Illinois tourism offering quarantine getaway packages

The State of Illinois would like to make Chicago your quarantine destination.  Responding to a lagging tourist economy brought on by skyrocketing homicides and an out-of-control epidemic, officials at Illinois tourism are venturing way outside the box to come up with bold and innovative ways to promote the Second City.  

On Monday, officials unveiled “Come quarantine with us!” a glitzy new multi-million dollar campaign to attract visitors to the Windy City.  Offering 14-day getaway packages to some of Chicago’s finest hotels and resorts, the aggressive advertising attempts to lure quarantine tourism from surrounding states.    

“We want folks to think of Chicago as America’s premiere pandemic destination.  If you’ve accidentally come in contact with an infected individual, why not quarantine in luxury and style,” says Jake Winterbottom, a spokesperson for the Illinois Board of Tourism.  

“Our hotels offer the finest amenities,” the ads boast, “and with our new Windy City Video Tours you can explore Chicagoland from the comfort and safety of your 5-star hotel room.  Thank your lucky stars you stayed indoors as you watch lawless mobs of looters trash Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.  Dine on room service as you witness a real live carjacking.  We’re adding new video tours everyday, so don’t miss out!

“Are narcotics your thing?  Download Chicagoland’s own DrugHub app and experience a slice of Chicago style hospitality as the city’s finest gig workers keep you higher than the Sears Tower for the duration of your stay.” 

Chicago public health commissioner Alison Arwady endorsed the new campaign as a necessary step to improve an ailing economy while concurrently trying to protect Chicago’s ailing population.  Citing “a poorly contained outbreak” in Indiana, despite the Hoosier state showing significantly better per capita numbers than Illinois, the commissioner supports a plan that doesn’t make an already bad public health situation even worse.  “Clearly, with all the murders and sickness and what have you in our fair city, quarantine tourism makes the most sense to boost our economy while also protecting visitors from our abysmal public health record,” Arwady said.

A modest non-endorsement

In an election where there can’t be two losers, once again as in 2016, Americans are faced with the difficult decision of choosing the least objectionable candidate.  This is a decision most voters do not take lightly.  Picking the candidate who will do the least amount of damage to American democracy and our standing in the world could have ramifications for decades to come.  Future generations will look back and with the benefit of hindsight judge our effort to cast aside the least deserving of two exceedingly unworthy candidates.  We cannot let them down.  We cannot let America down.  We must correctly identify the biggest loser and then vote for the other guy.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden possess qualities that in any other time and place would probably prevent them from getting anywhere close to the presidency.  Indeed, both have unsuccessfully sought the job many times.  True, Obama won twice with Biden on the ticket, but Biden’s own efforts to seek the presidency, until recently, have not fared well.  And, yes, after multiple tries, Trump shocked the world and himself in 2016 with his improbable win just days after the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in over a hundred years.  The universe still hasn’t stopped laughing.    

Both Trump and Biden are shit-talking bullshitters of the highest order.  Visitors to Bullshit Mountain may have seen their likenesses carved into its face.  Granted, the excrement doesn’t flow as freely and voluminously out of the mouth of Biden as it once did, but he still has his moments.  Check out his story of being arrested on the streets of Soweto trying to visit an imprisoned Nelson Mandela.  Trump’s shit-talking powers seem to only sharpen with age, as evidenced by the last four years.  On his current trajectory, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll refuse to condemn Satan because the devil has only ever said nice things about him. 

Probably the most remarkable quality about both of these guys is their capacity for colossal self-delusion.  And while it would be extremely satisfying to send both of them packing, one of them is likely going to get the job of running the country for the next four years.  Therefore, we ought to reject the guy who is wholly incapable of putting the interests of the country ahead of his own, and pick the guy who may occasionally think of someone other than himself.  On that count, the choice is clear, Trump needs to go, and the other guy needs to become the next President of the United States of America. 

CDC changes guidelines again, replaces elbow bumps with butt bumps

For the third time in less than a week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is having second thoughts about a prior recommendation.  On its website, the CDC is now promoting butt bumps to replace the awkward elbow bump the agency promoted early on in the pandemic.  The elbow bumps were instituted after the more commonly used fistbump was deemed too risky and a possible virus spreader.  

“This is deeply concerning,” said ex-FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, appearing on CNBC’s “Claptrap.”  “The CDC is at risk of losing whatever tiny bit of credibility they have left.”

The new guidelines come just days after the agency posted and then retracted erroneous information regarding airborne particles, and less than a week after it reversed course on controversial testing recommendations. 

“Elbow bumps, fist bumps, to bump or not to bump…just tell me what to bump and I’ll bump it,” said an exasperated Gottlieb.

The new guidelines first appeared on the CDC website Thursday along with specific instructions for performing the butt bump.

“The participants shall face in opposite directions as they allow their hips to slide laterally and collide with one another,” read the agency’s instructions.

Health experts speculate that the advantage of the butt bump comes from the participants never having to face one another, thereby eliminating almost entirely any possibility of particle transmission.   

A promotional video showing participants butt bumping to “The Hustle” by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony is also available for viewing on the CDC website.      

Violence interrupters deployed to Minneapolis streets

After divesting more than one million dollars from the city’s police budget to fund “violence interrupters” to intervene and defuse potentially violent confrontations, the Minneapolis City Council’s plan to provide a “holistic, public health-oriented approach” to public safety is nearly ready for primetime.

The deployment of holistic public health and safety healers is desperately needed as residents have seen the city’s crime rate soar recently.  Murders this year are already ahead of the total for 2019, so there is an urgent need to get a force out on the streets to interrupt the violence.   

“If we have these systems in place we are getting ahead of the violence,” said Minneapolis City Council member Phillipe Cunningham. “That’s why I have advocated so strongly for the violence interrupters, because if they are interrupting the violence before the guns are being fired, then the MPD doesn’t have to respond to that violence.”

Over the past month, a trial group of violence interrupters has been out on the streets of Minneapolis de-escalating conflict in some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods.  Wherever there is a dispute, and tensions are starting to rise, the violence interrupters swoop in and skillfully defuse the situation without resorting to the rough stuff.

In order to come across as non-threatening, the violence interrupters dress in sandals, khaki trousers, and casual button down shirts sporting the Minneapolis municipal logo.  Windbreakers and baseball caps emblazoned with “MVI Chillax” were scrapped after being deemed too federal agent looking.  

All violence interrupters utilize body cameras, which they prefer to call “harm reducers,” to ensure professional conduct and avoid misunderstandings.  A video released to the public recently shows a typical interaction where a violence interrupter de-escalates a potentially dangerous situation:              

“Uh, hold on a minute, young man, looks like you’re a bit hot under the collar.  You’ve got your heater there and you’re thinking about busting a cap.  I know, I can tell, I’ve been there myself.  Once, a fella tried to get fresh with my girl and I almost had to give him the business.  So let’s, you and me, talk this out man to man like, and get to the bottom of what’s upsetting you.”   

It isn’t long before the pair develop a meaningful dialogue and the troubled young man willingly hands over his firearm to the violence interrupter. 

Getting ahead of the violence and interrupting it is the name of the game.  But some worry the violence interrupters might make a situation already fraught with danger even worse.  

“Listen, we get it, nobody likes to be interrupted when they’re about to stick up a liquor store,” said one recruit.  

In some instances, violence interrupters have been hospitalized and treated for inadvertently using their face to interrupt a violent assault.  “I guess some find our constant interruptions a little annoying,” the recruit said. 

Gertrude the Pig hacks back

Perhaps we underestimate pig cognition.  Mere days after Elon Musk’s much ballyhooed Neuralink demonstration, Gertrude the Pig may be having her revenge on human society.

Gertrude the Pig was introduced to the world a few weeks ago as one of the first subjects to have a Neuralink computer chip wired into its brain.  Witnesses to the demonstration were able to see Gertrude’s neural activity as she snuffed around and touched things with her snout.

Since the demonstration, however, it appears that computer to pig brain hacking may not be a one-way street.    

While not yet noticeable to the casual user, data from Google Analytics shows pig content across the internet has increased as much as eleven percent.  

“In a normal year, we might expect to see a half to a two percent rise in pig content,” said Igor Testicov, Senior Applications Developer at Google.  “An eleven percent jump is certainly something to take notice of.”

Researchers want to know what could be fueling this dramatic rise in swine related content.  Is it possible Gertrude the Pig is hacking back?    

The Justice Department thinks so.  Said one FBI official, “We’re seeing pig bot accounts pop up all over Facebook promoting anything from veganism to turkey bacon.  We were able to trace many of these fake accounts back to Russian troll farms.  The question is who is hiring the Russians to produce this content?”

If Gertrude knows, she isn’t talking.  Her handlers say they’ve noticed no change in Gertrude’s daily activities.  

Still, though, experts are at a loss to explain the strange disruptions to financial markets.  “Something is influencing the commodities markets,” said one trader.  “Hog futures are trading at an all-time low.  Currently, there is some big money out there shorting pork bellies.”  

“We really have no idea what we’re tapping into here,” warned Testicov.  “We may rue the day we linked pigs to powerful computing technology.  Once you let the pig out of the pen, it’s not so easily put back.”

Members of Led Zeppelin to record a special 50th anniversary follow-up to “Going to California” called “Leaving California”

Remaining members of Led Zeppelin are reportedly hitting the studio this month to record a special 50th anniversary edition of their 1971 hit “Going to California.”

In an effort to keep the music fresh and timely, the new project will be titled “Leaving California” in honor of the mass exodus of the state’s residents in recent months.

“Fifty years ago, everybody was ‘Going to California’ and ‘California Dreaming,’” said a spokesperson for the band.  “Today it seems like the dream is over.  Californians have gone from knowing how to party and Californicating to fleeing in droves.  Anyway, the guys thought it made sense to go in the studio and see what that idealistic dreamer from 1971 is up to fifty years later.”  

Fifty years with a woman unwell

Spent my dough and dragged me through hell

Made up my mind to set myself free

Leaving California after hip replacement and a colonoscopy  

Someone told me there’s woman out there

With most of her teeth and curlers in her hair

Took my chances on a mobility scooter

It’s a low emission non-polluter

A homeless man poops on the sidewalk at dawn

A movie producer tells him get off my lawn 

People in the street start to riot and shake

Hippies load their buses for the Lone Star State 

Looks like a cop on patrol 

Got a punch in the nose and it started to flow

I think I should be going

The record is scheduled for a November 2021 release, and Covid willing, a tour to follow.

Old Reporter’s Almanac calling for an autumn of doom

Across the media landscape, reporters everywhere are checking moon phases, consulting star charts, and surveying their teams of expert psychics and prognosticators.  All of their feedback  seems to point to one inevitable conclusion: Americans need to brace for a perfect shitstorm of doom to arrive this autumn and possibly rage through a long dark winter of terror.

How do they know this?  Well the signs are pretty clear to all who are willing to see. The Russians are clearly trying to steal the election again, aided by Donald Trump’s private army of postal service goons.  No matter the outcome of the election, the results will be illegitimate.  And the current pandemic is about to combine forces with our old foe, seasonal influenza, to deliver a one-two knock-out punch to the people of the United States.  

As Tom McCarthy wrote for The Guardian back in July, “Now, four months into the pandemic, with test results delayed, contact tracing scarce, protective equipment dwindling and emergency rooms once again filling, the United States finds itself in a fight for its life…. With flu season on the horizon and Donald Trump demanding that millions of students return to school in the fall – not to mention a presidential election quickly approaching – the country appears at risk of being torn apart.”     

If only McCarthy had known that Trump was about to unleash the full fury of the USPS on American democracy, he might not have been so cautious in his assessment of America’s future.   

As we hurl headlong into the autumn of doom, politicians, the media, and election experts have given just about everyone who needs one a reason to doubt the outcome of the November election.  As Edward-Isaac Dovere of The Atlantic wrote in May, “Nearly three in five Americans don’t have confidence in the honesty of our elections, a February Gallup poll found. Republicans, Democrats, state officials, grandmothers, first-time voters, the politically engaged, the anti-institutionalists—pretty much the only thing they could agree on was their doubts about the integrity of our democracy.”

Wonder where they would’ve gotten that idea?  Didn’t conservative media and Trump’s faithful stooge, Kris Kobach, uncover millions of fraudulent Clinton votes from 2016?  Didn’t the mainstream media and the Mueller investigation find evidence of vote tampering on the part of the Kremlin?  They didn’t?  After politicians and the media get done assaulting the American people with disinformation and conspiracy theories, it’s amazing two in five Americans still have trust in the electoral process.  Better step up your game, media, and come up with more better conspiracies.  Besides, anyone who is not afraid of the truth knows that alien grays inhabiting secret underground military bases deep inside the earth determine the outcome of our elections.

The autumn of doom is nearly upon us and the only thing we have to fear is fear and a tsunami of illness, a fraudulent election, societal unrest, and a tyrant who refuses to relinquish power.  All we need now is for The Old Farmer’s Almanac to predict a devastating hurricane season and an unrelenting polar vortex.

Man unable to restrain the power of his Chrysler Town & Country van

A motorist was cited by police for speeding and reckless driving after he was spotted weaving in and out of traffic, making obscene gestures, and driving at an excessive rate of speed on a busy thoroughfare Saturday.

The 42-year-old man was issued a citation despite explaining to police that he was unable to restrain his Chrysler Town & Country minivan from accelerating rapidly and traveling at high rates of speed.

“This minivan cannot be contained,” argued the man after police said he was witnessed driving over a mile in the left-turn lane.  “It won’t just run with the pack.”

“Let me explain something to you about the Town and Country,” the man further elaborated.  “It’s a road warrior.  It corners like nobody’s business, goes from zero to ‘Hell Yes!’ in the blink of an eye, and still manages to stop on a dime.  That’s the ‘Town’ part.  In the ‘Country,’ it’s just a blur of shiny metal, a thrilling blend of power and aerodynamics.  It’s pure rock ‘n roll, officer.”

“Be that as it may, sir, we still have to issue you a citation,” said the policeman. 

“You may have caught up to me this time, officer.  But dig this,” the man warned, “the Town and Country has at its disposal evasive maneuvering capabilities unmatched in other domestic minivans.  In the future, I will not hesitate to deploy them.  Next time, the only thing you’re going to catch is a cloud of my dust.”

‘Word-salad’ deciphering algorithm expected in time for Trump/Biden debates

Competing teams of programmers at Google and Facebook have been working furiously in recent months to develop an algorithm capable of deciphering, in real time, the seemingly random jumbles of words that flow from the mouths of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. 

With the election just months away, the stakes are high as Americans have a short attention span for meandering nostalgic musings and barely comprehensible babble.  Network producers are hoping to unveil the new technology at upcoming debates so the candidates’ responses to debate questions can be interpreted and transmitted to viewers in real time.

“Currently, the process of arriving at an answer to the question, ‘What the hell did he just say?’ involves dozens of journalists and commentators breaking down the candidate’s most confusing utterances and speculating for days, even weeks, about what the candidate may have meant.  The process often involves mining past statements, pointing to the candidate’s record, or pulling from their personal history to provide even the faintest glimmer of clarity,” said MSNBC producer Cheryl Woodhouse.

Anders Gerital, head of senior special projects at Google expects the new technology to do away with all the needless speculation and guesswork.  “Utilizing advanced algorithms, the work of hundreds of humans can be done instantaneously.  Debate viewers will know in real time what the candidates are trying to say, even if the candidates don’t know themselves.  The algorithm has access to the entire body of each candidate’s public pronouncements as well as all available private correspondence and decision-making.  It will rely heavily on communications from a time when each candidate was much more lucid than they are currently.  The technology will be able to literally start and finish their sentences.”

The project aims to eventually create digital copies to be utilized in case the commander-in-chief becomes incapacitated, or to assist the president in carrying out his ceremonial duties.   

“We’re already 85% complete toward having each man’s consciousness digitally downloaded,” added one Facebook developer.  “It’s actually remarkable how little server space each man’s brain occupies.  You could literally carry Donald Trump around on a thumb drive.”

That’s reassuring to campaign staff.  However, most of their communication team are just delighted they will no longer have to go on Twitter or cable news and clean up after one of their bosses’ word-salad explosions.

“Half the time I feel like a clown with a pooper-scooper, following my boss around and cleaning up after he shits out yet another load of nonsense,” said one Biden staffer.

Media turning to bullshit tracing to improve quality of misinformation

Concerned that the product their peddling is so transparently dishonest it’s turning away consumers, media outlets are turning to bullshit tracing to vet the quality of its misinformation.  In recent weeks, CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post have hired dozens of bullshit tracers in an effort to ensure their deceptive stories are backed up by rock-solid sourcing.  

“If you’re going to put something out there that is misleading or untrue, you’ve got to make sure when you trace back the bullshit, it holds up to scrutiny,” said one CNN producer.  “Too many times we see our stories fall apart after some non-journalist digs a little deeper below the surface, or provides some context.”

The move comes after both CNN and the Washington Post have settled defamation lawsuits brought by Covington Catholic teen Nick Sandmann.  Sandmann is now 2-0 in his defamation battles against a number of high profile media outlets.

“What this shows is we have to do better.  Not that we need to stop being deceptive, or that we need to tell the whole story rather than just the tiny bit that suits a narrative we’re pushing, but that we need to make sure our bullshit is impenetrable.  If the reader can cut through it, then we’re not doing our jobs,” said a Washington Post editor.

While the New York Times has not had to endure the wrath of the Sandmann, its own bullshit reporting has been called out by respected historians and high-profile editorial staff.

“The truth to bullshit ratio is something that is very important to us,” said a Times editor.  “We’re constantly striving to find that balance between what feels right versus what is born out by facts.  We think bringing in these bullshit tracers is going to help us strike that balance of misinformation backed up by an adequate amount of honest reporting.”

Not everyone is thrilled to have the content of their reporting traced for exposure to bullshit.  Rumors abound of a mutinous NY Times newsroom where young journalists resent having their lived-experience reporting subjected to tracking and scrutiny.  Some are openly hostile toward the bs tracers, claiming they create an unsafe work environment.

“Maybe someday we’ll have a return to normal, but for now, the bullshit tracers are necessary because the threat is too great,” said the Times editor.  “The Sandmann could enter at any moment and haul us all off to never-never land.”