I don’t make jokes… I just watch the government and report the facts

There’s a weekly “newspaper” in my community called the Loudoun Times-Mirror. I leaf through it occasionally for a laugh or two, or really because my son likes to retrieve it from the world’s last surviving newspaper box.

An article from its September 28 issue is titled “Report: County under-funding local nonprofits.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

A yearlong review has confirmed what many Loudoun County residents have been saying for years—the county is grossly under-funding its nonprofits.

So say the people who expect to receive that money.

Remember that kid who said his allowance was too high? Yeah, he wasn’t in this survey either.

Something called the “Institute for Policy and Governance” at Virginia Tech conducted the study, and reported its findings to the county’s Board of Supervisors. Didn’t say who funded the study, but I’m pretty sure at the end of the day it’s you, me, and every other taxpaying sucker at the county, state, or federal level. (Or if you’re me: all three.) I’m guessing whatever the survey cost could have been redirected toward closing that funding gap, no?

As I often find myself saying, I don’t even know where to begin.

Overall, the report recommended the county increase the amount of nonprofit funding it provides to the tune of $263,000 to $288,000.

(Can’t they, in all their wizardry, come up with the exact amount?)

But here’s the best part…

Stakeholders, however, are recommending a $1 million increase.

Ha! A million? Why not a trillion or a hundred gazillion? How much money do you think you should get from the government?

Same answer your seven-year-old answers when asked about his allowance… the highest number he can possibly think of.

Quasi-government types really need to learn how to think bigger.

No joy in Mudville

Usually hedging your bets is a good idea.

When you’re me, and you’ve got a favorite American League baseball team and a favorite National League baseball team, and both of them are in the playoffs, you think you’ll be happy when at least one of the teams make its League Championship Series. I’m happy, of course, that my childhood heroes, the New York Yankees, are in the ALCS after improbable victories three games in a row over the Cleveland Indians. A thing of glory, as a matter of fact. On the other side of things, however, there are my almost-equally-beloved Nats, my hometown (now) team, who’d had a great season and every chance in the world to make the NLCS. Just one more victory last night would have done it. Even if it took until the wee hours of this morning they needed just one more win.

And in epic Washington-failure fashion, it just did not happen.

Can’t say it wasn’t a great game last night (and this morning), but the result was one we’ve become all too accustomed to in the DMV. That sound you hear all across the area this morning is fans sleepily and angrily hitting their alarm clocks knowing they’re going to be late today, if they can make it in at all.

Usually hedging your bets is a good idea. Get a different meal than your wife gets in case one of them isn’t good. But this? The heartbreak last night is more like finding out one of your kids survived a plane crash. One of them. Following a sports team ain’t exactly life and death—I get it. But tell that to the thousands of crushed Nats fans across the area, fans who on top of all this have to endure the same pain and suffering from the Capitals every spring as well.

I find myself one step closer to finally admitting that the team of my youth is now overshadowed in my heart by my new hometown team. The Yankees are great anyway; the Nats need me. Like the Brooklyn Dodgers of old, they need me, and like said Dodgers we’re now waiting ’til next year. And is it better or worse that the Nats are actually good now? At least during the regular season. After decades of futility (many in which the city did not have a team at all) Washington baseball now is actually good, which somehow makes it all the more painful.

But before I go all in for the Nats…

O Yankees, O team of my youth, give me one more ride. Just once more. For CC, for Gardner, for Girardi, for John Sterling for God’s sake. One more time, just one more time.

It’s not just kids

In Monday’s post I gave some anonymous children a hard time about their goofy worldviews and political opinions. They’re kids; I get it. They’re just parroting disturbing information peddled by so-called grownups who should know better. Speaking of which…

Consider this. An item in that same newspaper (The Washington Post) references a Gallup poll from earlier this year in which 61% of respondents say what they pay in income tax is “fair.” (I’m guessing that would be the bottom 61%, which pays hardly any income tax at all.) I believe the stat is intended to show that Americans really don’t pay very much in taxes. Well, the problem is that we really don’t pay taxes per se, the way we pay for gas or milk or cottage cheese. Income taxes, specifically (and a number of other things), are deducted from our paychecks (those of us who receive paychecks) before we even see said money. Trust me, if we all were given our gross salaries and they told to pony up to Uncle Sam at the end of the month, that figure would be a lot less that 61%.

Only 26% of people surveyed say they pay “too much” in taxes. But 60% say “corporations” pay too little. Never mind that “corporations” don’t really pay anything; people do, but I digress. To this one I’d say good job, media, for making the American public think that it’s greedy “corporations” eating out our substance.

Personally I thought the kids’ answers were much funnier.

The world according to eight-year-olds

This is going back a bit, but not exactly time sensitive so worth examining on this Columbus Day. (You know Columbus… the murderous pillager of native lands.)

Last Sunday my hometown paper (that’s The Washington Post) published a piece in its magazine section (the “Education Issue”) about third graders in the D.C. area and how they feel about certain grownup topics. (The world according to third graders or some such thing.) I think the editors of the Post intend for you to take this seriously, and weep and wail for the future. Please do not. Just laugh along at some of the responses. (Save the weeping for the grownups who peddle this junk.)

On presidential politics…

“I think Hillary should have won because people are saying that Trump cheated in the election because they said he was working with Russia or ISIS or something.”

“I would vote for Hillary Clinton because Donald Trump doesn’t like black people and Hillary Clinton does.”

“I think that if I could vote, I would vote for Hillary Clinton because I wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump because he’s orange.” (This was about the most reasoned, thought-out response I encountered.)

On race and gender issues…

“Girls can’t pass the gas without saying excuse me, but sometimes some boys don’t have to.” (Actually this was the best response of the whole lot.)

“I heard on the news that this black guy, he was graduating, and… he was sitting at the bus stop, and then a white person came and he was telling him stuff about things, and then the guy got a knife and then he killed him.” (Doesn’t really say who killed whom, but I wouldn’t let facts get in the way of this story.)

“Some people can be very rich for doing nothing, and they can just sit back and relax their whole life, and there are some people who are poor and they have to get really hard jobs and they get paid very little and they get treated horribly, and Donald Trump hasn’t done anything to help people about this.” (This is pretty much the thinking at the big-boy version of the Post as well. And CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, etc.)

On climate change…

“I don’t really understand climate change, but didn’t Donald Trump do it?”

If I were president…

“I would end slavery.” (I should not this survey was conducted in 2017.)

“I would make slavery against the law, and, what I would do, I would let blacks and whites get along.” (Same comment.)

“I would tear down the wall from Mexico and let them be free. Because Donald Trump is a jerk to Mexicans… I mean, Mexico is not that bad. I mean, it’s not like what it used to be. It has tall buildings.” (#smh)

Lofty goals for our kid presidents, the brainwashed gang of eight-year-olds roaming the streets of the DMV. Fear not, though, grownups, for among the zero percent support for Trump or anything resembling diversity of opinion there is this nugget of wisdom, easily the most reasonable answer given among the presidential plans for a future generation:

“I would make it so that there’s only 10 states so it’s easier to remember all of them.”

Brilliant.

Baseball playoffs bring it

The first few days of the Major League Baseball playoffs have been intense to say the least. The two wild card games themselves, honestly, were two of the best postseason games you’ll see, right up there with last year’s World Series for the ages. That makes at least nine straight awesome postseason games for MLB, as I count every one of last year’s World Series games as epic.

After seeing starting pitchers knocked around for 48 hours we were finally treating to a commanding performance from one of the game’s aces; why did it have to be against my team? No matter. We hear often how short a five-game series is, especially in baseball, but the fact is it’s five games, not one.

And speaking of several games, today is that awesome day on the baseball calendar in which four playoff games occur, baseball’s answer to the first real day of the NCAA Tournament. I’m leaving work about 2:45 today, cheating me out of about 40 minutes of gametime from the 12 hours or so of baseball set to go tomorrow. Yeah, I feel a little cheated but I suppose that’s what DVRs are for.

Tragedy in Las Vegas

I hold no illusions of grandeur, that people actually read this blog to find news or that there are legions of readers out there beside themselves just itching to know what I think about a particular topic. I mostly write this blog for myself: one to practice writing and two to perhaps one day look back myself and see what I had to say about topics X, Y, or Z.

With that in mind, it would be foolish to have a blog and say nothing about the recent events in Las Vegas, Nevada. I have nothing, really, to add to the dialogue other than what any normal person would think: just an unthinkable tragedy you’re glad you had no part in. I realize that hundreds of people were affected by this horror, and of course one feels awful just thinking about those situations.

About the only constructive thing I can say about the event is that, well, it’s not changing how I feel about large-scale live music events and it’s certainly not changing how I feel about Las Vegas.

Still going to concerts, still going to Vegas.

That’s it.

Purple Line problems

There has much debate recently in my local paper concerning the infamous Purple Line Metro, a proposed 16-mile stretch of railway cutting through suburban Maryland. Last Sunday there was a front-page story about a number of Marylanders who stand to lose their businesses and livelihoods as the developers (that’s you and me, taxpayer!) take parcels of land through eminent domain. Previous articles have discussed the disruption to the natural environment as well. (You know what they say about politics and bedfellows.) On the other side, yesterday there was an opinion piece defending the line (sort of), and promoting public-private partnerships in general. (When I hear the phrase “public-private partnership” I reach for my wallet.) Guess what? The author was one of the partners.

This is one of those cases in which people who have some stake in a project (i.e. they stand to benefit personally or lose personally) are the ones who happen to be for or against said project. These should not be the areas in which collective action takes place. Too many winners and losers for the government to be taking sides. This is like Poly Sci 101, but I suppose every once in a while we could use a refresher.

And for a fuller version of how I feel about the Purple Line, head here: http://littlesongs.net/

Hugh Hefner, 1926-2017

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A common refrain when an elderly person dies is he’s in a better place now.

No one’s saying that about Hugh Hefner.

The iconic magazine editor and cultural crusader passed away Wednesday at his home—the most famous private residence in America—at the age of 91. This is final proof that no one lives forever.

It’s not as though we didn’t see this one coming. There had been what I’d call “radio silence” on Hefner’s health for some time and, let’s face it, The Man was 91 years old.

Ninety-one very well-lived years.

The things people will call to mind most quickly are the beautiful women. The parties. The pajamas. A baronial lifestyle with bacchanalian excess. Kings and queens and presidents and potentates have had far less.

But there’s the other side of Hugh Hefner as well. The side who really did read the articles. Articles about personal freedom, first and foremost, and an openness among grownups and governments. Playboy was and remains at the forefront of civil rights, gay marriage, marijuana legalization, and a host of other issues once taboo that are now mainstream. One might add sex in that category as well.

Pictures of naked women were the hook. Anyone could have done that though. The genius was to associate sex with upward mobility. Those pictures weren’t just sold in paper wrappers behind counters anymore. They were viewed by people who wore tuxedos and listened to Henry Mancini. “It’s a lifestyle available to most, in one form or another. It has to do with celebrating life with a little style. It has to do with reinventing yourself and becoming the person you really want to be. Life is much more rewarding that way.”

Those were the words sent to me in the only correspondence I ever had with the man I long considered my greatest idol and influence. Yeah, it’s basically a form letter, I’m sure, sent to many a fan over the years, but it does sum up the philosophy. Hugh Hefner didn’t have horns or want to corrupt your children as was suggested by his detractors through the decades. He wanted everyone to enjoy life and be happy. That’s something sadly lacking from this world.

Over the past 36 hours there has been wall-to-wall coverage of Hefner’s death on all major news stations. At one point yesterday four of the top five articles on CNN’s website were about Hugh Hefner. That’s pretty good. I’d thought long ago he’d sort of outkicked the coverage, that his death wouldn’t be as celebrated as it would have been 20 or 30 years ago. Nope. It was like the passing of a head of state, as celebrity and regular joe well-wishers proclaimed condolences. Nary a tweeter yesterday didn’t have a nice thing to say about Hef.

Hugh Hefner holds two world records recognized by the folks at Guinness, ones that I don’t see falling any time soon. One: longest editorship of a magazine. That one ended Wednesday night at nearly 64 years. Second was the world’s largest personal scrapbook. Something close to 3,000 volumes last I heard. In addition to putting out a magazine read by millions Mr. Hefner has kept a private collection of his own materials that take up something like an entire wing of his famous abode. (Haven’t heard what the new owner’s doing with those yet.) No one was ever able to say he or she knew Hefner better than he knew himself; the man was the ultimate chronicler of self, and some day those mansion walls are going to talk.

And the man who came closer than anyone to eternal life just gets a little closer.

Taking a stand

The most engrossing story in sports the past few days, of course, has been the great controversy surrounding the national anthem and how NFL players would observe said ceremony. This, of course, coming on the heels of President Trump’s declaration last Friday night of his opinion regarding such. In case you’ve been on Mars since last week, some choice words from the president and something about firing those who wouldn’t stand.

Unlike most people in the world, I like Donald Trump. I’ve liked him for 30 years. But this just wasn’t cool. I understand the sentiment, of course, but I also understand why someone wouldn’t want to stand for the anthem. We all have a right to protest. I get it. Not something I would do, but okay. But I don’t see the inherent evil in Trump’s comment. It was a juvenile grab at a cheap applause line from someone who obviously knew his audience. Classy? Hardly. Earth shaking? Hardly. Though everyone else seems to think it was Lexington, Concord, Pearl Harbor, and Rosa Parks all rolled into one.

What it may have done, perhaps, is actually unify the country for once. Trump unify the country? Tune in next week when pigs fly and Hell freezes over.

Sometimes TV will surprise you


Last night I found myself with two fine offerings on the television screen, shows about which I had doubts a week or so ago. Turns out that Ken Burns’s The Vietnam War is fantastic, the first episode I reviewed last week being an anomaly in an otherwise stellar series.

And speaking of things turning out well… surprisingly well… how about those Redskins? In primetime no less! Now there’s an anomaly.

Keep it up, everybody.