Friday, September 30, 2016

Fight Rages Over Ballot Box Selfies

If these people are taking selfies, they might get in trouble.  
If you're like many Americans, you're proud of voting.

Some of us are so proud that we take selfies of ourselves in the voting booth,  making our selections between candidates. Then we post these photos to social media, natch.

Turns out, such selfies can get you in trouble. They're illegal in a lot of states.

However, maybe not for long, if New Hampshire of all places becomes a trendsetter.

It was illegal to take voting booth selfies in the Granite State. According to Consumerist, the New Hampshire law states:

"No voter shall allow his or her ballot to be seen by any person with the intention of letting it be known how he or she is about to vote or how he or she has voted.

The law was amended in 2014 to include "taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means.

The New Hampshire attorney general wanted to enforce this law because he figured it could turn into a form of voter intimidation.

But when three New Hampshire voters got in trouble to taking selfies, they sued, and won.

Last year, Consumerist reports, " a U.S. District Court judge said the ban on selfies was an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech that does not further a compelling government interest."

In other words, there was no evidence that people were using ballot booth selfies to force other people to vote a certain way.

The state appealed, saying, in part, that the selfies were tantamount to campaigning in a voting place, which is a no-no.

But a federal court ruled this week that a voter's First Amendment rights to free speech outweighed any concerns over campaigning.

Restrictions on showing other people your ballot harken back to the old days of corrupt union bosses making sure workers voted the way the bosses wanted them to. They had to show the bosses their ballots, until states passed laws banning the practice.

Where I live in Vermont, voting booth selfies are not explicitly banned, Vermont Public Radio said two years ago. But the law here does ban showing other people your ballot with info on how you voted or intend to vote. That would probably include photographs.

However, VPR says there are no known recent cases of anybody in Vermont  getting in trouble for voting booth selfies.

Laws vary from state to state, so you'd better check your law before you take that selfie just in case.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Imagine Trump At The Nixon/JFK Debate. These Guys Did

Frightening to imagine Trump at the JFK/Nixon debates.
To get a sense of how far we've fallen,  some people called the Gregory Brothers cleverly edited in Donald Trump in clips of the famous JFK/Nixon debate in 1960.

I LOVE how they edited the images of JFK, Nixon and the moderator when Trump blows off his ignorant venom.

And it's striking how civilized Kennedy and Nixon were with each other, as compared to today's "discourse"

This video is both sad and hilarious, and worth a watch:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What Was The Deal With All That Sniffling The Donald Was Doing In The Debate?

This coud have been the scene at last night's
debate between Trump and Clinton, what with
The Donald sniffling all the time.  
While everyone talks about the policy issues, the temperament and the performance of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in last night's debate, can we talk about The Sniffles?

All through the evening, between his bluster and his interruptions, The Donald was sniffling. A lot.

Could just be allergies. But the speculation went rampant.  

Former Vermont Governor and former DNC Chair Howard Dean tweeted, "Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?

Now that was probably inappropriate and unfair. Then again, Dean IS a doctor, and maybe he can diagnose these kinds of thing? I don't know.

My theory is that Trump is the petulant man child, who, as we all know, does not do well when criticized, especially when said criticism comes from a woman.

And it's especially frustrating for Trump when he tried to bluster back to put the supposedly fragile woman in her place, but instead, we got someone like a smiling Hillary Clinton standing there, serenely letting Trump dig his own hole.

Anyway, other people had their own take on the Trump Sniffles.

"Is the Trump sniffle the new Hillary cough?," political consultant Jessica Tarlov tweeted, referring to Trump jumping all over Hillary for her recent bout of pneumonia.

"Trump is sniffling because he's allergic to the Constitution," Colin Jost plausibly theorized on Twitter.

The Trump Sniffles are now a big thing. There's already a comedy Twitter account called @TrumpSniff that already had more than 3,000 followers as of 8 a.m Monday.

In any event, if Trump is coming down with a cold or, ahem, pneumonia, I hope Hillary doesn't catch it from being in such close proximity to The Donald last night.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Big Debate Is Tonight. I Need A Drink

Donald Vs. Hillary tonight. Are you gonna watch? 
Tonight's the big night! Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off on the debate stage, and it's going to be one of the most watched television events in years.'

I know, I know, it's being treated like a reality television show. And Trump would win big time over Clinton in one of those tacky TV reality shows.    

Of course, the problem is reality shows aren't reality, but a presidential debate IS reality. I just hope who watch and judge the candidates tonight understand the difference between reality and reality shows.

Some people turn these kinds of debates into drinking games, and I'm tempted. But the only game I could think of is dangerous.

Take a swig every time Trump tells a lie. If I did that, I'd be rushed to the the emergency room with acute alcohol poisoning, so I don't want to go there.

Clinton and Trump have already been playing sort of pre-debate games. Clinton invited Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a successful businessman who is NOT a Trump fan, let me tell ya.

Maybe Clinton figures that'll rattle Trump. And it already did. As always, Trump took the bait, tweeting, "If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers along side him."

Gennifer Flowers, of course, was said to have an affair with Bill Clinton years ago. Trump thinks women are fragile things, and figured maybe if Hillary saw Gennifer, Hillary would storm off the debate stage in tears upon seeing the woman who tried to steal her man.

Or something like that.

In any event, latest reports are that Gennifer won't be there after all, so we'll miss that spectacle.

As we all know, Trump isn't exactly good at taking criticism. Especially from a woman. Tonight, he will have to share a stage with a woman for 90 minutes, and much of that time will be spent listening to that women criticize him.

No doubt it will take supreme effort to control himself, but I think Trump will. The most interesting part of the debate will come a couple hours after the actual event, when Trump has had a couple drinks and goes on one of his Twitter Storm rants against the people who crossed him at the debate.

I can't wait to read his Tweets tomorrow morning! Well, actually, I can, but....

What bothers me is I get the impression we're grading Trump on a curve. Both Donald and Hillary are applying for the same job, so shouldn't we apply the same standards? Sure, definitely hold HIllary's feet to the fire.

Just as long as we hold Trump's feet to that exact same fire, please.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Weird But Satisfying Video Of Things Melting

A melting keyboard becomes something that
looks like a zinnia  
I guess some people had some time on their hands and decided to melt everyday objects like computer key boards and cell phones, then film it.
The resulting video is actually quite cool, in a weird way.  

Here it is:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Vermont Veterans Group Gets Big Help Because Trump Lied Again

Donald Trump said his foundation gave $1,000 to a Vermont
veterans organization. He didn't, but GoFundMe
donors came to the rescue
There's a nice little group who helps veterans here in Vermont which actually got a big boost because of Donald Trump.

Of course, the catch is, the big boost is because it appears Donald Trump did something rotten.

IRS tax forms from 2013 indicate the Donald J. Trump foundation gave Friends of Veterans in White River Junction, Vermont $1,000.  

The veterans group said they never got the Trump donation.

According to the Concord Monitor, a GoFundMe page was set up to help Friends of Veterans, to "Help the Vets That Trump Forgot." The goal for the fundraiser was $2,000. At last check, Friends of Veterans was set to get $21,400 from at least 480 contributors, says the Concord Monitor.

Says the Monitor:

"'It kind of knocked me for a loop,' said Larry Daigle, the organization's president and a Vietnam War veteran who has volunteered with the nonprofit for 15 years. 'We're still kind of analyzing things ourselves.'"

Trump might have confused Friends of Veterans in White River Junction with Friends of Veterans in Palm Beach, Florida.

However, that donation to Florida helped pay for a parade, which is nice, but not as nice as actually helping veterans cover security deposits for housing and head off eviction notices, as the Vermont organization does for veterans in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Friends of Veterans in Vermont has a $150,000 annual budget, so this latest GoFundMe windfall will surely help.

Good work, donors!

Dumb Homeowners Wanted View; Now Face $1.6 Million Fine and Their Houses Might Slide Down A Hill

Homeowners face huge fines for cutting down trees
on city owned land to improve the views. Plus, cutting the trees
has increased the risk of landslides that could wreck these homes.   
Everybody wants a million dollar view.

Especially if its from their million dollar house.  

Some people in a West Seattle, Washington neighborhood cut down about 150 big leaf maple trees and Scouler willows because the vegetation was blocking their spectacular views.

Here's the problem: The trees were not on their property. It was on city land. And nobody got permission to cut down the trees, says The Stranger,  a Seattle area alternative paper. (and a very good one!)

Now the city has filed two lawsuits in King County, Washington Superior Court, seeking $1.6 million in damages.


A bigger ouch, according to The Stranger, is why the city planted the trees in the first place. The steep hill on which the trees were growing is prone to landslides. The city figured, correctly, that the trees' roots would help hold the hillside in place.

Now that the trees are gone, there's an increased danger that the hillside, and the houses owned by the people who wanted the views, will slide down the hill during any of Seattle's notoriously rainy winters.

At least before the houses slide down the hill and/or the homeowners are bankrupted by the lawsuits against them, they can at least enjoy their spectacular views of Puget Sound and downtown Seattle.

Still don't think it was worth it, though.

The Stranger also reports that lots of people are doing incredibly stupid things with trees to get better views from the hilly Seattle area.    
Ugly, dangerous regrowth on a
tree that had been "topped" to improve views

One thing their doing is topping trees, which means lopping off the branches of a tree to make it much shorter than it was.

This idea of topping a tree always backfires spectacularly. You could kill the tree, or if not, cause all kinds of other problems.

In part because the trees still have a great big root system, new branches come right back and grow back more quickly and much thicker, meaning the view would soon be even more blocked than before the tree topping.

Trees that has been topped are also less stable. The new branches are weaker, the extra foliage is heavier, so the formerly topped trees are more likely to topple over onto nearby houses during storms.

Well, that's one way to improve your view. If a tree falls through your roof, you'll have a nice view of the sky from your living room, right?

Friday, September 23, 2016

I Wish Mr. Reed Was My Fourth Grade Teacher

Teacher Dwayne Reed welcomes his fourth grade
students with his awesome viral video.
The kids will be alright in Reed's hands. 
There's a guy named Dwayne Reed in Chicago who is a first year teacher, presiding over a fourth grade class.

To break the ice with his students,  he came up with a song and a music video to greet his students and happily establish the ground rules.

The whole thing makes me happy that there are teachers like Reed out there.

As Slate notes:

"His enthusiasm is a good reminder of how important good teachers are to our kids, and how important it is that we support them. 'Have respect for each other and don't forget me,' he raps, also putting in a good word for the staff and the school. Reed packs in all the usual warnings and rules, but so sweetly you barely notice."

Below is the awesome viral video for his students. I think Reed's fourth graders will do just fine:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Diggy The Dog Gets To Stay At His New Home Despite A Stupid Town

This viral goofy selfie of Dan Tillery
and his new companion Diggy almost
got Diggy banned from the town
where they live.  
Diggy The Dog made waves in June when he was adopted by a gentleman named Dan Tillery of Waterford Township, Michigan.

Right after Tillery adopted Diggy from a Detroit animal shelter, the two posed together in a selfie, with big goofy grins on their faces.

The photo, which you can see in this post, understandably made everybody smile.

Well almost everyone. The people that run Waterford Township were not smiling. They were convinced Diggy is a pit bull, and that breed of dog is specifically banned from Waterford Township, says the New York Times. 

Never mind that Diggy isn't even a pit bull. He's an American Bulldog.

However, that wasn't good enough for the people who run Waterford Township. Diggy resembled a pit bull, so therefore he was a pitiful, they decided. He had to go.

That move set off another Internet storm and got locals around Waterford Township riled up. Crowds demanded justice for Diggy at Township council meetings, the Michigan legislature considered outlawing municipal ordinances that banned specific breeds, and 10,000 people signed a petition to let Diggy stay put.

Tillery submitted affidavits from two veterinarians, each of whom determined that Diggy was indeed not a pit bull.

Recently Tillery and Diggy got great news: Waterford Township decided Diggy could remain a resident of that community.

It's a relief to Tillery, and presumably Diggy, who formed an immediate bond when they met. The pair are now besties.

"People had really invested their emotions in this story, and it's beautiful to see so amy people care about rescue dogs," said Kristina Rinaldi, the director of the Detroit Dog Rescue, a no-kill shelter where Tillery found Diggy, according to the New York Times.

Rinaldi says far from being dangerous, Diggy is a big goofball who loves people.

It certainly seems like he loves his new friend Tillery. We wish them a long and happy partnership.

And while we're at it, let's get rid of those stupid breed specific ordinances. It's the training of the dog, not the dog itself that determines whether they're dangerous.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Donald Trump Junior Is Choking On His Skittles.

The infamous Trump Junior Skittles Tweet. 
You have to admire Donald Trump Jr, the son of the Republican presidential candidate.

I don't know if admire is the right word exactly, but it certainly is an accomplishment to make so many mistakes in one little Tweet.

As you might have heard, the Tweet from Trump Junior heard around the world this week showed a bowl of Skittles with a caption that said: "If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful? That's our Syrian refugee problem."

OK, let's list all that went wrong here:

1. The Skittles metaphor Junior used seems to have originated a guy named Julius Streicher back in the late 1930s. He was a dedicated Nazi who was hanged for crimes against humanity at Nuremberg back in 1946, says The Intercept.

Streicher wrote a children's book that compared poisonous mushrooms to Jews. In his awful book, a mother tells her son, "Just a single poisonous mushroom can kill a whole family, so a solitary Jew can destroy a whole village, a whole city, even an entire (nation.)"

Yeah, lovely.

2. The guy who took the photo of the bowl of Skittles in Junior's Tweet is David Kittos of Guilford, Britain. Kittos was himself a refugee, having been forced to flee Cyprus in 1974, says the BBC.

Kittos uploaded the Skittles bowl photo to Flickr in 2010, and that's where the Trumpsters apparently found it. Kittos made it abundantly clear he did not give the Trumps or anyone else permission to use the Skittles photo, and he vehemently opposes using the photo the way it was used.

"In 1974, when I was six years old, I was a refugee from the Turkish occupation of Cyprus so I would never approve the use of this image against refugees," Kittos told the BBC

Kittos is highly pessimistic that Trumps will take the photo down, or that he will be paid for his troubles. Kitto's pessimistic is certainly realistic, let me tell ya.

3. The timing of the Skittles Tweet suggests Junior was reacting to that idiot who set off the bomb in Chelsea, Manhattan last weekend, injuring 29 people.

The moron bomber was not a Syrian refugee but a naturalized American citizen born in Afghanistan. So this particular incident had noting to do with Syrian refugees.

4. Candy companies tend to be pretty friendly outfits. So if you get candy manufacturer mad at you, you're doing pretty badly.

Mars, the parent company of Skittles, felt the need to spell out the obvious to Junior in this terse statement on Twitter: "Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. It's an inappropriate analogy. We respectfully refrain from further comment as that could be misinterpreted as marketing." 

A classy corporate response to a decidedly unclassy Trump Junior remark.

5. Junior doesn't understand how the First Amendment works. On the top of his Twitter feed Wednesday morning, he has this pinned Tweet from March: "Liberals love the first amendment until you say something they don't agree with."

No, nobody is saying that Junior can't discuss Skittles. But just as he has the First Amendment right to be stupid with Skittles and refugees, we have the First Amendment right to say Junior is stupid with his Skittles and refugees.

6. As is often the case, Stephen Colbert had the last word last night. He noted Junior brought up Skittles, not M&M's.

Colbert said: "Of course the Trump family prefers Skittles because there are no brown ones."


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

You Can't Unsee This, But Here's Rick Perry Dancing To "Green Acres"

Rick Perry, was, um, interesting, as he
danced to "Green Acres" on "Dancing With The Stars"
I'm going to try NOT to get into the habit of writing about "Dancing With The Stars" every week, though I'm sorry for the pattern.

Last week it was Ryan Lochte getting attacked on the set of the show.

This week, it's us getting "attacked" by former Texas governor and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry doing the quick step to the old "Green Acres" television theme.

The judges weren't impressed, giving him the low score of the night. (Or so I'm told. I actually prefer "The Voice" and watched that last night instead.)

Perry will probably get kicked off during tonight's elimination round on the show.

Can't win a presidential election. Can't win a dance competition. You gotta feel for Perry, no?

Still, I'm impressed in a sort of jaw-dropped way by Perry's over the top kitschy performance. Now you can see it, too! It's, um, something.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pentatonix And Dolly Parton Break The Internet With "Jolene"

Pentatonix and Dolly Parton sing an a cappella version
of Parton's classic "Jolene"  
Well, this went viral, and for good reason.

The awesome a cappella group Pentatonix reworked the Dolly Parton classic "Jolene." And they got Parton to do the reworking with them.

The result is this great performance and now viral video. - 5.2 million views as of Sunday morning and it was only just posted on YouTube Friday. Wow!

In case you missed it, here it is.  Enjoy!

Hillary Clinton's WWII POW Ad Will Hit You In The Gut

World War II POW and veteran Joel Sollender lands
an emotional, devastating blow against Donald Trump
in a new Hillary Clinton campaign ad. 
Like her or hate her, a new Hillary Clinton campaign ad will really hit you in the gut.

It's a continuation of one of her campaign themes about Donald Trump's disrespect for the military. 

The ad, viewable at the bottom of this post, is paid for by Hillary for America.

The ad shows World War II veteran Joel Sollender viewing that famous clip of Trump saying that Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, is not a war hero because he was a POW. (McCain was captured in the Vietnam War.)

In the clip, Trump says McCain was not a hero because he was captured. "I like people who weren't captured, OK?" Trump says.

After the Trump clip finishes, Sollender tells us about his experiences when he was captured by the Nazis in World War II after he tossed a grenade into a German bunker, and explains in damning detail why he doesn't think Trump should be president.

I'm guessing the Clinton campaign found Sollender because a San Diego television station interviewed him about the billionaire Trump's statements shortly after he made them in July, 2015.

"Is this how he feels about the people he might be sending to war? That might be captured, that they're not heroic? I can't believe it and would that be the end of his career? I would certainly hope so because money can't buy everything," Sollender told San Diego's Fox 5 in 2015.
The Clinton ad in which Sollender appears is as powerful as you can get against Trump.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

My Favorite New Pipeline Transports Beer, Not Oil

The beautiful of city of Bruges, Belgium now
has a beer pipeline.  
Pipelines have been controversial and in the news lately.

There's the standoff in North Dakota over the oil pipeline there, and here in Vermont, they're still fighting about a natural gas pipeline into Addison County.

In Belgium, though, one pipeline is causing no concern, but celebration. That's because it's transporting not oil, but beer.

According to The Guardian, a two mile pipeline is starting operations from De Halve Maan (Half Moon) brewery in the middle of Bruges, Belgium, to a bottling plant just outside the city. The pipeline has the capacity to fill 12,000 bottles of beer per hour.

Xavier Vanneste, director and heir to De Halve Maan, said he saw workers laying broadband cables outside his house, and had a flash of inspiration.

His brewery is in the middle of the old city of Bruges, and because of the lack of space in town, the bottling plant is a couple miles away. That meant he had to truck beer to the bottling plant - expensive for him and annoying to the city because of all those trucks.

This schematic aerial photo shows the path of the
beer pipeline from the center of Bruges, Belgium to a
a bottling plant out by the expressway.
De Halve Maan could have just moved the brewery out to where the bottling plant is, but that would mean he could no longer say De Halve Maan was brewed in the historic beer city of Bruges.

Vanneste wanted to preserve the brewery tradition of the city, which dates back at least to the mid 1500s.

Vanneste hired tunneling experts from the oil and gas industry and Belgium's top professor in malting and brewing to plan and construct the pipeline, according to The Guardian.

By the way, you can buy Half Moon beer in the United States, so if you want to support the company that came up with this great idea, I'd say go for it.

Of course, a lot of people would like to have a beer pipeline going by their house. Although it wouldn't happen in this case, wouldn't be cool if the beer pipeline was like a municipal water line?

You could tap into the beer pipe and have very good beer running out of your faucets in the kitchen.

Any local entrepreneurs want to try that idea?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Overdose Photos With Kid In Car Painful For Everybody

Boy, do I have mixed emotions about this.
The now-famous couple in the midst
of a heroin overdose with a four
year old boy in the back seat

According to Reuters and numerous other media outlets, the East Liverpool, Ohio police department distributed photos of a couple in a car, passed out from a heroin overdose, with the woman's scared four year old grandson in the back seat.

The photos went totally viral, and millions of people have seen them. One of the photos is in this post, as you can see.

The point of releasing the photo, says the East Liverpool police department, was to publicize how bad and how sad drug addiction is in Ohio and everywhere else.

"We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry ,but is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis," said East Liverpool police in a Facebook post.

The passed-out couple, James Acord, 50, and Rhonda Pasek, 47, are charged with child endangerment.

The couple had been stopped by police because Acord was driving the Ford Explorer erratically. When the officer got to the car, Pacek was out cold and Acord lost consciousness.

They were given Narcan, the medication that reverses these kind of drug overdoses, and perked back up. 

I think a lot of people, including myself, have strong feelings both approving of the idea of releasing these photos and against it.

On the in favor side, I can understand the exasperation of the East Liverpool, Ohio police department. Every day, both where I live in Vermont, and just about everywhere else, we hear about opioid and heroin addictions running rampant.

In Burlington, Vermont recently, we had a situation that was very similar to that in East Liverpool, but in the Vermont case, police did not share photos on social media.

In Burlington, in early July a couple passed out in a car from heroin on a hot day with a five year old boy inside the vehicle with them. The boy screamed for help, The screams caught the attention of passerby, who called police.

"My mommy and daddy aren't waking up,!" the boy yelled, according to police.

If that doesn't make you both incredibly sad and make your blood boil, you're not human.

The photos from the East Liverpool police department telegraphed the frustration of police and made a stab at creating public awareness. A good thing.

However, I wonder about privacy here. The boy's face is blurred out in the photos, but it would be easy for a local to figure out who he is. 

Plus, the passed out couple is easily identifiable and their names were publicized in many media outlets, including this one.

Of course, what the couple did was dangerous and awful and they deserved to be punished. They ARE in legal trouble, for sure. But I have mixed emotions about having their faces and photos splashed all over the Internet, like I admittedly did here.

The couple's arrest, and the circumstances of it, are a matter of public record. I wonder if this infamous photo will haunt them for the rest of their lives, or maybe help turn it around.

They've already lost the kid, who's had a chaotic life. Just six weeks before the photo was taken, Pacek was granted custody of the boy because his own parents were incapable of raising him, says Fox 8 in Cleveland.  He has since been placed with a great aunt and great uncle in South Carolina.

Maybe I'm having a Pollyanna moment, but it would be nice if the pair are at least as horrified as the rest of us are at the photo and find a way to get clean. It's hard, but I  hope they do it.

Or, at the very least, I  hope other addicts see the photo, and maybe it will inspire them, to try to get clean.

It'll help all of us. Including a couple of terrified little boys in Ohio and Vermont. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Giant Moon Rolls Through Chinese City, But All Is Fine

It was cloudy and gusty in the city of Fuzhou, China the other day because of a typhoon lurking offshore.
An inflatable moon that broke loose takes a
trip down a freeway in a Chinese city. 

But then, what's this? A giant inflatable moon comes rolling through town, crashing through intersections, bouncing over cars on the freeway and skittering off cargo ships docked at the port.

The city is having a mid-autumn festival that features the moon. Since clouds from the typhoon were blocking the view of the real full moon overhead, people set up these inflatable ones.

The gusty winds from outer fringers of Typhoon Meranti broke one of these moons loose, resulting in this funny video you see below. Nobody got hurt and there was no real damage:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Anti- Ryan Lochte Protest At DWTS Has To Be Stupidest Demonstration Yet

Two idiots under arrest for storming the stage at
"Dancing With The Stars" because Ryan Lochte was there.
I have to say I have absolutely no sympathy, no allegiance to those dopey people who rushed the stage to protest, of all things, Ryan Lochte performing on the show "Dancing With The Stars."

I'm not a fan of Lochte, either, believe me. But that incident on "Dancing With the Stars" that filled the airwaves with fluff and nonsense Tuesday was the dumbest thing ever.

The Lochte DWTS incident seemed to be the most important thing that happened this week, judging from the wall-to-wall coverage on TV and radio.

In case you somehow missed it (lucky you!)  here's the recap:

Lochte, fresh from getting suspended from the U.S. Swim Team for lying about being mugged at a Rio gas station during the Olympics, is on Dancing With the Stars, which had its season debut Monday.

Two men, Sam Sotoodeh, 59, and Barzeen Soroudi, 25, stormed the stage as Lochte finished his dance performance. According to TMZ, the two, having been bailed out of jail after the incident and still wearing their "No Lochte" shirts said they did it because Lochte embarrassed Americans with his Rio antics.

Really? Of all the crises affecting, or might affect America, Lochte is the biggest? Lochte is just a frat boy type doofus who needs to grow up. I seriously don't think he will end up being the downfall of the Republic.

No, this was a publicity stunt by these so-called anti-Lochte protesters, and I guess I'm complicit in their desire for their 15 minutes. . Sotoodeh and Soroudi clearly just wanted to get their names and faces on TV, and they got it.

They mighty also have been lookin for an opportunity to make money on a lawsuit. They had to know DWTS security would tackle them when they rushed the stage and those security guards obliged. (I would have, too.)

Lochte lost sponsorships and a position on the U.S. Swim Team for awhile. He deserved the punishment. However, let's now see if he finally grows up and stops being a man-child.

It's probably time for Sotoodeh and Soroudi to finally grow up, too.

For what it's worth,  here's a video of the incident from "Entertainment Tonight."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

North Dakota Retaliating Against Journalist For Screwing Up Pipeline Project

Democracy Now! journalist
Amy Goodman faces a North
Dakota arrest warrant for
her work reporting on the
Dakota Access pipeline
protests earlier this month. 
Journalist Amy Goodman had a career highlight on an important story last week.

Goodman, executive producer of Democracy Now! on September 3 showed up  at Native-American protests agaist the Dakota Access pipeline.

The Native Americans were understandably upset about the pipeline disrupting burial grounds and threatening future contamination of their drinking water supply near the Standing Rock reservation.

The protests turned violent. The Native Americans stormed the construction site. Private security guards responded with attack dogs and pepper spray. Goodman and  her videographer got it all on video.

That video is rather shocking, with all the dogs and pepper spray and such. Clearly, the security people could have handled the protests much better than they did. The video is at the bottom of this post.

It was big and dramatic and really shined a light on what was going on in North Dakota. Goodman's video of the protests went viral, and such obscure media outlests like CBS, NBC, NPR, CNN, MSNBC and Huffington Post rebroadcast Goodman's video.

Amid the swirl of media attention, the Obama administration ended up suspending the pipeline construction, pending further review.

Goodman got an amazing scoop, and like any good journalist, changed the course of events by exposing and effectively calling attention to an important public issue.

Naturally, pipeline advocates are annoyed with Goodman for her reporting. That's fine. Some of those pipeline advocates are in local government. In a chilling display of press intimidation, the Morton County, North Dakota sheriff's office has issued an arrest warrant on Goodman, accusing her of criminal trespass.

She was on pipeline property when she conducted interviews and filmed the scene. That's what journalists do, and in America are generally given wide berth when reporting major news events, even when they occur on private property.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said, "This arrest is a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters from coverning protests of significant public interest.....Authorities in North Dakota should stop embarrasing themselves, drop the charges against Amy Goodman, and ensure that all reporters are free to do their jobs."

The Morton County sheriff's office is declining comment, says the Guardian.  However,  I see what's going on here. I doubt the Morton County sheriff's office or anyone else who'se after Goodman expects her to suffer much of any consequence from this.

But the arrest warrant is a shot across the bow, a warning to American media. Don't stick your nose in our business unless you want to deal with expensive litigation and other trouble. The clear message to the media is, "shut your mouths and look the other way."

Goodman is a classic muckraking journalist, an increasingly rare breed in American news media. She's an investigative journalist who does tend to go after The Powers That Be, and that ruffles a lot of feathers.

She's somewhat of an advocacy journalist, who tries to cover important issues that aren't getting much attention elsewhere. She comes at things from perhaps a liberal perspective, but she is very careful to get her facts right. She's got all the right journalistic chops.

I noticed no credible outfit is questioning Goodman's accuracy with her North Dakota reporting. They just don't like the fact she reported it. (Other national media wasn't there, but she thought it was an important story, and went there.)

Goodman will come out of this just fine. But we should all care what's happening. Lord knows the American news media is far from perfect.  Neither is the government, or private business, or any other organization. The cliche is light is the best disinfectant. Let the media continue to shine the line in dark places, and under the potentially corrupt darkness under all those rocks.

North Dakota officials need to drop the charges again Goodman now and move on.

Here is the video from Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! that the North Dakota authorities are not happy with:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Carnival Vista Cruise Ship Creates Mini-Tsunami, No Carnival For Sicilian Boat Owners

Sunken, damaged boats in Sicily after a Carnival Cruise
ship got to close to a jetty
Somebody's in trouble over at Carnival Cruise Lines.

In  late August, the humongous Carnival Vista cruise ship departed port in Messina, Sicily. Whoever was piloting the thing came to close to a jetty and a marina where numerous small boats were docked.

As you can see in the dramatic surveillance video at the bottom of this post, the results were not pretty.

According to Cruise Law News, several passengerfs aboard the Carnival Vista thought their ship hit the piers, but that was not the case. It just came much, much too close.

Several small boats sank, others were crushed. The pier was destroyed. Luckily, there are no reports of injuries.

Italian authorities said they're investigating. The incident caused about 250,000 Euros in damage, which is the equivalent of about $280,000, says Cruise Law News.

No word yet from Carnival on what caused this, or what they might do to make amends.

Did someone say lawsuit?

Here's the video:


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Wells Fargo Scam Is Ugly Look Inside Big Banks

Wells Fargo bank got fined big time for widespread
corruption and hijinks, including opening
bank accounts with fees for customers who did
not ask for the accounts or want them.  
Maybe we should be putting our money under mattresses after all and avoiding banks, given the news about Wells Fargo this week.

Wells Fargo Bank is paying  $185 million in fines to various agencies for opening up millions of phony accounts for unwitting customers.

This wasn't just a few bad apples at Wells Fargo doing this. About 5,300 employees have been sacked for doing this, which means it was part of the bank's culture for doing this.

It looks like the trouble started when Wells Fargo brass instituted, shall we say, aggressive sales targets for its employees.

So aggressive that most of them figured they'd never make it to their goals. So they created fake email addresses to sign up customers for online banking services. Apparently, there were about 1.5 million - yes million - such accounts opened.

The emails were fake, but the customers were real. And these customers did not know they were being signed up. Or would be subjected to fees and such that would help make Wells Fargo big, fat, rich and happy. (Wells Fargo will have to repay these customers fees they paid for their unwitting accounts.)

About $100 million of the settlement went to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren's favorite consumer protection agency which was created half a decade ago.

"Wells Fargo built an incentive-compensation program that made it possible for its employees to pursue underhanded sales practices, and it appears the bank did not monitor the program carefully," said CFPB Director Richard Cordway, as NBC news quoted.

I'm glad Wells Fargo is being called on their misdeeds, but as is usually the case when big banks or big businesses are up to no good, the top brass that condoned it are totally getting away with it.

It looks like the 5,300 or so people who were fired were pretty low level people. Maybe they deserved to be fired. But with that many people involved, Wells Fargo must have had a culture in which they did bad things to make profits.

Company culture usually comes down from the top. So why aren't the executives who had to know about this and did nothing still collecting nice big salaries at Wells Fargo?

It's not just envy of the fat cats that are getting away with this. We are all victims of this weird money making system.

As Douglas Rushkoff noted on CNN:

".......We are watching what we might call 'extreme capitalism' at work. Banks don't make money by creating value; they make money by extracting funds from anyone who wants to build a business or even just make transactions."

Rushkoff went on to explain that when the economy was growing vigorously, shareholders in banks were happy because the banks were making money through business loans and general commerce.

In the past decade, things have been slower, so to keep shareholders happy with every rising profits, banks like Wells Fargo try to make more money by issuing more credit cards with high fees and new loans with high origination costs.

So we're screwed. Because banks aren't really creating anything or helping anybody. They're just finding creative ways to transfer more wealth away from most of us, and concentrate it in their pockets.

I don't know if I agree with Rushkoff in the following or not, but his idea is intriguing:

"The only real solution here is for banks, like any business, not be required to grow. Banks, particularly savings banks, are more like utilities than businesses. With their monopoly power on the ability to issue currency, they are in a unique role to enable business of every other kind. This makes them at least as responsible to the public good as their shareholders.

By seeking to extract a higher percentage of our economic activity to pay for their financial services, they don't help anyone. Rather than promoting business, they serve as a drag."

Many conservatives and business types hate the CFPB, the consumer protection agency that is collecting fines from Wells Fargo and want to abolish it.

It's the agency I noted Elizabeth Warren loves.

The fines show that CFPB can help rein in the excesses of the banking industry.  Paying $185 million isn't a big deal for a behemoth like Wells Fargo. But the publicity sullies its reputation. The CFPB basically shamed Wells Fargo into behaving.

Sometimes a little public shaming is the best way to make people - and businesses behave.

If that doesn't work, maybe we should all withdraw our money and stow it under mattresses, I don't know.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Guy Robs Bank So He Doesn't Have To Go Home To His Wife

This guy robbed a bank because he figures jail would
be better than going home to his wife,
who he apparently dislikes.  
I love my husband, and after four years of marriage, my heart does a couple little happy backflips when I pull into the driveway after work to see that he is home.

Which means my life appears to be a LOT better than that of Lawrence John Ripple, 70, of the Kansas City area.

According to the Kansas City Star, Ripple robbed a bank by handing a teller a note which read, "I have a gun, give me money."

So the teller gave Ripple money.

With the money in hand, he could have fled. But Ripple just sat down and waited for the cops. Even before the police got there, a bank security guard came up to him, and Ripple said, "I'm the guy you're looking for."

The guard took the money back from Ripple and held him until police arrived.

Ripple's a really bad bank robber, right?

Well, it turns out Ripple told the police he robbed the bank because going to jail would be MUCH more fun than hanging out with his wife for even one more minute.

Apparently, Ripple wrote the bank robbery note in front of his wife to ensure she understood that he was Fed. Up.

You think Ripple would have come up with a better way to walk away from a marriage that, at least to his perspective, really sucked. Divorce is an option. Marriage counseling. Just moving out of the house might work, too.

But, Ripple will get his wish. He's got a bank robbery charge hanging over his head, and if he's found guilty, he's almost assured of going to prison.

My only question is what will happen if they let him out on bail before his robbery trial?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Florida Walmart, Texas Mattress Store "Celebrate" 9/11 With, Um, Interesting Gimmicks

This probably wasn't the best way to homor 9/11 
I suppose their heart was in the right place.

As we approach the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some people at a Panama City Beach, Florida Walmart, and the local soda distributor, came up with a striking way to "honor" the memory of 9/11.

So they constructed in the store the two World Trade Center towers built out of Coke Zero packages, notes the Associated Press.

The backdrop of the American flag was made with red regular Coke, silver Diet Coke and blue Sprite. A banner above the display that read "We will never forget" with the Coke and Walmart logos completed the look.

Why does this kind of weird, tacky thing always seem to happen in Florida?

Of course right away there was (surprise!) a backlash. A lot of people were appalled.

Others mocked it:

"We will never forget.....These great rollback prices y'all!" was one Twitter reaction.

Amid the hubbub the Coca-Cola company apologized and said the display was meant to honor local firefighters and support that organization's upcoming event.

The store and the distributor said they never intended any disrespect, which I believe, but what the hell were they thinking?

Well, they were probably thinking more than the folks at a Texas mattress store. They decided to hold a mattress sale, and did quite a little TV ad that you can see in the video at the bottom of this post.

As the Dallas Morning News tells us:

"Store manager Cherise Bonanno says that there's no better way to remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks than the sale, which offers any size mattress for the price of a twin mattress. Two employees stand in front of a pair of towers of mattresses and an American flag.

At the end of the video, which has since been removed from the store's Facebook page, Bonanno swings her arms and the employees tumble into the mattress towers, knocking them over. 

Banana shrieks, then turns to the camera and says, "We'll never forget."

Well, it's hard to forget the mattress ad you're about to see. Do you think it's a bit much?

Bundy Clowns In Oregon Need Their Cowboy Boots In Court, Dammit!

Ammon Bundy, one of the ringleaders in that
Oregon wildlife refuge standoff last winter,
says the courts are being the fashion police
and won't let him dress up like a cowboy for his trial.
Let's check in with the guys who took over that wildlife refuge in Oregon last winter again, shall we?

When last we looked, back in May, some of them wanted to have their guns with them in jail while they awaited trial.

One of the ringleaders, Ryan Bundy, said not allowing him his guns in jail violated his Second Amendment rights.

The jail, and a judge didn't buy the argument, and the poor guy had to languish without his guns. I'm crying so hard for Bundy and his suffering that my office is now flooded with tears.

Now Ryan's trial is coming up, along with brother Ammon Bundy is upset that he will not be allowed to wear his cowboy boots in the courtroom during the proceedings.

According to OregonLive:

"Ammon Bundy's lawyer J. Morgan Philpot argued that his client is innocent until proven guilty and should be allowed to wear the civilian clothes that he chooses.

'We would prefer our clients not look like disheveled slackers in front of the jury,' Philpot told the judge during Tuesday's pretrial conference hearing. 

Philpot added later in the day in a written motion, 'These men are cowboys and given that the jury will be assessing their authenticity and credibility, they should be able to present themselves to the jury in that manner.'"

What, is this a costume contest and not a trial? They expect Ammon to show up in his cowboy boots, and the jury will swoon, "OOOHH!! A real cowboy!" That means we need to let him go. Yippee Ki-Yay!

The reason there is a dress code in court for defendents - no ties, belts, steel-toed boots, etc - is nobody wants the accused to weaponize his or her fashion accessories to launch an escape attempt. Or assault somebody.

The problem with Bundy's cowboy boots is that leg shackles used when he's led into court won't work. (The shackles are removed once he's in the courtroom.)

There's already photos of what the Bundys might wear in court, because their pictures were taken for the jurors' books.

OregonLive says both Bundys are in suit jackets but no ties in the photos, and the judge said the two look perfectly presentable for court appearances in those photos.

OregonLive had another fun tidbit about Ryan Bundy in its court fashion article about the bumbling brothers.

Ryan Bundy challenged prosecutors' assertion that he aided and abetted in the theft of government property, specifically the theft of cameras during the standoff last winter.

Buddy cited "basic Biblical principle" saying, "A man will be accountable for his own sins and not that of another. "

In other words, Bundy is saying he can't be prosecuted for helping somebody steal something. He's only accountable with God.

No, he's also accountable to the law here on Earth. "The Biblical standards don't apply, says the judge.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Extreme Vulgar Temper Tantrums On Facebook Won't Get You Elected To Office

Weirdo former GOP candidate Michael Krawitz
and his hate messages to a reporter.  
Breaking news out of New Jersey: Republican Michael Krawitz is no longer a candidate for the West Deptford Township Committee.

OK, this isn't earthshattering news.  With all due respect to the fine citizens of West Deptford, we normally wouldn't care about this bit of election news.

Except for the reason why Krawitz has withdrawn his candidacy. He's a big Donald Trump fan, and wasn't happy at all that Daily Beast reporter Olivia Nuzzi posted on her Facebook page a critical article about Trump written by a colleague.

So Krawitz took to Facebook to criticize Nuzzi. So far, we're OK. You can criticize a reporter's work. Journalists tend to have thick skin.

But the problem is Krawitz's, um, way with words.   

He wrote to Nuzzi: "Fuck.You. Olivia. I. Hope. Somebody.Rapes.You.Today. :)

Nuzzi responded by writing: "This man who wants me to be raped today was a Republican candidate for office in NJ."

To which Krawitz responded. "Hope.You. Get. Raped. By. A. Syrian. Refugee. :)

You can see the obvious problem here.   Not a nice guy.  Not somebody who would get a lot of votes for the West Deptford Township Committee. Or any other office.

I'm also curious about his style. Every word is followed by a period. And he ends his hate sentences with a smile emoticon. Like the little smile makes the nastiness go away or something?

Definitely some issues here.

Krawitz apparently said his Facebook account got hacked the day his messages appeared so it wasn't him. With that, Nuzzi produced another Facebook love note she received from Krawitz back on August 10:

"Hows. The. Gun. Crime. In. Democrat. Chicago. Olivia. You. Ugly. Stupid. Cunt. :)

Again with the periods after every word and the smiley emoticon!

Nuzzi said she's been harassed by Krawitz since 2014. And as a female reporter, she always gets totally misogynistic comments from guys - mostly on the far right of the political spectrum, who don't like her work.

I guess they can't criticize the quality and accuracy of Nuzzi's reporting because it's solid, so their onl recourse is to call her every horrible name in the book. That accomplishes a lot!

In a statement before Krawitz withdrew his candidacy, Nuzzi said she trusted the voters of West Deptford Township to make the right election decision.

And Nuzzi said this:

"As a reporter, bullying of this kind from would-be politicians makes you fear for your First Amendment rights. As an American and a woman, it makes you fear for the state of our country and the safety of half the population that inhabits it."

She's got a great point: We can laugh at the stupidity and awfulness of Krawitz. But the legions of Internet trolls and such out there like Krawitz really do degrade this nation.

Krawitz is no longer running for office and has crawled back under his rock.  So that's good. I just wish the rest of the trolls out there would crawl under rocks and go away, too. But there's so many trolls, I don't think there's enough rocks out there for them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Looney Tunes Plane Lands In Chicago

Zach Havmesser did a Southwest Airlines flight
landing spiel in perfect Looney Tunes characters
in a video that went viral. 
Last week, a Southwest Airlines flight landed in Chicago without incident.

Well, without incident until a flight attendant gave the usual spiel about being careful about stuff having shifted in the overhead bins, don't get up yet, welcome to Chicago, blah, blah, blah.

Except the flight attendant, Zach Havmesser, of Buffalo, New York did the landing spiel in perfect Looney Tunes characters including Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and Tweety Bird, Yosemite Sam and even a bit of the Tasmanian Devil.

The video went viral, but in case you missed it, watch the video and wish all your airline flights ended like this:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Scamming The Scammer: Fake Trump Site Collects Donations For An Iffy 25-Year0Old Guy

Is the man on the left, Ian Hawes, scamming Trump supporters,
and by extension Trump himself?
Lots of people really want to donate to the Donald Trump campaign.

That's fine: If you like your candidate and want to donate, go for it!

However, it turns out you really, really have to be careful to figure out if you are indeed contributing to the Trump campaign, or any other legit campaign for that matter.

There are scammers out there pretending to be part of the Trump team.

Like Ian Hawes,  He launched a website called which Politico says netted $350,00 in donations. Of that, $133,000 went to a company Hawes founded and owns called CartSoft LLC.

At last check, none of the money has gone to Trump, says Politico.

The site's home page tells visitors to "Enter for a chance for you and a guest to have dinner with Donald Trump. The flight, food and stay are no us."

The site invites people to enter their name, email address and zip code and the site says people can double their chances of winning by submitting a donation.

However, the web site has fine printe that says the prize is not a private dinner with Trump, but rather a chance to attend a Donald Trump event with other attendees. So maybe you get to go to a Trump rally if you win.

If you want to call a Trump rally "winning."

And if the web site actually declares a "winner." Or will they just keep the money and move on?

Hawes launched another web site,, purporting to have a contest to revoke Hillary Clinton's security clearance. Hawes is also raking in the dough with that one, as he's playing off Trump's penchant for always calling Clinton "Crooked Hillary."

It's unclear whether any of the money Hawes collected has or will go to the Trump campaign. But it looks like he's making pretty damn good money for himself.

Politico says the Federal Election Commission is pretty powerless to go after potential fraud cases, like this one might be.

The takeaway: No matter who you support in any give election, be careful how you donate money.

Politico says that scam political action committees that act on "behalf" of candidates are cropping up all over the place. The scam web sites are designed to look like the actual candidates' sites, and the scammers buy Google and Facebook ads to lure unsuspecting donors.

Trump's fans are particularly enthusiastic about the candidate, so they are an appealing target for scammers.

Some people say the candidates lie to use. Some people say Trump is a con man. But the scammers scamming the people - and scamming Trump - are even worse.

Money in politics is awful these days. It even creates a GREAT environment for scammers. Buyer beware.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Saturday Smile: Dog Groomer Dances Through His Work Day

This dog groomer in Argentina dances the day away
with his furry clients, making us all happy.  
Luis Antonio Caballero, 58, is a dog groomer in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The guy clearly loves his job, and apparently so do his furry clients.

One day recently, Caballero's wife, who works with him, stepped away to make some tea.

When she returned, she caught this scene, which she recorded on her smart phone for all the world to see.

Caballero should just change the name of his dog grooming businesse to Love Shack.

Watch and smile:

Friday, September 2, 2016

Taco Trucks Will Dominate Our Lives If Hillary Wins

Trump's camp warns that if Hillary wins, we'd have
a taco truck on every corner. Sounds delicious! 

In a brilliant move, a Denver city councilman parked a taco truck across the street from the city's Trump campaign headquarters.

The councilor then turned the taco truck into a voter registration booth.



Yesterday, we got this dark warning from a Donald Trump surrogate: If Hillary wins, there will be a taco truck on every corner.

The horror! Delicious tacos just feet away from any location you are anywhere in the United States. This is better than a chicken in every pot.

Ooops, sorry, I'm supposed ot be horrified. Tacos. Damn Mexicans. The Trump people say anything with a whiff of Hispanic culture is bad for America.

The warning about a taco truck on every corner was delivered by Latinos for Trump co-founder Marco Gutierrez.

Latinos for Trump? I bet there are a lot of empty seats at their meetings!

Anyway,  Gutierrez was on MSNBC when he said. "My culture is a very dominant culture.... And it's imposing, and it's causing problems. If you don't do something about it, you're gonna have taco trucks on every corner."

This just might be Hillary Clinton's new campaign logo. 
With that, we got the second big Trump-related Twitter hashtag of the week, #TacoTruckOnEveryCorner.

Frankly, I'd like to aim higher.  I think there should be a margarita truck on every corner. I was thinking Gutierrez is also afraid there might be a mariachi band on every corner. That would get a bit noisy, but what the hell.

I think Hillary Clinton should run with this. She's ahead in the polls, so if she promoted the idea her presidency would inspire a taco truck on every corner, she'd be a shoo-in.

Talk about a jobs program! All the unemployed people in the United States could get a job in the multitudes of street corner taco trucks.

And maybe margarita trucks, too!