Saturday, August 29, 2020


All righty! I had alcohol, I had my emergency cyanide pill, and I sprayed WD-40 on my mute button. I was ready for the Republican Convention! From the schedule, it looked to be a barn-burner.

Politicians were in short supply. We've got appearances from random Americans who have publicly lost their shit in various patriotic ways. We've got authentic Trump spawn in various stages of infidelity and malfeasance. The stage is solemnified by a backdrop of an actual portion of the Border Wall knocked down by a Democrat derecho with help from a couple of bad immigrant drivers. Check out this awesome lineup:

A Pro-Life activist, escorted to the podium by armed militia at full bristle.

The Shamwow guy. I think it's the Shamwow guy.

Famous Nazi rocker Skank Boy Willy, of Boy Willy and the Droolers, appearing without any Droolers out of fear of redundancy.

The kid who went viral taking a dump for Freedom on an Indian burial site.

An assortment of ladies with big titties, for spacers.

Nigra One, and

Nigra Two. Nigra Two is conservative Jack Brewer, former NFL safety who once called Trump the first Black president, but got an invite anyway. Mr. Brewer is facing charges of insider trading at the moment, which is kinda white of him.

Impeachment defense lawyer and bonus blonde Pam Bondi, castigating Biden for giving his son unfair advantage.

Irony, who declined to attend, citing family issues.

The Trump family members still in the will, including, oh, you know, that one son--what's his name? I can never come up with his name--the dude that posed next to the dead elephant? The one whose face has a little glans at the bottom complete with jizz-hole? Vladimir Putzchin! He spoke.

And also his special friend, drag queen and Werewolf-American Kimberley Girlfeel, and her big decibels. She's only got a little spot of leftover COVID but was plenty healthy enough to project it to the back of the room.

West Wing Hottie Ivanka portraying her father as a man with feelings for others, like never before reported by anyone, ever. Yes, it's a scoop!

Funny-looking Trump Kid One, and

Funny-looking Trump Kid Two.

Anchor Bimbo Melania, who got citizenship through the so-called Einstein Genius visa; it was unclear if she submitted evidence of extraordinary abilities, or just submitted, but it is assumed her current husband supplied a testesmonial in her favor. Melania addressed the nation from the newly-scrubbed Rose Garden, for which she has received unfair criticism by those who did not realize how many of the previous crabapple trees had succumbed to an infestation of democrat cooties.

Trump himself has not been prevented from speaking all four days; and, of course,

God. God was unable to appear, but has sent a gift bag of hurricanes, floods, and wildfires to demonstrate his support for the Trump agenda.

Rudy Giuliani*

Chief Autocracy Liaison Yuri Sonovavich**

Election Fixer "Hangin' Chad" Hackmeister**

    *if located

    **if unindicted

Well! Out of concern for my health, I didn't catch the whole thing. I gather Kamala Harris is not quite Black enough to be allowed to describe herself as Black, but is plenty Black enough to bring her citizenship into question. I gather Joe Biden, famous for hating America, has been responsible for keeping things exactly the same for 47 years and is also about to swing radically toward communism.

Basically, it's super scary out there. I gather we're all just this close to living in a state of perpetual violence and anarchy; there was helpful video of that so we'd get the idea. The footage was from Spain, but, you know, it's the same here.

Frankly I couldn't hear much of it over all the hubbub from the M-13 gang next door, plus I was distracted by arsonists and looters--can't swing a dead cat meme around here without hitting one of those. But the gist seems to be that things are really, really bad, darkness is on the face of the deep, and pretty much everywhere else--so, so much darkness! We're in imminent danger of getting health care and other utopian conditions, and if we want to get things back to the way they were when Donald Trump first came to office, we should send him back for four more years, plus a life option or guarantee of future pardon. To safeguard our democracy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Rap On Nefarious DNC

It's fashionable among some lefties to talk about how awful Obama was. I guess he let a bunch of progressives down, what with not achieving world peace and universal health care and one thing and another, and he irked some of them even more because he supposedly got this free pass to be (gasp) moderate and escaped criticism because he was Black. Or something.

Yeah, that Black card can sure get you in the finest places.

Thought I'd share a little Obama story. A friend of mine is among the top dozen public health experts in the nation. She was in on the discussions Obama had when he was working on a health plan. I was dismayed at the time that O wasn't kicking the insurance industry to the curb and I whined to my friend. "Doesn't he support single-payer?" I said.

Yes, she said. He does.

"Then what..."

He can't get it through. He doesn't have the support.

What he had was the opposition. And, as you may recall, it was formidable. McConnell openly swore to obstruct anything Obama was for. And he had the votes. Obama did the best he could manage, and then tried to slip in that "public option." It was smart. If enough people chose to go with the much cheaper public option, the insurance industry would crumble away on its own.

Politics is the art of the possible. But even the public option wasn't possible. Not with the Republicans in there.

Well, the current narrative is that the Democratic National Committee cheated and shoveled in Biden when absolutely everyone preferred Bernie, who everyone knew would have won in a landslide, and doggone it, we're not going to vote for the "lesser of two evils" this time around. Hell no. "You can't change the system if you keep voting for the same thing," they say. Here's what else you can't do. You can't change the two-party system, or anything else you deride, by voting for a third party at the top of the ticket. What's the plan here? Explain your mechanism; show your work.

Of course it's pissing into the wind. Of course it will have no bearing on our future whatsoever unless it gets more Republicans elected. We've seen this play before, more than once.

We could have had a President in 2000 who, more than anyone, knew what we were up against with global warming. Who would never have invented an endless war in the Middle East to enrich his friends. He might not have been able to do everything he wanted--there would have been no end of obstruction. But now we've dug another twenty-year hole for ourselves, and we're twenty years closer to the apocalypse. A third-party vote for President in a two-party system will win you a nice righteous woody, and zip-all else. Oh wait! Guess what else that vote got us! Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito, followed closely by the Citizens United decision! That was the decision that purported to champion free speech, but instead favored very, very expensive speech. Way to stick it to the man and get that corrupting money out of politics, dudes. Thanks for that, hope you enjoyed the woody.

"But a vote for the Green Party will show the Democrats we can't be taken for granted," they say. Awesome! Maybe we'll have another twenty years for that valuable lesson to sink in before the last iceberg sinks away. Really. Get serious. Work for change, and channel your rage into something other than a tantrum.

I know. You're positive the DNC engineered the Biden win. You can't prove it, but you suspect it, and that's as good as gold in your cohort. But this wasn't that long ago--we still remember. We had a stellar lineup of candidates. I had a favorite, but there were several I'd have been happy with. I thought Biden was washed up early and was dismayed when he reemerged the leader. I thought voters were missing a bet by picking someone so moderate when what we needed was someone that could fire us up. But an alternative to the sexy theory that the nefarious DNC did all this is the following: there were lots and lots of voters whose sole motivation was to beat Trump. They were scared to death. I remember the conversations. The virus was still in the future: Trump was doing fine in the polls. Plenty of people were sympathetic with Sanders or Warren but terrified that they'd be too easy to run against; that the "socialist" label would scare off too many people. And these people made a calculated choice in Biden. Real people voted for him. In droves. Some of them were being strategic; some loved him.

We've seen all those memes tearing down one Democrat after another, ginned up by the right wing and shared by the cannibal force on the left. Obama screwed us out of single-payer health care. Elizabeth Warren sold out Bernie by dropping out of the race so she could be Veep. Kamala Harris's ancestors owned slaves (dude! The other name for those ancestors is rapists). Biden said something fifty years ago that doesn't sit right today. Keep it up! The fascists have been churning out these shareable banners of bullshit for years, trying to cling to power by mining gullible people for votes. They appreciate your help, and by the way what can you buy for a few rubles today?

Biden is only the "lesser of two evils" when you really want the Archangel Michael and got stuck with Noah. But they're both running against Satan. Get a damn grip.

You want to get any of your favorite plans going, you'd best get every Democrat you can find in office and then support the living hell out of them when they have to face down the Republicans. My God, we have so many fine people in the party now. All-stars. Plenty of our moderates and pragmatists will swing progressive if they know there's support, and only we can give it to them. We're the ones with the Green New Deal, not the R's. We get behind these people and we push them and we show up at town meetings and we write letters and we march.

It's not as easy as pouting, but that's our plan.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Fifty Years Zoom By

Just got off a fifty-year reunion of the old Hostel Club on Zoom. It's important to maintain old friendships. Old friends can keep you honest in a way your newer friends, who have only known you since you refined your shtick and curated your image, can't.

For instance, I've been known to comment that I've never been driven. I wear my lack of ambition as an obscure badge of pride, even though at its heart it derives from a condition of feeling easily satisfied with things, also known as laziness. 

Anyway, I say that I've never been driven, but I still have friends left from high school who know better, because they drove me. Lots. All the time. It was embarrassing. But that's what happens when you fall in with a really cool group of funny, smart people who get together in each other's rec rooms and have a great time, but you, yourself, are still two years shy of getting a driver's license and your parents, who are unspeakably old, think you should be home by ten pm.

It all seemed deeply unfair, even though I was fourteen years old, and I was playing with nineteen-year-olds, and I was known to wear skirts that didn't even cover my personal fourteen-year-old situation.

Which means all my friends were having a really good time right around ten pm, and I had to wander around the party trying to work up the gumption to ask someone who's having the aforementioned really good time if they could stop everything and give me a ride home.

Oh, the humanity.

I know my parents couldn't believe the fun we were having was clean and innocent. But it was. You know, mostly. Whatever happened in Stuart's pitch-black bomb shelter stayed in Stuart's bomb shelter. I don't even know what I wasn't doing in there, or who I wasn't doing it with.

I was just beginning to get my social feet under me in tenth grade, just starting to come out the recovery side of adolescence, and this new group of friends in the Youth Hostel Club was the place to do it--we called it "being in with the Out Crowd," and were, for the most part, not naughty, individually shy, and collectively a dang hoot. Still, I was very young, and one doesn't always know if one is going to be accepted.

That all changed the night the People-Bop hit my house. The People-Bop: it was never announced in advance, but an hour before dawn, someone would decide to start collecting people in Lynn Malone's VW bus and head off to a park for breakfast and fun, in this case rappelling down a sheer cliff at Carderock Recreational Area. I woke in the dark to the sound of gravel hitting my second-floor window and my heart about busted in half to look out and see my friends grinning on the lawn, motioning me down, and telling me to bring eggs.

Oh god. They had no way of knowing if this was something I could do, and neither did I. First I had to tiptoe into my parents' room and wake one of them up and ask if it was okay to go flying out the door with my friends at oh dark thirty. Not at all a sure thing. Not at all sure anyone else had to ask permission, or what I'd do if I had to lean out the window and say my mommy wouldn't let me go. But she did. Then I took a deep breath and asked if I could take some eggs. Our family wasn't known for extravagance.

But I could.

Thank you, Mommy, for that rare lapse of judgment, and thank you, good friends of the Hostel Club, for picking me up on my first People-Bop, for giving me that sweet whiff of future independence, for letting me know I belonged with the best people ever. Thanks also for dangling me on a rope over that damn cliff, and I'm sorry if I urinated on anyone. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

All Hail Gayle

Well, she gone and done it. Our friend and neighbor Gayle has been close to dead for so long I'd begun to think she'd never get around to it. That it was, in fact, impossible. Sheer obstrepery would keep her above ground for the ages. But she finally died the other day and we are going to miss her terribly. She was one piece of work. She was a riot.

Shoot, it had to have been 25 years ago that she called up wanting to borrow a cup of oxygen off my sister's tank, and she wasn't kidding. She was a complete terror in the hospital system. Nurses feared her, doctors ducked behind her curtains, crossed themselves, and tiptoed away. Administrators wrote her into their budgets. She probably scored steak and lobster with her fruit cup. Same story with any customer service outfit. "Listen, buttercup, I'm retired. I can stay on this damn phone all day long." They knew her at the insurance company. They knew her in city government. If you hate potholes, move on to her street, where they magically heal up. This was a woman who made all her PIN numbers "OH SHIT," so she'd always have the right answer if someone asked.

Gayle had two husbands, one of them twice just to make sure, and easily outlived both of them, which was no accident. "If you're going to have a fight with a man," she once advised me, "have it at the top of the stairs."

If your cat is missing around here, don't look at me. I'm all talk. Gayle had traps and knew how to use them. Nuisances inexplicably disappeared. Just last year, we were commiserating about the latest loud dog on the block. "I wish they'd do something like what your neighbor did. Remember his dog Macy that used to bark? He got a bark collar and trained it out of her in one day." Macy never did bark again, but was known to emit a melancholy, melodious howl for the rest of her days.

"Bark collar, huh? Is that why he thinks Macy quit barking?" Gayle had big, beautiful, basset-hound blue eyes, and they could, on occasion, be very sly.

Her mind was devious, her physique extravagant. You didn't want to be on her bad side. I never had any trouble imagining that her porch contained a trapdoor or her shrubbery hid a man-sized crate. New concrete work was always a little suspicious.

But we had nothing to fear from her. She adored Dave, and thought I was okay too. Early on, Dave volunteered to help her out in some way. Maybe took a big load of stuff to the dump for her, the first of many such neighborly acts. She came over the next day with a huge platter of deviled eggs and radishes for him. He was in raptures. His favorite!

"How did you know?" I asked.

"I know what a man likes," she drawled, in a way that left no doubt of it, and that I needn't pursue it.

She was creative as hell. It was Gayle who showed up at the neighborhood meeting about cell phone towers rocking an actual, homemade tinfoil hat. She also harbored a full-size female mannequin called The Slut who had sleazy outfits to match any holiday. The Slut had her own chair in the bright lime-green living room, in the greeter position right by the front door next to the sign ("The Witch Is In"). Oh. And Gayle was born on Halloween, of course.

Now that she's gone I suspect we'll all find out what else she took care of--the mischief disposed of, the petty vandals vanquished, the community imps and devils scattered to the winds, now free to wander.

Gayle doesn't need a wake, she left a wake. A woman of that much substance could never be all the way gone: one keeps expecting to hear from her still, by some imaginative and no doubt hilarious means. Maybe some day it will rain radishes. But we haven't heard a thing.

We don't expect to. It isn't going to be us she's haunting.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Be The Magic Wand

So it occurred to me that the grumpiest of Bernie Sanders' supporters remind me of little girls fantasizing about a prince on a white horse. And before you bring it up: I know that's not fair.

It's not fair to lump people together and make assumptions like that. And I don't want the assumptions to be true. I sincerely hope there are not many young girls fantasizing about princes on white horses. Any color horses, really. I just get confused because you can't go anywhere without seeing young girls all done up in frothy pink tulle and sequins because apparently everybody gets to be a princess now, and what the hell is that all about? As a girl, I couldn't have imagined getting all dolled up like that, voluntarily. It was like your wretched Easter finest, squared. Polished shoes and anklets and petticoats. Honestly. The female condition, writ in starch.

I'm hoping for the best. I'm assuming the current princesses are some new variety that has special powers and interesting kingdoms and they're not all waiting for their princes to ride up on their horses and save them from something. Everybody seems to know which princess is which because they represent particular movie franchises and although, yes, they're still adorable and have big eyes and pert noses and trim bodies, they also have special skills and worthy aspirations, or something. I guess.

It's all so different. We each roll out of the chute different, and I'll just say for the record, the Murr seed sprang true from the get-go. I had no interest in dolls, let alone princesses. All I wanted was stuffed animals. I had 46 of them. Gronk the brontosaur was the largest, and Webster the ladybug was the smallest. Here's the interesting thing. They were all males. Every one of them, except Mrs. Teddy Bear, who was a hand-me-down with a handed-down name and a rubber face and eyelashes painted on. I never played with her at all. I even called the whole collection "The Guys."

Why were they all guys? Because girls never did anything interesting. Girls ended up being mommies. My own mommy was the best person ever, but I didn't want to be one. In fact, I couldn't even imagine what I would ever be. There wasn't any choice but mommy or teacher or secretary or nurse. The Guys had business to run and things to do. Trumpet was President, Oashmeal was Vice President, Glump was Secretary, and there was no need for a treasurer. Funkhauser had a grocery store, Borgward published a newspaper, and Gronk was an accomplished poet. I left my own future casually unvisualized and blundered into adulthood during the Women's Liberation Movement. I still didn't know what I might do but at least nothing seemed off limits.

Anyway I can hardly believe that today's girls feel so constrained, so I'm assuming the best of the princess thing. I'd like to think the best of the Bernie thing too. You can't hang onto that prince on the white horse. I'm not saying Bernie's not right. He's 100% right. What he's not is magical. He would have no power at all as President beyond the power he still has, the power to move us in the right direction, and try to get this ship turned around. And he can't do that without us. He is us.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Making Bank In The Tank

Everyone knew the position of Giant Isopod Poop Cleaner at the Toba Aquarium was awarded through nepotism. There was no work to be done and so no way to fail by not doing it, and for years the fortunate employee, unsoiled by ambition, had remained happily at home watching old sitcoms and collecting paychecks, until May 26th of this year, when a giant isopod poop was found languishing in the giant isopod tank. It was the first crustacean crap to appear in the tank in over two years.

The giant isopod is a sea creature resembling, and related to, the little land crustaceans known variously as pill bugs, sow bugs, or roly-polies, only the size of a dorm-room refrigerator. There are five of them in the Toba Aquarium and they're no trouble at all. Whatever their needs are, they are not many. The first giant isopod they hosted did perish after not eating for five years, but nobody knows why. Could have been foot fungus, or malaise.

Remarkably, the isopod poop that materialized in May contained fish scales of a species that had never been on the aquarium menu. So it was assumed it was from something the creature had eaten before being captured, over seven years earlier. That's a long time to be working on a turd.

That does not mean the giant isopod suffers from irregularity. If he dumps another lump in 2028, he'll be right on the money.

So we don't really know what motivated the movement this time, although it should be noted that streams of visitors to the aquarium had been staring at the animals through the glass for years and years and the isopod pinched a loaf only when the pandemic shut everything down.

Anyway, although the giant isopod cannot be descibed as peckish, it does have its moments. A now-famous video shows a giant isopod eating the face off a dogfish shark. Or purports to: what with all the thrashing and turbulence, I can't even make out the isopod, and would have assumed the unfortunate shark was just having an epizootic.


But in any case the isopods clearly feel no urgency about eliminating digested shark face. They're pokey about it. Seems to me you don't get to be a really giant giant isopod by shooting everything you eat out the back end. You need to deliberate on it.

The Toba Aquarium isopod poop cleaner probably got bumped back down to the mailroom, or up to Vice President, but he could have been redeemed if it had taken a little longer to discover the poop. Turns out that many isopod species eat their own poop. Maybe, just maybe, the isopods are dropping a dookie a lot more often than anyone thinks, but scarf it back up before the morning shift comes on.

That's called coprophagia, and a number of animals practice it, notably rabbits. They can hoover doots straight from their nethers. Rabbits eat their own poop in order to get just that much more nutrition out of it. That's because the nutrient absorption happens only in the front end of the rabbit, but the fermentation that breaks down a lot of plant material happens in the other end, after the food has passed Go. (This takes place in an organ called the Cecum, a.k.a. Baltic Avenue.) So the rabbit sends everything through one more time to scoop up the remaining nutrients. Then it's done. The pellets are different. There's Number Two Number One, and Number Two Number Two, and nobody eats the Number Two Number Two, in case you were starting to think poorly of rabbits.

In any event, no one knows if a shark-face-eating giant isopod will eat his own eventual poop. A dog will, in a heartbeat, and there's really no good reason why. People persist in thinking dogs are really smart, but I've never seen one unwind himself from a tree.


Thanks to Friend Of Pootie Kat Satnik for the news flash.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

This Blows

We live near the airport, but it's been quieter since the virus showed up. The other morning, as I lay awake listening to the birdies, I heard an awful noise that got louder and louder and I got all worked up over the idea that anyone would be operating a goddam leaf blower anytime let alone that hour of the morning, until I realized it was just an airplane. Shame on me. I was blaming some nameless neighbor--although I did have a particular neighbor in mind--for something that wasn't even happening. So. There is definitely a lesson to take away from this incident.

And that is that leaf blowers are as loud as a fucking airplane. They are.

Whatever it takes to get a five billion pound metal tube in the air and keep it there is as fucking noisy as the little backpack tube we use to terrorize the last cherry blossom into the street.

And there is no reason for it to exist. It should not exist. The job it does shouldn't be done. Perfection is a trap.*

Oh sure. It does the job it does way more expeditiously than a rake or a broom or whatever else one might apply to the problem. You can spank your lawn clean in no time and all it costs is one more wasted bolus of fossilized carbon and the good will and serenity of your neighbors, many of whom have trouble concentrating over the sound of a tyrannosaur stepping on Legos.

So let us review. We can now accomplish something at great speed that doesn't need doing and wasn't done ever until about forty years ago in spite of the fact that we as a species have been fine for over a million years without doing it, and not only will we leave our surroundings aesthetically dull and completely useless to our fellow planet inhabitants, but we will do it with all the ambience of a one-ton mosquito having dental work done. There are vanishingly few mosquitoes that weigh a ton and those that do rarely need dental work, and there should be exactly the same number of leaf blowers.

Nothing needs to be that tidy. If you absolutely have to scrape all the leaves off your lawn and dump them in the street gutters, it can be done with a rake, fueled by a sandwich. But there's another side to your compulsion to tidy. Imagine, if you will, a sumptuous banquet laid out before you. It's coming on winter, but you're in great shape. There are seedpods to dangle from and berries to scarf and leaves to scuff up for delectable worms and grublets. Your very beak is watering just thinking about it. And then someone comes along and upends the table and dumps the entire banquet into the trash. Someone whose obsessive-compulsive disorder is triggered by a table crumb. Why, in the general scheme of things, should the guy with the mental affliction be in charge? It would be like finding some guy who's uncomfortable when he's not surrounded by pasty rich people, and letting him run America.

And if we gotta have that guy, we should at least make him quieter.

*Edited to add: Dispersing tear gas is an acceptable use for a leaf blower.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Signed, Sealed, Delayed, Destroyed

Lordy, what a group we were. The good old US Postal Service in 1977 was loaded with hippies and cranky Vietnam veterans and misfits in a permanent state of pique over being seen as misfits. A more disheveled lot of employees you will never see. Crews didn't get much motleyer. Nobody could tell us what to do, or make it stick if they did. Language was the sort now delicately referred to as "inappropriate." Booze breath and cigarette smoke prevailed in the workplace. But my goodness. We got the job done. We Moved The Nation's Mail.

We arrived as early as 4am and we moved it hard and fast, even those of us who had to top up with an 8am Bloody Mary on the way out to the route. We had supervisors who made sure all the territory was covered and then joined us for breakfast at the next barstool over. Discipline was lax, ineffective, and mostly not necessary.

Because we had one thing working for us. And that was something we called the Sanctity Of The Mail. Carriers and clerks who followed no other creed believed in the Sanctity Of The Mail. New hires were inculcated in it. No lost little lamb of a first-class letter was left behind. If we discovered a mis-sorted letter while out on the route, we saw it properly delivered on the way back to the station. Our goal was to come back with a clean truck. We had pride.

Things began to deteriorate once the management began employing computers and barcodes and imagined it could streamline service and regulate employees by consulting the raw data on their devices. The first supervisor who tried to hold back mail to make "the numbers" come out in his favor started a revolt on the workroom floor. The old farts defended the Sanctity Of The Mail and the new workers were inspired. I don't know what the ethos is now, when carriers are no longer responsible for sorting their own mail, instead receiving it sorted by an imperfect machine, making the clean truck impossible--and when GPS tracking rewards only the carriers with a steady trudging pace. Pride in work is bound to suffer.

What could be worse? Glad you asked. Now we have a Postmaster General dedicated to the dismantling of the post office. He is another in a depressing line of self-serving Trump hires whose stated goal is to eviscerate the public wealth, such as Betsy Devos in Education, or Andrew Wheeler of the Environmental Protection Agency, who is devoted to eliminating environmental regulation and ensuring plunder can proceed apace. And all are in the service of the billionaire class and those aspiring to it, who see no value in the public good if there is private money to be made.

They've wanted the Postal Service goodies for years.

But the USPS is explicitly charged with providing a low-cost universal service at no profit because that was deemed in the public interest. It costs the same to deliver a letter to an outpost on the Bering Sea as it does to send one across town. This is no profit-making model. And it will be gone as soon as private companies begin to divide the spoils of a ruined Postal Service.

The raiding started a while ago. The George W. Bush administration required the Postal Service to pre-fund retirement health benefits 75 years into the future--for employees that haven't even been born. No other agency has that burden, and it accounted for up to 90% of its losses, until the pandemic, and was engineered precisely to cause the public service to fail.

Unfortunately for the pirate class, the post office, responsible for prompt delivery of medicines, ballots, parcels, and love letters, is wildly popular with citizens, who are not inclined to abandon it as long as it continues to perform well. So chief pirate Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is seeing to it that it won't.

The requirement to pre-fund benefits meant it was cheaper to pay employees overtime than to hire sufficient staff. Routes went unassigned and service standards tanked. And now, faced with yet more staffing shortages from COVID, and a boom in parcel business, the PG has announced there will be no more overtime paid. Which means each carrier must leave the station at a prescribed time whether all her mail is ready or not. And whatever can't be delivered in eight hours is brought back to the station. And day after day, it will pile up. Delay is guaranteed. Parcels will languish on the dock. First-class mail will have no meaning. Patrons will choose other carriers.

Trump, for his part, refuses to sign any legislation that includes a bailout of the Postal Service, which he calls "a joke"--presumably mystified by its inability to turn a profit, which, of course, it is not designed to do. He understands what a Business is for, even though he doesn't know how to run one, but he does not understand the concept of a Service at all.

The new PG, a major Trump donor, started his campaign of destruction a month into his tenure without consulting any unions or postal experts. Time is of the essence. If the beleaguered agency can't even guarantee a mail ballot will be processed in a timely manner, or at all, the vote-by-mail threat to the Republican Party might yet be averted.

Besides, it's never too early to sell off public treasure.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

A Bad Feather Day

One thing that brings us together in a time we're all supposed to stay apart is we have something in common. We all look like shit. I had finally figured out exactly what length hair I should have, after all these years, and now it's galloping away again and I'm on track for being one of those old stringy-haired hippie ladies. That's okay. I've had decades of practice looking like shit and this sort of thing doesn't ruffle my feathers much anymore. And nothing is going to be done about Dave's hair until we fix the string in the weed-whacker. Also, we need to wait until we're sure nobody's nesting in there.

For a number of people who are not accustomed to looking unkempt (or, gasp, gray) it's an eye-opener. But we're not alone in this. You should see the birds.

Lots of folks are seeing the birds now, and wondering where they all came from. They've been here all along, of course, but only now got your attention. So take a good look: because a whole lot of them are in a state of major disrepair. Which makes them even easier to relate to. The scrub jays aren't used to humility and seem to have lost a little of their verve. Their screeches of menace have gotten a sour lilt to them, more bad attitude than triumph. It used to be Tremble before me! Prepare for thy doom! and now it's more Oh yeah? Something-something your mother, you'll be hearing from my lawyer. The chickadees are too busy to get worked up about how they look. But let me break it to you gently. They look bad.

Really bad.

Feathers are super important for a bird. Most of what they're good at would never happen if they were naked. Flying, staying warm, looking hot for the ladies, it's all about the feathers. Your feathers go to shit, you will soon follow. And feathers wear out. So once a year, or twice for some species, they have to swap out the whole outfit for fresh.

Ducks make a clean sweep of it. Waterfowl in general just drop everything at once and head into quarantine in the middle of the pond until they resprout. Ornithologists like to say they do this to stay safe since they're not able to fly for, like, a whole month. But shame and humiliation could explain it just as well.

The rest of the birds re-up their feather complement more methodically, a few at a time, so they can stay in the air. From the hummingbirds to the crows, everyone's a mess. They're rumpled and linty. If the same thing happened to my sweater, it would skip right past the Goodwill pile and go under the sink with the Lemon Pledge.

I thought I was prepared for Studley's molt. Last year he had a bald spot and patchy cheeks. But this year I was shocked. That vulnerability of baby birds in their pink-goobery stage has always frightened me, until they grow up and develop spark and substance. But it turns out that the right bird outfits, just like ours, can hide plenty. And Studley, poking his head up and around, has revealed that there's not a lot of bird there. He's still a goober with fluff, until the fluff falls out. Please, please, Studdles, feather out! I need the illusion of solidity. I need to imagine you can't be clotheslined by a strand of spider silk. Lordy, dude.