The Trump administration has taken a step to make Trump’s wish come true.
But with all the news and the noise, you may have missed it:
The revisions to the naturalization exam may not result in more immigrants from “places like Norway,” but it will make passing the U.S. citizenship test much more difficult for immigrants who manage to enter and remain in this country.
The USCIS – the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service – has announced the rollout a new citizenship test on December 1.
This new test, according to USCIS spokesman Dan Hetlage, “provides a more accurate measurement” of applicants’ understanding of civics and “ensures the reliability and validity of scores.
Not so, say experts quoted in a November 19 Herald News article:
“Eva Millona, CEO and President of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) said ‘these changes to the citizenship test are yet another example of the Trump Administration seeking to put up barriers to citizenship with little opportunity for input from communities that will be most impacted.’”
“Paulo Pinto, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) said, ‘It is difficult to understand and accept the reasoning behind this announced change, which will create more barriers to becoming a U.S. citizen. The 2008 version of the test is already very challenging – even for U.S.-born citizens – and the added difficulty will only make the naturalization process longer and slower.’”
How much “longer and slower”?
According to this article in the Washington Post:
“The new exam requires applicants to answer at least 12 oral questions correctly, up from six under the most recent exam.”
“Officers must ask all 20 questions, while lawyers said they usually used to stop when an immigrant answered the required minimum of six correctly.”
“‘It’s basic math,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and chief executive of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. ‘If you make the test twice as long, it takes twice as much time and USCIS officers will process half the applicants.’”
“Twice as much time”? Back to the HeraldNews article:
“Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the D.C.-based, nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, believes the changes can possibly triple the amount of time each Citizenship and Immigration Services officer spends testing applicants.
“‘These changes reduce the efficiency of this already struggling agency,’ Pierce told the Associated Press, referring to its citizenship application backlog. ‘The administration is adding hundreds of thousands of more minutes to these naturalization exams.’”
The administration is also adding tougher questions. One asks applicants to name five of the 13 original states, while the older test asked them to name three.
Another example: The older test requires test takers to name one of the three branches of government, while the new exam asks candidates to name all of them.
Can you name all three branches of our government? Can I?
I decided to take a look at some practice questions on the citizenship exam, to better understand what an immigrant might experience.
What bothers me most was the idea that a perfect candidate for citizenship might be denied that because she/he didn’t know the answer to this question:
Seriously? What does knowing the name of one of the two longest rivers in the U.S. have to do with being a good citizen?
How about this one:
How many people in this country could answer this correctly? I’m guessing not many, and that includes me. Does that mean USCIS is going to take away my citizenship?
And this one:
Oh, come on. I’m a good citizen, but I had to guess at this one. I just don’t consider it critical that I – or anyone except a Constitutional scholar – needs to know how many amendments the Constitution has.
And I am a good citizen, at least according to this “Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities” list on the USCIS website:
Nowhere on that list is there anything about knowing the name of one of the two longest rivers in the U.S.
In fact, the current citizenship test is already so difficult that a majority of people born in this country couldn’t pass it, according to this article:
And the Trump administration has made the new test even worse.
My hope is that the Biden administration will review – and undo – this blatant attempt to make it close to impossible for immigrants to become U.S. citizens.
Which is just one item on the miles-long list of damage Trump has inflicted on this country.
Because if this new citizenship test remains in place, our country will lose many of the wonderful contributions that future naturalized citizens could make.
And that’s a miles-long list, but one of the best kind: immigrants who have contributed greatly to our county, and to the world.
Just a few of the many:
Albert Einstein, Germany – inventor and physicist.
Sergey Brin, Russia – founder of Google, inventor and engineer.
Levi Strauss, Germany – creator of Levi’s jeans.
Madeleine Albright, Czechoslovakia – the first woman Secretary of State.
James Naismith, Canada – invented the game of basketball.
Audrey Hepburn, Belgium – actress.
Cary Grant, England – actor.
Sammy Sosa, Dominican Republic – athlete.
Maria von Trapp, Austria – inspiration for The Sound of Music.
Andrew Carnegie, Scotland – businessman, philanthropist.
Irving Berlin, Russia – composer, pianist.
John Lennon, England – composer, musician, singer.
There is some dispute over how Swanson Turkey TV Dinners were invented. The following is my version:
When: The day after Thanksgiving, 1953
Where: C.A. Swanson & Sons, a poultry supplier in Omaha, Nebraska
(Bob Walsh, an aspiring manager at the company, comes to his boss, Gilbert Swanson, with a problem. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Bob has live turkeys that didn’t find a dinner table for the holiday. A lot of live turkeys. What to do with all those leftover turkeys?)
Bob (knocking on door frame): Ah, Mr. Swanson, sir? Do you, ah, have a moment, sir?
Swanson: Of course, of course, come in. Welch, isn’t it?
Bob: Ah, Walsh, sir. Bob Walsh.
Swanson: Of course, of course. Come in, Welch. You know my door is always open. That’s what I always say: “My door is always open.” Sit down, Welch, sit down. Now what can I do for you on this fine Friday after Thanksgiving?
Bob: Well, sir, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Thanksgiving was yesterday and…
Swanson: Yes, Welch, and?
Bob: It’s Walsh, sir.
Swanson: What is?
Bob: My name, sir.
Swanson: Is that what you came to talk to me about?
Bob: No, sir. It’s about the turkeys. The turkeys we didn’t sell for Thanksgiving.
Swanson: Yes, yes, what about them?
Bob: Well, ah, there’s a lot of them, sir.
Swanson: “A lot,” you say. (pauses) And what do you mean by “a lot”?
Bob (swallows): Two hundred and sixty…
Swanson: Well, Welch, I’m sure we don’t need to be concerned about 260 turkeys.
Bob: Tons, sir. Two hundred and sixty tons of unsold Thanksgiving turkeys.
Swanson (after a long pause): Close the door, Welch. (Bob does) Now. What’s this you’re saying?
Bob: We had a very successful breeding season, sir, very successful, but sales didn’t meet our projections. So this morning I’m reporting an overstock of 260 tons of turkeys.
Swanson: Two hundred and sixty tons. I see. (pause) And in terms of just pure numbers, Welch…
Bob: Well, sir, at an average weight of 25 pounds – and you know that’s our standard, sir, or as the boys in advertising say, “A 25-pound turkey on every table!” It’s, ah, twenty thousand…
Swanson: Twenty thousand? Did you say twenty thousand?
Bob: …eight hundred, sir. Twenty thousand eight hundred turkeys, sir. Give or take a turkey.
Swanson (after a long pause): Are you attempting levity, Welch?
Bob: No, sir.
Swanson: We have twenty thousand eight hundred Thanksgiving turkeys. Today is the day after Thanksgiving. This is a calamity. This is a catastrophe. This is – I don’t have a word bad enough for it!
Bob: Disaster, sir?
Bob: I mean, it’s not a disaster, sir. At least, I don’t think it is. I’ve been thinking…
Swanson: Not now, Welch. I have to think.
Bob: But I’ve been thinking sir, and I have an idea. An idea of what to do with all those turkeys – and even turn a profit, sir!
Swanson: I said not now, Welch. What I need is to find is something to do with all those turkeys, and somehow turn a profit.
Bob: But that’s what I’m saying, sir! I have an idea!
Swanson (mumbling): This is a disaster. And absolute disaster. Twenty thousand…
Bob: I’ve put some figures together, sir, and if you’ll just take a look…
Swanson: Welch, tell my secretary to get my brother on the phone.
Bob: Your brother, sir? You mean W. Clark himself?
Swanson: Yes, I mean W. Clark himself! Do I have any other brother? (Bob goes out to the secretary, then returns, closing the office door)
Bob: Sir, if you’ll just look at these figures, you’ll see – wait, better yet, let me tell you my idea. We cook all the turkeys – well, not all at once, of course – but we cook the turkeys!
Swanson: Cook the turkeys, you say. That’s very advanced thinking, Welch.
Bob: I’m not finished, sir! And we make gravy, and dressing, and mashed potatoes and maybe a vegetable. Carrots. Or peas. Yes, peas! Then we put it all together in individual metal trays that have sections, sir. Sections! Can you picture it?
Swanson: No, Welch, I can’t. I’m too busy picturing this disaster.
Bob: In the bigger section we put the dressing, and some sliced turkey, with gravy on top. Then in one smaller section, the peas. With butter on them. And in the other section, mashed potatoes. It’s one individual meal, sir! An individual turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
Swanson (after a long pause): Did you say mashed potatoes, Welch? White mashed potatoes?
Bob: Yes, sir!
Swanson: I hate white mashed potatoes!
Bob: Then sweet potatoes, sir! Or no potatoes! I’m just trying to explain…
Swanson: Ah, sweet potatoes. Now you’re talking. My mother made the best sweet potato casserole every Thanksgiving. I swear it was my favorite part of the meal. I remember…
Bob: Mr. Swanson!
Bob: The dinner, sir. The individual dinner.
Swanson: What about it?
Bob: So we make all the individual dinners, and here’s the magic: We freeze them. First, we put each one in a nice box with a picture of the wonderful turkey dinner that’s inside the box, then we freeze them. And housewives will buy them, and take them home and put them in their freezers, and then one night – just picture this, sir. One night, when Mom can’t figure out what to make for dinner, she opens her freezer and – viola!
Swanson: “Viola,” Welch?
Bob: Her dinner is already made! It’s in those nice boxes with the picture of the wonderful turkey and dressing and gravy and mashed potatoes…
Swanson: I thought we said sweet potatoes?
Bob: …Sweet potatoes, and peas with butter! And Mom says, “No cooking for me tonight. I have Swanson dinners right here in my freezer, all ready for me to heat and serve in just 25 minutes. My family will love them!”
Swanson: “Love them,” Welch?
Bob: The kids will love them because they’re delicious. And different. And…
Swanson: “Different,” Welch?
Bob: Yes, sir! A whole dinner right in its own little tray. No more plate for this and bowl for that, because the whole dinner is right there. Fun for the kids, and easy for Mom because after dinner you just throw the trays away. No dishes! In fact, if the family has a TV, they could have dinner in front of the TV. And…that’s how I, ah, came up with the name, sir.
Swanson: “The name,” Welch?
Bob: TV Dinners, sir.
Bob: TV Dinners! Experts are predicting that pretty soon every family in America will have a TV, and just think how exciting it will be to eat this new kind of dinner while you’re watching your new TV. I don’t think I’m overstating my case when I say this will revolutionize dinnertime as we know it.
Swanson (the secretary buzzes, informing Swanson that his brother is on the line): Tell him I’ll call him back. Now, Welch…
Bob: Walsh, sir. I’ve priced it out, sir, and we can sell Swanson TV Dinners for 98 cents and still make a profit. Just think – dinner for less than a dollar! (pauses) I’ll have to remember to tell that one to the boys in advertising: “Dinner For Less Than A Dollar!”
Swanson: Less than a dollar, you say? And we’d still be making a profit?
Bob: Absolutely, sir. And once our turkey TV dinners are a success, we can create more dinners like chicken, and Salisbury steak, and, and – with your permission, sir, I’m going to get the kitchen working on some sample dinners. I mean, TV Dinners. And the advertising boys working on the box, and –
Swanson: Hold on, now, just hold on. Don’t let’s get carried away with an idea, an idea that may have some merit, perhaps, but still just an idea.
Bob: Yes, sir.
Swanson: Now, leave those figures with me, and I’ll give it some thought. But – not a word about this to anyone. And I mean, anyone. Is that understood, Welch?
Bob: Yes, sir.
Swanson: Very well, then. And tell my secretary to get my brother back on the phone.
Bob: Yes, sir. And…sir?
Swanson: Yes, what is it? (the phone rings.)
Bob (softly): It’s Walsh, sir. (closes the door behind him.)
Swanson (ignores Bob and answers the phone): Clark? How are – yes. Well, I heard this morning that our Thanksgiving turkey sales fell below projections and… How far below? Well, considerably. And – yes, I know that, and… Yes, I know we have to do something with those turkeys. That’s why I’m calling. I had an idea about what to do with all those turkeys. A rather brilliant idea, if I may say so myself…
According to Smithson magazine, in 1953 Swanson sold 5,000 TV dinners. In 1954, their first full year of production, they sold more than 10 million TV dinners.
A: There are many Emily Murphys, but the one we’re talking about is the administrator of the GSA.
Q: What’s the GSA?
A: According to a November 23 CBS News article, the GSA – General Services Administration:
“…is a sprawling bureaucracy established in 1949 that now has 12,000 employees and a $21 billion budget. It works largely behind the scenes to support other federal entities, with responsibility for managing federal office space, procuring supplies and improving the use of technology across the government.
“The GSA provides a presidential transition team with Washington office space and coordinates access to federal agencies to plan potential policy changes with current administration officials, using $6.3 million allocated to support its efforts.”
Q: How did Emily get to be administrator of the GSA?
A: Trump and his toadys liked her.
Q: Is that why Emily’s Momma is proud?
Q: Is Emily a Republican?
A: Well, after graduating from college, Murphy moved to Washington, D.C., beginning her career at the Republican National Committee. She also worked for Jim Talent, a Republican and former Senator from Missouri. She was an advisor to acting GSA administrator Timothy Horn, who was appointed by Trump. Then Horn nominated Emily for GSA administrator. Are you doing the math?
Q: Is that why Emily’s Momma is proud?
Q: I’ve noticed that Emily wears a lot of purple…
Q: Is that why Emily’s Momma is proud?
A: Emily does take her purple fashion cues from Ivanka…
A: But, no.
Q: So Emily, whom nobody ever heard of until recently, heads a government agency that nobody ever heard of until recently. Why is she all over the news now?
A: After November 7, 2020, when Joe Biden became generally acknowledged as president-elect, she refused to sign a letter allowing Biden’s transition team to begin work to facilitate an orderly transition of power:
Q: Wow! That’s really important! Is that why Emily’s Momma is proud of her?
Q: How long did Emily hold out?
A: Until November 23, when Emily issued what’s called a “letter of ascertainment,” which allowed the transition of power to begin.
Q: What did the letter say?
A: Among other things, Emily hedged her bets:
“…she was now making ‘certain post-election resources and services available to assist in the event of a presidential transition.’”
Q: Is Emily’s Momma proud because of Emily’s bet-hedging skills?
Q: What took Emily so long to issue the letter?
A: A November 23 article in the Washington Post suggested Emily was afraid:
“Then there was the president’s anger, and the risk that he would fire her and her top aides if she moved forward.”
Then, after Emily issued the letter…
“Murphy and her senior staff were bracing for a tweet from Trump announcing that they were fired, two people familiar with their thinking said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.”
Q: Didn’t Emily care about all the havoc her actions were creating?
A: Apparently not as much as she feared getting fired by Trump.
Q: Is anyone holding Emily accountable?
A: Some Democrats are trying to. A November 23 New York Times article says,
“The Democratic chairwomen of the House Oversight and Reform and Appropriations Committees demanded last week that Emily provide a briefing to lawmakers no later than Monday [November 23] to explain why she had departed with past practice and had so far refused to approve the start of the process for Mr. Biden.”
That deadline came and went, and “the GSA suggested that Ms. Murphy would not meet with top lawmakers on the issue, instead offering a 30-minute briefing by her deputy, Allison Brigati, on November 30.”
On November 24, the House Democrats wrote Ms. Murphy yet another letter, demanding a briefing on Tuesday:
“‘We cannot wait yet another week to obtain basic information about your refusal to make the ascertainment determination,’ wrote the chairwomen, Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney and Nita M. Lowey of New York, as well as the chairmen of the panels that oversee and fund the GSA, Representatives Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia and Mike Quigley of Illinois.”
They gave Emily until 5pm on November 24 to respond.
Q: Ewww. After all this, how the heck can Emily Murphy’s Momma be proud of her?
A: Because it appears that Emily’s actions won her something that many do covet, but not all achieve:
Her very own, spankin’ brand-new listing in Wikipedia:
(Wikipedia as I found it on November 24: “4 hours ago.”)
In Scotland, the surname “Stuart” has long-time royal connections. Nine Stuart kings ruled Scotland from 1371 to 1625, and the ninth Stuart king transitioned from king of Scotland to king of both Scotland and England.
If current-day author Douglas Stuart, 44, has royal connections, they weren’t in evidence in his growing-up years in Glasgow, Scotland.
According to an October New York Times story about Stuart, 1980s Glasgow was a city of “economic and social stagnation…after the region’s shipbuilding, mining and steelwork industries collapsed. Stable, working-class communities became destitute, leading to widespread poverty and addiction.”
Stuart was “the lonely youngest son of a single, alcoholic mother” and…
“…he felt like an only child, as his older brother and sister were teenagers when he was born and found jobs to escape the chaos at home. He barely knew his father, who left when Stuart was young. Stuart often functioned as a caretaker for his mother, who would black out from drinking and sometimes try to harm herself.”
Stuart was also gay, and while he couldn’t have articulated it at the time, he knew he was different. He was shunned by the boys at school, who attacked him for being too “poofy.”
Stuart’s mother died when he was 16 and he ended up in a boarding house. He became the first person in his family to graduate from high school, decided to study textiles, earned a bachelor’s degree from the Scottish College of Textiles and a master’s from the Royal College of Art in London.
More than ten years ago, when Stuart was working as senior director of design at Banana Republic, he began writing.
What he wrote would become the novel Shuggie Bain, a fictional account of his childhood.
The novel would be rejected by more than 30 publishers.
It finally found a home at Grove Atlantic, an American independent publisher based in New York, where Stuart had moved years earlier.
And on November 19, Shuggie Bain won the Booker Award, “one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world,” according to this article in The New York Times:
The Booker website says this award is:
“The leading literary award in the English-speaking world, which has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over 50 years. Awarded annually to the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.”
Douglas Stuart may not have royal connections, but he’s being treated like royalty now.
Stuart’s story resonates with me because of the rejection he endured – not once, or twice, or 10 or 20 times, but by 32 publishers. Everyone who endeavors in a creative field, whether it’s writing or acting or singing or painting or myriad others, faces rejection.
And every time, it hurts.
People who don’t understand will say, “But it’s not personal.”
They’re wrong. It’s very personal.
An artistic effort comes from the deepest part of you, and when that effort is rejected, so are you.
So I’m rubbing my mental hands together in glee about Stuar’ts success, and reveling in how stupid those 32 publishers must feel.
Now: After all this, it may sound contrary that I won’t read Shuggie Bain, despite all the accolades.
I don’t care to read a story about growing up with an alcoholic parent, because I lived that story.
But I love this story: of a child who preserved; of a man who took the wreckage of his childhood, wrote about it, persevered more, and turned his artistic endeavor into this:
In my November 13 blog post I said goodbye to Melania, and on November 16 I bid Ivanka adieu.
Now I’ll do a group goodbye, and what a group it is.
For an assist I turned to Slate, an online magazine that launched in 1996. The team there was SO ready for Trump to lose, they had all their goodbyes written and ready to go on November 7, the day Biden was declared President-Elect.
I’ve included excerpts from the Slate articles and other sources to round out my farewells, along with some images:
“Already a devout Republican and unquestionably the most groveling of his offspring, you were exactly thehype man your father needed: dumb enough to believe whatever Daddy told you, coiffed enough to look halfway decent on cable news, and more than passionate enough about hunting to rub elbows with the red state riffraff.”
I think that covers it for Jared.
“Pence was made head of the White House’s coronavirus task force, a fittingly Trumpian choice, given that Pence had historically been disastrous on public health.”
“In just two years, Attorney General William Barr transformed the Department of Justice into a sleazy, third-rate law firm devoted to shielding Donald Trump and his friends from the consequences of their crimes.”
“Pompeo’s rhetoric straddled the line between the self-righteous bombast of the George W. Bush administration and the craven cynicism of the Trump years. By embedding foreign policy even deeper within the U.S. culture wars, he has done damage to U.S. credibility abroad that will take years to repair.”
“It wasn’t just that you were unqualified to lead America’s educational system, as someone who never worked at a public school, attended a public school, or took out a school loan. It was that you were the opposite of qualified, an early example of the Trump administration’s elitist disregard for the very role of government agencies themselves.”
“…the provocateur in chief and petty tyrant of the White House’s anti-immigration crusade…”
Larry, Moe and Curly. Wait – I mean, Sean Spicer, Sarah Sanders, Kayleigh McEnany.
Giuliani will be remembered for the above: His November 7 press conference at the Four Seasons – no, not the glitzy hotel, but rather Four Seasons Total Landscaping on the outskirts of Philadelphia. The best thing to come out of it was the store’s new merchandise, featuring these slogans:
Under normal circumstances I would never presume to give advice to President-Elect Biden.
But these are far from normal circumstances.
And he’s far too busy to be thinking of this.
So here’s my advice:
Mr. President-Elect, do some serious fumigation of the White House before you move in.
I’m talking big-time, serious, 24/7 fumigating, until the fumes fill the White House and spill out into the evening air:
If you’re hesitating about this for even a moment, please consider:
COVID-19 has been in the White House for months.
“Yeah, that valet guy helped me get dressed every day, but I never met him.”
This positive test did nothing to prompt Trump and others to wear face masks and social distance.
So, as time passed, even someone as dumb as dirt was avoiding the White House:
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he has been avoiding the White House since August ‘because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing.’”
Then came September 26, Trump’s super spreader event in the Rose Garden, and these consequences:
After that, in the White House, COVID-19 went viral, literally:
At some point, the kid got it:
And then that creep, Mark Meadows, and his cohorts:
And this just in – HUD’s Ben Carson has tested positive:
It seems Meadows and Carson were at Trump’s election night party, along with hundreds of other maskless, no-social-distancing people.
Party hearty, folks!
It’s reached the point that the White House has earned the designation “Coronavirus Cluster”:
More of a “coronavirus cluster f**k,” if you know what I mean.
So, please, Mr. President-Elect, before you move into the White House…
Otherwise, to just walk in the front door you’ll have to suit up in full PPE – Personal Protection Equipment…
Fortunately, thanks to you, PPE will be available:
The hot, humid summer gives way to cooler fall temperatures. People start breaking out their warmer clothes, and trees start breaking out their amazing fall foliage…
And an in-law family member – I’ll call her “G” – has an October ritual with her side of the family:
A visit to Yates Cider Mill:
For years G and her family have gathered at Yates Cider Mill every October, including this year, on October 24, the same day that this story ran:
“Record-breaking COVID-19 numbers.”
“New daily coronavirus record.”
So even though this October isn’t like last October, or any October in living memory…
That didn’t stop G and her family.
And those pesky face masks didn’t get in the way, either, especially when worn beneath the nose…
Yates Cider Mill has been around a long time, and it offers all sorts of attractions – pony rides, petting zoo, river walk. And plenty to buy – fudge, apples, gifts, apparel, donuts, and of course, Yates famous cider.
So there are lots of reasons to visit Yates Cider Mill.
And this year, I’d say lots of reasons not to:
Now, Yates Cider Mill is in step with the times – sort of. On their website there’s a link to their “COVID-19 Safety Plan,” where they “PROMISE to keep you safe” by providing hand sanitizer, increasing spacing at the register, screening employees, and ramping up their cleaning procedures.
And in return, says Yates…
“Masks are not required at all times.”
On October 24, apparently for G and family, masks were not required, period:
Yes, there were a few masks in evidence. They’re especially effective when worn beneath the nose, beneath the chin…
On the morning of October 25, Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Witmer, appeared on Local 4 News, a day after the state reported the highest one-day increase in COVID-19 cases:
The governor said, “We have to double-down on mask wearing, not having gatherings, having real physical distancing, ensuring that we’re hand-washing…We need everyone to do their part so we can avoid having to take steps backward…We all have to be a part of bringing these numbers down.”
This story appeared that same morning:
I hope this poll continues to be true.
And I hope, for G and her family…
That that trip to Yates Cider Mill doesn’t turn into a…
“Thousands and thousands of small white flags stand sentinel outside the D.C. Armory in Southeast, near RFK Stadium. When the breeze blows, the flags ripple in unison like a vast troupe of dancers, swaying between the long shadows cast by the trees that line the armory parade grounds.”
The “D.C. Armory in Southeast” is the D.C. Armory Parade Ground located in Washington, D.C. near the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium:
The “small white flags” are a public art project by D.C.-area artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg:
Each of the “thousands and thousands” of flags represents an American who has died of COVID-19.
The art project is entitled, “In America: How Could This Happen…”
And as the death toll grows, so, too, will the number of flags, reaching an estimated 240,000 by the project’s end on November 6.
The flags are being installed with the help of dozens of community volunteers, some who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Members of the public are invited to visit during daylight hours to plant flags, which are available at the display, and personalize them with the names of lost loved ones.
Visitors must wear face masks, and hand sanitizer is available at reception tables.
Firstenberg began to conceptualize the project in March, a few weeks into the pandemic. Her vision was for an art installation that fully captured the magnitude of the public health crisis.
“This is public participatory art,” she says. “I want the community to come plant flags right alongside me. I want them to realize the importance of individual lives.”
And the community is coming – to plant flags…
Because, as Firstenberg wrote in an Instagram post,
“Each Flag Has A Soul”
Instead of ending her project on November 6, if Firstenberg kept adding flags…
Recently I had the pleasure of taking two mail-in ballots – my husband’s and mine – to a very convenient drop-off location at our local library here in San Diego County.
This location was designated by, and manned by, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters office.
The box was located outside the library on a table, and two paid poll workers from the Registrar’s Office were present.
I presented two ballots, and one of the workers asked if I was dropping off for someone else. When I answered in the affirmative, she pointed to the back of my husband’s ballot envelope where, on the right side, under “Person Authorized to Return,” there was a place to print my name, sign my name, and write the nature of our relationship, like this example:
I did as she asked, and dropped both ballots in the box.
Not all Registrar ballot drop-off boxes are manned by paid poll workers, but they are official, legal drop-off boxes deployed and secured by the county elections office:
The next day I went online to track our ballots – a super-simple process – and learned that “Your ballot has been accepted. Your ballot was received by your county elections office and will be counted.”
This happened so quickly because the ballot box went from the library directly to the county elections office.
This was an all-around easy experience, and I have the peace of mind that my husband’s and my ballot will be counted.
Not everyone can do this for a variety of reasons – perhaps they’re bedridden, or otherwise too ill to make the trip to a drop-off location. Perhaps they feel safer staying home during the pandemic. Perhaps there’s a group of people – in a nursing home, for example – who need to stay in place and give their ballots to a trusted person.
Whatever the reason, in California it’s legal for someone else to drop off your ballot. It’s also legal for someone to collect a number of ballots and take them to a drop-off location.
This is called “ballot collection.”
According to an October 13 article in the Sacramento Bee:
“Ballot collection allows a designated person to deliver a voter’s mail ballot for them, and Californians have been doing it for several years.
“Previously, if California a voter was unable to return their mail ballot themselves, they could designate a family member or person living in the same household to deliver it to a ballot drop box, the county elections office, or send it back in the mail.
“But in 2016, under Assembly Bill 1921, the state Legislature expanded the law to let any person, not just a family member, return someone’s ballot for them.”
The article goes on to say,
“Republicans originally opposed ballot collection, saying such practices could open the door for fraud and could give Democrats an unfair advantage.”
Critics of the process call it “ballot harvesting.”
Including this critic, in this May 2020 story:
How times have changed – and how Republican have changed their tune.
So far, only in California. So far…
The California GOP decided to do their own ballot collecting, and installed more than 50 of their own ballot drop-off boxes in at least three California counties – Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange:
Some GOP ballot boxes look like this, with the word “Official” on the label:
Other boxes look like this – that taped-on label is a nice touch:
And I thought this “Authorized Secure” cardboard moving box in a local smog check business was an especially good idea:
California officials were not pleased, according to an October 13 story on ABC Action News:
“California’s chief elections official on Monday ordered Republicans to remove unofficial, illegal ballot drop boxes from churches, gun shops and other locations and Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned those behind the ‘vote tampering’ could face prosecution.”
(For future reference, in addition to Attorney General Becerra, another official we’ll hear a lot from is Secretary of State Alex Padilla.)
The California GOP responded as follows:
“Republicans say their collection of ballots is no different than the practice of ‘ballot harvesting’ where a third party collects signed ballot envelopes.
“‘Because ballot harvesting is legal, we wanted to be open about it,’ says Fresno County GOP Chairman Fred Vanderhoof. ‘We let people know on Facebook and social media that they could drop their ballot at a secure ballot box and we’ll take it down for them.”
Also on October 13:
“Today, the Secretary of State’s office, jointly with the (California) Department of Justice, issued a cease and desist order to the California Republican party to remove these drop boxes.”
Also – of course – what’s-his-name, now enamored of ballot harvesting, had to put in his two cents’ worth:
Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA), appearing on Central Valley radio station KMJ on October 13, had an equally articulate response:
“Screw you! You created the law, we’re going to ballot harvest.’’
But, according to an October 14 article in Politico:
“Officials argued that the placement of unauthorized drop boxes differs from Democratic ‘ballot harvesting’ efforts because voters assume their ballot will be delivered via an official-looking mechanism – all without signing their ballots.”
The deadline for the California Republican Party to comply or respond to the cease and desist order was Thursday (October 15) night.
The night of October 15 came and went.
Let’s go back to that phrase, “all without signing their ballots.”
That is not referring to the voter signing their ballot. It’s referring to when the voter gives their ballot to someone to deliver it – as my husband gave his ballot to me.
Let’s look again at that image of the back of a ballot return envelope:
Let’s assume that the people who put their ballots in the GOP drop boxes thought they were doing the right thing – using an “official-looking mechanism.” In other words, a Registrar of Voters drop box, with ballots taken straight to the county elections office.
They would have had no reason to have someone else fill out information on the back of their ballot envelope.
But I had to print my name, write my name, and define our relationship so I could deliver my husband’s ballot.
By placing these ballot boxes, the GOP has become the third party responsible for delivering the ballots – haven’t they?
That means they must fill out the back of every ballot envelope collected in their GOP drop boxes – doesn’t it?
But the GOP is not the “Person Authorized to Return,” as is specified on the envelope – is it?
If GOP people fill out the back of the envelope, do they sign “John Doe” or whomever? And in “Relationship to Voter,” they’ll write…
“Friendly neighborhood church”?
“Friendly neighborhood gun shop”?
Or – as in that cardboard drop box location, “Friendly local smog check business”?
I have visions of the GOP rushing to put together a commercial promoting their drop-off locations…
“Hey, there! I’m Cal Fraud, owner of the Your Name Here Gun shop…
“…and I’m inviting all you voters with those mail-in ballot things to drop ‘em off – that’s right, drop ‘em off – here at my gun shop. I’ve got this nice, secure box all set up…
“…and I guarantee that your ballots will be delivered – that’s right, DEE-livered – to a nice, secure place…
“So grab your ballots and come on down to the Your Name Here gun shop, and just ask for Ole Cal. And while you’re here, I’ll make you a sweet – that’s right, SWEET – deal on that AK 47 you’ve been thinking about!”
Here’s where we were as of October 13:
The Secretary of State’s office, jointly with the (California) Department of Justice, issued a cease and desist order to the California Republican party to remove the drop boxes.
California Representative Devin Nunes summed up the California Republicans’ response: “Screw you.”
Republicans did agree to remove the word “official” from signs on their ballot boxes. The party’s general counsel suggested that it was “perhaps an overzealous volunteer” who affixed the “official” labels.
Perhaps. But I doubt it.
Then, things really got confusing – from cease and desist to subpoenas.
According to this October 16 article in the Los Angeles Times:
The article says,
“California officials on Friday said that the state Republican Party has agreed to no longer deploy ‘unstaffed, unsecured, unofficial and unauthorized’ private ballot boxes and that subpoenas have been issued in an investigation into how the containers have been used in at least three counties.”
“But aside from correcting some boxes that were wrongly labeled as ‘official’ locations for dropping off completed ballots, GOP officials continued Friday to insist that their activities have been legal. Party leaders have said they will continue to use the boxes to collect ballots, with staffers overseeing the process and delivering the ballots to county elections offices.”
And what about the issue of the voter giving their ballot to another person to deliver – the requirement that the person doing the delivering must print their name, write their name, and describe their relationship to the voter on the back of the envelope?
And according to this October 16 article on NPR:
The article said,
“[Secretary of State] Padilla and [Attorney General] Becerra reiterated that while ballot collection is allowed, state rules require that whoever assists with delivering a ballot sign the envelope to record a chain of custody. But they also said ballots without that signature would not be rejected either.”
Those subpoenas were sounding like a lot of saber rattling, and not much more. It seemed that…
State officials had backed off, and they weren’t requiring the required information on the back of ballot envelopes.
Republicans were keeping their ballot boxes in gun shops and et cetera and, by the way, possibly increasing the number of boxes.
Stern warnings were issued – Padilla said that the Republican Party has “tried to spin their unlawful conduct by playing the victim all week long.” Should his office receive any indication that state law is being violated, he said, it “will not hesitate to act on it immediately.”
To which California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas sneered, “This is a thuggish voter intimidation and vote suppression tactic by our Democratic attorney general and secretary of state.”
At this point our newspaper’s political cartoonist joined the fray:
Then, on October 18, came this interview on the CBS Weekend News with Major Garrett and Secretary of State Padilla:
The interview included this:
Padilla (referring to the fake ballot boxes): It’s a violation of state law and undermining voter confidence in the election. Thankfully, it seems that they have been removed.
(Actually, it seems that the GOP was removing the word “official,” but not removing the ballot boxes.)
Padilla: Ballot collection has strict requirements, including the person assisting the voter in returning their ballot must also add their name, signature, and relationship to the voter to the envelope. And that, again, is what was lost with these unofficial, unauthorized drop boxes.
(So now the envelopes do have to be signed? Who the hell knows?)
Garrett: Mr. Secretary, I’m sure you noticed, President Trump said, “We’ll see you in court.” He said that on Twitter. Will this be fodder for post-election legal challenges and thereby throw some elections for the U.S. House or state races into doubt?
Padilla: We stand by free and fair elections in California. They are accessible, they are secure, and yes, they are safe, so if Team Trump wants to sue us for anything, we would like our chances (answer appears to be cut off).
The interview appeared to cut off Padilla’s non-answer, but it did include yet another version of the GOP’s fake ballot boxes:
And that’s where we are as of October 23.
Which leaves me with the question…
Why is the California GOP doing this? What do they stand to gain?
In the Los Angeles Times article, California Democratic Party Chairman Rusty Hicks had one possible answer:
“I believe what the Republicans are doing is a creative attempt to add confusion to the election.”
And we all know who thrives on creating confusion:
But perhaps – probably – there’s something much more sinister going on here:
It is relatively easy to get a list of the party affiliation of registered voters. That name also appears on the outside of the ballot’s envelope.
So it would be easy (though felonious) for an unprincipled person (and we’re talking about Trump fans) to methodically go through the fraudulently collected ballots and throw away those from registered Democrats.
Unless voters were to check through WheresMyBallot, they would have no idea that their vote did not count.
If you put your ballot in one of these fake ballot boxes, I urge you to run, not walk, to the nearest computer and start tracking it:
Now and then, do you hear a quote that really resonates with you?
A quote you might write down and save, and maybe even share with others?
I encountered such a quote on October 15, and here it is:
“…corruption starts with ‘yes-men’ and women, the cronies who create an echo chamber of lies and subservience to maintain their proximity to power.”
The writer was Caroline Rose Giuliani, daughter of the nightmarish Rudy.
The quote was from an article in Vanity Fair that appeared online on October 15:
And in a way that’s too bad, because I suspect that the noise from the election, the ever-growing tragedy of the pandemic, and the overwhelm of other news stores all but drowned out Caroline’s article.
And it’s truly worth reading.
I knew next to nothing about Caroline, though from the article it was easy to discern that she was articulate, thoughtful – and truly scared of what Trump and his cronies (like her father) will do this country if Trump is reelected.
A bit of research told me that she’s 31, a graduate of Harvard, a filmmaker, and a writer.
She’s a darn good writer.
Here are a few more of the quotes that resonated with me.
I urge you to read the full article, and perhaps pass along a quote or two to the people you know who have decided they’re disgusted with the whole election process and aren’t going to vote at all.
Caroline makes a convincing argument why they must vote in the November election – and vote Trump out of office:
“…running away does not solve the problem. We have to stand and fight. The only way to end this nightmare is to vote. There is hope on the horizon, but we’ll only grasp it if we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”
“Trump and his enablers have used his presidency to stoke the injustice that already permeated our society, taking it to dramatically new, Bond-villain heights.”
“Trump’s administration has torn families apart in more ways than I even imagined were possible, from ripping children from their parents at the border to mishandling the coronavirus, which has resulted in over 215,000 in the U.S. dying, many thousands of them without their loved ones near. Faced with preventable deaths during a pandemic that Trump downplayed and ignored, rhetoric that has fed deep-seated, systemic racism, and chaos in the White House, it’s no surprise that so many Americans feel as hopeless and overwhelmed as I did growing up. But if we refuse to face our political reality, we don’t stand a chance of changing it.”
“Biden wasn’t my first choice when the primaries started. But I know what is at stake, and Joe Biden will be everyone’s president if elected. If you are planning to cast a symbolic vote or abstain from voting altogether, please reconsider. It is more important than ever to avoid complacency. This election is far from over, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen.”
I will add this – an update of Caroline’s coronavirus death count:
When I started this blog in May 2017 I decided to stay away from the topic of Trump.
My resolve was strong.
I did not talk about Trump.
I didn’t stay away from politics. It was so much fun, and so easy, to skewer politicians – Democrats and Republicans – for their bad behavior.
Bad behavior – like financial improprieties, sexual improprieties, political improprieties.
Knowing that not one of them was sorry about their transgression, but they were very, very sorry they got caught. Like this guy, Cal Cunningham, North Carolina’s Democratic candidate for the Senate:
So politicians were my targets, and government entities, too.
Like NASA, and the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and the Post Office, specifically Louie DeJoy, Trump’s buddy:
And I’ve had a blast, excoriating all of them.
I’ve written about lots of other things, as well – whatever struck my fancy. I’ve done posts about books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched, and about the many strange and/or funny and/or absurd (I LOVE the absurd) things in our world.
And since I live in California, as most Californians will tell you, our state is an endless source of the strange and/or funny and/or absurd:
The lure of Trump’s awfulness just became…irresistible.
Trump is SO easy to mock. On a daily, even hourly basis, he hands us so many ways to mock him, you can’t hope to keep up.
And in early December 2019 – I did my first Trump blog:
After that, there was no holding back.
In the 10 months since, I’ve done more than 55 posts about Trump, and the Trumps, since I consider his parasitic wife and older children fodder, as well: the triviality of Melania, the vapidness of Ivanka, the shallowness of Trump Jr, the emptiness of Eric.
My Trump posts will soon come to an end.
Not soon enough – never soon enough – but soon.
No more writing about Trump’s always-unpresidential behavior, like this recent story:
Or about his self-serving, self-aggrandizing behavior, like this story:
Or about Trump’s lies, the endless lies that he tells and then lies about telling:
Or about his tweets, the endless tweets, especially the ones that Twitter calls him on – way to go, Twitter!
Or about the women who have accused Trump of sexual assault – it’s now at least 26, and counting:
And speaking of women, the often-racist, always-denigrating, always-bullying words Trump uses about women:
And, most recently:
And his repulsive, totally unwarranted braggadocio:
And the unforgiveable, Trump’s legacy: the blood on Trump’s hands, past, present and to come:
I could on with this list, but I had to stop somewhere.
But – will I miss writing about Trump when he’s gone?
I’m fascinated by anything related to English royal history, and when I find a new book, or spot a movie or TV show focused on the topic – I’m in.
A few years ago I discovered Lucy Worsley, hosting a program on PBS about English royal history. The program description included the information that Worsley was the Chief Curator at England’s Historic Royal Palaces, so I figured I’d be hearing from someone knowledgeable and – I was in.
And I was in – until I saw this:
Lucy Worsley, the host of a PBS program, playing dress up?
What is this?
Sure – I’ve seen lots of English royal history documentaries, and they often feature actors and actresses in period costume.
But the host of the program?
It turns out that this is what Worsley does – dresses up in a costume and injects herself into an otherwise interesting show:
Yes – female or male, our Lucy is an equal opportunity dresser upper.
Worsley had lots of great information to share in that PBS program, and I hoped her costume fixation was temporary. That the show was a one-off, and the next time a Worsley program was on the TV schedule, Lucy would back off from the wigs, corsets, and et cetera.
And as I said earlier, Worsley doesn’t just appear in costumes – she injects herself into the history she’s relating. And not just into, but right into the center, so the actors playing actual historical characters fade into the background and it’s Worsley, front and center.
It’s all about Worsley.
And it’s the worst.
So when I saw the recent PBS listing for Lucy Worsley’s Royal Palace Secrets, I passed.
I knew I’d enjoy hearing those royal palace secrets, but I couldn’t stomach seeing more of this:
As is often the case, I’m out of step with many – perhaps most – viewers:
“I’m a big fan of Lucy Worsley’s documentaries, and found this one to be incredibly informative and entertaining.”
“Big fan of Lucy Worsley. Her documentaries are engaging and colorful.”
“Lucy Worsley has a fantastic way of presenting historical events. I highly recommend any of her work.”
There were a few naysayers, but only a few:
“Hard to watch the moderator. She was just irritating. In fact, her presentation made me leave the movie before it was over.”
“I fell asleep.”
Hard to know if that last review was a commentary on the content or her costumes, but I’ll go with the latter.
If I needed further proof of Worsley’s popularity, I had only to look online and learn that since 2009 she hosted more than 40 TV programs, many of them multi-part series, including:
The Brits version of I Love Lucy.
Well, the Brits – and all her fans – are welcome to her.
Ole Lucy and I have parted company, but as a send-off, in case you’re curious – here’s what she looks like when she’s not in front of a camera but at home, relaxing and having dinner:
In June 2016 when he was the presumptive presidential nominee, Trump wanted Ivanka to be his running mate, saying this to his top campaign aides:
“I think it should be Ivanka. What about Ivanka as my VP? She’s bright, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, and the people would love her!”
It sounded like Trump was talking about a contestant in one of his beauty pageants, but no – he was describing daughter Ivanka.
This is according to a book that debuts next week, Wicked Game, by Rick Gates.
I had to stop for a moment to try and remember who Rick Gates was.
I associated the word “Gates” with “Trump” and “convicted,” but which criminal was he? There are so many…
Gates, pictured in the bottom row, was Trump’s former deputy campaign manager and pal of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, also pictured above. Gates pleaded guilty in February 2018 to conspiracy against the United States and lying to federal investigators about lobbying work he and Manafort did in Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign.
Trump berated the “Fake News” for reporting the excerpt from Gates’ book…
But Trump stopped short of calling Gates a liar.
I find the story quite plausible. First, because Trump lies all the time.
And second, Trump’s regard for Ivanka has been visible for years:
So let’s imagine Trump and Ivanka on the 2016 ticket…
Instead of kissing babies, Ivanka and Trump would kiss each other…
In her favor: Ivanka has been a public speaker for years, hawking her jewelry line…
And her cleverly named clothing line:
And her cleverly named perfume line:
Plus – another Trump talking point – Ivanka had large breasts. Or at least, she does now:
So I think Ivanka could have done well on the 2016 campaign trail.
For example, when giving a speech about her position on climate change and the natural world…
And her speeches about international relations would have wowed us:
And her commitment to child and adult literacy would have been front and center as well:
Yes, if Trump had been granted his wish, tonight at the VP debates we might have been treated to scenes like this:
But, alas, it was not to be.
Still, if you’re so inclined, you can hope that someday Ivanka will actually have her place in the White House, not down the hall as her Daddy’s senior suckup, but in the Oval Office:
We don’t see much of Trump’s third offspring, Eric, 36, pictured above.
We see way too much of the eldest – Donald Trump Jr., 42. He’s big on killing big animals:
And Trump Jr recently wrote a book, and then self-published it in August, I’m assuming because no publisher would touch it. Here’s the book, complete with the now-infamous typo on the cover:
The book critic at The New York Times said the book…
“fails as memoir and as polemic: Its analysis is facile, its hypocrisy relentless, its self-awareness marginal. (The writing is wretched, even by the standards of political vanity projects.)”
Then there’s Ivanka, 38, who caused quite a stir with this 2007 photo, posing with a jackhammer:
Which was nothing compared to the stir she caused with this July 2020 tweet, posing with a can of Goya beans:
Government watchdogs said, “Ivanka’s tweet was a violation of the misuse of position regulations.”
To which Ivanka replied, “And your point is?”
Then comes Trump’s third offspring, Eric, often seen caricatured on Saturday Night Live:
As one writer recently put it,
“Mikey Day plays slick big brother Don Jr. (above, right) to Alex Moffat as child-like Eric. The portrayals are way over the top, especially Eric, who is almost always acting like a not-so-bright first grader…”
But maybe today…October 5…Eric will find himself in a different setting, front and center:
According to this September 23 article, it has to do with the New York Attorney General’s “civil investigation into whether President Trump and the Trump Organization committed fraud by overstating assets to get loans and tax benefits.”
Eric is the vice-president of the Trump Organization.
The article goes on to say,
“In July, Mr. [Eric] Trump abruptly canceled an interview with the attorney general’s office, days before it was scheduled, and in August, the Trump Organization told the office that the company and its lawyers would not comply with seven subpoenas related to the investigation.”
But, the article continues, on September 23:
“…a judge in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Arthur F. Engoron, ruled that Mr. Trump had to sit for a deposition no later than Oct. 7…”
So, would Eric meet with the New York Attorney General’s office, or wouldn’t he?
I checked daily for updates and there was nothing until this:
According to the story, Eric is to meet with NY investigators via video today, October 5.
Of course, he’ll be so lawyered up that the lawyers will plead the Fifth when Eric is asked for his full name.
Since I can’t be a fly on the wall, I’ll have to rely on my imagination for what Eric’s deposition might sound like…
Notary: Mr. Trump, do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Eric: Um…I wouldn’t use the word “whole,” exactly.
Attorney #1: Eric, do you know why the New York Attorney General wants eight years of your father’s tax returns?
Eric: Um…no. We’ve done a great job of hiding stuff, so there’s nothing for the Attorney General to find.
Attorney #2: Eric, after your dad had sex with porn star Stormy Daniels, did he brag about it to you?
Eric: Um…no. He talked about it a lot, but I wouldn’t use the word “brag,” exactly.
Attorney #1: Eric, in 2016 your father agreed to pay $25 million to settle two class actions and a New York suit against Trump University. Earlier your father had said he could have settled “for very little money, but I don’t want to do it out of principle.” Do you know what “principle” your father was referring to?
Eric: Um…maybe the principal of Trump University?
Attorney #2: In 2018, New York’s attorney general filed a civil suit against the Trump Foundation and your father, along with Donald Jr, Ivanka and yourself, alleging “a shocking pattern of illegality” with respect to the foundation’s money. The Foundation was shut down and your father was ordered to pay a $2 million settlement for misusing the Foundation for his business and political purposes. What was your role in that shocking pattern of illegality?
Eric: Um…I wouldn’t use the word “illegality,” exactly.
Attorney #1: Eric, do you know you’re as dumb as dirt?
Eric: Um…yeah. But I kill animals, too! See? I killed this…whatever it is!
As of October 2, 2020, the image above is a partial list of San Diego County’s mail-in ballot drop-off locations.
There are more than 100 locations, and that’s an important thing.
An important thing – and a great thing.
That means that I can bypass these:
And the crisis deliberately caused by these bozos:
Or as this Washington Post article put it so succinctly:
The bozo on the left needs no introduction. The guy in the middle – Steve Mnuchin – was recently described as a “shameless sycophant and obsequious ass-kisser” because he’ll do anything Trump tells him to do, including screw with the Post Office.
And the third guy is Louis DeJoy, multimillionaire big-time Trump crony and donor, handpicked by Trump to be Postmaster General. The more DeJoy assures us that everything will be just swell when the United States Postal Service (USPS) starts handling the avalanche of mail-in ballots…
The more I know that my mail-in ballot isn’t going anywhere near the Post Office.
But it’s up to me to figure out how to get my ballot into the right hands.
And it’s up to you, too.
It’s up to you to find out what your options are – please don’t wait for your local TV news, or your friend or neighbor to tell you.
It’s our ballot, and it’s our job to find out:
My county has a Registrar of Voters – does yours? If not, who’s in charge?
Some states require an excuse to use mail-in ballots – does yours?
What are your options besides USPS? Can you drop off your mail-in ballot at a polling place? If yes, does it have to be your polling place?
Does your area have mail-in ballot drop-off boxes? If so, where will they be? And when?
All this information should be easy to find online.
Here’s what I found out:
My closest drop-off location is a branch of our library, about 10 minutes from my house.
The Registrar of Voters will be staffing the drop-off site, so dropped-off ballots will go directly to the Registrar.
My drop-off dates are October 6 through November 3.
If I haven’t convinced you to do just a little research to educate yourself about your options, then I ask you:
Toady #1: Mr. President, the first debate is tomorrow – September 29 – and we’ve got this area set up with a podium for a practice session. You’ll recall, sir, we call them “mock debates,” and –
Trump: Speaking of mocking, did you hear me mocking Biden at my news conference? I called him “Sleepy Joe,” “Sleepy Creepy Joe” and “Slow Joe,” all in one sentence!
Toady #2: Yes, sir, we certainly did, sir. Getting back to our debate prep –
Trump: And remember the other day, when I said, “Now I can get really vicious!” Wait till you see how vicious I can get at those debates! When’s the first one, anyway?
Toady #1: Ah…tomorrow, sir?
Trump: And – oh yeah! You heard I won the Pulitzer Prize, right?
Toady #3: Sir, are you referring to your nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize?
Trump: Yeah, the Noble Prize. I knew I’d win it!
Toady #3: Actually, sir, the Nobel winner won’t be announced until October 2021, sir, and –
(Trump, arms folded, glares at Toady #3)
Toady #2: If I could jump in here, sir? Chris Christie is on his way here. He’s going to pretend to be your debate opponent, sir, like he did four years, ago? When he was our stand-in for Hilary?
Trump: You mean Hilary the Skank? Hey, do you know what a “skank” is? I’ll bet you don’t. Look it up on your phone. Do it right now. Look it up!
Toady #2: Sir, it says “skank” is “a sleazy or unpleasant person.”
Trump: No, keep reading, it gets better!
Toady #2: Um… Well, sir, it says, “a woman who has many casual sexual encounters or relationships.”
Trump: That’s the one! Hilary, a total skank! Just like when I called what’s-her-name, Megan Kelly, a bimbo, right? Hey, look up “bimbo” and we’ll –
Toady #1: Mr. President, sir, if you could stand behind the podium –
Trump: Zingers! Zingers! That’s something I don’t have to practice. I’ve been delivering zingers since I was born! When I’m on that debate stage with Sleepy Creepy –
Toady #2: I’m glad you mentioned that, sir. Here are the moderators’ photos, with Chris Wallace as the first moderator –
Trump: Wallace? Wallace? That guy is walking, talking fake news! I told him so in that interview, remember? He ought to be shut down, and his frigging network, too.
Toady#3: Ah, sir? Chris Wallace is with Fox News?
Trump: Since when?
Toady #2: And another moderator, here’s her photo, Kristen Welker –
Trump: Never heard of her.
Toady #1: Ah, actually, sir, at a news conference back in January you congratulated her on being named co-anchor of Weekend Today.
Trump: I never said that.
Toady #1: Ah, sir, you also said, quote, “They made a very wise decision.”
Trump: Never. I never said that. Why would I say that? I must have thought she was someone else. Rosa Parks, maybe? She’s Black too, right?
Toady #2: And the third moderator, this is Steve Scully –
Trump: Another guy? Why another guy? You know I do better with broads. But then, I always have, know what I mean? I just grab ‘em by the –
Toady #3: If I may, sir, getting back to our debate practice, sir –
Trump: Speaking of broads, I’d narrowed it down to four for the Supreme Court – lemme show you what I did. I made these flash card things, see? Amy, Barbara, Alice and what’s-her-name, Joan. I’d flip through ‘em, then I rated ‘em, and – see? Amy’s an eight. Solid eight. Well, I thought maybe a nine, but she’s too old to be a nine.
Toady #2: Sir, I belive Judge Rushing’s first name is Allison, not Alice, and…
Trump: Alice and Barbara, I gave ‘em both sixes, and Joan – best I could do was four. See? So, Amy’s the eight, Amy gets the nomination. Easy!
(very long pause)
Toady #1: Sir, why don’t you step behind the podium and we’ll get started and –
Trump: Podium, schmodium. I don’t need no stinkin’ podium! I’ll walk on the stage and talk about the Russian hoax, and the mainstream fake media, and the rigged election, and the antifa, left-wing anarchists and –
I realize that dysfunctional families are good grist for a writer’s mill. Or milieu.
Dysfunctional families – and stories about them – have been around forever.
Cain and Abel, sons of Adam and Eve – The First Family and fratricide!
The ancient Egyptians? Cleopatra’s family’s activities read like a horror story.
And Shakespeare’s 17th century play, King Lear, isn’t exactly a quicker picker upper.
Which brings me to two contemporary women’s fiction novels about two dysfunctional families, The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson, and The Sweeney Sisters, by Lian Dolan.
In The Imperfects we have the Miller family – siblings Beck, Ashley and Jake, plus their mother Deborah. All four Millers are estranged from each other.
In The Sweeney Sisters we have Liza, Maggie and Tricia Sweeney, plus their recently deceased father. The sisters aren’t estranged, but they all have major daddy issues.
The Millers decide to start speaking to each other when it looks like they may be on their way to a financially huge inheritance from Grandma Helen.
The Sweeney sisters come together when it looks like they may be on their way to a financially huge inheritance from Daddy.
In The Imperfects, none of the Millers is likeable, and it’s hard to feel sympathy for any of them when you see how they speak to each other. They sneer, they snarl, they criticize, they judge. Some really choice dialogue begins on page 85, and by the time I got to page 88 I was thinking, “These people aren’t imperfect. They’re a nightmare.”
The Sweeney sisters, on the other hand, are civil to each other. Unfortunately, that means oldest sister Liza, and youngest sister Tricia, constantly enabling middle sister Maggie – they accept her lies, encourage her narcissism, and subsidize Maggie’s unemployed self-indulgent artist lifestyle.
Oh, I almost forgot. A fourth Sweeney sister, the result of one of Daddy’s affairs, shows up to complicate things. She also has major daddy issues.
I imagine many – maybe most – authors dream of their books becoming blockbuster movie$$$.
I can easily envision The Imperfects and The Sweeney Sisters made into one movie, running side-by-side on a split screen:
On September 10 there was another one of those very important stories that made the front page for a day or two – and then, in all the news noise, vanished:
According to the story:
“The Trump administration has secretly siphoned nearly $4 million away from a program that tracks and treats FDNY firefighters and medics suffering from 9/11 related illnesses, the Daily News has learned.”
“The Treasury Department mysteriously started withholding parts of payments – nearly four years ago – meant to cover medical services for firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics treated by the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program, documents obtained by The News reveal.”
What is the FDNY (Fire Department of New York) World Trade Center Health Program? Their website says they…
“…provide comprehensive physical and mental health services to all active and retired FDNY members who responded to the 9/11 attacks…This treatment continued in the disaster’s aftermath to provide physical and mental health treatment to our rescue and recovery workers in the days, months, and now years, after.”
The Daily News story references Dr. David Prezant, FDNY Chief Medical Officer, who was painfully aware that money was being withheld:
“Prezant said he was docked about half a million dollars each year in 2016 and 2017. Then it crept up to about $630,000 in 2018 and 2019. This year, Treasury has nearly tripled its extractions, diverting $1.447 million through late August.”
On September 11, other media outlets picked up the story.
The total amount?
So now we know who did this: The Treasury Department, led by Stinking Steve Mnuchin.
We know how much: $3.7 million.
Various articles said that Dr. Prezant ws never able to get an explanation from the National Institute of Occupationsl Safety and Health, or the mammoth Department of Health and Human Services which has the agency under its umbrella.
He finally got a partial answer when Long Island Republican Representative Pete King put his political weight behind the inquiry.
That answer was that some other agency in the city had been in an unrelated feud with the feds over Medicare bills.
So the Treasury Department decided to stiff the FDNY.
Now that they’d been exposed, came this:
Yes: An apology on September 11, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country, the day first responders were risking their health – and their lives – running toward the World Trade Center.
The Trump administration apologized for stealing healthcare money from those very same first responders.
The story begins,
“The Trump administration apologized Friday for stripping millions of dollars from an FDNY fund that foots healthcare bills for 9/11 survivors and promised to put an end to the heartless practice.”
What followed was one of the most convoluted, inane and unacceptableexplanations I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading.
Fortunately, I found some clarification on Snopes.com:
“It’s true that the Trump administration has been withholding money from the program, the result of what appears to be a bureaucratic blunder – namely, the way the Department of Treasury tracks and collects on debts owed to the federal government.
“The Department of Treasury…stated that the department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service is required to ‘offset federal payments for the collection of delinquent debts owed to the United States.’ The Treasury Department’s program to offset such debts uses a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to link payees and debtors.
“Some payees – such as New York City – use a single TIN for many of their subdivisions, which can result in a payment for one component of the payee being subject to offset for a debt by another component of the payee. That is what happened in this case.”
As I said: convoluted, inane and unacceptable.
And it gets worse. The Firehouse article quoted some dimbo named Rebecca Miller at the Treasury Department who said the administration took the FDNY cash to cover some of the city’s unrelated Medicare debt, which has piled up over the years. And…
“It’s wrong, it shouldn’t happen this way, and we are doing everything that we can, working with the city to try and fix this really unfortunate situation. But at the end of the day, there are administrative hurdles and to a certain extent, our hands are tied by our statutory obligations.”
I’m sure the FDNY is taking great comfort in that, and in this from “our-hands-are-tied” Miller:
“The issue has been elevated to the highest level. We’re trying to get creative here.”
I started looking online every day for updates. Surely, now that the Trump Administration had been caught ripping off 9/11 first responders, they’d do more than apologize?
As in, give the $3.7 million back to the FDNY?
But I found no stories saying so.
September 13: Nothing.
September 14: Nothing.
September 15, September 16, September 17…
And then finally, on September 18, the New York Daily News, with what had to be the Best Headline of the Day:
The article says:
“The U.S. Treasury Department has claimed for a week that it was bound by law to take millions of dollars away from the New York City Fire Department’s treatment fund, but a review by the Daily News and by lawmakers irate over the vanishing dollars found that is not the case.”
So the Treasury Department, let by Stinking Steve Mnuchin, one of Trump’s top toadies, said, in effect, “Not our fault! We were bound by law to take the money!”
“Treasury officials began telling lawmakers, including in a letter to Representative Pete King, that taking the money was a matter of law, required because unrelated city departments owe debts to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It is not clear yet what those debts are.”
Nice try, Stinking Steve. Except for one little problem:
“The department did not note that its own website includes a disclaimer saying Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has the authority to exempt programs from the offsets.”
“The bureaucratic language on the Treasury Department’s website explains it this way: ‘The Secretary may exempt other payments [from offsets] if the head of the paying agency demonstrates that offset would substantially interfere with Congress’s purpose for the payment agency’s program.’”
In case Mnuchin’s perfidy wasn’t crystal clear, the article made it so:
“Congress’ purpose in creating the FDNY’s 9/11 treatment program was to care for firefighters and EMTs harmed by their service at Ground Zero.”
Then came this from Representative Pete King, and the Best Headline of the Day, above:
“It’s their [expletive] job to make sure that the FDNY gets the money, and they can find a way. It’s as simple as that. The Treasury Secretary can do it, the administration can do it. And rather than have everybody try to jump through hoops – just do it. I mean, I can’t believe that the federal government, if it screws somebody in the first place, can’t change direction.”
On September 17, the New York congressional delegation sent a letter to Stinking Steve Mnuchin.
New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer were also on board.
On September 18 Gillibrand and Schumer sent a letter to Stinking Steve Mnuchin.
And since then…
September 19: Nothing.
September 20: Nothing.
September 21: Is today the day?
Is today the day Stinking Steve – with Trump’s OK, of course, because Mnuchin doesn’t inhale, or exhale, without Trump’s say-so – is today the day Stinking Steve will stop stealing money from the FDNY and return the $3.7 million?
Or will the New York first responders just keep waiting for their healthcare funding to be returned, while Mnuchin and the other bottom feeders at the Treasury Department prevaricate, dissimulate, and outright lie?
There you were, living in American’s Finest City – San Diego – running your business, Social Savvy Marketing, and apparently doing all the right things.
You had at least two websites…
And two Facebook pages…
And two Twitter accounts:
And whatever this is…
Yes, Nikole, you were doing all the right things to build your name recognition…
And then you did a wrong thing.
And, I’m thinking, got the kind of name recognition you weren’t looking to get:
Nikole, your name is in a Department of Justice news release – that can’t be good!
The news release that says, among other things, you “applied for tens of thousands of dollars of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans with three financial institutions.” And that,
“After a representative from one financial institution told Edwards that Social Savvy Marketing could not receive a PPP loan, Edwards lied and said: ‘This is a lifeline for my employees and my business and we won’t survive without it.’”
So, the Department of Justice news release, and then more name recognition:
OK – let’s catch our breath, and do a bit of backstory.
Congress established the PPP on a bipartisan basis in the CARES Act in March 2020 to provide $349 billion in forgivable loans to eligible small businesses and non-profit organizations to cover payroll, rent, and utility payments to help them survive the coronavirus crisis. In April 2020, Congress appropriated an additional $321 billion for the program.
That’s a whole bunch of billions, and I guess you, Nikole, decided you were going to get yourself a “tens of thousands of dollars” slice of that pie.
So, even though you have no employees, you faked tax and payroll records for two staff to get a PPP loan.
And you were thorough – according to the Union-Tribune article,
“In April and May as shutdowns took hold, Nikole Edwards, 40, applied for government-backed PPP loans at three financial institutions. She provided false addresses and Social Security numbers for employees, as well as bogus W-2 forms, as part of at least one application submitted to the SBA, according to prosecutors.”
“Department of Justice.”
Now, those are scary words.
And here are some more:
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the SBA’s Office of Inspector General led the investigation.”
Nikole, you did a wrong thing, and you got caught.
You did, indeed get a loan.
But not “tens of thousands of dollars.”
You got a very small loan.
Not even $20,000 bucks, Nicole, and now…
For that lousy, not-even $20,000…
“She is scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel on November 18. The charge of making a false statement to the SBA carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.”
Nikole, you could go to prison, you’re facing a $5,000 fine PLUS you must pay back the $19,583.
In fairness, I’ll say at least you did the right thing and pleaded guilty, saving us taxpayers the cost of your trial.
Unlike the many people who have done the same thing you did, according to this September 1 report from the U.S. House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis:
The report goes on to list other dirtbags like you, Nikole, who are ripping off us taxpayers:
Over $1 billion in loans went to companies that received multiple loans (PPP rules prohibit companies from receiving multiple loans).
More than 600 loans totaling over $96 million went to companies excluded from doing business with the government.
More than 350 loans worth $195 million went to government contractors flagged by the federal government for significant performance and integrity issues.
Federal database raised red flags for $2.98 billion in loans to more than 11,000 PPP borrowers.
Talk about “fraud, waste and abuse.”
That’s what you did, Nikole.
Now let’s compare and contrast your story with another from the very same day:
The article cites a number of small business owners like you, Nikole.
But instead of defrauding us taxpayers…
“Many business owners are tapping the money they socked into personal savings and retirement accounts to withstand the pandemic. For some…there are big expenses coming due while for others it’s a way to offset the losses and stay afloat until the virus eases its grip.”
One small business owner is Tom Tunney (pictured). According to the article,
“Tom Tunney’s three Ann Sather restaurants are breakfast, brunch and lunch stalwarts in their Chicago neighborhoods. Social distancing requirements have curtailed revenue and the government loan Tunney got was quickly spent paying staff.
“Tunney, who’s also an alderman in the Chicago City Council, estimates he’s put $250,000 of his own money into running the restaurants. He dipped into proceeds of real estate sales to replace his lost revenue, and says he’s prepared to continue tapping savings until business returns to normal.
“‘My community and my business are everything, pretty much my family,’ Tunney says.”
Quite a difference, when you compare and contrast.
Tom Tunney got a government loan just like you did, Nikole.
He used it to pay his staff.
You created a fictitious staff.
And you were going to use those “tens of thousands of dollars” – if your “fraud, waste and abuse” been successful – for…
What, I’m wondering?
Maybe you could write sometime and tell me?
Looks like you’ll have plenty of time…
Nikole, it looks like you’ve also got plenty of company:
The article didn’t include you on its list of miscreants – no name recognition for you there – but it did list some others:
Maurice Fayne, a reality TV star who received a $3.7 million PPP loan.
New Jersey-based attorney Jae Choi, arrested and charged with fraudulently obtaining $9 million in pandemic loans through three separate lenders.
Hollywood film producer William Sadleir, charged with fraudulently seeking more than $1.7 million in PPP loans.
Nikole, seriously – you are totally small potatoes compared to these guys.
But wait – I’ve saved the best for last:
David Hines got $3.9 million, and treated himself to a Lamborghini!
On the afternoon of Saturday, September 12 my husband brought in our mail and handed me this postcard, complete with smudges of ink? grease? dirt?
My first thought was, “What is the Post Office wasting money on this time?”
My second thought was, “Dirty Louie DeJoy is screwing with the election again.”
(DeJoy, of course, is a major Trump donor and Trump’s handpicked Postmaster General, in office and wreaking havoc on USPS since early May.)
Then my hub turned on the TV news, and – immediately – we started seeing stories like this:
Wow! Talk about synergy!
No sooner was that postcard in my hand than a lawsuit is announced against it!
And, it appears, for good reason.
In the lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold stated,
“These false statements will confuse Colorado voters, likely causing otherwise-eligible voters to wrongly believe that they may not participate in the upcoming election. This attempt at voter suppression violates the United States Constitution and federal statutes and must be stopped immediately.”
What “false statements” is Griswold referring to? Here’s the five-point checklist other side of the postcard:
At first glance, the checklist looks innocuous enough.
Here’s what Griswold is suggesting will confuse Colorado voters, according to the 9NEWS story:
Colorado voters don’t need to request a ballot because all registered voters receive one by mail.
Voters who don’t have a ballot can vote in person.
Voters don’t have to mail back their ballots and can return ballots to polling centers or drop-off boxes.
That first bullet – the “request a ballot” could confuse many people since, according to a September 12 article in The New York Times:
“…nine states and the District of Columbia are mailing absentee ballots to every registered voter, making it unnecessary for the voters to request one.”
And though a judge did grant a temporary restraining order, the benefits may prove to be moot – again, according to 9NEWS:
“The Postal Service says these cards have already been delivered to most households and will reach every residential mailing and P.O. Box addresses in the coming week.”
So USPS sent the five-point checklist to all “residential mailing and P.O. Box addresses,” but it appears – for better or for worse – it’s not the last we’ve heard from them on the subject:
“…the omni-channel public information campaign will continue through Election Day to educate the public on the Postal Service’s role in the mail-in ballot process.”
“The campaign includes print, TV and radio ads, direct mail to residential customers, retail signage in Post Office lobbies, social media, and online resources, including the recently launched Election Mail website on usps.com.”
What the campaign won’t include is a different five-point checklist because it’s strictly internal – for USPS employees only.
First: I have the greatest respect for our military, and gratitude for their sacrifice and service.
Second: Especially when I remember that ours is a volunteer military – the draft ended in 1973.
These young women and men raise their hands and say, “I’ll serve,” knowing the possibility of long overseas deployments, terrible injuries, and even death in service to our country.
Trump claims that he’s done a lot for our military – “his” increases of the defense budget, “his” pay raises for them, “his” bringing troops home.
Trump loves the military so much, that he takes our tax dollars from the military (some of which was allocated for military schools and daycare) to build his border wall:
And the military, Trump claims, loves him right back:
And you can be sure, between now and the election, that Trump will claim credit for the military “payroll tax cut” he ordered up.
He’ll brag about it, alright.
And as he’s bragging, Trump will neglect to mention this:
The payroll tax cut must be repaid.
According to this article in Military Times:
The article says,
“More than a million military members earning $8,666.66 or less per month will see their paychecks increase by 6.2 percent of their basic pay beginning with the mid-September paycheck.”
“The increase, for the months of September through December, comes from a Social Security payroll tax deferral put into place by President Donald Trump’s August 8 memorandum, and subsequent Internal Revenue Service guidance.”
That’s like getting a 6.2 percent raise, right?
See that word “deferral”?
I see it. You see it.
But how many in the military – I’m thinking of 18-year-olds, 20-year-old, early 20s – will see it?
How many will see the gain now – but not the loss ahead?
“As of pay periods starting January 1, service members will repay the money over a four-month period ending April 30.”
And not only that, but our military members can’t say, “Thanks, but no thanks”:
“Military members…can’t opt out of the deferral; it happens automatically, according to the Defense Finance and Accounting Office.”
Here’s my image of our military.
And so many of them are just so, so young:
And – I don’t think I’m stereotyping here – young people sometimes may not make the best decisions about money.
That quality isn’t limited to young people, of course – we all make financial misjudgments, me included.
But so many of our military members are young, and away from home, and around a lot of other young people who also may not be making good financial decisions…
And I think of them looking at that 6.2 percent increase in their paychecks now instead of thinking about that 12.4 percent decrease, come January.
This is Trump’s big “gift” to our military.
Our military deserves better than this Cheat-in-Chief.
Trump’s “gift” doesn’t only affect those in the military. According to this article in the Washington Post:
Trump’s “payroll tax cut”:
“…allow employers to temporarily suspend the collection of payroll taxes for any employee whose pretax wages or compensation during a biweekly pay period is less than $4,000.”
The article also says,
“The payroll deferral is all about the optics of appearing to provide meaningful pandemic-related financial assistance. This directive just shifts a burden forward.”
The tall structure in the center of the above image is a boring, empty building in downtown San Diego, commonly referred to as “101 Ash Street.”
Boring, empty, and just sucking up money.
$18,000 a day worth of taxpayer money.
Now, I love San Diego and I have no quibble when residents call it “America’s Finest City.”
But this story is such an egregious screw-up that it’s given the city’s leaders a large and well-deserved black eye.
And it’s so convoluted, I’m not sure that anyone has been able to thoroughly sort it out.
Here’s my understanding:
In 2016 San Diego agreed to do a lease-to-own deal on the former Sempra Energy headquarters (see boring building, above). The goal was to consolidate – move about 1,000 city employees from other buildings into this one building.
It was a 20-year, $127 million deal which Mayor Kevin Faulconer persuaded the City Council to approve.
Council members were told the $535,000 monthly lease was a bargain that would save the city $44 million in rent payments over two decades.
They were told the 315,000-square-foot building was in good shape, all it needed was a $10,000 power wash, and employees could start moving in.
Let’s pause for a moment here.
There are nine people on San Diego’s City Council, elected by their constituents who believed they were choosing smart, competent people who would best represent their interests.
So wouldn’t you think that all – or some – or even one of those council members might have raised their hand and said, “That building was built in 1966. It’s more than 50 years old, and you’re telling us it needs nothing but a $10,000 power wash?”
Alas, it appears that not even one did.
Alas, again – the city did no due diligence to establish the condition of the building.
Instead, they accepted what they were told by Cisterra Partners.
Cisterra Partners, a San Diego real estate firm that acted as a broker between the city and building’s formers owners.
Let’s pause for another moment here.
If you’ve ever considered buying a residence, you have the option of paying to have a home inspection done. This is called “due diligence,” and every smart buyer does this. A home inspection can reveal problems the owner was unaware of – termite damage, for example – and reveal problems the owner didn’t disclose. Because the reality is, some owners don’t disclose what they should.
Buyers who don’t have a home inspection – their due diligence – are why we have phrases like…
So, too, with San Diego’s mayor and City Council.
Except – the taxpayers aren’t fools.
But they are being parted from vast amounts of their money.
$18,000 a day, $535,000 a month.
And there were red flags: Cisterra had insisted that the city accept the property “as-is, where-is, with all faults,” and included language in the lease agreement precluding any liability of Cisterra.
Yup. Red flags.
Did the mayor and council have blinders on?
And somehow, these Powers That Be missed this red flag, as well: In 2014, a real estate consultant for Sempra Energy told the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that Sempra considered the building to be “functionally obsolete” because of its vulnerability to damage during an earthquake and because…
Are you ready?
Because of the building’s asbestos issues.
You know – asbestos, used for ages in buildings because it was a good, heat-resistant electrical insulator?
Asbestos, that’s been totally banned in this country since 2003 because it’s known to cause several types of cancer?
This guy is telling the CPUC in 2014 that Sempra knows there’s asbestos in the building, and nobody at the CPUC thinks to tell San Diego’s Mayor or City Council when they started doing the Happy Dance about this building?
Nobody at Sempra – the former owners of the building – shares with the Mayor or City Council, either?
Nobody – not the mayor, no one on the City Council – thinks so say, “Golly, don’t buildings that old sometimes have that asbestos stuff in them?”
So the city signed in early 2017, and taxpayers began paying $18,000 per day for the lease of a building no one can use.
I haven’t mentioned that the building was appraised for $72 million.
The mayor’s office estimates it will cost $115 million to fix the asbestos problem, along with other items including the earthquake retrofit, and issues with plumbing, heating, elevators, electrical, and fire alarm.
An editorial in the August 7 San Diego Union-Tribune called 101 Ash Street “the city’s worst land deal ever.”
An August 6 article in the Union-Tribune reported that Faulconer, in search of a solution, presented the council with “five options for moving forward” on 101 Ash Street.
Councilman Chris Cate summed up the options, and the situation, with a succinct, “This whole thing, it friggin’ sucks.”
The finger-pointing has begun, and there’s lots of it. According to an August 9 editorial, also in the Union-Tribune, “the mayor and his aides emphasized that the City Council and City Attorney’s Office didn’t raise questions about the Ash Street deal…he alternately blamed ‘the bureaucracy,’ ‘the system’ and ‘the city.’”
The mayor also “blamed construction crews for what went wrong.”
Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin blamed the Mayor’s Office for failing to keep the council informed about problems with the Ash Street building.
Consultants blamed city officials for relying too heavily on representations from Cisterra Development.
The Union-Tribune blamed “Faulconer’s failure to take the most fundamental step in considering any real estate transaction: getting an independent evaluation of the property’s condition.”
A different media outlet blamed “Real Estate Assets Director Cybele Thompson’s failure to seek an independent appraisal and assessment of the building’s true condition upfront.”
And yet another outlet blamed “the city” for failing to conduct due diligence, “the city” being the catch-all when there are too many culpable people to name individually.
The more articles I read, the more finger-pointing I read about. Everyone is pointing at everyone.
Except for San Diego’s taxpayers…
The only thing taxpayers are pointing their finger at is…
Update, August 18, 2020:
According to an August 18 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune:
“Two San Diego law firms have teamed up with a prominent Los Angeles civil litigation specialist to sue the former owners of the downtown high rise at 101 Ash Street, a 19-story building the city of San Diego acquired without so much as an independent inspection.”
The lawsuit asserts,
“This taxpayer action is brought because San Diego city officials have failed to vindicate the rights of plaintiff and other San Diego taxpayers to stop the waste of funds and to recover funds already wasted relating to the 101 Ash Street building.”
There are authors I’ve read and enjoyed for a long time. Authors who, when I learned they had a new book – I bought it. I didn’t read the summary or reviews.
When they wrote it, I wanted it.
Those authors include Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag and Susan Howatch.
Sadly, over the years, with each author I’d I realize, “Well, I’m not going to buy her books anymore.”
If my library had it, I’d read it. But spend $20 to $30 for on an author I was now iffy about?
The next step – again, sadly – was, “I’m not going to read her books anymore.”
With each of those four authors, I transitioned from “buying” to “not buying” to “not reading.”
Sometimes it was because the author’s focus had changed. Sometimes, my tastes changed. And sometimes, I guess I just lost that lovin’ feeling.
Over time, Barbara Delinsky’s books have moved from “buy it” to “not buy it,” so I got her latest, A Week at the Shore, from my library.
I’m not quite ready to move Delinsky from “not buy” to “not read,” but I’m getting there.
A Week at the Shore is not bad, it’s just…not very good.
There’s nothing new or original about it.
And it’s full of clichés, including:
The book was so cliché-ridden that I fully expected a hurricane to sweep in and tumble one or both houses into the ocean. You know – one of those 100-year storms that just happens to occur in the final 20 pages?
The storm then – of course – exposing the skeletal remains of the wife who deserted. Or died.
At least I was spared those clichés.
And perhaps I’ve spared you from reading A Week at the Shore.
The above image is my interpretation of a recent encounter between me and my new neighbor.
Yes, it was a rattlesnake.
And though the heroes who removed it assured me that the snake was “just a baby,” I beg to differ.
That rattlesnake didn’t know it was “just a baby.” What it did know was that it had fangs, and venom, and knew how to use them.
And “baby” rattlesnakes are even scarier than adults, because they’re born without the rattle. The rattle grows each time the snake sheds its skin, so a baby rattler may not have shed enough times to give a warning before striking.
But even if the rattle has developed, there’s no Rattlesnake for Dummies book that tells rattlesnakes there’s a rule that they must shake that rattle before striking.
There are no rules for rattlesnakes, period.
Like that nonsense about “rattlesnake season.”
People around here talk about rattlesnake season as the months of April through October – as though rattlesnakes pay any attention to the human calendar.
Do those who espouse this theory think that rattlesnake in my yard, poised to strike, would suddenly pause and think, “Wait – what month is it? March? OK, it’s not my season to bite” and just slither back under its rock?
And please spare me any further blather about how “fatalities from rattlesnake bites are rare if treated in a timely manner.”
You see that key word, “if”?
And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “between 7,000 and 8,000 people per year are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States, but only five of them die each year.”
You see that key word, “only”?
There’s no “only” if you’re one of the five.
And yes, I know rattlesnakes help control the rodent population, and I’m grateful and all that. There are plenty of rodents out there, so why bite me? A rattlesnake can swallow a mouse whole…
But what the hell would it do with me?
If, after all this, you still think rattlesnakes are swell, then come on out to Southern California and have a cuddle-up – we have four types, so you can…
According to a recent Washington Post article, in an August 20 interview with Fox News host Sean “Trump Whore” Hannity, Trump described law enforcement officers as part of a phalanx of authorities he hopes will monitor poling places in November:
“We’re going to have everything,” the president said. “We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to hopefully have U.S. attorneys and we’re going to have everybody, and attorney generals.”
Of course, that last should be “attorneys general,” but what’s one more display of Trump’s ignorance?
And speaking of Trump’s ignorance, according to the article,
“The president has limited authority to order law enforcement to patrol polling places. Sheriff’s deputies and police officers are commanded at the local level, and afederal law bars U.S. government officials from sending ‘armed men’ to the vicinity of polling places.”
But why would Trump want sheriffs, etc. at polling places?
For safety reasons, not voter suppression, insisted White House chief of staff/chief toady Mark Meadows, in an August 23 Fox News interview:
“If the judges at those polling places need any kind of security, we’re going to make sure we have the resources to do that.”
“I think what the president was really addressing was to make sure that if you want to show up and vote in person, we’re going to make sure that that is safe. Whether you’re voting for him, or you’re voting for Joe Biden, or you’re voting for some other candidate.”
In other words, Trump and his Republican toadies just want safer polling places.
Safer than what? I wondered.
Safer from what? I wondered.
And since when has safety been an issue at polling places?
Have polling places, in the past, been overrun with zombies?
Are vampires sneaking up on unsuspecting voters and…
Or perhaps the boogeyman has been seen slithering from voting booth to voting booth?
Speaking of boogeyman, its definition is “a terrifying or dreaded person or thing.”
The boogeyman is real:
But he won’t be around much longer:
And look how the rats are deserting the sinking ship!
Manuel and Frank, are you feeling proud of yourselves these days?
Are you high-fiving each other for getting your client out of jail?
Not because he’d been tried and found not guilty, but because of the pandemic?
Your client, Ibrahim E. Bouaichi (left).
The story was all over the media…
For one day.
In these crazy coronavirus times, I suppose it’s amazing the story received any coverage at all.
What’s one more dead woman?
Here’s what the media coverage had to say:
We’re going back to last October
On October 10 there was an “incident” in the apartment of Karla Dominguez, 31 (left). It was violent, and it was not consensual, she testified in Alexandria District Court in December.
The man she accused – your client, Ibrahim E. Bouaichi – was indicted on charges including rape, sodomy, strangulation and abduction, and jailed without bond in Alexandria, VA.
Manuel and Frank, your sympathy for the victim, Dominguez, was clear:
“‘The two individuals involved were boyfriend/girlfriend,’ the lawyers wrote, ‘and there is a substantial defense here.’”
Now, under Virginia law, those charged with certain violent crimes such as rape are presumed to be a danger and are not eligible for bond.
So Bouaichi languished in an Alexandria, VA jail…
And then came the pandemic.
Manuel and Frank, talk about opportunity knocking right on your door!
You decided that the virus was a danger to both inmates and to yourselves, and that Bouaichi should be freed awaiting trial.
You put together a motion for bond that asked for Bouiachi’s release because “social distancing and proper disinfecting measures are impossible while incarcerated.… Simply put, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in a jail is exceedingly obvious.”
Whoa! “Exceedingly obvious”! Talk about lawyerly language!
You also noted the risk for yourselves in the jail, saying that lawyers seeking a contact visit would “also expose themselves to contaminated air and surfaces.”
And you claimed that the Alexandria jail had “imposed severe restrictions on visitation since the Covid-19 outbreak,” that all contact visits (meaning no glass or separation between visitor and inmate) were stopped, and that the lawyers could only have video conference sessions lasting 30 minutes maximum.
A trial date had been set for Bouaichi, and you, Manuel and Frank, said he was “being effectively deprived of legal counsel.”
The Alexandria jail officials’ story differed from yours. They said that they do allow contact visits for attorneys upon request, and have accommodated several requests.
“However,” jail spokeswoman Amy Bertsch added, “we do not have any record of Mr. Leiva or his co-counsel requesting a face-to-face visit with Ibrahim Bouaichi after the protocols went into effect in late March.”
Imagine that. You, Manuel and Frank, were claiming that you couldn’t get a contact visit with Bouaichi, and the spokeswoman said there was no record of your requesting one!
How did this happen, I wonder?
“We have also provided video conferences in excess of 30 minutes,” Bertsch said.
Bertsch also said that the jail implemented increased cleaning and health screening in early March “and there were no cases of COVID-19 at the jail during their client’s incarceration.”
Nevertheless, on April 9, over the objections of an Alexandria prosecutor, Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins released Bouaichi on $25,000 bond, with the condition that he only leave his Maryland home to meet with his lawyers or pretrial services officials.
And on April 9, Bouaichi walked out of jail.
Way to go, guys!
And I’m betting that you, Manuel and Frank, assured the judge that your client would do exactly as he was told.