Our Country’s Health Should Be This…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An art market in “rude health,” indeed.

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

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

Rembrandt larger

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

miro_02 smaller

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

leger smaller

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

Giacometti smaller

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

richter_02 cropped

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

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

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

But…

The two paintings sold for only $37.3 million.

totalbummerheader_cropped

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

NY Times (2)

And this one:

WSJ (2)

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

But that would probably be…

rude cropped larger

As F. Scott Fitzgerald Said…

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

Where to get my glam.

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

Home page (2)

Let’s start with that word “Centre.”

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

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

More pretentious, if you get my drift.

Then there’s La Jolla.

Pronounced la hoi´ ah.

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

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

La Jolla Farms

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

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

1920px-La_Jolla,_San_Diego_California_photo_D_Ramey_Logan

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

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

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

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

Hole by the Sea (2)

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

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

glampedia (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breast (2)

Wow, look at all those options!

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

Body (2)

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

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

Face skin (2)

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

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

Prices (2)

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

But no worries about price because LJCSC has…

Member (2)

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

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

You can…you can…

Uh-oh.

Unless they were actually talking about GLAM…as in…

GLAM cropped larger

In which case…

Never

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

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

space-for-rent-2

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

Trump Tweet

Brought this immediate reaction:

kidding me cropped

Even from Trump’s Republican toadies:

CNN (2)

Except for this toady:

House Delay (2)

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

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

Which translates into the obvious:

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

Doesn’t know the law.

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

election law larger

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

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

With Barr supporting him, every step of the way:

Floodgates (2)

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

June 21:

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

June 22:

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

Kung Flu (2)

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

And then…:

Constitution (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Tweet (2)

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

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

Melania Tweet (2)

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

CNN (2)

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

We’re really talking pedal to the metal.

The White House Rose Garden is located here:

rose map cropped larger

And based on pictures like this:

Rose Garden cropped

And this:

rose_01 smaller

And this:

rose_03

It looks just fine to me.

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

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

Gives A (2)

Oooh!  Succinct!

According to this official White House statement:

White House (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sweatband cropped

So, despite the naysayers…

Tweets (2)

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

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

trump in rose garden

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

Biden

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

Publication date:  February 2020book

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four.

Review, long version:

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

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

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

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

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

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

They don’t.

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

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

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

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

desiree queen
Desiree, now Queen Desideria.

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

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

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

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

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

Marlon bad boy cropped smaller Marlon_02

November 2020:

 

 

 

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

Trump No Fans Cropped

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

Trump No Fans My Response (2)

It’s happened before – it will happen again.

Then I got to thinking about our country without:

Men (2)

And our country without:

Women (2)

What we think about, we bring about.

November 2020:

happen cropped

Book Review:  Trump Trumps Trump

Publication Date:  July 14, 2020

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four.

Review, long version:

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

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

Colbert (2)

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

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

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

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

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

Tweet (3)

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

A fine response.

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

Headline (2)

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

NY (2)

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

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

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

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

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

CDC (2)

Let The Mail-In Voter Beware

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

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

It took eight days to arrive.

Why does this matter?

It matters because we have an election in November.

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

And, according to this recent article:

Wash Post July 16 (2)

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

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

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

The takeaway?no usps cropped

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

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

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

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

By not mailing them.

Option?

Mail ballot drop-off locations:

List Final (2)

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

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

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

Notice what’s missing?

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

Notice what else is missing?

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

envelope cropped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wash Post July 14 (2)

The article referenced:

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

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

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

NBC (2)

The article says, in part:

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

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

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

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

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

louis invitation with line

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

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

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

One final note:  This post comes with this caveat:

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

Library-closedDue to the pandemic, as of today…

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

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

But we don’t need to wait until November.

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

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

Well before Election Day, November 3.

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

your voice_01 larger

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

Early yesterday morning Fox News carried this story:

Headline (2)

The story was prompted by Trump tweeting this:

Tweet (2)

According to the Fox News story,

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

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

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

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

A few hours later, this story appeared:

Hill (2)

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

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

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

Facebook (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final takeaway:

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

Be vigilant cropped

A Prediction About A Presidential Library

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

Where:  Oval Office

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

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

Toady #3:  Sir, about this pressing matter…

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

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

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

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

Trump:  WHILE I’M WHAT?

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

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

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

(long pause)

Trump:  My what?1200px-Seal_of_the_US_Presidential_Libraries.svg

Toady #2:  Your Presidential Library, sir.

Trump:  Library?  What’s a library?

(long pause)

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

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

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

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

(long pause)

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

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

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

List cropped

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

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

George W. Bush smaller

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

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

george h.w. buh smaller

Toady #1:  And Bill Clinton’s…

Clinton-library-large

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

(long pause)

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

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

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

Graph cropped

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

Toady #1:  Yes, sir!trump money

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

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

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

Toady #3:  A Presidential Library, sir.

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

(Yes.  And so can we:)

Library with Vultures cropped fixed

 

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

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

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

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

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

So she dressed in PPE – personal protective equipment:

Image 1 (2)

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

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

PPE, of which there is a shortage:

Headline (2)

She asked two hospital workers if they’re scared:

Image 2 (2)

Wow!  What an insightful question!

Why would they be scared?

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

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

Image 3 (2)

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

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

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

The wife nods.

Villareal asked, “Are you scared of that?”

The wife nods again.

Wow!  Seriously insightful!

We’re seriously talking Emmy-worthy reportage here.

Villareal then talked to two different staff members:

Image 4 (2)

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

Villareal exclaimed, “This is real!”

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

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

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

Last Image (2)

Have You Heard Poor Donny’s Theme Song?

Here’s a recent headline from Politico:

Headline Border Wall (2)

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

Fisher cropped larger

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

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

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

Trump, without hesitation, had the answer:

“It was only done to make me look bad”

That’s right, Donny.

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

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

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

To make Poor Donny look bad.

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

Roger (2)

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

Fay (2)

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

Supreme (2)

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

George (2)

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

Shutdown (2)

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

Unemployment (2)

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

Deaths (2)

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

Veterans (2)

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

Children (2)

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

Afghanistan (2)

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

Access (2)

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

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

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

Tweet (2)

Which led to this unkind headline:

Slate (3)

Which clearly leads to here:

Obama (2)

Book Reviews: Three By Abbi Waxman

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

Provided their definition is:

Anal (3)

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

Doesn’t everybody?

Abbi Waxman has had three books published:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even if you’re not anal.

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

And now, in the order I read them:

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

Book Review:  The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill

Publication date:  July 2019book_01

Review, long version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, short version:

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

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

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

She does – more about them later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And not just meet, but deal with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I smiled.

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

Just add a beanie, and voila!

Well.

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

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

So keep reading…

Book Review:  The Garden of Small Beginnings

Publication date:  2017Book

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, long version:

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

But this most emphatically is not a gardening book.

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

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

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

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

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

Priceless.

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

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

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

Small beginnings.

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

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

And:

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

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

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

And she’s dealing with…

Well, there’s plenty more.

And it’s all good reading.

it's all good cropped

Book Review:  Other People’s Houses

Publication date:  2018Book

Review, short version:  One rose out four.

Review, long version:

Bottom line first:

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

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

I almost didn’t finish it.

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

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

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

I’m not one of them.

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

My interest ended about half-way through.

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

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

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

Yes_01

Dear Netflix…

Dear Netflix,

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

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

Netflix_01 cropped sticker

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

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

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

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

But movies?

Netflix, I knew I could count on you.

Apparently, so did a lot of other people:

Headline (2)

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

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

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

I peered inside…

eyes cropped

The DVD appeared to be intact!

So I’ll watch and enjoy my movie.

Then comes the challenge of returning it.

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

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

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

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

Remember landshark?

snl cropped

Well, meet…

Shark (2)

mail shark cropped

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

Noon, July 3, 2020, Oval Office:

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

bingo-cage-bakelllite-vintage-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump:  Who the hell is she?

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

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

(Long pause)

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

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

(long pause)

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

(long pause)

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

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

(long pause)

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

(long pause)

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

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

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

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

(long pause)

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

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

(long pause)

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

kim

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

Trump:  Whatever.  How tall are they?

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

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

Garden (2)

A Tale Of Two Mottos

 

 

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

harry-truman larger

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

That was the motto Truman lived by.

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

Trump_01 (2)

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

That is the motto Trump lives by.

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

I like the GAO – the Government Accountability Office.GAO

The GAO, according to its website:

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

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

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

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

Totaling nearly $1.4 billion:

Wash Post (2)

I can’t resist calling a grave error.

More than a million grave errors.

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

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

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

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

Steve (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thorough.  They were, indeed, thorough.

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

IRS (2)

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

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

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

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

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

And, says Forbes,

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

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

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

And – are you ready?

Round two of relief checks may be in the works:

CNN (2)

Yes, here’s what that could look like:

Stooges (2)

Time To Take Another Look?

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

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

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

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

What prompted this feeling was this June 26 online article:

Headline (2)

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

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

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

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

Trump July 4_01cropped
July 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Genocide?  I thought.

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

WashingtonGeorge Washington, the “Father of Our Country”?

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

Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator”?

Theodore Roosevelt, the “Great White Chief”?

Yes, the very same four men.

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

George Washington:

“An active slaveholder for 56 years…”

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

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

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

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

Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator”:

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

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

Theodore Roosevelt, the “Great White Chief”:

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

And therein lie some of the dichotomies of our country.

Here are other excerpts from the Associated Press article:

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

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

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

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

And me?

I have a lot of thinking do to.

And I have even less interest in seeing Mount Rushmore.

Except this image:

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

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

Dear Amber Lynn,

Thank you for teaching me a new word.

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

Karen_01 cropped

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amber tweet (2)

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

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

You’re in your mid-30s.

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

You have three kids.

You’re an anti-vaxxer.

You’re semiliterate.

Your Facebook post about Gutierrez received thousands of responses.

Sadly for you, many of them looked like this:

Tweet 1 (2)

And this…

Tweet 2 (2)

And this…

Tweet 3 (2)

One of your responses to the negative posts was this:

Masks are stupid (2)

Way to go, Amber Lynn!

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

Scarred tweet (2)

See what I mean about “semiliterate”?

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

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

Cowan came down firmly on Gutierrez’s side.

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

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

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

Mercury News (2)

According to the Mercury News article, you said:

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

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

But I do know this:

Now you were really incensed.

According to NBC 7 San Diego, “Gilles…said she wants some of the [GoFundMe] money and is threatening to sue the page creator for defamation and slander.”

Wow!

Amber, you’ve got the threat thing nailed.  First it was calling corporate, then the cops, and now suing for defamation and slander!

Lenin croppedProviding a sweet, sane contrast, Gutierrez’s GoFundMe response was this:

“I just wanted to say thank you for all the love and support and what everyone is doing is an honor to see all this happen, but I just wanted to remind everyone to be kind to one another, and to love each other and always remember to wear a mask.”

Gutierrez also said that he planned to use the money to pursue his dream of teaching dance to young people, in hopes that the art would change their lives the way it changed his.

And Cowan’s comment on the GoFundMe page he started was this:

“Raising money for Lenin for his honorable effort standing his ground when faced with a Karen in the wild.”

Hmmmm.

There’s that word, “Karen.”

Amber Lynn, he called you a “Karen.”

And so are others:

Lipstick (2)

SanDiegoVille (2)

Business Insider (2)

Perhaps the most painful-to-see use of that word “Karen” is on the GoFundMe page itself:

GoFundMe (2)

That total is as of this morning.

Well, Amber Lynn.

Are you a “Karen”?

Let’s compare the “Karen” definition image at the top of this post to the one below which I – being totally objective and fair and all that stuff – put together just for you:

Karen Checkmarks (2)

Book Review: Reading “Home Work” Felt Like An Assignment

Publication date:  October 2019Book

Review, short version:  One rose out of four, because I could never give Julie a skunk.

Review, long version:

I like Julie Andrews a lot, and have for a long time.

I think she’s a marvelous singer, and a good actress in both comedies and dramas, musical and non-musical.

And I applaud her longevity – at 84, she’s still going strong.

She’s also a writer, and Home Work, her second memoir, lists her published books – six including this latest, plus another 32 written with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton.

Julie-Andrews-and-Emma cropped
Andrews and daugher Emma.

Andrews’ first memoir, Home, about her “early years,” came out in 2009.  Home Work begins with Andrews in her late teens and ends at around age 60, so I figure Andrews will be good for at least one more memoir.

I hope it’s better than this one.

Because Home Work just wasn’t all that interesting.

Considering the Broadway shows she’s been in, including My Fair Lady and Camelot; the movies she’s been in – at least two dozen in the book’s time period, including Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Victor/Victoria; and the dozens of TV shows…

And considering the leading men she’s worked with – Richard Burton, Robert Goulet, Rex Harrison, Christopher Plummer, Omar Sharif, Richard Harris, Robert Preston, William Holden, Burt Reynolds, James Garner, Paul Newman, Colin Firth…

Burt Julie cropped James and Julie cropped Paul Julie cropped

Burt Reynolds… James Garner… Paul Newman…
So many men…so few stories…

Couldn’t she have come up with a bit more behind-the-scenes stuff?  A couple of you-won’t-believe-what-happened-next tidbits?  And maybe one, just one, semi-salacious story?

OK, maybe Andrews’ recounting of baring her breasts in the movie S.O.B. qualifies as semi-salacious.  But as for the rest…

Apparently not.

Instead, the book is a recounting of Andrews with her first or second husband and their boring croppedvarious children while living in Los Angeles or New York or London or Paris or Gstaad and how money was tight and she’s doing this show or this film or this TV special plus issues with her parents and her second husband’s parents and her half-brother and various half-siblings and the numerous nannies thatboring cropped come and go and somewhere in she there gets divorced and remarried now they’re in Las Vegas then back to Gstaad to buy a house and then back to New York and then Malibu where they’re building a house while she’s doing this show or this movie or this TV special and then her health issues and his psychoanalysis and back to Paris and London and Japan and his awards and her awards and they have boring croppedthree or seven or 10 pets and money troubles but let’s buy a yacht anyway and she’s doing more movies and more TV specials plus a TV series and then there’s his health issues and her psychoanalysis and the movies her second husband is making while they’re in Gstaad or Los Angeles or…

Wherever.

Whatever.

Just…not…interesting.

I wasn’t looking for a Broadway/Hollywood-style gossipy tell-all book, but considering the experiences and adventures, successes and failures Andrews has had, I think Home Work could have been much more interesting.

Instead, reading it was more like doing…

homework

Perhaps Our REAL Problem Is…Our Eyelashes?

I’m compelled to thank the good folks at L’Oreal – excuse me, L’Oréal, with an accent aigu – for stepping up to the plate and addressing these uncertain times.

What L’Oréal tells us in their recent commercial – with no uncertainty – is that all we need to do is…

bambify_01 cropped larger

That is…

“Bambify your lashes”!

Wow!  Not only am I getting a solution in these uncertain times, but I’m learning a new word:

Bambify!

And since I love words, I decided to dig deeper.

“Bambify” comes from a noun, creatively used by L’Oréal as a verb.

This is called “verbing.”

The noun is “Bambi.”

“Bambi” is a shortened form of the Italian word “bambino,” with means “child”:

translate (2)

“Bambi” was the name chosen by author Felix Salten for the lead character in his 1923 novel, Bambi, a Life in the Woods (German title:  Bambi:  Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Bambi: Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde by Salten, FelixWalde).  The novel traces the life of Bambi, a male deer, from his birth through childhood, the loss of his mother, the finding of a mate, the lessons he learns from his father, and the experience he gains about the dangers posed by human hunters in the forest.

Apparently the book did well enough to interest Walt Disney, who in 1942 released his animated film version of the story, Bambi.  It, too, did well, and is still watched today, as is its sequel Bambi II, released by Disney in 2006.

The word “Bambi” – a child-like cartoon character – became part of our lexicon.

What does all this have to do with L’Oréal making the world a better place by bamibfying our lashes?

Here’s the Disney Bambi film, and a closeup from the cover:

Movie smaller Movie cropped

See Bambi’s eyelashes?

L’Oréal has created this new mascara so users can bambify their eyelashes and look like the character in Bambi:  Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde!

No, no, I mean in Walt Disney’s Bambi!

For just $10.99…

11 dollars (2)

You, too, can bambify your eyes with L’Oréal’s Bambi Eye Washable Mascara, Lasting Volume.

You, too, can purchase a product whose name infantilizes women…

Infant (2)

By encouraging us to emulate a child-like cartoon character with long eyelashes!

Just dip your mascara brush into these ingredients…

ingredients (2)

And we’ll be doe-eyed…

Doe eyed (2)

With “curled, volumized, lifted, elongated, separated, defined, clump-free lashes”!

We’ll be happy, and fulfilled, and able to face whatever life throws our way!

All for just $10.99!

Unless…

Unless…

Unless Bambi actually stands for Ballistic Attack Missile Ballast Initiator…

ballistic-missile-update

In which case, I got this all wrong.

never mind_01

If Someone Wrote A Book About Everything Interesting About Melania Trump, It Would Look Like This:

There’s an old idiom, “like shooting fish in a barrel,” meaning a task or activity that is ridiculously easy.

Mocking Melania Trump is like shooting fish in a barrel.

How can I not mock the person who’s stayed married to this…

trump angry

For more than 15 years?

Yes, it’s Melania, whose personal anthem is obviously Stand By Your Man, as she did through this in 2016, the infamous Access Hollywood video scandal…

VOX (2)

And this scandal…

Stormy (2)

And this scandal…

McDougal (2)

And, more recently, this…

25 Women (2)

Yeah, that Melania just kept showing up and smiling at Trump’s side.

Now she’s the subject of a new book, The Art of Her Deal:  The Untold Story of Melania Trump, by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan

It appears that the book is so accurate that Stephanie Grisham, a Melania mouthpiece, rushed to say, “Yet another book about Mrs. Trump with false information and sources.  This book belongs in the fiction genre.”

That kind of rebuke is sure to send it to the top of the New York Times best seller list.

So author Jordan found something to fill the book’s 352 pages, but I doubt if any of it is interesting.

Because Melania is…

not interesting cropped fixed

She doesn’t say anything interesting; she doesn’t write anything interesting; and she doesn’t do anything interesting.

I won’t even get into Melania not saying/writing/doing anything that uplifts, inspires or improves the lives of her fellow Americans.

Let’s look at a few examples of not-interesting Melania since she became First Lady:

October 2017:  Melania spoke publicly about engaging in a “daunting task” that kept her “very busy.”  At the time I assumed she was talking about helping people recover from the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Nate, Irma and Maria.

No.

She was talking about creating her inauguration gown.

Which she donated to the Smithsonian:

Inauguration gown

not interesting cropped fixed

May 2018:  Melania launches her anti-cyberbullying “Be Best” campaign:

be best_01

A year later, another Melania biographer said of the “Be Best” campaign,

“To this day it has no publicly stated framework, timeline or markers for progress…The likelihood that it will ever have the impact of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign or Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No is slim to none.”

The ironic thing about this fiasco is that Melania is married to the biggest cyberbully in the universe.

Ironic…but…

not interesting cropped fixed

October 2018:  Melania wore a jacket emblazoned with “I really don’t care – do you?”

Don't care jacket

I really didn’t care – did you?

not interesting cropped fixed

March 2019:  Melania made headlines for wearing these…

melania-shoes

The shoes were described as:

“a pair of yellow plaid pumps from Manolo Blahnik’s fall ’18 collection.  The brand’s signature BB style, which is named after French movie star Brigitte Bardot, features a yellow multicolored plaid flannel upper, a sky-high 4-inch stiletto heel and a classic pointed-toe silhouette.”

Seriously, Melanie (as Trump has spelled your name).  Plaid shoes?  And they look uncomfortable as hell, but this is…

not interesting cropped fixed

November 2019:  Melania got a less-than-warm reception at an event:

Booed (2)

Just a guess – could the booing have anything to do with Trump calling Baltimore a “rat and rodent infested mess” a few months earlier?

not interesting cropped fixed

OK, so what has Melania does for us lately?

March 2020:  The coronavirus was spreading, people were losing their jobs, and the economy was tanking.  What did she do to uplift, inspire or improve the lives of her fellow Americans?

Melania – in a hard hat – tweeted about the “hard work” being done on the new private tennis pavilion at the White House:

Melania Tweet (2)

And that’s really something to celebrate, because now we’ll be treated to more images like this:

trump

To sum up, Melania is …

not interesting cropped fixed

And let’s add…

clueless_01 cropped larger

But – the tweets responding to her tennis court update?

Now, those were interesting:

Tweet 1 (2)

Tweet 2 (2)

Tweet 3 (2)

Tweet 4 (2)

Thousands Of Lives Put At Risk, For This:

When Trump gave the commencement speech at West Point on June 13 –  the same date as the Washington Post headline above – the media was more focused on what he did, rather than what he said.

Specifically, Trump’s fumbling and stumbling.

His fumbling as he tried to drink from a glass of water.

His stumbling as he tried to walk down a ramp.

I hadn’t given a thought to what came before, until I read an opinion piece in the New York Times, and the author talked about Trump,

“who forces 1,100 West Point cadets to travel back to campus, and quarantine for two weeks, so he can get a photo op addressing their graduation.”quarantine

Wait, I thought.

 What?

Of course.

The West Point cadets had been sent home in March to avoid coronavirus.  They wouldn’t have been back on campus to graduate, just like all the other students who, due to the pandemic, missed the chance to walk their graduation walk.

But for the sake of a Trump photo op, 1,100 West Point cadets had to return to their campus?

It appears so.

airport_04 croppedFor many of them, that meant time in an airport, then on a plane, traveling to and from West Point.

Airports.  Airplanes.  Welcome centers for spreading coronavirus.

Once they arrived on campus, says the above and other articles, the cadets:

“lived in Covid-19 quarantine for the past two weeks, confined to their dorms, wearing masks and watching Zoom conferences on leadership…”

A June 12 New York Times article described the cadets’ living arrangements during their two-week quarantine.  After arriving on campus and being tested for coronavirus,

“…the cadets have been divided into four groups of about 250, with strict orders not to mingle outside their cohort.  They eat in shifts in the dining hall, with food placed on long tables by kitchen staff who quickly leave.”

And for the ceremony:

cadets_04

“Cadets will be required to wear masks as they march in and take their seats, spaced about six feet apart.  Once seated, they will be allowed to unmask.”

No family or friends could attend.

Trump made his usual hyperbolic, self-aggrandizing, vote-for-me remarks, like this one:

“After years of devastating budget cuts and a military that was totally depleted from these endless wars, we have invested over 2 trillion – trillion; that’s with a ‘T’ – dollars in the most powerful fighting force, by far, on the planet Earth. ”

And this self-deprecating remark:

“It is not the duty of U.S. troops to solve ancient conflicts in faraway lands that many people have never heard of.”

I say “self-deprecating” because Trump is referring to himself as the “many people” who have “never heard of” those “faraway lands,” due to his geographic ignorance.

Geographic ignorance – like in February when, according to two Washington Post reporters, Trump said to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “It’s not like you’ve got China on your border.”

india-china-map

Back at West Point, the cadets were allowed to do their traditional hat toss:

cadets_02

And, hopefully, the cadets – and everyone they come into contact with – will go on with their lives.

Thousands of lives put at risk…

So Trump could have his photo op.

Well, he got it:

Trump water glass cropped

trump ramp

 

Two Stars Are Born

It’s 2010.  A group of creative types are gathered in a conference room, brainstormingwhite_01 and whiteboarding ideas for a new TV show.

After several hours of hearing and discarding ideas, silence has descended.

Then a bright young thing – let’s call him Pete – leaps from his chair and says, “OK!  How’s this sound?  A couple goes through a home renovation!”

The silence continues until the (bored) team leader says, “And then?”

The encouragement in the voice is sub-zero, but Pete runs with it.

“The couple looks and looks for their dream home, but they don’t have the budget for meeting_04what they want, but if they buy a home they can afford and do a major renovation – voila!  So they buy a home that needs tons of work.”

This time no one responds, but Pete’s on a roll and continues.

“But the renovation – the reno – has problems.  It’s…it’s…fraught with problems.”

A voice says, “Did you just say ‘fraught’?”

“Yes, fraught!  So let’s say the show starts at 8pm.  It’ll be like clockwork:  We have a major reno problem at 8:20pm, another at 8:35pm and again at 8:45pm.  Major problems, major drama.”

Yet another voice says, “What kind of problems, exactly?”

(The team won’t admit it, but Pete’s got their attention.)

“The problem opportunities are endless!  Black mold, termites, illegal electrical wiring, bad roof, shifting foundation, collapsing chimney, leaking windows, sloping floors…”fist pump cropped

Pete pauses to catch his breath – then fist pumps the air!

“…wasps in the attic, bats in the belfry…The tension, the drama, the – the couple is so stressed, and they’re running out of money.  One of them is crying.  They’re both crying.  And then…”

Pete pauses dramatically.

“Now it’s 8:55pm.  The couple walks in.  The renovation is finished.  It’s better than finished.  It’s…it’s THE HOUSE OF THEIR DREAMS!  THEIR FOREVER HOME!”

Several team members and trying – and failing – to conceal their tears.

Pete, with another fist pump, “Total happy ending!  Exclamations!  Hugs!  High fives!  All in one hour!”

“Well,” he amended, “in 48 minutes.”6113-08882584

The team bursts into applause.

“And we don’t need to pay a bunch of union writers, because every weekly show’s structure is exactly the same:  reno/problems/happy ending.  Just change the couples and the house and – we could do this for years!  I even see…I even see franchises!”

Pete’s roll is on a roll.

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

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

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

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

Reno Twins?” someone whispers.

Demo Bros?” someone mutters.

“I’ve got it!” says Pete:

prop bros

Practically every word of this could sort of be true.

The Property Brothers gold mine was launched in January 2011

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

franchises (2)

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

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

Repartee!  Ripostes!  Badinage!

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

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

Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Structured Reality Program

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

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

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

Vocab (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

bros_02

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

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

I’ll say it up front:

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

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

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

GG Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

Vanity (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

ProPublica (2)

Says the ProPublica article:

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

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

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

argali_02

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

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

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

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

A mere bagatelle, truly.

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

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

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

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

And kill one of these:

sheep

And maybe install these on his wall at home:

sheep horns_01

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

NY Tijmes (2)

The National Park Service published this:

Fed Register (2)

And changed the rules about hunting in Alaska.

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

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

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

And be home for dinner the next evening!

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

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

Map (2)

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

secret service

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

tax dollars cropped

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

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

How About A Pause For A Little…

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

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

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

But for Reeve, on one particular morning…

No pants.

He went to work with no pants.

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

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

Who cares?

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

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

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

Will cropped

I mentioned that Reeve was efficient.

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

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

Will Reeve

A hail of headlines followed, like this one:

CNN (2)

And this one:

Oprah (2)

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

LA Times (2)

Along with the hail of headlines came a Twitter storm:

TWitter (2)

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

Instead, he responded with a Tweet of his own:

Tweet (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

And perhaps that’s too bad.

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

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

Print

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

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

Scenario #1:

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

You’re ready.

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

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

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

Scenario #2:

Perhaps you’re a mail-in voter.

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

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

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

You can’t get through.

You can’t vote.

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

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

can't_02 cropped

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

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

Go online and verify your voter registration.

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

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

Image 1 (2)

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

Image 2 (2)

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

Image 3 (2)

I’m good to go in San Diego County.

Wherever you live, do this.

And do it now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can't vote

We Can Thank Steve Mnuchin For This SNAFU

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

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

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

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

“Why a slimeball?” you ask.

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

2017 (2)

Then there was this 2019 article:

Dunce (2)

The writers summed it well when they said,

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

And I must include this March 2020 story:

Hill (2)

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

“Slimeball”?

slimeball cropped with line

Oh, yeah.

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

Case in point:  Issuing CARES Act stimulus payments.

As Military.com put it on May 20,

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

Perhaps the program was running too smoothly.

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

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

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

Mnuchin Trump

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

And the government began mailing out the debit cards.

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

Envelope (2)

No return address.

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

Or not.

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

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

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

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

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

EIP-debit-card

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

The card is issued by MetaBank.

Ever heard of it?

Me, neither.

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

Ever heard of it?

Me, neither.

According to this May 28 Washington Post article:

Wash post 1 (2)

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

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

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

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

Wash post 2 (2)

One reader said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IRS (2)

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

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

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

So:bad-idea-wrong-cropped

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

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

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

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

“Not relevant.”

Mnuchin (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

whitney_bag_max_mara cropped

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump:  Yeah.  Why am I doing this?

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

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

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

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

Ivanka_02 cropped

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

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

Ivanka:  Oh, Daddy, you’re so sweet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivanka_03largest

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

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

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

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

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

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

shopper

$1,660.00  $1,162.00

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

Rent_02

 

What If Trump Does…

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

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

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

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

We’d have two presidents.worst nightmare cropped

We’d have chaos.

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

Two Pres (2)

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

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

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

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

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

Slate (2)

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

I decided Fred (left) had cred.

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

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

I was in good company.

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

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

In other words, Kaplan concludes,

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

Very comforting.

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

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

If they’re dragging Trump out – better yet.

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

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

Really messes it up.

Worse than Boris Johnson:

Boris cropped trump hair cropped

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

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

Kaplan continues,

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

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

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

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

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

Trump (2) REV_01

When You Receive This…

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

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

money_01It could be a notification that says,

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

Or, it could be a notification that says,handcuffs_01

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

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

It was this:

TL-01 (3)

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

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

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

tax dollars cropped

A letter telling me that we’d received money.

Money that we’d received seven days earlier.

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

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

The pandemic…so inconvenient.

CDC (2)

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

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

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

But to remind us that:

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

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

Trump (2)

 

Book Review:  Here’s One I Loved To Hate

book_01 croppedPublication date:  June 2016

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

Review, long version:

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

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

Why?

The lead character, Ella, is the worst.

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

It’s a pathological liars match made in Heaven.

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

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

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

How do we learn this?

Sims tells Ella.

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

And what does Ella do?

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

swear-word cropped larger

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

swear-word cropped larger

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

swear-word cropped larger

No.
No.
No.

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

Did I mention Ella has no spine?

Spine_01 (2)

It gets worse.

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

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

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

Spineless.

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

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

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

Who cares?

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

Ah…that was fun.

woman

And Now, It’s Time To Meet…

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

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

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

First, some context.

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

Our country has lots of beaches.

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

Cocoa Beach, FL:

Cocoa Beach Florida

Indiana Dunes National Park:

Indiana Dunes National Park

Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA:

Ocean Beach San Francisco cropped

Pandemic?  What pandemic?

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

It’s a nice town with nice beaches.

And on those beaches are signs:

sign

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

Arti (2)

And said, “These signs are being ignored.”

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

Beach 1 (2)

And this…

Beach 2 (2)

And this…

Beach 3 (2)

And now let’s meet…

Miss Originality cropped

Woman (2)

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

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

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

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

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

wait what

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

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

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

Clearly, she is a…

Patriot_04 cropped fixed

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

No judgment (2) fixed

“While Rome Burned…”

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

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

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

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

The phrase, according to dictionary.com, means

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump:  Oh, yeah?  What?

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

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

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

Trump:  So?  What was she allusioning about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toady:  Sir, about Speaker Pelosi…

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York (2)

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

Saturday, May 23, 2020:

trump saturday

Saturday, May 23, 2020:

Forbes_01 (2)

Saturday, May 23, 2020:

CDC (2)

Sunday, May 24, 2020:

May 24 (2)

Sunday, May 24, 2020:

CDC final (2)

Sunday, May 24, 2020:

ny times

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

Open_01

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

open_04 smaller

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

twitter smaller

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

Union Trib (2)

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

KPBS (2)

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

open_02 smaller

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

Not Even My Coronavirus Crazies Will Convince Me To Cook This

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

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

Canned soup.  I am a can opener meister.

Heating the soup?

Optional.

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

Otherwise, my kitchen adventures generally look like this:

coffee

And this:

buffalo wings first attempt

And this:

spaghelli cropped larger

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

Soup_01

It’s Takeout-Style Hot-and Sour Soup

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

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

Better and better.

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

11 herbs and spicesAll sixteen of them.

Sixteen ingredients?  Geez!

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

And the recipe directions?

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

But not by much.

And the verbs involved in making this soup?

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

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

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

So I did.

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

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

microwave_nasty_disaster_640_06

How To Stay Home – And Act Against Censorship

My attitude about books is:

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

“Don’t read it.”

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

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

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

my_01 croppedWho are “these people”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AP (2)

Harry Potter?????

Here are definitions:

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

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

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

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

2018:

2018 (2)

Paul Dorr Iowa smaller

2019:

2019

georgia

Do the above look familiar?

Nazi book burning, Germany, 1933:

nazi

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

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

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

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

Here’s how:

Defend First Amendmend larger

And here’s what:

banned books cropped

banned_03 larger cropped

banned_04 cropped

These “Spots” Are Easy To Spot

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

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

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

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

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

How touching.

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

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

Unlike car companies.

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

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

It begins with:

Boxes (2)

We see a woman looking wistfully out the window:

Lincoln 1 (2)

The voice says,

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

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

Lincoln 2 (2)

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

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

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

Note:  This commercial includes…

Boxes (3)

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

It starts out with – guess what?

Boxes (2)

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

Bud 1 (2)

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

And then:

Bud 2 (2) fixed

Note:  This commercial includes…

Boxes (3)

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

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

Again we have:

Boxes (2)

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

Oprah (2)

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

Apple 2 (2)

Followed by the Apple icon, which is…

Boxes (3)

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

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

“Coronavirus-aware commercials”:

Coronavirus aware (2)

And “COVID-Aware Ads”:

Covid (2)

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

Ad Tips (2)

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

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

We’ll start with…

Boxes (2)

That soothing voice says…

Tom's Tire Town

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

Tom's (2)

Boxes (3)

To California Governor Gavin Newsom:

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

Headline_0-2 (2)

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

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

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

Was Newsom did was smart for a number of reasons:

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

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

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

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

And here’s another reason:

Headline (2)

Bad Thing (2)

May 7, 2020:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is paid for with our…

tax dollars cropped

Trump can’t lay out his own clothes.

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

And though that kid may end up looking like this:

kid_01

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

A step Trump hasn’t taken.

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

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

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

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

Ties (2)

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

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

Valet:  Indeed, sir.

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

tweet_01

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

The Cut (2)

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

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

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

So…

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

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

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

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

And, CNN continued:

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

So…

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

Trump:  Yeah!

fast food

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

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

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

Wash Post (2)

Had only this to say:

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

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

And, NBC reported,

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

Because, truly, who is the pandemic all about?

all about me

Book Review:  Note – This Blog Post Is A…

Honest!  Not one word about coronavirus below!

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

Publication date:  2016roses three_01

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, long version:

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

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

Rumors of a sequel abound.

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

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

Belgravia (the book) opens one night in June 1815 in Brussels, just before the famous Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon’s final defeat.  That takes a mere 30 pages, then we then skip ahead to 1841 and the ramifications of events that transpired back in 1815.

Fellowes is a master at depicting English class-consciousness in a way I think is like watching two cars crash – it’s dreadful, yet you can’t look away.  Calling on a countesssnobbery without an invitation?  Unheard of!  A single woman walking in the park without her maid?  Horrors!  The daughter of an earl wanting to marry in man in trade?  Absolutely not!

And downstairs, the maid is kowtowing to and conspiring with the butler, the butler is kowtowing to and conspiring with the heir, and the heir has murder in mind.

Mix in a load of secrets and scandals, some truly nefarious and not-so-nefarious characters, gambling problems, drinking problems and the de rigueur of changing your outfits (including jewelry) five times a day, and no wonder the aristocracy needed a few months to rest.

At their country mansions, of course.

Several Amazon reviewers described Belgravia as a “soap opera” and that’s accurate enough, based on the plot description from the book jacket:book

“…in this new world, where the aristocracy rub shoulders with the emerging nouveau riche, there are those who would prefer the secrets of the past to remain buried…”

Soap opera?  Bring it on!

Fellowes weaved his large cast of characters into a plot that kept me guessing – will the Trenchard’s reputation be ruined beyond redemption?  Will Charles ever find out who he actually is?  How long can this cover-up stay…covered up?

I enjoyed reading Belgravia, snobbery, secrets and all.  And I have no doubt that Fellowes did a masterful job of bringing his characters to television.  Let’s meet some of them, shall we?

(left to right):  Mrs. Oliver (Susan) Trenchard, Lady Maria Grey, Mr. Charles Pope, the Countess of Brockenhurst, Mr. and Mrs. James Trenchard, the Earl of Brockenhurst…

movie smaller

The “downstairs” gang…

servants

And a cast of thousands…

cast of thousands smaller

Ah, Justice…

Sometimes, there is justice, after all.

Take this recent story about a guy who decided to make money off the pandemic.

He and a bunch of cronies made multiple trips to Drakes Supermarket in Adelaide, Australia and bought mass quantities of toilet paper and hand sanitizers.

His plan was to sell the stuff on eBay and gouge people like you and me and everyone who’s gone looking to buy those items and…

empty

This guy, who so far is nameless, figured he’d make lots of money off desperate people.

And it may have started that way.

But then eBay shut Nameless Gouger down.

And the Drakes Supermarket director, John-Paul Drake, shut him down, too.

According to this article and numerous others…

Newsweek (2)

Nameless Gouger returned to Drakes to get a refund on 150 packets of 32-pack toilet paper and 150 units of one-liter hand sanitizer.

That’s 4,800 rolls of toilet paper and about 40 gallons of hand sanitizer.

About $10,000 Australian dollars worth of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

John-Paul Drake’s response:

“I told him that,” Drake said later in a YouTube video, emphatically extending his middle finger (which YouTube chose to pixilate):

John

Leaving Nameless Gouger with $10,000 worth of products instead of $10,000 in his pocket.

I call that…

justice_01 cropped

This story happened in Australia but make no mistake, it’s happening here, too.

So said many media outlets in mid-March – here’s my favorite headline:

Headline (2)

According to The New York Times,

“On March 1, the day after the first coronavirus death in the United States was announced, brothers Matt and Noah Colvin set out in a silver SUV to pick up some hand sanitizer.  Driving around Chattanooga, TN, they hit a Dollar Tree, then a Walmart, a Staples and a Home Depot.  At each store, they cleaned out the shelves.

“Over the next three days, Noah Colvin took a 1,300-mile road trip across Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes.”

Matt Colvin

The nimble brothers continued scooping up hand sanitizer, eventually amassing more than 17,000 bottles, and began selling them on Amazon:

“Mr. Colvin said he had posted 300 bottles of hand sanitizer and immediately sold them all for between $8 and $70 each.”

Amazon shut down the Colvin enterprise, said the Times article, leaving them with lots of product and nowhere to sell it.

I call that…

justice_01 cropped

Reading about Nameless Gouger, the Colvins and others like them gave me the opportunity to learn a new phrase:

retail-arbitrage- cropped

Here’s the definition of retail arbitrage, or “RA,” as some call it:

“Retail arbitrage is a simple concept.  A retail store (such as Walmart, Target, etc.) sells a product (either online or in-store) for a certain price.  You purchase that product and sell it for a higher price yourself and pocket the profit.”

And, said another source,

“The practice is perfectly legal.  According to the US Supreme Court, a retailer cannot stop someone from reselling their products if the merchandise has been legally acquired.”

Retail arbitragers have always been with us, and always will be.  And I suppose there’s nothing wrong with buying an item, marking it up a few dollars, and reselling it.

70 croppedBut the Colvins were charging up to $70 on Amazon for a bottle of hand sanitizer – and selling it to someone desperate to protect their family from COVID-19.

And one of the Colvins suggested, according to the Times, that he was actually performing a “public service.”

To the Colvins and the Nameless Gouger and all the others who hoarded, and are now stuck with their hoard instead of wads of cash…

I call that…

justice_01 cropped

happy cropped

Taxpayers Can Take Little “Comfort” From The “Comfort”

It’s unsurprisingly easy to find lots of statistics about the Comfort (pictured above), one of the Navy’s two hospital ships (the other is the Mercy, below).Mercy ship

It’s unsurprisingly difficult to find out what it cost us taxpayers for the Comfort to sit in New York’s harbor for a month, doing…

Not much.

As the Comfort sailed away from New York on April 30, the Navy was – to say the least – tight-lipped about the cost of the excursion.  According to a USA Today outlet:

“The Defense Department said it did not have information on how much the Comfort’s mission to New York cost.”

That, of course, is a lie.

Why not just say, “The Comfort’s mission to New York cost $X,XXX,XXX”?

Perhaps because after its March 28 HUGE sendoff from its Norfolk, VA home, during its 30 days in New York…

Only 182 people were treated on the 1,000-bed Comfort.

Backstory:  When the Comfort was deployed to New York, according to this article:

Market (2) fixed

“The Comfort was supposed to take in patients not infected by the coronavirus, so that hospital staff could focus on the pandemic.  However, this plan was shortsighted and poorly implemented.  The procedure used to determine who was and wasn’t infected was inefficient and time-consuming, making it hard even for qualifying patients to be admitted.

“To make matters worse, even if a patient did not have the coronavirus infection, there was still a list of 49 other medical conditions that would exclude him or her from receiving the aid on board the Comfort.”

Eventually the Comfort crew did start caring for coronavirus patients, and 11 people that were treated on the ship died from it, the Defense Department said.  Several ship personnel came down with the coronavirus while deployed to New York.

And then the Comfort went home.

Since the Defense Department wasn’t telling us taxpayers what this cost, I headed for google and searched for “cost of Comfort deployment to New York.”  Silly me – I thought I’d found an answer on the Navy’s website, but when I clicked the link and got this:

Navy (2)

“File not currently available.”

Imagine that.

So I kept looking – and looking – and eventually encountered this 2018 article:

Mercy (2)

According to the article, referring to both the Comfort and the Mercy:

“In its 2019 fiscal year budget proposal, the Navy asked for just over $120 million to sustain both ships and their on-board facilities.”

Ah!  Now we’re getting somewhere.dollar plus cropped

So, $60 million per hospital ship for one year.

$60 million divided by 365 days is $164,383 per day.

$164,383 per day times 30 days is $4,931,490.

So, about $5 million for the Comfort’s 30 days in New York harbor.dollar plus cropped

Let’s not overlook the six or so days the Comfort spent sailing to and from New York:

Six days at $164,383 per day, add about another $1 million.

And what did we taxpayers get for that?

True, the Comfort’s crew treated 182 people, and of course we’re grateful for that.

But I think what we were actually paying for was this:

Trump photo ops:

2020 Campaign Rally, Norfolk Naval Base, March 28, 2020:

trump norfolk_01 smaller

“We will stop at nothing to protect the health of New Yorkers and the health of the people of our country in their hour of need.”  [Except providing testing for everyone]

trump at Norfolk_02 smaller

“This legislation delivers job retention loans for small businesses to help them keep workers on payroll…” [like the Los Angeles Lakers]

trump at Norfolk

“We’re now the number one tester anywhere in the world, by far.”  [And as of May 3, we’re also number one in the world for confirmed cases and deaths]

Unsurprisingly, on April 30 Trump was not at the pier in New York for another campaign rally and additional photos ops when the Comfort departed.

Probably because, as the Comfort sailed away, these headlines were trailing behind it:

Salon (2)

USA (2)

Military.com (2)

6 cropped

“It’s Like UNO, Except There Are Goats, Magical Enchiladas And Kittens That Can Kill You.” – CNN

Seven-year-old to Alexa:  Alexa, what’s Russian Roulette?

Alexa:  Russian Roulette is a lethal game of chance in which a player places a single round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against their head, and pulls the trigger, in the hope that the round does not reach the barrel of the gun and Girl Looking At Wireless Speakertherefore fire…

(Parents walk into room and pause, horrified)

…in which case, your head is blown open, your brains and blood are scattered all over the room, and you’re dead.

Horrified Parents:  Honey, why did you ask Alexa that?

Seven-year-old:  Because at school today, Janey invited me to come over and play Exploding Kittens.  She said it’s a kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette!

*****

When Janey said that, she was simply echoing the words of Elan Lee, one of the creators of an apparent phenomenon that’s been around since 2015.

But I’d never hear of.

Until recently, when the words “Exploding Kittens” figured prominently in the headline of this New York Times article:

NY Times (2)

“Exploding Kittens” are also the first two words in the article.

All this caused me to pause and think…

wait what

The article goes on to say that due to the pand