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 and – we could do this for years!  I even see…I even see franchises!”

Pete’s roll is on a roll.

“And I know the perfect guy – guys – to host it.  Get this:  Jonathan and Drew Scott.  They’re identical twins!”

The applause is almost deafening – the team leader can barely make himself heard!

“But what,” he shouted, “do we call it?”

The applause dies down, the room goes silent.  Everyone on the team knows the right show name is critical.

Reno Twins?” someone whispers.

Demo Bros?” someone mutters.

“I’ve got it!” says Pete:

prop bros

Practically every word of this could sort of be true.

The Property Brothers gold mine was launched in January 2011

And it is a gold mine – not only was Property Brothers hugely successful, today these guys have more franchises than Burger King:

franchises (2)

And in each and every show, one of the highlights is what I’ll call “brotherly banter.”  It sounds like this:

Drew:  Is that the shirt you’re wearing today?banter cropped
Jonathan:  Yes.
Drew:  So – that’s the shirt you’re wearing today.
Jonathan:  Correct.
Drew:  Hmmm.

Repartee!  Ripostes!  Badinage!

And since its launch in 2011, Property Brothers has followed exactly the same structure:  reno/problems/happy ending + banter.

The format has become so popular that there’s an Emmy category for it:

Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Structured Reality Program

The award’s description could have been lifted directly from ole Pete’s playbook:

The category of “structured reality program” is defined as consisting of reality shows that “contain consistent story elements that mostly adhere to a recurring structured template.”

Property Brothers was nominated for the award in 2015, but alas, didn’t win.  Which surprises me, because along with the buzz sawing and bug baiting and brotherly bantering, Drew and Jonathan were also teaching us new vocabulary:

Vocab (2)

Despite their disappointment, the bros rose to the occasion and offered this banter:

Jonathan:  We didn’t win.rep_01 cropped
Drew:  No.
Jonathan:  Somebody else won.
Drew:  Yes.
Jonathan:  Hmmm.

Undaunted, Jonathan and Drew got right back to work, publishing books in 2016 and 2017, launching Reveal magazine in January 2020, planning several more franchises, and hinting at other possibilities.

One of which is hosting a talk show, and I can hear that brother banter going at warp speed:

Drew:  We have a special guest tonight.bad_01 cropped
Jonathan:  A special guest.
Drew:  A very special guest.
Jonathan:  Very.
Drew:  Hmmm.

In the meantime, those bros are never too busy to strike a pose:

bros_02

Jonathan:  Are you painting my posterior?
Drew:  Yes.
Jonathan:  You’re painting my posterior.
Drew:  Yes.
Jonathan:  Hmmm.

What A Serendipitous Confluence Of Circumstances! Well, Not For The Dead Animals…

I’ll say it up front:

I don’t understand the appeal of hunting and killing wild animals.

I’m not talking about subsistence hunters – those who feed their families and themselves with what they kill.

I’m talking about those who kill wild animals for the sport of it.  The ones who dress up in camouflage, and deploy high-tech tracking devices, and shoot with high-tech bows and arrows that could bring down a cruise ship, or deploy high-tech, high-powered guns that could do this to the Golden Gate Bridge:

GG Bridge

Then, of course, come the endless ego-feeding photo ops of the hunter(s) posing with the dead animal:

hunters posing cropped
Camouflage clothes, check.  High-tech, high-powered gun, check.  Ego-feeding photo op, check.  Dead giraffe, going to eat it?  Not.

I don’t understand it, but I accept that some people do it and love it, and big game hunting isn’t going away, and that’s the way it is.

What I don’t accept is my tax dollars paying for someone to do this.

But apparently that’s exactly what happened last August, according to this and many other sources:

Vanity (2)

In August 2019 Donald Trump Jr. – or as I call him, Dumb Ass Don – took an eight-day trip to Mongolia for a private meeting with Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga.

Which seems a bit redundant, since Battulga had been in the U.S. less than a month earlier, meeting with Trump Jr.’s daddy:

Khaltmaagiin Battulga. meet trump
Battulga and Trump, July 2019.

 What could Trump Jr. possibly have needed to talk to Battulga about so soon afterwards?  What movie Battulga watched on the flight home to Mongolia?  Are Mongolia’s pot stickers as good as P.F. Chang’s Mongolian Pot Stickers?

Or maybe – by the way – could Trump Jr. get a retroactive hunting permit for that rare and near-endangered Mongolian Argali sheep he’d already killed a few days earlier?

Regarding the Argali, the post-killing permit granting did indeed happen after Trump Jr. killed it, according to the Vanity Fair article, which quoted this December 2019 article from ProPublica:

ProPublica (2)

Says the ProPublica article:

“The Mongolian government granted Trump Jr. a coveted and rare permit to slay the animal retroactively on September 2, after he’d left the region following his trip.  It’s unusual for permits to be issued after a hunter’s stay.  It was one of only three permits to be issued in that hunting region, local records show.”

So Trump Jr. comes back to the U.S., possibly bringing along Argali sheep body parts, but that would be illegal, so of course that didn’t happen.

Even though those Argali horns – which can grow up to six feet long:

argali_02

Would make a nice place to hang his hat, so to speak.

Anyway, Trump Jr. comes home and in 2020, and an inconvenient thing happened:

CREW – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington – started poking around and asking what Trump Jr.’s trip had cost the taxpayers.CREW cropped

In March the Secret Service initially disclosed only $17,000 in Secret Service costs to CREW.

A mere bagatelle, truly.

But those darn CREW people kept poking around, and in early June we learned guess what?

“According to documents obtained by CREW through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Secret Service spent a total of $76,859.36 on Trump Jr.’s Mongolian vacation.”

Almost $77,000 taxpayer dollars so Trump Jr. could pose for an Instagram opportunity like this:

Instagram (2)
Trump Jr. with his son Trump III and a wild eagle.  They later killed the bird, stuffed it, and ate it with mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and all the trimmings.

And kill one of these:

sheep

And maybe install these on his wall at home:

sheep horns_01

But I have a suggestion that could save at least some of our tax dollars because – here’s that “serendipitous confluence” from this post’s title – also occurred in early June:

NY Tijmes (2)

The National Park Service published this:

Fed Register (2)

And changed the rules about hunting in Alaska.

And according to the Times article, starting in July, instead of flying all the way to Mongolia, Dumb Ass Don can just buzz up to Alaska and do the following:

  • Bait grizzly bears with doughnuts soaked in bacon grease.black_03 cropped cropped
  • Use dogs to hunt bears.
  • Use spotlights to blind and shoot hibernating black bear mothers and their cubs in their dens.
  • Gun down swimming caribou from motorboats.
  • Kill wolves and coyotes, including pups, during the season when mothers wean their young.
  • Kill bears and wolves to ensure enough moose, caribou and other game are available so hunters can kill them, too.

Trump Jr. could fly from his home in New York to Anchorage, head out into the wild, kill a bunch of animals, pose for a bunch of Instagram opportunities, and collect a bunch of animal body parts for mounting on his wall…

And be home for dinner the next evening!

Trump Jr. can say to his five kids, ages five to 13, “Look, kids!  Look at those baby bear cubs I killed!  That was so much fun!”

And this will save taxpayer dollars because Trump Jr. won’t have to spend all that time traveling, since Mongolia is almost twice as far from New York as Alaska:

Map (2)

And he won’t need to spend as much time being guarded by the Secret Service:

secret service

And he won’t need to spend so many of our…

tax dollars cropped

Trump Jr. can just stay stateside, and when he’s not actually hunting, he can dress like he’s about to go hunting, and appear at parties with his girlfriend dressed like this:

Trump and Kimberly
Party Hearty:  Trump Jr. in full-body camo, holding a high-tech hunting bow, which he just happened to have lying around the house.  With him is girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, formerly employed by Fox News, now apparently working as a witch.

How About A Pause For A Little…

pants cropped croppedThere’s an old saying, “He puts his pants on, one leg at a time.”

It’s a way of saying, “He’s just an ordinary guy, like you and me.”

And for one guy named Will Reeve, the same:  Get up, get dressed for work, including pants, one leg at a time.

But for Reeve, on one particular morning…

No pants.

He went to work with no pants.

Work, in this case, was from home, due to the pandemic.computer underwear cropped

So, no big deal.  If you’re working from home, why not sit at your computer in your underwear?  Or pajamas?  Or in nothing at all?

Who cares?

So why did Reeve’s lack of pants make news all across the country?

Reeve is a reporter for ABC, and that morning he was doing a remote from home, a segment on CVS and UPS’ plan to deliver prescriptions using drones.

He’d gotten dressed and then, very efficiently, set up his camera shot, as he didn’t have his own cameraperson.  Nice background, chair in place, everything good to go:

Will cropped

I mentioned that Reeve was efficient.

Because Reeve was going for a workout later, he’d put on his shorts but no pants.  He’d framed his remote for a waist-up shot.  No need to put on pants and then just take them off again, right?

And he was right – until, during his live segment, he shifted a bit, and here’s what millions of viewers saw:

Will Reeve

A hail of headlines followed, like this one:

CNN (2)

And this one:

Oprah (2)

And for reasons that are a mystery to me, the Los Angeles Times felt compelled to include information about Reeve’s parentage:

LA Times (2)

Along with the hail of headlines came a Twitter storm:

TWitter (2)

Reeve, to his credit, did not respond with a Trumpian “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

Instead, he responded with a Tweet of his own:

Tweet (2)

And – again, to his credit – Reeve answered questions with self-deprecating humor:

“I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t respect and love my job, but I’ve had a lot of fun…and I’m a lousy camera operator.”

“I have ARRIVED…in the most hilariously mortifying way possible!”

And when BuzzFeed News emailed Reeve for a comment, Reeve emailed back,

“Let me get dressed and I’ll get back to you soon 😂.”

I share this now because Reeve’s story was mostly a one-day wonder, and mostly got lost in all the attention-grabbing stories that day.

And perhaps that’s too bad.

Because it was light-hearted, and fun, and all in good spirits.

And because, if we’ve ever needed more of that in our lives…

Print

An Apolitical Suggestion:  Here’s A Group You Don’t Want To Join

The November election is months away, but you’re fired up to vote in it.

Scenario #1:

You know exactly where you’re polling place is – you’ve been there before.  You’ll havepoll-place cropped your eye on the weather, and dress appropriately because you know you’ll spend some time standing in line.

You’re ready.

Election Day arrives and everything is going according to plan.  Then it’s your turn and…

“Sorry, you’re not registered to vote.”

It’s going to happen all over this country, more than ever before.

Scenario #2:

Perhaps you’re a mail-in voter.

You, too, are fired up and ready to vote, come November.

Close up of frustrated businessman on the phoneOnly…your ballot never arrives in the mail.

You start calling the Registrar of Voters, but the line is busy or you’re put on hold and then disconnected, and you keep trying and trying and…

You can’t get through.

You can’t vote.

It’s going to happen all over this country, more than ever before.

You’ve just joined a group you don’t want to join:

can't_02 cropped

People who want to vote and can’t, because they thought they were registered to vote, but weren’t.

You don’t have to join this group, if you do something now:

Go online and verify your voter registration.

In my county, San Diego, it was easy.  It took less than a minute.

I went here, and clicked on “Check Your Voter Registration:

Image 1 (2)

That brought me here, where I typed in my house number, birthday and zip code:

Image 2 (2)

And here’s my confirmation.  I removed most of my personal information, but if your voter registration is in order, you should see something like this:

Image 3 (2)

I’m good to go in San Diego County.

Wherever you live, do this.

And do it now.

Now, while you have plenty of time to address any problems with your voter registration.

Here’s a list of just some of the problems that could prevent you from voting:

  • You moved, but didn’t change your address with the Registrar of Voters.
  • You moved from one state to another and assumed if your voter registration was valid in one state, it’s valid everywhere.  Don’t assume.
  • You’ve changed your name; this information does not automatically get updated when you make the legal change.
  • If you haven’t voted for awhile, you may have been purged from the voting rolls.can't
  • You’ve had mental health or legal issues; this may matter, depending on where you live.
  • You missed your state’s registration deadline and didn’t know it.  Do you know your state’s deadline?
  • Errors at the Registrar of Voters – human errors and computer errors.
  • Voter ID laws – does your state have them, and have you met the requirements?
  • Criminal record – if you have one, verify if it prevents you from voting in your state; it may not.
  • Due to the pandemic, it’s difficult to predict how many polling places will be open, and where.  Don’t assume your usual polling place is going to be open.

Voting is our right, but making sure we’re registered to vote is our responsibility.

Verify your registration, and check it again, and again as we get closer to November 3.

Avoid joining the group you don’t want to join:

Can't vote

We Can Thank Steve Mnuchin For This SNAFU

I actually feel sorry for the 75,000 employees of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

IRS_logo.5e46cc85dcef7 croppedWe tend to demonize the IRS because they collect our taxes, and we pay WAY too much in taxes to the federal government.

But that’s not the fault of the IRS.  It’s Congress that passes the laws, not the poor schlemiels at the IRS.

I also feel sorry for the IRS folks because the IRS is part of the Treasury Department, which means their boss is slimeball Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

“Why a slimeball?” you ask.

Let’s start with, for example, this 2017 article.

2017 (2)

Then there was this 2019 article:

Dunce (2)

The writers summed it well when they said,

“Mnuchin’s boneheaded actions reflected his dominant characteristics.  He is a sycophant willing to debase himself, no matter how strongly, at the altar of Donald Trump.”

And I must include this March 2020 story:

Hill (2)

A Fox News host criticized Mnuchin for dismissing an unemployment report that topped 3.25 million claims as “not relevant.”

“Slimeball”?

slimeball cropped with line

Oh, yeah.

So the folks at the IRS – most of whom, I believe, are dedicated, competent and hardworking – have to stumble and fumble along without anything resembling effective leadership.

Case in point:  Issuing CARES Act stimulus payments.

As Military.com put it on May 20,

CARES-Act-logo cropped“The program has, for the most part, run smoothly despite the amount of work that was required getting computers and multiple government agencies to play nice with each other.  The majority of taxpayers began seeing payments deposited into their bank accounts within two weeks of President Donald Trump signing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act bill into law on March 27, 2020.”

Perhaps the program was running too smoothly.

We heard plenty about this on the news, and it was all about “stimulus direct deposits” and “stimulus checks.”  “Stimulus direct deposits” and “stimulus checks.”  “Stimulus direct deposits” and “stimulus checks.”

But then somebody, somewhere in the Treasury Department came up with the idea that for some of the people who hadn’t as yet been sent checks, the government could instead send them debit cards in the amount of money the recipients were due to receive.

I don’t know if this was Mnuchin’s idea or not, but it’s clear from this photo that he endorsed the idea:

Mnuchin Trump

Mnuchin handed a sample debit card to Trump during a Cabinet Meeting in the East Room of the White House on May 19.

And the government began mailing out the debit cards.

In envelopes that – for no clear reason – looked like this:

Envelope (2)

No return address.

According to my research, a return address is not a requirement.  However, if the delivery address is incorrect, the Post Office has no way of knowing to whom the mail should be returned, and it may end up in a DLO, dead letter office.  Once there, it may be opened and either delivered or returned.

Or not.

mail_01 croppedAnd there you sit, wondering when your stimulus money will arrive.

And maybe not just you – the government is sending blank envelopes with debit cards to four million people.

But…let’s be optimistic.  Let’s say the envelope arrives at your home.

What are the odds of you opening an envelope that the sender didn’t care enough about to include a return address?  At my house, mail like that is classified as junk, and tossed.

But…let’s continue to be optimistic.  You open the envelope, and there is this plastic card with your name on it:

EIP-debit-card

How many similar cards have you received, unsolicited and unwanted by you?

The card is issued by MetaBank.

Ever heard of it?

Me, neither.

There’s a letter enclosed with the card from the Money Network Cardholder Services.

Ever heard of it?

Me, neither.

According to this May 28 Washington Post article:

Wash post 1 (2)

Here’s one of the examples cited in the article:

“Eric Green and his wife, who live in Arlington, VA received a card in the mail last week.  But they thought it was a con because they had expected their stimulus payment would be direct deposited into the same bank account where they received their recent federal refund.

“‘Is it a scam or legitimate?’ said Green.  ‘There were a number of steps involved in converting the card into money to be put in our bank.  We wonder why we just didn’t receive a government check in the mail like other people have received?’”

In this Washington Post follow-up article on June 1:

Wash post 2 (2)

One reader said,

“My wife and I don’t have the same last name, and our joint stimulus card arrived addressed to, and in, her first name, my last name.  I don’t understand why this is happening at all, since obviously the Treasury knows our income and names from how we filed our taxes.”

And, once a recipient tried to access the money, there were problems:angry

“I called my bank and was told I would have to go to an ATM to withdraw $1,000 once a day and then deposit it into my bank account,” Joan Bevelaqua from Columbia, MD wrote in an email.  “This is a total of three days, three separate visits.  I cannot believe the government is pulling this off on the elderly.  I am extremely angry.”

Let’s go back to the envelope with no return address, and another Washington Post reader’s response:

“I opened an unmarked envelope, saw what looked like a credit card I hadn’t ordered from the Money Network, and I threw it out,” said Sarah Bardinone from New York City.

When queried about this, a Treasury spokeswoman said the card was discreetly sent “to protect against potential fraud.”

Talk about “discreet”!  So discreet was the government that, after starting to mail the debit cards on May 18, the IRS didn’t announce the process until nine days later, with this news release:

IRS (2)

So discreet, the government doesn’t even appear to be talking about possible associated fees incurred when using the debit card:  bank teller counter transaction fees, out-of-network ATM fees, ATM balance inquiry fees, for example.

And let’s not forget that pesky $7.50 replacement charge if you lose your card. If you’re in a hurry and want the card to be sent four to seven days after the order is placed, there’s also a $17 priority shipping fee.

All this is happening on Mnuchin’s watch, and that makes him responsible.

So:bad-idea-wrong-cropped

  • Plain white envelope, no return address, may end up in a dead letter office.
  • MetaBank and Money Network Cardholder Services, whoever the hell they are.
  • Looks like junk mail at best, a scam at worst; some recipients are destroying the debit cards.
  • Started mailing May 18 but no announcement from the IRS until May 27.
  • Fees, including a replacement fee.

Of course, Mnuchin doesn’t have to worry about problems with getting stimulus money in any form – debit card, direct deposit or check.

Slimeball Steve’s net worth is around $400 million, according to a 2019 article in Forbes.

And your money problems are – as he said in The Hill article above –

“Not relevant.”

Mnuchin (2)

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who’s The Most Vacuous* Of Them All?

*Vacuous:  having or showing a lack of thought or intelligence; mindless.

If you qualified for stimulus money and received a check, it would have looked something like this:

a stack of three example u s treasury checks for stimulus paymen

If you qualified for the full amount, it would have been $1,200.

If you qualified for a check and in the full amount, it would not have enabled you to buy this:

whitney_bag_max_mara cropped

This is a $1,540 Max Mara Whitney tote bag, which now has a place in history.

It went along on Trump’s walk of shame on Monday, June 1 when he walked to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a bible-in-hand photo op.

The bible had been carried to the photo op in the tote bag.Ivanka cropped

A tote bag belonging to none other than Daddy’s Little Girl, Ivanka (photo, left).

I can hear the conversation at the White House, just prior to the group heading out.  The mélange included Trump, Ivanka, Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, advisor Hope Hicks, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany gaggle of Secret Service agents, and others.

Hicks:  Mr. President, are you ready for your photo op?

Trump:  Yeah.  Why am I doing this?

McEnany:  Hope, would you like to unpack this for us?

Hicks:  Certainly.  Sir, to show that you’re our law and order president, sir, and that God is on your side.

Trump:  Yeah.  You said something about a bible, or something?

Ivanka:  I’ve got it, Daddy!  I’ve got it right here, in my $1,540 Max Mara Whitney tote bag!  The classic lines and east-west design of the tote are perfect for these spring months, and for carrying all sorts of things.  Including my black Lele Sadoughi face mask adorned with copper stars…

Ivanka_02 cropped

Ivanka:  …that I wore this morning as I left the house, to show the masses that we care about them!

Trump:  That’s my little girl, always thinking about the masses!

Ivanka:  Oh, Daddy, you’re so sweet!

McEnany:  Oooh, I saw your face mask!  Your picture was on all the major media outlets!

Trump:  So, Ivanka’s gonna carry the bible and we’re gonna walk to the church and she’ll hand me the bible and…then what?  I give another speech about anarchists and…

Hicks:  No, sir, no speech at the church, sir.  You’ll just hold up the bible and look…stern.howard-stern-on-donald-trump

Trump:  Stern?  Howard Stern?  I can do him.  How’s this?  (Makes a face)

Hicks, aside to Ivanka and McEnany:  Girls, can you help me out here?

After a stop in the Rose Garden to make threats against law-abiding American citizens, Trump and his entourage walked to St. John’s Episcopal Church, including Ivanka, white tote bag firmly in hand, Lele Sadoughi face mask adorned with copper stars nowhere in sight:

Ivanka_03largest

At just the right moment she handed the bible to Trump, who posed for photographs.  Then he handed off the bible, presumably to Ivanka, who presumably returned it to her $1,540 Max Mara Whitney tote bag, and presumably, everybody went happily back to the White House.

Kayleigh McEnany would soon after compare Trump’s bible-in-hand photo op to images of Winston Churchill inspecting bombing damage during World War II and George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch after 9/11.

Hope Hicks, quoted by an anonymous source, said, “President Trump has a magnetic personality, and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him.”

And from Ivanka:  “Did you see how the Daily Mail said, ‘Be beautiful like Ivanka and carry a Max Mara tote bag’”?

Now, don’t despair about not being “beautiful like Ivanka” and not buying a $1,540 history-making tote bag with your $1,200 relief check.

Max Mara has this lovely leather shopper bag, just marked down, that you can afford:

shopper

$1,660.00  $1,162.00

And you’ll have $38 left for your month’s rent.

Rent_02

 

What If Trump Does…

The above quote is from a poem by Dylan Thomas, paraphrased by me, and poses the question:

What if, when Trump loses the election, he refuses to accept it and does not go gentle into that good night?

I believe Trump is capable of – correction, embraces – behaviors with only his self-interest in mind.  So it isn’t hard for me to imagine this nightmare in the not-too-distant future:

After Trump is defeated in November and the new president takes the oath of office in January, Trump refuses to leave the White House.

We’d have two presidents.worst nightmare cropped

We’d have chaos.

The “two presidents” scenario isn’t that far-fetched – Venezuela has two presidents, Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido:

Two Pres (2)

It’s been that way since January 2019 and there’s nothing in sight that even hints at a resolution.

Venezuela is a complex situation, but come January 2021, our situation would be simple:

When Trump loses, he’ll scream voter fraud.  He’ll declare the election invalid, demandvoter fraud cropped a recount or a do-over.  Or he could simply say, “The election was fraudulent and I’m president for the next four years.”

And he’ll get support from his Republican Senate toadies, Barr, family members and certainly some or all Cabinet members.

Trump has been screaming about “Voter Fraud!” for a long time, and now has “set the stage for this with his false claims about mail-in ballots,” says Fred Kaplan, author of this June 1 article:

Slate (2)

I found Kaplan’s article informative, objective and well-written.  But before I gave it full credibility, I researched him online.  He’s got a Ph.D. in political science from MIT, done many years of political reporting for respected publications, and authored more than a half-dozen books including a Pulitzer Prize Finalist.  At 65 Kaplan, as the Farmers Fred-Kaplan-2019Insurance commercials say, has seen a thing or two.

I decided Fred (left) had cred.

And because Fred has cred, so did his article.  The simple statement in the title – Trump Can’t Just Refuse to Leave Office – was comforting.

And it was comforting to learn others were thinking about Trump refusing to leave.  In addition to Kaplan saying so, he cites Bill Maher “warning of this specter on his HBO show Real Time;” Kaplan quotes New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, who “called Trump’s compliance with the election results ‘the most critical question for American democracy.’”  Even Joe Biden, says Kaplan, “has raised the possibility on a few occasions.”

I was in good company.

And the reasons Kaplan offers as to why Trump can’t just refuse – and there are many – make sense.

Kaplan walks us through the reasons, step by step:  the nuclear codes that expire when the new president is sworn in and receives the new codes; what the military, Secret Service, and foreign leaders will do, all in support of the new president; the possible charges facing anyone – Cabinet members, for example – who support Trump’s actions.

In other words, Kaplan concludes,

“Trump could hole himself up in the Oval Office, but the Oval Office would very soon be cut off from all power.  He would have no choice but to give up.”

Very comforting.

I, however, prefer to take my comfort level a step further.marshals cropped reversed smaller

If Trump refuses to vacate the White House, I want U.S. Marshals or the police or whatever the appropriate law enforcement agency is to escort Trump out of the White House.  Preferably handcuffed.  Definitely handcuffed.

If they’re dragging Trump out – better yet.

They hustle him to a police cruiser and open the back door.  One of the officers puts his hand on the top of Trump’s head to lower him into the back seat – like you’ve seen police do on TV a zillion times.

And then – just because he can – the officer deliberately messes up Trump’s hair.

Really messes it up.

Worse than Boris Johnson:

Boris cropped trump hair cropped

And not only were others besides me thinking about Trump refusing to leave office, others were also envisioning that, and its aftermath – with a little help from PhotoShop.

Kaplan suggests that the new president’s acting attorney general will have drawn up arrest warrants for Trump “on charges – at minimum – of criminal trespassing.”

Kaplan continues,

“If Trump calls on the armed forces or militias or the nation’s sheriffs to come defend him, he might also be charged with incitement or insurrection…the pretend monarch is taken away in handcuffs.”

I found these creations online, and thought they were particularly good:

trump_01
They haven’t messed up his hair yet…but they will.
trump_03 cropped larger
The orange jumpsuit matches Trump’s orange pancake makeup.
trump_04 larger
Let’s make it a family affair.

Lacking PhotoShop, I couldn’t begin to match the perfection of these images, but I tried my hand at it, anyway.

I’ll bet you didn’t know Trump has tattoos, did you?

Trump (2) REV_01

When You Receive This…

When you get an envelope like the one above, you open it.

This is from the Internal Revenue Service – the IRS – and you don’t ignore a missive from the IRS.

money_01It could be a notification that says,

“We advise that you’ve been overpaying your taxes for 15 years and a remittance check in the amount of $54,328 will arrive within 10 days.”

Or, it could be a notification that says,handcuffs_01

“You are the biggest tax crook since Al Capone, and as you read this, 100 IRS agents are surrounding your house.”

My husband and I received a letter from the IRS on Saturday, but it wasn’t a windfall, or a government raid.

It was this:

TL-01 (3)

In essence, it told us that our payment from the CARES Act had arrived, because I, Donald J. Trump, am the greatest president in American history.

It was such a blatant, obvious, juvenile effort that I was almost – almost – embarrassed for the poor fools who had to write it.

Instead, I was too busy being pissed that this letter had been paid for with my…

tax dollars cropped

A letter telling me that we’d received money.

Money that we’d received seven days earlier.

As though we were too stupid to notice when the money was deposited in our bank account.

But…Trump’s ego is massive and needs constant nourishing, and it’s been starved since the pandemic shut down his rallies.

The pandemic…so inconvenient.

CDC (2)

So Trump’s toadies put their heads together, and came up with this letter.

And sent it to millions of people receiving money from the CARES Act.

Not to tell us something we already knew – that we’d received the money days ago.

But to remind us that:

Trump cares about you!
Trump loves you!
Vote for Trump in 2020!

The goal of this letter – paid for by our tax dollars – was so obvious, it might as well have looked like this:

Trump (2)

 

Book Review:  Here’s One I Loved To Hate

book_01 croppedPublication date:  June 2016

Review, short version:  Skunks; as many as I could fit in the space.

Review, long version:

As I sat down to write this, I was rubbing my hands in glee.

This is a truly awful book, and I couldn’t wait to rip it to shreds.

Why?

The lead character, Ella, is the worst.

And it’s too bad, because the plot line of The Idea of Love is semi-original:  Girl meets boy, both lie their heads off, build on those lies and then tell new ones.

It’s a pathological liars match made in Heaven.

Since the story comes from Ella’s point of view, let’s focus on her.  For starters, it’s clear early on that she has:

  1. A Bachelor’s Degree in whining.cap and gown cropped
  2. A Master’s degree in lying
  3. A Ph.D. in playing the victim.

We also learn early on that Sims, Ella’s perfect husband of seven years, is having an affair with Ella’s best friend’s sister Betsy.

How do we learn this?

Sims tells Ella.

And not only that, Sims tells Ella that he’s in love, and want to marry Betsy.

And what does Ella do?

Does she point toward the front door and shout, “Get out!  I’m calling my lawyer!  You lying, cheating…

swear-word cropped larger

Does she rush to the kitchen, open the refrigerator door, pull out the dish of leftover poulette chasseur avec haricot verts (Sims’ favorite), head into the garage, open the door to Sims’ BMW M6 Gran Coupe, and dump the contents in the driver’s seat while yelling, “Take that, you…

swear-word cropped larger

Does she run upstairs, open the bedroom window and start throwing Sims’ clothes onto the front lawn, the whole while screaming, “And here’s your favorite tie, to go with this (tossing out more clothes) suit I picked out for you, and this (left shoe) and I always hated those shoes, you…

swear-word cropped larger

No.
No.
No.

Instead, it is Sims’ who packs Ella’s suitcase.  Ella slinks out the front door, ending up in a crappy one-room furnished apartment, brooding endlessly about – could she have been more inventive in bed?  Cooked better meals?  Done Pilates?  Bought more bohemian clothes like the girlfriend wears? etc.

Did I mention Ella has no spine?

Spine_01 (2)

It gets worse.

Eventually we learn that Sims has become conflicted.  He’s wondering if he’s made a mistake.  So Sims, Betsy and Ella come to an arrangement of sorts:

200292204-001Ella moves back into their home, but only for a week.  Then Ella goes back to the crappy apartment and Betsy moves into the house for a week.  Repeat process.

Or as the author put it, a “week-on-week-off arrangement…a man staying put while two women rotated in and out of his life.”

Spineless.

Throughout all this rotating, Ella still has plenty of time for lying, whining and playing the victim.  Page 195:  “Everyone, I mean everyone, is taking advantage of me.”

But finally, finally, around page 220 (out of 239 pages), Ella begins to grow some spine.

But it’s way too little and much too late and…

Who cares?

Ella was an irredeemable waste of oxygen, and the book an irretrievable waste of paper.

Ah…that was fun.

woman

And Now, It’s Time To Meet…

We humans come up with all sorts of excuses for breaking the law.

But on Memorial Day, I heard an excuse that topped all others.

I have dubbed the excuse maker “Ms. Originality,” and I invite you to shake your head in disbelief, as I did.

First, some context.

Key words:  Pandemic.  May 25, Memorial Day.  Beaches.

Our country has lots of beaches.

And on Memorial Day, those beaches had lots of people:

Cocoa Beach, FL:

Cocoa Beach Florida

Indiana Dunes National Park:

Indiana Dunes National Park

Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA:

Ocean Beach San Francisco cropped

Pandemic?  What pandemic?

As long as we’re in San Francisco, let’s travel south about 470 miles, to Carlsbad, CA.

It’s a nice town with nice beaches.

And on those beaches are signs:

sign

On Memorial Day a local TV station carried a story about the beaches and the signs.  The reporter posed by the sign…

Arti (2)

And said, “These signs are being ignored.”

That astute observation was followed by Carlsbad beach scenes including this…

Beach 1 (2)

And this…

Beach 2 (2)

And this…

Beach 3 (2)

And now let’s meet…

Miss Originality cropped

Woman (2)

You’ll notice she’s violating the “no stopping, sitting or lying down” rule.

You’ll notice she’s not wearing a face mask.

Just a hunch here – she’s not social distancing.

And now…drum roll…here is her Memorial Day excuse for violating the rules:

“It’s my respect to them, to show my respect of freedom for what they did for me, for you, and anybody else that wants to live here.”

wait what

On this Memorial Day, she felt that violating the rules was the perfect way to demonstrate her “respect of freedom.”

The perfect way to show respect for the military men and woman who fought, and died, for our freedom.

Clearly, on Memorial Day she felt honor-bound to do this.

Clearly, she is a…

Patriot_04 cropped fixed

And for Ms. Originality and other violators, said the reporter, instead of citations, Carlsbad police were choosing to educate, and depend on good judgement by beachgoers.

No judgment (2) fixed

“While Rome Burned…”

Back in March, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that as he “fiddles, people are dying.”

I am 100% certain that Trump didn’t get the historical reference in her statement.

Pelosi was alluding to the expression, “fiddled while Rome burned,” a criticism of the very unpopular Roman Emperor Nero (37AD-68AD).  The story goes that during the Great Fire of Rome (64AD), which lasted for six days and burned 70 percent of the city, instead of coming to the aid of his people, Nero “fiddled,” and the results were tragic:

Nero
While Rome burns, Nero plays an early version of a fiddle.

The phrase, according to dictionary.com, means

“To do something trivial and irresponsible in the midst of an emergency; legend has it that while a fire destroyed the city of Rome, the emperor Nero played his violin, thus revealing his total lack of concern for his people and his empire.”

Trump, who doesn’t read books or anything else that might dispel some of his egregious ignorance, wouldn’t have understood the import of Pelosi’s words.

I have no trouble imaging the conversation afterwards, between Trump and one of his toadies:

Toady:  Mr. President, sir, how would you like to respond to Speaker Pelosi’s comment?

Trump:  Which comment?  That broad talks so much, who can keep track of what she 700-00027398says?  She has mental problems.  You ask me, she should be home making cooking for her grandkids.  Women got no place in politics.

Toady:  Yes, sir.  I was referring to her ‘fiddles, people are dying” comment earlier today.

Trump:  Oh, that?  Who cares?  Just more Pelosi blah-blah-blah.  Nobody knows what she meant.

Toady:  Well, actually, sir, people do know what she meant.

Trump:  Oh, yeah?  What?

Toady:  What she said was, ah…an historical allusion.allusion cropped

Trump:  Illusion?  You wanna talk illusion?  The Do-Nothing Democrats thinking they can win in November – now, that’s an illusion!

Toady:  No, sir, an allusion, not an illusion.

Trump:  So?  What was she allusioning about?

Toady:  She was alluding, sir, to Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned.

Trump:  Nero?  Peter Nero, the piano guy?  I know him!  I think he played at my Vegas hotel.  You been there?  Great place.  Greatest hotel in Vegas.

Toady:  Actually, sir, Speaker Pelosi was referring to the Emperor Nero.

Trump:  Nero’s an emperor?  Geez, I thought he only played the piano.

Toady:  Sir, the Emperor Nero.  He lived in the first century, and was emperor of Rome.

The_Apprentice_original_logoTrump:  So?  I hosted The Apprentice for 14 years, and I got Emmy nominations!  Did you know that?  A bunch of Emmy nominations?  Too bad that whole thing is rigged, or I would have won.  Everybody says I should have won ‘em all.  Instead, I got screwed, and they gave it to the most boring show on television.  Piece of crap.

Toady:  Sir, about Speaker Pelosi…

Trump:  What about her?  You mean that “fiddling” stuff?  Is that like a violin?  See, that’s how stupid her comment was.  I don’t play any instruments, including violin.  trump magaHaven’t got time for that.  Too busy making American great again.

Toady:  Yes, sir.  So, as for your response…

Trump:  You see how I’m making America great again?  MAGA?  Get it?  Do you have one of my MAGA hats?  Everybody’s wearing them, people say to me all the time they love wearing my MAGA hats.

Toady:  No, sir.  I mean, yes, sir, I have a MAGA hat.  As for your response…

Trump:  Hey, I’ll take care of it.  I always do, don’t I?

Trump took care of it the next morning by calling his buddies at State TV, also known as the Fox Network, and did his usual name-calling, denigrating, and whining:

New York (2)

That was March, and this is May, and Trump is still fiddling:

Saturday, May 23, 2020:

trump saturday

Saturday, May 23, 2020:

Forbes_01 (2)

Saturday, May 23, 2020:

CDC (2)

Sunday, May 24, 2020:

May 24 (2)

Sunday, May 24, 2020:

CDC final (2)

Sunday, May 24, 2020:

ny times

“The San Diego Casinos Are Open, The San Diego Casinos Are Open!”

Open_01

“Let’s go stand in line for two hours in killer heat to get in and give them our money!”

open_04 smaller

“I’ll get my temperature taken, and everything will be fine!”

twitter smaller

“See?  I got my mask and gloves and…um…well…my mask, anyway!”

Union Trib (2)

“Let’s risk our lives to play the slots and blackjack and bingo!”

KPBS (2)

“See?  Every other slot machine is turned off, so we’re safe!”

open_02 smaller

“And shut up about the ‘at-risk age group!’”

Not Even My Coronavirus Crazies Will Convince Me To Cook This

ice cube dispenser croppedI’d never call myself a cook, but there are some recipes I’ve got nailed.

Ice cubes, for instance (see image, right).

Canned soup.  I am a can opener meister.

Heating the soup?

Optional.

Butter?  I’ve got that stick out of the wrapper and onto a plate in seconds.

Otherwise, my kitchen adventures generally look like this:

coffee

And this:

buffalo wings first attempt

And this:

spaghelli cropped larger

But the other day I encountered this glorious photo in my newspaper:

Soup_01

It’s Takeout-Style Hot-and Sour Soup

And thought, “Oh, does that look good!  I want some of this!”

Further perusal told me that this recipe was “especially easy.”

Better and better.

Then my eyes drifted down the page, to the ingredients:

11 herbs and spicesAll sixteen of them.

Sixteen ingredients?  Geez!

Even Colonel Sanders keeps it to eleven “secret herbs and spices”!

And the recipe directions?

Let me put it this way:  The recipe directions were shorter than War and Peace

But not by much.

And the verbs involved in making this soup?

Rinse.  Soak.  Squeeze.  Reserve.  Strain.  Discard.  Slice.  Chop.  Combine.  Mix.  Marinate.yeah-sure-whatever-cropped fixed  Stir.  Boil.  Cook.  Remove.  Discard.  Add.  Simmer.  Recombine.  Separate.  Pour.  Turn off.  Serve.

Well, I was certainly feeling the “strain,” just from reading the directions.

And when I got near the end, “turn off” sounded like good advice.

So I did.

I won’t be making Hot-and-Sour Soup, “Takeout-Style” or any style.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I left something heating in the microwave…

microwave_nasty_disaster_640_06

How To Stay Home – And Act Against Censorship

My attitude about books is:

If you don’t approve of a book, then don’t read it.  Don’t let your kids read it.  Tell other family members and friends:

“Don’t read it.”

But do not – DO NOT – tell me I can’t read it.

And do not – DO NOT – tell the world that they can’t read it.

“What,” I want to ask these people, “gives you the right to tell me what I can and cannot read?”

my_01 croppedWho are “these people”?

They’re individuals, parents, religious groups, organizations and politicians.

They’re people who have decided that their beliefs are the only acceptable beliefs, and any books that don’t echo their beliefs should be removed from schools, universities and public libraries.

If they had their way, these books would be banned from bookstores.

If they had their way, these books would never be printed.

Many of these people take the step of “challenging” books they don’t approve of.

That means, according to the American Library Association (ALA), a “formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that the materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.”

The ALA tracks the challenges and publishes an annual list of challenged and banned books:

AP (2)

Harry Potter?????

Here are definitions:

“A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.”

The challengers don’t limit their objections to books – they also go after any library materials including magazines and DVDs, and services like public programs featuring authors whose books they object to.

And the reasons they object are varied:  the stories have gay or transgender themes;serious cropped sorcery themes; “vulgarity and sexual overtones”; “goes against family values/morals”; “encourages disruptive behavior”; addresses teen suicide; for its religious viewpoint; for leading children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex”; has an offensive political viewpoint; and is “disgusting and all-around offensive.”

And it’s not enough that people challenge these books and sometimes get them removed from libraries and schools.  The words “relocated restricted, and hidden” also appear, and – to my horror – burning:

2018:

2018 (2)

Paul Dorr Iowa smaller

2019:

2019

georgia

Do the above look familiar?

Nazi book burning, Germany, 1933:

nazi

And – no coincidence, considering who’s in the White House – the number of targeted books is increasing, according to the ALA:

2016:  323censorship cropped
2017:  416
2108:  483
2019:  566

If you value your freedom and oppose censorship, there are all sorts of suggestions online about how to oppose book banning, and they’re all good.

But you can also oppose book banning right in the comfort of your own home.

Here’s how:

Defend First Amendmend larger

And here’s what:

banned books cropped

banned_03 larger cropped

banned_04 cropped

These “Spots” Are Easy To Spot

unprepared croppedSomeday, when our history books talk about the coronavirus pandemic, they’ll talk about how unprepared we – the people, and we – the government, were.

I wonder if the history book writers will also talkprepared cropped about how very prepared, and how nimble, our advertising agencies were in creating timely commercials.

Commercials – also called “spots,” by those in the know.

How, in a matter of mere days, car company spots quickly transitioned from “Buy a new car now and everyone will see how cool you are!” to…“Get six months with no payments because we’re all in this together.”

“We’re all in this together” so hurry up and buy a car!

How touching.

I’m not talking about restaurant commercials – I’m OK with restaurants talking about being “in this together” for a couple of reasons:

First, to accommodate us, many restaurants have reconfigured theirfree businesses to do curbside pickup and free deliveries.  And second, I consider restaurant employees to be frontline people – just as much as grocery staff, delivery drivers and postal workers.

Unlike car companies.

And all the other companies who are trying to sell us something just as much as ever, but disguise it as a pseudo-public service because they “care” about us.

Since I mentioned car companies, let’s start with one, namely, Lincoln:

It begins with:

Boxes (2)

We see a woman looking wistfully out the window:

Lincoln 1 (2)

The voice says,

“More than ever, your home is your sanctuary.  That’s why Lincoln offers you the ability to purchase a new vehicle remotely with participating dealers.”

So she’s getting a new Lincoln delivered, and that would be swell except for this:

Lincoln 2 (2)

So face mask, no gloves, no social distancing – and did the delivery guy disinfect whatever that is before he handed it to her?

“That’s the power of sanctuary,” the commercial assures us.

Yeah – they’ll bring a new Lincoln and coronavirus right to your “sanctuary.”

Note:  This commercial includes…

Boxes (3)

The Lincoln commercial was a mere 30 seconds long, child’s play when compared to a 77-second spot from Budweiser.

It starts out with – guess what?

Boxes (2)

The voice says, “This Bud’s for the blues…the reds…

Bud 1 (2)

And more images, one after the other, all for whom “this Bud” is for.

And then:

Bud 2 (2) fixed

Note:  This commercial includes…

Boxes (3)

But Budweiser’s 77-second effort pales when compared to a 90-second behemoth from Apple.

In it we see videos and still shots of many people doing many creative things – but only with Apple products, of course.

Again we have:

Boxes (2)

This time the voice is Oprah’s – doesn’t get any more soothing than that – but we hear her only briefly, extolling the possibilities of how the “pandemic is bringing us together”:

Oprah (2)

Followed by more videos and still shots of many people doing many creative things (but only with Apple products), right up to the end when we see:

Apple 2 (2)

Followed by the Apple icon, which is…

Boxes (3)

Are we seeing a pattern here, or am I imagining it?

No, it’s definitely a pattern, and it even has its own name:

“Coronavirus-aware commercials”:

Coronavirus aware (2)

And “COVID-Aware Ads”:

Covid (2)

And if you’re an advertising agency that’s stumped about how to convince people that you care about them, there’s an abundance of information out there, including this from AdWeek, the bible of the industry:

Ad Tips (2)

Of course, Lincoln, Budweiser and Apple are huge international companies.

But with these examples and tips, local businesses can do the coronavirus-awareness/COVID-aware thing, too.

We’ll start with…

Boxes (2)

That soothing voice says…

Tom's Tire Town

“Hi, I’m Tom, from Tom’s Tire Town.  And because I care about you, I’m here to remind you to check the air in your tires regularly.  In fact, right now you can bring your car to Tom’s Tire Town, and I’ll check your tires – for free.  Yes, free.  And that’s a savings to you of $29.95.  So, come in today, and remember…

Tom's (2)

Boxes (3)

To California Governor Gavin Newsom:

On May 8, California Governor Newsom took a hugely important step:

Headline_0-2 (2)

That’s right:  Every eligible voter in California will receive a mail-in ballot for the November 2020 election.

California is now the first state in the U.S. to provide absentee ballots to all registered voters because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Californians who may need access to in-person voting opportunities – including individuals with disabilities, individuals who speak languages other than English, individuals experiencing homelessness, and others – will still be able to access in-person voting opportunities.

Was Newsom did was smart for a number of reasons:

First:  There could be a shortage of poll workers in November.  Many election workerscrowds_01 cropped are retired or elderly, a group that falls into the high-risk category for COVID-19.

Second:  Crowded polls aren’t conducive to social distancing.

Third:  People can vote in the safety and convenience of their homes, increasing voter participation.

Fourth:  Mail-in ballots are easy.  And, according to the ABC article, the state is making it ever easier:  All return postage will be prepaid.

And here’s another reason:

Headline (2)

Bad Thing (2)

May 7, 2020:

When I heard that Trump’s valet had tested positive for COVID-19, I thought, “Of course Trump has a valet, like a lot of other pretentious rich men.”

I’d presumed – silly me – that this valet was someone from Trump’s pre-White House days, another sycophant who’d trailed along in Trump’s wake.children

You know – like Ivanka.  And Jared.  And Don Jr.  And What’s-His-Name.

So I was aghast to read that, no – the valet was not a long-time Trump employee.

Trump’s valet is a member of the United States military.

Specifically, one whose job description apparently incudes “laying out the president’s clothes.”

Which is paid for with our…

tax dollars cropped

Trump can’t lay out his own clothes.

Trump lacks the skillset of a five-year-old who declares, “I can dress myself!”

And though that kid may end up looking like this:

kid_01

Parents appreciate that early, small-but-important step of their child’s independence.

A step Trump hasn’t taken.

We are paying someone to lay out Trump’s clothes.

I can imagine the conversation between Trump and his valet, discussing that day’s apparel choices:

Trump:  Whaddaya think, is it an eight-inch day?

(Trump is referring to the length of his tie, and how far down it should hang below his belt.  His ties are labeled with stickers that identify each:)

Ties (2)

Valet:  Well, sir, you wore the six-inch tie yesterday and had great success at the American Association of Retired Persons conference.

Trump:  I wowed ‘em, didn’t I?  Those old farts love how I’m protecting ‘em from all the virus stuff.

Valet:  Indeed, sir.

Trump:  Yeah.  But today I’m doing a White House lawn thing, and the fu**ing fake news will be there.  Let’s go all out.  I say eight inches!  That tie really screams “The media is the enemy of the American people!”

tweet_01

It turns out that clothes aren’t a White House valet’s only responsibility.  According to this article:

The Cut (2)

Trump apparently has not one, but “…two office valets and three residence valets:

“Valets who work in the Oval provide anything Trump requests, such as coffee, food, or whatever else he might need during the day.

“Residential valets, meanwhile, do Trump’s ‘laundry, iron his attire for the day, and pack his suitcases.  These employees also interact regularly with the president, delivering his newspaper or any other messages he might need.’”

So…

Valet:  Good morning, Mr. President.  I’ve brought your morning newspapers.

Trump:  Take ‘em away.  I don’t read those boring Daily Intelligence Briefings, why would I read that fu**ing fake news?

All the Trump valets, CNN noted, are “of an elite military unit dedicated to the White House”:

Elite military unit cropped
An “elite military unit” – Trump’s five valets, dressed and ready to fetch coffee and food, lay out his clothes, do his laundry, and iron.  A good use of their years of military training.

And, CNN continued:

“They are responsible for the President’s food and beverage not only in the West Wing but also travel with him when he’s on the road or out of the country.”

So…

Valet:  Mr. President, today would you care for McDonald’s?  KFC?  Taco Bell?

Trump:  Yeah!

fast food

The valet who tested positive for coronavirus so far remains nameless.

And Trump, who’s never shown a scintilla of sympathy for him, nor for families grieving the loved ones they’ve lost to the pandemic…

Nor an iota of empathy, of which he’s incapable…

Wash Post (2)

Had only this to say:

That his valet’s life-threatening COVID-19 infection was “one of those things.”

And that he’d had “very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman.”

And, NBC reported,

“After learning that one of his valets was infected, Trump became ‘lava-level mad’ at his staff and said he doesn’t feel it is doing all it can to protect him, according to a person close to the White House.”

Because, truly, who is the pandemic all about?

all about me

Book Review:  Note – This Blog Post Is A…

Honest!  Not one word about coronavirus below!

“Belgravia” – The Book, Not The Made-For-TV Movie

Publication date:  2016roses three_01

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, long version:

If you know the name Julian Fellowes, it’s probably because you’ve been hearing it – a lot – for the past 10 years.

Fellowes was the creator and co-writer of Downton Abbey, a television phenomenon that began airing in the UK in 2010 and the U.S. in 2011.  It ran for six seasons with 52 episodes, and was so popular it was crowned with a Downton Abbey feature film in 2019.

Rumors of a sequel abound.

julianFellowes was a prolific writer before Downton Abbey and since then as well, including his 2016 novel Belgravia.  Not content to simply have written that, he then wrote a six-episode made-for-TV version of the book that aired in the UK earlier this year, and was introduced to U.S. audiences in April.

Belgravia isn’t the high-profile, multi-year phenom that Downton was, but I’m looking forward to seeing all the characters and costumes and twists and turns it when it becomes available on DVD.  Though set in a different time period than Downton, the two stories have much in common:  English aristocracy, their “downstairs” counterparts, and the customs, morals – and snobbery – of both.

Belgravia (the book) opens one night in June 1815 in Brussels, just before the famous Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon’s final defeat.  That takes a mere 30 pages, then we then skip ahead to 1841 and the ramifications of events that transpired back in 1815.

Fellowes is a master at depicting English class-consciousness in a way I think is like watching two cars crash – it’s dreadful, yet you can’t look away.  Calling on a countesssnobbery without an invitation?  Unheard of!  A single woman walking in the park without her maid?  Horrors!  The daughter of an earl wanting to marry in man in trade?  Absolutely not!

And downstairs, the maid is kowtowing to and conspiring with the butler, the butler is kowtowing to and conspiring with the heir, and the heir has murder in mind.

Mix in a load of secrets and scandals, some truly nefarious and not-so-nefarious characters, gambling problems, drinking problems and the de rigueur of changing your outfits (including jewelry) five times a day, and no wonder the aristocracy needed a few months to rest.

At their country mansions, of course.

Several Amazon reviewers described Belgravia as a “soap opera” and that’s accurate enough, based on the plot description from the book jacket:book

“…in this new world, where the aristocracy rub shoulders with the emerging nouveau riche, there are those who would prefer the secrets of the past to remain buried…”

Soap opera?  Bring it on!

Fellowes weaved his large cast of characters into a plot that kept me guessing – will the Trenchard’s reputation be ruined beyond redemption?  Will Charles ever find out who he actually is?  How long can this cover-up stay…covered up?

I enjoyed reading Belgravia, snobbery, secrets and all.  And I have no doubt that Fellowes did a masterful job of bringing his characters to television.  Let’s meet some of them, shall we?

(left to right):  Mrs. Oliver (Susan) Trenchard, Lady Maria Grey, Mr. Charles Pope, the Countess of Brockenhurst, Mr. and Mrs. James Trenchard, the Earl of Brockenhurst…

movie smaller

The “downstairs” gang…

servants

And a cast of thousands…

cast of thousands smaller

Ah, Justice…

Sometimes, there is justice, after all.

Take this recent story about a guy who decided to make money off the pandemic.

He and a bunch of cronies made multiple trips to Drakes Supermarket in Adelaide, Australia and bought mass quantities of toilet paper and hand sanitizers.

His plan was to sell the stuff on eBay and gouge people like you and me and everyone who’s gone looking to buy those items and…

empty

This guy, who so far is nameless, figured he’d make lots of money off desperate people.

And it may have started that way.

But then eBay shut Nameless Gouger down.

And the Drakes Supermarket director, John-Paul Drake, shut him down, too.

According to this article and numerous others…

Newsweek (2)

Nameless Gouger returned to Drakes to get a refund on 150 packets of 32-pack toilet paper and 150 units of one-liter hand sanitizer.

That’s 4,800 rolls of toilet paper and about 40 gallons of hand sanitizer.

About $10,000 Australian dollars worth of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

John-Paul Drake’s response:

“I told him that,” Drake said later in a YouTube video, emphatically extending his middle finger (which YouTube chose to pixilate):

John

Leaving Nameless Gouger with $10,000 worth of products instead of $10,000 in his pocket.

I call that…

justice_01 cropped

This story happened in Australia but make no mistake, it’s happening here, too.

So said many media outlets in mid-March – here’s my favorite headline:

Headline (2)

According to The New York Times,

“On March 1, the day after the first coronavirus death in the United States was announced, brothers Matt and Noah Colvin set out in a silver SUV to pick up some hand sanitizer.  Driving around Chattanooga, TN, they hit a Dollar Tree, then a Walmart, a Staples and a Home Depot.  At each store, they cleaned out the shelves.

“Over the next three days, Noah Colvin took a 1,300-mile road trip across Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes.”

Matt Colvin

The nimble brothers continued scooping up hand sanitizer, eventually amassing more than 17,000 bottles, and began selling them on Amazon:

“Mr. Colvin said he had posted 300 bottles of hand sanitizer and immediately sold them all for between $8 and $70 each.”

Amazon shut down the Colvin enterprise, said the Times article, leaving them with lots of product and nowhere to sell it.

I call that…

justice_01 cropped

Reading about Nameless Gouger, the Colvins and others like them gave me the opportunity to learn a new phrase:

retail-arbitrage- cropped

Here’s the definition of retail arbitrage, or “RA,” as some call it:

“Retail arbitrage is a simple concept.  A retail store (such as Walmart, Target, etc.) sells a product (either online or in-store) for a certain price.  You purchase that product and sell it for a higher price yourself and pocket the profit.”

And, said another source,

“The practice is perfectly legal.  According to the US Supreme Court, a retailer cannot stop someone from reselling their products if the merchandise has been legally acquired.”

Retail arbitragers have always been with us, and always will be.  And I suppose there’s nothing wrong with buying an item, marking it up a few dollars, and reselling it.

70 croppedBut the Colvins were charging up to $70 on Amazon for a bottle of hand sanitizer – and selling it to someone desperate to protect their family from COVID-19.

And one of the Colvins suggested, according to the Times, that he was actually performing a “public service.”

To the Colvins and the Nameless Gouger and all the others who hoarded, and are now stuck with their hoard instead of wads of cash…

I call that…

justice_01 cropped

happy cropped

Taxpayers Can Take Little “Comfort” From The “Comfort”

It’s unsurprisingly easy to find lots of statistics about the Comfort (pictured above), one of the Navy’s two hospital ships (the other is the Mercy, below).Mercy ship

It’s unsurprisingly difficult to find out what it cost us taxpayers for the Comfort to sit in New York’s harbor for a month, doing…

Not much.

As the Comfort sailed away from New York on April 30, the Navy was – to say the least – tight-lipped about the cost of the excursion.  According to a USA Today outlet:

“The Defense Department said it did not have information on how much the Comfort’s mission to New York cost.”

That, of course, is a lie.

Why not just say, “The Comfort’s mission to New York cost $X,XXX,XXX”?

Perhaps because after its March 28 HUGE sendoff from its Norfolk, VA home, during its 30 days in New York…

Only 182 people were treated on the 1,000-bed Comfort.

Backstory:  When the Comfort was deployed to New York, according to this article:

Market (2) fixed

“The Comfort was supposed to take in patients not infected by the coronavirus, so that hospital staff could focus on the pandemic.  However, this plan was shortsighted and poorly implemented.  The procedure used to determine who was and wasn’t infected was inefficient and time-consuming, making it hard even for qualifying patients to be admitted.

“To make matters worse, even if a patient did not have the coronavirus infection, there was still a list of 49 other medical conditions that would exclude him or her from receiving the aid on board the Comfort.”

Eventually the Comfort crew did start caring for coronavirus patients, and 11 people that were treated on the ship died from it, the Defense Department said.  Several ship personnel came down with the coronavirus while deployed to New York.

And then the Comfort went home.

Since the Defense Department wasn’t telling us taxpayers what this cost, I headed for google and searched for “cost of Comfort deployment to New York.”  Silly me – I thought I’d found an answer on the Navy’s website, but when I clicked the link and got this:

Navy (2)

“File not currently available.”

Imagine that.

So I kept looking – and looking – and eventually encountered this 2018 article:

Mercy (2)

According to the article, referring to both the Comfort and the Mercy:

“In its 2019 fiscal year budget proposal, the Navy asked for just over $120 million to sustain both ships and their on-board facilities.”

Ah!  Now we’re getting somewhere.dollar plus cropped

So, $60 million per hospital ship for one year.

$60 million divided by 365 days is $164,383 per day.

$164,383 per day times 30 days is $4,931,490.

So, about $5 million for the Comfort’s 30 days in New York harbor.dollar plus cropped

Let’s not overlook the six or so days the Comfort spent sailing to and from New York:

Six days at $164,383 per day, add about another $1 million.

And what did we taxpayers get for that?

True, the Comfort’s crew treated 182 people, and of course we’re grateful for that.

But I think what we were actually paying for was this:

Trump photo ops:

2020 Campaign Rally, Norfolk Naval Base, March 28, 2020:

trump norfolk_01 smaller

“We will stop at nothing to protect the health of New Yorkers and the health of the people of our country in their hour of need.”  [Except providing testing for everyone]

trump at Norfolk_02 smaller

“This legislation delivers job retention loans for small businesses to help them keep workers on payroll…” [like the Los Angeles Lakers]

trump at Norfolk

“We’re now the number one tester anywhere in the world, by far.”  [And as of May 3, we’re also number one in the world for confirmed cases and deaths]

Unsurprisingly, on April 30 Trump was not at the pier in New York for another campaign rally and additional photos ops when the Comfort departed.

Probably because, as the Comfort sailed away, these headlines were trailing behind it:

Salon (2)

USA (2)

Military.com (2)

6 cropped

“It’s Like UNO, Except There Are Goats, Magical Enchiladas And Kittens That Can Kill You.” – CNN

Seven-year-old to Alexa:  Alexa, what’s Russian Roulette?

Alexa:  Russian Roulette is a lethal game of chance in which a player places a single round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against their head, and pulls the trigger, in the hope that the round does not reach the barrel of the gun and Girl Looking At Wireless Speakertherefore fire…

(Parents walk into room and pause, horrified)

…in which case, your head is blown open, your brains and blood are scattered all over the room, and you’re dead.

Horrified Parents:  Honey, why did you ask Alexa that?

Seven-year-old:  Because at school today, Janey invited me to come over and play Exploding Kittens.  She said it’s a kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette!

*****

When Janey said that, she was simply echoing the words of Elan Lee, one of the creators of an apparent phenomenon that’s been around since 2015.

But I’d never hear of.

Until recently, when the words “Exploding Kittens” figured prominently in the headline of this New York Times article:

NY Times (2)

“Exploding Kittens” are also the first two words in the article.

All this caused me to pause and think…

wait what

The article goes on to say that due to the pandemic, Amazon began prioritizing products like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, so “tens of thousands of customers were searching” for Exploding Kittens but couldn’t find it.

What the hell, I wondered, is Exploding Kittens?

I started at the source – explodingkittens.com – and watched a brief but enlightening video.  The game is based on a deck of cards.  Players take turns drawing from a deck of cards until…

bikini cat
Exploding Kittens include what’s described as the “anatomically correct” Bikini Cat.

“Whoever draws an Exploding Kitten card explodes, they are dead and they are out of the game.”

Well, that seems pretty straightforward.

If I’m lucky, on my first draw I’ll get an Exploding Kitten card, I’m out, and I can go do something even more challenging.

Change the stale air in my car tires, maybe?

The video goes on to suggest that players can develop “fun or cruel strategies,” and “The longer you play, the more tense the game gets.”

So – so far I can be dead, or cruel and tense.

My next stop was Amazon, where it appears that Exploding Kittens was, in fact, available, and was, in fact, recommended for “ages seven and up.”

There’s also an adult version for “ages 30 and up,” the description of which includes:

  • Same Exploding Kittens madness, but with card art much too horrible/incredible to include in a kid-friendly version.  Do NOT buy for children, unless you’re ready to have some weird conversations.
  • More than 9 million copies sold, breaking records in kids games, adult games and everything in-between.loser sad sauce cropped
  • A highly strategic, kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette.  Basically, if you draw an Exploding Kitten, you lose and you are full of incendiary loser sad-sauce.  If you don’t explode, YOU WIN!  Congratulations, you are full of greatness!

So I could be dead, or cruel and tense, and “full of incendiary loser sad-sauce.”

And while I’m being all that, the Exploding Kittens creators are being millionaires.

This I learned in an enlightening article from CNBC:

CNBC (2)

The 2016 article noted,

“Over 2.5 million decks of Exploding Kittens have been ordered in one year at $20 apiece, meaning revenues are an estimated $50 million.”

Meaning that making seven-year-olds dead, or cruel and tense, and curious about Russian Roulette, has been very profitable from the get-go for the aforementioned creator Elan Lee and his co-creator Matt Inman.

But Lee and Inman aren’t resting on their laurels, or rather – their millions.  They’ve gone on to create other games including Imploding Kittens, Streaking Kittens, Throw Throw Burrito, Bears vs. Babies and more.

But the one that especially caught my eye – and I’ve no doubt will catch the eyes of curious seven-year-olds – is this one:

crabs cropped

Seven-year-old:  Alexa, what are crabs?

Girl Looking At Wireless Speaker Alexa:  Crabs, also known as pubic lice, are parasitic insects that spread easily during sexual contact.  They’re called “crabs” because of the tiny claws they use to cling to hair.

They live on the skin and coarse hairs that are around your genitals, and they feed on your blood.  Crabs can cause discolored skin, with pale blue spots developing where the crabs have been feeding continually.  In addition…

girl scared

 

 

 

With Pence It’s…

I rarely mention Pence in my blog posts because there’s not much to say about him.

He’s a greedy, self-seeking, selfish liar – so he’s suited for his current role as Trump Toady #1.

I’ll also add “hypocrite” to that description, after his behavior on April 28 during his visit to the Mayo Clinic:

Masks no masks

Everyone – everyone around Pence was wearing a face mask.

If Pence doesn’t want to protect himself – so be it.  But what about wearing a face mask to protect other people?

Or does the simple fact that there are people just…not occur to him?

Here’s my take on a possible follow-up conversation between Pence and a member of the media:

 Interviewer:  Mr. Vice President, you visited the world-famous Mayo Clinic on Tuesday, April 28, and didn’t wear a face mask.  Since then you’ve been excoriated in the press, on Twitter, on late-night talk shows and by medical experts, for your disregard of the Mayo Clinic’s face mask guidelines and the guidelines of your own Coronavirus Task Force, which you chair.  How do you feel about that?hypocrisy_meter cropped

Pence:  While our hearts are with the families of those who have lost their life to the coronavirus and those who are struggling with serious illness today, our team informs us that the data continues to show promising signs of progress.

Interviewer:  The Mayo Clinic had made the wearing of face masks mandatory on April 13, and said – in a now-deleted tweet – that they had informed you of their masking policy prior to your arrival.  How do you respond to that?

Pence:  Our only conclusion is that we’re getting there, America, because the American people have put into practice the President’s guidelines of social distancing because you’ve been listening and adhering to the guidance of state and local officials.

Interviewer:  You said “social distancing,” Mr. Vice President, yet at the Mayo Clinic you were seen elbow-bumping with a patient:

elbow bump

Interviewer:  Social distancing guidelines are six feet separation, so how do you explain that?

Pence:  We want to thank the more than 270 leaders of organizations dedicated to housing, homelessness, and improving the lives of people across our urban communities for the way they have partnered with our administration and partnered with state and local officials to put the health of all of their constituencies first.

Interviewer:  Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, pointed out that you were in “a hospital in the middle of a pandemic,” and that this, above all times, was “the time when you wear a mask.”  How would you respond to that?

pence

Pence:  Since I don’t have the coronavirus, I thought it’d be a good opportunity for me to be there, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible health-care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.

(long pause)

Interviewer:  Mr. Vice President, you are aware that a face mask doesn’t cover your eyes, or in any way prevent your looking someone in the eyes…aren’t you?

Pence:  Let me just end where I began, and to say thank you to the American people.  The progress that we are seeing is a testament to what all of you have done; to our extraordinary healthcare workers; to a partnership between the federal government and to state and local officials.  And I’m confident it’s also owing to the prayers of millions of Americans each and every day.

Made For Each Other:

pence trump_01 fixed

Headline Final (2)

worldometer (2)

You’ve Heard Of “Fox & Friends” – Here’s…

A friend mentioned that in my blog posts about Trump, I often use the words “toady” and “toadies” to refer to the people around him.

And why not?  It’s the perfect word:

Definition (2)

And here are some excellent synonyms:

Syn (2)

I use “toady” and “toadies” for people like Pence, Mnuchin, Pompeo, McConnell, Kudlow, McCarthy, Mulvaney, Kushner…

toads multiple

…Barr, Graham, Miller, McEnany, Wheeler, Conway, Trump’s offspring, other Cabinet members…the people you see on TV who, when asked a question about Trump, get that acolyte glow on their face like they’ve just had a religious experience.

And for them – they have.

I mention this now because of a recent example of just how obsequious (“obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree”) Trump’s toadies are, and how truly afraid of him as well.

On at least three recent occasions, when Trump was talking about the pandemic crisis, he referenced the flu pandemic of the early 20th century.

And while I’m no expert, I do know that that pandemic began in 1918.

It’s commonly referred to as the “1918 Flu Pandemic” – for example, on the Centers for Disease Control website…

CDC (2)

In reference materials…

Brit (2)

In the media…

CNN (2)

It’s tempting to say that everyone with a basic knowledge of 20th century American history knows it was the “1918 Flu Pandemic.”

Tempting, but inaccurate.

Because – no surprise – the Ignoramus-in-Chief does not.

Trump referred to it as occurring in “1917.”

Over and over and over again.

Here’s one example:

Headline (2)

The article recounts,

“Trump was responding to a question about what he would say to children, many of whom have been stuck at home while the coronavirus pandemic has forced schools across the country to close temporarily.when cropped fixed

“‘I would say you are a citizen of the greatest country anywhere in the world.  We were attacked like nothing that’s happened possibly since 1917.  Many, many years ago.  We were attacked.’”

Same error, different quote, from a March 27 New York Post article:

“Swine flu is pretty bad, but it wasn’t to the extent of this.  I think you probably when cropped fixedhave to go back a long ways to go to this one.  Who would think – I read about the Spanish Flu – that was 1917 – which killed anywhere from 75 to 100 million people.”

And yet another one, from an April 4 Newsweek article:

“Trump said thousands of military soldiers, doctors and nurses will be directed to hot spots around the country to help supplement local physicians and nurses treating the virus.

“‘We’ll be telling them where they’re going.  They’re going into war, they’re going when cropped fixedinto a battle that they’ve never trained for.  Nobody’s trained for, nobody’s seen this, I would say since 1917, which was the greatest of them all.’

“The 1917 reference was for the 1918 flu pandemic, which was the most severe pandemic in world history, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

And while I was noticing this repeated error, so were others:

Twitter (2)

I’m certain at least one or two of Trump’s toadies noticed as well, and that’s my point:

Not one of the toadies corrected him because they’re all too busy sucking up to him.

And they’re all too afraid of him.

Because such a conversation would have sounded like this:toad cropped

Toady #1:  Fine pandemic briefing today, Mr. President, so well done, your best yet.

Trump:  I nailed it, didn’t I?

Toady #2:  You did, indeed, sir, you did indeed.

Trump:  I gotta call Hannity and see what he says.  Did you want something else?

toad cropped reversedToady #3:  Yes, sir.  I mean…well, not exactly, but…it’s…um…

Trump:  And tomorrow morning I’ll call Fox & Friends – they love me on that show.  You’ve seen how much they love me, right?

Toady #2:  Yes, sir.  It’s just that…that…over the past few days, when you’ve been talking about the coronavirus pandemic…

Trump:  Yeah, that Chinese flu thing.

Toady #1:  …and you’ve been referring to the Spanish Flu pandemic and saying “1917.”

Trump:  Yeah, and something else happened that year, too.  1917, war or something, right?toad cropped

Toady #3:  Yes, sir.  Yes, but not the flu.  That didn’t happen until 1918.

(Long silence)

Trump:  Are you…saying…I…MADE…A…MISTAKE?

Toady #1:  Oh, no, sir, never!  Ever!  We just thought you’d want to know…

Trump:  I don’t pay you to #@%!#!ing think!  You’re #@%!#!ing fired!  You’re ALL #@%!#!ing fired!

Toads unemployment (2)

None – not one – of Trump’s offspring, his Cabinet, his chosen advisors had the huevos to offer this tiny correction to help Trump look just a tiny bit less ignorant.

Because if they do…

you're fired

Update April 28, 2020:

Here’s perhaps the worst toady of all:

Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the Trump Administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force.

On April 23, there she sat on the stage at Trump’s briefing as he talked about disinfectant and suggesting getting it into the lungs was a coronavirus treatment option:

Birx

He turned to her several times as he spewed out more of his ridiculous, unproven, dangerous and in this case, deadly theories.

Let’s take a closer look at Dr. B:

Birx cropped larger

There she sits, eyes lowered, head bowed, hands clasped in her lap, looking like a first grader who’s getting a shellacking from the teacher.

Now let’s imagine…

Imagine that instead of sitting like a spineless lump, Birx stands up and says, “No, sir, absolutely not.  What you’re talking about – getting disinfectant into the body – is dangerous and could be deadly and it’s totally wrong.”

Then she turns to the camera and speaks to the TV audience:  “I ask – I beg – the American people to disregard what the president just said.  Never, ever, under any circumstances should you inject or ingest any kind disinfectant into your body.  It will not kill the coronavirus but it could kill you.”

But…she didn’t.toad cropped

Why?

Because she’s another Trump toady.

And because of that – we have this:

Update headline (2)

Do NOT Try This At Home

Trump, March 6, 2020:

“You know, my uncle was a great person.  He was at MIT.  He taught at MIT for, I think, like a record number of years.  He was a great super genius.  Dr. John Trump.  I like this stuff.  I really get it.  People are surprised that I understand it.  Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’  Maybe I have a natural ability.”

Trump, April 23, 2020:

“I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute.  And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.  So it would be interesting to check that.”

April 25, 2020:

Headline Final (2)

NOT Recommended For Shelter-In-Place TV Viewing

There is no end to the articles and expert interviews advising us on how to best cope with what is now being called “coronavirus-related anxiety,” like this one:

Headline (2)

Exercise, meditate, hug someone, make lists, take an online class for fun, call a friend, declutter your home…

I say:  Get out of your TV-bingeing rut…

And find some new TV stations to binge on.

Two that I’d seen in my TV listing book – but never watched – are LIFE, short for download croppedLifetime, and LMN, the Lifetime Movie Network.  Research revealed that LIFE “features programming that is geared toward women or features women in lead roles,” while LMN “carries movies and exclusive shows aimed at women, especially made-for-television movies.”

Well, I’m a woman, so maybe there’s something of interest here.

I perused LIFE and LMN in the TV book and found these movie titles all listed in one week:

Mommy is a MurdererMommy is a Murderer
His Fatal Fixation
My Daughter’s Psycho Friend
Psycho Nurse
A Daughter’s Plan to Kill
InstaPsycho
Anniversary Nightmare
Murder in the Suburbs

“Geared toward women”?  “Aimed at women”?

This is what television networks think women want to watch?

Appalled – and sensing an opportunity to heap scorn on someone (another good reliever of coronavirus-related anxiety), I decided to learn more.

lifetime-movies-vector-logoMy TV book listed titles only, so I went on the LIFE and LMN websites.  I discovered that all these movies were produced by LMN, but that week were aired on LMN or LIFE.

I decided to dive deeper into the three movies with “psycho” in their titles – I figure that word guarantees a peaceful and enlightening evening’s entertainment, right?

My-Daughters-Psycho-Friend

My Daughter’s Psycho Friend
When Sierra moves to Los Angeles with her family and goes to a new school, she encounters the devious and psychotic Lexi and her posse of friends.  Soon afterwards at a party, a teenager dies as a result of a Lexi prank.  When Lexi tries to frame Sierra for the kid’s death, Sierra fights back, putting her own life in danger.

Hmmmm.

Psycho Nurse
Mira and Todd are struggling to come to terms with their son’s newly diagnosed psycho nursecondition requiring a special diet and physical treatment in order to live.  They hire a live-in nurse, Gwen, who plans to take Todd and their son from Mira in order to become the new mother of the household.  When Mira feels constantly fatigued and nauseous, it becomes clear Gwen is an “angel of death” who is intent on turning this family into her forever home.

Ohhhhkay.instapsycho

InstaPsycho
When a selfie goes fatally wrong, Gwen must protect her daughter, Maddie, from her social media-obsessed best friend.

Well.

Clearly this is what you want to be watching while you’re desperately struggling to concoct homemade face masks and wondering if that CARES Act check is ever going to show up.

As for me, I think I’ll skip LIFE and LMN and keep perusing the TV book.  Let’s see…

Oh – reruns of The Jerry Springer Show.  I wonder what that’s about?

jerry cropped

Update, April 24:

If you missed the movies I listed above, don’t despair – my TV book says you can catch these treasures starting tonight:baby monitor

Friday, April 24 on LMN
10pm:  The Babysitter’s Revenge

Saturday, April 25 on LIFE
6pm:  Baby Monitor Murders
8pm:  Dying for Motherhood

Saturday, April 25 on LMN:
8pm:  Homekilling Queen
10pm:  Deadly Daughter Switch

I’m Considering Disowning My Home State

Recently there’s been a wave of protests in our country about shelter in place and social distancing.

Protesting is a time-honored and important tradition here, and I respect that.

The protest that especially caught my attention occurred on April 15 in my home state, Michigan.  Specifically, in the state’s capital, Lansing.

Here are some pictures:

MI protest_01 larger

mI protest_04 smaller

MI protest_02 smaller

But it was this Lansing image that stayed with me:

Michigan protestors

Apparently, in my home state, it’s legal for your protest to include guns.

Guns that are, I presume, loaded.

I find that sickening.

Here’s what I find particularly sickening – the person on the right:

Michigan protestors cropped

What a coward you are.

You have a legitimate right to protest, and a legitimate reason – you don’t agree with Governor Witmer’s decisions about the coronavirus lockdown.

So why cover your face?

Why the disguise?

Were you there to protest, or because you bought some really cool stuff at Isis Look-Alikes R Us?

Isis (2)

In 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center tracked 27 hate groups in Michigan.  The groups have names like “Patriot Front,” “American Identity Movement” and “Blood and Honour Social Club.”

Are you a member of one of those?

For sure you’re a member of his team:

trump tweet_01

Map (2)

“Look!  My Check Has HIS Signature!  I’m Gonna Vote For Him!” Said No One, Ever

If there’s one thing our Congress loves to do and does well, it’s to take its time.

If there’s one thing Trump loves to do and does well, it’s to sign his name.

Those two things have now come together in a confluence of partisan politics and massive ego, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

First, Congress.

CARES-ACTA bill to give emergency relief to Americans suffering from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic was introduced in the House on January 24, 2020.

It was called the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act,” acronym “CARES Act,” because we don’t want Trump to have to memorize the title of a bill with more than three words in it.

But even with that nifty acronym, Congress pissed away two months going back and forth and forth and back before the CARES Act was ready for Trump’s signature.

Relief to Americans was delayed for more than two months before Trump, surrounded by his toadies for this photo op, could reach for his reliable black Sharpie to sign the CARES Act on March 27, 2020:

Trump and others

“Help is on the way!” Trump and the politicians crowed, and while the money has finally begun appearing for some via direct deposit, it won’t be until the week of May 4 that the mailing of 70 million paper checks begins.

That’s right – not until the week of May 4, according to numerous online sources including this one:

ABC (2)

And from another source, quoting a memo from the House Ways and Means Committee regarding paper checks:

“The checks will be issued starting with the lowest-income people, and they will be issued at a rate of about five million checks per week.  It could take up to 20 weeks for all of the checks to be issued, according to the memo.”

That means many Americans won’t receive relief checks until September.

Second, Trump.

Trump loves signing his name so much that he then came up with an idea that ONLY his monumental ego could, or would, have.

According to an article in the April 14 Washington Post:

“Trump had privately suggested to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who oversees the IRS, to allow the president to formally sign the checks, according to three administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.”

What a great idea!

Trump wanted to “formally sign the checks,” which requires:

  1. Trump must be in the Oval Office, appropriately made up, coiffed, and dressed, including his overhang tie.trump handing pen cropped
  2. Trump must be surrounded by toadies (as in above photo) and media.
  3. Trump must have supply of black Sharpies nearby.
  4. Trump must secure Sharpie, sign, then hold up signed check, posing for photographers.
  5. Trump must hand Sharpie to toady (right).
  6. Toadies must applaud.

Just think – if Trump was busy doing this five million times a week until September, he might not have time to do this:

Wash Post (2)

Or say things like this, as he did at his April 13 coronavirus briefing:

  • “When somebody’s the President of the United States, the authority istrump angry_02 total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.”
  • “The authority of the President of the United States having to do with the subject we’re talking about is total.”
  • “They [local governments] can’t do anything without the approval of the President of the United States.”

But then somebody at the IRS remembered that Trump is not authorized to sign these checks.  Mnuchin oversees the IRS, and he’s such a total toady that we know for sure it wasn’t him.

But someone did, so Trump and toadies came up with the next best thing:Check (2)

His signature will be printed the left side of the 70 million paper checks (pictured).

Never mind that the IRS’s information technology team, working from home, now must race to implement this programming change, revise computer code, and test the system.

Never mind that this last-minute request will create a downstream snarl that will result in even more delay in issuing the paper checks.

Never mind that following the Nixon era, “Congress enacted laws to ensure that the agency [IRS] conducts itself apolitically,” said the Post article.never mind cropped

Never mind that is move reeks of partisanship.

Never mind that your tax dollars are paying for government resources that could be put to a much more important purpose than pandering to the monstrous-ego-driven, “the-pandemic-is-all-about-me,” “total-authority” Trump.

So, for those of you who receive the much-delayed relief money by direct deposit, and thus will not see the paper checks…

Here’s a close-up sneak preview of what will appear on those paper checks:

Check close-up (2)

Everything’s In Lockdown Except Government Spending, And There, It’s…

Have you ever thought about how an airplane toilet works?

No?

Me, neither.

Or I didn’t, until I saw this recent story:

Headline Final (2)

It appears that, as the Navy was building some of its newest ships, some brainiac designer said, “Hey, why don’t we try using toilets like they have on airplanes?  You know, those vacuum toilet things?”

Vacuum toilets, according to Science.HowStuffWorks.com, “use an active vacuum instead of a passive siphon…When you flush, it opens a valve in the sewer line, and the vacuum in the line sucks the contents out of the bowl and into a tank…They can flush in any direction, including upward.”

“Yeah,” said the brainiac, “you can flush ‘em up, down and all around!  We could change our motto to:

Motto (2)

Apparently this sounded good to the Navy, so in went the vacuum toilets on the new ships.

And in went the crews to use the toilets.

But what went in the toilets…

Wasn’t coming out.

Or, as a March 2020 Government Accounting Office (GAO) report put it, there was an “unexpected and frequent clogging of the system” when too many crew members flushed simultaneously.

This in-but-no-out was occurring on the Navy’s two newest aircraft carriers, the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS George H. W. Bush.

Let’s pause for a moment and compare toilets to toilets.

The world’s largest commercial airplane is the Airbus A380-800, which can be configured to carry up to 835 passengers:

airbus

The plane has lots of vacuum toilets, and lots of passengers.

And plenty of flushing that happens simultaneously.

Airbus did the math, and figured out that this airplane with this many people and this many toilets needed this kind of pipes for the system to work, especially when some/all the toilets were flushed simultaneously.

Repeatedly.

And their system does work.

At least, unlike the Navy, I haven’t seen any headlines about backed-up Airbus toilets.

Now let’s talk about the two ships.

The USS Gerald R. Ford is the world’s largest aircraft carrier and carries about 4,500 people:

170330-N-WZ792-198

The USS George H. W. Bush, also an aircraft carrier, hosts about 3,500:

bush

The Navy’s brainiac designers did not do the math, did not figure out that this ship with this many people and this many toilets needed this kind of pipes for the system to work, especially when some/all of the toilets were flushed simultaneously.

And the system does not work.acid_01 cropped

Repeatedly.

How repeatedly?

The new toilets on the new ships clog so frequently that the ships’ sewage systems must be cleaned periodically with specialized acids costing about $400,000 for each cleaning.

According to the Bloomberg article, quoting from the GAO report,

“The Navy isn’t sure the toilet systems on the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS George H. W. Bush can withstand the demand without failing frequently…the ‘unplanned maintenance action’ will be needed ‘for the entire service life of the ship.’”

Shelby Oakley, a GAO director, put it this way:

“The pipes are too narrow and when there are a bunch of sailors flushing the toilet at the same time, like in the morning, the [vacuum] suction doesn’t work.

“The Navy didn’t anticipate this problem.”

thank you cropped

Ships like the Bush and Ford are predicted to have a service life of up to 50 years.  Figure two ships, with toilets that fail “frequently,” and need this “unplanned maintenance action” at $400,000 each time, over that span of 50 years and…

That’s a lot of our taxpayer dollars.

Going, and I mean, literally going …

Person dumping money into a toilet bowl --- Image by © Rubberball/Corbis

So that was March.

In April there was another report:

Headline

According to the GAO, this time the brainiacs were immigration officials who decided they needed a private protection facility for detainees in Tornillo, TX.  This was, according to the article, in “May, when illegal crossings were up 140% over the previous year and administration officials were clamping down on granting bond to asylum seekers.”

“However,” the article continues, “by the time the facility opened in August, border crossings were down.”

So what did our government do?

They kept spending our tax dollars on it, of course.

This facility, built to hold 2,500 detainees, never held more than 68:

detention-facility-tornillo-ap-860x483

Before Customs and Border Protection (CBP) closed the facility in January, they’d spent $5.3 million for 650,000 meals that were never ordered, and $6.7 million on unnecessary private security guards for the facility.

Between August and November, the latter averaged out to each detainee being guarded by an average of eight officials – or, the article suggested, “one immigration officer, threePerson dumping money into a toilet bowl --- Image by © Rubberball/Corbis contracted guards and four members of the Texas National Guard.”

What’s it all mean?

It means for once – inadvertently – back in February Trump was telling the truth.

Trump was speaking at a White House Business Session with governors from across the country about his administration’s proposed budget:

“We’re doing a lot of things that are very good including waste and fraud – tremendous waste and tremendous fraud.  So, we’re doing that.”

true-pf

Need A TV Show?  This Guy Is…

(Warning:  This program contains content that is carnivore-friendly.  Vegan viewers discretion is advised.)

A few years ago, if you’d told me I’d be hooked on a TV food show, I would have laughed.  No way!

boring_01 croppedNo way would I spend my time watching a show with someone slaving away in a kitchen, mincing and chopping and dicing and braising and sautéing and putting stuff into a salamander, which I thought was a type of lizard but turns out to also be a type of oven.

Watching people preparing food is boring.

Eating food – now, that’s fun.

But one night, apparently desperate for something to watch, my husband and I were channel surfing and encountered a guy who made us wonder…

Who was this guy?Guy

He had peroxided blond porcupine hair in a “do” I don’t know the name of.  And tattoos.  Major tattoos.  And bling – lots of bling.  A mustache, a goatee, and a vocal style that ranged from loud to histrionic.

Who was this guy?

He looked like a hungover Hell’s Angel and sounded like a Wolfman Jack wannabe, not like anyone who knew anything about food.

We watched him with the same fascination you experience watching two cars crash – stunned, yet unable to look away.

Who was this guy?

This guy was Guy Fieri, and his show was the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

guy_03

And by the end of the show…

We were hooked.

Fast forward a few years and we’re still hooked on Guy and Diners.  Fieri is a chef but doesn’t prepare the food – he talks to chefs in diners, driver-ins and dives as they’re making the food.  He’s silly and serious and super-knowledgeable about food ingredients and interactions.

But what we like about him best is – he’s always, always complimentary.  No matter what the chef is serving up, Guy finds good things to say about it, such as:

“This is the fast lane to Flavortown!”
“This scallop is out…of…bounds!”
“Chef, you’re the bomb!”
“That slice is so thin, it only has one side!”
“Off…the…hook!”

And my favorite…

shut cropped

I’ve never heard Fieri say one negative thing on Diners, and bottom line, that’s why we like it – and him.

Plus, Fieri is fun.  He takes the fine art of food preparation seriously – but not himself.

guy_01 croppedSo now, in these lockdown-shelter-in-place times, Guy and Diners are especially welcome.  Also welcome is that recently in my area, the Food Network is carrying the show on both Friday and Saturday evenings.

And we look forward to it.

I don’t envision my hub and I watching other Food Network shows.  Delicious Miss Brown?  Ew.  Chopped?  Ouch.  The Pioneer Woman?  What does she do – rope a wild steer and butcher it while birthing a baby and battling a locust storm?

Although, depending on how long the lockdown lasts, I may be driven to look at that Pioneer Woman thing.

Skewered locusts, anyone?

pioneer woman larger Skewered_locusts

 

Thanks To Trump, We’re The World’s Leader

 

 

 

 

Headline (2)

February 23:
“We have it very much under control in this country.”

 March 6:
“Anybody that wants a test can get a test.  That’s what the bottom line is.  And the tests are beautiful.  Anybody that needs a test gets a test.”

March 10:
“And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it.  And it will go away.  Just stay calm.  It will go away.”

The Journey Of Grandma’s Seven Scarves

packing_02Mom pulled a stack of neatly folded fabrics from a drawer, held it up and said, “These are Grandma’s scarves.  Do you want them?”

She was emptying out her recently deceased mother’s apartment, and I’d gone along to help.

“Yes,” I said.  I didn’t really – I’m not a scarf person – but what would happen otherwise?  The giveaway box?  The trash?  Mom was there to clean out, not collect keepsakes.

I recognized a few of the scarves and remembered Grandma wearing them.  So, while I’m not a scarf person, I am – sometimes – sentimental, and I took Grandma’s scarves.

Eventually I’d pack the stack in my suitcase for my trip home to San Francisco.  The stack would reside in a drawer, not used and not thought about, until I packed the stack to move to Dallas.  Same with moving to Michigan, and then San Diego:  the stack of scarves went into a box, then out of the box and into a drawer.

Not used and not thought about, until news stories started appearing suggesting that medical personnel may be forced to resort to wearing scarves:

Headline_02 (2)

And for the general population, health experts began suggesting that just about any face covering was better than none.  Like William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, in this NPR story on March 31:

“Homemade masks, shawls, scarves and anything that you can conjure up at home might well be a good idea.  It’s not clear that it’s going to give a lot of protection, but every little bit of protection would help.”

I don’t have a sewing machine so I can’t do homemade masks, and I don’t own any shawls.

But scarves – I had scarves somewhere, didn’t I?

I did.

Grandma’s seven scarves.

I found them in a drawer, spread them out on my bed, and actually looked at them for the first time since Mom had handed them to me:

IMG_20200406 fixed

Large and small, squares and rectangles.  Two were silk, the rest untagged or tags removed.  I decided to wash and dry them, except the one marked “Dry Clean Only.”  That one went back into the drawer.

For the most part, Grandma liked color in her scarves, like this one:

Asian lighter

And this one:

Multicolor

How did this pale thing sneak into the group?

Pink

I decided that based on the news stories I was watching and reading, Grandma’s scarves would do as well as these:

scarf_01 cropped scarf-02 cropped Scarf_06 cropped

I wondered what Grandma would think about her scarves as potential face masks.

I wondered what Grandma would think about these dangerous, uncertain times.

But dangerous, uncertain times would not have come as a big shock to Grandma.  She lived a long life, and here are some of the world events she lived through:

Panic of 1893 (1893-1897)
Spanish-American War (1898)
Philippine-American War (1899)
Panic of 1901 (1901)
Panic of 1907 (1907)
World War I (1914-1918)
Polio Epidemic (1916-1955)
Influenza Pandemic (1918-1920)
Great Depression (1929-1933)
World War II (1939-1945)
Korean War (1950-1953)
Vietnam War (1955-1975)
Asian Flu Pandemic (1957-1958)
Hong Kong Flu Pandemic (1968)
London Flu Pandemic (1972-1973)
AIDS Pandemic (1981-present)

Grandma grew up on a farm near Madison, South Dakota, one of 13 children, and they experienced plenty of local challenges, too.

Invasions of grasshoppers “resembling clouds of dust darkening the sky” would damage or destroy crops.  Droughts and prairie fires in the summer, blizzards and sub-zero temperatures in the winter, and the first few years of Grandma’s life are described in local history books as a “period of great depression and hard times.”

Grandma wouldn’t have scorned the scariness of COVID-19.  Instead, I think she would have offered one of her favorite phrases – one I heard her say often:

“You just keep on keepin’ on.”

So today, for the first time in 10 days, I’m going to venture out, grocery list in hand, armed with one of Grandma’s scarves wrapped around my face.

I will keep on keepin’ on.

We will keep on keepin’ on, because that’s what we do.

scarf_05 cropped

While One Gets It Right, One Million+ Get It…

How is it that one individual does this right thing, and helps dozens, perhaps hundreds of people…

While a million+ federal employees and contractors can’t do this one thing right, and instead hurt hundreds, perhaps thousands of people?

Let’s start with…

The Bad News:  Your Tax Dollars At Work

Here’s a federal government entity that until recently, most of us never heard of:

The Strategic National Stockpile

It does not have its own logo, but it does have its own acronym:  SNS.

And many photos, like this:

strategic national stockpile
Um…Maybe you could stop posing…and start shipping?

And the SNS has many, many federal employees and contractors, whose responsibility, according to this government website:

Website (2)

Is “to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies.”

When you click on “About the Stockpile,” you are assured that those employees’ and contractors’ mission is:

“…to support any public health threat.  Stockpile staff represent a variety of specialties, and all work together to ensure the right resources are ready and can get to the right place at the right time.”

All that sounds good, until you see recent headlines like this:

Time (2)

Some examples, according to the story:

  • Nearly 6,000 medical masks sent to Alabama had dry rot and a 2010 expiration date.
  • More than 150 ventilators sent to Los Angeles were broken and had to be repaired.
  • In Oregon, it was masks with faulty elastic that could cause the straps to snap, exposing medical workers to the disease.

Sounds like those federal employees and contractors aren’t ensuring “right resources are ready and can get to the right place at the right time.”

Perhaps that’s because the SNS – according to the website, on the “Sustaining the Stockpile” page – somehow came up with this policy:

“The SNS participates in the Federal Shelf Life Extension Program (for federal stockpiles) which is managed by the Department of Defense and the FDA.  Once the expired image croppedFDA conducts stability testing and determines that products are stable and safe for continued use, the program will extend the use-by dates of pharmaceuticals beyond their original expiration dates.  Testing typically provides an added 12 to 24 months of extended shelf life.  More testing can lead to even longer extensions.  Products that fail FDA testing are removed from stockpile inventory.”

The SNS has about 200 employees, and now we’ve added the Department of Defense (1.4 million) and the FDA (15,000)?

Yet states are getting items that are rotten, broken and faulty?

poison_01 croppedAnd what’s up with extending use-by dates?  If I have ground beef and eggs in the fridge and the use-by dates are two years ago, is this bunch suggesting, “Sure, go ahead, make a scrambler, it’ll be fine”?

Of course not!

So why is the government OK with doing that with lifesaving equipment and medications?

Well, according to yet another page on the website, replacing items “can be very costly.”

And our government has cared about something being “very costly” since…

never

So says Senator Rand Paul (R-KY):

Rand Paul (2)

A million+ federal employees and contractors can’t do this one thing right, and instead hurt hundreds, perhaps thousands of people.

The Good News:  This Guy Did The Right Thing And Gets A Four-Way Win

Jeff Larabee is, according to his website, the Broker/Owner at Larabee Real Estate, a family-owned business in San Diego.

He’s also the owner of this office building:

Larabee building

And Larabee had a problem.

Or rather, 18 of them.

His 18 tenants.

In late March, three of his tenants called with concerns about their ability to pay their April 1 rent.  He knew if these three were struggling, his other tenants likely were hurting as well, as their customers stayed home under the coronavirus lockdown.

His tenants weren’t the only ones feeling pressure.  Larabee is still paying off the loan that helped him afford the building, and no rent income means he’d default on his loan.

can't sleep croppedA four-way lose:  During the lockdown, the tenants’ clients can’t get the services they want/need.  The tenants get evicted.  Larabee defaults and loses the building.  The bank loses money.

Said Larabee, “I went to bed that night thinking if these tenants have to move out, it is not really them who failed.  It is me who failed.”

The next day, Larabee began negotiating with his lender, First Republic Bank.  After long and detailed discussions, they came up with a structure that allowed Larabee to give all 18 tenants three months of free rent.

Several loan modification options were considered, including interest-only payments forapproved_02 a time.

In the end, the bank agreed to remove the next three months of Larabee’s mortgage payments and tack them onto the end of his loan term, extending the pay-off date by 90 days.

“Pick up these three months and tack it on the back,” he said.  “If we do that the bank wins, the owner wins, the tenant wins.”

And the tenants’ clients win, because the tenants will be there for them when the lockdown is lifted.

On his Facebook page Larabee said:

Facebook (2)

One individual does this right thing, and helps dozens, perhaps hundreds of people…

A four-way win.

Union Trib (2)

Movie Review: A Disney Cliffhanger? Yes!

Release Date:  1956

Review, short version:   All thumbs up.

Review, long version:

If you had told me that I’d get really caught up in a Disney movie…

no way cropped fixed

…made in 1956…

no way not me cropped

But I did.

It was The Great Locomotive Chase, based on an actual event in 1862, during our Civil War.

The plan then, and the movie’s plot, was for a group of 22 volunteer Union soldiers – led by James J. Andrews, a civilian scout and part-time spy – to cross into Confederate-held territory dressed as civilians.

They’d steal a Confederate train near Atlanta, GA and head north, sabotaging the railroad tracks between Atlanta and Chattanooga, TN, and rendezvousing with Union forces at Chattanooga:

Map (2)

And any bridges they encountered – burn those behind them, too.

This plan was fraught with challenges; if the soldiers were caught behind Confederate lines in civilian clothes, they could be charged with spying and hung.  There were too few men and they were too poorly equipped with the proper railway track tools and demolition equipment.

And the chase for them began immediately, led by train conductor William Fuller who started off after them on foot, until he, too, commandeered a train to continue his pursuit:

chase_01

But despite the many challenges, as portrayed in the movie – and I have no doubt, during the actual event – while it lasted, it was a wild chase.

And I got plenty tense.

From a Walt Disney movie made in 1956!

yes me cropped larger

And since it was 1956, one aspect I noted in particular was that the trains looked like the real deal – no computer wizardry here.

Research revealed the cast of trains included one built in 1856; a 1937 replica of an identical locomotive built in 1836; and other built in 1875.  I’m no train aficionado, but even I could appreciate these beautiful machines:

Movie_02 cropped

Reviewers at the time noted that The Great Locomotive Chase offered excitement, a swift pace and several tense sequences, but didn’t have a Disney feel-good ending.

It didn’t, and neither did the actual event.

But the movie was one heck of a story, and so was the actual event.

Movie cropped

At Home, With Time On My Hands, I’ve Been Wondering…

 

Every home has a drawer or a box or a bin,
Where we hang onto stuff and just drop it in.
junk drawer cropped
They’re things I might need, but just – not today,
So they go in the drawer cause I’ll need them – someday.
someday cropped
But today I am cleaning and now I will see,
What treasures this drawer has been holding for me.
question marks
Here’s that carryout menu from some place named Bill’s,
I’ve never used it but – maybe I will.
menu
There are keys to the front door, my cars old and new,
And six other keys for – I haven’t a clue.
keyring
Shoe laces, toothpicks, a cell phone that’s dead,
A rainbow of Post-its in blue, green and red.
post its
I dig a bit deeper and what’s in my hands?
A twelve-year collection of old rubber bands.
rubber bands
Pens that are broken and batteries that died,
And one lonely sock over there on the side.
pens
Recipes for food that I’ve never made,
And bills for things I sure hope that I’ve paid.
bills
An old silver dollar, a quarter and dime,
And a watch that would work if I fixed it sometime.
watch
Oh, good, here’s that snapshot I wanted to frame,
It’s such a good picture, but what was their name?
photo
Now the drawer’s almost empty and I’m almost done,
It’s taken awhile, and it hasn’t been fun.
drawer
At the back of the drawer and no wonder I’m tired,
My winning lottery ticket – too bad it’s expired.
lottery

woman

Need a Book? Book Review:  Skip This One

Publication date:  July 2019book

Review, short version:  Three skunks out of four (because it wasn’t a total stinker)

Review, long version:

A friend of my parents – who was also an avid reader – said, “I give a book 40 pages.  If it hasn’t grabbed me by then, I’m done with it.”

I took that to heart, and don’t waste my time on a book that doesn’t grab me.

While I can’t say Mary Ellen Taylor’s Spring House actually grabbed me, it was holding my interest – to page 40 and beyond.  It’s of a genre I like – Young-Woman-Uncovers-Secrets-From-Her-Past – and there are lots of these books out there.

The blurb on the back cover reads, “The lives of two women, generations apart, converge in this enthralling novel of love, mystery, memories, and secrets,” and that description pretty much covers it.

Except for the “enthralling” part.

A more accurate adjective would have been “confusing.”  Or “muddled.”  Or, “Who the hell?”  I did a lot of “Who the hell-ing?” with this book.

Taylor starts out with a family tree:

Family Tree (2)

And when a book has numerous characters, I appreciate that and refer to it.

A family tree is a good road map for who’s who, except when there are a lot of whos (relatives) who aren’t on the tree, yet play roles – some of them significant – in the book.

For example (brace yourself – this will get exhausting), the lead character, Megan NOFT-02 croppedBuchanan, has a cousin, Hank Garrison, who is on the family tree.  Hank has a sister, Rebecca, but she’s not on the family tree.  (From now on I’ll abbreviate that to NOFT, so I don’t get even more exhausted typing it over and over.)

Megan’s great-grandmother, Claire Hedrick, has parents, Addie and Isaac (NOFT) and siblings Diane, Jemma, Michael, Sarah, Joseph and Stanley (NOFT).  Then there’s Samuel NOFT-02 croppedJessup, a relative of Megan’s who is on the family tree.  Samuel has four brothers (NOFT) – Stanley, Joseph, Michael and Aaron, though Aaron marries Adele (NOFT) who’s the daughter of the above-mentioned Diane (NOFT), who married Gilbert (NOFT).

Confusing?  Muddled?  Who the hell?

NOFT-02 croppedThat same Samuel Jessup was Helen’s (NOFT) late husband’s grand uncle.  Helen is the mother of Scott (NOFT).

Scott and Megan are somehow blood relatives, and they’re engaged.

And Megan is…not very bright.  She’s engaged to Scott, “But she had known from the beginning they were not really suited.”

So what does Megan do?  She gets pregnant.

See?  Not bright at all.

In addition to trying to connect and keep track of all the NOFTs, Spring House jumps around to many different time periods:  2018, 1903, 1939, 2017, 1914 and 1918, and then I lost track.

Then there’s Spring House itself, which was the caretaker’s home on the grounds of a mansion called Winter Cottage.  Both were built by Megan’s great-great grandfather, but not for his first wife, Megan’s great-great grandmother, but for his second wife, who is on the family tree but is not a blood relative, and by now…

who the hell cropped

A friend was reading my book reviews on this blog and said, “You read a lot of stinkers,” referring to my skunk rating system.

I start a lot of stinkers, but I don’t finish them.

Spring House is another one, which begs the question:

Why did I finish it?

Because the stinkers are such fun…

make fun cropped larger

Family tree comments (2)

A Rhyme For Our Time:  “I’ve Got The Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues”

I see it on my TV, it’s everywhere online,
When I’m drinking morning coffee or sipping evening wine.
Infected numbers rising, the death toll’s rising, too.
I have to say
As of today
I’ve got the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.

It started in December, in China so they say,
No one here was worried, cause China’s far away.
But then it started spreading, and heading our way, too.
And came the day
We’re on our way
To the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.

Can’t find those precious facemasks, or ventilators?  No way.
Our doctors and our nurses are in danger every day.
The Dow is in the toilet, the economy’s headed there, too.
There is no doubt
We’re all about
The Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.

Can’t go to school, can’t go to work, can’t even see our friends,
We’re all just staying home these days, who knows how this will end?
Social distancing’s become the norm, and washing our hands, too.
As the USA
Leads the way
In the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.

So, I’m turning off my TV, I’ll skip that stuff online,
I’ll drink a lot less coffee and drink a lot more wine.
I’m scared that I might have it, and give to others, too.
Can’t get a test
I need a rest
From the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.

wine_02

Back By Popular Demand, It’s Numbnuts…

It’s been a while since I featured Numbnuts in the News, but my newspaper had such a collection that I had to share them.

Let’s start with Ian Simmons and Joshua Reinhardt, both 34.  Last month they were pulled over on I-10 in Florida after a trooper clocked them going 95 mph:

Orlando (2)

The trooper determined that Reinhardt was the subject of an active felony warrant for violation of probation, so driving that fast and attracting attention to yourselves probably wasn’t their best idea.

No, this was their best idea:

Simmons at bottom

They had a stash in two bags marked “Bag Full of Drugs.”

What a good idea!  If Simmons (above, bottom image) and Reinhardt had forgotten where they’d put approximately 75 grams of methamphetamine, 1.36 kilograms of the date-rape drug GHB, 1 gram of cocaine, 3.6 grams of fentanyl, 15 MDMA tablets and drug paraphernalia…

All they had to do was look around and say, “Oh, thank goodness!  There’s our stash, in those bags marked ‘Bag Full of Drugs!’”

A bit of research and I learned that Simmons and Reinhardt bought the bags here:

Bags Full (2)

But as you can read in the small print, the point of the “Bag Full of Drugs” is to have fun fooling people into thinking you’re walking around with some “amazing swag.”

Not with controlled substances that can get you 30 in a Florida slammer.

Next up:

Scotland (2)

Last fall a guy walked into a bank in Dunfernline, Scotland.  He was carrying a pillowcase with something bulky in it.

The bulky item was a meat cleaver, and he was there to rob the bank.

Before he announced his intention, however, he removed the cleaver and put the pillowcase over his head – a clever disguise.

Except for one thing:

Pillowcase cropped largerHe’d forgotten to cut eye holes in the pillowcase.

This was Matthew Davies, 47, and unfortunately, no image of him appears to be available, so I’ve improvised (left).  Just pretend the eyeholes aren’t there, OK?

When Davies realized he couldn’t see anything, he removed the pillowcase from his head, made a lot of noise and threatening gestures with the meat cleaver, and got away with almost £2,000.

He then strolled out of the bank and headed home, and a brave bank customer followed, then alerted the police.  Davis was arrested at home, where police found cash, a pillowcase and a stun gun in Davies’ house.

In late February Davies was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.Dog no comment cropped cropped

Some stories reported that as Davis was heading home, he stopped to pet a dog.

The dog had no comment.

And finally, this guy:

Fake Police Car (2)

Also last month, Adrian Afriyie Ansah-Asante, 23, was driving around Waterford Twp., MI when he was pulled over by Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

“Oh, no,” you’re thinking.  “Not another guy going 95 mph with Bags Full of Drugs!”

Nope.

Push bumperAsante was pulled over because Sheriff Bouchard noticed that Asante’s SUV was fitted out with “big police-style bumpers, an array of lights on the back and a decal that read ‘Emergency Response.’”

The car also featured a radar-type thing on the dashboard and a police-style computer.

The problem?   The police car was a fake, and Asante was a fake – not a cop or a member of any Emergency Response unit.

Adrian Ansah-Asante croppedClearly, Asante had gone shopping at Fake Police Stuff R Us.

His shopping included a loaded gun and a large knife.

Asante’s sentencing included a felony concealed weapons charge and misdemeanor possession of flashing lights, a $50,000 bond and GPS tether.

OK!

Now you get to decide which of these guys is…

dumb_03 cropped

Need A Movie? Movie Review: “Puzzle”

Release date:  July 2018movies

Review, short version:  Thumbs up for the movie, thumbs down for the ending.

Review, long version:

I’m not sure why I wanted to see Puzzle.

I’d barely heard about it when it was released, and I’d never heard of the people in it:  Kelly MacDonald, Irrfan Khan and David Denman.

It must have been one of the trailers leading into a DVD I was about to watch, and when I saw that jigsaw puzzles were what the title was referring to…

yawn_01 cropped

And jigsaw puzzle contests were an important element of the film?

zzzzzzz cropped

But…there was something about that woman that tugged at my heart, just in that brief trailer.

She continued to tug at my heart all the way through the movie.

“She” was Agnes, played by Kelly MacDonald.

Agnes, wife of Louie and mother of almost-grown sons Ziggy and Gabe, has no life outside taking care of Louie, Ziggy and Gabe.  Housework, laundry, making meals, followed by more housework, laundry and making meals.

In other words, she has no life.

Agnes doesn’t complain.  In fact, she doesn’t express much emotion at all.

We come to Agnes’ birthday, and one of the gifts is a jigsaw puzzle.  The gift is completely out of the context of Agnes’ life, and she puts away somewhere.

But one day, something prompts Agnes to open the jigsaw puzzle.  She spreads its 1,000 pieces onto a table, and starts fitting it together.

movie agnes

Agnes completes the puzzle.

She discovers she enjoyed completing the puzzle.

She discovers something she enjoys, for herself, that has nothing to do with anything except her.

And she discovers – she good at jigsaw puzzles.

Excellent, even.

Agnes is about to go on a journey that will change her life.easter eggs

One scene that particularly touched me takes place as Easter approaches.  Agnes is at home, sitting at the table, dyeing Easter eggs, and crying.

And I thought, “She’s dying and crying.”

And she was – weary of her monotonous life in which she’s totally taken for granted.  She’s the meal maker and the housekeeper and the errand doer, a fixture like the fridge and the TV and the toilet.

Agnes allows the satisfaction she gets from mastering jigsaw puzzles to take her on that journey, and it will include deception, jubilation, and – horrors! – forgetting to make dinner because she’s engrossed in a puzzle.

Or rather – two puzzles…

movie cropped

One is the jigsaw in front of her.

And one is – where her journey will take her.

So – thumbs up for Puzzle, except…

Thumbs down for the ending, because it’s ambiguous.

And I like stories that are neatly resolved and wrapped up, all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.

But life isn’t like that, and neither is Puzzle.

Or, as the reviewer at rogerebert.com put it,

“Puzzle wisely doesn’t complete the whole picture in easy or obvious ways, but rather gives us the space to consider the solutions for ourselves.”

Tilted heart made of lots of jigsaw puzzle pieces

Remember “Despicable Me 1, 2 and 3”?  Here’s the Real…

Unlike myself, my beloved husband, bless his heart, is not one for bad-mouthing people.

So this past Thursday, when I heard him exclaim, “He’s despicable!” I rushed to his side to see who he was talking about.

He was reading this story:

Bloomberg (2)

What? I thought.  But why?

I read more articles, trying to understand, like this one…

Business Insider (2)

And this one…

Newsweek (2)

And they all said basically the same thing – even though Trump has repeatedly insisted states get their own supplies of critical medical equipment necessary to aid patients and protect medical professionals from coronavirus, the federal government is outbidding states on orders.

But none of them explained why.

Why would Trump tell governors to buy their own critical medical equipment, then allow the government to outbid states trying to do that very thing?

Was it for the sake of that smug, self-satisfied look he gets when he’s thinking, “I won, and you lost”?

2z2ute

Was it Trump’s self-gratification from making this (he thinks witty) remark:

“The federal government’s not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping.  You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”

Or was this a harbinger of what’s to come:

Last Image (2)

My husband was right.

Trump is despicable:

Despicable+Despicable+Picture cropped

Book Review:  Two By Two Of My Favorites

Publication Date:  November 2019

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four for both.

Review, long version:

Robert
Robert B. Parker

I recently had the good fortune of learning that books by two of my favorite authors were being released at around the same time.

That meant hours of great reading straight ahead!

But, to clarify:  “Books by two of my favorite authors” is a bit of a misnomer.  Those authors, Dick Francis and Robert B. Parker, are, sadly, deceased – Parker in January 2010 and Francis in February 2010.

But – happily – their quality books are still being written, Francis’ by his son Felix, and Parker’s by novelist Ace Atkins.

Prior to their deaths, Robert B. Parker and Dick Francis were prolific writers – Parker had several series with different lead characters, but I’m focusing on his Boston detective who goes by one name:  “Spenser.”  This list includes the recent additions by Ace Atkins:

Parker Books (2)

Here are the books Francis wrote solo, wrote with his son Felix, and that Felix has written solo: