“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.
Shortly before midnight on May 8, Bouaichi was away from home, but not to meet with his lawyers or pretrial services officials.
Instead, he was at a Wendy’s drive-through in Greenbelt, MD. Someone had reported Bouaichi to police as a possible robber. Police officers at the scene described him as “acting strangely,” and indeed, he was:
He put his vehicle in drive and rammed a K-9 officer’s vehicle, which an officer and a police dog were sitting in.
The officers eventually took him into custody, at which point Bouaichi reported having a medical issue. He was taken to a hospital, and then to the Prince George’s jail, where he was served multiple charges: two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault, harming a law enforcement dog, resisting arrest, driving while intoxicated and multiple traffic charges.
Bouaichi was released on bond from jail on May 11.
Manuel and Frank, the media stories didn’t say that you got Bouaichi released, but who else – but you?
And who else but you would be so caring and clever to not advise the Greenbelt police that your client was an accused rapist out on bond from Alexandria, VA, about 30 minutes away?
Way to cover for your client!
The media coverage doesn’t appear to mention Bouaichi again until the Alexandria police received a report of gunshots on Wednesday, July 29.
At 6:20am they found Dominguez outside her apartment, dead of multiple wounds to the upper body.
Police obtained a murder warrant for Bouaichi on Friday, July 31, but couldn’t find him until the following Wednesday, five days later.
On that Wednesday, August 5 morning, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force and Alexandria officers spotted Bouaichi’s car in Prince George’s County. As they moved in to arrest him, he shot himself, Alexandria police said.
He died Saturday, August 8 at a local hospital, police said in a news release.
Manuel and Frank, did you know where your client was during those eight days?
You’re not saying.
You’re not saying anything, except this:
“Leiva and Salvato said in a statement they were ‘certainly saddened by the tragedy both families have suffered here.’ The lawyers said they ‘were looking forward to trial. Unfortunately the pandemic continued the trial date by several months and we didn’t get the chance to put forth our case.’”
What a bummer – you didn’t “get the chance” to put forth your case!
Just think of the website potential here!
Manuel and Frank, you could have jazzed up your ho-hum websites from this:
No need to mention that your client died before he could be tried.
No need to confuse people with the facts.
No need to mention this fact, either:
The Karla Dominguez, who accused your client of rape, is also dead.
If you like learning about something about which you know nothing – and I do – then watching Warrior Queen Boudica would be an hour and 40 minutes well spent.
If you think you’ve maybe heard of Boudica but aren’t sure, it may be because she’s also variously referred to as Boudicca, Boadicea, Boudicea, and Buddug. For the sake of my sanity, I’ll stick with Boudica.
Information about Boudica comes from Roman scholars, primarily Tacitus (56 AD-120 AD) and Cassius Dio (163 AD-c. 235 AD). The big events in Boudica’s life happened in 60 AD – Tacitus was age four or five, and Cassius Dio wasn’t born until 100+ years later. So it’s tempting to wonder if Boudica actually existed, or if her story is the stuff of legend.
But, since many scholars accept her story as true, let’s do the same.
Boudica was married to Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, an ancient Celtic tribe that once inhabited Eastern Britain (on map, in red). The Romans had conquered Britain, but Prasutagus had an arrangement with his rulers – he remained king, but only as an ally of the Romans.
In 60 AD, when Boudica was probably in her 30s, Prasutagus died without a male heir. The Romans tore up the agreement, annexed his kingdom and confiscated his family’s land and property. To make sure the message was understood – and perhaps because Queen Boudica objected – the Romans flogged her and raped her two daughters.
What the Romans hadn’t counted on was the loyalty of the Iceni to their queen. When Boudica decided to rebel against the Romans in 60 AD, the Iceni rallied behind her, and together they started kicking some serious Roman ass:
They defeated the Ninth Roman Legion, a group of highly trained and heavily armed professional soldiers, an unimaginable feat by “savages” lead by a “mere” woman.
They destroyed Camulodunum (modern Colchester), the capital of Roman Britain, and massacred its inhabitants.
They did much the same to Londinium (London) and Verulamium (modern St. Albans).
Tacitus claimed that the Britons massacred some 70,000 Romans and pro-Roman Britons before the Roman legions finally defeated Boudica and her army.
The fate of Boudica and her daughters is unknown, though the widely accepted belief is in their suicide to avoid capture.
We don’t know what Boudica looked like, and the one dissonant note in the film was how she was portrayed, or rather – how she was dressed. I don’t think appearing in a bustier – that showed her tan line! – added to the story:
Otherwise, I learned a lot, and that made me want to learn more, and that’s a good thing.
For example, that perhaps our rebel Queen got the last word.
Now considered a folk hero, this 19th century statue honoring Boudica and her daughters resides near Westminster Pier in London…
“A growing number of Republican women are sounding the alarm about continuing loss of support for President Trump and the GOP among female voters ahead of the November election, warning that the party is in danger of permanently alienating women if it doesn’t change course.
“Trump’s flailing response to the coronavirus pandemic and his move to inflame nationwide racial tensions are exacerbating an already precarious situation, according to interviews with female Republican lawmakers and GOP pollsters focused on female voters.”
Later on, the article says:
“Once willing to overlook controversies because their families were doing well, the security these voters felt with the booming economy is now gone because of the pandemic, the pollsters say. Now they are worried about their children, their elderly parents and their livelihoods – and they don’t see Trump as a leader who can protect them.”
Now, isn’t that interesting?
Republican women are turning away from Trump because of how he’s handling the pandemic, economic disaster and social unrest.
Now, and only now, when it’s hitting close to home.
Because the families that “were doing well…”
Aren’t doing so well now.
These Republican women who were “willing to overlook controversies” and gladly voted for Trump in 2016.
Voted for him in November 2016, even though this story got international coverage in October 2016:
Republican women heard Trump say, “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Republican women gladly “overlooked” this controversy.
And the many deplorable things that Trump continued to do to, and say about, women, since the election:
And the many deplorable things Trump continues to do to, and say about, women – these about Kamala Harris, in the hours after the August 11 announcement of Harris as Biden’s running mate:
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, the president described Harris’s questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing as “extraordinarily nasty” – “nasty to a level that was just a horrible thing.”
Trump demeaned her as “angry” and “horrible.”
Trump described her as “nasty” or “nastier” four times.
We knew President Trump would come up with a nickname for Kamala D. Harris as soon as Joe Biden named the California senator as his running mate. “Phony Kamala” is what the president seems to have settled on.
President Trump on Thursday encouraged a racist conspiracy theory that is rampant among some of his followers: that Senator Kamala Harris, the presumptive Democratic vice-presidential nominee born in California, was not eligible for the vice presidency or presidency because her parents were immigrants.
And this, from Trump’s son:
On Twitter, Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons, favorited a tweet, which was later deleted, that referred to Ms. Harris as a “whorendous pick.”
Trump’s insulting remarks about women are easy to find – if you google “Trump hates women” you get about 12,900,000 results.
Not that Republican women – over these past torturous years while Trump has occupied the White House – would ever bother to google “Trump hates women.”
They didn’t care.
They still don’t care.
You, Republican women, don’t even care that Trump refers to you as “suburban housewives”:
But now – when some of you Republican women have tragically lost a loved one to COVID-19.
Only now – when some of you Republican women are stuck at home with your kids, trying to ensure (because their schools are closed) that the kids are getting some semblance of a decent education online.
Only now – when some of you Republican women have lost your jobs, or your partners have lost their job. Or you’ve both lost your jobs.
Only now, when it’s up close and personal, are you Republican women feeling you “don’t see Trump as a leader who can protect” you.
And you are welcome.
If you’re turning away from Trump, regardless of the reason.
And if you vote Biden/Harris, regardless of your party affiliation.
And if, after Trump is gone on January 20, you’re willing to come together and start trying to bring our country out of the darkness…
It’s no secret that “Republicans” and “voter suppression” go hand-in-hand:
And I suggest that Republicans got a chance to practice voter suppression in Puerto Rico:
On August 9 Puerto Rico was forced to partially suspend voting in primaries due to a lack of ballots.
A lack of ballots.
A great strategy to have in the voter suppression toolbox.
You may be wondering, why didn’t they just do mail-in ballots in Puerto Rico?
According to an August 10 NPR article,
“…in Puerto Rico, as in a handful of states, absentee voting is still only offered to those with an excuse for why they cannot vote in person, which is why voters there had little choice but to go to the polls in person.”
So on primary voting day, hundreds of frustrated Puerto Rican voters (who wore the required face masks, braved a spike in COVID-19 cases and the hot-as-hell weather) were turned away from centers across Puerto Rico as officials told them that no ballots were available.
Many people waited, but by early afternoon only a handful of polling places had received their paper ballots.
The lack of ballots meant people were only able to vote in nearly 60 of 110 precincts.
This situation is unexplainable and becomes even more so, since the primary election had already been delayed once, moved from June 7 to August 9, because of the pandemic.
Plenty of time to get ballots printed and ready for delivery in plenty of time for voting day.
Now the ballot shortage means that some precincts – the locations that did not have ballots available to start voting by 1:45 p.m. Sunday – will be open to cast ballots again on Sunday, August 16.
However, lawsuits have been filed and that could change.
Lawsuits – just like what’s predicted for the November election:
In the meantime, the Blame Game in Puerto Rico went into full swing:
Political party officials laid blame with the island’s election commission.
The head of the election commission pointed the finger at a printing facility.
Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Management Board said it had fully funded the elections commission and a lack of money could not be to blame.
Why do I think the Puerto Rico primary was Republicans practicing voter suppression?
Because though Puerto Ricans are American citizens, they can’t vote in a presidential election.
So why not do a no-ballots practice run now, and see if it flies?
And it flew, all right. It flew…
Now Republicans can sit back and do a Puerto Rico primary postmortem:
Republican #1: Did you see those headlines? We did it!
Republican #1: And did you see that figure? Out of 110 precincts, people could only vote in about 60!
Republican #2: Yeah! No ballots! We really did it!
Republican #3: Definitely in the toolbox for November.
Republican #1: Yeah, but only in precincts with lots of minority voters, right?
Republican #3: Right. Now let’s get back to how we’ll suppress those damn mail-in ballots.
The pandemic tragedy has brought infections, deaths, millions of people out of work, many in danger of eviction…
And something else:
There was a new surge of scammers as people lost their jobs and filed for unemployment.
There was another surge of scammers when the government stimulus money started going out.
We began getting phone calls from someone purporting to be a bank or a government official, needing personal information to facilitate our getting that unemployment compensation and/or pandemic relief.
More calls – from scammers saying they were doing coronavirus contact tracing and asking for our personal information to help them follow up with people possibly infected.
Fake websites began making appearances, too. Some look like legitimate government sites, while other pretend to be selling items we want – face masks, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies. The first want your Social Security number; the second, your credit card number.
Other websites offer coronavirus cures and tests – appealing in these desperate times, but all bogus.
There are even what look like real company websites posting fake job openings on online job boards, set up to fool job hunters into handing over personal information or to send money.
“Send money?” you’re thinking. “How could someone be fooled into sending a prospective employer money?”
Answer: Easy. The scammer tells the victim that they need to pay upfront for background checks or screenings, job training, or work-from-home equipment or supplies. Many times, victims are told they’ll be reimbursed for these expenses with their first paycheck.
People are desperate for work, and so…
Then there are – perhaps the most despicable of all – scammers who pretend they represent charities, contacting people by phone, email, texts, letters, and even going door to door.
One example of the latter is operating here in San Diego, according to this recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune:
San Diego Second Chance Program, which provides workforce readiness training, sober-living housing and educational programs to formerly incarcerated youths and adults, is a legitimate non-profit, according to CharityNavigator.com:
And that means these scammers are the worst kind of scammer scum – not only are they ripping off donors, but they’re damaging the reputation of a legitimate organization; people who hear/read about the scam may think, “Second Chance – didn’t I read or hear about them scamming people?”
No, you did not hear/read about Second Chance Program scamming people, but you were busy or distracted or something, and only saw or heard the words “Scam” and “Second Chance” grouped together.
Here’s how these scum operate, according to the Union-Tribune article:
“The solicitors – sometimes carrying a fake badge or document with the organization’s name – approach a home pretending to be representatives of Second Chance and ask people to donate money, buy candy or a magazine subscription.”
And even though, says the article, Second Chance has this warning on its website:
“Second Chance does not solicit funds door-to-door. Nor do we send our youth out in the community to sell candy or subscriptions.”
Still, many people make donations of $10 to $20 to the fake solicitors, according to Maureen Polimadei, the donor and volunteer engagement manager for Second Chance.
And that’s too bad.
Scammers, like evil, have been around forever.
So, too, have their victims – people, some with the best of intentions, some too gullible, and some too ill-informed about the bad people out there.
And because of them, Second Chance may get less funding, and have fewer of these:
It may be hard to imagine anyone using the word “rude” as a compliment.
“Rude,” meaning “offensively impolite or ill-mannered.”
Yet at one time – you don’t hear it much nowadays – if you told someone they looked “in rude health,” it was, indeed, a compliment.
“Rude” in this case meaning “strong and robust.”
“In rude health” was the phrase recently applied to the art market by Sotheby’s, an international auction house that’s been “uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744,” according to their website.
They did some serious “uniting” at a livestreamed auction in late July that brought in a total of $192.7 million:
An art market in “rude health,” indeed.
The auction featured 65 artworks, with five selling for more than $10 million:
This 1632 self-portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn, measuring about eight by six inches, for $18.7 million, or about $389,583 per square inch:
Joan Miró’s Peinture (Femme au chapeau rouge) (Woman in a Red Hat) from 1927, which fetched $28.9 million. The great thing about this painting is the option of hanging it right side up, or upside down, or turn it on its side, and who’s to know?
A 1914 oil-on-burlap painting by Fernand Léger for $15.8 million entitled Still Life, which proves there is a great use for those old burlap rags in your garage:
Alberto Giacometti’s 28-inch 1958 bronze Anorexic – I mean, Standing Woman, for $13.8 million. This piece apparently is an example of Giacometti’s “sign of existential struggle for meaning.” Or, maybe money. I’m not sure which:
This oil painting by Gerhard Richter, which sold for $13.6 million, is entitled either Wolken, Fenster, Clouds or Window, and considering what the new owner paid for it, I guess they can call it whatever they want:
People who sell their possessions through auction houses usually choose to remain anonymous, but Ronald Perelman, the billionaire owner of the Revlon cosmetics company, was outed by Bloomberg, which revealed that Perelman was selling not one, but two paintings at Sotheby’s July auction.
It seems, according to the New York Times, that ole Ron’s “profits have slumped in recent years,” and his net worth, according to Forbes, has dwindled to a mere $6.2 billion.
So the poor guy packed up the Miro pictured above, and a painting by Henri Matisse, wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that they’d sell for the estimate of up to $57 million.
The two paintings sold for only $37.3 million.
I can’t help but think of the juxtaposition between this headline:
And this one:
I might even point out the use of the word “million” in both headlines.
There are plenty of pandemic-related things to worry about, but here’s one that’s causing me no concern:
Where to get my glam.
A recent TV commercial assured me that I could get my glam at the La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre (LJCSC), about 20 minutes north of San Diego:
Let’s start with that word “Centre.”
Centre is how they spell center in France. Most Americans won’t admit it, but we have a notion that the way European countries do and say and spell things is superior to ours, and that using Centre rather than Center gives a name more panache.
More je ne sais quoi, if you get my drift.
More pretentious, if you get my drift.
Then there’s La Jolla.
Pronounced la hoi´ ah.
Emphasis on that second syllable hoi´ as in hoi polloi, which means “masses of common people,” which couldn’t be further from the demographics of La Jolla.
The population of around 40,000 lives in homes averaging a cool $1.8 million, though there are plenty of higher-end places like this one:
This is La Jolla Farms, which sold for $23.5 million awhile back, and if you see any cows or pigs on the Farms’ “five+ oceanfront acres,” would you let me know?
The town’s official website refers to it as “La Jolla by the Sea,” and based on this aerial shot, I’d say that’s accurate:
Which demonstrates my stupidité, referring to it earlier simply as “La Jolla.”
As for jolla, the residents like to tell you that it’s Spanish for “jewel,” but it isn’t.
According to the experts, jolla means “holes or caves,” which La Jolla has along its coast.
But who’d want to live in a town called “The Hole by the Sea”?
All this sounding totally pretentious, which leads us back to La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre.
Where, we’re assured, we can research glam in their GLAMipedia:
When I saw their commercial for first time about a month ago, I thought, “Are they kidding me? Advertising plastic – excuse me – cosmetic surgery during a pandemic? Elective surgery during a pandemic? And who’s thinking about their glam during a pandemic, anyway?”
But as Fitzgerald said, “The rich are different” from us hoi polloi, and the rich mostly aren’t concerned about being evicted or putting food on the table.
So LJCSC is running an ad campaign to let the rich know that, when they got to get their glam, here’s the place to get it.
La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Center decided there was a pandemic-proof market for their services, so I decided to delve a bit deeper.
Not to use their services, mind you, but to mock them.
I started with something I’d never seen before: A “Breast” drop-down menu:
Wow, look at all those options!
And wow again! Look at all the options on the “Body” drop-down menu:
Just when you’d almost given up on EVER getting a Brazilian Butt Lift!
And “Face and Skin” – talk about a full overhaul:
Who knew there were so many ways to get our glam?
As I continued exploring I realized I was reaching the point of over-glam, though I couldn’t leave the LJCSC website without checking out the prices. Let’s see…how about plastic surgery:
These, of course, are “Costs* of San Diego Plastic Surgeries” – that asterisk after Costs* leading us to the advisory that our cost at LJCSC “requires a personal consultation.”
But no worries about price because LJCSC has…
The GLAMfam VIP Loyalty Club! So you can save, save, save when you have “Breast Augmentation,” change your mind, and have that pesky stuff taken out via “Breast Implant Removal”!
You can get your face lifted, your chin enlarged, and your earlobes reduced!
You can…you can…
Unless they were actually talking about GLAM…as in…
To suggest that Trump is losing his mind would be to imply that he has a mind to lose, and as we know all too well…
So it was no surprise that Trump’s July 30 tweet suggesting delaying the election…
Brought this immediate reaction:
Even from Trump’s Republican toadies:
Except for this toady:
William Barr, our Attorney General, who, earlier in the week, when asked about that very topic of delaying the election at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, said:
“I’ve never been asked the question before, I’ve never looked into it.”
Which translates into the obvious:
That the Attorney General, who is often referred to as our country’s “chief law enforcement officer…”
Doesn’t know the law.
Specifically, the 1845 federal law that fixed the date of the election as the Tuesday after the first Monday in November:
It would take a change in federal law to move that date. That would mean legislation enacted by Congress, signed by the president and subject to challenge in the courts.
Trump’s above tweet is far from the first time he’s sought to undermine mail-in voting, often with unsubstantiated claims. He’s attacked mail voting nearly 70 times since late March in interviews, remarks and tweets, including at least 17 times in July, according to a tally by The Washington Post.
With Barr supporting him, every step of the way:
Here are a couple of quotes where Trump claims that Democrats are using the pandemic to support mail-in ballots:
“Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nations history – unless this stupidity is ended. We voted during World War One & World War Two with no problem, but now they are using Covid in order to cheat by using Mail-Ins!”
“The Democrats are also trying to rig the election by sending out tens of millions of mail-in ballots, using the China virus as the excuse for allowing people not to go to the polls.”
The Trump/Barr tragedy will continue for awhile yet, up to and including Trump losing the election.
As you can see from the above image, Melania Trump knows how to dress for working in a garden.
Gardening is hard work, and Melania personifies the very meaning of hard work.
For example, back in October 2017, she talked about a “daunting task” that kept her “very busy.”
She was referring to creating her inaugural ball gown (right).
Then there was all Melania’s hard work in 2018, greasing the skids to get her parents permanent residency, green cards, and then citizenship. Amalija and Viktor Knavs, like Melania, are from Slovenia, and this happened right around the time Melania’s husband was railing against “chain migration,” in which adult American citizens can obtain residency for their relatives:
What it took to grease those skids I don’t know, but I’m betting it was hard work.
Then, more recently, there was that very hard work of positioning her hard hat just so, for the best photo ops of the White House’s new “Tennis Pavilion.” In her tweet you’ll see that she did get her hard had just so, while she thanked the talented team for their “hard work”:
Now we circle back to Melania and gardening, to this week, and more hard work for this hard-working woman:
Renovating the White House Rose Garden which, Melania noted, “The very act of planting a garden involves hard work…”
We’re really talking pedal to the metal.
The White House Rose Garden is located here:
And based on pictures like this:
It looks just fine to me.
So what the hell is all this noise about “renovation” and “renew” and “restore” and “redesign” and “refreshment,” aside from the obvious alliterative value?
Well, apparently Melania has managed to overlook the raging pandemic, and major economic and social upheaval, and focus on something of importance to absolutely no one:
According to this official White House statement:
The Rose Garden look Melania is going for will involve “improved infrastructure, better drainage, and a healthier environment for plantings that reduce the risk of leaf blight.”
Our Melania is busy thinking about leaf blight! Talk about hard work!
And it doesn’t stop there. Architectural Digest also noted “the addition of two new limestone walkways, electrical upgrades, a new drainage system, the replacement of existing crab apple trees with white rosebushes, and additional white and light pink roses.”
Whew! Just that last item alone – do you know how many varieties of light pink roses are out there?
I found an article that listed 25! Just think of the hard work it took for Melania to choose among them – these being just a few examples:
We’re talking really working up a sweat here. I do hope Melania was wearing her MAGA sweatband:
So, despite the naysayers…
I’m grateful for Melania’s renovating and renewing and restoring and redesigning and refreshment-ing (and her alliteration) for two reasons:
As I understand it, Melania’s hard work will take several weeks, so for a while we’ll be spared this insane person’s Rose Garden rants:
While we’re looking forward to the Rose Garden’s new occupant:
It’s likely that you’ve heard of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).
He’s been lionized, criticized, caricatured, adored, loathed, and written about for more than 200 years.
Allison Pataki’s The Queen’s Fortune is not about Napoleon, but about a woman who loved him and was loved by him, then betrayed by him, and who survived that heartbreak to go on to live an amazing life.
She was Desiree Clary, a French girl who meets Napoleone Buonoparte – as he spelled his name then – in 1794 when she’s 16. The French Revolution had ravaged the country, the government was in shambles, aristocrats were dying daily on the guillotine, and Buonoparte was ready to make his mark on France – and the world.
Before he does that, he makes his mark on Desiree, declaring his eternal love and promising they’ll marry.
But Buonoparte – now Bonaparte – did lead France in a series of military victories, rose through the ranks, was adored by millions of French people, and eventually became Emperor of the French.
In the meantime, Desiree falls in love again, this time with a man who – improbable but true – will make her his queen.
Desiree and the men who loved her: Napoleon Bonaparte (left) and…read The Queen’s Fortune to find out!
There’s a lot of history in The Queen’s Fortune because Desiree’s life was so entwined with Bonaparte’s and other leading figures of the day. But that history never overwhelms because we’re learning it from Desiree’s perspective, and it’s fascinating because she had a front row seat.
The book is fiction, so some of what Desiree thinks and says is the author’s creation, an opportunity to “imagine and explore the emotional truths located therein, to consider how the important events of her story might have felt,” as Pataki says in her Author’s Note. Pataki was committed to making Desiree “the leading lady of her own story,” and she succeeded.
The Queen’s Fortune was easy to read, enjoy and learn from, and it held my interest right to the end of Desiree’s life, at the almost-unheard-of age of 83.
The dynasty Desiree and her husband founded still rules their adoptive country.
Inspired by the book and just for fun, I decided to watch the 1954 movie Desiree, based on an earlier book about her, the 1951 best-seller Désirée by Annemarie Selinko.
Among the star-studded cast is…wait for it…Marlon Brando – as Bonaparte!
What’s left to say about Mary Trump and Too Much and Never Enough?
Since the July 14 release of her book she’s been seen and heard everywhere, giving print, TV, and every other possible kind of interview:
The book has been reviewed dozens of times, with comments including “mesmerizing,” “memorable,” “compelling” and “a deeply satisfying read.” A whopping 81% of Amazon reviewers have awarded it five stars, though there were a few bad reviews, probably from people who also refuse to wear face masks.
And though we know White House press secretary Kaylie McEnany didn’t read the book, she had her comments ready: “It’s a book of falsehoods, and that’s about it. It’s ridiculous, absurd allegations that has absolutely no bearing in truth.”
I expect Ms. McEnany meant to say “that have absolutely,” but considering she’s a Trump mouthpiece, perhaps not.
And speaking of Trump, whom we also know didn’t read Too Much because he doesn’t read – period – Trump eventually weighed in as well:
In an interview shortly after, Mary called the comment that she was a mess “an attack he hurls, predominantly, I think, about women. Honestly, I’m in very good company. I believe he’s said the same thing about Nancy Pelosi, and I’m fine with that.”
A fine response.
I not only read Too Much, I bought it – I was one of the preorders:
Which helped Mary’s book to appear here, on the August 2 New York Times best seller list:
It’s a fast read – only 211 pages – and I believe Mary, as both a Trump family member and a person with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, is qualified to speak. She’s credible. She offers reasonable insights into not just what Trump is, but why he is what he is.
So there was nothing eye-opening for me in Too Much and Not Enough – Trump’s egregious defects have been on public view for 50+ years.
Nothing, that is, until almost at the end, on page 209, when Mary talked about Trump’s response to the pandemic, and how different this could have been:
“It would have been easy for Donald to be a hero. People who have hated and criticized him would have forgiven or overlooked his endless stream of appalling actions if he’d simply had somebody take the pandemic preparedness manual down from the shelf where it was put after the Obama administration gave it to him. If he’d alerted the appropriate agencies and state governments at the first evidence the virus was highly contagious, had extremely high mortality rates, and was not being contained. If he’d invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to begin production of PPE, ventilators, and other necessary equipment to prepare the country to deal with the worst-case scenario. If he’d allowed medical and scientific experts to give daily press conferences during which facts were presented clearly and honestly. If he’d ensured that there was a systematic, top-down approach and coordination among all of the necessary agencies. Most of those tasks would have required almost no effort on his part. All he would have had to do was make a couple of phone calls, give a speech or two, then delegate everything else. He might have been accused of being too cautious, but most of us would have been safe and many more of us would have survived…”
With these words, Mary Trump summed up Trump’s legacy – and wrote his epitaph:
I recently sent an envelope via the United States Postal Service (USPS) from San Diego to Detroit.
I was told it would take “two to five” days to reach its destination.
It took eight days to arrive.
Why does this matter?
It matters because we have an election in November.
And due to the pandemic, we’ll have record numbers of people voting by mail-in ballot.
And, according to this recent article:
“More than 18,500 Floridians’ ballots were not counted during the March presidential primary after many arrived by mail after the deadline.”
And not only late-returned ballots, said the article, but
“…large numbers of mail ballots have been rejected because they…were missing a postmark.”
You could mail your ballot in plenty of time, but USPS may take its time delivering it – like the envelope I mailed.
USPS could deliver your ballot on time, but neglect to postmark it.
If your ballot is late or missing a postmark, your vote may not be counted.
There are other reasons your ballot could be rejected – according to the article, “Mail ballots can be tossed for a range of reasons that vary from state to state.”
So let’s focus on a situation that is in our control.
And come October and November, the way we control at least part of what happens with our mail-in ballots is…
By not mailing them.
Mail ballot drop-off locations:
This is a partial list of 63 mail ballot drop-off locations in San Diego County for the March 2020 election, provided by the Registrar of Voters. In this instance, all the locations are libraries.
The document details the dates for ballot drop-offs, and extended hours on election day. Each library’s name is a link to its website, so it’s easy to check the hours of operation.
According to my local librarian, the March drop-off process at my library was managed by volunteers from the League of Women Voters. Ballots were kept secure in locked containers, and picked up by the Registrar of Voters.
Notice what’s missing?
Any USPS involvement for getting your ballot to the Registrar of Voters.
Notice what else is missing?
Your worries about your ballot being late. Of not being postmarked. Or your ballot ending up looking like this, as so many pieces of mail do:
And if you think that with USPS this doesn’t happen a lot – consider this:
How many other organizations do you know that have pre-printed plastic bags with “Our Sincere Apologies” all set up and ready to go to handle their screw-ups?
The November 2020 election is already fraught with problems that are out of our control. To name a few:
If you’re thinking of taking your mail-in ballot to your polling place, remember that due to the pandemic, there are fewer volunteers to work at polling places, meaning fewer polling places. Not all states permit ballot drop-off at polling places, and some states require it be your assigned precinct polling place.
Some states don’t provide postage-paid envelopes for returning mail-in ballots:
If you live in one of those states and you forget to apply postage, USPS says it will deliver your ballot anyway. But – USPS also said my piece of mail would arrive in “two to five days.”
Trump screaming “Voter fraud!” every time he hears “mail-in ballots.” This makes his Republican congressional toadies reluctant to provide the money to help states educate voters on the correct use of mail-in ballots, and prepare states for processing the expected massive amount of mail-ins.
And speaking of Trump and his toadies, the new head of USPS, Louis DeJoy – a North Carolina businessman and top Republican fundraiser – recently told employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers if it delayed letter carriers from their routes, according to this recent article:
The article referenced:
“…internal USPS documents obtained by the Washington Post and verified by the American Postal Workers Union and three people with knowledge of their contents, but who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution.
“‘If the plants run late, they will keep the mail for the next day,’ according to a document titled, New PMG’s [Postmaster General’s] Expectations and Plan.’ Traditionally, postal workers are trained not to leave letters behind and to make multiple delivery trips to ensure timely distribution of letters and parcels.”
Concerns about Louis DeJoy are widespread, like in this July 19 article on NBCNews.com:
The article says, in part:
“Now, as millions of voters are relying on the Postal Service to support our elections during the coronavirus pandemic, Trump is politicizing another once-nonpartisan government agency. Having a political ally with ethical and competence questions like DeJoy lead the agency potentially puts November’s election at risk.
“Public records reveal that DeJoy donated more than $1.2 million to the Trump Victory Fund and millions more to the Republican Party.
“Public reports indicate that DeJoy is planning to eliminate overtime, which could cause delivery delays and hinder voting by mail.
“Installing a loyalist like DeJoy is another way Trump could undermine the agency and suppress voting in 2020.”
And in case you had any doubts about where ole Louie’s loyalty lies, take a look at this March 27 fundraiser invitation:
Minimum donation: $2,800. Throw in a VIP reception and a photo opportunity: $35,000.
With this Trump-loving DeJoy jerk in charge, who the hell knows what might happen to our mail-in ballots?
One final note: This post comes with this caveat:
On the list of libraries above, 63 libraries in San Diego County were open to receive mail-in ballots in March.
Due to the pandemic, as of today…
Many of those libraries are closed. With no reopening date in the foreseeable future.
So it’s up to us to educate ourselves about drop-off ballot locations.
But we don’t need to wait until November.
We can start checking our Registrar of Voters website today, and make it a regular practice. We can call them, we can email them, but however you choose to make contact – make contact. Keep making contact until that drop-off location list is available.
Then find your drop-off location, and make a plan for getting your mail-in ballot to your location in plenty of time:
Well before Election Day, November 3.
Let’s not let Trump, and Ole Louie, and USPS get in between us – and our vote:
Update: Trump and Republicans Ramp Up Attacks on Mail-In Ballots
Early yesterday morning Fox News carried this story:
The story was prompted by Trump tweeting this:
According to the Fox News story,
“The president and Republicans have been warning about possible voter fraud connected to mail-in voting for months, while Democrats and the media have often pointed to a lack of evidence that mail-in voting, and absentee voting, lead to voter fraud.
“The president and the GOP have railed against recent attempts by Democrats to increase voting by mail; the RNC and the Trump reelection campaign have doubled their legal budget this year to hit back at efforts by Democrats to overhaul voting laws in response to the pandemic.
“Democrats, pushing back against the claims by Trump and the GOP, say that cases