the last word (tm)
20/No. 2 - 461st issue – April 13,
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FRANKFORT FASCISM FALLS FLAT
Looks like New America may have been spot-on after all.
Every year, the annual session of the Kentucky legislature turns out to be a royal let-down – though never surprisingly. And this year was destined to be the worst in recent memory.
It started out as a wet dream for the fascist Tea Party movement and War on Drugs partisans. As the Republican National Committee led a nationwide coordinated movement to support bills to require drug tests of welfare recipients (which is unconstitutional), Kentucky saw what may have been the broadest bill of this sort. Another America-wide coordinated GOP movement demanded passing a bill to make over-the-counter allergy drugs available by prescription only. Again, Kentucky seemed to be at the forefront.
Bills like both of these Operation UNITE-fueled twin peaks of imbecility were also introduced in countless other states - which indicates the level of coordination that the Republicans enjoyed thanks to the media and Internet. I suspect the GOP is using the drug testing issue to test the waters to see what authoritarian nonsense will fly with the voting public.
But guess what? We Kentuckians are a resourceful people, and we're full of surprises sometimes. And Kentucky lawmakers rejected both these bills!
More right-wing butts imploded when the legislature passed a largely progressive corrections reform bill that I feared had been left for dead. This bill is now law. And the forces of prohibition had another very bad day when lawmakers approved a Democratic bill to legalize most consumer fireworks once again. (Lifting the convoluted and onerous ban allows fireworks to be sensibly regulated while making them legally available for proper use.) That bill was also signed into law.
Of the 4 major bills we were watching this session, we never expected to get our way on all 4! I thought we'd be lucky to get our way on even one. But Kentucky came through for us.
Still, you might want to wait a year before breaking out the champagne and Lunchables. Kentucky Republicans have already threatened to reintroduce the pseudoephedrine and drug testing bills again in next year's session. They can't take no for an answer, can they?
The next session is sure to have other duds too. The Kentucky House's GOP caucus puts out a weekly propaganda video that opens with booming, creepy music and is hosted by some nobody who seems to be a patron of Ronald Reagan's hairstylist. One episode discusses a right-wing bill by Rep. Joe Fischer (R-Fort Thomas) that would have repealed state laws against corporations funding political campaigns. Fischer is shown touting his bill in committee. He boo-hoos that limiting corporate spending violates the First Amendment, and when he says this, you can almost hear the other people in the room getting ready to burst into laughter.
Other states - Vermont at least - have approved an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would do the exact opposite of Fischer's bill by outlawing corporate campaign donations. But around here, we've got Joe Fischer puttering along like it's 1997, praising corporate power and pretending like corporations are supposed to have constitutional rights. He's probably the only legislator in any of the 50 states with a bill to allow corporations to give to political campaigns.
You're a loon, Joe. (Fischer – a member of the extreme-right Federalist Society - was also a cosponsor of the failed welfare drug testing bill.)
Still, if next year's session is as grand as this year's turned out to be, we have little to fear. But somewhere in the halls of Congress, there's some Tea Party follower just itching to turn back the clock on all the progress the Bluegrass State recently made. Kentucky needs to tell them no and shatter their world. In fact, Kentucky needs to go much further by outlawing enforcement of unconstitutional right-wing federal fiats like the Patriot Act and Real ID.
I BROKE RAND PAUL'S TOILET
Rand Paul's been whining a lot of late about how "leftists" broke his toilet.
Guess what? He's right. I did it. I was the one who laid hulk to the embattled Kentucky senator's latrine.
I did the ghastly deed one day when Rand was busy at a Tea Party gathering. I'd been scoping out his mansion and thinking of whether a Nerf baseball would be enough to clog his johnnypot. I figured I'd break in with the Nerf ball hidden in my pants, crawl into the bathroom, toss the ball in, and flush it.
We've all heard nerds talking about how if you want to pick up ladies, you should stick a Nerf baseball in the front of your pants. Not the back of your pants like David Vitter seems to think. But I digress. I had a mighty toilet to clog, so amorous pleasures were not a high priority.
When Rand came home and found water cascading out of his tinkletorium, he called Joe the Plumber over to fix it. I'm sure Joe the Plumber had a valid plumbing license and all - because I know how much Rand Paul hates it when people make up their own professional boards to certify themselves. Joe fixed Rand's toilet by telling him to get cable.
But Joe the Plumber wasn't done yet! As I was running down the road to flee the scene, Joe pulled up next to me in his Chem-Lawn truck. He jumped out of the truck, brandishing the chainsaw from his computer repair kit. And I knew I was in trouble, because he was accompanied by Harry and Louise from the ads against health care reform from 1993 (not to be confused with Harry and Louise from the Arm & Hammer commercials).
"Taxed enough already! That spells tea! Get it?!" yelled Joe. As he fired up his chainsaw, I couldn't hear Louise and Harry chanting, "Someone said the word!" (Seriously, this chant was the response when I heckled the Tea Party's "silent" protest in Covington last year.)
I tried getting away from them, but Brit Hume and Rush Limbaugh popped out of a manhole and started chasing me. They screamed something about how I owe them money because the exurbs are paying too much in sewer fees to clean up overflow caused by exurban development. At first, I thought they were just upset about the cost of Rand Paul's toilet.
Rand, grow up!
Seriously now. Rand Paul complains that decades-old environmental laws have begun to stink up his johndola by requiring it to use too little water when he flushes it. "I've been waiting for 20 years to talk about how bad these toilets are and this was a good excuse today," Paul huffed during an important Senate committee meeting. But this silly meme about flaccid toilets is as old as the law itself. And it's bogus. It ranks right up there with the right-wing fable about a farmer allegedly being jailed by the EPA for accidentally running over and killing a rat with his tractor. (The farmer was accused of violating government rules, but the EPA does not operate its own prison system - so he could not have been locked up.) It's also up there with the patently false claim that banning DDT caused America's recent outbreak of bedbugs. (DDT actually made the insects more resistant. Other causes of the outbreak include deregulated airlines not cleaning their planes, and incompetent political "leaders" like Rudy Giuliani who then ignored the bugs' spread.) It's also a lot like how conservatives complained because the Americans with Disabilities Act forced drive-thru ATM's to add a Braille keypad. (They left out the part about how drive-thru ATM's have pedestrian access.) Similarly, there's no evidence that rules for toilets that have been in force for most of my life have now suddenly caused them to stop flushing thoroughly when you poop in them.
Last year's Senate "election" consisted of 2 of the biggest whiners in Kentucky politics - Rand Paul and Jack Conway. What may be the only good thing about Paul winning? People would have actually cared what Conway thinks, because he's a Democrat. Everybody already knows that Rand Paul's Republicans are the party of background noise now, so people just laugh at Paul.
WHAT SCHOOL CHOICE OUGHT TO MEAN
As much as the media likes to harp on what they think "school choice" means, whose choice is it? Whose choice should it be?
Kentucky lawmakers recently debated a bill that would have increased the age for dropping out of school from 16 to 18. Firstly, I thought it already was 18. Secondly, psychiatric "hospitals" have committed insurance fraud in order to warehouse teenagers who were expelled from school (even for minor reasons) but are too young to drop out. I had no idea psychiatric facilities were intended as substitutes for schools - but that's what they've been used for. Kicked out of school? Well, if there's one place that's got classrooms, you can count on your local teen psych ward.
I have a bold solution to curtail the psychiatric racket's swindle.
If the state of Kentucky allows 16-year-olds to quit school, why doesn't it trust them to decide which school to attend regardless of what their parents think? I don't mean that ages-old problem of bad school systems not letting you go to an out-of-district school. What I'm talking about is parents forcing their kids to attend a shitty school.
I think 16 is more than old enough to give kids a voice as to what school to attend. And believe me, I would not have chosen Brossart when I was 16 or even 14. I think Silver Grove or Bellevue would have been my choice, and it would have saved my folks money, since I'm sure out-of-district tuition was less than the cost of Brossart.
Brossart is an example of the type of school that a lot of parents seem to think is just grand even while their kids loathe it. And a lot of kids go to schools they hate because their parents say so. When I was in high school, I was actually in awe when a school chum told me his folks let him choose what school to attend. For me, my parents made the decision. That was that. There was to be no arguing.
Allowing teens to choose their school would crimp psychiatric abuse by preventing parents from limiting their choices. If this choice was offered, the oldsters couldn't just say, "Well, it's CPH time," if one school doesn't work out. More of our young people would have more options.
Yes, I know, it's the parents' money. But it's the children's lives. Children are not property. Absolute parental dominion over the young is an authoritarian concept imposed over time by right-wing social and religious figures. They intentionally misinterpret legal, religious, and other writings in an attempt to keep kids in line. In the world of these control freaks, adults rule and children submit - or else. (They use some of the same excuses wife beaters used to use.)
I know people my age who are tired of having no future just because their folks sent them to the wrong school. While they spent 4 years under the boot of an antiquated, repressive high school administration, many of their neighbors enjoyed a smorgasbord of fields to study at their school.
That's not to mention those who were sent to psychiatric facilities because they were spent and rejected by the school their parents chose for them. Society has a stigma against people who were institutionalized, and some folks obviously don't care, because they let it happen. It's hard for them to claim they take your future seriously when they allow you to be stamped with a brand like this.
And while the law says you have to stay in school until a certain age, I wish I could find the law that says you have to get high school credits for it. If other psychiatric "hospitals" are like CPH is or was, you don't get credits. It's all for naught.
Let's restore the true meaning of "school choice." While we're at it, maybe we can reclaim the phrase "right to work" too, so the union-busters can't keep abusing it.
MTV IN A BOTTLE OF PEE
MTV celebrates 30 years on the air in August - but for about the past 20 years, MTV has hardly aired a music video during any hour in which most folks are awake.
Northern Kentucky missed some of MTV's finest moments. Storer Cable - the local cable TV monopoly - refused to carry MTV until 1983, some 2 years after the channel debuted. I recall Storer's channel list consisting of countless religious stations, channel slots labeled as "reserved for future use", and even a channel called Color Bars. Despite the name, Color Bars did not broadcast documentaries about race relations. Instead, it was...color bars. This outlet showed nothing but multicolored vertical stripes 24/7.
Storer had room for Color Bars even while MTV was conspicuously missing from the Storer lineup. And Storer didn't treat MTV with respect even after picking it up. Storer often stepped over videos with local ads, or MTV seemed to go dead here altogether.
For its part, it seemed like MTV didn't do such a swell job of respecting viewers either. Because cable companies like Storer refused to serve rural areas (even though they had been awarded a monopoly for these regions), some folks built backyard satellite dishes to pick up MTV and other cable channels. Industry big shots cried and hollered that the public was "stealing" TV signals - even though the airwaves belong to the people. Later, in the mid-'90s, the Cincinnati Post reported that Ohio even passed a law to impose stiff prison terms for getting a backyard dish. But briefly in the mid-'80s, MTV seemed in on the greed too: MTV ran ads selling a "license" to dish owners "allowing" them to receive MTV. MTV behaved as if you weren't allowed to watch their channel without paying for a "license", even though MTV's signal was distributed via the public airwaves.
This attitude also fueled the fascism of prosecuting dish owners for having descramblers that decoded scrambled signals that used the people's airwaves.
Speaking of Allowed Clouds, early MTV spawned an endless parade of them. I'm amazed at how many adults thought MTV was "dirty" even though they never objected to radio stations that played the same music. People who were otherwise rational seemed to think adding video to music made it "filth." I'm not talking about the guards at CPH, who thought everything was either "satanic" or "dirty" or both. I'm talking about the average parent or teacher glancing over their reading materials to catch a glimpse of what their young charges had on TV.
This was around the time you started seeing "studies" by antimusic propagandists making hilarious claims like when they said something like 85% of rock videos were pornographic.
Gee, I would have loved to know where they found all these kinky videos. Did they pull that statistic out of thin air, or did they have bizarre fetishes that made them think videos with no sexual content at all were porn? Or did their Penney's catalog land on the TV screen when they were done with it so they mistook it for a video?
The moral panic over classic MTV was about on par with the American Taliban's ridiculous uproar over Katy Perry appearing on Sesame Street.
I think I've figured it out. The Loverboy video where an actress can be seen mouthing the word shit must have been what turned the morality police against MTV. But if so, why didn't they launch a crusade against The Brady Bunch too? A 1972 Brady Bunch episode featured a scene in which an annoyed Mike Brady clearly opined, "Alice, it's 6:00 in the fucking morning!" Although the audio of the offending word was deleted, anybody who could lip-read could see what Mike said.
According to legend, it was concerns about "immoral" content that delayed Storer from picking up MTV. After all, this was only a few years before a video store was hounded out of Cold Spring for renting out R-rated movies.
The Chinese had a proverb that said a new road was good for 7 years and bad for 1,000. The same seems to apply to MTV. By the '90s, MTV's schedule was filled largely by irritating, bombastic nonsense that had nothing whatsoever to do with music, let alone videos. Since Northern Kentucky missed out on MTV's first 2 years, maybe our local cable company (a descendant of Storer) should replace MTV for the next 2 years with a rebroadcast of its first 2 years. I'm sure few tears would be shed - except in joy.
I'm always talking to peeps on the Internet who reminisce about what they saw on MTV before 1983. Even if I had cable then, I still would have missed it all, simply because of the local Taliban deciding for the public what they should be allowed to watch. And that's what the Northern Kentucky morality police are. They're Taliban. I'm not talking about the average adult who called MTV "dirty" after watching it for 5 minutes. I'm talking about clods who successfully prevented MTV from being carried in this area.
These control freaks still exist. They're called the Tea Party movement.
THE MONSTROSITY LIVES
When things break, sometimes you have a bear of a time convincing others that it's broken - or that the device's ruinment isn't your fault.
Like the monstrosity of a TV set that I buyed back in the mid-2000s. I'm not talking about the current set, which works about as well as you can expect considering what a disaster digital TV has turned out to be. I'm talking about the last new analog set I purchased - namely, the RCA that lasted about a year and barely worked to begin with.
Now, I had an RCA once before that had lasted most of my life. RCA was a trustworthy and respected brand. But apparently no more, and I'm still paying off the hundreds of dollars I had to spend on a TV that lasted only a year!
I wish I had taken this lemon plumb back to the store, but I have family members who kept trying to convince me what a great set it was - evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. For starts, the sound on this TV used to cut out for no apparent reason. And when it wasn't cutting out completely, the volume used to go up and down by itself. Furthermore, the screen would occasionally go completely blue without explanation.
Somebody said the screen went blue when it couldn't pick up a signal clearly - but these were local stations whose towers were right across the river. (The tuning on this set was so poor that you could forget about trying to get Channel 45 whenever Channel 19 preempted The Simpsons.) Besides, this was analog, not digital. Digital TV cuts out like this. Analog TV just goes fuzzy.
As if that wasn't enough, the screen was so cheaply made that it got 3 dents in it. When I pulled my chair out from under my desk, the chair bumped the screen and took a quarter-sized chunk out of it.
In the era of supposedly compact TV's, this stinker was bigger from front to back than the screen was from side to side. This front-heavy set barely even fit on my TV stand, and I believe that's what caved it in. This TV was 1960s bulk coupled with 2000s shoddiness.
When the set cacked altogether, I lugged it out to the alley for the trash collectors to take. Later I saw some kids carrying it away, but I guarantee you they were in for a gargantuan disappointment even if they got it working again at all.
Now I've found solid proof that the putrescence of this monstrosity wasn't my imagination. It's very real.
I saw a review on the Internet of an RCA set from around the time I had mine. The main difference is that while mine was a portable, this reviewer's was a 52-inch colossus that cost $2,000. She wrote, "We had the TV for a month when it started turning off by itself." RCA fought her until her warranty was up - leaving her with a $2,000 TV on which one could "barely hear the programming due to the ticking, squealing, and whining."
A reviewer on a different site said they had an RCA that went dark after about a year, prompting a complaint to the Better Business Bureau against RCA. Another person said of their RCA, "It's toast, after only 2 years." Another said, "Buy this if you like disposable electronics." Another described a bulb inside her set spontaneously exploding.
To be fair to RCA, however, another person said that "all modern sets are junk" regardless of brand. But memories of my RCA monstrosity live on!
The TV set I have now is not an RCA, but since it's 3 whole years old, I'm expecting that sometime in the very near future, I'm going to turn on the TV only to see it wink away with a defeated sigh.
What was the deal with RCA? I had decent luck with RCA for decades before that last catastrophe. Why did RCA decline so much? Some folks have told me that by the mid-2000s, RCA was just a brand. It no longer meant anything. By the time I got that TV, General Electric had already sold RCA. Apparently, after GE sold it, RCA became just a name picked up by other companies. In fact, the RCA name seems to have been taken over by other firms even after my experience several years ago. The name RCA is now used by 4 corporations that are unrelated to each other for different lines of products.
I expect better from the brand that gave me my very first Bonnie Tyler record. RCA's decline really is a heartache. Nothin' but a heartache.
MONTHLY MORON MOTORIST
Reading and driving don't mix.
I'd planned on retiring this feature again, but what I saw in February revived it! (And I've already got a couple good candidates for April!)
I went on a brief fact-finding mish to Alabama in February. It was quite a spectacle, and I-75 in eastern Tennessee gave us that month's winner for this grim feature!
As we were southbound on The Big Seven-Five, we noticed a car in the right lane weaving uncontrollably. It was as if the car had to pee really bad. When we passed the car, we noticed it was being driven by an aging man who was reading a sheaf of papers as he was driving.
Even the old RadioGuides (those brochures that told you what radio stations you could pick up on road trips and featured a photo of people in surfer garb waving candy bars around) said not to read while driving. Strange things might happen. So if you were playing with the car radio and pondering aloud why every single American city in the late '80s had better radio than we had, you were supposed to let somebody else grab the steering wheel.
Now, back to the guy on I-75. We stopped for (ppphh!) gas and passed him up again later. He was still weaving, even though now he had put his packet of papers away.
The fascist Real ID law tries to ban states from giving driver's licenses to anybody who doesn't produce 4 forms of ID - but they can give a license to some menace to society like this?
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