Foot-Stomping MAD!

It’s been over a year-and-a-half since thousands joined forces to attack the U.S. Capitol in a failed, but nonetheless bloody coup attempt.  The violence on that day, the calls to ‘hang Mike Pence’, still makes me sick to my stomach.  The fact that the attempted coup was approved of by the ‘man’ who called himself ‘president’ still gives me nightmares.  Violence seems to follow Donald Trump wherever he goes, and he seems to incite a great deal of it.  Since that fateful January 6th, violence and calls for violence have increased … even more so in response to a search warrant that was executed to retrieve national security documents Trump illegally stole from us and possibly shared.

Threats of political violence and actual attacks have become a steady reality of American life such that some days I feel we’re living in Somalia instead of the United States.  And the violence isn’t all political … there have been 27 school shootings so far in the first 7 ½ months of 2022!  School children!!!  Yes, 27!  No, you haven’t heard about all of them, for the media only makes a big deal if a relatively large number of children are killed such as was the case in Uvalde, Texas in May, but in total, 83 people, mostly children, have been shot in those 27 school shootings this year.  Can’t blame these directly on politics, but you can sure as hell can blame the politicians who have consistently blocked any form of gun legislation such as banning assault weapons or far more stringent background checks.  So, their answer is to arm all teachers … put even more guns into the hands of people unqualified to have them!

The political violence, however, is out of control and the feeding frenzy isn’t helped by social media, certain mainstream media outlets, and the politicians who keep telling people that the ‘other’ party is the one responsible for all of our woes.

A man named Garrett Ziegler, a former aide to Donald Trump, posted the names and personal information of the FBI Agents who assisted in the execution of the search warrant to retrieve classified documents from the home of Donald Trump.  He even included the social media account of one of the agent’s children!  Within minutes, the families of these agents began receiving death threats.  DEATH THREATS … against the families of law enforcement agents who were merely doing their jobs!

After the brutal murder of George Floyd in 2020, there were numerous Black Lives Matter protest that were, for the most part, peaceful.  What little violence there was, was property damage, not lives threatened.  But people were up in arms because the protests existed.  Yet some of the same people who hated on Black Lives Matter protestors are the very ones cheering those who are threatening civil war, threatening to execute Merrick Garland!  So … apparently they aren’t against violence at all, but are just against Black people, against LGBTQ people, and against anyone who attempts to hold the ‘man’ they have put on a pedestal accountable for his actions.  And speaking of the LGBTQ community …

In late June, a former Marine stepped down as the grand marshal of a July 4th parade in Houston after a deluge of threats that focused on her support of transgender rights. A few weeks later, the gay mayor of an Oklahoma city quit his job after what he described as a series of “threats and attacks bordering on violence.”  A five-year-old girl was evicted from her kindergarten because her parents are gay.  As I reported a week or so ago, a town in Michigan will shut down its library because the library refuses to ban books by LGBTQ authors or about LGBTQ people or issues!

The judge who signed the warrant to search Trump’s home for the missing classified documents is now receiving death threats, as is his family after some on social media called for a “rope around his neck”.  Then Fox “News” exacerbated the situation by posting a photoshopped fake picture of the judge sprawled out with Ghislaine Maxwell giving him a foot massage.  These are the kinds of things that stir the masses and get people KILLED!!!

Political violence, racial violence, school shootings … what the Sam Hell has this nation turned into???  What are we humans turning into???  Have we sold our humanity downriver, traded it for bigotry, hatred and violence???

I don’t have any answers, my friends.  We can … we must … each do our part by controlling our own tempers, by shutting down any conversations where someone is speaking of or calling for a violent act, but that isn’t going to be enough to solve the problem.  We can report those we see on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, but that still won’t solve the problem.  I think the answer lies in a direction none of us particularly want to go, but that perhaps we must go, and that is to put some limitations on the 1st Amendment right to free speech.  I don’t like it anymore than you do, but as I’ve long said, every right comes with an accompanying responsibility, and the people of this nation have abused the right without accepting the responsibility.  It is highly irresponsible, criminal even, to call for violence, to call for someone’s ‘execution’ just because you don’t like what he says or does.  We absolutely MUST start holding social media outlets and mainstream news accountable to a higher standard than they currently observe.

And … I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me say this, but we must have some gun control laws that do something more than pay lip service!!!  Ban assault weapons altogether!  Deny a gun to anybody who has even a single incidence of violent behaviour.  Raise the gun ownership age to 25!  Yes, 25!  And make gun ownership a “one strike, you’re out” thing.  We have to do this!!!  And we must make the punishment for any violent act so harsh that it actually serves as a deterrent!  Every person who was in the Capitol on January 6th without authorization should automatically be serving a 5-year prison sentence.  Those who had weapons or harmed anyone should be in prison for 20 years, no exceptions.  If the price of violence is high enough, people will think before they mouth off or worse yet, grab their guns and go on a shooting spree!

I’ve said it enough times, but I’ll keep on saying it … VIOLENCE IS NEVER THE ANSWER!!!  We are truly, and this is not hyperbole, turning into a third-world nation where random shootings are becoming the norm, where even children are targets, and where nobody is quite safe anywhere anymore.  Write to your Senators and Representatives and tell them that THEY have the power to make changes and they damn well better do it NOW!!!  I really don’t know what more we can do, but we better start doing something.

Saturday Surprise — A Unique Dining Experience

Good morning and welcome to …

Saturday Surprise took a brief hiatus last week, but I’m back this weekend and I’ve got something fun for you today!  But first … I’ve got a joke (courtesy of my blogging friend Jim Borden):

What did the farmer say when he couldn’t find his tractor?  (answer at the end of the post)

Now, I’m afraid of heights … I wasn’t as a child, for I used to love nothing better than to climb a tree and keep my parents in suspense as to my whereabouts, but as I got older, heights became one of the few things I actually fear.  In fact, I cannot even stand on a kitchen chair to put something on the upper shelves anymore without getting dizzy and having chest pains!  So, today’s Saturday Surprise is one that I will only partake of from my armchair, but it looks like great fun!

Angélique Schmeinck is a Dutch master chef with her own quite popular restaurant.  Although I’m sure the food is unique and tasty, it is the venue of her restaurant that has earned it a place here on Saturday Surprise, for her restaurant is in a … wait for it … hot air balloon!

According to Atlas Obscura …

Schmeinck had her “Eureka” moment in 2003 when she saw a hot-air balloon and realized, “a hot-air balloon is actually a huge hot oven!” Excited by the opportunity to build her own restaurant from scratch, she called a hot-air balloon company for help. Two weeks later, they hoisted a customized bag filled with fish and chicken to the crown of a balloon via pulleys. The flame at the balloon’s base brought the temperature to 194 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius), an ideal heat level for slow-cooked meals. When the balloon landed an hour and a half later, Schmeinck removed the fish and chicken. “I had tears in my eyes when I saw that it was perfectly cooked,” she says.

That successful trial run was the starting point of CuliAir, the world’s first hot-air balloon restaurant. Since her maiden voyage almost two decades ago, Schmeinck has hosted about 50 trips each year across the Netherlands. Among the key advantages of her airborne kitchen are a cooking counter that hangs off the side of the balloon basket (and includes a camphor stove) and a pulley system attached to customized steel containers that allows Schmeinck to raise the food toward the balloon’s flame and lower it. Her system needs to be efficient: On board, Schmeinck has an hour and a half to serve three courses to 10 people. “Organization is the most important thing,” she says. Her kitchen is so well-designed that Schmeinck says she can find items blind.

Guests receive notification on where to meet mere hours before takeoff. CuliAir uses 20 different takeoff locations to accommodate the wide range of flying conditions. Weather can alter landing times or how high the balloon flies, an especially important consideration given the balloon flame’s dual function as oven and engine. Higher elevations require a higher flame, which means an increase in cooking temperature. Since the food that Schmeinck cooks requires temperatures between 194 to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, she works with the balloon’s pilot to ensure that course adjustments don’t affect a dish.

When guests arrive in the designated takeoff meadow, Schmeinck serves them an appetizer—such as melon, goat cheese, and dried capers—followed by champagne. Meanwhile, a ground crew sets up the large orange-and-white balloon and attached basket that can accommodate up to 12 people. The basket lays on its side, allowing guests to climb in and lay horizontally until the flame fills the balloon with enough heat to lift everything off the ground (and pull passengers upright). Once fully airborne, Schmeinck gets cooking.

The first in-the-sky course is typically a seafood cocktail. The natural, fresh ingredients can be prepared raw, cooked low, or cooked slow. This summer, Schmeinck has served langoustines (a Norwegian lobster-like delicacy), fresh clams, and lobster with passionfruit, lightly fermented yellow carrots, and glasswort (a saltmarsh plant that Schmeinck dubs “sea veggies”).

During the flight, Schmeinck serves wine and gives more information about her dishes. Standing-room only encourages interactions between the chef, pilot, and other diners as the balloon sails above the countryside, taking in the view from a cruising altitude that ranges 500 to 2,500 feet. “Sometimes when the clouds are low, we can go right through them,” says Schmeinck. “It’s a little bit misty. Then we’re above the clouds and see the sun shining. That moment is unforgettable. It’s amazing for me, after all these years.”

Schmeinck’s second course arrives 45 minutes later: royal sea bass pulled down from the suspended steel containers and served in a 12-year bouillabaisse sauce alongside seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus and artichoke. Schmeinck cooks these on the stove that dangles over the balloon basket’s edge with “a nice vadouvan oil,” a French spice blend that derives its ingredients from masala. While all other dishes and ingredients rotate according to season, her sea bass is a staple. “It’s the best fish for balloon cooking because it has a little more fat, which goes well with low and slow cooking,” Schmeinck explains. That, plus the inimitable bouillabaisse sauce, makes for a pairing that mirrors the balloon ride: rich and intense, light and adventurous.

The third course trends toward fowl, although lamb made an appearance earlier this year. Schmeinck’s most recent menu includes duck confit that is cooked in the raised containers, then glazed in its own juices. She pairs it with summer mushrooms and a salsa of lightly fermented cauliflower and pumpkin that she seasons with lemon, star anise, and cardamom.

After serving the third course, Schmeinck cleans up as the pilot navigates the balloon to the ground. Landings can range from smooth to bumpy. Back on terra firma, live music welcomes guests back as they enjoy a dessert (a recent offering was white chocolate and passionfruit mousse topped with a crispy rainbow meringue, raspberry, and basil syrup). Sometimes, Schmeinck will even serenade the guests herself with a guitar.

Given the precision necessary for running a successful CuliAir voyage, one must ask: Does anything ever go wrong? “The challenges are when we have to land earlier,” Schmeinck says. If the weather turns rough, the pilot will make a safety landing and the chef serves the main course in the meadow. Another time in CuliAir’s early days, “the control [for the suspended cooking containers] didn’t go down. It was stuck in the balloon so we could only eat vegetables.”

Sometimes the bumps along the way aren’t even related to air travel or the food: Marriage proposals are common, though not always well received, Schmeinck says. And what happens in the balloon doesn’t always stay in the balloon, as was the case with a flyaway black towel that she mistook for a bird. But overall, each voyage delivers an exhilarating experience. “The guests are having a great adventure, so all the senses are very open,” she explains. “The composition of the food and the flavor combinations must have the same adventurous character. It must not be boring, or too soft. . . . It must not be too heavy, or have too much cream, but it must be as light and elegant and fresh as ballooning itself.”

Now doesn’t that look like fun?  If you’re not afraid of heights, that is!  Oh … and the answer to the joke up at the top is … “Where’s my tractor?”

Now go forth and have a happy weekend!  And Happy Birthday wishes to my friend Ugo!!

Need I Say More?

Tom and Marcella gave their three children each a bowl of rice and half an apple for supper last night.  They both work at minimum wage jobs and payday is a few days away yet, so they are rationing food carefully.  Audrey’s little girl … her name is Sarah, but they call her Muffin … is diabetic and almost out of insulin.  Audrey is out of work, has no insurance, and no money to pay for Muffin’s insulin.  Jeff’s wife died last month of Covid and he is struggling to raise their three children without her after losing his job because he missed so much time at work during her illness.  He holds in his hand an eviction notice because he doesn’t have money to pay the rent.  Robert, once a proud man with a job, a home, and a family now lives under a highway overpass, his few possessions in a cardboard box, since the company he worked for shut down their U.S. operations and in the pandemic era he was unable to find another job.

Meanwhile …

Billionaire Peter Thiel has so far poured over $25 million into the races of Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Kenneth C. Griffin, the CEO of giant hedge fund Citadel, is bankrolling Republican super PACs to the tune of nearly $50 million. Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman of giant hedge fund Blackstone, has so far contributed a combined $20 million to the main House and Senate Republican super PAC.  And the list goes on.

How many children could have had a few healthy meals, or how many families could have paid their rent and utilities with the millions of dollars being given to already-wealthy political candidates?

Need I say more?

Still More Snark Keeps Rollin’

I’m sure you’re surprised to hear that I have still more angst that must be relieved in the form of snarky snippets, right?  I mean … what could possibly be causing me stress in these peaceful, calm, dog days of summer?  Well, let’s see … let me count the ways …  By the way, before I forget, a special thanks to Scottie of Scottie’s Playtime for the header image of the Aunty Acid meme … he sent it to me and it pretty much perfectly describes the ‘me’ I’ve become of late!  Thanks, Scottie!


I remember when my children were little … the two eldest were only 16 months apart in age and a world apart in temperament, which could result in some pretty raucous battles!  What I see happening within the U.S. today is reminiscent of those battles, only on a much larger, more dangerous scale.

Violence, or the threat of violence, is NEVER the solution to problems!  NEVER!!!  And yet, I hear that right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters et al are telling people to “Pick up arms,” and they don’t mean the two that are attached to your body.  The culmination came with the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago on Monday, which those on the far right are claiming is justification for massive violence across the nation.  It isn’t, but these people are so blinded by their own hatred and prejudices that they cannot or will not see that.

I’ve read of some calling for the assassination of Attorney General Merrick Garland, and I’m told that the judge who signed off on the warrant to search Trump’s domicile has been receiving death threats. Others are calling for ‘civil war’, as if they knew the meaning of that phrase.  The most popular search term yesterday was “lock and load”, which means “lock your safety and load a magazine into your weapon.”  Welcome to America where there are more guns than people, and every nutcase owns an arsenal!

Politicians like Kevin McCarthy and Jim Banks who, without having knowledge of what the FBI was looking for at Mar-a-Lago, jumped immediately and began disparaging and not-so-subtly threatening Merrick Garland and President Biden, do a disservice to the very people they are supposed to represent.  Their voices matter, unfortunately, and some people will take their words, build on them, and claim they are “saving the nation” by taking up arms against … who?  The FBI?  The president?  Or perhaps you and I get caught in the crossfire some day as we go about the business of grocery shopping or taking our children to school.

I repeat, my friends … VIOLENCE IS NEVER THE ANSWER!!!

And I am not alone …

Richard Haass has been president of the Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, prior to which he was Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State and a close advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell in the George W. Bush administration.  In the preface to his upcoming (January 24, 2023) book, The Bill of Obligations, Haass writes that he’s often asked: “‘Richard, what keeps you up at night?’  Some suggest China?  Russia? North Korea? Iran? Terrorism? Climate change? Cyberattacks? Another pandemic?”  To which Haass replies …

“The most urgent and significant threat to American security and stability stems not from abroad but from within. The threat is from political divisions that for only the second time in U.S. history have raised questions about the future of American democracy and even the United States itself.”

Exactly.  Y’know … all living things have an expiration date, so to speak.  Nothing lives forever.  Nations are living things, and perhaps the United States, such as we have known it, is about to reach its expiry date.

Tell me why you want the job

When candidates begin throwing their hats in the ring for the 2024 presidential election, the one question I would pose to each and every one is:  Why do you want to be the next president?

Hmmmm … I can hear some of the answers now …

  • To find Hunter Biden’s laptop
  • To ‘make America great again’
  • To put ‘America first’
  • To make this a Christian nation
  • To defeat Democrats

And of course the unspoken answer in many cases would be:  To make this a white, Christian, male-dominated autocracy.

In my mind, the one correct answer would be:  To restore integrity and compassion to our nation, to our government.  To begin closing the gap between right and left, to heal the damage, the divisiveness, the bigotry, and the hatred that exists today.

Who, I wonder, would give that answer?

I leave you with just a few cartoons …

The Final Evidence of a Cult of Hypocrisy

Our friend Roger looks out across the big pond from his home in Wales and this is what he sees …

The World As It Is. Not As It Should Be

Maybe it’s one of those classic features of old age, maybe it comes from reading volumes of military and political histories or maybe it’s ‘Just Because….’  . Anyway, I can accept Misdirection, Distortion and even Downright Lies as part of the whole box of tricks Humanity indulges in. Sometimes I embrace them as a Means To An End, but other times I condemn them, the latter mostly at the personal level, War and Politics being where Ambiguity is another Dimension.

One other failing which is common is Hypocrisy. With thanks to Wikipedia I give you this quote The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which means “jealous”, “play-acting”, “acting out”, “coward” or “dissembling”  . I can also cite British political philosopher David Runciman, “Other kinds of hypocritical deception include claims to knowledge that one lacks, claims to a consistency that one cannot sustain, claims to a loyalty that…

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♫ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) ♫ (Redux)

I typically save the music posts for last thing before going to bed, which is why sometimes there isn’t one … either I’m too tired or too down to care.  But, most often they help me transition from the dark world of politics and relax me enough to sleep (sometimes, anyway).  I cannot remember how I happened on this one earlier today, but I did and I bookmarked it for ‘later’.  Well, now it’s ‘later’.

This is a song written and performed by the British new wave music duo Eurythmics. The song is the title track of their album of the same name and was released as the fourth and final single from the album in early 1983. The song became their breakthrough hit, establishing the duo worldwide. Its music video helped to propel the song to number 2 on the UK Singles Chart and number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It was the first single released by Eurythmics in the U.S.

The Eurythmics are Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, who were a couple for about three years while they were members of a band called The Tourists. They only wrote one song together in this time (an instrumental), but when The Tourists broke up, they formed Eurythmics as a duo and began writing together. A short time later, Lennox and Stewart broke up.  According to Stewart …

“When we broke up as a couple for some strange reason it was like we were always going to be together, no matter what. We couldn’t really break that spell so we just carried on making music. This causes many problems, yet through all of this we ended up writing a lot of great songs, some were about ‘our’ relationship and some were about our relationship with the world around us. Whatever we wrote always had a dark side and a light side and in a way I describe it as ‘realistic music,’ full of the ups and downs of real relationships and life itself.”

Stewart and Lennox had very little money, and were thrilled when a bank gave them a loan to buy some equipment and make a record. They made the most of their meager budget, using an 8 track recorder and a complicated drum machine Stewart drove 200 miles to procure. They made the most of their 8 tracks, with Stewart’s Roland synthesizer and Lennox’ Kurzweil keyboard added to the drum pattern Stewart created, forming the basis for the song.

The cow, while very eye-catching, posed a logistical problem because most studios can’t accommodate a cow! Eurythmics found a basement studio in London with an elevator big enough to transport the animal. Lennox recalls the shoot with the bovine walking around as being one of the more surreal experiences of her life. Regarding what it all meant, she said in the book I Want My MTV:

“The video is a statement about the different forms of existence. Here are humans, with our dreams of industry and achievement and success. And here is a cow.”

The video is a little weird for my taste, but … I like the music.

Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world
And the seven seas,
Everybody’s looking for something.

Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused.

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world
And the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something

Hold your head up
Keep your head up, movin’ on
Hold your head up, movin’ on
Keep your head up, movin’ on
Hold your head up
Keep your head up, movin’ on
Hold your head up, movin’ on
Keep your head up, movin’ on

Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused.

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world
And the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world
And the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world
And the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world
And the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something

Songwriters: Annie Lennox / David Allan Stewart
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Good People Doing Good Things —

There almost was no ‘good people’ post today, for I am in one of those ‘moods’.  I went in search of, found some, nothing appealed, and I decided to just skip out on doing a post for this morning.  But, as I went about doing other things, it weighed on my mind.  This little invasive creature inside my head … he is my conscience and his name is “Barky” … kept saying, “But … don’t your friends and readers really count on you bringing them good news on Wednesday morn?  Don’t you always say that they need the reminders that all is not lost, that there are good people doing good things?”  I told Barky to shut up a couple of times, but he wouldn’t … that’s how he is, he’s a pain in the royal ass, but I’m so grateful that I have him – my conscience.  And so, at just after midnight, when I had decided to treat myself to a few hours to just read or listen to music, I resumed my search for good people.  Needless to say, I found some, for they are always out there … and here they are!

A meow from within …

Lindsay Russell, a Walmart employee in Morristown, Tennessee, was on her lunch break one day in late July when she heard meowing coming from one of the store’s vending machines.

“I tried all through my lunch and my last break to get her. I tried recruiting co-workers to help me get her, and none of us could do it.”

So, Lindsay called the Morristown Fire Department.  Firefighters responding to the call unplugged the vending machine and removed the back cover, but still could not see the crying kitten. Luckily, the firefighters found another opening where they could see the kitten and coaxed it out. The rescue mission took around 10 minutes.

Lindsay has a big heart, and she gave the kitten a forever home and a new, very apt, name:  Pepsi!  A small thing, I know, but still … how many people would have ignored those plaintive cries and gone on about their day?  Or how many people would have relegated the poor kitty to an animal shelter?  I have a soft spot for anyone who takes extra care of animals … and perhaps tonight more so than usual, for I just learned that my neighbor’s dog died.  His name was Rocky, he was a gigantic mixed breed mutt who loved everyone, and I loved him, so I am saddened to learn of his death.

Sign my yearbook … PLEASE?

You all remember that ‘end of the school year’ ritual where kids go around signing each other’s yearbooks with hand-drawn hearts, silly sayings & remembrances?  A fun time … silly, but fun.  At the end of this school year back in June, 12-year-old Brody Ridder came home with a long face … he had only two signatures, nothing more except one he wrote himself …

Brody’s yearbook — BEFORE

His mother, Cassandra, was heartbroken for her young son.  She said that over the past two years, he has struggled socially and has been repeatedly bullied, and this was just one more instance in the bullying … kids are capable of great cruelty.  Brody told his mum that when he asked his classmates to sign his yearbook …

“They told me no. It made me sad.”

Cassandra shared the above photo of her son’s yearbook note in a private Facebook group for parents at the school. She felt angry and helpless. Her primary objective in posting the photo, Ridder explained, was to encourage parents to talk to their children about bullying. She said she’s aware that some parents prefer to keep such matters private, but she thought that being forthright about it might help prevent her son and others from being targeted further.

Cassandra & Brody

She hoped people would sympathize with her son’s struggle, but she did not anticipate the outpouring of support that swiftly surfaced after her post — particularly from older students at the school. As dozens of compassionate comments poured in, several older students — none of whom previously knew Brody — heard about Ridder’s post from their parents. They stepped up to show their support.

Joanna Cooper, 17, received a text message from her mother with a screenshot of Ridder’s post. Right away, the 11th-grader decided, “I’m going to get people and we’re going to sign his yearbook. No kid deserves to feel like that.”

Cooper remembers being Brody’s age, and the intense pressure she felt to fit in. Having signatures in your yearbook wasn’t only a measure of popularity, she recalled, it also meant simply …

“… knowing that you have friends. Signing someone’s yearbook was all the rage. That people would tell him no and deny him a signature, it just hurt my heart.”

She contacted several friends and they coordinated to visit Brody’s homeroom class together the following day. Little did she know at the time, but many other students were hatching the same plan. When Simone Lightfoot, also an 11th-grader at the school, saw Ridder’s post, her first thought was: “I’ll get some of my friends and we’ll go sign it.” Lightfoot, 17, could relate to Brody’s plight …

“When I was younger, I was bullied a lot like him. If I could do one little thing to help this kid feel a little better, I’d be more than willing to.”

Maya Gregory, an eighth-grader at the school, felt likewise. She, too, was bullied at Brody’s age.

“No one helped me when I was in that situation. So I wanted to be there for him.”

She rounded up her friends, all of whom were eager to give Brody a confidence boost. The impromptu initiative spread throughout the school, and on May 25, the day after the yearbooks were distributed, a swarm of older students filed into Brody’s sixth-grade classroom, ready to sign his yearbook.

Although he felt shy at first, “it made me feel better,” said Brody, adding that he collected more than 100 signatures and messages of support in his yearbook that day. He also got some phone numbers and a gift bag.  Said Joanna Cooper …

“Just seeing him light up, it felt really good. It was a small thing, but it made him so happy.”

Brody’s yearbook – AFTER

Even actor Paul Rudd reached out to Brody after learning the boy was being alienated at his middle school.  Rudd, who plays Ant-Man in the Avengers franchise, turns out to be the young boy’s favorite superhero. When Rudd caught wind of what had happened, the actor reached out to the boy and his family and arranged a FaceTime call, following it up with a handwritten note and a signed Ant-Man helmet.

Sometimes maybe all it takes is for people to know when there’s a problem.  Sometimes maybe people are just waiting to see where they’re needed before they step up to the plate.  Maybe sometimes there’s a little bit of ‘good people’ in all of us.  Maybe.

And one more ‘good people’, or should I say ‘good kitty’ … critters can be ‘good people’ too, y’know?  This is one I saw back in April, bookmarked, and forgot to use, but tonight it seems apt as I have two kitties vying for my lap while I try to balance my computer on one knee!

Tammy York of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was watching movies and had fallen asleep (happens to the best of us, yes?).  Turns out that Tammy had candles burning and the wax had begun to drip on the carpet that started a fire.

“I remember the cat, Mandy, making strange noises and tugging on my nightgown. I never woke up. Then she pounced on my chest and slapped me in the face with her paws. I immediately woke up and began choking due to the heavy smoke in my house! Myself and Mandy were able to escape unharmed.”

On April 15th, the Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department in Chattanooga presented a plaque Friday to Mandy the cat, whose bravery saved Tammy York’s life.

A Bright Spot … Maybe?

Could you use a little ray of hope for the upcoming November mid-term elections?  I think we all could.  Dan Pfeiffer was a senior advisor to President Barack Obama for a number of years, and is the author of three books about politics in this new, uncharted “Maga Era”.  His newsletter on Substack is called The Message Box and today’s was an astute assessment of why there is hope for the Democratic Party to maintain a majority in the House and Senate after the mid-terms.  Read on …

Why Dems Could Win This Fall

An uncharacteristically optimistic take on how recent events have upended the midterms

Dan Pfeiffer

Optimism does not come naturally to me. If I had a family crest, “Prepare for the worst, be surprised by the best” would be the motto emblazoned on it. I have tried to avoid telling people what they want to hear about a high stakes midterm election in this absolutely miserable political environment. Up until recently, Democrats were stuck in a doom loop.. That defeatism threatened to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What activist, donor, or voter wants to sign up for a suicide mission? And to be honest, it’s been hard to make a reasonable, fact-based case that Democrats could upend the historical trends. However, over the last few weeks, the worm has turned. Democrats now have a legitimate shot to outpace expectations dramatically.

I am not devolving into a sunny guy. This is not a prediction. It is not an admonition against bedwetting. I think the odds are still against Democrats. We have an eternity till Election Day. The future looked quite dire three weeks ago, and may look just as dire in three weeks. But as we sit here today, one can make a credible bull case for Democrats.

Reason 1 for Optimism: Success

All political analysis should begin with the fact that America has a growing, diverse, pro-truth, pro-democracy, anti-MAGA majority. Now, of course, this majority is not evenly distributed geographically, which is why the GOP often has an advantage in the Senate and Electoral College. But the bulk of the races this cycle will be conducted in states Joe Biden won in 2020. Simply reconstructing the Biden coalition in composition and turnout will be sufficient to win. Our major problem to date has been disillusion and disappointment among our base and the Independent voters who favor Biden. Less than a month ago, Democrats seemed headed for a legislative disaster. During this period, Jonathan Chait wrote in New York Magazine:

By realistic or even minimal standards of performance, this two-year term, almost certain to be the last period of Democratic-controlled government for the foreseeable future, has been a failure. The ramifications of this defeat — political, economic, and ecological — will reverberate.

And then everything changed.

In rapid succession, Democrats passed legislation on guns, microchips, veterans’ benefits, and the historic Inflation Reduction Act. Democrats now have reasons to be happy, and Independents have reasons to reconsider supporting Republicans. More specifically, the climate change provisions are an opportunity to re-engage young voters. Last week, after the Manchin-Schumer deal was announced, I wrote:

No group of our core Democratic constituency has become more disillusioned or disengaged than younger voters. Passing the most ambitious climate change bill in history creates an opportunity to re-engage this group. People won’t vote this time if they think their last vote didn’t matter. Passing a serious climate change package is proof that every door knocked, text sent, and vote cast in 2020 mattered a whole helluva lot.

Democrats now have a powerful case to convince their voters to keep them in the majority.

Reason 2: Improving Political Environment

Despite this newsletter and other strategy, tactics, and message-focused sources, the biggest factors in political success are often far outside the control of the candidates and campaign operatives. The driving force in this election is inflation — and specifically, the price of gas and groceries. In most polling, 80 to 90 percent of voters listed inflation as a top concern. Most gave Biden (and Democrats more broadly) abysmal marks for their handling of the issue. As gas prices went up, President Biden’s approval rating went down. While the near-term picture on inflation is cloudy, gas prices have been steadily declining for more than a month.

Costs are still elevated, and families still feel financial pressure, but the trajectory is good. The Biden Administration continues their valiant efforts to focus the public’s attention on the steady decline. Voters are historically forward-looking. They are willing to give politicians credit for progress even if the present is still suboptimal. If gas prices continue to drop, it’s more likely that the electorate will give the Democrats credit for the historic number of jobs created since Biden took office.

Reason 3: Backlash Towards GOP Policies

Presidents usually get shellacked in their first midterm. Reagan, Bush #41, Clinton, Obama, and Trump all lost many seats. The primary theory for this occurrence is called the “Thermostatic Model,” which Andrew Prokop described in Vox as follows:

This theory holds that the public functions essentially like a thermostat, kicking in when it’s either too hot or too cold to restore the preferred temperature. Voters could conclude things are too conservative under a Republican regime and elect a new Democratic president. But then they could quickly conclude things have become too liberal, and swing back toward Republicans in the midterms. Then after Republicans regain some power, perhaps opinion will swing back toward Democrats and get the president reelected. (The Obama and Clinton presidencies both followed this trajectory.)

Under this theory, the Republican Wave of 2010 was a response to large-scale Obama initiatives like the stimulus plan and Obamacare. Both of these bills were underwater in the Fall of 2010. Obama’s numbers bounced back when the public saw the dangerous extremism of the new Republican majority.

Like every other recent president, Joe Biden’s numbers took a big hit. His approval rating is now at or below where Donald Trump’s was at the same time. This is not great. Trump is sort of the “Mendoza Line” for Presidents. What’s unique about Biden’s political challenges is that they are not a response to his policy agenda. Every one of his major initiatives was popular when it passed and remains so today. The initial polling on the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS bills show broad, bipartisan support. To the extent policy backlash exists in this election, it’s a response to the extremist policy agenda of MAGA Republicans embodied by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case. A Supreme Court rigged by Republicans ripping a constitutional right from millions of Americans combined with a series of Orwellian Republican laws like book bans have put the GOP on defense. The public is concerned about overreach from Republicans, not Democrats. We saw the power of abortion as an issue in the recent Kansas referendum. The anti-abortion side lost by double digits in a state Trump won by 15 points. Most notably, 100,000 Independents who could not vote in the party primaries turned out to vote on the abortion initiative.

Reason 4: Candidate Quality

With the help of Donald Trump, Republicans nominated a uniquely vulnerable slate of candidates. This group of criminal, incompetent carnival barkers give Democrats a slight advantage in states they would lose under more normal circumstances. The Republican gubernatorial nominees in Pennsylvania and Michigan were active parts of the insurrection. The Republican nominee for Attorney General in Arizona is an actual member of the Oath Keepers — a Right Wing terror group. Herschel Walker’s Georgia Senate campaign has been one disaster after another. This recent (and devastating) ad shows Walker’s unique vulnerability:

Dr. Oz has flopped so badly that the Republican Party is exploring ways to replace him on the Pennsylvania ballot. J.D. Vance in Ohio is such an obvious fraud that he is in danger of losing Ohio — a state Trump won by more than 10 points twice. I could go on and on, but you get the point. Being a great candidate is rarely enough to win in a tough year, but a bad candidate can lose in the best year.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance…?

Look, we have miles to travel between now and Election Day. The political environment changed dramatically once and could change again. To that point, the FBI raided Mar-A-Lago in the three hours since I finished the last draft of this piece.

If gas prices tick back up or President Biden’s approval ratings don’t rise with his fortunes, Dems could still be in heaps of trouble. The House is A LOT tougher than the Senate, but this election is now winnable if, and only if, we all dig in and double down on the hard work that delivered us the House, Senate, and White House in the last two elections.

Two Little Snippets

Just two little snarky snippets tonight … I really only planned one, but the second one dropped into my lap as I was doing the first, and I simply couldn’t resist letting loose a bit more snark!

Tell me again that racism is non-existent?

What would you do if you were standing outside your home, a stranger drove up, stopped, and demanded to see your lease to prove you live there?  I’m pretty sure my first reaction would be to tell her it was none of her damn business, my second would be to look around for a rock to hit her with!

Need I tell you that the man standing outside his home, minding his own business, is Black and the nosy, racist woman was a white Karen?

Dayson Barnes, who just moved into a Seattle neighborhood about three weeks ago, was standing in his backyard about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, when a woman who lives down the street passed by, then came back and parked in front of his house.  She told him she “knew” who lived there and it wasn’t him, and then … she called the police and reported a ‘residential burglary’.

Mr. Barnes went into his house to get his cell phone, intending to record whatever was going to happen next, and his partner came back outside with him.  His partner is a white male.  When the Karen laid eyes on his partner, she changed her tune.  When the partner accused Karen of calling the police simply because Mr. Barnes is a Black man, she replied …

“Oh my gosh this has nothing to do with race.”

Right, Karen.  The police arrived, spoke with Mr. Barnes and his partner, then left without filing an incident report.  Mr. Barnes and his partner recently moved to Seattle from, of all places, Texas!  Given that Washington is far more liberal than Texas, it was surprising to them.  Said Mr. Barnes …

“I didn’t think I’d have to experience this outside of the South.”

He shouldn’t have to experience it anywhere!  Not Texas, not Seattle, not Kalamazoo!  But sadly, racism is alive and well here in the United States, and it is spreading.

Breaking News!!!

As I was working on the above story, I received not one, not two, nor even three, but no less than five ‘breaking news’ updates and at least 10 Twitter notifications telling me that the FBI had implemented an unannounced raid on Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s current home, and had broken into his safe.

The first news of it, apparently came from Trump himself when he posted this to his ‘Truth Social’ account …

I count at least 13 lies in that statement.  I have no factual details of the raid, only that it did happen and that apparently they were searching for classified documents that they believe Trump had illegally removed from the White House when he left on January 20, 2021.  According to one analyst, the judge who signed the order had to have had overwhelming evidence that Trump would likely attempt to destroy the documents if he were forewarned of the raid, else he would never have authorized it.  In addition, I am told that Florida Governor DeSantis had to have been made aware of it.  I do not know whether Merrick Garland played any role or not, and frankly I doubt we will learn much about the details of the raid, since it is a tinderbox awaiting a spark at the moment AND because it involves highly classified information.

The Republicans seized on the moment to lick Trump’s boots, praise him, and express outrage at … who else … Democrats, Joe Biden, Merrick Garland and anybody else they don’t like.  Kevin McCarthy posted this on Twitter …

Threatening the Attorney General … yet another new low bar for the Republicans.  What that tells me is he’s running scared, just like Marco Rubio, who tweeted “The FBI isn’t doing anything about the groups vandalizing Catholic Churches, firebombing Pro-Life groups or threatening Supreme Court justices. But they find time to raid Mar A Lago.”

Don’t get your hopes up too high, but … let’s have at least a bit of hope that justice will be served, that this is the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s illusory 2024 presidential campaign and perhaps his freedom as well!

No Words Needed

I originally planned to include this cartoon in my Jolly Monday post, but changed my mind for two reasons:  a) it is of a socio-political nature and I try very hard to keep Jolly Monday upbeat and G-rated, and b) I didn’t want it to be just one of 20 other cartoons, but wanted people to take a closer look, to ponder it for a bit.  The ‘toon needs no explanation or commentary from me, so I shall give none.