However, there is one lingering matter remaining from the Trump administration: an impeachment trial.  After the whole storming of the Capitol on January 6, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for inciting an insurrection, and that was the status quo when he left office on the 20th.  Then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell declined to expedite a trial, and so it became the case that Trump’s second impeachment trial would occur after he had already left office.  Considering that Trump is now out of office, the only thing that could be accomplished through the impeachment process would be to disqualify him from holding office again in the future, and I really question the necessity of going through an entire impeachment process to accomplish that.

I freely admit that I opposed this impeachment, because impeachment is a process that has only a single sanction, just like the University of Virginia’s honor system: if convicted, you’re removed from office.  Therefore, going through the impeachment process feels like a waste of time, since, as we saw, Trump’s term expired before the impeachment process was completed, and therefore, it’s now a moot point.  With Trump out of office, nothing changes, regardless of the outcome of the impeachment trial.  For what it’s worth, I would have been perfectly content in just ignoring Trump for the final two weeks of his term, and then letting his term expire on January 20.  I also am convinced that Trump has trashed whatever credibility that he might have still had with the storming of the Capitol, and I suspect that because of that, most people wouldn’t vote for him for dogcatcher, let alone the President of the United States.  Therefore, an impeachment trial of the former president seems like it would prevent us from moving forward and putting the Trump era behind us, at least as far as our politics go.

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Categories: National politics

And they thought a little graffiti was bad back then…

January 10, 2021, 11:42 AM

I was recently participating in a comment thread on the Staunton News Leader‘s Facebook page about the arrest and charging of Jake Angeli, one of the more prominent figures to participate in the storming of the Capitol on January 6.  Most the comments praised the arrest, while some other comments amused me thoroughly.  One comment claimed that it was not Trump supporters who came to DC, but rather, it was “antifa”.  That comment reminded me of how little many right-wingers understand about what antifa is, and it made me laugh.  Recall that I used to do a lot of antifa back in my day (though the common use of the term “antifa” postdates my participation), so I know a little something about it.  The thing that amuses me most is when people think that it’s an actual organization, because trust me, it is most definitely not.  For those not familiar, the term “antifa” is short for “anti-fascist”, and if a bunch of people assemble and decide that they want to call themselves “antifa”, then they are antifa, and it’s over at the end of the event.  It’s really not that complicated.  There is no real organization to it, and people don’t answer to anyone at some headquarters.

But that commenter’s attempt to pin the whole thing on “antifa” reminded me of an event that happened back in January 2007, nearly 14 years ago.  Back then, at an anti-war protest (which I documented here under the title “J27 Anti-War Demonstration“), an affinity group of sorts, comprised mostly of people wearing black clothing and masks, i.e. a black bloc (which many might call “antifa” today), broke away from the mainstream march and headed up to the United States Capitol.  The group made it as far as the bottom of the steps, where Capitol Police was standing to prevent further movement.  No effort was made to go past them, and as far as I know, the bloc was content with that.  While we were there, a few people pulled out some spray paint cans and left some tags on the sidewalk in front of the steps of the Capitol.

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That was a somewhat surprising result, but I’m not disappointed by it…

November 8, 2020, 2:15 PM

On the morning of November 7, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that former vice president Joe Biden had won the race for president, defeating incumbent president Donald Trump.  I am not disappointed by this result, but I am a bit surprised by it.  I fully expected, when the election was all settled, that Donald Trump would win a second term in the White House, and it would be borne out that the Democrats had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, as they are so prone to doing, once again.

I started writing this Journal entry back in April when Biden had first captured the nomination, but then life sort of got in the way, which caused this to get cast aside, and become less relevant.  I was then going to rework it into a pre-election Journal entry like I did in 2016, but with all of the early voting, and my having voted almost a month before election day, I felt like it would be too little, too late, and so I didn’t do anything with it then.  So here we are now, with the election all but settled.  When I first started writing, this entry was titled, “He should have taken the hint when he got the Medal of Freedom…” and was lamenting the choice of Biden as a nominee.  That was following the winnowing down of a very large field of candidates that included the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang, and a whole host of others that you have probably never heard of.  I didn’t particularly like the way the nomination was reached, in that it felt once again like they were trying to stop Sanders, no matter what it took.  I recall that Sanders started out pretty well, outperforming each of the rest of them individually, though combined, the others still had more support than he did individually.  Then after Super Tuesday, the other candidates all started dropping like flies and endorsing Biden, who I felt like was the old coot trying to to remain relevant despite his being past his prime.  I figured that Biden hadn’t taken the hint that the Presidential Medal of Freedom that Barack Obama awarded him in their final weeks in office meant that his political career had reached its end, and that it was time for him to retire, and that this would have disastrous consequences for the country.  But with most of the other candidates gone and putting their efforts into his campaign rather than their own, Biden swept it and got the nomination.

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Categories: National politics

Reimagining how we elect our local officials…

October 1, 2020, 11:17 PM

There comes a point where you have to admit that a process is broken.  In this case, I have reached that conclusion with the way that we elect the county council and county executive in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Our current county executive, Marc Elrich, is the result of such a broken system.  Elrich is a real stinker in my book for a number of reasons, and I admit that I didn’t vote for him in the primary or the general election, because I saw his being a stinker from a mile away.

But this entry isn’t about Elrich specifically.  Rather, it’s about the process that brought him into office.  And ultimately, the problem is that Montgomery County is using a bipartisan process for electing its officials when the county is overwhelmingly one party – Democratic, in this instance.  The way that it works should be quite familiar to most of you: candidates of a given party run for office and compete in a primary election in the spring to determine who will be the nominee for the general election the following November, where all of the various parties’ nominees compete, and the winner of that contest takes office a few months later.  Many, if not most, jurisdictions use this to choose their elected officials.  However, it does depend to a large extent on having multiple viable political parties.  It starts to fall apart when one party completely dominates the process, and none of the other parties’ candidates have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being elected.  In that case, the dominant party’s primary is the “real” election, and the general election is a formality.  In other words, the result is already a foregone conclusion after the primary is done.

This situation is not unique to Montgomery County by any means.  DC is similar, with the Democratic Party’s being the dominant political party over everything else to the point that the other parties don’t matter (save for an at-large council seat that is required to be a different party than the others), and the Democratic primary is generally considered to be the deciding contest for the mayoral race.

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Is it time to replace the national anthem?

July 29, 2020, 10:18 AM

An article from the Daily Mail was brought to my attention a while back about a few people who want to replace “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem, ostensibly because author Francis Scott Key was a slave owner.  Replacing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is something that I have had an opinion about for quite some time, though my own opinions about the song as our national anthem have more to do with the song itself, and not for anything that specifically has to do with Key.

First of all, though, for those not familiar, “The Star-Spangled Banner” originated as a poem about the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812.  The poem was later given to his brother-in-law, Joseph H. Nicholson, who put the poem to the tune of “The Anacreontic Song“, which is essentially a drinking song that originated in London.  If you’ve never heard the tune with its original lyrics, I encourage you to give it a listen, because it’s a good song.  Nonetheless, hearing the way bands play the tune with such flourish as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and then remembering that it originated as an English drinking song makes me chuckle.

I take issue with “The Star-Spangled Banner” for a few big reasons.  First of all, the song is not about the country, but rather, it is specifically about the flag.  Another problem with the song is that it glorifies war.  And third, we can’t all see a little bit of ourselves in the song.  For the first point, Americans have a very strange fascination with the flag.  The thing about the flag is that it’s all well and good as a symbol that is associated with our country, but it’s only a symbol, and not actually the country.  Thus I find people who get all up in arms about the way people behave in the flag’s presence to be a bit amusing.  Our country is far from perfect.  We have lots of problems that we need to sort through as a country, and the flag is often used to represent the country, like when people kneel in front of the flag as a respectful way to express various concerns about the direction that our country is taking.  But some people treat the flag like it’s a god in its own right, to be worshipped and adored and held on a pedestal, and that’s not at all what the flag is about.  It brings some truth to the meme about the flag that says, “If you don’t stand for the special song, the magical sky cloth won’t freedom.”  Because that’s about how it sounds to someone like me, who views the flag as a symbol, separate from the thing that it represents.  And then as far as the second point goes, we are altogether too eager to declare war on things.  George Carlin put it best when he said, “We like war!  We’re a war-like people!  We like war because we’re good at it!  You know why we’re good at it?  Cause we get a lot of practice.  This country’s only 200 years old and already, we’ve had 10 major wars.  We average a major war every 20 years in this country, so we’re good at it!”  And for some reason, people love to glorify it.  And in regards to the last point, I feel like the song is distant to a lot of Americans.  I can’t see myself at all in that song, being about a battle in a war that happened over two centuries ago, and I see the flag in its standard form most often used as a political statement by factions supporting issues that I don’t typically agree with.  It all feels somewhat distant to me.  It’s not necessarily the way that I would want to see America represented.

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Categories: Music, National politics

A Facebook comment should not bother me this much…

February 11, 2020, 11:11 AM

Recently, I commented on a post on the Facebook page for WHSV, the local ABC affiliate for Harrisonburg, Virginia, and got some unusual feedback.  The original post was for an article about Trump’s participation in the “March for Life“, an anti-choice demonstration held annually in DC on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

Before I continue, though, it seems worthwhile to explain my stance on the matter of abortion.  My stance is that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.  But ultimately, it’s not my call.  What other people do with their bodies is their business, and it doesn’t affect me.

I also believe that abortion is more or less a settled matter, but that it has value for the GOP as a campaign issue.  In other words, the Republican Party will talk a big game about it, but ultimately, no one is going to ban abortion.  Ever.  Why ban it and settle the matter decisively in your favor, when you can bring it up as a campaign issue every election cycle and raise money and get people to vote based on it?  To actually ban abortion would be to kill the golden goose, and also hand a massive fundraising opportunity to the Democrats.  Maybe I’m a bit cynical about the whole thing, but I imagine that if they were really going to act on that issue, they would have done it by now, during the various periods where the GOP has controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.  That they haven’t done that tells me that they are not interested in settling it.

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What to do with Columbus Day…

October 29, 2019, 10:25 AM

As the Columbus Day holiday rolled around again this year, we got the usual rounds of people who called the day “Indigenous People’s Day” and denounced Christopher Columbus.  This year, the District of Columbia passed short-term legislation declaring the day by the newer name.  My feelings on the matter have a surprising amount of nuance to them.  But first, let’s make no mistake about it: Christopher Columbus was no saint. From what I’ve read, he enslaved a lot of native people, and killed a whole lot of them as well, both through violence and disease.  For those not familiar, the form that this recognition typically takes is that people and organizations eschew the use of the term “Columbus Day”, referring to it as “Indigenous People’s Day” instead.

However, I take issue with the form that this recognition of Columbus’ being less than worthy of the honor of a holiday typically takes.  The reason that I don’t like this way of doing things is because it takes the holiday away from one entity and gives it to another entity, treating it as a single either/or issue, rather than treating the declaration of a holiday in honor of an individual or entity as one issue, and treating the removal of a different holiday as its own issue.  I also feel that it cheapens the new entity being honored because it makes it seem as though they are a substitute honoree, rather than something worth honoring in their own right.  The direct swap also feels too much like overt political correctness, which grates on me.  That said, I have no problem with the idea of having an “Indigenous People’s Day” holiday, but doing it as a title swap on the Columbus Day date goes about it all wrong.

I defended my ideas on a recent post on WHSV-TV’s Facebook page (the ABC affiliate from Harrisonburg), on a post running an article about Richmond’s recognizing the holiday under the new name.  The comments on WHSV’s Facebook page are typically garbage from very ignorant people, but you do get the occasional intelligent thread in the sea of garbage responses, and this was that latter case.

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Petty tribalism has no place in the 2020 cycle…

July 7, 2019, 10:52 AM

Here we go again.

The 2020 election cycle is very much underway, and one of the top-tier candidates is Bernie Sanders.  Sanders, you may recall, is an independent senator from Vermont who ran in the 2016 election cycle, and came in second place to Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose in November.  Back in 2016, we saw a lot of people saying, “Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat,” and they used that as a reason that people should not vote for him, and how if he wants to run as a Democrat, then he should join the party, for whatever that’s worth.  In any case, with hindsight, you can see how well all of that petty tribalism worked out.  The Democrats ended up nominating the worst possible candidate in Hillary Clinton, and she ultimately lost the race to Donald Trump, who should have been an easy candidate to defeat, because he’s a complete buffoon who had no experience in government.  One could write volumes about what went wrong in 2016, including the complete shutout of the Sanders constituency after the nomination was secured, the choice of a boring vice president who added nothing to the ticket, and so on, but the bottom line is that the Democrats lost, and lost pretty badly.  Sure, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but the popular vote unfortunately is not what gets someone into the Oval Office under our system.

And then recently, when a friend posted an article from Business Insider titled “25% of Bernie Sanders’ supporters don’t trust the Democratic National Committee to run a fair 2020 primary“, it generated the following comments:

“Well since he is not a Democrat… or is he now… One cannot run or control something of which one refuses to be a part.”

“If one wants to criticize the DNC process and be taken seriously, one should be a member of the party.  It’s their primary, so they get to set the rules.”

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Categories: National politics

I want to see a primary challenge in 2020…

February 18, 2019, 2:20 PM

So with the 2018 midterm elections behind us, that means that it’s presidential season again.  This one is already shaping up to be an interesting one, with a large field of Democratic candidates, and a few possible primary challengers for Donald Trump.

As of this writing, there are eleven declared candidates on the Democratic side of things.  A big field like that should produce a good nominee.  By comparison, in 1992, the last time that the Democrats (or anyone) unseated a sitting president, there was a field of nine candidates.  At this point, I am taking a watch-and-see attitude, because I consider it to be too early to really judge it all yet.  I expect that we will see even more candidates emerge on the Democratic side before it’s over, and there is still much to happen before I really dive in and pay attention to them like I mean it.  I’m more hopeful about certain candidates than others, but again, it’s still too early.

In the meantime, I am more interested in what the Republicans are doing at this stage in the process.  As I indicated in the title, I want to see Trump fend off a primary challenge from within his own party.  I have seen lots of discussion and speculation on possible Republican candidates to primary the president, and they all seem like they have potential.  I’ve heard Utah senator Mitt Romney‘s name get thrown around as a potential primary challenger, along with former Ohio governor John Kasich, former Senator Bob Corker, and Maryland governor Larry Hogan.  In addition, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld has formed an exploratory committee, though hasn’t formally declared.  All of them seem like decent enough politicians.  They should run.

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I don’t know why anyone expected a different result…

October 11, 2018, 12:11 PM

So in case anyone has been living in a bubble lately, Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed and sworn in as a Supreme Court justice, after several weeks of hearings, where Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by several different women.  And then in the end, the Senate voted to confirm him, mostly along party lines.

First of all, I have no reason to think that these women accusing Kavanaugh of some very vile deeds are not telling the truth.  Based on various posts from friends on social media who have spoken about their own experiences, not reporting these things at the time that they happen is fairly common, for any number of reasons.

What surprises me is how outraged some people are that this nomination went through.  My typical response has been, “What did you really expect would happen?”  Think about it.  Donald Trump is a Republican.  The Senate is controlled by Republicans, and they had enough votes to confirm him to the Supreme Court all by themselves, without any Democratic support.  And unlike the Democratic Party, the Republican Party won’t eat their own, so this whole abbreviated FBI investigation and senators’ publicly wavering on whether or not they would vote up or down was all a political stunt designed to appease the constituents at home during an election year.  And everyone fell for their song and dance, while they knew that they would confirm him all along no matter what.  Brett Kavanaugh could have walked up to Dr. Ford and shot her in the head at point-blank range in front of everyone in the hearing room, and the Republicans would have still confirmed him.  The Eleventh Commandment, i.e. “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” still holds true.  I wish that it had turned out differently, but I also kept my expectations realistic.  I thought it was a bit naive for anyone to really expect that it would have turned out any other way that it did.

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Categories: National politics

Please do not put me in a position where I have to defend Donald Trump…

October 4, 2018, 8:04 AM

At 2:18 PM on October 3, a presidential alert went out to everyone’s mobile phones.  It was accompanied by the classic emergency tone, and looked like this:

"Presidential alert: THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed."

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Categories: National politics, News