Are You Ready For The…

Where:  White House Oval Office

When:  Right Now

What:  Debate Preparation

Toady #1:  Mr. President, the first debate is tomorrow – September 29 – and we’ve got this area set up with a podium for a practice session.  You’ll recall, sir, we call them “mock debates,” and –

Trump:  Speaking of mocking, did you hear me mocking Biden at my news conference?  I called him “Sleepy Joe,” “Sleepy Creepy Joe” and “Slow Joe,” all in one sentence!

Toady #2:  Yes, sir, we certainly did, sir.  Getting back to our debate prep –

Trump:  And remember the other day, when I said, “Now I can get really vicious!”  Wait till you see how vicious I can get at those debates!  When’s the first one, anyway?

Toady #1:  Ah…tomorrow, sir?

Trump:  And – oh yeah!  You heard I won the Pulitzer Prize, right?

(pause)

Toady #3:  Sir, are you referring to your nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Trump:  Yeah, the Noble Prize.  I knew I’d win it!

(pause)

Toady #3:  Actually, sir, the Nobel winner won’t be announced until October 2021, sir, and –

(Trump, arms folded, glares at Toady #3)   

Toady #2:  If I could jump in here, sir?  Chris Christie is on his way here.  He’s going to pretend to be your debate opponent, sir, like he did four years, ago?  When he was our stand-in for Hilary?

Trump:  You mean Hilary the Skank?  Hey, do you know what a “skank” is?  I’ll bet you don’t.  Look it up on your phone.  Do it right now.  Look it up!

(pause)

Toady #2:  Sir, it says “skank” is “a sleazy or unpleasant person.”

Trump:  No, keep reading, it gets better!

(pause)

Toady #2:  Um…  Well, sir, it says, “a woman who has many casual sexual encounters or relationships.”

Trump:  That’s the one!  Hilary, a total skank!  Just like when I called what’s-her-name, Megan Kelly, a bimbo, right?  Hey, look up “bimbo” and we’ll –

Toady #1:  Mr. President, sir, if you could stand behind the podium –

Trump:  Zingers!  Zingers!  That’s something I don’t have to practice.  I’ve been delivering zingers since I was born!  When I’m on that debate stage with Sleepy Creepy –

Toady #2:  I’m glad you mentioned that, sir.  Here are the moderators’ photos, with Chris Wallace as the first moderator –

Trump:  Wallace?  Wallace?  That guy is walking, talking fake news!  I told him so in that interview, remember?  He ought to be shut down, and his frigging network, too.

(Pause)

Toady #3:  Ah, sir?  Chris Wallace is with Fox News?

(Long pause)

Trump:  Since when?

Toady #2:  And another moderator, here’s her photo, Kristen Welker –

Trump:  Never heard of her.

Toady #1:  Ah, actually, sir, at a news conference back in January you congratulated her on being named co-anchor of Weekend Today.

Trump:  I never said that.

Toady #1:  Ah, sir, you also said, quote, “They made a very wise decision.”

Trump:  Never.  I never said that.  Why would I say that?  I must have thought she was someone else.  Rosa Parks, maybe?  She’s Black too, right?

Toady #2:  And the third moderator, this is Steve Scully –

Trump:  Another guy?  Why another guy?  You know I do better with broads.  But then, I always have, know what I mean?  I just grab ‘em by the –

Toady #3:  If I may, sir, getting back to our debate practice, sir –

Trump:  Speaking of broads, I’d narrowed it down to four for the Supreme Court – lemme show you what I did.  I made these flash card things, see?  Amy, Barbara, Alice and what’s-her-name, Joan.  I’d flip through ‘em, then I rated ‘em, and – see?  Amy’s an eight.  Solid eight.  Well, I thought maybe a nine, but she’s too old to be a nine.

Toady #2:  Sir, I belive Judge Rushing’s first name is Allison, not Alice, and…

Trump:  Alice and Barbara, I gave ‘em both sixes, and Joan – best I could do was four.  See?  So, Amy’s the eight, Amy gets the nomination.  Easy!

(very long pause)

Toady #1:  Sir, why don’t you step behind the podium and we’ll get started and –

Trump:  Podium, schmodium.  I don’t need no stinkin’ podium!  I’ll walk on the stage and talk about the Russian hoax, and the mainstream fake media, and the rigged election, and the antifa, left-wing anarchists and –

Toady #2:  And…the pandemic?

Trump:  The flu?  Why would I talk about the flu?

Book Review: Two Tales Of Two Too Dysfunctional Families

Publication dates:  April and May 2020

Review, short version:  One rose each.

Review, long version:

I realize that dysfunctional families are good grist for a writer’s mill.  Or milieu.

Dysfunctional families – and stories about them – have been around forever.

Cain and Abel, sons of Adam and Eve – The First Family and fratricide!

The ancient Egyptians?  Cleopatra’s family’s activities read like a horror story.

And Shakespeare’s 17th century play, King Lear, isn’t exactly a quicker picker upper.

Which brings me to two contemporary women’s fiction novels about two dysfunctional families, The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson, and The Sweeney Sisters, by Lian Dolan.

In The Imperfects we have the Miller family – siblings Beck, Ashley and Jake, plus their mother Deborah.  All four Millers are estranged from each other.

In The Sweeney Sisters we have Liza, Maggie and Tricia Sweeney, plus their recently deceased father.  The sisters aren’t estranged, but they all have major daddy issues.

The Millers decide to start speaking to each other when it looks like they may be on their way to a financially huge inheritance from Grandma Helen.

The Sweeney sisters come together when it looks like they may be on their way to a financially huge inheritance from Daddy.

In The Imperfects, none of the Millers is likeable, and it’s hard to feel sympathy for any of them when you see how they speak to each other.  They sneer, they snarl, they criticize, they judge.  Some really choice dialogue begins on page 85, and by the time I got to page 88 I was thinking, “These people aren’t imperfect.  They’re a nightmare.”

The Sweeney sisters, on the other hand, are civil to each other.  Unfortunately, that means oldest sister Liza, and youngest sister Tricia, constantly enabling middle sister Maggie – they accept her lies, encourage her narcissism, and subsidize Maggie’s unemployed self-indulgent artist lifestyle.

Oh, I almost forgot.  A fourth Sweeney sister, the result of one of Daddy’s affairs, shows up to complicate things.  She also has major daddy issues.

I imagine many – maybe most – authors dream of their books becoming blockbuster movie$$$.

I can easily envision The Imperfects and The Sweeney Sisters made into one movie, running side-by-side on a split screen:

Two dysfunctional families:

Two inheritances:

Two similar endings:

I Am…

I am fantasizing about…

Going out to eat in a restaurant.

Going out to eat in a restaurant…

Before Coronavirus

There are no face masks involved, or social distancing, because there’s no need for that.

Not in BC.

My husband and I park at the restaurant, and walk in.  The team member picks up two menus and escorts us to our table.

We’re in San Diego, a city with lots of restaurants on the water.

Always our first choice, and always a good choice.

This restaurant is adjacent to a harbor, and we watch the occasional powerboat, or sailboat under power, arrive and depart.

Sometimes seals make an appearance, so I’m keeping an eye out for them, as well.

The waitperson takes our drink order:  chardonnay.

Wine, at lunch?

Hell, yes.  It’s my fantasy.

I’m holding a menu in my hand.  A real, actual menu, in a real, actual restaurant.

As we peruse our menus, my taste buds start yelling, “That one!  Shrimp scampi!”

“No, wait – that one!  Pork belly tacos!”

“Or maybe that one!  Blackened salmon!”

Yeah.

When I fantasize, it’s in vivid color.

How delightful that my biggest dilemma today is making my meal choice.

We drink, we eat, we talk, we take in in the view.

The other diners do the same.

Ah, the BC days.

I wonder if they’ll ever come again.

Here’s something I don’t wonder about.

I don’t wonder, because I know

It didn’t have to be this way:

And I know why it’s this way:

Someone Will Burn In Hell For This – But Who?

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

According to the story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The total amount? 

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

We know how much:  $3.7 million.

But…why?

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

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

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

So the Treasury Department decided to stiff the FDNY.

Now that they’d been exposed, came this:

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

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

The story begins,

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

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

Fortunately, I found some clarification on Snopes.com:

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

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

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

As I said:  convoluted, inane and unacceptable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I found no stories saying so.

September 13:  Nothing.

September 14: Nothing.

September 15, September 16, September 17…

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

The article says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete, you rock!

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

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

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

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

And since then…

September 19:  Nothing.

September 20:  Nothing.

September 21:  Is today the day?

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

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

Finally…going back to the title of this post: 

Someone Will Burn In Hell For This – But Who?

I think we know:

Let’s…

Meet Nikole Edwards.

Ah, Nikole, Nikole, Nikole.

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

You had at least two websites…

And two Facebook pages…

And two Twitter accounts:

Plus LinkedIn:

And Instagram:

And whatever this is…

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

And then you did a wrong thing.

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

Yikes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uh-oh.

“Department of Justice.”

“Prosecutors.”

Now, those are scary words.

And here are some more:

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

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

You did, indeed get a loan.

But not “tens of thousands of dollars.”

You got a very small loan.

A lousy…

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

For that lousy, not-even $20,000…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about “fraud, waste and abuse.”

That’s what you did, Nikole.

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

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

But instead of defrauding us taxpayers…

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

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

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

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

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

Quite a difference, when you compare and contrast.

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

He used it to pay his staff.

You created a fictitious staff.

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

What, I’m wondering?

Maybe you could write sometime and tell me?

Looks like you’ll have plenty of time…

Update 9/10/20:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikole, meet David.  David, meet Nikole:

Have You Met Dirty Louie DeJoy?

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

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

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

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

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

Wow!  Talk about synergy!

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

And, it appears, for good reason.

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

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

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

At first glance, the checklist looks innocuous enough. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From that very same Dirty Louie Dejoy:

See Peter. Peter Is A…

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

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

For example…

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

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

RITO:  Republican In Training Often.

Let’s go back and take another look:

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

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

Then, at the end of the row…

You see a boy.

No face mask.

No face shield.

This boy is a RITO:  Republic In Training Often.

Let’s call him Peter.

See Peter.

See Peter’s face.

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

All the other kids are.

But not Peter.

See Peter’s Mom:

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

But Peter is a RITO.

Peter’s mom says,

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

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

Here’s Peter’s dad:

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

But Peter is a RITO.

Peter’s dad says,

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

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

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

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

They both lost their jobs due to the COVID pandemic.

The “well-contained” pandemic.

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

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

Is This As Appalling As It Appears?

I was horrified when I read about this.

And I hope you are, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’ll brag about it, alright.

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

The payroll tax cut must be repaid.

According to this article in Military Times:

The article says,

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

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

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

Wrong. 

See that word “deferral”?

I see it.  You see it.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my image of our military.

They’re trained…

They’re disciplined…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s “payroll tax cut”:

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

The article also says,

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

“Optics”?

Trump, all about optics?

Oh, yeah.

America’s Finest City’s Not-Finest Hour

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

Boring, empty, and just sucking up money.

Taxpayer money.

$18,000 a day worth of taxpayer money.

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

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

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

Here’s my understanding:

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s pause for a moment here.

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

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

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

Alas, it appears that not even one did.

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

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

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

Let’s pause for another moment here.

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

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

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

Except – the taxpayers aren’t fools. 

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

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

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

Yup.  Red flags.

Did the mayor and council have blinders on?

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

Are you ready?

Because of the building’s asbestos issues.

101 Ash Street – asbestos, anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except for San Diego’s taxpayers…

The only thing taxpayers are pointing their finger at is…

Update, August 18, 2020:

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

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

The lawsuit asserts,

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

Update, September 1:

Who’s The Idiot With No Face Mask?

Oh.  The same idiot as in this picture:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just over the summer…

That number of deaths has doubled:

Book Review:  A Weak “Week At The Shore”

Publication date:  May 2020book cropped

Review, short version:  One skunk out of four.

Review, long version:

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

When they wrote it, I wanted it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s nothing new or original about it.

And it’s full of clichés, including:

Check (2)

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

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

At least I was spared those clichés.

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

I guess it was my turn to…

cropped

Can You Imagine Any Of Our Previous Presidents Saying This?

 

 

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

Law Enforcement

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

Daily Caller

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

In private?  Perhaps.  But publicly?

never_02

And this is just one mor reason why…

Politico

Miami

Denver