Friday, September 24, 2021

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for September, 2021


The publication of the astonishing new book Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, which details the relentless machinations of the GOP and other enablers of Der Furor to overturn the results of the 2020 election, plumbs the depths of despicable ass clownery to which desperate political losers will sink, and opens up a new roster of potential ass clown awardees. After some thought, and with due consideration of the degradation of the legal profession represented by those who would destroy our government to stroke the ego of a narcissistic sociopath, I have decided to present the award for

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for September, 2021


to

John Eastman


John Eastman, a former tenured professor of law* and former dean at the Chapman University School of Law, gained well-earned notoriety this past week when a six-page memo he drafted for the former president was exposed in Woodward and Costa's new book.

The memo, breathtaking in its cynical audacity and shameless trampling of the Constitution, explains how former Vice President Pence could ignore the electoral votes of certain states, allowing the election to be cast into the House of Representatives, where a GOP majority (given one vote per state) would throw out the Biden victory and give the presidency to Der Furor. You can read his memo in its nauseatingly vile entirety here.

If there were any doubt about the moral bankruptcy of Der Furor and his enablers in and out of government, this grotesquely un-American plan should remove the blinders from the eyes of all but the most unsalvageable MAGA crazies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, John Eastman is named as the Left-Cheek Ass Clown of the Month for September, 2021, and awarded a rating of 750,000 on the Gohmert Stupidity Scale. The stain he leaves on the legal profession will remain for a long, long time.

Have a good day and come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.

Bilbo

* The standards must be astonishingly low.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Poetry Sunday


I'm very fond of poetry, and when I'm confused or depressed (which is depressingly often nowadays), I like to relax and calm down with a book of poetry.

Which today's Poetry Sunday is not.

I have seen this satirical piece several times across the Internet over the last week or so, and I'm not sure who the brilliant person was who decided that a December 2019 speech full of Der Furor's rambling nonsense might make a sort of very-free-verse poem. I'd like to be able to credit the original idea, but we'll just go with it for today, with the acknowledgement and understanding that it's not my work ... even though I wish it was ...


I never understood wind.
You know, I know
windmills very much.
I have studied it
better than anybody
else. It’s very expensive.
They are made in China
and Germany mostly.
—Very few made here, almost none,
but they are manufactured, tremendous
—if you are into this—
tremendous fumes. Gases are
spewing into the atmosphere. You know
we have a world
right?
So the world
is tiny
compared to the universe.
So tremendous, tremendous
amount of fumes and everything.
You talk about
the carbon footprint
— fumes are spewing into the air.
Right? Spewing.
Whether it’s in China,
Germany, it’s going into the air.
It’s our air
their air
everything — right?
A windmill will kill many bald eagles.
After a certain number
they make you turn the windmill off.
That is true.
—By the way
they make you turn it off.
And yet, if you killed one
they put you in jail.
That is OK.
You want to see a bird graveyard?
You just go.
Take a look.
A bird graveyard.
Go under a windmill someday,
you’ll see
more birds
than you’ve ever seen ever
in your life.

If we're going to elect a poet to be president, we can do better than this by electing, say, Edgar Allan Poe. Of course, he's dead ... but he'd still be an improvement on Der Furor.

Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Cartoon Saturday


What a week it's been ...

A joint announcement of a new defense relationship among the US, UK, and Australia has managed to piss off China, France, and the EU; so many unvaccinated people have been admitted to hospitals for intensive treatment that health care is now being rationed in some states, and doctors are having to choose which Covid patients to save; a new humanitarian crisis is growing on the southern border as some 10,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, are sheltering under a border bridge; fires raging in the west have destroyed thousands of giant sequoias, as attempts to save the rest are moving ahead; and in Pennsylvania, citizens will be hard-pressed to cope with 2021 because the state Liquor Control Board has imposed a limit of two bottles per customer per day of many products, citing "supply problems beyond its control."

It's been a long, long time since I've had to worry about the ins and outs of dating, and the way things are today, I don't know how well I'd do navigating the rocky shoals of changing expectations and Covid-19. This week, a collection of cartoons about dating in the new era ...

I had to think about this one for a moment ...


Sigh ...


This relationship was probably doomed from the start ...


If they're not careful, they may end up with an isotope ...


And he thought it was in the bag ...


I think a lot of people should come with warning labels, whether they're dating or not ...


I'm at the age where I understand this as a major criterion ...


Dating in the era of smart devices and dumb people ...


As turndowns go, this one is a classic ...


It's important to be prepared, because you never know when the sparks will fly ...


You may be better off any more by limiting your "dating" to simply consuming more fresh dates ... unless, of course, your name is Hannibal Lecter.

Have a good day and a great late-summer weekend. Get vaccinated, mask up, and protect yourselves and others. More thoughts tomorrow, on Poetry Sunday. See you then.

Bilbo

Friday, September 17, 2021

Great Moments in Editing and Signage


Ah, yes ... it's that time again ...

Yes, you always want to be ready ...


I think I've found the follow-on to Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid ...


Click here? Really? ...


Yes ... it would be hard on the blades ...


The caption saves space, but it's pretty harsh ...


Good point ...


The fine is a nice touch, but probably not necessary ...


Now that I've seen this, I can't unsee all those covers ...


When the spell-check is broken ...


Sometimes the juxtaposition of headlines is ... interesting ...


And there we go with our latest collection of ... missalanis ... moments. Hope you enjoyed them.

Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.

Bilbo

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Just Say No to Negotiation?


Okay, Dear Readers, it's blood-boiling time again.

Over the past few weeks, among the television and print ads castigating Republicans as fascists and Democrats as wild-eyed socialists, is another set of competing ads targeting a proposed change to federal law that would help control the enormous cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of such drugs with the nation's pharmaceutical companies. The competing ads are carefully crafted to appeal to emotion and fear rather than economic argument: those favoring Medicare's ability to negotiate show frail elderly people sitting at the kitchen table, wondering fearfully if they should eat, pay the rent, or pay for their prescription meds; those opposing it predict the utter collapse of the world's finest, safest, and most productive drug industry, which will be starved of the money it needs to develop the drugs that those elderly folks at the kitchen table so desperately need.

As one of those elderly folks at the kitchen table, I tend to think that allowing Medicare to negotiate is a good idea.

The "Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America" published a full-page ad on page A13 of today's Washington Post titled "An Open Letter from America's Biopharmaceutical Companies," signed by 34 CEOs of major drug companies. The letter stridently beats the drum on the evils of allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices on behalf of patients. Here are a few excerpts:

"Unfortunately, our ability to remain global leaders in innovation and patient care is under attack."

"In the coming weeks, Congress will consider policies that, under the guise of 'Medicare negotiation,' would threaten patients' access to medicines and sacrifice future medical advances."

"One of the proposals alone would cut $1.5 trillion from innovative research companies in just the next 10 years, threatening investment in small, cutting-edge biotech startups and forcing established companies to make difficult choices about which promising medicines to pursue or abandon. This same proposal could mean a 90%+ reduction in new medicines developed by small and emerging biotechs and disproportionately impact new treatments into rare diseases, cancer, and neurological diseases."

"We agree with leaders in Washington that Americans need help with their health care costs, but these dangerous policy experiments are not the answer. Let's work together to advance bipartisan solutions that lower out-of-pocket costs for patients at the pharmacy counter without sacrificing future treatments or cures or American leadership in scientific discovery ... through continued dialogue and innovative thinking we can achieve our shared goals."

You will, of course, pardon my skepticism about these claims, and particularly the pleas to "work together to advance bipartisan solutions" and "(conduct) continued dialog and innovative thinking." These remind me about the classic description of a "committee" as a dark alley down which promising ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.

You may also notice that the ad mentions one proposal that would both cut $1.5 trillion from "innovative research companies" and reduce the development of new medicines and treatments by more than 90%. It does not, however, explain where those numbers came from or how the impact was estimated. It also doesn't mention that pharmaceutical companies already are reluctant to invest in new medicines and "treatments into rare diseases, cancer, and neurological diseases" which do not have enough patients to return a profit on their development.

It is no secret that prescription drug prices in this country are the highest in the world. The pharmaceutical industry defends these prices as necessary to fund research and development, although they fail to mention the enormous overall profits earned by the industry. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March, 2020, titled "Profitability of Large Pharmaceutical Companies Compared With Other Large Public Companies" found that 

"In this cross-sectional study that compared the profits of 35 large pharmaceutical companies with those of 357 large, nonpharmaceutical companies from 2000 to 2018, the median net income (earnings) expressed as a fraction of revenue was significantly greater for pharmaceutical companies compared with nonpharmaceutical companies (13.8% vs 7.7%)."

It interpreted this as meaning that

"Large pharmaceutical companies were more profitable than other large companies, although the difference was smaller when controlling for differences in company size, research and development expense, and time trends."  

The conclusion was:

"From 2000 to 2018, the profitability of large pharmaceutical companies was significantly greater than other large, public companies, but the difference was less pronounced when considering company size, year, or research and development expense. Data on the profitability of large pharmaceutical companies may be relevant to formulating evidence-based policies to make medicines more affordable."

So ...

We desperately need a calm, rational, well-designed study that examines the calculation of drug prices. Because our economy worships at the festooned altar of corporate profits, any company operating in a capitalist system must demonstrate earnings over and above expenses that makes it worthwhile to stay in business and deliver acceptable returns to the shareholders. These earnings are what we call "profit," and are the grease in the corporate machine. A case can be made, though, that some profits may be considered "excessive," either as a percentage in excess of some undefined "normal" profit level for similar entities or as a gratuitous grab for earnings otherwise unjustified by consideration of expenses and return. Examples of this include Mylan Pharmaceuticals'* 2016 decision to increase the price of lifesaving epinephrine injectors (Epi-Pens) used by persons (like me) subject to severe allergic reactions more than 500% for a package of two pens, and the arbitrary increase by Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin "Pharma Bro" Shkreli of the price of the drug Daraprim from $17.50 to $ 750 per pill.

Dear Big Pharma: stop with the scaremongering and explain - with data, not emotional appeals - why you need to keep drug prices so high. Instead of running ads that piously tell us that "if you cannot afford your medications, (insert company name here) may be able to help," just bring the cost down to something real people suffering from real conditions can afford.


We don't all have enough money to buy our own rocket trips into space ... much less eat, live indoors, and afford medical treatment.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

* By the way, the CEO of Mylan was (until November of 2020) Heather Bresch, who happens to be the daughter of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. I guess West Virginia residents don't have any problems with high drug prices.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Musical Sunday


This is the fourth time this song has appeared in this space (the last was in June of 2020), but it just seems so appropriate, so often ...


Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts coming. 

Bilbo

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Cartoon Saturday


Good grief ...

President Biden announced a number of mandatory Covid-19 vaccination requirements for federal employees and contractors, sparking the expected opposition from Republicans more interested in personal freedoms than personal responsibilities ... the President expressed disappointment over the pushback, and responded to threats of GOP lawsuits over his actions by telling them to "Have at it;" with his usual degree of class and empathy, Der Furor marked the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington with plans to announce a pay-per-view boxing match on September 11th; hurricane Larry is threatening the Canadian Atlantic provinces, and could deliver "feet" of snow to Greenland; and in (where else?) Florida, a woman arrested after trying to steal a fire truck told police she was under the influence of "The Elixir of Life." 

With Covid-19 roaring back to force us back inside and away from social contact, it seems like a good time for a collection of cartoons about books and reading ... which can make the isolation more bearable ...

For those who don't subscribe to Readers' Digest ...


Maybe the writing of my own novel would go faster if I adopt this strategy ...


Smart bird ...


I needed to have at least one awful pun ...


That would make me grouchy, too ...


Documenting the side effects of Ivermectin, no doubt ...


A sad, but sadly accurate observation ...


Boo! ...


The invention of the paywall ...


It's accurate, but for many of the books written by former apparatchiks of Der Furor, it should probably read "Meet the Empowerer" or "Meet the Avoider of Responsibility" ... 


And that's the way it is for this Cartoon Saturday. Now, go read a good book.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts coming tomorrow, when Musical Sunday returns.

Bilbo

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for September, 2021


As I sat down to consider potential recipients for September's first Ass Clown Award, I was prepared for the usual agonizing internal debate over the selection. This time, though, it seemed to me that there wasn't the least question about the winner. Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, the award for 

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for September, 2021


is presented - without the least shred of doubt or bit of competition - to joint winners

Texas Governor Greg Abbott
and
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis


The people of each state elect a governor to run their state governments. Each state has a constitution which underpins the state's laws, and each state's constitution reflects its history and society. You can read the Texas Constitution (all 252 pages of it) here, and the Florida Constitution (a mere 81 pages) here. Of note, the US Constitution establishes a government to "provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare*, and secure the Blessings of Liberty," but you may notice that neither Texas's nor Florida's constitution makes any mention of "promoting the general welfare." Neither does either constitution establish the maintenance of public health as a goal. In this regard, neither governor is violating their state's constitution when they enact laws and policies which clearly and obviously threaten the health and well-being of their citizens. 

However ...

Because both men have ignored and, indeed, made illegal the most basic measures which can protect their citizens from the ravages of Covid-19, I believe a case could be made that both men are guilty at worst of negligent homicide or, at the least, of depraved indifference. Both men are, for cheap political advantage, playing to the most insanely radical advocates of totally unrestricted freedom by imposing policies which expose their citizens to a deadly disease that has killed - as of this writing - more than six hundred fifty thousand people in this country. 

But the deliberate endangerment of their citizens' health in the midst of a pandemic is not all ...

In Texas, Governor Abbott has proudly signed a new law that, without specifically doing so, effectively ends the ability of women in that state to abort an unwanted pregnancy, even when that pregnancy results from rape or incest. The law does not make abortion (which - at the moment - is a right guaranteed under the US Constitution) illegal; in a case of diabolical quasi-legal ingenuity, it rewards citizens who turn in anyone who helps a woman obtain an otherwise legal abortion. Moreover, the law is specifically written so as to avoid any judicial review by ensuring that no government official or agency is involved in its enforcement. And if that weren't enough, Governor Abbot has also signed a new law which permits the open carry of firearms anywhere in the state, without any permit or training ... a law which Texas police note will make it more difficult and dangerous to perform their duties. What could possibly go wrong?

In Florida, Governor DeSantis has withheld the salaries of local school officials who tried to protect their students by mandating the wearing of masks in defiance of DeSantis's law forbidding mask mandates in schools ... a law he characterizes as protecting the rights of parents to make decisions about their childrens' health, at a time when Covid infection rates for Florida children are soaring.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, the award for the Right-Cheek Ass Clown for September, 2021 is presented jointly to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, each of whom also rates a score of 3,000,000 on the Gohmert Stupidity Scale. They are terrible and proudly self-confident threats to public health and welfare, and the award is more than they deserve.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.

Bilbo

* The italics are mine.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Poetry Sunday


Although there are those who would tell you that climate change, or global warming, or whatever, is a hoax that evil liberal Democrats use to scare the sheep, it's pretty obvious to those with a brain that the climate is changing around us. Hurricanes are not necessarily more frequent, but are stronger and wetter, drought ruins farms, causes cities to go dry, and exacerbates the huge wildfires that char the West. The cold is colder and the hot hotter. Yep, times and weather are changing. Here's a look at how to predict those changes, at least at the local level ...

How to Foretell a Change in the Weather
by Ted Kooser

Rain always follows the cattle
sniffing the air and huddling
in fields with their heads to the lee.
You will know that the weather is changing
when your sheep leave the pasture
too slowly, and your dogs lie about
and look tired; when the cat
turns her back to the fire,
washing her face, and the pigs
wallow in litter; cocks will be crowing
at unusual hours, flapping their wings;
hens will chant; when your ducks
and your geese are too noisy,
and the pigeons are washing themselves;
when the peacocks squall loudly
from the tops of the trees,
when the guinea fowl grates;
when sparrows chirp loudly
and fuss in the roadway, and when swallows
fly low, skimming the earth;
when the carrion crow
croaks to himself, and wild fowl
dip and wash, and when moles
throw up hills with great fervor;
when toads creep out in numbers;
when frogs croak; when bats
enter the houses; when birds
begin to seek shelter,
and the robin approaches your house;
when the swan flies at the wind,
and your bees leave the hive;
when ants carry their eggs to and fro,
and flies bite, and the earthworm
is seen on the surface of things.

Have a good day. Conserve water and believe in what you see.

More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Cartoon Saturday


And you thought August was crazy ...

Texas Republicans enacted the nation's most restrictive (and, arguably, unconstitutional) abortion restrictions, which the conservative-dominated Supreme Court has let stand; having devastated Louisiana, hurricane Ida went on to wreak havoc on the US northeast; a supporter of the "Islamic State" in New Zealand, who had been under police surveillance, stabbed at least six persons in an Auckland supermarket; and in the worst luck of the week, a family with a month-old baby evacuated their home in Rahway, New Jersey, before it was flooded by hurricane Ida, only to have the house destroyed by a huge explosion hours later.

This week, in honor of religious crazies taking over in Afghanistan and Texas, I thought some cartoons about religion would be just the thing. Step back in case I get struck by lightning.

I really do think this is how it's going to end up ...  


Yes, and let's forget the January insurrection and move on, too ...


I think Satan should just keep those guys unless he's running out of storage space ...


Yes, that's how it will probably end ...


If that's an entrance requirement, there will be plenty of space ...


This is a good representation of the radical Christian right ... if you don't know what the Malleus Maleficarum is, see here ...


How GOP members of Congress view religious belief ... and legal responsibilities ...


Yep ... "intelligent design" is no match for natural stupidity ...


That would do it ...


Oh, the horror!! ...


And there you have it ... the first Cartoon Saturday for September, 2021. Thou shalt laugh.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts coming tomorrow, when Poetry Sunday returns ... see you then.

Bilbo