Friday, May 22, 2015

Thoughts From The Road

  • The farther south you travel, the cheaper the gas.

  • A good test of compatibility before marriage would be to spend 20 hours together in a car.  With a dog.

  • Southerners are more friendly.

  • Do not expect the student body at a southern liberal arts college to be diverse.

  • If you haven't used AirBnB for travel accommodations you should try it.

  • Our dog Abby is a great travel companion.

  • Grits still suck.

  • It was worth a 160 mile round trip to cross Scott's BBQ off my bucket list.

  • 50% of the male graduates at the College of Charleston have a roman numeral after their name.

  • 50% of those are named Tyler or Tanner.

  • After a few days, "y'all" just becomes annoying.

  • When traveling by car, women will stop to pee at about 2.5X the rate of men.

  • Uber is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

  • We made a new friend from Kazakhstan.

  • It's impossible to drive North through Kentucky without encountering a huge back up.  Every time.

  • The best part of any road trip is getting back home.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Tallest Tree in the Forest

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

Somewhere along the way I learned that those gigantic forest fires we experience out in the western states, while horrible, are just a part of the way things work. It’s the earth renewing itself. Vegetation gets old and reaches a state where it needs to be cleared. Oils build up inside the trees and eventually are ignited by the heat of the sun. The forest burns to the ground and new vegetation begins its hundred years journey toward the sky.

Okay, it’s a metaphor. In a brief period of time we’ve been losing those more senior guys hosting the nightly talk shows. First Jay Leno, then Craig Ferguson, last night David Letterman and in several more weeks Jon Stewart will join the departing crowd. It’s not nature but rather culture renewing itself with this coincidence of timing. Four people who along the way may have lost their enthusiasm for the work, although it probably has more to do with the fact that there are things you do when you’re thirty for which you just don’t have the stamina when you’re in your fifties or sixties. Eventually, things go stale on both sides of the television screen.

As Dave Letterman entertained me on his Late Show finale last night, I realized I would miss him beginning this very evening. That fun place for me to go at 11:35 (10:35 Central) whenever I wanted is gone. Then again I also realized last night that that fun place has probably been gone for some time. All it took was seeing those old clips from twenty and thirty years ago when Dave not only made me laugh but also stunned me with the audacity of his program's sense of humor. I realized both he and I were no longer living anywhere near the edge. Is it age or is it THE age? Has political correctness moved us all to a place not so audacious as it once was? I guess it doesn’t matter. Humor will also renew itself if it becomes necessary.

In any event, I appreciate the great ride. I’ve got plenty of memories and Dave’s legacy is confirmed. For me, he will always be the tallest tree in the forest.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hero Of The Week

Army Sgt. Kurt D. Schamberg
Age:  26
2nd Battalion
14th Infantry Regiment
2nd Brigade
10th Mountain Division
Died 20 May, 2005
Baghdad, Iraq

Monday, May 18, 2015

You Reap What You Sow

I was in South Carolina last week and all the media buzz is about Luis Lang, a 49 yr. old resident of Fort Mill, SC.  Mr. Lang is self employed, working for the government and banks on maintaining foreclosed properties.  He has done pretty well, living in a 3,300 sq. ft. house valued at more than $300K and having a wife that doesn't work.  He has never bought health insurance, actually boasting that he and his wife paid their own medical bills.  That plan has worked for a number of years while they were both relatively healthy.  But recently Mr. Lang has run into a problem.  Ten days of severe headaches sent him to the emergency room.  They told him he had suffered several mini strokes.  He quickly ran up $9K in medical bills and wiped out his savings.  He also began having vision problems and couldn't work.

No problem, he thought.  That's why there is the Affordable Care Act.  Well, there were two problems: 1.  Enrollment for 2015 had closed.  2.  Because he has no income he earns too little to qualify for a federal subsidy to help him buy a private policy.  Mr. Lang, a self described Republican, admits he knew he was required to sign up for the ACA, but he chose not to do so.  For two years he chose not to sign up.  He thought, wrongly it turns out, that in the event of an emergency help would be available.  Who do you think he and his wife blame for his situation?  That's right, President Obama and Congressional Democrats.  "My husband should be at the front of the line because he doesn't work and because he has medical issues.  We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act", said his wife  What idiots.  Even with private insurance you can't skip premium payments and expect to get your care paid for when you get sick.

Mr. Lang, his eyesight getting worse by the day, has bleeding in his eyes and a detached retina.  To save his sight he needs care that is going to cost about $30K.  What about the Medicaid expansion, you ask?  Isn't it supposed to cover those who fall below the poverty line?  Yes, that's what it does.  The federal government pays 100% of the cost to cover low income, able bodied people.  Oh, wait.  South Carolina and its' Republican controlled legislature and Republican governor declined to participate in the Medicaid expansion.   So through his own stupidity and with the help of the morons he surely helped elect, Mr. Lang is royally screwed.

Did I mention that Mr. Lang also has diabetes?  He's a lifelong smoker who still smokes (note the pack in his pocket) and admits he's done little to control his diabetes.   He got himself into this mess, but has what he hopes is a solution.  He has started a page, asking others to donate and get him out of this.  Maybe Gov. Nikki Haley will donate a big chunk of change.  How about the Koch brothers?  The irony in all this is too ripe to ignore.  I wonder how many times he's complained about the liberal "takers" and "moochers".   Now he's finding out how it feels to be poor, sick and without resources.

You might want to check out his GoFundMe page, if only to read the comments, even by those who donated.  Suffice it to say, he's not getting a lot of sympathy.  You can find it here:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Because, The Bible

Heading out to pick up my kid at day care
Is it just me or does it seem that state legislatures are becoming nuttier all the time.  The best known example, of course, is Indiana's recent attempt to codify bigotry.  How do people with ideas like this get elected?  That's actually a rhetorical question.  Religious nuts who are passionate about certain issues will actually go out and vote in state elections, while most people ignore them.  The result is nutty people making nutty law.

Now it's our turn in Ohio.  Last week Republican lawmakers introduced new legislation that would further loosen the gun laws in the state.  And by "loosen" I mean basically make the state into a free fire zone.  One proposal would allow concealed carry without a permit.  Meaning concealed carry for everyone, no training required.  They had already reduced the training requirements necessary to obtain a permit.  Now there won't be any training required or even a permit.  Rep. Ron Hood, R-Moron, calls it "constitutional carry".  He says "If bearing arms is a right, it is not the job of government to require law abiding citizens to jump through one of the most burdensome processes in the country to exercise."  He's saying the current requirement of 12 hours of classroom training and exhibiting minimum proficiency on the range is "burdensome".  So let's lift that burden and just allow thousands of untrained people to carry concealed weapons.  What could possibly go wrong?

Also proposed is new legislation that would permit concealed carry in previously forbidden places, like college campuses, churches, day care facilities and government buildings.  We have already had numerous instances of physical altercations in our local courthouse between parties on opposite sides of criminal cases.  Now let's give them all guns.  Why not sell popcorn while we're at it?  Rep. John Becker, R-Idiot, actually quoted the Bible in supporting this idea.  "Jesus tells his disciples '...if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one'".  He also claims that gun ownership is a "God given right."  Backing him up is Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Mush for brains, who, I'm sure after much thought, intoned that "It does have some biblical background".  I can only wonder at the process in one's brain where a biblical passage about swords translates to the right of everyone to own a gun.

When one of the sponsors of the bills, Rep. Ron Maag, R-Brain Dead, was asked what limits would be imposed on the types of weapons that could be carried, his answer was "something you can carry".  Most people can carry a bazooka or an RPG.  Where are we headed?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Habits Never Change

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

Let’s get right to it. Today we’re talking important habits, not stupid things like whether you brush your teeth before or after you take your shower in the morning. This one is all about what you watch on TV and how you watch it.

Perhaps you realize that we are in the death throes of a TV system that was first made available to us common folk around seventy years ago. Perhaps you don’t give a damn just as long as you can point the old clicker at the old screen and watch a cage match pitting Dr. Oz against Dr. Phil on the pros and cons of aggressive flossing. For those who have forgotten, there was a once upon a time before your programs came to you through a wire into a box near the set or harmlessly (?) beamed like a laser from twenty-two thousand miles away in outer space to a receptacle on your roof and then through a wire into a box near the set. Way back when, pictures and sound simply floated through the air and magically showed up on your TV screen and the only price of admission was what it cost you to buy that TV at the furniture store and lug it home and plug it in.

Hard as it may seem to believe that old free through the air thing still exists and you could actually take advantage of it right this very minute. Of course you’d have to wave goodbye to all two dozen flavors of ESPN, all those pretend news channels like Fox and MSNBC and CNN and Al Jazeera America, all those cooking channels (how many things can you really do to chicken and have it remain edible?), those handy homeowner channels, the channels for ladies that for some reason are always showing movies of ladies being beaten up, your faith based channels, Oprah, Conan, and the historical channels that seldom mention history but find all the time necessary for pawn shop owners screwing people out of their treasures, traveling scavengers screwing barn owners out of their priceless antiques and hucksters screwing each other bidding for abandoned storage lockers full of the garbage of strangers.

If you make that small sacrifice what awaits you on those really actually free channels include quite a variety of programming to make any viewer happy. There are reality shows like The Taste, comedies including Bad Judge, One Big Happy, and The Millers, plenty of procedurals featuring CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Forever, and Battle Creek, dramas like Hart of Dixie, Revenge, State of Affairs (although some insist it’s a comedy), even shows that dabble in the occult including Constantine and Resurrection. What a lineup.

Wait, seems I picked up the wrong list. All those shows were officially cancelled this week by their network overlords (Okay, CSI gets to do a two hour made for TV movie in the fall to wrap up fifteen years of blood and guts – then they’re cancelled). Guess they all sucked after all. Ah well, plenty more drivel where those came from. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for us come September. Happy viewing.   

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hero Of The Week

Army Spc. Ronald W. Gebur
Age:  23
1st Battalion
22nd Infantry Regiment
1st Brigade
4th Infantry Division
Died 13 May, 2006
Baghdad, Iraq

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Being Accountable For Your Actions

I'm sure we all remember the infamous lawsuit of years ago brought against McDonald's by a woman who claimed she suffered severe burns when a cup of their coffee spilled in her lap in the car.  I seem to remember that, even though many people laughed, she won her case and McDonald's even changed the temperature of their coffee.  Well, the hot coffee bogeyman has struck again.

Starbuck's has a policy that police officers in uniform receive free coffee.  One day in 2012 Lt. Matthew Kohr of the Raleigh, NC Police Dept. stopped in to a Starbuck's to get his free cup of java.  Upon driving off, he claims the lid popped off and the cup crumpled in his lap, leaving him with third degree burns.  Instead of going to an emergency room right away, the lieutenant went home and took pictures of his injuries.  Shortly thereafter he and his wife sued Starbuck's for $750,000; he originally wanted to sue for $10 million, but civil suits in NC are limited by statute to $750K.  In his suit he claimed the burns aggravated his Crohn's disease, caused him anxiety and sleeplessness and caused loss of intimacy with his wife.  His doctor testified that he became depressed, stopped eating, became malnourished and had to be admitted to a hospital.  Because he spilled coffee in his lap?  Starbuck's countered that his health problems pre-dated his coffee spill by many years and that the spill did not contribute to his ill health.

Where is the common sense in this case?  Unless one orders iced coffee, coffee is served hot.  The lieutenant claims "I didn't know it was that hot".  I know coffee is hot; most adults know coffee is served hot.  I actually like mine piping hot.  I also know when I pick up coffee to drink in the car that it's not a good idea to hold it between my legs.  Common sense, right?  That's why God invented cup holders.  Let's assume that police cars are so loaded with communications gear, computers, hump mounted shotguns and other law enforcement tools that there aren't any cup holders.  Every convenience store in the world has cup holders that can be clipped into the front window channel.  About $.69.  Buy one.  Don't hold hot drinks between your legs.

The jury ruled that Starbuck's was not liable, a verdict I consider a vote for common sense and personal accountability.  If you do something stupid and get hurt, admit you were stupid and move on.

Friday, May 8, 2015

They Should Love It

In case you've been living under a rock, there's a real shit storm in Texas over plans by the Pentagon to use part of the state in a a seven state military training exercise called Jade Helm 15.  These type of exercises have been held before, but we live in different times.  Ever since we elected a black president the right wing in this country has become increasingly extremist and paranoid.  When the Army sent a Lt. Colonel to a town meeting in Bastrop, TX to answer questions about Jade Helm 15 he was compared to Hitler and accused of using the exercise as cover for invading Texas and declaring martial law.  Because it makes sense that if the Federal government were planning to invade Texas they would first send representatives from the military to request permission to use the land.

Even the governor got in on the action, asking the Texas State Guard to monitor the activities of the U.S. military.  Leaving aside the lunacy of thinking the State Guard could stop a military takeover, you have the spectacle of the governor of the state feeding into the conspiracy theories of idiots.  Then again, it is Texas.  But, here's the part I don't understand.  Normally you would expect Texans to back a military invasion of a Third World country with lots of religious nut jobs, lots of brown people and lots of oil.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Too Soon to Race

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

It didn’t used to be like this. General Dwight Eisenhower decided to resign as Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in June 1952 to make his run for president. Less than five months later he was elected forty-forth President of the United States. Five months. Start to finish. Done.

Now it’s…well look at it. We are currently still 551 days, a whopping 18 months away from the next presidential election and what do we have? We have a mess. We have thirty-eight (yes, really) official candidates so far, many of them of questionable skills and intelligence. Fifteen are declared Republicans, seven Democrats and sixteen running under the banner of one independent party or another. More to come? As a matter of fact there are another fourteen candidates who have gone so far as to register an official exploratory committee. Still more to come? Does it matter?

For starters let’s just toss out all those independent candidates. We know that unless they are (a) fabulously wealthy and (b) using that wealth to fund their own campaigns they will just be flies in the dustbin of political history.  There are two ladies, one on each of the remaining two sides, either of whom would become the first female commander in chief. One has apparently already enjoyed coronation by her party, I believe just days after she lost her party’s nomination in 2008 (“Don’t worry, dear. You’re next”). She’ll go through the primary season with her very own stalking horse, most likely to figure out how much she can get away with once she wins and to distract those on the other side from being quite as vicious as they’ve been so far. Speaking of the other side, that woman hasn’t got a chance simply because (1) she’s never run for or held political office; (2) the most successful thing she did while running a major corporation into the ground was negotiate her golden parachute; (3) the major campaign donors on her side of the fence still believe (no matter what they say in public) that a woman’s place is in the home. Finito.

The rest of that other side of the fence is currently made up of about two dozen guys. You know most of them as “the usual suspects” since many of them were considered and tossed aside by the party faithful in one or both of the last two presidential elections. The biggest problem will occur eighteen months from now when one of them will have to prove he or she can pass themself off to the general public as a normal, sane human being deserving to be in possession of the launch codes after sounding like a complete raving lunatic during primary season. Not an easy task.

So as of today, in an effort to preserve my own sanity, I have decided to completely ignore the 2016 presidential campaign until a more reasonable time, like July 2016. Besides that, it will give me the opportunity to catch up on Bridgegate.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hero Of The Week

Army Staff Sgt. Dale J. Kelly, Jr.
Age:  48
3rd Battalion
172nd Infantry (Mountain)
Maine Army National Guard
Died 6 May, 2006
Diwaniyah, Iraq