Someone Will Burn In Hell For This – But Who?

On September 10 there was another one of those very important stories that made the front page for a day or two – and then, in all the news noise, vanished:

According to the story:

“The Trump administration has secretly siphoned nearly $4 million away from a program that tracks and treats FDNY firefighters and medics suffering from 9/11 related illnesses, the Daily News has learned.”

“The Treasury Department mysteriously started withholding parts of payments – nearly four years ago – meant to cover medical services for firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics treated by the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program, documents obtained by The News reveal.”

What is the FDNY (Fire Department of New York) World Trade Center Health Program?  Their website says they…

“…provide comprehensive physical and mental health services to all active and retired FDNY members who responded to the 9/11 attacks…This treatment continued in the disaster’s aftermath to provide physical and mental health treatment to our rescue and recovery workers in the days, months, and now years, after.”

The Daily News story references Dr. David Prezant, FDNY Chief Medical Officer, who was painfully aware that money was being withheld:

“Prezant said he was docked about half a million dollars each year in 2016 and 2017.  Then it crept up to about $630,000 in 2018 and 2019.  This year, Treasury has nearly tripled its extractions, diverting $1.447 million through late August.”

On September 11, other media outlets picked up the story.

The total amount? 

So now we know who did this:  The Treasury Department, led by Stinking Steve Mnuchin.

We know how much:  $3.7 million.

But…why?

Various articles said that Dr. Prezant ws never able to get an explanation from the National Institute of Occupationsl Safety and Health, or the mammoth Department of Health and Human Services which has the agency under its umbrella.

He finally got a partial answer when Long Island Republican Representative Pete King put his political weight behind the inquiry.

That answer was that some other agency in the city had been in an unrelated feud with the feds over Medicare bills.

So the Treasury Department decided to stiff the FDNY.

Now that they’d been exposed, came this:

Yes:  An apology on September 11, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country, the day first responders were risking their health – and their lives – running toward the World Trade Center.

The Trump administration apologized for stealing healthcare money from those very same first responders.

The story begins,

“The Trump administration apologized Friday for stripping millions of dollars from an FDNY fund that foots healthcare bills for 9/11 survivors and promised to put an end to the heartless practice.”

What followed was one of the most convoluted, inane and unacceptable explanations I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading.

Fortunately, I found some clarification on Snopes.com:

“It’s true that the Trump administration has been withholding money from the program, the result of what appears to be a bureaucratic blunder – namely, the way the Department of Treasury tracks and collects on debts owed to the federal government.

“The Department of Treasury…stated that the department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service is required to ‘offset federal payments for the collection of delinquent debts owed to the United States.’  The Treasury Department’s program to offset such debts uses a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to link payees and debtors.

“Some payees – such as New York City – use a single TIN for many of their subdivisions, which can result in a payment for one component of the payee being subject to offset for a debt by another component of the payee.  That is what happened in this case.”

As I said:  convoluted, inane and unacceptable.

And it gets worse.  The Firehouse article quoted some dimbo named Rebecca Miller at the Treasury Department who said the administration took the FDNY cash to cover some of the city’s unrelated Medicare debt, which has piled up over the years.  And…

“It’s wrong, it shouldn’t happen this way, and we are doing everything that we can, working with the city to try and fix this really unfortunate situation.  But at the end of the day, there are administrative hurdles and to a certain extent, our hands are tied by our statutory obligations.”

I’m sure the FDNY is taking great comfort in that, and in this from “our-hands-are-tied” Miller:

“The issue has been elevated to the highest level.   We’re trying to get creative here.”

I started looking online every day for updates.  Surely, now that the Trump Administration had been caught ripping off 9/11 first responders, they’d do more than apologize?

As in, give the $3.7 million back to the FDNY?

But I found no stories saying so.

September 13:  Nothing.

September 14: Nothing.

September 15, September 16, September 17…

And then finally, on September 18, the New York Daily News, with what had to be the Best Headline of the Day:

The article says:

“The U.S. Treasury Department has claimed for a week that it was bound by law to take millions of dollars away from the New York City Fire Department’s treatment fund, but a review by the Daily News and by lawmakers irate over the vanishing dollars found that is not the case.”

So the Treasury Department, let by Stinking Steve Mnuchin, one of Trump’s top toadies, said, in effect, “Not our fault!  We were bound by law to take the money!”

“Treasury officials began telling lawmakers, including in a letter to Representative Pete King, that taking the money was a matter of law, required because unrelated city departments owe debts to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  It is not clear yet what those debts are.”

Nice try, Stinking Steve.  Except for one little problem:

“The department did not note that its own website includes a disclaimer saying Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has the authority to exempt programs from the offsets.”

“The bureaucratic language on the Treasury Department’s website explains it this way:  ‘The Secretary may exempt other payments [from offsets] if the head of the paying agency demonstrates that offset would substantially interfere with Congress’s purpose for the payment agency’s program.’”

In case Mnuchin’s perfidy wasn’t crystal clear, the article made it so:

“Congress’ purpose in creating the FDNY’s 9/11 treatment program was to care for firefighters and EMTs harmed by their service at Ground Zero.”

Then came this from Representative Pete King, and the Best Headline of the Day, above:

Pete, you rock!

“It’s their [expletive] job to make sure that the FDNY gets the money, and they can find a way.  It’s as simple as that.  The Treasury Secretary can do it, the administration can do it.  And rather than have everybody try to jump through hoops – just do it.  I mean, I can’t believe that the federal government, if it screws somebody in the first place, can’t change direction.”

On September 17, the New York congressional delegation sent a letter to Stinking Steve Mnuchin.

New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer were also on board. 

On September 18 Gillibrand and Schumer sent a letter to Stinking Steve Mnuchin.

And since then…

September 19:  Nothing.

September 20:  Nothing.

September 21:  Is today the day?

Is today the day Stinking Steve – with Trump’s OK, of course, because Mnuchin doesn’t inhale, or exhale, without Trump’s say-so – is today the day Stinking Steve will stop stealing money from the FDNY and return the $3.7 million?

Or will the New York first responders just keep waiting for their healthcare funding to be returned, while Mnuchin and the other bottom feeders at the Treasury Department prevaricate, dissimulate, and outright lie?

Finally…going back to the title of this post: 

Someone Will Burn In Hell For This – But Who?

I think we know:

Let’s…

Meet Nikole Edwards.

Ah, Nikole, Nikole, Nikole.

There you were, living in American’s Finest City – San Diego – running your business, Social Savvy Marketing, and apparently doing all the right things.

You had at least two websites…

And two Facebook pages…

And two Twitter accounts:

Plus LinkedIn:

And Instagram:

And whatever this is…

Yes, Nikole, you were doing all the right things to build your name recognition…

And then you did a wrong thing.

And, I’m thinking, got the kind of name recognition you weren’t looking to get:

Yikes!

Nikole, your name is in a Department of Justice news release – that can’t be good!

The news release that says, among other things, you “applied for tens of thousands of dollars of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans with three financial institutions.”  And that, 

“After a representative from one financial institution told Edwards that Social Savvy Marketing could not receive a PPP loan, Edwards lied and said:  ‘This is a lifeline for my employees and my business and we won’t survive without it.’”

So, the Department of Justice news release, and then more name recognition:

OK – let’s catch our breath, and do a bit of backstory.

Congress established the PPP on a bipartisan basis in the CARES Act in March 2020 to provide $349 billion in forgivable loans to eligible small businesses and non-profit organizations to cover payroll, rent, and utility payments to help them survive the coronavirus crisis.  In April 2020, Congress appropriated an additional $321 billion for the program.

That’s a whole bunch of billions, and I guess you, Nikole, decided you were going to get yourself a “tens of thousands of dollars” slice of that pie.

So, even though you have no employees, you faked tax and payroll records for two staff to get a PPP loan.

And you were thorough – according to the Union-Tribune article,

“In April and May as shutdowns took hold, Nikole Edwards, 40, applied for government-backed PPP loans at three financial institutions.  She provided false addresses and Social Security numbers for employees, as well as bogus W-2 forms, as part of at least one application submitted to the SBA, according to prosecutors.”

Uh-oh.

“Department of Justice.”

“Prosecutors.”

Now, those are scary words.

And here are some more:

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the SBA’s Office of Inspector General led the investigation.”

Nikole, you did a wrong thing, and you got caught.

You did, indeed get a loan.

But not “tens of thousands of dollars.”

You got a very small loan.

A lousy…

Not even $20,000 bucks, Nicole, and now…

For that lousy, not-even $20,000…

“She is scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel on November 18.  The charge of making a false statement to the SBA carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.”

Nikole, you could go to prison, you’re facing a $5,000 fine PLUS you must pay back the $19,583.

In fairness, I’ll say at least you did the right thing and pleaded guilty, saving us taxpayers the cost of your trial.

Unlike the many people who have done the same thing you did, according to this September 1 report from the U.S. House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis:

The report goes on to list other dirtbags like you, Nikole, who are ripping off us taxpayers:

  • Over $1 billion in loans went to companies that received multiple loans (PPP rules prohibit companies from receiving multiple loans).
  • More than 600 loans totaling over $96 million went to companies excluded from doing business with the government. 
  • More than 350 loans worth $195 million went to government contractors flagged by the federal government for significant performance and integrity issues. 
  • Federal database raised red flags for $2.98 billion in loans to more than 11,000 PPP borrowers. 

Talk about “fraud, waste and abuse.”

That’s what you did, Nikole.

Now let’s compare and contrast your story with another from the very same day:

The article cites a number of small business owners like you, Nikole.

But instead of defrauding us taxpayers…

“Many business owners are tapping the money they socked into personal savings and retirement accounts to withstand the pandemic.  For some…there are big expenses coming due while for others it’s a way to offset the losses and stay afloat until the virus eases its grip.”

One small business owner is Tom Tunney (pictured).  According to the article,

“Tom Tunney’s three Ann Sather restaurants are breakfast, brunch and lunch stalwarts in their Chicago neighborhoods.  Social distancing requirements have curtailed revenue and the government loan Tunney got was quickly spent paying staff.

“Tunney, who’s also an alderman in the Chicago City Council, estimates he’s put $250,000 of his own money into running the restaurants.  He dipped into proceeds of real estate sales to replace his lost revenue, and says he’s prepared to continue tapping savings until business returns to normal.

“‘My community and my business are everything, pretty much my family,’ Tunney says.”

Quite a difference, when you compare and contrast.

Tom Tunney got a government loan just like you did, Nikole.

He used it to pay his staff.

You created a fictitious staff.

And you were going to use those “tens of thousands of dollars” – if your “fraud, waste and abuse” been successful – for…

What, I’m wondering?

Maybe you could write sometime and tell me?

Looks like you’ll have plenty of time…

Update 9/10/20:

Nikole, it looks like you’ve also got plenty of company:

The article didn’t include you on its list of miscreants – no name recognition for you there – but it did list some others:

  • Maurice Fayne, a reality TV star who received a $3.7 million PPP loan.
  • New Jersey-based attorney Jae Choi, arrested and charged with fraudulently obtaining $9 million in pandemic loans through three separate lenders.
  • Hollywood film producer William Sadleir, charged with fraudulently seeking more than $1.7 million in PPP loans.

Nikole, seriously – you are totally small potatoes compared to these guys.

But wait – I’ve saved the best for last:

David Hines got $3.9 million, and treated himself to a Lamborghini!

Nikole, meet David.  David, meet Nikole:

Have You Met Dirty Louie DeJoy?

On the afternoon of Saturday, September 12 my husband brought in our mail and handed me this postcard, complete with smudges of ink? grease? dirt?

My first thought was, “What is the Post Office wasting money on this time?”

My second thought was, “Dirty Louie DeJoy is screwing with the election again.”

(DeJoy, of course, is a major Trump donor and Trump’s handpicked Postmaster General, in office and wreaking havoc on USPS since early May.)

Then my hub turned on the TV news, and – immediately – we started seeing stories like this:

Wow!  Talk about synergy!

No sooner was that postcard in my hand than a lawsuit is announced against it!

And, it appears, for good reason.

In the lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold stated,

“These false statements will confuse Colorado voters, likely causing otherwise-eligible voters to wrongly believe that they may not participate in the upcoming election.  This attempt at voter suppression violates the United States Constitution and federal statutes and must be stopped immediately.”

What “false statements” is Griswold referring to?  Here’s the five-point checklist other side of the postcard:

At first glance, the checklist looks innocuous enough. 

Here’s what Griswold is suggesting will confuse Colorado voters, according to the 9NEWS story:

  • Colorado voters don’t need to request a ballot because all registered voters receive one by mail.
  • Voters who don’t have a ballot can vote in person.
  • Voters don’t have to mail back their ballots and can return ballots to polling centers or drop-off boxes.

That first bullet – the “request a ballot” could confuse many people since, according to a September 12 article in The New York Times:

“…nine states and the District of Columbia are mailing absentee ballots to every registered voter, making it unnecessary for the voters to request one.”

And though a judge did grant a temporary restraining order, the benefits may prove to be moot – again, according to 9NEWS:

“The Postal Service says these cards have already been delivered to most households and will reach every residential mailing and P.O. Box addresses in the coming week.”

So USPS sent the five-point checklist to all “residential mailing and P.O. Box addresses,” but it appears – for better or for worse – it’s not the last we’ve heard from them on the subject:

“…the omni-channel public information campaign will continue through Election Day to educate the public on the Postal Service’s role in the mail-in ballot process.”

“The campaign includes print, TV and radio ads, direct mail to residential customers, retail signage in Post Office lobbies, social media, and online resources, including the recently launched Election Mail website on usps.com.”

What the campaign won’t include is a different five-point checklist because it’s strictly internal – for USPS employees only.

From that very same Dirty Louie Dejoy:

See Peter. Peter Is A…

Trump is fond of describing people with the derogatory term “RINO” – Republican In Name Only.

It’s a term used by Republicans to accuse other Republicans of being insufficiently conservative, and Trump loves using it.

For example…

On the other hand, if Trump looked at this photo…

Trump would smile, point, and say, “That kid?  Now, there’s a RITO.”

RITO:  Republican In Training Often.

Let’s go back and take another look:

You see kids in a classroom, their desks separated by plexiglass dividers.

You see three girls wearing cloth face masks, and a fourth girl wearing a plastic face shield.

Then, at the end of the row…

You see a boy.

No face mask.

No face shield.

This boy is a RITO:  Republic In Training Often.

Let’s call him Peter.

See Peter.

See Peter’s face.

You can see Peter’s face because he isn’t wearing a face mask.

All the other kids are.

But not Peter.

See Peter’s Mom:

Peter’s mom knows that Peter is supposed to wear a face mask to school.

But Peter is a RITO.

Peter’s mom says,

“They’re lying to the masses.  I don’t know anybody who has had coronavirus, I don’t know anybody who knows anybody, and I know a lot of people.

“This is a virus that is very well contained.  Everyone is responsible for their own healthcare decisions… We want our choices respected as well.”

Here’s Peter’s dad:

Peter’s dad knows that Peter is supposed to wear a face mask to school.

But Peter is a RITO.

Peter’s dad says,

“They’re perpetuating a lie.  COVID is a hoax.  It’s a lie.  It’s a political stunt.

“They’re all saying this so that they can make the president look bad, so they can cause the problems they are causing.  It’s about blind obedience and compliance.”

While Peter is in school, his parents attend protests like this:

Peter’s parents have plenty of time to attend protests.

They both lost their jobs due to the COVID pandemic.

The “well-contained” pandemic.

The “hoax,” “lie,” “political stunt” pandemic.

And since we’re talking about school, let’s also remember these innocent bystanders:

Is This As Appalling As It Appears?

I was horrified when I read about this.

And I hope you are, too.

First:  I have the greatest respect for our military, and gratitude for their sacrifice and service.

Second: Especially when I remember that ours is a volunteer military – the draft ended in 1973.

These young women and men raise their hands and say, “I’ll serve,” knowing the possibility of long overseas deployments, terrible injuries, and even death in service to our country.

Trump claims that he’s done a lot for our military – “his” increases of the defense budget, “his” pay raises for them, “his” bringing troops home.

Trump loves the military so much, that he takes our tax dollars from the military (some of which was allocated for military schools and daycare) to build his border wall:

And the military, Trump claims, loves him right back:

And you can be sure, between now and the election, that Trump will claim credit for the military “payroll tax cut” he ordered up.

He’ll brag about it, alright.

And as he’s bragging, Trump will neglect to mention this:

The payroll tax cut must be repaid.

According to this article in Military Times:

The article says,

“More than a million military members earning $8,666.66 or less per month will see their paychecks increase by 6.2 percent of their basic pay beginning with the mid-September paycheck.”

“The increase, for the months of September through December, comes from a Social Security payroll tax deferral put into place by President Donald Trump’s August 8 memorandum, and subsequent Internal Revenue Service guidance.”

That’s like getting a 6.2 percent raise, right?

Wrong. 

See that word “deferral”?

I see it.  You see it.

But how many in the military – I’m thinking of 18-year-olds, 20-year-old, early 20s – will see it?

How many will see the gain now – but not the loss ahead?

“As of pay periods starting January 1, service members will repay the money over a four-month period ending April 30.”

And not only that, but our military members can’t say, “Thanks, but no thanks”:

“Military members…can’t opt out of the deferral; it happens automatically, according to the Defense Finance and Accounting Office.”

Here’s my image of our military.

They’re trained…

They’re disciplined…

And so many of them are just so, so young:

And – I don’t think I’m stereotyping here – young people sometimes may not make the best decisions about money.

That quality isn’t limited to young people, of course – we all make financial misjudgments, me included.

But so many of our military members are young, and away from home, and around a lot of other young people who also may not be making good financial decisions…

And I think of them looking at that 6.2 percent increase in their paychecks now instead of thinking about that 12.4 percent decrease, come January.

This is Trump’s big “gift” to our military.

Our military deserves better than this Cheat-in-Chief.

Trump’s “gift” doesn’t only affect those in the military.  According to this article in the Washington Post:

Trump’s “payroll tax cut”:

“…allow employers to temporarily suspend the collection of payroll taxes for any employee whose pretax wages or compensation during a biweekly pay period is less than $4,000.” 

The article also says,

“The payroll deferral is all about the optics of appearing to provide meaningful pandemic-related financial assistance.  This directive just shifts a burden forward.”

“Optics”?

Trump, all about optics?

Oh, yeah.

America’s Finest City’s Not-Finest Hour

The tall structure in the center of the above image is a boring, empty building in downtown San Diego, commonly referred to as “101 Ash Street.”

Boring, empty, and just sucking up money.

Taxpayer money.

$18,000 a day worth of taxpayer money.

Now, I love San Diego and I have no quibble when residents call it “America’s Finest City.”

But this story is such an egregious screw-up that it’s given the city’s leaders a large and well-deserved black eye.

And it’s so convoluted, I’m not sure that anyone has been able to thoroughly sort it out.

Here’s my understanding:

America’s Finest City’s not-so-fine mayor, Kevin Faulconer.

In 2016 San Diego agreed to do a lease-to-own deal on the former Sempra Energy headquarters (see boring building, above).  The goal was to consolidate – move about 1,000 city employees from other buildings into this one building.

It was a 20-year, $127 million deal which Mayor Kevin Faulconer persuaded the City Council to approve.

Council members were told the $535,000 monthly lease was a bargain that would save the city $44 million in rent payments over two decades.

They were told the 315,000-square-foot building was in good shape, all it needed was a $10,000 power wash, and employees could start moving in.

Let’s pause for a moment here.

There are nine people on San Diego’s City Council, elected by their constituents who believed they were choosing smart, competent people who would best represent their interests.

San Diego City Countil Chambers: The lights were on, but nobody was home.

So wouldn’t you think that all – or some – or even one of those council members might have raised their hand and said, “That building was built in 1966.  It’s more than 50 years old, and you’re telling us it needs nothing but a $10,000 power wash?”

Alas, it appears that not even one did.

Alas, again – the city did no due diligence to establish the condition of the building.

Instead, they accepted what they were told by Cisterra Partners.

Cisterra Partners, a San Diego real estate firm that acted as a broker between the city and building’s formers owners.

Let’s pause for another moment here.

If you’ve ever considered buying a residence, you have the option of paying to have a home inspection done.  This is called “due diligence,” and every smart buyer does this.  A home inspection can reveal problems the owner was unaware of – termite damage, for example – and reveal problems the owner didn’t disclose.  Because the reality is, some owners don’t disclose what they should.

Buyers who don’t have a home inspection – their due diligence – are why we have phrases like…

So, too, with San Diego’s mayor and City Council. 

Except – the taxpayers aren’t fools. 

But they are being parted from vast amounts of their money.

$18,000 a day, $535,000 a month.

And there were red flags:  Cisterra had insisted that the city accept the property “as-is, where-is, with all faults,” and included language in the lease agreement precluding any liability of Cisterra.

Yup.  Red flags.

Did the mayor and council have blinders on?

And somehow, these Powers That Be missed this red flag, as well:  In 2014, a real estate consultant for Sempra Energy told the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that Sempra considered the building to be “functionally obsolete” because of its vulnerability to damage during an earthquake and because…

Are you ready?

Because of the building’s asbestos issues.

101 Ash Street – asbestos, anyone?

You know – asbestos, used for ages in buildings because it was a good, heat-resistant electrical insulator?

Asbestos, that’s been totally banned in this country since 2003 because it’s known to cause several types of cancer?

This guy is telling the CPUC in 2014 that Sempra knows there’s asbestos in the building, and nobody at the CPUC thinks to tell San Diego’s Mayor or City Council when they started doing the Happy Dance about this building?

Nobody at Sempra – the former owners of the building – shares with the Mayor or City Council, either?

A sample of asbestos-containing materials collected by the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District.

Nobody – not the mayor, no one on the City Council – thinks so say, “Golly, don’t buildings that old sometimes have that asbestos stuff in them?”

So the city signed in early 2017, and taxpayers began paying $18,000 per day for the lease of a building no one can use.

I haven’t mentioned that the building was appraised for $72 million.

The mayor’s office estimates it will cost $115 million to fix the asbestos problem, along with other items including the earthquake retrofit, and issues with plumbing, heating, elevators, electrical, and fire alarm.

An editorial in the August 7 San Diego Union-Tribune called 101 Ash Street “the city’s worst land deal ever.”

An August 6 article in the Union-Tribune reported that Faulconer, in search of a solution, presented the council with “five options for moving forward” on 101 Ash Street.

Councilman Chris Cate summed up the options, and the situation, with a succinct, “This whole thing, it friggin’ sucks.”

The finger-pointing has begun, and there’s lots of it.  According to an August 9 editorial, also in the Union-Tribune, “the mayor and his aides emphasized that the City Council and City Attorney’s Office didn’t raise questions about the Ash Street deal…he alternately blamed ‘the bureaucracy,’ ‘the system’ and ‘the city.’”

The mayor also “blamed construction crews for what went wrong.”

Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin blamed the Mayor’s Office for failing to keep the council informed about problems with the Ash Street building. 

Consultants blamed city officials for relying too heavily on representations from Cisterra Development.

The Union-Tribune blamed “Faulconer’s failure to take the most fundamental step in considering any real estate transaction:  getting an independent evaluation of the property’s condition.”

A different media outlet blamed “Real Estate Assets Director Cybele Thompson’s failure to seek an independent appraisal and assessment of the building’s true condition upfront.”

And yet another outlet blamed “the city” for failing to conduct due diligence, “the city” being the catch-all when there are too many culpable people to name individually.

The more articles I read, the more finger-pointing I read about.  Everyone is pointing at everyone.

Except for San Diego’s taxpayers…

The only thing taxpayers are pointing their finger at is…

Update, August 18, 2020:

According to an August 18 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“Two San Diego law firms have teamed up with a prominent Los Angeles civil litigation specialist to sue the former owners of the downtown high rise at 101 Ash Street, a 19-story building the city of San Diego acquired without so much as an independent inspection.”

The lawsuit asserts,

“This taxpayer action is brought because San Diego city officials have failed to vindicate the rights of plaintiff and other San Diego taxpayers to stop the waste of funds and to recover funds already wasted relating to the 101 Ash Street building.”

Update, September 1:

Who’s The Idiot With No Face Mask?

Oh.  The same idiot as in this picture:

That was Trump, last Tuesday, in Kenosha, WI.

Then that same idiot, speaking to rally goers in Pennsylvania on Thursday, mocked Joe Biden for wearing a mask:

“But did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him?  And then he makes a speech, and he always has it – not always, but a lot of times, he has it hanging down…” (gestures toward his ear):

“Because, you know what, it gives him a feeling of security.  If I were a psychiatrist – right?  I’d say, this guy’s got some big issues.  Hanging down.  Hanging down…”: 

Then he turned to an audience member – I’m guessing Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican from Pennsylvania – and mocked him for wearing a mask as well:

“Congressman, give me your mask.  I want to have it hanging from my…I don’t wanna touch your damn mask.  Mike, I’ll never touch your mask.”

Trump also mocked Biden for wearing a face mask, this time on Twitter, back on May 25 – Memorial Day:

At the time, COVID-19 had killed more than 97,000 Americans.

Today, as we near the end of Labor Day weekend…

Just over the summer…

That number of deaths has doubled:

Book Review:  A Weak “Week At The Shore”

Publication date:  May 2020book cropped

Review, short version:  One skunk out of four.

Review, long version:

There are authors I’ve read and enjoyed for a long time.  Authors who, when I learned they had a new book – I bought it.  I didn’t read the summary or reviews.

When they wrote it, I wanted it.

Those authors include Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag and Susan Howatch.

Sadly, over the years, with each author I’d I realize, “Well, I’m not going to buy her books anymore.”

If my library had it, I’d read it.  But spend $20 to $30 for on an author I was now iffy about?

Thumbs_down croppedThe next step – again, sadly – was, “I’m not going to read her books anymore.”

With each of those four authors, I transitioned from “buying” to “not buying” to “not reading.”

Sometimes it was because the author’s focus had changed.  Sometimes, my tastes changed.  And sometimes, I guess I just lost that lovin’ feeling.

Over time, Barbara Delinsky’s books have moved from “buy it” to “not buy it,” so I got her latest, A Week at the Shore, from my library.

I’m not quite ready to move Delinsky from “not buy” to “not read,” but I’m getting there.

A Week at the Shore is not bad, it’s just…not very good.

There’s nothing new or original about it.

And it’s full of clichés, including:

Check (2)

The book was so cliché-ridden that I fully expected a hurricane to sweep in and tumble one or both houses into the ocean.  You know – one of those 100-year storms that just happens to occur in the final 20 pages?house

The storm then – of course – exposing the skeletal remains of the wife who deserted.  Or died.

At least I was spared those clichés.

And perhaps I’ve spared you from reading A Week at the Shore.

I guess it was my turn to…

cropped

Can You Imagine Any Of Our Previous Presidents Saying This?

 

 

Can you imagine any of our previous presidents saying that?  George W. Bush, or George H.W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan, or Franklin Roosevelt saying…

Law Enforcement

Or Lincoln, or Washington, or Jefferson, or even Richard Nixon saying…

Daily Caller

The answer to all of the above is, of course, “No.”

In private?  Perhaps.  But publicly?

never_02

And this is just one mor reason why…

Politico

Miami

Denver

After Hurricane Laura, Trump Visits Louisiana And Texas, And Solves Flooding Problem!

 

 

 

 

Trump 1
“Louisiana is a tremendous state for me, and now I’m taking care of you – here’s the Bounty, the quicker picker upper!”

Trump 4
“Mop up the water – and your tears – with these.  Brawny paper towels, for truly tough messes!”

Trump 2
“I hear it’s going to rain this afternoon.  Messes are a part of life!  Soak ‘em up with VIVA!”

Image: President Trump throws rolls of paper towels to residents gathered in a chapel while visiting areas damaged by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico
“Many people told me this was the strongest storm to hit southwest Louisiana!  Here’s Scott, the strongest paper towel, common sense on a roll!”

Trump 5
“Our hearts go out to families who lost loved ones – and so do these paper towels!”

“NOW I GOTTA GO – IMPORTANT OFFICIAL BUSINESS TO ATTEND TO!”

Image: Donald Trump Golf
“Ah, Mar-A-Lago – what a relief, after that shithole in Louisiana!”

 

I Met My New Neighbor…

The above image is my interpretation of a recent encounter between me and my new neighbor.

Yes, it was a rattlesnake.

And though the heroes who removed it assured me that the snake was “just a baby,” I beg to differ.

That rattlesnake didn’t know it was “just a baby.”  What it did know was that it had fangs, and venom, and knew how to use them.

And “baby” rattlesnakes are even scarier than adults, because they’re born without the rattle.  The rattle grows each time the snake sheds its skin, so a baby rattler may not have shed enough times to give a warning before striking.Rattlesnake (3)

But even if the rattle has developed, there’s no Rattlesnake for Dummies book that tells rattlesnakes there’s a rule that they must shake that rattle before striking.

There are no rules for rattlesnakes, period.

Like that nonsense about “rattlesnake season.”

People around here talk about rattlesnake season as the months of April through October – as though rattlesnakes pay any attention to the human calendar.

Do those who espouse this theory think that rattlesnake in my yard, poised to strike, would suddenly pause and think, “Wait – what month is it?  March?  OK, it’s not my season to bite” and just slither back under its rock?

Not cropped

And please spare me any further blather about how “fatalities from rattlesnake bites are rare if treated in a timely manner.”

You see that key word, “if”?

And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “between 7,000 and 8,000 people per year are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States, but only five of them die each year.”

You see that key word, “only”?

There’s no “only” if you’re one of the five.

And yes, I know rattlesnakes help control the rodent population, and I’m grateful and all that.  There are plenty of rodents out there, so why bite me?  A rattlesnake can swallow a mouse whole…

eating mouse

But what the hell would it do with me?

If, after all this, you still think rattlesnakes are swell, then come on out to Southern California and have a cuddle-up – we have four types, so you can…

Pick your poison:

southwestern speckled larger sidewinder larger

Southwestern Speckled

Sidewinder

southern pacific smaller red diamond smaller

Southern Pacific

Red Diamond

If Trump Has His Way, Here’s What The Welcoming Committee At Your Polling Place Will Look Like:

According to a recent Washington Post article, in an August 20 interview with Fox News host Sean “Trump Whore” Hannity, Trump described law enforcement officers as part of a phalanx of authorities he hopes will monitor poling places in November:

“We’re going to have everything,” the president said.  “We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to hopefully have U.S. attorneys and we’re going to have everybody, and attorney generals.”

Of course, that last should be “attorneys general,” but what’s one more display of Trump’s ignorance?

And speaking of Trump’s ignorance, according to the article,

“The president has limited authority to order law enforcement to patrol polling places.  Sheriff’s deputies and police officers are commanded at the local level, and a federal law bars U.S. government officials from sending ‘armed men’ to the vicinity of polling places.”

But why would Trump want sheriffs, etc. at polling places?

For safety reasons, not voter suppression, insisted White House chief of staff/chief toady Mark Meadows, in an August 23 Fox News interview:

“If the judges at those polling places need any kind of security, we’re going to make sure we have the resources to do that.”uh-huhyeah-sure-d cropped fixed

“I think what the president was really addressing was to make sure that if you want to show up and vote in person, we’re going to make sure that that is safe.  Whether you’re voting for him, or you’re voting for Joe Biden, or you’re voting for some other candidate.”

In other words, Trump and his Republican toadies just want safer polling places.

Safer than what? I wondered.

Safer from what? I wondered.

And since when has safety been an issue at polling places?

Have polling places, in the past, been overrun with zombies?

zombies_01

Are vampires sneaking up on unsuspecting voters and…

vampires

Or perhaps the boogeyman has been seen slithering from voting booth to voting booth?

boogeyman

Speaking of boogeyman, its definition is “a terrifying or dreaded person or thing.”

The boogeyman is real:

trump

But he won’t be around much longer:

And look how the rats are deserting the sinking ship!

KellyAnne

Jeff Flake

Michael Steele cropped

Security People

Oh, Well…What’s One More Dead Woman?

TO:  Manuel Leiva and Frank Salvato, Lawyers

RE:  The death of Karla Dominguez.

HimManuel and Frank, are you feeling proud of yourselves these days?

Are you high-fiving each other for getting your client out of jail?

Not because he’d been tried and found not guilty, but because of the pandemic?

Your client, Ibrahim E. Bouaichi (left).

The story was all over the media…

Headline (2)

For one day.

In these crazy coronavirus times, I suppose it’s amazing the story received any coverage at all.

After all…

karla_01What’s one more dead woman?

Here’s what the media coverage had to say:

We’re going back to last October

On October 10 there was an “incident” in the apartment of Karla Dominguez, 31 (left).  It was violent, and it was not consensual, she testified in Alexandria District Court in December.

The man she accused – your client, Ibrahim E. Bouaichi – was indicted on charges including rape, sodomy, strangulation and abduction, and jailed without bond in Alexandria, VA.

Manuel and Frank, your sympathy for the victim, Dominguez, was clear:

“‘The two individuals involved were boyfriend/girlfriend,’ the lawyers wrote, ‘and there is a substantial defense here.’”

Now, under Virginia law, those charged with certain violent crimes such as rape are presumed to be a danger and are not eligible for bond.

So Bouaichi languished in an Alexandria, VA jail…

Opportunity Knocks croppedAnd then came the pandemic.

Manuel and Frank, talk about opportunity knocking right on your door!

You decided that the virus was a danger to both inmates and to yourselves, and that Bouaichi should be freed awaiting trial.

You put together a motion for bond that asked for Bouiachi’s release because “social distancing and proper disinfecting measures are impossible while incarcerated.… Simply put, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in a jail is exceedingly obvious.”

Whoa!  “Exceedingly obvious”!  Talk about lawyerly language!prisoners

You also noted the risk for yourselves in the jail, saying that lawyers seeking a contact visit would “also expose themselves to contaminated air and surfaces.”

And you claimed that the Alexandria jail had “imposed severe restrictions on visitation since the Covid-19 outbreak,” that all contact visits (meaning no glass or separation between visitor and inmate) were stopped, and that the lawyers could only have video conference sessions lasting 30 minutes maximum.

A trial date had been set for Bouaichi, and you, Manuel and Frank, said he was “being effectively deprived of legal counsel.”

The Alexandria jail officials’ story differed from yours.  They said that they do allow contact visits for attorneys upon request, and have accommodated several requests.

“However,” jail spokeswoman Amy Bertsch added, “we do not have any record of Mr. Leiva or his co-counsel requesting a face-to-face visit with Ibrahim Bouaichi after the protocols went into effect in late March.”

Imagine that.  You, Manuel and Frank, were claiming that you couldn’t get a contact visit how croppedwith Bouaichi, and the spokeswoman said there was no record of your requesting one!

How did this happen, I wonder?

“We have also provided video conferences in excess of 30 minutes,” Bertsch said.

Bertsch also said that the jail implemented increased cleaning and health screening in early March “and there were no cases of COVID-19 at the jail during their client’s incarceration.”

april-9-2020 croppedNevertheless, on April 9, over the objections of an Alexandria prosecutor, Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins released Bouaichi on $25,000 bond, with the condition that he only leave his Maryland home to meet with his lawyers or pretrial services officials.

And on April 9, Bouaichi walked out of jail.

Way to go, guys!

And I’m betting that you, Manuel and Frank, assured the judge that your client would do exactly as he was told.

But…he didn’t.

may-8-2020 croppedShortly before midnight on May 8, Bouaichi was away from home, but not to meet with his lawyers or pretrial services officials.

Instead, he was at a Wendy’s drive-through in Greenbelt, MD.  Someone had reported Bouaichi to police as a possible robber.  Police officers at the scene described him as “acting strangely,” and indeed, he was:

He put his vehicle in drive and rammed a K-9 officer’s vehicle, which an officer and a police dog were sitting in.

The officers eventually took him into custody, at which point Bouaichi reported having a medical issue.  He was taken to a hospital, and then to the Prince George’s jail, where he was served multiple charges:  two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault, harming a law enforcement dog, resisting arrest, driving while may-11-2020 croppedintoxicated and multiple traffic charges.

Bouaichi was released on bond from jail on May 11.

Manuel and Frank, the media stories didn’t say that you got Bouaichi released, but who else – but you?

And who else but you would be so caring and clever to not advise the Greenbelt police that your client was an accused rapist out on bond from Alexandria, VA, about 30 minutes away?

Way to cover for your client!

The media coverage doesn’t appear to mention Bouaichi again until the Alexandria july-29-2020 croppedpolice received a report of gunshots on Wednesday, July 29.

At 6:20am they found Dominguez outside her apartment, dead of multiple wounds to the upper body.

Police obtained a murder warrant for Bouaichi on Friday, July 31, but couldn’t find him until the following Wednesday, five days later.

august-5-2020 croppedOn that Wednesday, August 5 morning, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force and Alexandria officers spotted Bouaichi’s car in Prince George’s County.  As they moved in to arrest him, he shot himself, Alexandria police said.

He died Saturday, August 8 at a local hospital, police said in a news release.

Manuel and Frank, did you know where your client was during those eight days?

You’re not saying.

You’re not saying anything, except this:

“Leiva and Salvato said in a statement they were ‘certainly saddened by the tragedy both families have suffered here.’  The lawyers said they ‘were looking forward to trial.  Unfortunately the pandemic continued the trial date by several months and we didn’t get the chance to put forth our case.’”

What a bummer – you didn’t “get the chance” to put forth your case!

Just think of the website potential here!

Manuel and Frank, you could have jazzed up your ho-hum websites from this:

Manuel (2)

And this:

Frank Website (2)

To this:

Final (2)

And this:

Frank with banner (2)

No need to mention that your client died before he could be tried.

No need to confuse people with the facts.

No need to mention this fact, either:

The Karla Dominguez, who accused your client of rape, is also dead.

Oh, well.

What’s one more dead woman?

Karla

Movie Review:  One Of The Most Fascinating Women You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Release date:  2008Movie

Review, short version:  Two thumbs up.

Review, long version:

If you like learning about something about which you know nothing – and I do – then watching Warrior Queen Boudica would be an hour and 40 minutes well spent.

If you think you’ve maybe heard of Boudica but aren’t sure, it may be because she’s also variously referred to as Boudicca, Boadicea, Boudicea, and Buddug.  For the sake of my sanity, I’ll stick with Boudica.

Information about Boudica comes from Roman scholars, primarily Tacitus (56 AD-120 AD) and Cassius Dio (163 AD-c. 235 AD).  The big events in Boudica’s life happened in 60 AD – Tacitus was age four or five, and Cassius Dio wasn’t born until 100+ years later.  So it’s tempting to wonder if Boudica actually existed, or if her story is the stuff of legend.

1200px-Ma CroppedBut, since many scholars accept her story as true, let’s do the same.

Boudica was married to Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, an ancient Celtic tribe that once inhabited Eastern Britain (on map, in red).  The Romans had conquered Britain, but Prasutagus had an arrangement with his rulers – he remained king, but only as an ally of the Romans.

In 60 AD, when Boudica was probably in her 30s, Prasutagus died without a male heir.  The Romans tore up the agreement, annexed his kingdom and confiscated his family’s land and property.  To make sure the message was understood – and perhaps because Queen Boudica objected – the Romans flogged her and raped her two daughters.

What the Romans hadn’t counted on was the loyalty of the Iceni to their queen.  When Boudica decided to rebel against the Romans in 60 AD, the Iceni rallied behind her, and together they started kicking some serious Roman ass:

the_siege_of_the_temple_of_claudius_in_colchester__photographed_by_ben_sutherland__via_flickr_creative_commons_2-0_-cc_2-0
Boudica’s siege of the temple of Claudius in Camulodunum (Colchester).  Artist unknown, 19th century.

  • They defeated the Ninth Roman Legion, a group of highly trained and heavily armed professional soldiers, an unimaginable feat by “savages” lead by a “mere” woman.
  • They destroyed Camulodunum (modern Colchester), the capital of Roman Britain, and massacred its inhabitants.
  • They did much the same to Londinium (London) and Verulamium (modern St. Albans).

Tacitus claimed that the Britons massacred some 70,000 Romans and pro-Roman Britons before the Roman legions finally defeated Boudica and her army.

The fate of Boudica and her daughters is unknown, though the widely accepted belief is in their suicide to avoid capture.

We don’t know what Boudica looked like, and the one dissonant note in the film was how she was portrayed, or rather – how she was dressed.  I don’t think appearing in a bustier – that showed her tan line! – added to the story:

boudica_01

Otherwise, I learned a lot, and that made me want to learn more, and that’s a good thing.

For example, that perhaps our rebel Queen got the last word.

Now considered a folk hero, this 19th century statue honoring Boudica and her daughters resides near Westminster Pier in London…

One of the cities she burned to the ground:

Boudica_statue,_Westminster_(8433726848)

This Recent Headline Caught My Eye:

The article opens with the statement,

“A growing number of Republican women are sounding the alarm about continuing loss of support for President Trump and the GOP among female voters ahead of the November election, warning that the party is in danger of permanently alienating women if it doesn’t change course.

“Trump’s flailing response to the coronavirus pandemic and his move to inflame nationwide racial tensions are exacerbating an already precarious situation, according to interviews with female Republican lawmakers and GOP pollsters focused on female voters.”

Later on, the article says:

“Once willing to overlook controversies because their families were doing well, the security these voters felt with the booming economy is now gone because of the pandemic, the pollsters say.  Now they are worried about their children, their elderly parents and their livelihoods – and they don’t see Trump as a leader who can protect them.”

Now, isn’t that interesting?

Republican women are turning away from Trump because of how he’s handling the pandemic, economic disaster and social unrest.

Now, and only now, when it’s hitting close to home.

Because the families that “were doing well…”

Aren’t doing so well now.

These Republican women who were “willing to overlook controversies” and gladly voted for Trump in 2016.

Voted for him in November 2016, even though this story got international coverage in October 2016:

2016 Wash Post (2)

Republican women heard Trump say, “I don’t even wait.  And when you’re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything…Grab ‘em by the pussy.  You can do anything.”

Republican women gladly “overlooked” this controversy.

And the many deplorable things that Trump continued to do to, and say about, women, since the election:

insults-black-female-reporters-2

nasty-2-1

Go back to countries they came from

And the many deplorable things Trump continues to do to, and say about, women – these about Kamala Harris, in the hours after the August 11 announcement of Harris as Biden’s running mate:

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, the president described Harris’s questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing as “extraordinarily nasty” – “nasty to a level that was just a horrible thing.”

Trump demeaned her as “angry” and “horrible.”

Trump described her as “nasty” or “nastier” four times.

We knew President Trump would come up with a nickname for Kamala D. Harris as soon as Joe Biden named the California senator as his running mate.  “Phony Kamala” is what the president seems to have settled on.

President Trump on Thursday encouraged a racist conspiracy theory that is rampant among some of his followers:  that Senator Kamala Harris, the presumptive Democratic vice-presidential nominee born in California, was not eligible for the vice presidency or presidency because her parents were immigrants.

And this, from Trump’s son:

On Twitter, Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons, favorited a tweet, which was later deleted, that referred to Ms. Harris as a “whorendous pick.”

Trump’s insulting remarks about women are easy to find – if you google “Trump hates women” you get about 12,900,000 results.

Not that Republican women – over these past torturous years while Trump has occupied the White House – would ever bother to google “Trump hates women.”

They didn’t care.

They still don’t care.

You, Republican women, don’t even care that Trump refers to you as “suburban housewives”:

Tweet (2)

But now – when some of you Republican women have tragically lost a loved one to COVID-19.

Only now – when some of you Republican women are stuck at home with your kids, trying to ensure (because their schools are closed) that the kids are getting some semblance of a decent education online.

Only now – when some of you Republican women have lost your jobs, or your partners have lost their job.  Or you’ve both lost your jobs.

Only now, when it’s up close and personal, are you Republican women feeling you “don’t see Trump as a leader who can protect” you.

Well, ladies…

real-world cropped

And you are welcome.

If you’re turning away from Trump, regardless of the reason.

And if you vote Biden/Harris, regardless of your party affiliation.

And if, after Trump is gone on January 20, you’re willing to come together and start trying to bring our country out of the darkness…

Economy (2)

us.unemployment-nc

covid (2)

dark

These Are A Few Of My (Least) Favorite Things

If you remember the movie The Sound of Music then you’ll remember the song, “My Favorite Things.”

Recently that song got stuck in my head, and it was only a matter of time before my least favorite things also started coming to mind.

Here are some of my least favorite things:

hair_06 hair_07 cropped
Hair_05 cropped Hair_02 cropped
arms crossed arms cropped
exec order signing exec order signing_01cropped
Exec order holding cropped exec order signing_02 cropped
long tie cropped long tie_01 cropped
MAGA hat cropped Maga cropped
one finger cropped smaller one finger_02 cropped smaller
trump ok 1 cropped Trump OK 2
Thumb Up One cropped Thumbs Up Two cropped
trump children_02 trump children
Orange Face cropped Orange cropped
trump angry_02 cropped trump angry_01 cropped
trump angry cropped trump angry_03 cropped

One of my favorite things:  June 20, 2020, Trump after his Tulsa rally:

Trump after Tulsa cropped

Now Republicans Have Even More Incentive to Suppress Minority Voting:

It’s no secret that “Republicans” and “voter suppression” go hand-in-hand:

Rolling (2)

Guardian (2)

Wash (2)

And I suggest that Republicans got a chance to practice voter suppression in Puerto Rico:

NY (2)

On August 9 Puerto Rico was forced to partially suspend voting in primaries due to a lack of ballots.

A lack of ballots.

A great strategy to have in the voter suppression toolbox.

You may be wondering, why didn’t they just do mail-in ballots in Puerto Rico?

According to an August 10 NPR article,

“…in Puerto Rico, as in a handful of states, absentee voting is still only offered to those with an excuse for why they cannot vote in person, which is why voters there had little choice but to go to the polls in person.”primary_02

So on primary voting day, hundreds of frustrated Puerto Rican voters (who wore the required face masks, braved a spike in COVID-19 cases and the hot-as-hell weather) were turned away from centers across Puerto Rico as officials told them that no ballots were available.

Many people waited, but by early afternoon only a handful of polling places had received their paper ballots.

voters turned away
An official turns away two voters at a voting center lacking ballots.

The lack of ballots meant people were only able to vote in nearly 60 of 110 precincts.

This situation is unexplainable and becomes even more so, since the primary election had already been delayed once, moved from June 7 to August 9, because of the pandemic.

Plenty of time to get ballots printed and ready for delivery in plenty of time for voting day.

Now the ballot shortage means that some precincts – the locations that did not have ballots available to start voting by 1:45 p.m. Sunday – will be open to cast ballots again on Sunday, August 16.

However, lawsuits have been filed and that could change.

Lawsuits – just like what’s predicted for the November election:

Lawsuits (2)

In the meantime, the Blame Game in Puerto Rico went into full swing:

  • Political party officials laid blame with the island’s election commission.
  • The head of the election commission pointed the finger at a printing facility.
  • Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Management Board said it had fully funded the elections commission and a lack of money could not be to blame.

Why do I think the Puerto Rico primary was Republicans practicing voter suppression?

Because though Puerto Ricans are American citizens, they can’t vote in a presidential election.

So why not do a no-ballots practice run now, and see if it flies?

And it flew, all right.  It flew…

Bat cropped

Now Republicans can sit back and do a Puerto Rico primary postmortem:

Republican #1:  Did you see those headlines?  We did it!

NBC Final (2)

Republican #1:  And did you see that figure?  Out of 110 precincts, people could only vote in about 60!

Republican #2:  Yeah!  No ballots!  We really did it!

Republican #3:  Definitely in the toolbox for November.

Republican #1:  Yeah, but only in precincts with lots of minority voters, right?

Republican #3:  Right.  Now let’s get back to how we’ll suppress those damn mail-in ballots.

Republican #2:  Love what Trump’s doing to Nevada!

Nevada (2)

I Don’t Use The Word “Hate” Often, But I Hate…

The pandemic tragedy has brought infections, deaths, millions of people out of work,scammer cropped many in danger of eviction…

And something else:

Scammers.

There was a new surge of scammers as people lost their jobs and filed for unemployment.

There was another surge of scammers when the government stimulus money started going out.

scammer_02 croppedWe began getting phone calls from someone purporting to be a bank or a government official, needing personal information to facilitate our getting that unemployment compensation and/or pandemic relief.

More calls – from scammers saying they were doing coronavirus contact tracing and asking for our personal information to help them follow up with people possibly infected.

Fake websites began making appearances, too.  Some look like legitimate government sites, while other pretend to be selling items we want – face masks, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies.  The first want your Social Security number; the second, your credit card number.

Other websites offer coronavirus cures and tests – appealing in these desperate times, but all bogus.

There are even what look like real company websites posting fake job openings on online job boards, set up to fool job hunters into handing over personal information or to send money.

“Send money?” you’re thinking.  “How could someone be fooled into sending a prospective employer money?”woman

Answer:  Easy.  The scammer tells the victim that they need to pay upfront for background checks or screenings, job training, or work-from-home equipment or supplies.  Many times, victims are told they’ll be reimbursed for these expenses with their first paycheck.

People are desperate for work, and so…

Then there are – perhaps the most despicable of all – scammers who pretend they represent charities, contacting people by phone, email, texts, letters, and even going door to door.

One example of the latter is operating here in San Diego, according to this recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Union Trib (2)

San Diego Second Chance Program, which provides workforce readiness training, sober-living housing and educational programs to formerly incarcerated youths and adults, is a legitimate non-profit, according to CharityNavigator.com:

Charity (2)

And that means these scammers are the worst kind of scammer scum – not only are they ripping off donors, but they’re damaging the reputation of a legitimate organization; people who hear/read about the scam may think, “Second Chance – didn’t I read or hear about them scamming people?”

No, you did not hear/read about Second Chance Program scamming people, but you were busy or distracted or something, and only saw or heard the words “Scam” and “Second Chance” grouped together.

Here’s how these scum operate, according to the Union-Tribune article:older

“The solicitors – sometimes carrying a fake badge or document with the organization’s name – approach a home pretending to be representatives of Second Chance and ask people to donate money, buy candy or a magazine subscription.”

And even though, says the article, Second Chance has this warning on its website:

“Second Chance does not solicit funds door-to-door.  Nor do we send our youth out in the community to sell candy or subscriptions.”

Still, many people make donations of $10 to $20 to the fake solicitors, according to Maureen Polimadei, the donor and volunteer engagement manager for Second Chance.

And that’s too bad.

Scammers, like evil, have been around forever.

So, too, have their victims – people, some with the best of intentions, some too gullible, and some too ill-informed about the bad people out there.

And because of them, Second Chance may get less funding, and have fewer of these:

graduates
More than 90% of Second Chance job-readiness training graduates secure full-time employment within 30 days of completing the program.

Does This Crybaby Remind You Of Anyone?

 

In the now-infamous Axios interview that aired August 3, Trump – unsurprisingly – said a number of execrable things.

But what’s stayed with me were his responses to questions about the highly respected, late civil rights leader and Georgia congressman John Lewis:

Image 1 (2)

Geez, what a crybaby!

Image 2 (2)

Then he said it again!  A crybaby AND a whiner!

Image 3 (2)

Then he said:

Image 4 (2)

Talk about carrying a grudge!

Well, you just keep carrying those grudges, Baby Donny.

And on January 20, carry them right out the White House door:

Front Door (2)

Our Country’s Health Should Be This…

rude healthIt may be hard to imagine anyone using the word “rude” as a compliment.

“Rude,” meaning “offensively impolite or ill-mannered.”

Yet at one time – you don’t hear it much nowadays – if you told someone they looked “in rude health,” it was, indeed, a compliment.

“Rude” in this case meaning “strong and robust.”

“In rude health” was the phrase recently applied to the art market by Sotheby’s, an international auction house that’s been “uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744,” according to their website.

They did some serious “uniting” at a livestreamed auction in late July that brought in a total of $192.7 million:

Auction July 28 cropped
The Sotheby’s team taking calls from auction bidders.  I guess the folks on the left thought a hand over the mouth was a good substitute for a face mask?

An art market in “rude health,” indeed.

The auction featured 65 artworks, with five selling for more than $10 million:

This 1632 self-portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn, measuring about eight by six inches, for $18.7 million, or about $389,583 per square inch:

Rembrandt larger

Joan Miró’s Peinture (Femme au chapeau rouge) (Woman in a Red Hat) from 1927, which fetched $28.9 million.  The great thing about this painting is the option of hanging it right side up, or upside down, or turn it on its side, and who’s to know?

miro_02 smaller

A 1914 oil-on-burlap painting by Fernand Léger for $15.8 million entitled Still Life, which proves there is a great use for those old burlap rags in your garage:

leger smaller

Alberto Giacometti’s 28-inch 1958 bronze Anorexic – I mean, Standing Woman, for $13.8 million.  This piece apparently is an example of Giacometti’s “sign of existential struggle for meaning.”  Or, maybe money.  I’m not sure which:

Giacometti smaller

This oil painting by Gerhard Richter, which sold for $13.6 million, is entitled either Wolken, Fenster, Clouds or Window, and considering what the new owner paid for it, I guess they can call it whatever they want:

richter_02 cropped

People who sell their possessions through auction houses usually choose to remain anonymous, but Ronald Perelman, the billionaire owner of the Revlon cosmetics company, was outed by Bloomberg, which revealed that Perelman was selling not one, but two paintings at Sotheby’s July auction.

It seems, according to the New York Times, that ole Ron’s “profits have slumped in recent years,” and his net worth, according to Forbes, has dwindled to a mere $6.2 billion.

So the poor guy packed up the Miro pictured above, and a painting by Henri Matisse, wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that they’d sell for the estimate of up to $57 million.

But…

The two paintings sold for only $37.3 million.

totalbummerheader_cropped

I can’t help but think of the juxtaposition between this headline:

NY Times (2)

And this one:

WSJ (2)

I might even point out the use of the word “million” in both headlines.

But that would probably be…

rude cropped larger

As F. Scott Fitzgerald Said…

There are plenty of pandemic-related things to worry about, but here’s one that’s causing me no concern:

Where to get my glam.

A recent TV commercial assured me that I could get my glam at the La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre (LJCSC), about 20 minutes north of San Diego:

Home page (2)

Let’s start with that word “Centre.”

Centre is how they spell center in France.  Most Americans won’t admit it, but we have a notion that the way European countries do and say and spell things is superior to ours, and that using Centre rather than Center gives a name more panache.

More je ne sais quoi, if you get my drift.

More pretentious, if you get my drift.

Then there’s La Jolla.

Pronounced la hoi´ ah.

Emphasis on that second syllable hoi´ as in hoi polloi, which means “masses of common people,” which couldn’t be further from the demographics of La Jolla.

The population of around 40,000 lives in homes averaging a cool $1.8 million, though there are plenty of higher-end places like this one:

La Jolla Farms

This is La Jolla Farms, which sold for $23.5 million awhile back, and if you see any cows or pigs on the Farms’ “five+ oceanfront acres,” would you let me know?

The town’s official website refers to it as “La Jolla by the Sea,” and based on this aerial shot, I’d say that’s accurate:

1920px-La_Jolla,_San_Diego_California_photo_D_Ramey_Logan

Which demonstrates my stupidité, referring to it earlier simply as “La Jolla.”

As for jolla, the residents like to tell you that it’s Spanish for “jewel,” but it isn’t.

According to the experts, jolla means “holes or caves,” which La Jolla has along its coast.

But who’d want to live in a town called “The Hole by the Sea”?

Hole by the Sea (2)

All this sounding totally pretentious, which leads us back to La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre.

Where, we’re assured, we can research glam in their GLAMipedia:

glampedia (2)

When I saw their commercial for first time about a month ago, I thought, “Are they kidding me?  Advertising plastic – excuse me – cosmetic surgery during a pandemic?  Elective surgery during a pandemic?  And who’s thinking about their glam during a pandemic, anyway?”

But as Fitzgerald said, “The rich are different” from us hoi polloi, and the rich mostly aren’t concerned about being evicted or putting food on the table.

So LJCSC is running an ad campaign to let the rich know that, when they got to get their glam, here’s the place to get it.

La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Center decided there was a pandemic-proof market for their services, so I decided to delve a bit deeper.

Not to use their services, mind you, but to mock them.

I started with something I’d never seen before:  A “Breast” drop-down menu:

Breast (2)

Wow, look at all those options!

And wow again!  Look at all the options on the “Body” drop-down menu:

Body (2)

Just when you’d almost given up on EVER getting a Brazilian Butt Lift!

And “Face and Skin” – talk about a full overhaul:

Face skin (2)

Who knew there were so many ways to get our glam?

As I continued exploring I realized I was reaching the point of over-glam, though I couldn’t leave the LJCSC website without checking out the prices.  Let’s see…how about plastic surgery:

Prices (2)

These, of course, are “Costs* of San Diego Plastic Surgeries” – that asterisk after Costs* leading us to the advisory that our cost at LJCSC “requires a personal consultation.”

But no worries about price because LJCSC has…

Member (2)

The GLAMfam VIP Loyalty Club!  So you can save, save, save when you have “Breast Augmentation,” change your mind, and have that pesky stuff taken out via “Breast Implant Removal”!

You can get your face lifted, your chin enlarged, and your earlobes reduced!

You can…you can…

Uh-oh.

Unless they were actually talking about GLAM…as in…

GLAM cropped larger

In which case…

Never

“Two Heads Are Better Than One” – Except These Two Heads:

To suggest that Trump is losing his mind would be to imply that he has a mind to lose, and as we know all too well…

space-for-rent-2

So it was no surprise that Trump’s July 30 tweet suggesting delaying the election…

Trump Tweet

Brought this immediate reaction:

kidding me cropped

Even from Trump’s Republican toadies:

CNN (2)

Except for this toady:

House Delay (2)

William Barr, our Attorney General, who, earlier in the week, when asked about that very topic of delaying the election at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, said:

“I’ve never been asked the question before, I’ve never looked into it.”

Which translates into the obvious:

That the Attorney General, who is often referred to as our country’s “chief law enforcement officer…”

Doesn’t know the law.

Specifically, the 1845 federal law that fixed the date of the election as the Tuesday after the first Monday in November:

election law larger

It would take a change in federal law to move that date.  That would mean legislation enacted by Congress, signed by the president and subject to challenge in the courts.

Trump’s above tweet is far from the first time he’s sought to undermine mail-in voting, often with unsubstantiated claims.  He’s attacked mail voting nearly 70 times since late March in interviews, remarks and tweets, including at least 17 times in July, according to a tally by The Washington Post.

With Barr supporting him, every step of the way:

Floodgates (2)

Here are a couple of quotes where Trump claims that Democrats are using the pandemic to support mail-in ballots:

June 21:

“Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nations history – unless this stupidity is ended. We voted during World War One & World War Two with no problem, but now they are using Covid in order to cheat by using Mail-Ins!”

June 22:

“The Democrats are also trying to rig the election by sending out tens of millions of mail-in ballots, using the China virus as the excuse for allowing people not to go to the polls.”

Kung Flu (2)

The Trump/Barr tragedy will continue for awhile yet, up to and including Trump losing the election.

And then…:

Constitution (2)

If You Look Up “Hard Work” In The Dictionary, There’s Her Picture:

As you can see from the above image, Melania Trump knows how to dress for working ininaugural gown_02 cropped a garden.

Gardening is hard work, and Melania personifies the very meaning of hard work.

For example, back in October 2017, she talked about a “daunting task” that kept her “very busy.”

She was referring to creating her inaugural ball gown (right).

Then there was all Melania’s hard work in 2018, greasing the skids to get her parents permanent residency, green cards, and then citizenship.  Amalija and Viktor Knavs, like Melania, are from Slovenia, and this happened right around the time Melania’s husband was railing against “chain migration,” in which adult American citizens can obtain residency for their relatives:

Trump Tweet (2)

What it took to grease those skids I don’t know, but I’m betting it was hard work.

Then, more recently, there was that very hard work of positioning her hard hat just so, for the best photo ops of the White House’s new “Tennis Pavilion.”  In her tweet you’ll see that she did get her hard had just so, while she thanked the talented team for their “hard work”:

Melania Tweet (2)

Now we circle back to Melania and gardening, to this week, and more hard work for this hard-working woman:

CNN (2)

Renovating the White House Rose Garden which, Melania noted, “The very act of planting a garden involves hard work…”

We’re really talking pedal to the metal.

The White House Rose Garden is located here:

rose map cropped larger

And based on pictures like this:

Rose Garden cropped

And this:

rose_01 smaller

And this:

rose_03

It looks just fine to me.

So what the hell is all this noise about “renovation” and “renew” and “restore” and “redesign” and “refreshment,” aside from the obvious alliterative value?

Well, apparently Melania has managed to overlook the raging pandemic, and major economic and social upheaval, and focus on something of importance to absolutely no one:

Gives A (2)

Oooh!  Succinct!

According to this official White House statement:

White House (2)

The Rose Garden look Melania is going for will involve “improved infrastructure, better drainage, and a healthier environment for plantings that reduce the risk of leaf blight.”

Our Melania is busy thinking about leaf blight!  Talk about hard work!

And it doesn’t stop there.  Architectural Digest also noted “the addition of two new limestone walkways, electrical upgrades, a new drainage system, the replacement of existing crab apple trees with white rosebushes, and additional white and light pink roses.”

Whew!  Just that last item alone – do you know how many varieties of light pink roses are out there?

I found an article that listed 25!  Just think of the hard work it took for Melania to choose among them – these being just a few examples:

american-beauty-rose-flower ceclie brunner rose larger fantin-latour-rose smaller maiden_s_blush_1_-_500p

We’re talking really working up a sweat here.  I do hope Melania was wearing her MAGA sweatband:

sweatband cropped

So, despite the naysayers…

Tweets (2)

I’m grateful for Melania’s renovating and renewing and restoring and redesigning and refreshment-ing (and her alliteration) for two reasons:

As I understand it, Melania’s hard work will take several weeks, so for a while we’ll be spared this insane person’s Rose Garden rants:

trump in rose garden

While we’re looking forward to the Rose Garden’s new occupant:

Biden

Book Review:  Great Historical Fiction About An Improbable But True Story

Publication date:  February 2020book

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four.

Review, long version:

It’s likely that you’ve heard of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).

He’s been lionized, criticized, caricatured, adored, loathed, and written about for more than 200 years.

Allison Pataki’s The Queen’s Fortune is not about Napoleon, but about a woman who loved him and was loved by him, then betrayed by him, and who survived that heartbreak to go on to live an amazing life.

Louis
French King Louis XVI was executed by guillotine in January 1793; his wife, Queen Marie-Antoinette, would follow him to the guillotine October.

She was Desiree Clary, a French girl who meets Napoleone Buonoparte – as he spelled his name then – in 1794 when she’s 16.  The French Revolution had ravaged the country, the government was in shambles, aristocrats were dying daily on the guillotine, and Buonoparte was ready to make his mark on France – and the world.

Before he does that, he makes his mark on Desiree, declaring his eternal love and promising they’ll marry.

They don’t.

But Buonoparte – now Bonaparte – did lead France in a series of military victories, rose through the ranks, was adored by millions of French people, and eventually became Emperor of the French.

In the meantime, Desiree falls in love again, this time with a man who – improbable but true – will make her his queen.

napoleon_01 larger Desiree_Clary smaller bernadotte
Desiree and the men who loved her:  Napoleon Bonaparte (left) and…read The Queen’s Fortune to find out!

There’s a lot of history in The Queen’s Fortune because Desiree’s life was so entwined with Bonaparte’s and other leading figures of the day.  But that history never overwhelms because we’re learning it from Desiree’s perspective, and it’s fascinating because she had a front row seat.

desiree queen
Desiree, now Queen Desideria.

The book is fiction, so some of what Desiree thinks and says is the author’s creation, an opportunity to “imagine and explore the emotional truths located therein, to consider how the important events of her story might have felt,” as Pataki says in her Author’s Note.  Pataki was committed to making Desiree “the leading lady of her own story,” and she succeeded.

The Queen’s Fortune was easy to read, enjoy and learn from, and it held my interest right to the end of Desiree’s life, at the almost-unheard-of age of 83.

The dynasty Desiree and her husband founded still rules their adoptive country.

Inspired by the book and just for fun, I decided to watch the 1954 movie Desiree, based on an earlier book about her, the 1951 best-seller Désirée by Annemarie Selinko.

Among the star-studded cast is…wait for it…Marlon Brando – as Bonaparte!

Marlon bad boy cropped smaller Marlon_02

November 2020:

 

 

 

This was on the front page of the July 21 San Diego Union-Tribune:

Trump No Fans Cropped

But when I first saw it, here’s what I thought:

Trump No Fans My Response (2)

It’s happened before – it will happen again.

Then I got to thinking about our country without:

Men (2)

And our country without:

Women (2)

What we think about, we bring about.

November 2020:

happen cropped

Book Review:  Trump Trumps Trump

Publication Date:  July 14, 2020

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four.

Review, long version:

What’s left to say about Mary Trump and Too Much and Never Enough?

Since the July 14 release of her book she’s been seen and heard everywhere, giving print, TV, and every other possible kind of interview:

Colbert (2)

The book has been reviewed dozens of times, with comments including “mesmerizing,” “memorable,” “compelling” and “a deeply satisfying read.”  A whopping 81% of Amazon reviewers have awarded it five stars, though there were a few bad reviews, probably from people who also refuse to wear face masks.

kay cropped
Kaylie McEnany is:  a) Vacuous; b) Vapid; c) Venal; d) All of the above.

And though we know White House press secretary Kaylie McEnany didn’t read the book, she had her comments ready:  “It’s a book of falsehoods, and that’s about it.  It’s ridiculous, absurd allegations that has absolutely no bearing in truth.”

I expect Ms. McEnany meant to say “that have absolutely,” but considering she’s a Trump mouthpiece, perhaps not.

And speaking of Trump, whom we also know didn’t read Too Much because he doesn’t read – period – Trump eventually weighed in as well:

Tweet (3)

In an interview shortly after, Mary called the comment that she was a mess “an attack he hurls, predominantly, I think, about women.  Honestly, I’m in very good company.  I believe he’s said the same thing about Nancy Pelosi, and I’m fine with that.”

A fine response.

I not only read Too Much, I bought it – I was one of the preorders:

Headline (2)

Which helped Mary’s book to appear here, on the August 2 New York Times best seller list:

NY (2)

It’s a fast read – only 211 pages – and I believe Mary, as both a Trump family member and a person with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, is qualified to speak.  She’s credible.  She offers reasonable insights into not just what Trump is, but why he is what he is.

So there was nothing eye-opening for me in Too Much and Not Enough – Trump’s egregious defects have been on public view for 50+ years.

Nothing, that is, until almost at the end, on page 209, when Mary talked about Trump’s response to the pandemic, and how different this could have been:

“It would have been easy for Donald to be a hero.  People who have hated and criticized him would have forgiven or overlooked his endless stream of appalling actions if he’d simply had somebody take the pandemic preparedness manual down from the shelf where it was put after the Obama administration gave it to him.  If he’d alerted the appropriate agencies and state governments at the first evidence the virus was highly contagious, had extremely high mortality rates, and was not being contained.  If he’d invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to begin production of PPE, ventilators, and other necessary equipment to prepare the country to deal with the worst-case scenario.  If he’d allowed medical and scientific experts to give daily press conferences during which facts were presented clearly and honestly.  If he’d ensured that there was a systematic, top-down approach and coordination among all of the necessary agencies.  Most of those tasks would have required almost no effort on his part.  All he would have had to do was make a couple of phone calls, give a speech or two, then delegate everything else.  He might have been accused of being too cautious, but most of us would have been safe and many more of us would have survived…”

With these words, Mary Trump summed up Trump’s legacy – and wrote his epitaph:

CDC (2)

Let The Mail-In Voter Beware

I recently sent an envelope via the United States Postal Service (USPS) from San Diego to Detroit.

I was told it would take “two to five” days to reach its destination.united-states-post-office-icon

It took eight days to arrive.

Why does this matter?

It matters because we have an election in November.

And due to the pandemic, we’ll have record numbers of people voting by mail-in ballot.

And, according to this recent article:

Wash Post July 16 (2)

“More than 18,500 Floridians’ ballots were not counted during the March presidential primary after many arrived by mail after the deadline.”

And not only late-returned ballots, said the article, but

“…large numbers of mail ballots have been rejected because they…were missing a postmark.”

The takeaway?no usps cropped

  • You could mail your ballot in plenty of time, but USPS may take its time delivering it – like the envelope I mailed.
  • USPS could deliver your ballot on time, but neglect to postmark it.
  • If your ballot is late or missing a postmark, your vote may not be counted.

There are other reasons your ballot could be rejected – according to the article, “Mail ballots can be tossed for a range of reasons that vary from state to state.”

So let’s focus on a situation that is in our control.

And come October and November, the way we control at least part of what happens with our mail-in ballots is…

By not mailing them.

Option?

Mail ballot drop-off locations:

List Final (2)

This is a partial list of 63 mail ballot drop-off locations in San Diego County for the March 2020 election, provided by the Registrar of Voters.  In this instance, all the locations are libraries.

The document details the dates for ballot drop-offs, and extended hours on election day.  Each library’s name is a link to its website, so it’s easy to check the hours of operation.

According to my local librarian, the March drop-off process at my library was managed by volunteers from the League of Women Voters.  Ballots were kept secure in locked containers, and picked up by the Registrar of Voters.

Notice what’s missing?

Any USPS involvement for getting your ballot to the Registrar of Voters.

Notice what else is missing?

Your worries about your ballot being late.  Of not being postmarked.  Or your ballot ending up looking like this, as so many pieces of mail do:

envelope cropped

And if you think that with USPS this doesn’t happen a lot – consider this:

How many other organizations do you know that have pre-printed plastic bags with “Our Sincere Apologies” all set up and ready to go to handle their screw-ups?

The November 2020 election is already fraught with problems that are out of our control.  To name a few:

  • If you’re thinking of taking your mail-in ballot to your polling place, remember that due to the pandemic, there are fewer volunteers to work at polling places, meaning fewer polling places.  Not all states permit ballot drop-off at polling places, and some states require it be your assigned precinct polling place.
  • Some states don’t provide postage-paid envelopes for returning mail-in ballots:

mail-in ballot with stamps
Will your vote be counted if you don’t apply postage?  Why risk it?

If you live in one of those states and you forget to apply postage, USPS says it will deliver your ballot anyway.  But – USPS also said my piece of mail would arrive in “two to five days.”

  • Trump screaming “Voter fraud!” every time he hears “mail-in ballots.”  This makes his Republican congressional toadies reluctant to provide the money to help states educate voters on the correct use of mail-in ballots, and prepare states for processing the expected massive amount of mail-ins.

And speaking of Trump and his toadies, the new head of USPS, Louis DeJoy – a North Carolina businessman and top Republican fundraiser – recently told employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers if it delayed letter carriers from their routes, according to this recent article:

Wash Post July 14 (2)

The article referenced:

“…internal USPS documents obtained by the Washington Post and verified by the American Postal Workers Union and three people with knowledge of their contents, but who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution.

“‘If the plants run late, they will keep the mail for the next day,’ according to a document titled, New PMG’s [Postmaster General’s] Expectations and Plan.’  Traditionally, postal workers are trained not to leave letters behind and to make multiple delivery trips to ensure timely distribution of letters and parcels.”

Concerns about Louis DeJoy are widespread, like in this July 19 article on NBCNews.com:

NBC (2)

The article says, in part:

“Now, as millions of voters are relying on the Postal Service to support our elections during the coronavirus pandemic, Trump is politicizing another once-nonpartisan government agency.  Having a political ally with ethical and competence questions like DeJoy lead the agency potentially puts November’s election at risk.

“Public records reveal that DeJoy donated more than $1.2 million to the Trump Victory Fund and millions more to the Republican Party.

“Public reports indicate that DeJoy is planning to eliminate overtime, which could cause delivery delays and hinder voting by mail.

“Installing a loyalist like DeJoy is another way Trump could undermine the agency and suppress voting in 2020.”

And in case you had any doubts about where ole Louie’s loyalty lies, take a look at this March 27 fundraiser invitation:

louis invitation with line

Minimum donation:  $2,800.  Throw in a VIP reception and a photo opportunity:  $35,000.

With this Trump-loving DeJoy jerk in charge, who the hell knows what might happen to our mail-in ballots?

mail-in ballots larger
Postal workers found three tubs of uncounted absentee ballots the day AFTER the Wisconsin primary.

One final note:  This post comes with this caveat:

On the list of libraries above, 63 libraries in San Diego County were open to receive mail-in ballots in March.

Library-closedDue to the pandemic, as of today…

Many of those libraries are closed.  With no reopening date in the foreseeable future.

So it’s up to us to educate ourselves about drop-off ballot locations.

But we don’t need to wait until November.

We can start checking our Registrar of Voters website today, and make it a regular practice.  We can call them, we can email them, but however you choose to make contact – make contact.  Keep making contact until that drop-off location list is available.

Then find your drop-off location, and make a plan for getting your mail-in ballot to your location in plenty of time:

Well before Election Day, November 3.

Let’s not let Trump, and Ole Louie, and USPS get in between us – and our vote:

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Update:  Trump and Republicans Ramp Up Attacks on Mail-In Ballots

Early yesterday morning Fox News carried this story:

Headline (2)

The story was prompted by Trump tweeting this:

Tweet (2)

According to the Fox News story,

“The president and Republicans have been warning about possible voter fraud grahamconnected to mail-in voting for months, while Democrats and the media have often pointed to a lack of evidence that mail-in voting, and absentee voting, lead to voter fraud.

“The president and the GOP have railed against recent attempts by Democrats to increase voting by mail; the RNC and the Trump reelection campaign have doubled their legal budget this year to hit back at efforts by Democrats to overhaul voting laws in response to the pandemic.

“Democrats, pushing back against the claims by Trump and the GOP, say that casesschumer-impeachment-trial of actual voter fraud are limited and claim that Republicans are trying to suppress voter turnout to improve their chances of winning elections.

“Meanwhile, Trump campaign national press secretary Hogan Gidley said Monday that the president has a right to be skeptical of election results, claiming Democrats have a ‘history of cheating.’”

A few hours later, this story appeared:

Hill (2)

Trump had posted the same “CORRUPT ELECTION” message on Facebook.

It appears that – miraculously – somehow Mark Zuckerberg is starting to grow a spine.  The article says, in part:

“Facebook on Tuesday followed through with a new policy of adding additional voting information to posts from politicians related to elections, appending a link to a post from President Trump:

Facebook (2)

“The post in question claims, baselessly, that mail-in voting will ‘lead to the most CORRUPT ELECTION in our Nation’s History!’  The hashtag #RIGGEDELECTION is also included.

“Facebook last week began attaching labels to posts by federal elected officials and candidates leading users to usa.gov/voting, which contains basic info about elections and voting.

“For posts, like the one by Trump, that mention mail-in voting, the link will take users to a section with state-by-state instructions on how to register to vote by mail.”

This time around, Twitter seemed to give Trump’s post a pass:

“A spokesperson for Twitter told The Hill that the same post that was labeled on Facebook does not violate any of Twitter’s policies and will not be labeled.

“Per the platform’s civic integrity policy, Twitter will not take action against ‘broad, non-specific statements.’”

Final takeaway:

  1. Start contacting/checking your county’s Registrar of Voters office/website for mail-in ballot drop-off locations.
  2. When it comes to politics and politicians, be skeptical, and…

Be vigilant cropped

A Prediction About A Presidential Library

When:  A day in the not-too-distant futureTrump photo cropped

Where:  Oval Office

Toady #1:  Mr. President, we have just one pressing matter to discuss this morning, sir.

Trump:  Speaking of pressing, did I impress everybody with my bean picture, or what?  And see those thumbs up?  That’ll get the damn Hispanic vote!

Toady #3:  Sir, about this pressing matter…

Trump:  Pressing?  Oh, you mean my press conference yesterday?  Was that not THE greatest press conference in the history of this country?

Toady #2:  Actually, Mr. President, it’s about –

Trump:  I didn’t answer one – not one – question from any of those fake news people.  Not one!  When that what’s-her-name reporter asked me about the Kung Flu death toll, and I said, “That’s a nasty question!”  I showed those rotten, lying –

trump arms crossedToady #3:  Mr. President, sir, this is a matter of some urgency.  Congress needs to approve the funding while you’re still in office.  Ah…that is to say…

Trump:  WHILE I’M WHAT?

Toady #1:  Sir, what he meant to say, sir, was that now, when your popularity is the highest ever since you’ve been in office.  Sir.

Trump:  Oh.  Damn right!  The only other president that even sorta comes close to my popularity is Abraham Lincoln.  He was a Republican, you know?  People say to me all the time, “I didn’t know Lincoln was a Republican.”  And I tell ‘em –

Toady #2:  Mr. President, our focus today is on your Presidential Library, sir.

(long pause)

Trump:  My what?1200px-Seal_of_the_US_Presidential_Libraries.svg

Toady #2:  Your Presidential Library, sir.

Trump:  Library?  What’s a library?

(long pause)

Toady #1:  A library, sir, is generally defined as a building containing collections of books, important papers and other materials for people to read, borrow, or refer to.

Trump:  So?  I don’t waste my time reading, what’s that got to do with me?

Toady #3:  Sir, it’s become a tradition since Hoover –Hoover_01 cropped

Trump:  Hoover, yeah, the vacuum cleaner guy.  He made a lot of money on those things.

(long pause)

Toady #2:  No, sir.  I’m referring to Herbert Hoover.  He was the 31st president, from 1929 to1933, sir.

Trump:  The vacuum guy became president?  He musta had the cleanest White House ever!

Toady #1:  Mr. President, beginning with Herbert Hoover, every president has a Presidential Library.  There are 14 of them and – wait, let me open the PowerPoint I brought.  Now – here’s a list of the 14 Presidential Libraries:

List cropped

Trump:  Obama’s on that list?  I don’t wanna be on no stinkin’ list that Obama’s on!  He wasn’t even born in this country!

Toady #1:  Look, sir, here’s the George W. Bush Presidential Library…

George W. Bush smaller

Trump:  Bush?  Lotta good “bush” jokes back then.  Ya know what I mean?  Told a few myself!  Did you hear the one about –

Toady #1:  And here’s his father’s library…

george h.w. buh smaller

Toady #1:  And Bill Clinton’s…

Clinton-library-large

Trump:  Clinton!  He’s a Democrat!  I don’t wanna be on no stinking list with those Do-Nothing Democrats!

(long pause)

Toady #3:  There are Presidential Libraries for both Republicans and Democrats, sir.

Trump:  Waste of money.  Complete waste of money.  Probably the biggest waste of money in the history of our country.

Toady #2:  On the contrary, sir, Presidential Libraries are very popular – hundreds of thousands of people visit them.  Look at the attendance at Bush’s library…

Graph cropped

Trump:  Whoa!  Look at that line!  It goes way up!

Toady #1:  Yes, sir!trump money

Trump:  Just think of all the money they’re making!  Mine will be the most popular watch-a-callit of all of them, and I’ll make some serious money!

Toady #2:  Actually, sir, the money raised goes into supporting the libraries and –

Trump:  I gotta have me one of those.  What’s it called again?

Toady #3:  A Presidential Library, sir.

Trump:  Yeah.  Yeah, I like it!  The Donald J. Trump Presidential Library.  I can see it now!

(Yes.  And so can we:)

Library with Vultures cropped fixed

 

Memo To Mireya:  This Wasn’t A Story, It Was A…

CBS_Evening_News_croppedThis past Sunday on the CBS Evening News I watched a horrible story about how the pandemic is affecting a hospital in Texas.

Pandemic stories are horrible, but this one took a turn I hadn’t seen before:

Blatant exploitation of the sick, and a mind-numbing lack of sensitivity, both displayed by the reporter, Mireya Villarreal.

It quickly became clear that video of infected people in ICU beds fighting for their lives wasn’t enough of a story for Villarreal.

So she dressed in PPE – personal protective equipment:

Image 1 (2)

To go into the ICU and get up close and personal with the patients and staff.

The PPE Villarreal used must, of course, be disposed of – PPE that could have been used by a hospital staff member.

PPE, of which there is a shortage:

Headline (2)

She asked two hospital workers if they’re scared:

Image 2 (2)

Wow!  What an insightful question!

Why would they be scared?

Because they’re working with patients who have a highly infectious, incurable disease?  Because they might get infected, and take the disease home to their families?  Because they could die, as more than 700 U.S. health workers have done?

emmy croppedApparently feeling that the “scared” question was working – and no doubt with visions of an Emmy Award for Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story dancing in her pea brain – Villarreal then connected with this patient:

Image 3 (2)

This woman is suffering from coronavirus and pneumonia.  Her 35-year-old daughter died from COVID nearly two weeks ago.

The patient’s husband is also in the hospital, fighting the virus.

Villareal asked, “He’s scared he’s gonna die?”

The wife nods.

Villareal asked, “Are you scared of that?”

The wife nods again.

Wow!  Seriously insightful!

We’re seriously talking Emmy-worthy reportage here.

Villareal then talked to two different staff members:

Image 4 (2)

One describes the difficulties the hospital team members are dealing with.

Villareal exclaimed, “This is real!”

At the risk of being redundant, wow.emmy 2 cropped

Maybe a second Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism, since apparently Villarreal is the first to discover that the pandemic is, indeed, “real.”

Yes, I’ll say defnitely TWO emmys for this two-minute-and-twenty-second travesty:

Last Image (2)

Have You Heard Poor Donny’s Theme Song?

Here’s a recent headline from Politico:

Headline Border Wall (2)

It appears that a section of Trump’s wall, constructed by Fisher Industries of North Dakota, is showing dangerous “signs of erosion” only months after being completed:

Fisher cropped larger

Not only showing signs of erosion, but “segments of Fisher’s steel structure could topple into the river if not fixed. “

The section cost $42 million, and I think we know who paid for this debacle.

And why is Fisher Industries’ wall section getting such widespread attention?

Trump, without hesitation, had the answer:

“It was only done to make me look bad”

That’s right, Donny.

Fisher Industries did a crappy job of building a small section of your wall only to make trump sadyou look bad.

In fact, everything that goes wrong in this country was and is perpetrated by people whose actions are solely directed at the goal of making Poor Donny look bad.

I can think of a dozen situations – in fact, I have thought of them – where the actions of others were done with only one goal in mind:

To make Poor Donny look bad.

Let’s borrow that Politico headline, make a few adjustments, and I’ll show you what I mean:

Roger (2)

Even though Roger Stone clearly was guilty of obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering, the jury convicted him only to make Poor Donny look bad.

Fay (2)

For sure.  Fay was just hanging out around Bermuda, as tropical storms do, but then she thought, “I’ll cruise up the East Coast, to where Trump’s having that rally in New Hampshire on July 11.  He’ll have to cancel, and that will make him look bad!”

Supreme (2)

That darn Supreme Court!  Maybe we could get Roger Stone to tell them to just forget the Constitution, because when they rule against Trump, it makes him look bad.

George (2)

Obviously.  The Minneapolis police chose to go after George Floyd on May 25 knowing it would start a worldwide wave of protests, all for the purpose of making Trump look bad.

Shutdown (2)

You weren’t thinking that closing businesses and telling people to stay home was a way to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, were you?

Unemployment (2)

Do those 40 million+ plus people who’ve lost their jobs due to the pandemic really need that unemployment money?  Nah.  They’re only asking for it to make Poor Donny look bad.

Deaths (2)

Clearly, the people dying from COVID-19 must have some sort of grudge against Donny, and are doing this to make him look bad.

Veterans (2)

Think about it.  Why else would the VA fail to provide even minimally adequate health care for our veterans, except to make Poor Donny look bad?

Children (2)

Yes, all those asylum seekers from El Salvador and elsewhere came here not to save their lives and give their children hope for a better future, but only to make Poor Donny look bad.

Afghanistan (2)

Somehow, somebody back in 2001 knew Trump would be in the White House one day, and decided to invade Afghanistan so that someday, mean people could use the war to make Poor Donny look bad.

Access (2)

Yup.  The Access Hollywood producers just knew that on that day in that interview, Donny would talk about grabbing women by the pussy, so they kept that video rolling solely with the intent of making him look bad.

And finally, as the pandemic rages across our country, Trump is spending more time on the golf course than he does in briefings with Dr. Anthony Fauci (Fauci says he hasn’t briefed Trump in two months).

When those who unkindly suggested that perhaps the time he spends playing golf is excessive, naturally Poor Donny defended himself by saying that “Obama played much more and longer rounds” of golf – as he tweeted on July 12:

Tweet (2)

Which led to this unkind headline:

Slate (3)

Which clearly leads to here:

Obama (2)

Book Reviews: Three By Abbi Waxman

When someone call me “anal” I take it as a compliment.

Provided their definition is:

Anal (3)

When it comes to reading, I’m precise:  If an author has a trilogy of books, I want to read them in order:  First book, second and then third.

Doesn’t everybody?

Abbi Waxman has had three books published:

The Garden of Small Beginnings, May 2017
Other People’s Houses, April 2018
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, July 2019

I recently heard about The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, read it, and enjoyed it very much.  So much, that before I’d even finished it, I wanted to read her other two books.

I haven’t felt that way in a long time – as I say in my first review (below).

What I didn’t know was that while these three books aren’t promoted as a trilogy, there’s a definite sequence to them, and lots of character carryover from one book to another.

question-marksI realized this as I started reading Waxman’s first book – her second for me:  The Garden of Small Beginnings.  When I encountered a character named Rachel, I had to pause and think, “Is this the same Rachel from Nina Hill?”

And in Other People’s Houses – “Is this the same Richard and it’s before he…”?

When characters carryover, if you read the books in order, you see those characters evolve.  If you read the books out of order, some context and connection is lost.

All this to say, if you’re going to read Waxman’s books, read them in order.

Even if you’re not anal.

You’ll get a lot more pleasure from them – and in two of them, there’s much to be had.

And now, in the order I read them:

Meet Nina, the single; Lili, the widow; and Clare, the wife.

Book Review:  The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill

Publication date:  July 2019book_01

Review, long version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, short version:

In Abbi Waxman’s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, a character says,

“Do you know the best feeling in the world? … It’s reading a book, loving every second of it, then turning to the front and discovering that the writer wrote fourteen zillion others.”

That was on page 329, near the end, and I was enjoying Nina so much that I hoped Waxman had other books as well.

She does – more about them later.

Waxman’s lead character and first-person narrator, Nina, is a complex, almost-thirty woman trying to lead an uncomplex life.  She lives alone except for her cat, Phil; she scan0001 (2)works at a bookstore, which she loves; she’s a voracious reader, and in a book club; she’s in a weekly trivia group that enters competitions.

And she has a daily calendar to help keep organized, and give her some sense of control.

Control – a feeling that was lacking in her growing-up years.

Nina’s mother Candice is a lying, selfish bitch, who travels the world as a news photographer.  When Nina asked at a very young age about her lack of a father, she said Nina was the result of a “very brief liaison” with a man but “wasn’t even sure of his name.”

At first Candice took Nina on trips with her, but when Nina turned two, Candice parked her with a nanny and left.  Since then, their telephone contact is sporadic, at best.

Though more philosophical than bitter, Nina’s thoughts about her mother are, nonetheless, poignant:

Candice “would show up three or four time a year, bringing gifts and candy andgirl_04 smelling of airports.”

“Nina had smiled to hear her mother’s voice, the part of her she was most familiar with.”

While speaking to her mother, Nina thinks, “Not everyone finds it as easy [to forget a child] as you did.”

Candice had lied about not being sure of the name of Nina’s father, but an attorney has appeared, advising Nina that her father knows Nina’s name.

Or knew – her father is recently deceased, was extremely wealthy, and has a large, extended family, whom Nina will have to meet.

And not just meet, but deal with.

As Nina deals with that newly found family, with a newly found attractive guy on a rival trivia team, and with a life that’s getting increasingly more complex, I smiled, I cringed, I laughed – and I liked.

Here’s an example – perhaps edgier than some, but one of my favorites.

book club_01
Wine – a must-have for any meaningful book club.

Nina’s meeting with her book club, and as with all good book clubs, the discussion has wandered far from the book.

In this case, the topic was the photos of his penis that a guy had sent to one of the members.

Another member observes, “Let’s be honest.  The out-of-context penis is not an attractive item.  It’s a naked mole rat wearing a beanie.”

I smiled.

Have you ever seen a mole rat?  I hadn’t, so I googled it, and went from smiling to laughing.mole rat

Just add a beanie, and voila!

Well.

I said I’d get back to Waxman’s other books, and I’m doing so because it’s the first time in a long time that I went out and got another book by the same author before I’d finished the one I was reading.

I finished Nina and went straight to enjoying Waxman’s first, The Garden of Small Beginnings, then on to her second, Other People’s Houses.

So keep reading…

Book Review:  The Garden of Small Beginnings

Publication date:  2017Book

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, long version:

In Abbi Waxman’s The Garden of Small Beginnings, a garden is pivotal.

But this most emphatically is not a gardening book.

It’s a story about transitions, and what better metaphor than turning barren dirt into thriving, healthy fruits and flowers and vegetables?

Our first-person narrator, Lili Girvan, may not describe her life as “barren,” but she’s far from thriving.  Lili was widowed three years earlier when her husband Dan died in a car crash, leaving her with two young daughters to raise.

Lili works as a textbook illustrator, and early on we get a good example of her wry take on life as she ponders the whale penis illustration she’s been asked to change:

whale_sad_50654 cropped reversed“Yes, it was important to be thorough, but how many vets were going to need to operate on a whale penis?  It’s not like the last time you took your parakeet to the vet you couldn’t get into the waiting room on account of the impotent whale sitting nervously on several hard chairs.”

The image of the nervous, impotent whale in a doctor’s waiting room?

Priceless.

It’s Lili’s job that leads her to the garden – her manager Roberta has asked her to illustrate a series of books on vegetables for a big seed and flower company.  To ensure Lili’s success, Roberta signed her up to take a gardening class and really get a feel for the farm-to-table process.

It’s a garden that leads Lili to a truly endearing and important cast of characters, hergardening_02 classmates.

And it’s the classmates who help Lili begin her transition from grieving widow to someone who can see…

Small beginnings.

While we can enjoy Lili’s humor, make no mistake – she’s deeply grieving the loss of her husband:

grieving reversed“Every breath I took was an insult, every smile I automatically returned in the drugstore was an affront, every morning I woke up alone was a vicious punch in the throat.”

And:

“I still wish I had died instead of him.”

Lili is also dealing with a mess of a mother – alcoholic, bitter, sarcastic, neglectful, catty, “a professional narcissist,” and this:  “As a child, her little daggers had cut deep, but now they just bounced of all my shiny scar tissue.  Lucky me.”

And she’s dealing with the kind, tall, handsome class instructor.  When Lili realizes she’s attracted to him, “It was horrible”

And she’s dealing with…

Well, there’s plenty more.

And it’s all good reading.

it's all good cropped

Book Review:  Other People’s Houses

Publication date:  2018Book

Review, short version:  One rose out four.

Review, long version:

Bottom line first:

If Other People’s Houses had been my first Abbi Waxman book, it would have been my last.

I didn’t like, or care about, the characters.  I didn’t care about what happened to them.

I almost didn’t finish it.

nosy reversedOther People’s Houses is an ensemble book about four couples:  Neighbors who are wives and husbands with kids and pets, and are in each other’s business way too much.

And there are so many of them – you know there are too many people in a story when page one lists a cast of 15(!) primary characters, and the next page has a map showing who lives where.

But Waxman had published her first novel, so perhaps it was time for her semi-autobiographical story.  According to her website, Waxman is a wife, mother of three, hostage to about 15 assorted animals, and probably someone’s neighbor, so I’m sure many readers can relate.

I’m not one of them.

In the book, the neighbor wives and husbands and kids and pets have their crises large and small, and then the book ends.

My interest ended about half-way through.

howlermonkeysOK, there are some funny moments.  One of the wives, Frances, has taken on the daily torture of driving her and her neighbor’s kids – seven of the them, ages four to 14 – to three different schools in the morning and picking them up from the three schools in the afternoon.  During the drive, says Frances, the kids “got so raucous that a tribe of howler monkeys would have fallen silent in awed appreciation.”

But there are a lot of – for me – boring moments, too.  From the overload of the teen’s angst (really boring) to the four-year-old’s decision to grow up to be a toilet, and her temper tantrum when her little friends refuse to “poop in my mouth!”

I did finish Other People’s Houses, but will I read Waxman’s new (June 2020) book?

Yes_01

Dear Netflix…

Dear Netflix,

As you can see from the above picture, someone or something very scary at the Post Office took a big bite out of the DVD mailer you sent to me.

And then a USPS employee put a “Return to Sender” sticker on it:

Netflix_01 cropped sticker

The sticker has 14 options but none were checked – perhaps the box-checking USPS employee was off that day?

And then another USPS employee – instead of returning it to Netflix – delivered it to me.

I’m relatively new to Netflix.  After we went into shelter-in-place, I went into denial, hoping it wouldn’t last long.  But when it did, I wanted – needed – a reliable source for toilet paper croppedmovies, so I turned to Netflix.

I didn’t have a reliable source for toilet paper or hand sanitizer or paper towels or toilet paper or bottled water or rubber gloves or napkins or face masks or toilet paper or canned goods or – did I mention toilet paper?

But movies?

Netflix, I knew I could count on you.

Apparently, so did a lot of other people:

Headline (2)

A lot of these millions are streaming your movies, but I haven’t yet made that technology leap.  So while those folks are streaming, I’m getting regular deliveries of DVDs and everything was swell.

Until someone or something very scary at the post office took that bite.

I donned my rubber gloves – yes, I finally found a source for rubber gloves – and cautiously opened what was left of the mailer.

I peered inside…

eyes cropped

The DVD appeared to be intact!

So I’ll watch and enjoy my movie.

Then comes the challenge of returning it.

When the mailer is intact, it’s easy – just slide the DVD back in, pull off the strip covering the adhesive, seal it and drop it in a mailbox.

I can’t seal it, so – staples?  Frog Tape?  Gorilla Glue?briecase cropped

Padded envelope?  Box it up?  Hire someone to deliver it in a briefcase handcuffed to their wrist?

However I send it back, I hope Netflix understands it wasn’t me, but rather someone or something very scary at the Post Office took that bite.

Remember landshark?

snl cropped

Well, meet…

Shark (2)

mail shark cropped

There He’ll Stand, Like The Colossus of Rhodes…

Noon, July 3, 2020, Oval Office:

Toady #1:  Mr. President, you told us this morning that your speech at Mount Rushmore this evening would include an announcement about a National Garden of American Heroes.  We’ve been brainstorming since then, and devised a Fair and Equitable and Encompassing Statue Selection Strategy.   I’d like to show it to you now:

bingo-cage-bakelllite-vintage-1

Toady #2: We’ve made a list of 50 statue candidates and numbered each name.  Each ball in this bingo cage has a corresponding number.  We’ll give the balls a twirl, you’ll pick one and – voila!  You’ll select 30 balls, and your National Garden of American Heroes is born.

Trump:  We’re gonna show those new far-left fascists, running around trying to trump angry croppedvandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments, tear down our statues…

Toady #3:  Mr. President, would you like to make the first selection?

Trump:  Hold on, there, just hold on.  Before we do any twirling and selecting you better be sure – there are no damn Democrat presidents in there, right?

Toady #2:  Not a single one, Mr. President.

Trump:  OK, good.  Good.  And no frigging Mexicans.  Or anybody from those whatchacallit countries, that triangle thing.  They’re all rapists and drug dealers.

Toady #1:  Ah, no sir, I mean, correct sir.  There are no Latinos or Hispanics in the bingo cage.trump-laugh-690x393

Trump (laughing uproariously):  But we keep ‘em in other cages, don’t we?

Toady #3:  Gentlemen, shall we get the ball rolling, as it were?

Trump:  And no Indians, right?  OK, exuuuuuse me, gotta be politically correct here, no Native Americans?

Toady #2:  Correct sir.  And no Asian Americans, either.

Trump:  Damn good thing, them coming here and spreading Kung Flu, don’t deserve to bingo_02 croppedbe in any garden of mine.  I suppose we’re stuck with having women on the list, right?

Toady #1:  Oh, yes sir, and the list includes, for example, number 11, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Trump:  Who the hell is she?

Toady #1:  She’s a famous American author, sir.  She wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Trump:  Famous?  For writing a book about her uncle’s house?

(Long pause)

Toady #2:  And number 28.  Dolley Madison, sir.zingers cropped

 Trump:  Now, there’s a name I know – the snack cake lady.  Love her Chocolate Zingers!

(long pause)

Trump:  OK, enough with the broads.  You got Putin and Xi Jinping on the list, right?

(long pause)

Toady #3:  Um…Mr. President, this is a National Garden of American Heroes?

Trump:  Yeah, yeah, but I made sure in my Executive Oder that non-US citizens who – how’d they put it?  Oh, yeah.  Played “significant roles in American history also could be honored.”  And that’s Putin and Xi.

(long pause)

trump OKTrump:  ‘Cuz they’re gonna be presidents for life, and if they can do it, so can I.  My Order says the garden opens by July 4, 2026, so I’ll just extend my second term a couple a years.  Like, two.  Maybe three.  Or four.

(long pause)

Toady #1:  Shall we get started, Mr. President?

Trump:  I gotta know how tall these statues are gonna be.

Toady #2:  At this time we’re estimating nine to 10 feet, sir.

Trump:  OK.  And how tall is my statue gonna be?

(long pause)

Toady #3:  Ah…your statue, sir?trump smug

Trump:  Of course, you moron!  Who the hell do you think the damn garden is all about?  Am I not the greatest American hero?

(long pause)

Trump:  I was thinking 50 feet tall.  Wait – how tall are those statues of Kim Jong Un?

kim

Toady #1:  Are you referring to the Grand Monument on Mansu Hill in North Korea, sir?  Those are actually Kim’s ancestors, sir.

Trump:  Whatever.  How tall are they?

 Toady#1:  They’re, ah…they’re 66 feet tall, sir.

 Trump:  66 feet?  Then make mine 70 feet, and the other ones…I dunno, six feet?  And bunch ‘em together so I’m what you look at.  Got it?

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A Tale Of Two Mottos

 

 

Harry Truman was President from April 1945 to January 1953.  Throughout his time in office, he had a sign on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here”:

harry-truman larger

In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that, “The President – whoever he is – has to decide.  He can’t pass the buck to anybody.  No one else can do the deciding for him.  That’s his job.”

That was the motto Truman lived by.

Donald Trump has occupied the White House since January 2016.  He, too, has a sign on his desk, presented to him by one of his toadies an admirer:

Trump_01 (2)

In March 2020, in response to a reporter’s question about whether he takes responsibility for the lag in making coronavirus test kits available, Trump replied, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

That is the motto Trump lives by.

To Err Is Human – To REALLY Screw Up Is Our Government

I like the GAO – the Government Accountability Office.GAO

The GAO, according to its website:

“is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress.  Often called the ‘congressional watchdog,’ GAO examines how taxpayer dollars are spent and provides Congress and federal agencies with objective, reliable information to help the government save money and work more efficiently.”

And the good folks at the GAO were certainly providing “objective, reliable information” when they advised that Congress should “provide Treasury with access to the Social Security Administration’s full set of death records, and require that Treasury consistently use it.”

PrintUnfortunately, the GAO provided this objective, reliable information just a tad too late.

“Tad too late” meaning they provided that information only after the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had sent coronavirus stimulus payments to almost 1.1 million dead people.

Totaling nearly $1.4 billion:

Wash Post (2)

I can’t resist calling a grave error.

More than a million grave errors.

And this isn’t new news.  Back in April the Washington Post reported,

“While the living wait for much-needed funds, the IRS has rushed out stimulus checks to the deceased.  Payments have gone out to surviving spouses and to bank accounts that relatives kept open to settle a dead loved one’s estate.”

At the time, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the heirs of the deceased who received stimulus money should give the funds back.

Sure thing, Steve!  And like Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, you “should give” yourself a brain:

Steve (2)

How this SNAFU came about is a quintessential example of our government’s left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.  According to the June 25 Washington Post article,

“The problem relates partly to the fact that, while the IRS has access to the Social Security Administration’s full set of death records, the Treasury Department and its Bureau of the Fiscal Service – which actually issue the payments – do not, the GAO said.”

Did I say “right hand”?  The government’s left hand doesn’t even know there’s a right hand.

Here’s another part of the problem, says a story in USA Today:

“The IRS’s legal counsel determined that the agency did not have the legal authority to deny payments to people who filed a return for 2019, even if they were dead at the time of payment, the GAO said.”

So our government both knowingly and unknowingly sent relief checks to dead people.

Thorough.  They were, indeed, thorough.

In an attempt to rectify this mess, the IRS posted this helpful information on its website:

IRS (2)

First, what is with the word “likely”?  “Likely” means “such as well might happen or be true; probable.”

So the IRS is saying, “Taxpayers might not qualify or probably won’t qualify”?  Why not just say, “If you’re one of the following, no money for you”?not our fault criooed

And second, did the IRS then just sit back, now able to confidently point at the listing of “deceased individual” and say, “See?  We told all those dead people they probably won’t qualify for a relief payment.  We TOLD them!  It’s not OUR fault if they didn’t listen!”

The nearly 400-page GAO report goes on to offer some other insights, including this:

“…the IRS does not have plans to take additional steps toward recouping the payments.”

And, says Forbes,

“It’s still not clear whether survivors who received the checks in error are legally required [to return them].”

So, nearly $1.4 billion of our tax dollars is out there, somewhere.

Some people will return the checks, while some will look at this as a windfall and say, “Thanks, dead Uncle Ed!”

And – are you ready?

Round two of relief checks may be in the works:

CNN (2)

Yes, here’s what that could look like:

Stooges (2)

Time To Take Another Look?

I’ve been aware of Mount Rushmore since I was a kid.

I knew there were heads of presidents carved into it, but I’m not sure I could have named them.

I’ve never had any interest in seeing Mount Rushmore.

But now I am seeing it, in a very different way.

What prompted this feeling was this June 26 online article:

Headline (2)

Normally, Fox News is not one of my go-to sources of information.

But the story was from the Associated Press, which I do consider a trusted source.

The news that Trump wants a “showy display” at Mount Rushmore on July 3 isn’t a surprise – “showy displays” are his métier.

Like last year’s $30 million+ July 4 Salute to America, which was actually Trump’s salute to himself.

Trump July 4_01cropped
July 4, 2019

The most memorable thing about that July 4 fiasco was Trump’s speech about the Revolutionary War, in which he said,

“Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do…”

It seems likely Trump will make equally intelligent, informed statements this July 3.

What prompted me to start seeing Mount Rushmore in a very different way was this statement, early in the article:

“‘Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy, of structural racism that’s still alive and well in society today,’ said Nick Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and the president of a local activist organization called NDN Collective.  ‘It’s an injustice to actively steal Indigenous people’s land and then carve the white faces of the conquerors who committed genocide.’”

Genocide?  I thought.

He can’t be referring to Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt?

WashingtonGeorge Washington, the “Father of Our Country”?

Thomas Jefferson, the “Father of the Declaration of Independence”?

Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator”?

Theodore Roosevelt, the “Great White Chief”?

Yes, the very same four men.

We were taught they were heroes, but recent events in this country have some – including me – wondering.

George Washington:

“An active slaveholder for 56 years…”

“Of the 317 slaves at Mount Vernon in 1799, 123 individuals were owned by George Washington and were stipulated in Washington’s will to be freed upon his wife’s death.  However, these conditions did not apply to all slaves at Mount Vernon.”  (Source:  MountVernon.org)

Thomas Jefferson, the “Father of the Declaration of Independence”:

Jefferson“…acquired approximately 175 enslaved people through inheritance:  about 40 from the estate of his father, Peter Jefferson, in 1764, and 135 from his father-in-law, John Wayles, in 1774.”

“Jefferson did buy and sell human beings.  He purchased slaves occasionally, because of labor needs or to unite spouses.  Despite his expressed ‘scruples’ against selling slaves except ‘for delinquency, or on their own request,’ he sold more than 110 in his lifetime, mainly for financial reasons.”  (Source:  Monticello.org)

Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator”:

“Lincoln first publicly advocated for colonization in 1852, and in 1854 said that hisLincoln first instinct would be ‘to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia’ (the African state founded by the American Colonization Society in 1821).

“Nearly a decade later, even as he edited the draft of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in August of 1862, Lincoln hosted a delegation of freed Black men and women at the White House in the hopes of getting their support on a plan for colonization in Central America.  Given the ‘differences’ between the two races and the hostile attitudes of white people towards Black people, Lincoln argued, it would be ‘better for us both, therefore, to be separated.’”  (Source:  History.com)

Theodore Roosevelt, the “Great White Chief”:

Roosevelt_01“‘I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are,’ Roosevelt said during a January 1886 speech in New York.  ‘And I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.’”  (Source:  AmericanMuseumofNaturalHistory.org)

And therein lie some of the dichotomies of our country.

Here are other excerpts from the Associated Press article:

“The four faces, carved into the mountain with dynamite and drills, are known as the ‘shrine to democracy.’”

“Tim Giago, a journalist who is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, said he doesn’t see four great American leaders when he looks at the monument, but instead four white men who either made racist remarks or initiated actions that dich croppedremoved Native Americans from their land.”

“The monument often starts conversations on the paradox of American democracy – that a republic that promoted the ideals of freedom, determination and innovation also enslaved people and drove others from their land”

So Trump will get his July 3 Salute to Self at Mount Rushmore, and once again we taxpayers will get screwed.

And me?

I have a lot of thinking do to.

And I have even less interest in seeing Mount Rushmore.

Except this image:

Mount before
Mount Rushmore before it was carved up, circa 1905; originally known to the Lakota as “Six Grandfathers.”

Thanks To Amber Lynn Gilles, I’ve Learned A New Word:

Dear Amber Lynn,

Thank you for teaching me a new word.

OK – for accuracy’s sake, I’ll instead say an old word with a new 2020’s slang meaning:

Karen_01 cropped

It all started last Monday, June 22, when you took your whiney, sorry ass into a San Diego Starbucks.

You weren’t wearing a face mask even though four days earlier, Governor Newsom had ordered all Californians to wear face coverings while in public or high-risk settings.

You went to the counter to place your order, and the barista asked if you had a face mask.  This is also a Starbucks policy.

According to the barista, you responded that you didn’t need one, flipped him off, “started cursing up a storm,” and called the other patrons “sheep.”

You then, said the barista, left briefly before coming back and asking him his name – which is Lenin Gutierrez – at which point you took his picture and threatened to “call corporate.”

And then you took your whiney, sorry ass home, and posted this on Facebook:

Amber tweet (2)

Way to go!  Use your Facebook page to social-media shame Gutierrez for doing exactly what his employer told him to do, for your safety and his, and for the safety of the people around you!

Amber Lynn, I’ve been reading lots of stories and I’ve learned a lot about you:

You’re in your mid-30s.

Amber-Lynn-Gilles-450x300
One of Amber’s multitudinous selfies.

You have three kids.

You’re an anti-vaxxer.

You’re semiliterate.

Your Facebook post about Gutierrez received thousands of responses.

Sadly for you, many of them looked like this:

Tweet 1 (2)

And this…

Tweet 2 (2)

And this…

Tweet 3 (2)

One of your responses to the negative posts was this:

Masks are stupid (2)

Way to go, Amber Lynn!

So incensed were you by all the negative attention that that same evening, at 9:15pm, you posted this:

Scarred tweet (2)

See what I mean about “semiliterate”?

One of the people taking note of all this was a guy named Matt Cowan.  He wasn’t acquainted with either you or Gutierrez, but…

And Amber Lynn, I know this will hurt your very sensitive sensibilities, so brace yourself…

Cowan came down firmly on Gutierrez’s side.

He thought it would be a good idea to show his support for Gutierrez in some way.

So he started a GoFundMe page to send virtual tips to Gutierrez, with a goal of reaching $1,000.

By Friday morning, June 26, it had raised more than $30,000:

Mercury News (2)

According to the Mercury News article, you said:

“I was denied and discriminated against…Like I said, it starts with coffee, but it ends with mandatory digital certificates and the mark of the beast, all that forced vaccination stuff.  You all know what I’m talking about.”

No, Amber Lynn, we all don’t know what you’re talking about.

But I do know this:

Now you were really incensed.

According to NBC 7 San Diego, “Gilles…said she wants some of the [GoFundMe] money and is threatening to sue the page creator for defamation and slander.”

Wow!

Amber, you’ve got the threat thing nailed.  First it was calling corporate, then the cops, and now suing for defamation and slander!

Lenin croppedProviding a sweet, sane contrast, Gutierrez’s GoFundMe response was this:

“I just wanted to say thank you for all the love and support and what everyone is doing is an honor to see all this happen, but I just wanted to remind everyone to be kind to one another, and to love each other and always remember to wear a mask.”

Gutierrez also said that he planned to use the money to pursue his dream of teaching dance to young people, in hopes that the art would change their lives the way it changed his.

And Cowan’s comment on the GoFundMe page he started was this:

“Raising money for Lenin for his honorable effort standing his ground when faced with a Karen in the wild.”

Hmmmm.

There’s that word, “Karen.”

Amber Lynn, he called you a “Karen.”

And so are others:

Lipstick (2)

SanDiegoVille (2)

Business Insider (2)

Perhaps the most painful-to-see use of that word “Karen” is on the GoFundMe page itself:

GoFundMe (2)

That total is as of this morning.

Well, Amber Lynn.

Are you a “Karen”?

Let’s compare the “Karen” definition image at the top of this post to the one below which I – being totally objective and fair and all that stuff – put together just for you:

Karen Checkmarks (2)

Book Review: Reading “Home Work” Felt Like An Assignment

Publication date:  October 2019Book

Review, short version:  One rose out of four, because I could never give Julie a skunk.

Review, long version:

I like Julie Andrews a lot, and have for a long time.

I think she’s a marvelous singer, and a good actress in both comedies and dramas, musical and non-musical.

And I applaud her longevity – at 84, she’s still going strong.

She’s also a writer, and Home Work, her second memoir, lists her published books – six including this latest, plus another 32 written with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton.

Julie-Andrews-and-Emma cropped
Andrews and daugher Emma.

Andrews’ first memoir, Home, about her “early years,” came out in 2009.  Home Work begins with Andrews in her late teens and ends at around age 60, so I figure Andrews will be good for at least one more memoir.

I hope it’s better than this one.

Because Home Work just wasn’t all that interesting.

Considering the Broadway shows she’s been in, including My Fair Lady and Camelot; the movies she’s been in – at least two dozen in the book’s time period, including Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Victor/Victoria; and the dozens of TV shows…

And considering the leading men she’s worked with – Richard Burton, Robert Goulet, Rex Harrison, Christopher Plummer, Omar Sharif, Richard Harris, Robert Preston, William Holden, Burt Reynolds, James Garner, Paul Newman, Colin Firth…

Burt Julie cropped James and Julie cropped Paul Julie cropped

Burt Reynolds… James Garner… Paul Newman…
So many men…so few stories…

Couldn’t she have come up with a bit more behind-the-scenes stuff?  A couple of you-won’t-believe-what-happened-next tidbits?  And maybe one, just one, semi-salacious story?

OK, maybe Andrews’ recounting of baring her breasts in the movie S.O.B. qualifies as semi-salacious.  But as for the rest…

Apparently not.

Instead, the book is a recounting of Andrews with her first or second husband and their boring croppedvarious children while living in Los Angeles or New York or London or Paris or Gstaad and how money was tight and she’s doing this show or this film or this TV special plus issues with her parents and her second husband’s parents and her half-brother and various half-siblings and the numerous nannies thatboring cropped come and go and somewhere in she there gets divorced and remarried now they’re in Las Vegas then back to Gstaad to buy a house and then back to New York and then Malibu where they’re building a house while she’s doing this show or this movie or this TV special and then her health issues and his psychoanalysis and back to Paris and London and Japan and his awards and her awards and they have boring croppedthree or seven or 10 pets and money troubles but let’s buy a yacht anyway and she’s doing more movies and more TV specials plus a TV series and then there’s his health issues and her psychoanalysis and the movies her second husband is making while they’re in Gstaad or Los Angeles or…

Wherever.

Whatever.

Just…not…interesting.

I wasn’t looking for a Broadway/Hollywood-style gossipy tell-all book, but considering the experiences and adventures, successes and failures Andrews has had, I think Home Work could have been much more interesting.

Instead, reading it was more like doing…

homework

Perhaps Our REAL Problem Is…Our Eyelashes?

I’m compelled to thank the good folks at L’Oreal – excuse me, L’Oréal, with an accent aigu – for stepping up to the plate and addressing these uncertain times.

What L’Oréal tells us in their recent commercial – with no uncertainty – is that all we need to do is…

bambify_01 cropped larger

That is…

“Bambify your lashes”!

Wow!  Not only am I getting a solution in these uncertain times, but I’m learning a new word:

Bambify!

And since I love words, I decided to dig deeper.

“Bambify” comes from a noun, creatively used by L’Oréal as a verb.

This is called “verbing.”

The noun is “Bambi.”

“Bambi” is a shortened form of the Italian word “bambino,” with means “child”:

translate (2)

“Bambi” was the name chosen by author Felix Salten for the lead character in his 1923 novel, Bambi, a Life in the Woods (German title:  Bambi:  Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Bambi: Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde by Salten, FelixWalde).  The novel traces the life of Bambi, a male deer, from his birth through childhood, the loss of his mother, the finding of a mate, the lessons he learns from his father, and the experience he gains about the dangers posed by human hunters in the forest.

Apparently the book did well enough to interest Walt Disney, who in 1942 released his animated film version of the story, Bambi.  It, too, did well, and is still watched today, as is its sequel Bambi II, released by Disney in 2006.

The word “Bambi” – a child-like cartoon character – became part of our lexicon.

What does all this have to do with L’Oréal making the world a better place by bamibfying our lashes?

Here’s the Disney Bambi film, and a closeup from the cover:

Movie smaller Movie cropped

See Bambi’s eyelashes?

L’Oréal has created this new mascara so users can bambify their eyelashes and look like the character in Bambi:  Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde!

No, no, I mean in Walt Disney’s Bambi!

For just $10.99…

11 dollars (2)

You, too, can bambify your eyes with L’Oréal’s Bambi Eye Washable Mascara, Lasting Volume.

You, too, can purchase a product whose name infantilizes women…

Infant (2)

By encouraging us to emulate a child-like cartoon character with long eyelashes!

Just dip your mascara brush into these ingredients…

ingredients (2)

And we’ll be doe-eyed…

Doe eyed (2)

With “curled, volumized, lifted, elongated, separated, defined, clump-free lashes”!

We’ll be happy, and fulfilled, and able to face whatever life throws our way!

All for just $10.99!

Unless…

Unless…

Unless Bambi actually stands for Ballistic Attack Missile Ballast Initiator…

ballistic-missile-update

In which case, I got this all wrong.

never mind_01

If Someone Wrote A Book About Everything Interesting About Melania Trump, It Would Look Like This:

There’s an old idiom, “like shooting fish in a barrel,” meaning a task or activity that is ridiculously easy.

Mocking Melania Trump is like shooting fish in a barrel.

How can I not mock the person who’s stayed married to this…

trump angry

For more than 15 years?

Yes, it’s Melania, whose personal anthem is obviously Stand By Your Man, as she did through this in 2016, the infamous Access Hollywood video scandal…

VOX (2)

And this scandal…

Stormy (2)

And this scandal…

McDougal (2)

And, more recently, this…

25 Women (2)

Yeah, that Melania just kept showing up and smiling at Trump’s side.

Now she’s the subject of a new book, The Art of Her Deal:  The Untold Story of Melania Trump, by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan

It appears that the book is so accurate that Stephanie Grisham, a Melania mouthpiece, rushed to say, “Yet another book about Mrs. Trump with false information and sources.  This book belongs in the fiction genre.”

That kind of rebuke is sure to send it to the top of the New York Times best seller list.

So author Jordan found something to fill the book’s 352 pages, but I doubt if any of it is interesting.

Because Melania is…

not interesting cropped fixed

She doesn’t say anything interesting; she doesn’t write anything interesting; and she doesn’t do anything interesting.

I won’t even get into Melania not saying/writing/doing anything that uplifts, inspires or improves the lives of her fellow Americans.

Let’s look at a few examples of not-interesting Melania since she became First Lady:

October 2017:  Melania spoke publicly about engaging in a “daunting task” that kept her “very busy.”  At the time I assumed she was talking about helping people recover from the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Nate, Irma and Maria.

No.

She was talking about creating her inauguration gown.

Which she donated to the Smithsonian:

Inauguration gown

not interesting cropped fixed

May 2018:  Melania launches her anti-cyberbullying “Be Best” campaign:

be best_01

A year later, another Melania biographer said of the “Be Best” campaign,

“To this day it has no publicly stated framework, timeline or markers for progress…The likelihood that it will ever have the impact of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign or Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No is slim to none.”

The ironic thing about this fiasco is that Melania is married to the biggest cyberbully in the universe.

Ironic…but…

not interesting cropped fixed

October 2018:  Melania wore a jacket emblazoned with “I really don’t care – do you?”

Don't care jacket

I really didn’t care – did you?

not interesting cropped fixed

March 2019:  Melania made headlines for wearing these…

melania-shoes

The shoes were described as:

“a pair of yellow plaid pumps from Manolo Blahnik’s fall ’18 collection.  The brand’s signature BB style, which is named after French movie star Brigitte Bardot, features a yellow multicolored plaid flannel upper, a sky-high 4-inch stiletto heel and a classic pointed-toe silhouette.”

Seriously, Melanie (as Trump has spelled your name).  Plaid shoes?  And they look uncomfortable as hell, but this is…

not interesting cropped fixed

November 2019:  Melania got a less-than-warm reception at an event:

Booed (2)

Just a guess – could the booing have anything to do with Trump calling Baltimore a “rat and rodent infested mess” a few months earlier?

not interesting cropped fixed

OK, so what has Melania does for us lately?

March 2020:  The coronavirus was spreading, people were losing their jobs, and the economy was tanking.  What did she do to uplift, inspire or improve the lives of her fellow Americans?

Melania – in a hard hat – tweeted about the “hard work” being done on the new private tennis pavilion at the White House:

Melania Tweet (2)

And that’s really something to celebrate, because now we’ll be treated to more images like this:

trump

To sum up, Melania is …

not interesting cropped fixed

And let’s add…

clueless_01 cropped larger

But – the tweets responding to her tennis court update?

Now, those were interesting:

Tweet 1 (2)

Tweet 2 (2)

Tweet 3 (2)

Tweet 4 (2)

Thousands Of Lives Put At Risk, For This:

When Trump gave the commencement speech at West Point on June 13 –  the same date as the Washington Post headline above – the media was more focused on what he did, rather than what he said.

Specifically, Trump’s fumbling and stumbling.

His fumbling as he tried to drink from a glass of water.

His stumbling as he tried to walk down a ramp.

I hadn’t given a thought to what came before, until I read an opinion piece in the New York Times, and the author talked about Trump,

“who forces 1,100 West Point cadets to travel back to campus, and quarantine for two weeks, so he can get a photo op addressing their graduation.”quarantine

Wait, I thought.

 What?

Of course.

The West Point cadets had been sent home in March to avoid coronavirus.  They wouldn’t have been back on campus to graduate, just like all the other students who, due to the pandemic, missed the chance to walk their graduation walk.

But for the sake of a Trump photo op, 1,100 West Point cadets had to return to their campus?

It appears so.

airport_04 croppedFor many of them, that meant time in an airport, then on a plane, traveling to and from West Point.

Airports.  Airplanes.  Welcome centers for spreading coronavirus.

Once they arrived on campus, says the above and other articles, the cadets:

“lived in Covid-19 quarantine for the past two weeks, confined to their dorms, wearing masks and watching Zoom conferences on leadership…”

A June 12 New York Times article described the cadets’ living arrangements during their two-week quarantine.  After arriving on campus and being tested for coronavirus,

“…the cadets have been divided into four groups of about 250, with strict orders not to mingle outside their cohort.  They eat in shifts in the dining hall, with food placed on long tables by kitchen staff who quickly leave.”

And for the ceremony:

cadets_04

“Cadets will be required to wear masks as they march in and take their seats, spaced about six feet apart.  Once seated, they will be allowed to unmask.”

No family or friends could attend.

Trump made his usual hyperbolic, self-aggrandizing, vote-for-me remarks, like this one:

“After years of devastating budget cuts and a military that was totally depleted from these endless wars, we have invested over 2 trillion – trillion; that’s with a ‘T’ – dollars in the most powerful fighting force, by far, on the planet Earth. ”

And this self-deprecating remark:

“It is not the duty of U.S. troops to solve ancient conflicts in faraway lands that many people have never heard of.”

I say “self-deprecating” because Trump is referring to himself as the “many people” who have “never heard of” those “faraway lands,” due to his geographic ignorance.

Geographic ignorance – like in February when, according to two Washington Post reporters, Trump said to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “It’s not like you’ve got China on your border.”

india-china-map

Back at West Point, the cadets were allowed to do their traditional hat toss:

cadets_02

And, hopefully, the cadets – and everyone they come into contact with – will go on with their lives.

Thousands of lives put at risk…

So Trump could have his photo op.

Well, he got it:

Trump water glass cropped

trump ramp

 

Two Stars Are Born

It’s 2010.  A group of creative types are gathered in a conference room, brainstormingwhite_01 and whiteboarding ideas for a new TV show.

After several hours of hearing and discarding ideas, silence has descended.

Then a bright young thing – let’s call him Pete – leaps from his chair and says, “OK!  How’s this sound?  A couple goes through a home renovation!”

The silence continues until the (bored) team leader says, “And then?”

The encouragement in the voice is sub-zero, but Pete runs with it.

“The couple looks and looks for their dream home, but they don’t have the budget for meeting_04what they want, but if they buy a home they can afford and do a major renovation – voila!  So they buy a home that needs tons of work.”

This time no one responds, but Pete’s on a roll and continues.

“But the renovation – the reno – has problems.  It’s…it’s…fraught with problems.”

A voice says, “Did you just say ‘fraught’?”

“Yes, fraught!  So let’s say the show starts at 8pm.  It’ll be like clockwork:  We have a major reno problem at 8:20pm, another at 8:35pm and again at 8:45pm.  Major problems, major drama.”

Yet another voice says, “What kind of problems, exactly?”

(The team won’t admit it, but Pete’s got their attention.)

“The problem opportunities are endless!  Black mold, termites, illegal electrical wiring, bad roof, shifting foundation, collapsing chimney, leaking windows, sloping floors…”fist pump cropped

Pete pauses to catch his breath – then fist pumps the air!

“…wasps in the attic, bats in the belfry…The tension, the drama, the – the couple is so stressed, and they’re running out of money.  One of them is crying.  They’re both crying.  And then…”

Pete pauses dramatically.

“Now it’s 8:55pm.  The couple walks in.  The renovation is finished.  It’s better than finished.  It’s…it’s THE HOUSE OF THEIR DREAMS!  THEIR FOREVER HOME!”

Several team members and trying – and failing – to conceal their tears.

Pete, with another fist pump, “Total happy ending!  Exclamations!  Hugs!  High fives!  All in one hour!”

“Well,” he amended, “in 48 minutes.”6113-08882584

The team bursts into applause.

“And we don’t need to pay a bunch of union writers, because every weekly show’s structure is exactly the same:  reno/problems/happy ending.  Just change the couples and the house an