Homelessness is a problem in every state in our country.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, this map shows the homeless count in the U.S. as of January 2020, “just a few weeks before COVID-19 was declared a national emergency. Thus, the data does not reflect any of the changes brought about by the crisis”:
Because I live in California, I looked at our numbers:
And because I live in San Diego County, I’m more aware of local stories.
Like this recent story:
The homeless situation in the City and County of San Diego is dire, and getting worse.
And I will leave it to wiser heads than mine to offer and implement solutions.
Instead, what I’m thinking about is a juxtaposition that struck me as strange, here in this area of so many homeless people.
The estimate for San Diego County homeless humans run as high as 8,000, while also in San Diego…
Apparently $2.8 million is being spent at Birch Aquarium…
These Little Blue penguins:
And it sounds like they’re going to have quite a nice place to live. According to the Birch Aquarium website,
“This 2,900-square-foot exhibit will include rocky and sandy shore habitat and an 18,000-gallon pool where guests will observe the penguins socializing, interacting, and nest building. The exhibit also includes a small amphitheater for guests to observe birds swimming, and a discovery cave to closely observe Little Blue Penguins on land and inside a nesting box!”
Here are some artist renderings:
Now, I’m not suggesting that we taxpayers are funding this. On the contrary, money is being raised to build the penguins’ new home.
For example, the habitat’s name is Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins in honor of a $1 million gift from the Beyster Family. Other “generous gifts” are also mentioned on the aquarium website.
Another source of funds is naming rights for 10 of the penguins:
And a Birch Aquarium news release said, “There are still many opportunities for the community to support the Little Blue Penguins habitat.”
I wish the aquarium good luck with their fundraising, and I wish the penguins a lovely time in their new home.
It’s just that…
The juxtaposition of 8,000 homeless humans…
…and a $2 million+ home for 10 penguins…
Well, I think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind said it better than I could:
That morning Will had taken the horse to Jonesboro to get him shod. Scarlett thought grimly that things were indeed at a pretty pass when horses had shoes and people’s feet were as bare as yard dogs.
Local and network television, cable, radio, print, online, billboards, bus cards, and all other deliverers of news.
Stop it right now.
I’ve talked about this before and you obviously weren’t paying attention.
So now I’m going to get tough about it.
Tough about this:
About you misleading your news consumers with headlines like this:
To most eyes this looks like an innocuous headline.
And I’m not suggesting you’re spreading disinformation.
I don’t think you’re doing this intentionally or maliciously or for profit.
But as I said – misleading.
Let’s go back and look at that headline again:
“San Diego paying out $2.3 million.”
No, no, no.
Here’s the correct wording for that headline:
It’s the taxpayers who are paying – not “San Diego.”
You members of the media put this misinformation out at all levels:
But cities and counties and states and the federal government don’t pay.
We pay, with our…
And when stories appear about this city “paying” or that branch of the military “paying,” it lulls us into the mistaken notion that it’s not costing us anything.
And we say,“Did you see what the city is paying out for such-and-such?”
As though “the city” was some sort of entity that has some source of revenue that has nothing to do with us…
I want you purveyors of news to stop saying entities “pay,” and start saying that taxpayers pay.
I especially want you purveyors of news to stop saying entities “pay” TWICE in one day – this first, about an $85 million payout supposedly by the County of San Diego:
And this, about a payout supposedly by the Department of Justice:
Two in one day was two too many.
And once you stop, maybe…maybe…some of us taxpayers will start becoming more focused on where our tax dollars are going, and start asking our politicians…
“Why am I paying for that?”
And while I’m ranting about the media misleading news consumers, here’s another example, this one not tax-related:
The Catholic church doesn’t “pay” for anything.
The church’s money comes from its members.
Its 1.3 billion members who make what the church euphemistically calls “donations.”
Donations, meaning, “Pay up, or you’re going straight to…”
Donations, meaning those ubiquitous collection baskets seen wherever two or more Catholics are gathered together…
You know – where the guy with the basket gives you the stink eye if he thinks your “donation” isn’t large enough.
But the church doesn’t limit itself to just the collection basket at Sunday services.
While I was doing research for this post, I encountered a rather creative and very lucrative revenue stream the church has devised:
Everyone’s heard of saints: Saint Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Cunegonde – well, maybe not that last one, so I included her picture above. The church has thousands of saints; according to Britannica.com, “There are more than 10,000 saints recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.”
And you, too, can become a saint, or nominate someone for sainthood.
The latter is exactly what members of Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica in Lackawanna, NYhave done, according to this 2015 article:
These suckers folks have…
“…raised over $250,000 in an effort to canonize its former priest, Father Nelson Baker.
“The funds cover the publication of materials about Baker, prayer cards, communication between the church and the Vatican, travel costs for visits to and from Rome and the fees of a canon lawyer.”
You can bet the church is collecting a hefty part of that $250,000.
When that article was written in 2015, it noted that “The church first appealed to Rome to have Baker canonized in 1987. The case was approved in 2011.”
It took 24 years just to get an “OK, we’ll think about it” from the church.
That was the first step; there are more to go before the deceased is declared a saint.
It’s called The Canonization Game:
It looks like a board game, right? Kind of a scaled-down version of Parcheesi, maybe?
Instead, this is from a book that details the canonization process, and you can buy it for just $4!
Here’s the website:
The folks in Lackawanna, NY have also have a website, this one all about the late Father Baker’s long road to sainthood:
A website where you, too, can donate money…
…to “Father Baker’s Cause for Canonization” because…
“The journey leading to canonization is long and costly, and much needed prayer and financial support needed along the way.”
They aren’t kidding about that “long” part. This process started in 1987, and now – 35 years later – ole Father Baker is marooned in Step 2, “Beatification,” awaiting…
“…a miracle attributed to the potential saint’s intercession to be verified by the Vatican.”
These folks are – literally – waiting for the late Father Baker to perform a miracle.
And while they’re waiting…and asking for more money…and spending even more money…
The Catholic church…
FYI – after Step 2, there’s a Step 3, which requires yet another miracle.
And more money.
What’s it all mean?
It means that please, all of you news outlets, no more headlines this entity paying out money:
Or this entity paying out money:
Whether it’s taxpayers or church members or whoever is being parted from their money, please…
Because on a regular basis, I learn I know nothing about so many things.
If I had a dollar for every time I said, “I didn’t know that,” I’d be rich.
So I listen and watch and read and learn, and recently I learned something huge in what may seem an unlikely place:
An advice column.
Though some people sneer at the idea of reading advice columns – “What do they know?” – I don’t.
I’m a faithful reader of Carolyn Hax’s (pictured) advice column in my Sunday newspaper.
I like her because she’s smart, and tactful, and sympathetic, but doesn’t pull her punches. She tells it like she sees it, and I think she sees things pretty clearly.
So I was especially glad when I read a recent column of hers, because a light bulb went on. It wasn’t only good advice.
It was advice I needed.
The topic was setting boundaries, something I’ve always struggled with.
Hell, I didn’t even know I could set boundaries until I was an adult, and that was an adult with plenty of years, and plenty of bad experiences due to boundaries not set.
Online articles abound about why women struggle setting boundaries. I believe it all comes down to this:
I was raised to be a good girl, and expected – because I’m female – to be polite, please others, look a certain way, play by the rules, and never complain.
A good girl sacrifices her own needs and well-being for others, otherwise, you’re selfish.
A good girl never hurts anyone’s feelings because that would not be nice.
A good girl doesn’t set boundaries.
So a good girl can be taken advantage of, and disrespected, and left wondering, “Why do people treat me this way?”
First, I had to discover that there was such a thing as boundaries:
“Boundaries can be described as how emotionally close you let people get to you. They are also where you draw the line within a relationship. They say how much you are willing to give or take before requiring that things change or deciding to call it quits.”
Simple to define, but so difficult to enact.
Second, I had to learn how to set boundaries.
Third, I had to set a boundary.
And the first time I did, I was amazed.
The sky didn’t fall in. The earth didn’t split apart. There was a consequence – the relationship ended – but I was OK with that.
The person who’d been disrespecting me was no longer in my life.
I haven’t set many boundaries since, but now I knew I could do it.
Then I read Hax’s advice column, and found out I was doing it all wrong.
The person who wrote to Hax talked about her sister:
“I have repeatedly asked my sister not to discuss certain topics with me [such as my parenting] because I find her approach offensive and insulting.”
I could identify – most of us have a family member, friend, neighbor, coworker, someone in our lives who does the same or similar thing.
“When I try to establish boundaries, she blows them off, and tells me I have to accept the way she likes to talk about everything.”
Yup. Sounds familiar.
Hax’s response went right to my heart:
“Your boundaries aren’t working because you’re setting them for your sister, when they need to be for you.”
“This is a common misconception. It’s natural to think of boundaries as a kind of fence we put up to keep people out. ‘Here is my new fence,’ we tell people. ‘Do not go over it!’ You want to keep your sister out of certain topics, so you built your fence and told her to stay on her side of it.”
“The thing is, we can’t make people stop saying what they want to say.”
Effective boundaries, says Hax, aren’t about their behavior – they’re about our behavior.
Instead of telling the person to stop saying or doing something, Hax suggested saying:
“‘I will not discuss my parenting with you.’ It’s a tiny rephrase with a massive effect. I will not discuss.”
Because that – what you say or do – is what you can control.
“She can criticize you as usual, every day, all day, and in response you can: change the subject, ignore her text, delete her email, hang up the phone, leave the room, put in earbuds, crank the TV, practice your kazoo, start speaking in tongues. You can employ whatever means you have available to ensure she’s talking to herself.”
This, said Hax, is disrespect-proof.
“Who cares if she ‘ignores any terms I have’ because your terms are for you and you will live by them no matter how badly she takes it when you leave her in the kitchen, talking to herself. You can be available to her again, to have a relationship again, sure. You just won’t be there to listen to her [stuff].”
After I read this, I started reflecting on the boundaries I’d set and how I could have done it differently.
And I will do it differently next time, if I’m in another situation where I need to set boundaries.
They’ll be boundaries for me, not for her or him.
I started this post with the quote from Socrates, but that was only a partial quote – here it is in full.
Throughout the pandemic we’ve been regaled with stories about new hobbies people picked up to while away some of those long hours being spent at home:
Many of those hobbies were unsurprising – reading, baking, cooking, gardening, mediation, writing.
There was also an interest in the surprising hobbies people started, and it became something of a contest to see who could outdo whom:
Similar articles listed suggestions including “disinfecting your collection of pens,” “alphabetizing your underwear” and, “listing everything you hate about Justin Bieber” (pictured), and invited readers to share their new, weird pandemic hobbies.
But the pandemic hobby I want to talk about is one I recently read about, and I think it’s a story that should have gotten a lot more attention.
Not only because of what the hobby is, but because of who is doing it:
Now, before you think this “dad” is some whack job doing unspeakable things with his vacuum – he isn’t.
He’s creating vacuum art:
Yes, that’s Trump. An unfortunate choice of subject, but masterfully executed.
The dad is Tom Quirk, 36, a farrier – that is, a specialist in equine hoof care – in the Forest of Dean, located in the in the western part of the county of Gloucestershire, England.
Here’s Tom with his trusty vacuum:
Here’s more of his art. Tom started with patterns:
After that, there was no holding him back:
I think Tom’s vacuum art shows real creativity. And think of the money he’s saving on paint and brushes and canvases! Create the work, take a picture, enjoy it, then just smooth it out and start over.
But the reason I think Tom’s story is particularly noteworthy?
Let’s go back to Tom’s picture:
This is a man holding a vacuum.
He’s holding it correctly.
He is no stranger to vacuums, or vacuuming:
“…my wife was working all day. I was getting on with the housework and noticed how the lines showed up really well when vacuuming with our Shark vacuum.”
Tom was “getting on with the housework.”
Housework sounds like a normal, unremarkable part of his life.
But I think it’s worth remarking on, especially since there are so many articles about men not doing housework, including this – not from 50 years ago but just a few weeks ago:
Though I’d challenge the author on his phraseology. “Help around the house” implies that housework is the female’s job, and the man should be helping her with it.
My premise is simple:
You live here, you clean here.
Housework is the job of everyone who inhabits the house.
Tom Quirk knows it.
Here’s how his vacuum art began:
“It started a couple of years ago when I went to Dunelm and bought a new rug.”
Tom was doing his vacuuming and…
“I started just doing stripes then it kind of escalated from there, the following weekend I did curves, followed by different patterns and then a random one of the Silverstone F1 circuit as it was the British grand prix weekend. From there I decided to have a go at famous faces…
“You have to hoover the rug all over in just one direction first so it gives you an all-over light image.”
I love how he uses “hoover” as a verb. So very British!
I also love that Tom not only knows his way around a vacuum, he knows vacuum attachments:
“Then I remove the hose and add the thin attachment to the end and drag the long fibres the opposite direction to get the shadows of faces.”
“Fibres.” Again, so very British!
And so very creative. Have you ever been vacuuming and suddenly had a vision that the vacuum tracks could form a face? A recognizable face?
My vision is abandoning the vacuuming and pouring a glass of wine.
Tom even compared creating his art to Da Vinci’s process – though only in terms of time:
“It normally takes me about 15 to 20 minutes, which isn’t bad considering it took Leonardo Da Vinci four years to do the Mona Lisa.”
I love his quirky sense of humor.
(You know I had to say that.)
I found lamentably few online stories about Tom’s artistic endeavors (endeavours if you’re British), so I went online to see if anyone else was creating vacuum art.
I found no one.
But don’t despair.
Tom did mention he has dogs.
And Tom did that image of Trump.
And that inspired me to create vacuum art of my own:
This will take a lot of your imagining, but let’s give it a go.
A wide-body aircraft. Let’s choose the DC-10, which was taken out of commercial service in 2007.
Well, like I said – it was “long, long ago.”
The DC-10 was so wide, it had a middle section with five seats:
A middle section where you could lift the arm rests and stretch out across those five seats for a nice nap.
And you could take a nice nap, because commercial planes often flew half – or more – empty.
There was plenty of food, and yes, it was airplane food, but it was pretty good.
And unlike today, it was free.
You didn’t pay $14 for a sandwich that looked like this:
And speaking of free, back when flying was fun, there were few – if any – of what the airlines today call ancillary fees, including:
And, there were few – if any – of what the airlines today call “incidents,” like we see today:
Though I think this recent event merits a stronger word than “incident”:
According to the article – and I’m quoting at length because it’s worth knowing the extent of how dangerous this “incident” was:
“Juan Remberto Rivas, a 50-year-old man who stood at 6 feet 3 inches and weighed 240 pounds, began creating disturbances on the plane and threatening flight attendants.
“The report said he walked into the cockpit area and grabbed a plastic knife, holding it in his shirt sleeve ‘like a shank.’ He also grabbed a champagne bottle and attempted to break the bottle on the counter. He proceeded to kick and shove the service cart into the flight attendants.
“Rivas tried to open the aircraft exit door, pulling hard on the handle with one hand, at first, and then with both of his hands. A flight attendant grabbed a coffee pot and smashed it on Rivas’ head, and several passengers came forward to assist the flight attendants. One of the passengers, a police officer, pulled him away from the door, and another punched Rivas in the jaw as a third passenger grabbed his neck and pulled him to the floor, according to the report. Passengers and flight attendants restrained Rivas with zip ties and duct tape.”
The article goes on to say,
“By the end of 2021,5,981 cases of unruly passengers were reported, 4,290 of which were mask-related, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.”
Back in those long, long ago days, dangerous behavior on commercial aircraft was very rare.
Dangerous passengers are a big reason the fun has gone out of flying.
But here are two other situations that make me wonder how anyone can fly these days.
From dangerous passengers – to a dangerous pilot:
The pilot’s “blood alcohol content was found to be four times the limit for pilots.”
Apparently “a Transportation Security Administration officer noticed that he ‘may have been impaired,’ airport officials said in a statement.”
How many other pilots who “may” be impaired are not escorted off an aircraft and instead, fire up those engines and take off, risking hundreds of lives on the plane, and on the ground?
How many other pilots think a drink or two or eight won’t hurt – yes, according to an article on NBCNews.com, this Jet Blue pilot said he had “seven or eight drinks before he got on the aircraft…”
How about the pilot on your next flight?
Which leads me to others getting on an aircraft who have no business getting on an aircraft.
Specifically, this other:
Meet Marilyn Hartman (in assorted mug shots), also known as the “Serial Stowaway,” who has a long history of trying – and sometimes succeeding – to sneak on commercial airline flights:
On February 15, 2014: At San Francisco International Airport, Hartman makes it through a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint and onto a plane bound for Hawaii even though she doesn’t have a ticket. When the person whose seat she’s occupying arrives, Hartman is caught.
How does someone “make it through” a TSA checkpoint with no ticket? TSA staff are government employees, highly trained to be alert, watchful, aware of everything and everyone one around them.
August 4, 2014: Hartman sneaks onto a plane at Mineta San Jose International Airport in California and is arrested at Los Angeles International Airport.
January 14, 2018: At O’Hare International Airport Hartman makes it past two Transportation Security Administration officers by hiding her face with her hair, then tries unsuccessfully to board a plane to Connecticut. She then boards a shuttle bus to the international terminal and sleeps there overnight before sneaking onto a plane, sitting in an empty seat, and flying to London’s Heathrow Airport. Caught, flown back to O’Hare International and arrested.
These are just three of 22 incidents involving Hartman recounted in this article:
In between her successes, Hartman was arrested numerous times at airports for violating a court order and trespassing, fraud by impersonation, misdemeanor reckless conduct, violation of bond, felony theft and other offences.
Recently, Hartman was once again in the news:
My point is – how did Hartman make it through the Transportation Security Administration’s check, the check-in at the desk in the boarding area, and that last check just before she headed down the jetway…
All that checking where you and I must show our legal ID and boarding pass over and over again…
And how many other people are doing the same thing, but aren’t getting caught?
I was flipping through the latest issue of Food Network magazine, not paying a whole lot of attention – I like looking at pictures of food, not cooking it – when something stopped me in my tracks.
“What the hell,” I wondered, “is this?”
A glossy full page.
A lot of vibrant colors.
A striking woman.
An over-the-top outfit.
A large garbage bag.
A large pink garbage bag.
This required research.
It turns out this page was not a one-off – it was one part of a much larger campaign created to convince consumers that our lives are not only incomplete, but probably pointless, if we do not immediately purchase mass quantities these:
Meet the GLAD ForceFlexPlus cherry blossom scented, grips-the-can, tall kitchen drawstrong bags with Febreze freshness.
That full-page ad in Food Network magazine was just a slice of something much bigger:
A full-blown advertising campaign that includes not just print ads, but all the social media you can think of, including Instagram, which included this montage from the commercial (more to come on that):
The campaign’s 30-second commercial made headlines earlier this month, like this:
Here’s a description of the commercial from AdAge:
“The 30-second video shows an over-the-top fete attended by glammed-up revelers. A woman in a couture pink dress carries the bag around the house collecting leftover food and decor as the high-fashion party-goers take in the cherry blossom scent. Finally, the host goes outside to toss the waste, looking fantastic as her schlubby neighbor looks on, grasping his leaky, stinky, boring white plastic sack.”
Here’s the woman going outside to toss the waste:
Here’s here schlubby neighbor:
There’s no dialogue in the commercial, but a sultry female voice-over intones:
“Strength…desire…ripguard technology…a fragrance this alluring could only belong to a powerful…”
(Move in for close-up)
(Voice drops down to an equally sultry whisper)
“With superior strength.”
(Voice resumes previous level.)
“The cherry blossom fragrance, it’s all fabulous…”
“It’s all GLAD.”
And I’m sure my fellow Americans and I are glad to know it.
But it turns out that perhaps my fellow Americans and I aren’t exactly the consumers that GLAD is looking for.
According to the articles I mentioned above, GLAD and its advertising agency…
“…created a campaign personifying the notion of being strong and fabulous: expressed through bold attire, empowered attitude and a fabulous setting. Inspired by luxury fragrance brands and their glamorous worlds…a trash bag experience for those that live the ‘extra’ life.”
Self-doubts assailed me.
Am I “strong and fabulous” enough for the GLAD ForceFlexPlus cherry blossom scented, grips-the-can, tall kitchen drawstring bags with Febreze freshness?
Am I living the “extra” life?
“Ultimately, the campaign positions the bag as a kind of accessory that expresses the style and bold attitude of its users.”
Do I have the “style and bold attitude” they’re looking for?
And if all this isn’t worrisome enough, check out this statement about the commercial from the GLAD director of marketing:
“Our goal is to add joy to otherwise mundane experiences…The cast lit up the room, bringing beauty and power as a manifestation of the benefits GLAD is introducing with our new product line.”
And this, from the ad agency’s executive vice president:
“As an agency, we believe the best way to connect with people is to understand their shared values. In this campaign, we used the notion of being ‘extra’ as a way to culturally resonate with people across different demographics and sociographics who value self-expression and creativity.”
Well, I – like you – value “self-expression and creativity.”
I’m just not sure I can become “strong and fabulous” and attain that “extra” life…
From a trash bag.
Even if it is the GLAD ForceFlexPlus cherry blossom scented, grips-the-can, tall kitchen drawstring bags with Febreze freshness.
But – before I slid completely into the Slough of Despair, I discovered that GLAD has other ForceFlexPlus scented garbage bags:
And perhaps if I try all of them, I’ll find exactly the right one to represent my “style and bold attitude.”
“Ha, ha!” I thought. “No more Air Force One! And Trump’s own airplane is out of commission, so Trump’s flying commercial like we mere mortals do, and he was inconvenienced, poor baby!”
Then I started reading, and realized my chuckling, laughing and snorting were premature.
Trump wasn’t flying commercial.
He was traveling on a rich pal’s private plane.
One of his rich Republican toadies who no doubt practically wet his pants in excitement as he offered Trump the use of the plane in hopes of receiving future favors.
A related article in the Washington Post said the donor’s identity could not be immediately verified.
I’m tempted to say, “Just choose a rich Republican with a brown nose,” but – there are so many of them.
Why was Trump traveling? The Washington Post said,
“The plane was attempting to take Trump home to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, FL from the Four Seasons Hotel in New Orleans, where he spoke to some of the Republican Party’s top donors at a private event.”
That “attempting” part: The plane suffered engine failure late that March 5 evening over the Gulf of Mexico.
Because I care about you, I read a recap in this article – so you wouldn’t have to – of the speech Trump gave at the Four Seasons Hotel:
Trump’s short speech – a mere 84 minutes – was heard by…
“…about 250 of the Republican Party’s top donors.”
“Donors who had written checks for tens of thousands of dollars walked out Saturday night holding copies of the former president’s photo book, titled Our Journey Together, purchased by the RNC.”
Have you seen Trump’s book?
It’s not my idea of a lovely parting gift.
In his speech Trump, as expected, repeated his tired old lies about the stolen election.
He displayed his rapier wit by joking about the war in Ukraine:
He demonstrated his acclaimed erudition by calling Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff a “watermelon head” and attorney George Conway a “son of a bitch.”
And he shared his vast scientific expertise by mocking the concept of sea levels rising: “To which I say, great, we have more waterfront property.”
I’m no expert, but it seems to me that rising sea levels mean less land – not more?
I checked on ClimateCentral.org which says:
“As sea levels continue to rise throughout the century, chronic flooding will spread and more land will be permanently lost to the ocean. By 2100 elevation data show land currently home to 200 million people could fall permanently below the high tide line.”
Back to Trump’s borrowed airplane.
The plane was identified by the Washington Post as a Dassault Falcon 900.
The Dassault Falcon 900 has three engines, but still – one failed engine is major trouble, and it takes a highly skilled, experienced, and smart pilot to land safely with a disabled engine.
The airplane landed in New Orleans, and I’m sure Trump was lavish in his praise and thanks to the pilot for bringing him (Trump) and everyone on board safely back to Earth.
Actually, I’m sure Trump instead was doing some major whining about what a major inconvenience this was, and why the f**k couldn’t the pilot fly with two out of three engines?
Can’t you just hear Trump?
“Hell, when I was a Navy pilot – no, it was Air Force, yeah, Air Force – in Vietnam, I was bombing the hell out of those people – they’re the ones that gave us the Asian flu, you know? One day I’m flying a goddamn son of a bitch bomber and ALL the engines failed! No engines! But I kept flying and dropping bombs and I landed safely and got a Medal of Honor from the president, what’s-his-name, Roosevelt!”
So Trump was stranded in New Orleans, but according to the Politico article,
“…the RNC scrambled and reached out to a donor and found the former president another plane. Trump eventually landed in Palm Beach around 3am Sunday.”
The owner of this loaner was identified:
Craig Estey, a GOP donor and founder of Nevada Restaurant Services:
According to the Dun & Bradstreet website, Estey’s company’s annual income is $72.03 million in annual sales.
Estey, whose full name is Richard Craig Estey, or Richard C. Estey, seems to keep a pretty low profile.
Though I did find this 2008 article:
“In trying to figure out who Estey is, we found some interesting background. Estey runs a chain of gambling parlors in Nevada called Dotty’s. He also operated one of the biggest video gambling operations in Oregon until the state lottery ran him out of town.
“It all started with a domestic dispute Estey had in 2005, when he allegedly held a gun to his then-wife’s head and threatened her life.
“In December 2006, Oregon Lottery Director Dale Penn wrote Estey to terminate his state lottery contract because ‘you do not satisfy the requirements of good character, honesty, and integrity that apply to all Lottery Retailers.’”
The perfect Trump toady!
A toady who could have been spared all this kerfuffle if Trump has just used his own airplane.
You know – Trump’s Boeing 757.
The Boeing 757 he liked to call “Trump Force One”:
A plane with all the comforts of home: dining room, bathroom, shower, bedroom, guest room, and galley, with lavishly appointed fixtures, many plated in 24k gold:
Trump even did a documentary about himself, er, I mean, his plane – and aren’t we lucky we can watch it on YouTube?
Trump used the plane during his 2016 presidential campaign, and then he had the use of Air Force One.
But as I mentioned earlier, Trump’s airplane is out of commission.
And where is Trump’s plane?
According to this March 2021 article:
“…today it sits idle on an airport ramp in Orange County, New York, about 60 miles north of Manhattan…One engine is missing parts. The other is shrink-wrapped in plastic.”
“Flight records accessed by CNN show the 757 hasn’t been flown at all since Inauguration Day.”
That’s Inauguration Day, 2016.
But, according to this article May 2021 article:
Back then, Trump said his Boeing 757…
“…is now being fully restored and updated and will be put back into service sometime prior to the end of the year. It will soon be brought to a Louisiana service facility for the completion of work, inspection and updating of Rolls-Royce engines, and a brand new paint job. When completed, it will be better than ever, and again used at upcoming rallies!”
I guess Trump lied changed his mind:
“Former President Trump is asking his supporters to help fund his new ‘Trump Force One’ private plane just days after a jet flying him to Mar-a-Lago made an emergency landing when one of its engines failed.
“Trump, through his Save America PAC, sent his supporters an email titled ‘Update Trump Force One’ in which he said that ‘my team is building a BRAND NEW Trump Force One.’”
The email promised a reveal of the new Trump plane and invited fans to click a link for a sneak preview.
That sneak preview is going to cost you, however:
The link goes to a site asking for monthly recurring donations of up to $2,500 a month to access that sneak preview.
“PRESIDENT TRUMP NEEDS YOU TO COMPLETE YOUR DONATION RIGHT NOW!”
Maybe Trump’s rich buddy who loaned him his airplane, Craig Estey, will kick in toward Trump’s new plane.
Then Estey can ask Trump for help the next time he gets in trouble, like threatening his then-wife with a gun.
One morning last week, around 9:30am, we had a power outage at home.
One second everything was fine, and the next – my computer died, the lights went off, the heat shut down, the fridge stopped humming.
First response: Frustration. Had I lost the document I was writing on my computer? I can’t warm up my coffee in the microwave. No heat, and it was a chilly morning. I can’t turn on the TV to watch the news.
Next: Helplessness. I can’t fix this. I called the power company and got a recording: “We’re currently experiencing a high volume of calls, and wait times of at least one hour.”
Next: Ignorance. When will power be restored? Is the food in the fridge going to spoil? If we need to go out, we can’t use the garage door opener – can we manually open the garage door? When it gets dark this evening and we get out the flashlights – I’ve been meaning to get new batteries…
I sat in the kitchen drinking lukewarm coffee and sulking, when a thought occurred:
No electricity is what so many Ukrainians have been experiencing – and for days. No electricity, no water, and many are running out of food and medicines.
I have good reason to believe my electricity will come back on.
Since we had daylight, I could read. I turned to the morning newspaper and saw this story on the front page:
It couldn’t believe it, though the family was there in front of me:
I was outraged.
These are Ukrainians, seeking asylum here, refused entry into the U.S! Think of what Putin is doing to their country! This is terrible!
The woman is 34-year-old Sofiia – apparently fearful of revealing her last name – traveling with her children ages 14, 12 and six.
The family left Ukraine on February 27 and traveled to Moldova, Romania and Mexico, arriving in Tijuana on Monday, March 7 – nine days of travel. Their final destination was Los Angeles, the home of the only family she has outside of Ukraine.
Sofiia had a typed letter from her U.S. relatives explaining who she is and promising to take care of her living expenses.
Her relative drove down from Los Angeles to pick up her and her children, and tried to drive them north across the border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry:
Her relative explained to the officer that he was a U.S. citizen and that his family was fleeing the war. He asked what he needed to do for them to be able to enter with him. The officer told him that he could not cross with them and turned the car around.
The relative took Sofiia and her children to a hotel. The U.S.-based relatives then contacted the U.S. consulate in Tijuana and asked for help to get permission for the family to enter. They didn’t get a response, Sofiia said.
On Wednesday, March 9 she decided to try walking through the pedestrian lane at San Ysidro Port of Entry and requesting asylum that way:
But officers stationed at the border line wouldn’t let her onto U.S. soil.
Sofiia and her family were turned back by the same border policies that have stopped asylum seekers from around the world and stranded them in Tijuana indefinitely.
Asylum seekers – thousands of them – from Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil, India, Eritrea, Ghana, Ethiopia, Cameroon and now…
Among those border policies is Title 42, a Trump-era policy continued by the Biden administration. One of the reasons both administrations said that Title 42 is necessary is to protect against the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.
Leaving Sofiia and her family stuck in Mexico, possibly for years.
I stopped reading to think.
I doubt that anyone could deny that our immigration system is – well, I think this headline sums it up:
And just like all the Powers-That-Be in Washington, DC, I have no solution.
And how can I suggest that Sofiia’s situation is somehow different/worse from all those thousands of other asylum seekers, that she and her family somehow deserve special consideration?
Everyone who’s seeking asylum is in a desperate situation – is Sofiia’s any more desperate?
I returned to the Union-Tribune article.
An immigration attorney who happened to be nearby noticed Sofiia’s situation.
Blaine Bookey (pictured), the legal director for the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Hastings, stepped forward to help Sofiia, who was crying and so overwhelmed she was unable to speak.
After four or five hours of standing by the entrance to the United States, a small group of immigration attorneys and advocates had formed around her, messaging their contacts in CBP and posting Sofiia’s story on Twitter.
The article ended with Sofiia saying,
“We left our lives, our jobs, our families and houses in Ukraine just to escape from this horrible war. All my friends and family are far, far away from me, and I don’t know if they will be alive tomorrow. I just want to keep my kids’ lives safe.”
This is SO f**cked, I thought.
And it is:
Back to my nice, safe home: My no-electricity story had a happy ending.
About an hour after the power went off, it came back on. Computer, lights, heat, hot coffee, and I added “check flashlight batteries” to my to-do list.
No lights-back-on for so many in Ukraine.
The next morning, I saw this online:
According to the article, attorney Blaine Bookey’s “tweets and media coverage sparked renewed criticism of a Trump-era order to deny people a chance to seek asylum under an order to prevent spread of COVID-19 known as Title 42 authority.”
The situation triggered “sharp criticism from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats.”
U.S. authorities will allow Sofiia and her family to seek asylum. They entered San Diego for processing.
The San Diego Union-Tribune article noted that in allowing the family into the U.S.:
“…officials made an exception to what has long been the rule at the border of turning back asylum seekers who are trying to request protection.”
What’s ahead for Sofiia and her family?
According to the Refugee Council USA website, the asylum-seeking process,
“…from application to approval, can typically take about six months. If after their interview their case is not approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), they can still re-apply using the defensive process.”
And what is this “defensive process”?
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – the UNHCR – website:
“The defensive asylum process is for individuals who are in removal proceedings. Removal proceedings are when the United States government orders that you be removed (deported) from the United States.
“A person who is in removal proceedings may apply for asylum defensively by filing the application with an immigration judge at the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) in the Department of Justice. In other words, asylum is applied for ‘as a defence against removal from the U.S.’”
Sofiia and her children have a long road ahead of them, with no guarantee they won’t be deported.
For now, they’re with their U.S. relatives in Los Angeles.
And I’m left wondering…
Will Sofiia and her family – and the next Ukrainians, and all those asylum seekers – have a happy ending?
Every week I look at the New York Times lists of best-selling hardcover fiction and nonfiction.
And every week, for more than a year, I’ve seen this:
The Midnight Library.
It’s held different positions on the fiction best seller list, but it’s been there.
As of the above March 13 list: 64 weeks.
When I first heard about the book, I went on Amazon to read the description and thought, “I’ll pass.”
But Midnight Library continued to appear on the list, week after week.
And since I’m always looking for books, I thought, “Maybe I’ll give it another look.”
When I went back to Amazon, The Midnight Library had more than 140,000 reviews.
I’m on Amazon a lot, and I’d never seen a number that high.
And not only a high number, but great high number: 4.3 out of 5 stars.
And I thought, “OK, I’ll give Midnight Library a try.”
So I did, and – ugh.
Once again I’m out of step with the general reading population.
The lead character is Englishwoman Nora Seed, 35. In the beginning of the book, Nora’s life is shit, and it gets worse.
Here’s how she describes herself on page 13:
“A black hole. A dying star, collapsing in on itself.”
She decides to die.
Instead, Nora ends up in the Midnight Library, a between-life-and-death place where she’ll be able to try on many different lives – paths she could have chosen, but didn’t.
Her Midnight Library mentor through all this is Mrs. Elm, her school librarian, who’d been kind to Nora in the past.
When Nora goes off to try a different life, if she doesn’t want to stay in that life, she’s somehow returned to the library and then does a postmortem with Mrs. Elm.
Nora tries out a life where she didn’t jilt her fiancé shortly before the wedding. She realizes she doesn’t want that life and returns to the Midnight Library. Then a life where her cat doesn’t die, and then she returns. Then a life if she’d gone to Australia, and again she returns.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
I didn’t enjoy Midnight Library and figured it was my fault – I was missing the point. So I tracked down reviews from when the book first came out, including in the New York Times and Washington Post. Both writers wrote at length and were full of praise, and I realized I wasn’t missing the point at all.
The point was that old tried and true, “There’s no place like home.”
If you’re one of the three people who hasn’t read Midnight Library, you sure have your choice of how: Hardback, paperback, large print, eBook, audio CD, spiral-bound, and Kindle, plus it’s been translated into something like 30 languages, including Persian:
Once you’ve chosen your preferred format, if you’re really into it, you can read by the light of this candle inspired by The Midnight Library that claims to be “book scented”:
What is “book scented”?
“This blend is our interpretation of the scents you’d find within a magical library – aged pages, antique sandalwood, middle notes of tobacco leaf, teakwood, warm amber, and of course…elm.”
“Middle notes.” Uh-huh.
The Midnight Library film rights have been optioned:
That was in September 2020 but there’s no sign of it Coming Soon! to any theater near you, or anywhere.
Perhaps Midnight Library, TheMovie is off trying out other lives.
Perhaps the movie will return with a lead character who, instead of being a suicidal, 35-year-old “black hole. A dying star, collapsing in on itself” is, instead, a fresh-faced, singing 10-year-old who’s realized…
In the old song, Wonderful World, the lyrics describe a person who doesn’t know much about history, biology and other subjects, but does knows that “I love you, and I know that if you love me, too, what a wonderful world it would be.”
Another of those subjects in the song he doesn’t know much about is geography, and I can relate – when it comes to geography, like the song says, “I can’t claim to be an ‘A’ student.”
My lack of geographical knowledge was reinforced recently when my husband read a quiz question in the newspaper to me:
“How many state capitals are located west of Los Angeles?”
Smug, I answered, “That’s easy – Hawaii and Alaska.”
“You’re right,” he said. “So far.”
“So far?” I echoed.
“You named two. There are six.”
Six state capitals west of Los Angeles?
Six? How could that be?
My smugness drained away.
But I wanted to answer this, to prove I wasn’t totally geographically illiterate.
I started by envisioning Los Angeles:
Stars posing on the Walk of Fame…
OK, but what about Los Angeles’ geographic location?
Easy – Southern California:
I know that California’s west coast is formed in an eastward direction, and from Santa Barbara to San Diego the coast looks like a sea monster took a big bite out of it.
So maybe, I reasoned, the capital of California might be west of Los Angeles?
“Sacramento?” I guessed.
“Right,” my husband said. “Three more to go.”
“Maybe, um…” I was floundering here.
“The capital of the state of Washington?” (Don’t know much about state capital names, either.)
Only two more to go.
I reasoned that if Washington’s capital was west of Los Angeles, then maybe…
“Oregon it is,” he said. “What’s number six?”
I’d done alright with my three guesses – and they were guesses – but now I was stumped.
I tried to envision a map of the western states, and I couldn’t imagine any more of them with a capital that was west of Los Angeles.
I shook my head, and gave up.
“Nevada’s state capital is west of Los Angeles,” said my hub. “Carson City.”
Never mind the capital’s name. Nevada’s capital? How could that be?
I went online and pulled up a driving map:
It looked iffy to me.
So I enlarged the map and added a straight north-to-south line:
And sure enough – Nevada’s capital clearly is west of Los Angeles.
So there we are:
The six states with capitals west of Los Angeles are Hawaii, Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada.
After all this research and map reading and comparing, I am SO ready!!!
Bring on Jeopardy!
I’ll take Geography for $1000!
Let’s go for it! I’ll wager everything I’ve won so far! I live in Southern California, and I know how many beaches Los Angeles has.
(Final Jeopardy music playing.)
(Answer: What is zero? The City of Los Angeles is a landlocked metropolis with no access to the ocean. The County of Los Angeles has more than a dozen beaches.)
I’ve just been down the rabbit hole to a strange and crazy alternate universe.
It wasn’t my intention to go there.
It started with this story:
Since May of 2020, Miami Beach police had been handing out flyers to motorists who received traffic citations, and according to the story…
“The flier explained how to resolve minor traffic tickets online by visiting the Miami-Dade County Clerk of Courts website, but a missing hyphen sent drivers to a Trump site instead.”
This sounded crazy to me – police handing out flyers directing people to a Trump merchandise website?
Not even in Ron DeSantis’ Florida would police officers do something so blatantly political.
This was absurd, and since I love the absurd, I decided to learn more.
The flyers were intended to tell motorists their options after receiving a traffic citation:
A helpful public service, yes?
The citation continues detailing Option #2 and goes on to Option #3:
And there are two references to the Clerk of the Court website, with one small difference:
The first reference is miamidadeclerk.com.
The second reference is miami-dadeclerk.com.
What a difference a dash makes.
The second website does, indeed, take you to the right place – the Miami-Dade County Clerk of the Courts:
That first reference, however – the one missing the hyphen – takes you here:
And according to this article:
“The un-hyphenated site does not appear to be linked to an official entity for the former president or his political apparatus as he prepares for a potential 2024 campaign.
“Instead, the miamidadeclerk.com link instantly redirects to an online store on findsale.com. Click on the Trump merchandise there, and users are taken to an Amazon page where merchandise branded with ‘Trump 2024’ is for sale.”
This story appeared in mid-February, and it appears some changes have since been made to findsale.com – I didn’t find any Trump merchandise listed there, but I’ll take the Miami Herald’s word for it.
And since the Miami Herald talked about Amazon, I decided to see what all the flap was about:
I went on Amazon and searched for “Trump 2024.”
And down the rabbit hole I went into that strange and crazy alternate universe.
There is Trump 2024 merchandise on Amazon.
There’s a veritable tsunami of the stuff: a plethora of items.
And rest assured, these items display all the dignity, intellect, eloquence and finesse we’ve learned to expect from Trump.
Like these items:
These 3’ x 5’ flags (flagpole not included) “are made of premium 100% polyester with double stitched all around the edge.”
The description also offers the assurance that the items are “a must-have flag for all TRUMP supporters.”
But wait – there’s more!
Including Trump 2024 socks:
And just $7.99 a pair! These handsome, colorful socks are sure to catch the public’s eye the next time you’re hanging off the side of the Capitol Building:
There are items for those with a religious bent:
Items for those with a rhinestone bent:
And a t-shirt with this slogan for those who – like Trump – are just plain bent:
There are Trump facemasks:
Someday, you can show the facemasks to your grandchildren and tell them, “See this? It’s a facemask. The government said we should wear ‘em. And we told ‘em…
Hell no, don’t you ask, Trumpers don’t wear no f***king masks!
And the Trump team has totally cornered the market on tchotchkes: windsocks and wristbands and keychains and pins and bottle openers and…
I was drowning in the tsunami Trump 2024 stuff.
It was time – way past time – to get out of the rabbit hole.
I returned to the real world, and turned to the Miami Herald article to see if I could learn how that missing hyphen typo in the police flyer happened.
The article says the flyers:
“…began circulating countywide in May of 2020 promoting the new online options. The program rolled out as courts grappled with restrictions and health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Like I said earlier – a helpful public service.
“A court spokesperson provided the original flier sent to Miami-Dade police in May 2020 that included the appropriately hyphenated website address in all mentions.”
But then – for reasons unexplained:
“Miami Beach produced its own version of the notices, and the error was inserted at some point during the printing process…”
Why would Miami Beach produce its own version of the flyer?
No explanation is offered.
Though this piece of information is:
“Court administrators said Miami Beach – where President Joe Biden won 60% of the 2020 presidential vote – appears to be the only agency with the typo in the kind of fliers that that began circulating countywide in May of 2020 promoting the new online options.”
Miami Beach, where Biden won 60% of the presidential vote, one of the few places in Florida that went blue in 2020:
Miami Beach, where police were handing out flyers directing people to a Trump merchandise website.
Not even in Ron DeSantis’ Florida would police officers do something so blatantly political.
OMG…Here’s a police officer… in Florida…in uniform…in October 2020…at an early voting site…