Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show for the Fourth of July, 2015

Mexican piñata makers are working overtime to meet the demand for papier-mâché likenesses of an oafish American figure whose boorishness trumps anything I've ever seen.
 John Adams had it right - light up the sky with celebration!
 This is what we celebrate.  It makes nice reading, if you have time.
There is nothing that says "Baltimore" like a pile of steamed crabs, some corn, and a beer or two.
The classic album cover for this week is this unforgettable Springsteen collection from 1984.
 Tonight at 8 on PBS - the annual "A Capital Fourth" celebration.  Songs, prose and fireworks, right on the TV for you!
We recommend Ted 2 for those of you who like to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.
This is America: the annual Towson MD Fourth of July parade thunders past the County Courts Building where I worked for many a year, sometimes during the parade!

Friday, July 3, 2015

It takes a lot of thin mints

I should have paid more attention in the psychology classes through which I dozed on many a leafy autumn college afternoon. Let's be honest.  I should have paid more attention in all my classes, but it would have helped to learn more about the human psyche if I had asked Professor Freud (I had some really great teachers!), "Why would a person bestow a generous gift upon a worthy organization and then, like a person teasing a kitten, place an onerous qualification on that gift in order to pull it back intentionally?"

What I'm talking about happened in Washington State. An anonymous donor sent a check for $100,000 to the Girl Scouts. That is nice. A hundred thousand bucks is enough to send 500 girls to camp.

But then, apparently in the grip of an awful case of Caitlynphobia, the would-be benefactor sent a message that said, "Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls. If you can’t, please return the money."

So, it's like this: "Here is some money for a good cause, and it's sandwiches and camp for all, but nothing for any red-haired kids. Or kids with braces on their teeth, or girls who like to dance the polka."

To their credit, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington gave the money back to the churlish one.  Their CEO, Megan Ferland, said it wasn't even a tough decision at all: “Girl Scouts is for every girl,” she says. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

Scouting, for Boys and Girls, is supposed to be an inclusive activity, with room for all kids, as should be the case.  Ms Ferland sums it up nicely: “Every girl that is a Girl Scout is a Girl Scout because her parent or guardian brings her to us and says, ‘I want my child to participate,’ And I don’t question whether or not they’re a girl.” 

There will always be the fearful among us, people who love to develop stories in their minds.  And while they're worrying about little Buster McGaffigan, the tough boy from around the corner, dressing up as a girl for the sole purpose of annoying girls in the Girl Scouts, they should be worrying about living in a world in which there are people who would make a pretense of generosity as a setting for what they're really up to, which is fomenting fear and disharmony.

The happy wrapper to all this is that the good people of Washington have now given money that amounts to more than the $100 G that the original donor waved and withdrew. The best outcome would be if that person gave the money back, no strings attached, because a kid is a kid is a kid.

A $50,000 donation is cause for celebration at the Queen Anne offices of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. “We have these little clapper thingies, and the clappers go mad when we get that kind of gift,” says the council’s CEO, Megan Ferland. So when Ferland came back to the office earlier this spring and announced that she’d just landed a $100,000 donation, the place went mad. Not only did it represent nearly a quarter of the council’s annual fundraising goal, it would pay to send 500 girls to camp. “We were thrilled,” Ferland says.

Except there was a catch. In late May, as news of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition was blowing up your Facebook news feed, she received a letter from the donor with a brief request: 

Ferland chooses her words carefully when discussing the donor, whose identity she won’t reveal out of respect for their privacy. “The relationship is complex,” is all she’ll say. But she does admit to being “very sad” upon receiving the letter. Shortly after that, though, she made up her mind about how to respond: In a short letter, she informed the donor that she would, in fact, be returning the money. Her reasoning was simple. 

This is the second time in less than five years that a Girl Scouts council has taken a public stand to support transgender girls, and both times Ferland was at the center of the story. In 2012, when she headed the organization’s Colorado council, a 7-year-old transgender girl in Denver was denied entry to a troop. Although the council had never specifically said that it accepted transgender girls, the national organization had always made inclusivity the foundation of its mission. So after checking with the council’s attorney, Ferland issued a public statement welcoming transgender girls and explaining that the council was working to find a troop for the girl who’d been rejected. 

She’s not shying away from controversy this time, either. And an Indiegogo campaign that the Girl Scouts of Western Washington launched Monday morning makes that pretty clear: “Help us raise back the $100,000 a donor asked us to return because we welcome transgender girls,” reads the council’s statement on the site, front and center under a video proclaiming that “Girl Scouts is for every girl.”

The Gender Justice League, which supports the transgender community in Seattle, has pledged to spread the word about the campaign. “We’re so profoundly grateful that Girl Scouts of Western Washington are standing by their values to support all girls,” says executive director Danni Askini. “It’s also mortifying that the donor withdrew this funding. It’s a clear example of how much bias and prejudice against transgender people still exists in our society.”

The word inclusivity comes up a lot when talking to Ferland about Girl Scouts, and according to a psychology professor at the University of Washington, it’s a concept that’s even more important to transgender children. “It certainly is the case that for all people—transgender or otherwise—having people acknowledge the identity that you see yourself as having is very important,” says Kristina Olson. “And feeling supported in who you are—in any aspect of any kid’s life—is going to make them feel better about themselves, do better in the world. So we have a lot of evidence that what we call social support is associated with much better outcomes for kids. And that seems to be especially true among transgender kids.”

Yet while they may acknowledge their identity to themselves, being open about it with others can be much more difficult. “There’s a lot of violence and discrimination and prejudice against transgender people,” Askini says. “So even if people know they’re transgender, they don’t always transition because of that prejudice and bias and discrimination. So the thing about Girl Scouts that’s so vital to all girls is that it’s about creating community and ending isolation.”

Olson is currently conducting a long term study on gender identity among young children. Among the more than 100 trans children her research has focused on in the last two years, 97 percent identified themselves as being the opposite gender than their sex would suggest between one and a half and three and a half years of age. “And that’s the same age that we see other kids who aren’t transgender identify their gender for the first time,” she says.

The Girl Scouts of Colorado took heat from some parents for taking such a clear stand in support of transgender girls, but Ferland wasn’t worried about blowback then. And she isn’t now. “This is the right thing to do, so there was not anything else to do other than return the gift,” she says. “And we need the $100,000 back so we can serve more girls. So we’re going to do everything we can to raise that money. And if it raises a ruckus, it raises a ruckus.”

If the results of the campaign after one day are any indication, it already has. By 5pm—just nine hours after going live—the council had raised nearly $25,000.

UPDATE: As of 9:30am on June 30, the Girl Scouts had surpassed their $100,000 goa

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Warden threw a party at the county jail

I hate to keep bringing this up, but may I ask just what is going on in the American prison system?

And I'm not talking about people still being in jail since 1967 for having marijuana seeds in their pocket or something.  I know those inequities exist, but is there any doubt that David Sweat and the late Richard Matt should have been locked up with the key thrown into nearby Niagara Falls?

At 34, David Sweat was in stir for shooting Deputy Kevin Tarsia 15 times and running over him with his car. Sweat's mother, Pamela Sweat, said her son was a troubled child with a violent streak. "I don't want nothing to do with him," Ms Sweat told the Press & Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton, New York. "He has tormented me since he was nine years old, and now he's 34 and I feel like he's still doing it."

Richard Matt was shot to death by a border patrol SWAT team after almost three weeks on the run through rural New York State.  He was 48 and seemed to be just a little slice on Hell on earth, starting out by terrorizing other kids on the school bus, running away from home on a stolen horse as a teenager (what is this, "The Rifleman"?) and as a local thug in Towanda, NY, dismembering the body of his former employer.  At least he was kind enough to kill the man before sawing him into a million pieces, after which he fled to Mexico, where he killed another American and, for his sins, was incarcerated in the prison in Dannemora on a term that was to run until 2032 with no chance of parole.  Matt "is the most vicious, evil person I've ever come across in 38 years as a police officer," Gabriel DiBernardo, a retired captain with the North Tonawanda Police Department, told the New York Times.

So.  One guy is a longtime troublemaker, guilty of two murders, and the other saw a long string of crimes culminate in the murder of a police officer who was attempting to arrest him for possession of stolen guns.  The penal system of New York saw fit to place these two upstanding citizens in the "honor block," where they could apparently come and go as they pleased, dress in civilian clothes, and saw their way to freedom through cell walls and steam pipes, aided by tools brought to them by a prison worker who thought maybe she loved one or both of them and by a guard who allowed them onto the catwalks behind their cells so that they could wire their executive suites for electric outlets for their toaster oven.

They even made a practice run of their escape the night before they pulled off the real thing.  Any performer can tell you the value of a good dress rehearsal.  I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the warden, his top brass and most of the guards were in the audience with Playbills in their hands, enjoying the show.

There were supposed to be hourly bed checks of all 180 cells on the night shift at the lockup.  I guess that was overlooked.  And in the evening, while they were breaking that brick wall with a sledge hammer they found sitting there in the prison, no one heard the unmistakable sound of a wall being dismantled?

Here's what happened instead:  Sweat and Matt slipped through an opening they had cut in the back of his Sweat's cell.  They climbed down five flights of piping to the tunnels below the prison. Then, they crawled through the hole they had made in a brick wall. From there, it was an easy matter to slip into a steam pipe which they had cut holes in, walk down another tunnel, and pop out of a manhole cover two blocks from the prison.

That's where they were supposed to be met by their ride, fickle-hearted Joyce Mitchell, but that didn't work out so well.

Sawing through this wall probably violated their
lease, and they will forfeit their security deposit
Now, the three top officials at the Clinton Correctional Facility and nine other security employees are out on their assessments, on administrative leave. Among them are the two guards who regularly worked the night shift on the inmates’ cellblock and who were on duty the night of the escape. Guarding, but not guarding.

I've said this before, but I need someone to help me understand. It all seems so simple to me, but I'm just a guy without advanced degrees in penology and criminology and sociology.  Why do we even have prisons if the evil sons of witches we send there are treated like the cast of "Saved By The Bell: The College Years" and allowed to roam about at will, cooking in their cells, dressing like models in the LL Bean catalog, and sawing their way out as no one looks to see what they're up to?

I almost wonder why they'd want to get out, anyway.  Sounds like they had it pretty cushy in there already.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Things I Have Learned By Being Alive for 64 Years

1. Worrying about something never changes anything.
2. If I were being pursued by bad guys, I would want G. Gordon Liddy on my side.  If I were being pursued by good guys, I would want attorney Lenny Shapiro on my side.
3. Satchell Paige was right when he said, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."  I don't look back and regret things I did, but I do regret some things I didn't do.
4. Clothing and shoe salespeople don't mean it when they say a pair of pants or shoes will fit really nice once you take it home and wear it a few times.  If it doesn't fit in the store, it won't fit at home.
4. Same thing with people.  If they don't seem like they will be nice or be your friend, they won't be.
5. Everything a person needs to know has been written about in The New Yorker magazine or depicted in The Simpsons.
6. People who have passed on are doing wonderful things for us every day. My angels protect me, guide me, comfort me, hear me.
7. No matter how much I whine about it, people are still going to use the adjective "everyday" as an adverb. This happens every day.
8. I will never ever ever get to read all that I want to read.
9. As much as people ask you to be honest in assessing their new hairdid/car/jacket/significant other, they really want affirmation. And I want them to have it.
10. A lot of people have achieved fame, fortune and riches, and yet they can't even look at themselves in the mirror because they cheated, lied and hurt others on the way up the ladder. Success is hollow without a firm foundation.
11. A kindness to an animal is always repaid, sometimes by the animal itself.

12. No matter the level of hostility they display, every person has a need to feel loved, to fit in, to have a certain status.
13. I've seen this written and it is true: you can tell everything you need to know about a person by seeing how they interact with "service" personnel: housekeepers, servers, cashiers.
14. In 64 years, I have yet to learn to act, so there goes any dream of starring in romantic comedies with Mila Kunis.
15. I wouldn't trade one second of my life for anything.  I've had the love of the most wonderful woman alive, my Peggy, and friendship and adventure with the whole world.  I just don't know how to say enough thanks, but I thank you all!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pound for pound

Hello and welcome to Consumers' Corner, where we will address marketplace issues that affect us all.

First up is this report from New York, New York - "the town so nice they named it New York." Their Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner, Julie Menin, says Whole Foods supermarkets have made a habit of cheating their customers by overstating the weight of prepackaged meat, dairy and baked goods.

Let's talk about these stores.  Since it's hard for me to distinguish among Whole Foods, Fresh Market, MOM'S Organic Market, and the dim aisle with wooden floors and track lighting in Wegmans, I just call them all "The Hippie Store."  They all have great heaping bins full of granola and bulgur wheat and brown rice and dried kale and seeds and nuts and flours and grains and split peas and lentils
and I don't know what-all else, and in those plastic tubs, one can find most anything they want to eat, as long as one doesn't want it to be especially tasty or easy to prepare.

"Mantequilla" is Spanish
for "butter"
I get so confused with the news about food anyway. One day bacon and coffee are bad for you and wine and chocolate are good for you, and the next day, they change places.  And then, you study Spanish and find out that butter is meant to kill ya.

Lentils, Peas and Rice: America's Snack!
But, whether it's the deli at Try 'N' Buy or the upscale slice-a-rama at the swanky stores, a pound of ground beef should weigh 16 ounces anywhere.  Even if it's not all beef.  Just saying.

In New York, the Consumer Affairs Department examined 80 pre-packaged WF products and found incorrect weights for each.  You'd have paid  - overpaid -  80 cents for a package of pecan panko. And that's assuming that you even meant to purchase pecan panko.  If you were buying coconut shrimp, you were really in for a hosing, to the tune of a $14.84 markup.

Check out the video before you check out at the grocery store! You'll be a-gassed, as they say.

Nathan Thurm, Attorney
By the way, you have to like the guy from Whole Foods whose advice to you is to challenge the store to be certain that 8-oz package of gluten-free organic Gluten you just picked up really weighs half a pound. Go weigh it yourself, if you don't trust us, he admonishes. Dear Whole Foods, you might want to get a public spokesperson who doesn't remind us all of Nathan Sturm, Martin Short's lawyer character on SNL...

And our next letter comes from Mr D. Sweat of Clinton State Prison in New York State.  Mr Sweat writes: "OK, me and my partner Rich bought a pound of ground beef to cook in our cell in our little toaster oven, but when we opened that package, inside the meat we found hacksaw blades and drill bits in it.  We think there was something wrong with that meat; every since we done ate it, we've been breaking out."

Answer to Mr Sweat:  Is there too much lead in your diet?

Monday, June 29, 2015

It's a gas

You can bet that doctors are going to be a little more careful in how they talk about their patients in the future, following the awarding of a half a million Doctor Dollars to a man from Vienna, Virginia. The man, unidentified in press accounts, went to a medical suite in Reston, Va. for a colonoscopy.  He had a pretty good idea: he hit the "voice record" button on his smart phone so as to capture the post-procedure instructions his doctor would give him.

On the way home, he pressed play and was surprised to find that a) he had let the thing keep recording all along   and
b) the anesthesiologist and her staff were big-time goofing on him all through the procedure.

Anyone over 50 knows the pleasure of spending one day at home, draining the crankcase, as it were, so that the next day the doctor can slide a hose up the old sit biscuit, a hose with a flashlight and a camera and a microwave on the end of it.  The purpose is serious; they are looking for polyps which could become cancerous, so it's worth it to have this completely embarrassing and inconvenient ordeal done to you every so often (doctors recommend at least three of them per month, just to be safe.)

Anyway, the doctors weren't just insulting him to his second face; they were also rigging up a false diagnosis on his chart and planning to avoid speaking with him afterwards.

On the recording, one hears such delightful, professional passages as, "After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op, I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit,” (anesthesiologist to nurse, about him.)

A medical assistant saw he had a rash. The anesthesiologist told her not to touch it. "You might get some syphilis on your arm or something. It’s probably tuberculosis in the penis, so you’ll be all right."

And, the most disgusting of all (and that took some doing): The man was queasy when watching the IV needle being placed in his arm, and this wonderful anesthesiologist said, “Well, why are you looking then ?”

And she used that vile "r" word that I abhor.

And there were other horrible things, and in a suit for defamation and medical malpractice, a Fairfax County jury ordered the anesthesiologist and her practice to pay him $500,000.

The name of the anesthesiologist is Tiffany M. Ingham.  At  42, she is acting like a six-year-old playing doctor.  The Washington POST said she has left the practice and moved to Florida, and has already left the job she recently started there.

A spokesperson for Aisthesis, former employer of Dr Ingham, said in a statement: “We apologize to this patient and regret the distress and suffering that this most unfortunate incident caused. The anesthesiologist involved  is no longer with our practice. Once we learned of this incident we assured that every anesthesia staff member reviewed and reiterated their pledge to abide by our professional organization’s code of ethics.”

The man was awarded $100,000 for defamation — $50,000 each for comments about the man having syphilis and tuberculosis — and $200,000 for medical malpractice, as well as the $200,000 in punitive damages.

Listen. We understand that doctors are only human, and we men know with certainty that while we are under sedation, a veritable phalanx of doctors, nurses and medical staff will be goofing on our noodles.  We just wish they'd be nice about it, but maybe having to shell out half a mill will help.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Rerun: She Must Have Been Very Mad

As Stewie would say..."here we go.........."

From NBC News:

Authorities in Maryland say two women threw bleach and another chemical on each other during a fight at a Walmart, prompting officials to evacuate the store for two hours and call in a hazardous materials team.
Fire officials say 19 people had to be taken to hospitals, although only one was thought to have serious injuries. That person was taken to the Wilmer Eye Institute with a potentially serious eye injury.
Fire officials were called to the store in the Baltimore suburb of Arbutus shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday.
Fire Department spokesman Glenn Blackwell says one person was arrested and charges are pending.
"This is obviously not the type of behavior we would expect from people at our stores. We apologize for any inconvenience this caused to our customers," Walmart officials said in a  statement.

This is the other end of the county from here,  but do you see what's going on?  Unwilling to rely on conventional weapons, this woman chose to wage chemical warfare on the new girl seen on the arm of her baby daddy, according to the police down there.  And not only did she toss bleach on her rival, she followed that with Pine-Sol, which contains ammonia, and every schoolkid knows, that's a combination that makes chlorine gas and other unpleasant reactions.

They had to evacuate the entire WalMart on a Saturday morning, causing moans to be heard from here to Bentonville, AR.

And then the bleach-bomber showed up at the police station, asking to take out a protective order to keep the victim from getting back at her!

Now I have to worry every time I go into a WalMart.  I can assure you, if you're looking for the guy who is stepping out with your baby momma, I am not the guy.  Among my manifold sins you will not find infidelity.

But there just might be those who would want to toss something unexpected on me in a huge megastore.  For their convenience, here is a list of things that I would accept as incoming liquid projectiles:

  • Kozy Shack rice pudding is always nice.  Reminds me of diners.
  • English Leather after shave.  It's all I ever use, after I shave.
  • National Bohemian beer
  • A homemade milkshake 
  • Cole Slaw
Rice pudding!
So you see, there is no real need to toss hazardous chemicals at one another, when much more pleasant fluids can be flung. If you ever see much dashing out of a WalMart with bits of cole slaw trailing behind me, and smelling like I just shaved, please say hi! And I'll share the rice pudding.