For Sale: One Presidential Medal Of Freedom, Barely Worn

(The following is imaginary – or perhaps not?)

Medal’s Monetary Value:  Unknown.

Medal’s Value to Me:  None.

If only I’d been as brave as Bill Belichick:

But I wasn’t.

Despite the fact that I loathed Trump, I agreed to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from him.

It’s heady stuff, being told that a president wants to give you the nation’s highest civilian honor.

I pictured myself in the Oval Office, surrounded by the press, and figured I could – metaphorically – hold my nose while Trump draped the ribbon and medal around my neck.

So I did.  And he did. 

And there were stories all over the media, and I enjoyed reading the coverage and looking at the photos and videos.

And pretending Trump wasn’t in any of them.

Pretending that he was John F. Kennedy, who established the award.  Or Barack Obama – that would have been something.  Or Lyndon Johnson or George W. Bush or…

I confess I’ve shaken my head over some of the various presidents’ choices of recipients, and I expect plenty of people shook their heads when I was a recipient.

I’ll leave that for history to judge.

For now, I’ll judge only myself, for not speaking the truth then:

That I’d be honored to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

But not from Trump’s hands.

I’m reminded of a 2018 book title:  Everything Trump Touches Dies.

He touched me when he put the medal on, and I cringe when I think of it.  Shook my hand, all that stuff.

When I left, I was tempted to stand on the White House steps and ask someone to hose me down with disinfectant.

As for selling the medal…

It’s been sitting in a drawer since the day I received it.  I don’t take it out and look at it, and I sure don’t talk about it.

The medal did have my name engraved on the back, but no worries.

I removed that – it’s gone.

Just like Trump will be gone from office on January 20.

I’ve Got It, And I Know Millions Of Other Americans Do, Too:

I’ve got all the symptoms:

My jaw is constantly bruised because every time Trump opens his mouth, my jaw drops.

My forehead is deeply, permanently creased from my eyebrows constantly raised in disbelief.

I have neck whiplash from so much shaking of my head at one more of Trump lies:

My ears are ringing from the cruel, foul names Trump calls women and men.

My eyes are bleary from seeing nonstop images of Trump’s cruel, foul face:

I didn’t know what was wrong until I called my doctor. 

She said, “You’ve got…

“There’s a lot of it going around,” she added.

I said, “Doctor, is there a cure?”

She said, “Yes!  It’s called January 20, 2020”:

Let’s Just Say “No” To…

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

Period.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because they’re a Set-Up-to-Fail.

And setting myself up to fail is no way to start a new year.

For example, there’s the most popular resolution of all:

And there’s a world of “experts” out there, telling us how to do this in 2021, like this one:

And this one:

And this one, in case you want to bring your dog along for the torture:

I find these articles especially loathsome when they include images like these:

Standing on a scale with an apple in one hand and candy in the other?  I say, “Skip the scale, give the apple to the dog, and go for the candy!”

And the other image – two totally buff bodies, one holding a scale which clearly neither ever has, nor ever will, use.

I know from experience that a New Year’s Day resolution to lose weight will last until about 10am or the first football game – whichever comes first – and out come the chips and dips and snacks and whatever else is in the fridge and…

Yes?

But losing weight isn’t our only Set-Up-to-Fail resolution.  In addition to weight loss, the “experts” also offer lots of other resolutions we can make – and fail to keep:

Gosh – only “55+” ways to fail?

Here are just a few:

Make your bed every morning.  This is a silly suggestion, since I’m going to get back into bed and pull the covers over my head at my first opportunity.

Give yourself more compliments.  This I can do:  “I took a three-hour nap today.  Way to go!”

Take more trips with no destination in mind. We’re already doing that – the entire year of 2020 has felt like a trip with no destination in mind. 

Here’s another one with 55 (what’s with all the number 55 stuff?) resolutions we can fail at:

And here’s a sampling:

Make your bed every morning.  What’s with all the making my bed stuff?

Drink more water.  I will.  I will add one more ice cube to every alcoholic beverage I drink.  Starting with breakfast.

Travel somewhere with no map.  We’re already doing that – for the entire year of 2020 we’ve been traveling somewhere with no map.

I say:   Forget about the weight-loss-list makers and the 55-resolutions-list makers and go for the one New Year’s resolution I did make years ago and have adhered to faithfully:

Pass the snacks, please.

Before Google, Our Google Was…

Eons ago – in the last millennium, before Google – I was writing a magazine article and trying to remember a quote that I thought would fit.

I knew the quote I wanted, but not the exact wording or who said it.  I had a vague idea that it referred to “in heaven and on earth” and “philosophy,” but I was stumped on the who, when, and where to find it.

Then the light bulb went on, and I called my library.

I told the friendly librarian I was looking for a quote, stumbled over my explanation, and she cheerfully said, “May I put you on hold while I look for that?”

I gratefully agreed, and wondered if my request had sounded as foolish – and hopeless – to her as it did to me.

In a few minutes she was back, and said, “Is this what you’re looking for?”

It was exactly the quote I was looking for, and here it is:

“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“That’s it!” I exclaimed.

“It’s from Shakespeare’s Hamlet,” said the librarian.  “Act 1, scene five.”

“Right, right!” I said, as if I’d known all along. 

I thanked her profusely, and finished my article, complete with the quote.

Just think of the knowledge that librarian had, in those pre-Google days, to be familiar not only with the quote, but exactly where to find it. 

Just think of the kindness and patience of that librarian, to cheerfully take on the question I’d given her, just one of dozens or even hundreds of questions she’d received that day.

What we just Google now was found for us by our librarians – for centuries.

That’s how long libraries have been around.

According to History.com,

“The Library of Ashurbanipal, the world’s oldest known library, was founded sometime in the 7th century B.C. for the ‘royal contemplation’ of the Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal.  Located in Nineveh in modern-day Iraq, the site included a trove of some 30,000 cuneiform tablets organized according to subject matter.  Most of its titles were archival documents, religious incantations and scholarly texts, but it also housed several works of literature including the 4,000-year-old Epic of Gilgamesh.”

I can just picture ole Ashurbanipal, sitting back and doing some royal contemplation, then asking his librarian to track down an obscure quote.

The librarian walks directly to a shelf and whips out this clay tablet:

The librarian points half-way down and says, “Yes, just as I thought.  Here’s that quote you were looking for, Sire.”

I hope ole Ashurbanipal was grateful.

And speaking of ancient history, do you know what this is?

This is the pre-cursor to library computers.

It was called a “card catalogue,” and it was the system for discovering if your library had a book and if so, its location.  Every book had a typed card filed by its title, and a second card, this one filed by the author’s last name:

You’d thumb through the cards and when you found your item, the library had thoughtfully provided small squares of blank paper and pencils (remember pencils?) on top of the cabinet so you could copy the information and go find your item.

First your fingers did the walking, and then your legs did the walking.

Libraries began transitioning to computers in the late 70s, and now you rarely see that bulky card catalog because everything is in the library’s online catalog.

But that change to technology hasn’t changed our need for that all-important human resource – our librarians and their vast store of knowledge.

And their ability to solve the who, when, and where to find it.

And their patience, especially for questions like mine, and the ones I’ve listed below.  I found these online, and I have no trouble believing that people have asked librarians these questions…and will continue to do so:

“Is Decoration Day when we celebrate the Decoration of Independence?”

“I was here about three weeks ago looking at a cookbook that cost $39.95.  Do you know which one it was?”

“Do you have How to Kill a Mockingbird?”

“I checked out a book from your library a number of years ago, and I really liked the book.  I don’t remember the title or author, but it had a blue cover.  Could you help me find it?”

“Can you tell me why so many Civil War battles were fought on National Park sites?”

“Do you have any books with photographs of dinosaurs?”

“I need to find out Ibid’s first name for my bibliography.”

“Do you have audio books in large print?”

“Who wrote the Agatha Christie mysteries?” 

“Would you mind checking if I have head lice?”

“I’m looking for Robert James Waller’s book, Waltzing through Grand Rapids.”  (Actual title:  Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend.)

“Can you reach into my pocket and get the change to pay for my copies?”

“If a poisonous snake bites itself, will it die?”

“At what time is high noon?”

“I found someone’s card on the floor.  Will you show me how to use it so I can take stuff out?”

“Is it ok for me to leave my kids here?”

“Which outlets in the library are appropriate for my hairdryer?”

“I’m looking for the autobiography of ____, but I’m not sure who wrote it.”

“Do you have that book by Rushdie, Satanic Nurses?”  (Actual title:  Satanic Verses.)

“I’m looking for a list of laws that I can break that would send me back to jail for a couple of months.”

To the general public, I’ll say:  Be grateful I’m not your librarian.

After the fifth or eighth or tenth question like those above, I’d be…

A Look Beyond Rudolph’s Red Nose

The other evening a commercial came on TV that had a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer theme.

I don’t remember what product the commercial was pushing, but I do remember wondering – for the first time, ever – “Who wrote Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?  And why?  What’s the story behind the song?”

Writers tend to be curious people.

My curiosity stemmed from this:

Many of us learned the lyrics and melody to Rudolph at a very young age, and we’ve been singing it ever since.

I’d even suggest mindlessly singing it, but not in a bad way.  That’s how we sing Christmas carols.  The lyrics and music aren’t as important as the holiday spirit they invoke – religious or otherwise, solemn or silly. 

And there are some truly silly Christmas carols out there.

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.  Could it get any sillier than that?

Back to Rudolph.

As I wondered about Rudolph it occurred to me that what’s different is that there’s a message in the song, and it’s very contemporary:

  1. Rudolph is different.
  2. The other reindeer make fun of him (read:  bullying).
  3. Santa asks Rudolph for help.
  4. Rudolph becomes a hero, and “then how the reindeer loved him.”

Pretty heavy stuff for a Christmas carol.

A search on the Internet started me on my path to answering my who and why and what.  It turns out that the song was written in 1949 by Johnny Marks, who was the brother-in-law of a man named Robert L. May (pictured), and:

“…May created Rudolph in 1939 as an assignment for Chicago-based retailer Montgomery Ward.  The retailer had been buying and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year and it was decided that creating their own book would save money.”

So Rudolph started out as a coloring book, not as a song?

Further research brought the ah-ah moment:

The coloring book author, Robert May, would write from his own experience.

According to History.com,

“‘Rudolph and I were something alike,’ the copywriter told Guidepost magazine in January 1975.  ‘As a child I’d always been the smallest in the class.  Frail, poorly coordinated, I was never asked to join the school teams.’”

And this, from Time magazine:

According to the article, May:

“…was a ‘shy’ and ‘small’ boy, and who ‘had known what it was like to be an underdog.’”

So May knew how it felt to be different.  In addition:

Montgomery Ward’s 1939 Christmas catalogue.

“May was feeling downtrodden about his present life, too.  ‘And how are you starting the New Year? I glumly asked myself,’ he later recalled, describing his mindset in early 1939 when he first received the assignment. ‘Here I was, heavily in debt at nearly 35, still grinding out catalogue [pictured] copy.  Instead of writing the great American novel, as I’d once hoped, I was describing men’s white shirts.’”

And more heartbreak – May’s wife Evelyn was dying: 

“‘My wife was suffering from a long illness and I didn’t feel very festive,’ he recalled.”

But May persevered, thinking about and working on the coloring book:

“As for the idea of a glowing nose apt for navigating, that light-bulb moment came from looking out his office window in the middle of one of Chicago’s infamous winter days, seeing the fog [below]from Lake Michigan and thinking of Santa trying to do his work on such a night.”

And this amazing twist:  The whole idea of Rudolph and his red nose almost got dumped, because a focus group thought the red nose had “connotations of alcoholism”!

Another good story:  Like many writers, May employed alliteration and brainstormed a list of names that began with the letter “R” such as Rollo, Rodney, Roland, Roderick and Reggy.

Can you even imagine Rollo the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

As spring turned into summer, May’s “wife’s parents came to stay with us to help,” he later wrote.  Sadly, Evelyn died in July 1939.

May kept writing, and “Montgomery Ward printed the story as a soft-covered booklet in 1939 and distributed 2.4 million copies for free.” 

Here it is:

Plans to print another 1.6 million copies the following year were shelved by paper shortages due to World War II, and Rudolph remained on hiatus until the conflict’s conclusion.  When the story returned in 1946, it was more popular than ever and Montgomery Ward handed out 3.6 million copies of the book.

In 1947 Maxton Publishing Co. offered to print Rudolph in hardcover and it became a best-seller:

Some of the 89 rhyming couplets in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” hardcover edition.

But it wasn’t until brother-in-law Johnny Marks wrote the song, and:

Gene Autry, the “Singing Cowboy.”

“Gene Autry’s recording of the song hit #1 on the Billboard pop singles chart the week of Christmas 1949.  Autry’s recording sold 2.5 million copies the first year, eventually selling a total of 25 million, and it remained the second best-selling record of all time until the 1980s.”

Since then, Rudolph and his red nose have gone from best-selling record to a phenomenon:  children’s books, comic books, TV specials, feature-length films, spin-offs, games, and video games.  Along the way, Rudolph acquired parents, siblings and an extended family, countless merchandise items, and a starring role in a Christmas show at SeaWorld:

“Meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer™ and friends at SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration.  At Rudolph’s Christmastown, Rudolph leads the way to Christmas joy and holiday fun with all-new ways of making spirits bright.”

And while you’re there…

“If you can’t get enough of everyone’s favorite reindeer, stop by the Holly Jolly Marketplace, a special boutique here for the season with a fun-filled collection of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer gifts, apparel and keepsakes.”

Since Rudolph’s story had a happy ending, it’s only fair that Robert May’s did, too. 

History.com says that May, a widower and single father, remarried and became a father again, but…

“…he still struggled financially.  In 1947, the [Montgomery Ward] board of directors, stirred either by the holiday spirit or belief that the story lacked revenue-making potential, signed the copyright for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer over to May.  In short order, May licensed a commercial version of the book along with a full range of Rudolph-themed merchandise.”

Then came all the successes, and – eventually, inevitably – that commercial I saw the other night.

Of the millions of people who have and will sing Rudolph, watch Rudolph, play Rudolph and buy Rudolph, I hope that some will wonder, as I did, about the who and the why and the what.

And that some will understand, as I now do, that far from being just another Christmas carol, Rudolph is, in author May’s words,

“…a ‘story of acceptance,’ the moral of which was that ‘tolerance and perseverance can overcome adversity.’”

Seriously – I Can Eat This, And Feel Good About It?

I discovered Jersey Mike’s Subs several years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Where I live, they’re easy to find:  California has 295 locations, more than any other state:

It appears that the only state that doesn’t have Jersey Mike’s is Alaska, and that alone is reason enough not to go there.

As if Sarah Palin wasn’t enough reason:

So I’m hooked, particularly on the sub pictured above:  #13 Italian, Mike’s Way.

Includes:  Provolone, ham, prosciuttini, cappacuolo, salami and pepperoni.

Mike’s Way includes:  Shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, onions, red wine vinegar, olive oil blend, oregano, salt.

I include:  Mayo.

Calories:  About 1,210.

Yikes!

And I’m saying I can eat that and feel good about it?

Yes, for two reasons.  Here’s one:

On a recent weekend I happened to learn that on that Saturday and Sunday, all 50 Jersey Mike’s locations in San Diego County would be donating 20% of sales to Feeding San Diego.

So that weekend, when I got my #13 Italian, Mike’s Way, I felt good about having my fav sandwich and donating to Feeding San Diego.

According to Jersey Mike’s website, the company is big on donating.  On their Culture of Giving page…

They list their “Day of Giving – Over $30 Million Raised Since 2011”; “Wreaths Across America,” where “stores throughout the nation collect donations for this non-profit organization, which lays thousands of wreaths at the graves of the nation’s veterans in the Christmas season”; and a list of news releases going back to this one in 2007:

The more I read, the more impressed I was.

And the more I read, the more I wondered, “Is Jersey Mike’s really this committed to a ‘Culture of Giving’?  Do they really walk their talk?”

If so, is anybody else talking about it?

Can I find a source to confirm what Jersey Mike’s is saying that is not a Jersey Mike’s news release or on their website?

A google search first brought me this, from the august publication Forbes:

The article says, in part:

“In late April 2020, Jersey Mike’s Subs’ CEO Peter Cancro spearheaded a TV ad campaign raising money for Feeding America and its 200 food banks.

“That campaign generated over $2 million for Feeding America to help needy families and people who were going hungry.  Moreover, Jersey Mike’s 1,742 eateries (most are franchised and only 72 are company-owned) donated millions of submarine sandwiches to healthcare workers, seniors, children and other needy folks.

“That’s on top of Jersey Mike’s annual Month of Giving campaign, which includes a day when it donates 100% of sales – not just profits – to local charities nationwide.  Since 2011, it has distributed more than $32 million in these efforts.”

That’s just a sample – there was plenty more in the article.  And more here:

Earlier I mentioned Wreaths Across America – I went to their website and Jersey Mike’s is, indeed, listed as a corporate sponsor, a Level 6 Donor ($100,000 and up).

More research revealed:

The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation website says Jersey Mike’s has “helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for the Foundation.”

This past March, the CEO of Make-A-Wish New Jersey said, “The support of our friends at Jersey Mike’s gives us the confidence that when we ask that magical question, ‘If you could have one wish, what would it be?’ no matter what a child’s answer may be, we can say that their wish will be granted.”

And in November, the CEO of Feeding America said their organization “is excited to partner with Jersey Mike’s to help food banks across the country provide more meals to people in need.”

I’m thinking that Jersey Mike’s Culture of Giving is, indeed, on the level.

So yes, I can eat this…

And feel good about it.

Early on I said I have two reasons for feeling good about eating a Jersey Mike’s sub.

Here’s the second reason:

I request my #13 Italian Mike’s Way, but not cut in half.  At home I cut it in thirds, and then have it three days in a row:

Calories:  About 400 each day.

It’s an all-around win:

Trump Won’t Need This Money – Not Where He’s Going

This interesting – but unsurprising – story appeared last week.

Trump had been texting about the all-important Senate race in Georgia, with pleas like “We MUST defend Georgia from the Dems!” and, “I need YOU to secure a WIN in Georgia” and, “Help us WIN both Senate races in Georgia & STOP Socialist Dems.”

But, say many articles,

“There’s just one hitch:  Trump’s new political machine is pocketing most of the dough – and the campaigns of the Georgia senators competing in the January 5 races aren’t getting a cent.”

The donors should save their money for two reasons.  First and obvious – none of their money is going to help the Republican Georgia Senate candidates.

And second:  Trump won’t need that money – not where he’s going.

*****

There’s a centuries-old tradition of despots either going into – or being sent into – exile.

Despot:  a ruler or other person who holds absolute power, typically one who exercises it in a cruel or oppressive way.

One despot that comes to mind is Napoleon (1769-1821).  Following the French Revolution, Napoleon reigned as Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814, and then again briefly in 1815.  Defeated in war by Great Britain and its allies, in 1815 Napoleon was exiled to the island of St. Helena, 1,100 miles from the west coast of Africa.  Napoleon had escaped from an earlier exile, on the island of Elba, and this time the Brits were making sure there would be no more escapes.

St. Helena was a dismal place – “wet, windswept and unhealthy.”  The house where he resided infested with rats, and his attendants complained of “damp floors and poor provisions.”  Aside from his attendants, Napoleon’s companions were hostile British soldiers, who we can assume were unhappy with their assignment.  His years of glory, power and wealth a distant memory, Napoleon died in exile at age 51.

A 20th-century despot example was Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941), Emperor of Germany.  Believed by many to be the primary cause of the Great War – later known as World War I (1914-1918), Wilhelm was looking at defeat and disgrace in November 1918.  He boarded a train and went into exile in the Netherlands, where he died at age 82.

Wilhelm’s life-in-exile conditions were better than Napoleon’s – he had the wherewithal to live the life of a country gentleman, tended to by 40-some servants.  He exhibited absolutely no remorse for the war or his role in events leading up to it, and blamed everybody indiscriminately for his plight, railing against the Jesuits, Freemasons, Socialists, Jews and anyone else he could think of.

An exiled despot of more recent vintage was Ferdinand Marcos (1917-1989), president of the Philippines from 1965-1986.  When things fell apart for Marcos, he – with the help of the U.S. government – fled to Hawaii by way of Guam.  As the story goes, he brought with him,

“…twenty-two crates of cash valued at $717 million, 300 crates of assorted jewelry with undetermined value, $4 million worth of unset precious gems contained in Pampers diaper boxes, 65 Seiko and Cartier watches, a 12-by-4-foot box crammed full of real pearls, a three-foot solid gold statue covered in diamonds and other precious stones, $200,000 in gold bullion and nearly $1 million in Philippine pesos, and deposit slips to banks in the U.S., Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands worth $124 million, which he all amassed during his dictatorship.”

We can assume Ferdinand’s exile was cushier than Napoleon’s or Wilhelm’s, up till his death in Honolulu at age 72.

Which brings us to a despot wannabe:

Donald Trump.

It was Trump himself who suggested exile, back in mid-October:

Trump said:

“You know what?  Running against the worst candidate in the history of American politics puts pressure on me.  Could you imagine if I lose?  My whole life – what am I going to do?  I’m going to say, I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics!  I’m not going to feel so good.  Maybe I’ll have to leave the country, I don’t know.”

Many of the stories suggested Trump was joking, but they forgot something important:

Trump doesn’t joke.

Trump lacks both the sense of humor, and the intelligence, to make jokes.

And Trump has a number of very good reasons to consider leaving the country.

For starters, instead of being named Time magazine’s 2020 Person of the Year, that went to his competition:

And so did the 2020 election:

Here’s another reason:

Did I say “another” as in singular?

This article…

Lists a veritable tsunami of possible legal trouble for Trump, including:

  • Attorney general investigates Trump Organization projects
  • Manhattan district attorney’s criminal probe
  • Unknown Southern District of New York investigation
  • Southern District of New York investigation into Trump inaugural committee
  • Southern District of New York investigation into Giuliani associates
  • State tax department looks into fraud allegations
  • Manhattan district attorney indicts Paul Manafort
  • Attorney general lawsuit against the Trump Foundation
  • Tax department investigation into the Trump Foundation

And while Trump may pardon himself until he’s blue in the face (instead of orange), that would only apply to federal, not state, charges.

Then there are the two women who allege Trump sexually assaulted them and are suing him.  One is E. Jean Carroll:

The other is Summer Zervos:

The Zervos story says,

“…Trump continues to quietly battle two women in court who allege he sexually assaulted them, fighting their efforts to obtain testimony and documents that could shed light on their accusations.  The women, Summer Zervos and E. Jean Carroll, are among more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of unwanted physical contact in the years before he was elected.”

These ladies, and their lawyers, are not going away.

Speaking of ladies and lawyers, Trump’s niece Mary is also suing him:

Then there are those NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) neighbors in Florida who appear to have a pretty good case that Trump legally cannot live at his Mar-A-Lago private club:

What a bunch of cranky old poops!  Just because Trump signed a legal agreement in 1993 stating he’d never use Mar-A-Lago as a residence, since when has signing a legal agreement ever meant anything to him?

And there’s this problem, to the tune of $340 million:

According to the article, Deutsche officials…

“…hope ending their relationship with Trump could help reduce some of the scrutiny facing the bank – which could intensify if Democrats sweep the election and move forward on probes stalled under the Trump presidency.”

Banks don’t like scrutiny + Joe Biden won = trouble for Trump.

So it won’t be enough for Trump to just “leave the country” and go into exile like Napoleon and Wilhelm and Ferdinand.

I suppose Trump could flee to a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S., and there are more than 70 of them. 

One of those is Russia, and apparently some there are clamoring for Trump’s company:

Russian state media – which “affectionately refers to Donald Trump as ‘our Donald,’ ‘Trumpusha’ and ‘Comrade Trump’” – are worried about Trump’s future.

And not just Russian state media – the Russian Defense Ministry’s Public Council, Igor Korotchenko, spoke out in Trump’s defense, saying,

“Russia can offer political asylum to the persecuted former president of the United States, Donald Trump.  But let him not simply arrive to Rostov or elsewhere, but also transfer his capital here and finally build his famous Trump City somewhere in our New Moscow.”

I’m guessing ole Igor walked that back real quick when this happened on December 15:

If not Russia, then how about we stipulate that Trump can go to any one of those other 70+ countries with no extradition treaties…

If he can point to it on a map.

Burkina Faso?  Oman?  Comoros?

Trump would be 0 for 3 with that.

But that’s OK, because I have the perfect place for Trump:

How “remote” is Bouvet Island? 

It’s located 1,404 miles away from the nearest humans, halfway between South Africa and Antarctica:

Described in the article as “an ice-covered, glacier-surrounded, inhospitable lump,” the good news for Trump:

There’s no Loser Of The Year or New York District Attorney’s office or angry women with lawyers or NIMBYs or Deutsche Bank.

The good news for us:

There’s no Internet, no Wi-Fi, no Twitter, no texting.

Imagine a world with no Trump tweets.

I’ll help you pack your bags, Donald!

Just pick yourself a nice, cozy spot on Bouvet Island:

Get acquainted with your neighbors:

Dress warmly, enjoy your surroundings…

It’s your choice, Donald. 

This:

Or this:

Trump Will Never Say It, So I Will:

Natalie is not a friend, though I see her often and we’re friendly.

Natalie works at my favorite deli.

I’ve been going to this deli for several years, and I usually order the same thing.

After a few visits – and despite the many customers Natalie had helped since I’d last been there – she had my order memorized.

“Want your usual?” she’d smile.

And I’d say, “Yes, thanks.”  And often add, “What an amazing memory you have!”

While Natalie made my sandwich, we’d chat.  Sometimes about inconsequential things, and sometimes not, like when she shared she’d recently gotten married.

I congratulated her, of course.  And over my next several visits, I’d ask, “How’s married life?”

And Natalie would smile, and say, “Great!”

When the pandemic hit, it didn’t affect the deli as much as some restaurants, since it was already mostly carryout.

I’d ask Natalie how she was doing, she’d ask if I’d like my usual, and then we’d commiserate about COVID through our masks.

Until the day I asked how she was doing, and she said, “My dad is in the hospital.  COVID.”

We just looked at each other, then I said, “That sucks.”

She agreed, and finished my order.

I hadn’t been to the deli for about a week, and when I returned, Natalie was there.  I said, very quietly, “How’s your dad?”

Tears filled her eyes and dripped onto her mask.

“He died December 4th.”

I said, “I’m sorry, Natalie.”  And I meant it.

She nodded, and wiped away her tears with her gloved hand.  Then she stripped off the gloves and put on a new pair.

We can’t have tears getting in customers’ orders.

We can’t get away from COVID.

Trump will never know – and if he knew, he wouldn’t care – about Natalie’s dad.

But I believe President-Elect Biden cares.

On December 15, the day the Electoral College confirmed his election, Biden gave a speech. 

Toward the end, he expressed more empathy and kindness in two sentences than Trump has in the last 10 months – or in his 74 years.

Biden said:

“Today, our nation passed a grim milestone, 300,000 deaths to this COVID virus.  My heart goes out to each of you in this dark winter of the pandemic, about to spend the holidays and the New Year with a black hole in your hearts, without the ones you loved at your side.”

I hope Natalie and her family can find some comfort in Biden’s words, as they face the holidays with that black hole in their hearts.

There won’t be any comfort coming from Trump:

What A Wonderfully Unpandemicky Story

The December 8 story sounded so wonderfully normal.

So…unpandemicky.

A group of researchers had made a discovery that had nothing to do with viruses and face masks and social distancing and getting vaccinated and, and, and…

The researchers believe they’ve discovered a new whale species:

In mid-November the researchers were working with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on this ship:

They weren’t in a lab in a building wearing tons of protective gear, working with a highly infectious virus.

Instead, they were in the waters surrounding the San Benito Islands off the coast of Mexico looking for a species of beaked whales. 

What are “beaked” whales?

Beaked whales are a group of cetaceans noted as being one of the least known groups of mammals because of their deep-sea habitat and apparent low abundance.  Only three or four of the 23 known species are reasonably well-known.

Their key distinguishing feature is the presence of a “beak” somewhat similar to many dolphins:

The researchers were hoping to identify a beaked whale species associated with an unidentified acoustic signal previously recorded in the area. 

Why an “acoustic signal”?

According to Smithsonian Ocean,

“Just like dolphins, beaked whales send pulses of high-frequency sound through the water that work like a SONAR ping to find prey in the dark waters of the deep.  Each species of beaked whale sends out a unique frequency that scientists can use like a fingerprint to estimate how many individuals of a specific species are in a given area.”

Based on the acoustic signal, the team thought they might be looking for Perrin’s beaked whales:

But when three beaked whales surfaced nearby…

The experts on board reconsidered.

According to SeaShepherd.org,

“Scientists and Sea Shepherd crew captured photographs and video recordings of the animals and deployed a specialized underwater microphone to record the acoustic signals emitted by the whales”:

“‘We saw something new.  Something that was not expected in this area, something that doesn’t match, either visually or acoustically, anything that is known to exist,’ said research scientist Dr. Jay Barlow.

“‘It just sends chills up and down my spine when I think that we might have accomplished what most people would say was truly impossible – finding a large mammal that exists on this earth that is totally unknown to science.’”

OK:  Maybe the possible discovery of a new whale species doesn’t send “chills up and down” your spine.

But let’s look at it this way:

Life is going on.

Life that has nothing to do with sickness and death and tragedy:

In spite of the worst public health crisis ever to hit this country, there are people out there doing other things, unpandemicky things, and that tells me that one day, someday, we’ll all be back to doing those other things.

Things that don’t involve face masks and social distancing and missing holidays, missing family, missing friends.

For me, it’s about much more than the possible discovery of a new whale species.

It’s a reaffirmation of life.

The Sad But True Reason I’m Staying The Hell Out Of Stores This Holiday Season:

Trump’s love affair with the Fox Network is well-known, and that’s very much in evidence with the co-hosts of the morning show, Fox & Friends.

In early December one of those co-hosts – Steve Doocy, on the left in the image below – appeared to have had an epiphanous moment:

According to the story,

Fox and Friends took time Tuesday to discuss the massive spread of coronavirus and desperate overflowing hospitalizations.  Co-host Steve Doocy brought up a Kansas survey that found some perplexing information – to him.  Wearing masks to protect oneself from being infected, and infecting someone with COVID, works.

“‘In the month of July [Kansas] had a statewide mandate for masks!’  Emphasis his.

“Doocy continued, ‘The problem with Kansas was some counties would actually enforce it; in other counties they would not.’

“‘In the counties that enforced the mask mandate, the number of cases of coronavirus actually went way down.  And in the counties where they did not enforce the mask mandate, it went way up,’ Doocy said in disbelief.

“Then a light bulb went off in Doocy’s head and he said, ‘It means – apparently masks work.’”

I wondered if Trump was watching, and if so, would a barrage of angry, ALL-CAPS tweets follow.

Perhaps along the lines of,

“DOOCY IS A TRAITOR!!!  HE SHOULD BE TAKEN OUT AT DAWN AND SHOT!!!”

Echoing the words of Trump’s campaign attorney, Joe diGenova.

Suggesting that face masks are effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus is, after all, heresy to Trump.

And that’s why – sadly – this has become necessary:

In normal times, brick-and-mortar retailers looked forward to – and counted on – the holidays as a prime revenue-generating time.

And this holiday season, retailers need that revenue more than ever.

But now their anticipation is diluted with a great deal of trepidation:  As the number of shoppers in their stores increases, so, too, will the confrontations between those who wear face masks and those who don’t.

Since the pandemic started – and Trump came out vehemently on the no-mask side – the news has been filled with stories of shoppers and store staff going head-to-head over the issue.  Sometimes the situations escalate into shouts and threats; at other times, into violence:

So it’s no wonder, according to the New York Times article, that:

“The National Retail Federation, a trade group representing about 16,000 retailers, said…that it had teamed up with the Crisis Prevention Institute, a company focused on reducing workplace violence, to help retail workers learn how to prevent and de-escalate shopper disputes that emerge from pandemic restrictions.”

Now, I am no fan of wearing a face mask. 

I’m a touch claustrophobic, and sometimes the mask starts to feel like this:

But I wear it anyway, to try to keep myself safe from others, and keep others safe in case I’m unknowingly infected.

But so many don’t.  And so many of them are going to head out for some holiday shopping, maskless, because they believe some version of this Trader Joe’s customer’s sentiment:

“‘We are in America here,’ she said, ‘Land of the free.’  Then she turned [to]…other shoppers, who were less than amused:  ‘Look at all of these sheep that are here, all wearing this mask that is actually dangerous for them.’”

What possible response can a store employee make to that?

According to the National Retail Federation’s website, there are “four stages of the Crisis Prevention Institute’s Crisis Development Model” to help retail employees “learn to avoid and de-escalate conflict.”

And store employees, managers and security staff will do their best to “de-escalate” this holiday season.

But for me, I’m going for the “avoid” strategy.

And staying the hell out of stores.

And for everone’s sake, hoping that when store owners install signs like this, they mean it:

There’s Fraud, And Then There’s CALIFORNIA Fraud

Over the past months we Californians have seen all kinds of stories about the backlog of Employment Development Department (EDD) pandemic unemployment payments to residents, like this:

And this:

And this:

Clearly the stores were fake news, because we now know that thousands of people were receiving pandemic unemployment payments:

Inmates in California’s jails and prisons were receiving EDD benefits.

How many inmates?  How much money did they receive?

It started out small, back in August:

The fraud was explained in an August 15 news release from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office:

The fraud consisted of 21 people, about half incarcerated in the San Mateo Maguire Correction Facility and the others spread across three counties.

The amount was at least $250,000.

The mastermind – if there was one – was not named.  And perhaps none was needed, because the process wasn’t complicated.  According to the New York Times article,

“Inmates filed unemployment claims – some using county-issued iPads provided in jail – with the California Employment Development Department.  Others provided personal information in phone calls to people on the outside who filed for unemployment on their behalf.

“The money was then deposited into a bank account of their choosing.  Friends or family members withdrew the cash for some, while others did it themselves after they were released, according to Stephen M. Wagstaffe, the San Mateo County district attorney.

“In some cases, the money was spent on ‘remarkable personal items’ including expensive clothing and a trip to Las Vegas, he said.”

This angered people, and rightly so.  Many had been waiting weeks and months for financial help to stave off the effects from the pandemic, including job loss and eviction threats.

But take heart – it was only this small group in this one facility, and see?  They’d been caught.  And according to the Sheriff’s news release, $150,000 was recovered during the execution of search warrants.

Contained, case closed.

Until this story broke on November 24:

According to the story:

“At least 35,000 unemployment claims have been fraudulently made on behalf of prison inmates between March and August, costing the state [read:  taxpayers] $140 million in paid-out benefits, California officials said Tuesday.  

“Prosecutors said they learned of the scheme from listening in on recorded prison phone calls, where inmates would talk about how easy it was for everyone to get paid.  They said the scheme always involved someone on the outside to facilitate the applications.”

What seemed like a lot of money in August – upwards of $250,000 – had now grown to $140M, called “staggering” in this article:

And instead of being limited to one jail, the fraud was now known to have spread to “every California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prison,” said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. 

And not just staggering – but bizarre:

Claims had been filed under the name of Wesley Shermantine, a notorious killer, and Scott Peterson, convicted of murdering his wife and unborn son.

Claims had been filed under false names:

“‘John Doe or John Adams, or in one case somebody had the audacity to put their name as Poopy Britches,’ Schubert said.”  

That was November 24.  Over the next several days, California officials mulled over 35,000 fraudulent claims and $140 million in paid-out benefits to inmates including convicted murderers – and Poopy Britches.

And then came this December 1 story:

The article states,

“The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency confirmed Tuesday, December 1 that California has sent about $400 million in unemployment benefits to state prison inmates.  In all records show 31,000 inmates have applied for benefits and about 20,800 were paid $400 million.  A group of local and federal prosecutors said 133 inmates on death row were named in claims.”

Tax Dollars Recap:  August: $250,000.
November: $140M.  December: $400M.

Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said, “We’re continuing to uncover more fraud, and the scale of it is frankly stunning.”

“Stunning,” indeed. 

On December 3, an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune suggested that some of the proceeds of what was now being called the biggest taxpayer fraud in California history “have been sent to other counties and even other states.” 

Then this December 4 article in the Los Angeles Times took that even further:

Tax Dollars Recap:  August: $250,000.  December:  $1B.

And…

“The practical reality,” said El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson, “is the vast majority of this money will never be repaid.”

No surprise there.

And no surprise here:

The blame game roared to life:

  • California Governor Newsom blamed the fraud in part on Congress’ decision to expand unemployment benefits during the pandemic while mostly relying on applicants to self-certify that they were eligible.
  • Multiple district attorneys were blaming state officials, including state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, for not taken leadership in the biggest taxpayer fraud in California history.

(On December 7 President-Elect Biden named Becerra as his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, so I guess Becerra has other priorities?)

  • Prosecutors are blaming the dysfunction of the EDD that they said has hindered their investigation.
  • The EDD is blaming the state, because a state law that forbids the prison system from giving out inmates’ Social Security numbers.  State officials got around that law by convincing the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Labor to issue a subpoena for the information in late September.  When EDD started comparing, the numbers leapt from $140 to $400 million.
  • The EDD is also blaming – at least indirectly – the pandemic, which put it under intense pressure to quickly process millions of claims as the economic impact from the coronavirus intensified last spring.
  • I suppose everybody is blaming Sharon Hilliard (pictured), appointed director of the EDD in February 2020.  After a mere nine months on the job, in late October Hilliard announced her retirement, effective December 31, 2020, saying, “I retire knowing that EDD is on a great path to success.”

In her announcement Hilliard made no mention of the prisoner fraud, or of Poopy Britches.

It may be a comfort to some that Governor Newsom has formed a task force to investigate.

Until you remember the definition of a task force:

“A group of people in a room with a white board, who agree on nothing except to postpone doing anything until next month’s meeting.”

A December 3 editorial in the Union-Tribune said that as of the previous week, EDD had a backlog of 590,000 claims.

Those Californians have been – understandably – upset as the inmate fraud story has unfolded and expanded.

Californians like Shane Steckelberg, who was furloughed during Thanksgiving week and whose work contract ends after the holidays:

He’s been trying to apply for unemployment since November 21, but every day is met with long wait times delaying the process to verify his identity.  Steckelberg is baffled that inmates are scamming EDD and he cannot even get his application approved: 

“It’s frustrating.  I never applied for unemployment in my life.  Ever.  And so the fact that people are in jail and get these benefits immediately just blows my mind.

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few months,” he said.

This, and thousands more like Shane, while at the same time, EDD has paid $1B of our tax dollars – and perhaps more – in fraudulent claims to tens of thousands of inmates and their cronies, to people out of state and even outside the country.

I think the Union-Tribune editorial said it well when it summed up the EDD mess this way:

“…not helping the hurting, and helping those who deserve no help at all.”

The editorial’s headline used the word “fiasco.”

I have another “F” word in mind:

Update: December 8, 2020:

Only Our Government Would Say “Only” $30 Million…

Once upon a time, the naval ship USS Bonhomme Richard looked like this:

This past July, for nearly five days it looked like this:

The ship was at Naval Base San Diego undergoing maintenance, and a fire started on a lower deck.  At least 63 sailors and civilians were injured, and noxious smoke covered southern San Diego County for days.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, and in the months since, the Navy has been considering what to do with the ravaged ship.

The Bonhomme Richard was an 844-foot-long hot mess.

An expensive hot mess.  That maintenance it was undergoing?

According to a November 30 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the ship was “at the end of a two-year, $250 million upgrade to accommodate the F-35B fighter.”

That’s $250 million tax dollars up in smoke.

Plus the original cost of the ship:  $761 million when the contract was signed in 1992.

I remember seeing the stories on the news back in July and – I confess – snickering as our local reporters stumbled over the ship’s French name, pronounced baan HAAM ree SHARD

And what, I wondered, was a U.S. Navy vessel doing with a French name, anyway?

Some research revealed that this is:

“…the third ship to bear the name first given by John Paul (“I have not yet begun to fight!”) Jones in 1779 to his Continental Navy frigate, named in French Good Man Richard in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanac who at the time served as U.S. ambassador to France.”

Founding Father Franklin (above) would be bummed to know that, according to the Union-Tribune, the ship has a new name:

USS Toast.

The Navy has announced that the Bonhomme Richard is going to be scrapped.

The Navy assessed the damage and the cost of repairs.  About 60 percent of it – the flight deck, the island and many of the 14 decks immediately below them – would need to be completely replaced:

Cost:  Estimated to be between $2.5 billion and $3.2 billion, and take five to seven years.

Refurbishing the ship into a different configuration – as a hospital ship, for example – would cost more than $1 billion, exceeding the cost of building a new hospital ship.

So the Navy is going to scrap the ship, at a cost of “only $30 million.”

Only our government would say “only $30 million.”

Only $30 million” of our tax dollars.

The Navy calls it “decommissioning,” and says it will take between “nine months and one year.”

I’ll certainly admit that as a civilian, I don’t know Navy procedures.  But this seems like rather a long time, and rather a lot of money, to transition a ship from “active” to “inactive.”

Sign some paperwork in triplicate and – voila, yes?

Plus, this is far from the first time the Navy has decommissioned a ship.

In fact, the Navy has several locations set up for just this situation:  A Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, or NISMF, because everything in the government must have an acronym.

There’s an NISMF in Philadelphia, in Pearl Harbor, and this one, in Bremerton, WA:

Looks like there’s plenty of room in Bremerton for the Bonhomme Richard, so just tow it up there and park it, yes?

Should that cost $30 million taxpayer dollars?

I think NOT.

But here’s an even better idea.

Somewhere between San Diego and Bremerton, sink the Bonhomme Richard.

Yes!  The Navy has done this many times, too, and for a good purpose:

Artificial reefs:

My research shows the Navy has sunk a number ships to create artificial reefs, because the ships:

“…provide hard surfaces where algae and invertebrates such as barnacles, corals, and oysters attach; the accumulation of attached marine life in turn provides intricate structure and food for fish.”

Those fish attract larger fish, and eventually – where there was an empty ocean floor, there’s now an ecosystem:

And some of those artificial reefs become dive sites, like the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany after it was sunk by the government in 2006 off the coast of Florida. 

The Oriskany was once this:

It’s now “the world’s largest artificial reef” and looks like this:

And this:

And this:

Named one of the top ten wreck diving sites in the world and nicknamed the “Great Carrier Reef” (a takeoff on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef), the site is:

“…a habitat for all kinds of marine life from small tropical fish such as blennies, damselfish and angelfish to large game fish such as snapper, grouper and massive amberjack.  Pelagic fish species can sometimes be spotted racing by and even whale sharks and manta rays have been seen cruising around the tower of the carrier.”

Dive sites attract thousands of divers, and that’s good for the local economy.

Of course, recycling the Bonhomme Richard into an artificial reef will cost taxpayer dollars.

But I’m betting most taxpayers – including me – would rather see this:

Than this:

Movie Review: I Want My Six Hours Back, And So Do Lots Of Other People:

Release date:  In Britain, 2019; in U.S., February 2020.

Review, short version: All thumbs down.

Review, long version:

One of my shortcomings is, when I read a book or watch a movie, if the ending doesn’t satisfy me – it spoils the whole experience.

Even if I enjoyed that book or movie throughout, an unsatisfying ending equals time wasted.

Which leads to my being pissed.

I’m not saying I’m always looking for a happy ending.  What I’m looking for is an ending that makes sense – yes, this series of events happened, and those events led to this ending.

OK – I’m somewhat lying.

I do like happy endings.

Which brings me to Sanditon

I watch PBS frequently, and when I saw previews for a program with the strange name of Sanditon, I was immediately interested.  I learned it was based on an unfinished novel by Jane Austin, and I’d never heard of it.  It was a 2019 British historical production, and the Brits are masters at these period pieces.

Sanditon:  Set in early 19th century England, glorious scenery, wonderful costumes, and six hours of drama to wallow in.

I was in.

That was February 2020, and I recently – finally–got my hands on the DVD.

Now I was in, and I was so ready.

And from the first scene, Sanditon didn’t disappoint.  Sanditon is a fictional English coastal town where the story takes place – glorious scenery.  The costumes are wonderful – elegant, empire-waisted dresses and bonnets for the women; thigh-hugging pants, knee-high boots, and top hats for the men.

And, of course, there will be a ball – perhaps more than one:

Love and lust, plots and sub-plots, the English upper class with all its inherent snobbery, and, as the PBS website says, “Sidney and Charlotte’s swoon-worthy love story moments.”

I’ve mentioned that the program was six hours, and that’s a lot of time to invest.  I watched about an hour a day, so the story and the characters were in my life for almost a week.  Throughout all that time, I saw the romance budding, then building, between the handsome but stern Sidney and “lively but levelheaded” Charlotte:

The romance continued to build, and then, in the last episode came a surprise I did not anticipate at all.  A surprise can be a good thing.

Until it isn’t.

Sidney was on the verge of proposing to Charlotte, when family financial issues obliged him to instead become engaged to a wealthy widow.

Charlotte was crushed, but I was not – “Of course they’ll work it out,” I thought.  “Sidney will get unengaged and he and Charlotte will end up together.” 

I knew.  I was positive.

I was wrong.

At the end, broken-hearted Charlotte packs her bags and takes a carriage home, far from Sanditon.

Time was running out for Sidney and Charlotte.

Then – suddenly Sidney appears, on horseback.

“Finally!” I thought.  “Here’s where they get back together!”

Sidney dismounts, Charlotte steps out of the carriage…

And I’m ready for another “swoon-worthy love story” moment… 

I have, after all, invested nearly six hours of my life in this.

I’m about to get my satisfying ending.

Only, I’m not.

Sidney hasn’t disengaged from the wealthy widow. 

He’s come to say goodbye to Charlotte.

End of story.

I was stunned.  Completely and totally stunned.

British period pieces don’t end this way.

Jane Austin stories don’t end this way.

Remember Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, newly married, riding off in their carriage into happily-ever-after?

Yet there goes Charlotte, riding off in her carriage – alone:

I sat, staring, as the final credits rolled.  The video reverted to the playlist, and stopped. 

I sat and stared some more.

I could not believe what just happened.

So I headed to my computer to find a Sanditon synopsis.  “I missed something here,” I thought.  “I’ll read a synopsis and find out the story didn’t really end the way I just saw it really end.”

I didn’t find that, but I found plenty of this from unhappy British viewers:

[Sanditon] “incurred the Twitter wrath of many viewers thanks to its ‘devastating’ ending that many complained was not very Jane Austen.”

“Viewers of Sanditon were left ‘fuming’ over the series finale last night, as they raged that Jane Austen would be ‘turning in her grave’ over the programme’s ‘heartbreaking’ ending.”

“I feel so played; main Jane Austen couples always end up together!!  Where is my happy ending??”

So I wasn’t alone in being pissed – the Brits were pissed, too, and it was headline news:

Who decided to end Sanditon on such a sour note?

And why?

Since Austin hadn’t finished Sanditon, it was up to the producers/writers/whomevers to decide how to end the story.

The why they ended it that way was answered in a blog, ArmchairAnglophile.com, and the writer had this to say:

“This whole thing was clearly a setup for a second season…An ending that was such an obvious, greedy setup by [screenwriter] Andrew Davies to get another payday, I actually feel somewhat offended by it.  This was mediocre, at best.  And it doesn’t warrant a second season.”

PBS has confirmed there will be no second season for Sanditon.

And there is my satisfying ending.

Look! Up In The Sky! Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane? No, It’s $1.16 Billion Worth Of…

When I first saw the words “OSIRIS-REx” I figured that someone had discovered a new dinosaur, maybe a cousin of Tyrannosaurus Rex?

I also figured that the lower-case “x” was a typo, or the upper-case letters were typos, or something in there was a typo.

Wrong on all counts.

It would have been cool to hear about the discovery of a new dinosaur, but instead, this is a story about our government spending a billion+ of our tax dollars on this…

To collect some of this…

Dirt.

Something we apparently don’t have enough of on Earth.

Since this story involves a word that was new to me and may be new to you, here’s the definition:

Regolith:  a blanket of unconsolidated, loose, heterogeneous superficial deposits covering solid rock.  It includes dust, broken rocks, and other related materials and is present on Earth, the Moon, Mars, some asteroids, and other terrestrial planets and moons.

Back to OSIRIS-REx.

I’d never heard of OSIRIS-REx (nickname:  OREx) but apparently it was launched from Cape Canaveral in 2016 and it’s been circling an asteroid called Bennu (nickname:  Benny) for almost two years:

I don’t know why OREx circled Bennu for two years, but if OREx was looking for a parking space, I can relate.

The plan was for OREx to slowly descend to Bennu, hover just above the surface, send out its 11-foot arm, shoot out some pressurized gas, and suck up a couple of ounces of the churned-up regolith (nickname:  dirt):

Then OREx would travel back to Earth, which will take until 2023 because Bennu is 200 million miles away.

This looks like a good place to pause and ask…

Why are we spending at least $1.16 billion to collect dirt from an asteroid 200 million miles away?

For this I went to asteroidmission.org, where I found this:

“The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is traveling to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid whose regolith may record the earliest history of our solar system.  Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans.”

The words in red are my emphasis.

I don’t know about you, but when I see the government spending $1.16 billion of our tax dollars, I’d like less use of the word “may” and instead see “absolutely without a doubt.”  “Unequivocally” would be good.  “Indubitably” also has a nice ring to it.

Especially since, a few days after OREx did its dirt collecting, this story appeared:

Oh, no!  After all that traveling and gas shooting and dirt sucking, the stuff was leaking out into space?

Enter Dante Lauretta (pictured at right, below), the mission’s lead scientist, who is often quoted in OREx stories.

Earlier, just after OREx had sucked up the dirt, Lauretta said,

“I can’t believe we actually pulled this off.  The spacecraft did everything it was supposed to do!”

Not the most confidence-inspiring words I’ve ever heard.

Of some unintended consequences, Lauretta said,

“We really did kind of make a mess on the surface of this asteroid, but it’s a good mess, the kind of mess we were hoping for.”

And isn’t that just like us humans, to leave a mess behind, and then claim that’s what we wanted all along?

As for the asteroid sample leaking out of the spacecraft, Lauretta said,

“I think we’re going to have to wait until we get home to know precisely how much we have,” meaning, “If there’s any asteroid dirt that didn’t leak into space.”

More of those not-the-most-confidence-inspiring words.

So here’s where we are:

This space mission’s lead scientist sounds like a doofus.

Our government is spending at least $1.16 billion tax dollars on the mission and likely much more, because NASA isn’t real familiar with concepts like “on budget” and “on time”:

The purpose of the mission, according to NASA.gov:

“OSIRIS-REx will travel to a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu and bring a small sample back to Earth for study.”

Then, according to lockheedmartin.com – the builder of OREx:

“On September 24, 2023, after a 4.4-billion-mile round trip, the spacecraft will near Earth and eject the sample return capsule, sending it on a direct course to a specific location in a Utah desert.  The spacecraft will perform a final maneuver that will divert it from Earth and send it far out into deep space.”

Wait.  What? 

Isn’t saying “send it far out into deep space” another way of saying they’re consigning OREx to that great trash heap in the sky?

Where it becomes what’s known as “space debris”?

So OREx will be trashed, and maybe fall on my house someday?

Or yours?

The dirt sample capsule may land in the Utah desert and there may be dirt to study.

If there is dirt to study, somebody may learn something about what NASA calls “this pristine remnant from the early days of our solar system.”

Or…may not.

Is My Mom In Heaven, Weeping?

Do people in Heaven watch what we’re doing here on Earth?

If so, my mom is in Heaven, weeping.

*****

After raising five children, finally – when it was just she and my Dad – Mom had the time to look around and figure out what her interests were.

She discovered one of those interests was birds.

Filling a bird feeder. The orange plate is a baffle, to keep squirrels from stealing bird seed.

My parents had down-sized and their house had a small back yard, but a creek ran along the back border and beyond that – an open field.

The area attracted birds, both migratory and permanent, and after Mom installed a half-dozen seed bird feeders, the bird population noticed.

Mom bought binoculars and several bird books to help identify her guests, and she consulted with experts at supply stores about which birds preferred which seeds.

She also installed a hummingbird feeder, taking it down every few days to thoroughly clean it before refilling it with precisely measured sugar water.

First hummingbird of the year!

How Mom loved sitting at the big window in the family room, binoculars in hand and bird books at the ready.

“Bob,” she’d say to my Dad, “that’s a ruby-throated hummingbird!  A male!  Our first one this year!”

And Dad, wanting to please her, would look and nod and share her excitement.

The hummingbirds arrived in the spring and departed in the fall, unlike cardinals, which were year-round residents.

A grey female and red male “cardys.”

“There’s a cardy-guy and gal!” as she called them.  “I don’t see them together all that often.”

Then there were the ducks – mallards, male and female, and oh, they were greedy!  Not content to scoop up the seed the birds had dropped on the ground, the mallards waddled up to the glass patio door and – are you ready?  Tapped on it, demanding more sustenance!

The first time Mom put food out for them – she was a bird lover, after all – the ducks showed their appreciation by eating, and then shitting all over the patio.

After that, Mom’s response to the ducks was:

Every once in awhile, just as late afternoon turned into twilight, an owl would land on the back fence.  Mom would reach for her binoculars and confirm what she already knew:  “Bob, it’s a great horned owl!  Isn’t she beautiful?”

Who-o-o is she looking at?

Dad would look, nod and agree.

The owl wasn’t there for the bird seed.  Owls are carnivores, so this one was likely eyeing critters in the open field.

Or perhaps the few unwise lingerers on the bird feeders.

Like all good mothers, Mom never claimed a favorite, but we all knew which bird fascinated her most:

Harry.

Mom’s “Harry.”

That was Mom’s nickname for the majestic great blue heron that made an occasional appearance.  Standing up to 4.5 feet tall, with a wingspan up to 6.6 feet, he strolled down the creek bed in search of a meal.  When Harry deigned to pause for a bit – perhaps to give Mom more time to admire him – Mom was in raptures.

“Will you look at that?” she’d marvel to Dad every time Harry appeared.  And Dad – obligingly and every time – would look.

Mom was meticulous about keeping the bird feeders full.  Several times a week she made the rounds in the back yard, bucket of seed and scooper in hand, ensuring that “her” (migrating) robins, sparrows, warblers, juncos and snow buntings, and (year-round) chickadees, nuthatches, and blue jays, had plenty to eat.

She had a bird bath that she emptied and scrubbed regularly, and for her year-round guests she bought one of these:

It’s a bird bath de-icer, and it provided water throughout the winter when unfrozen water was nearly impossible for birds to find.

Mom? Are you in there?

And speaking of winter, I can only smile when I remember how Mom had to dress to go out in the Michigan winter to fill the feeders.  Long underwear, long pants, two pair of socks, sweaters, a heavy jacket, boots, gloves, hat, scarf – all this, when she could have skipped the feeders and stayed cozy inside.

Not a chance of that happening.

Mom provided a safe, nurturing environment for birds because she loved them, and she had plenty of company.  According to a 2018 article in The Atlantic, more than 50 million Americans engage in bird feeding, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that 46 million Americans are bird watchers, at home and away from home.

Mom was both, and that’s why, if she’s watching…

She’s weeping.

Last week, that same U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – on behalf of the Trump administration and his pals in the electric utilities and oil and gas industries – rolled back a longstanding federal protection for the nation’s birds:

That same U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – according to a November 27 story on PBS.org – estimates that industry operations kill an estimated 450 million to 1.1 billion birds annually, out of roughly seven billion birds in North America

That same U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – this time from a November 27 article in The Hill:

“…acknowledged in its report that the regulatory change will have ‘negative’ impacts on migratory birds, as well as ‘other biological resources,’ ‘cultural resources’ and ‘ecosystem services…’

And though this rollback goes forward

“over objections from former federal officials and many scientists that billions more birds will likely perish as a result…”

The Trump administration assures us this “would not cause unacceptable environmental harm.”

Is this oil-covered bird an example of Trump’s “not unacceptable environmental harm”?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s home page states their mission, right at the top of the page:

In keeping with the Trump administration’s much-vaunted transparency, I recommend the following addition:

But, come January 20, Mom can smile again:

Remember This?

The Trump administration has taken a step to make Trump’s wish come true.

But with all the news and the noise, you may have missed it:

The revisions to the naturalization exam may not result in more immigrants from “places like Norway,” but it will make passing the U.S. citizenship test much more difficult for immigrants who manage to enter and remain in this country.

The USCIS – the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service – has announced the rollout a new citizenship test on December 1.

This new test, according to USCIS spokesman Dan Hetlage, “provides a more accurate measurement” of applicants’ understanding of civics and “ensures the reliability and validity of scores.

Not so, say experts quoted in a November 19 Herald News article:

“Eva Millona, CEO and President of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) said ‘these changes to the citizenship test are yet another example of the Trump Administration seeking to put up barriers to citizenship with little opportunity for input from communities that will be most impacted.’”

“Paulo Pinto, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) said, ‘It is difficult to understand and accept the reasoning behind this announced change, which will create more barriers to becoming a U.S. citizen.  The 2008 version of the test is already very challenging – even for U.S.-born citizens – and the added difficulty will only make the naturalization process longer and slower.’”

How much “longer and slower”?

According to this article in the Washington Post:

“The new exam requires applicants to answer at least 12 oral questions correctly, up from six under the most recent exam.”

“Officers must ask all 20 questions, while lawyers said they usually used to stop when an immigrant answered the required minimum of six correctly.”

“‘It’s basic math,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and chief executive of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.  ‘If you make the test twice as long, it takes twice as much time and USCIS officers will process half the applicants.’” 

“Twice as much time”?  Back to the Herald News article:

“Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the D.C.-based, nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, believes the changes can possibly triple the amount of time each Citizenship and Immigration Services officer spends testing applicants.

“‘These changes reduce the efficiency of this already struggling agency,’ Pierce told the Associated Press, referring to its citizenship application backlog.  The administration is adding hundreds of thousands of more minutes to these naturalization exams.’”

The administration is also adding tougher questions.  One asks applicants to name five of the 13 original states, while the older test asked them to name three.

Another example:  The older test requires test takers to name one of the three branches of government, while the new exam asks candidates to name all of them. 

Can you name all three branches of our government?  Can I?

I decided to take a look at some practice questions on the citizenship exam, to better understand what an immigrant might experience.

What bothers me most was the idea that a perfect candidate for citizenship might be denied that because she/he didn’t know the answer to this question:

Seriously?  What does knowing the name of one of the two longest rivers in the U.S. have to do with being a good citizen?

How about this one:

How many people in this country could answer this correctly?  I’m guessing not many, and that includes me.  Does that mean USCIS is going to take away my citizenship?

And this one:

Oh, come on.  I’m a good citizen, but I had to guess at this one.  I just don’t consider it critical that I – or anyone except a Constitutional scholar – needs to know how many amendments the Constitution has.

And I am a good citizen, at least according to this “Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities” list on the USCIS website:

Nowhere on that list is there anything about knowing the name of one of the two longest rivers in the U.S.

In fact, the current citizenship test is already so difficult that a majority of people born in this country couldn’t pass it, according to this article:

And the Trump administration has made the new test even worse.

My hope is that the Biden administration will review – and undo – this blatant attempt to make it close to impossible for immigrants to become U.S. citizens.

Which is just one item on the miles-long list of damage Trump has inflicted on this country.

Because if this new citizenship test remains in place, our country will lose many of the wonderful contributions that future naturalized citizens could make.

And that’s a miles-long list, but one of the best kind:  immigrants who have contributed greatly to our county, and to the world.

Just a few of the many:

Brin, Russia

Albert Einstein, Germany – inventor and physicist.

Sergey Brin, Russia – founder of Google, inventor and engineer.

Levi Strauss, Germany – creator of Levi’s jeans.

Madeleine Albright, Czechoslovakia – the first woman Secretary of State.

James Naismith, Canada – invented the game of basketball.

Grant, England; Hepburn, Belgium

Audrey Hepburn, Belgium – actress.

Cary Grant, England – actor.

Sammy Sosa, Dominican Republic – athlete.

Maria von Trapp, Austria – inspiration for The Sound of Music.

Lennon, England

Andrew Carnegie, Scotland – businessman, philanthropist.

Irving Berlin, Russia – composer, pianist.

John Lennon, England – composer, musician, singer.

Kumail Nanjiani, Pakistan – stand-up comedian, actor.

Alexander Hamilton, West Indies – Founding Father, lawyer, banker, and economist.

Adichie, Nigeria

John Muir, Scotland – naturalist, writer, advocate of U.S. forest conservation.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigeria – writer.

Bob Hope, England – entertainer, television personality.

John James Audubon, Saint Domingue (now Haiti) – ornithologist, naturalist and artist.

Alex Trebek, Canada – Jeopardy! Host.

Jayapal, India

Jerry Yang, Taiwan – Yahoo co-founder.

Alexander Graham Bell, Scotland – inventor of the telephone.

Pramila Jayapal, India – first female Indian-American member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

And speaking of immigrants who became U.S. citizens and made great contributions, I must include this immigrant:

Freda Kelm, Germany – this blogger’s grandmother!

A Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Tale

There is some dispute over how Swanson Turkey TV Dinners were invented.  The following is my version:

When:             The day after Thanksgiving, 1953

Where:           C.A. Swanson & Sons, a poultry supplier in Omaha, Nebraska

(Bob Walsh, an aspiring manager at the company, comes to his boss, Gilbert Swanson, with a problem.  Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Bob has live turkeys that didn’t find a dinner table for the holiday.  A lot of live turkeys.  What to do with all those leftover turkeys?)

Bob (knocking on door frame):  Ah, Mr. Swanson, sir?  Do you, ah, have a moment, sir?

Swanson:  Of course, of course, come in.  Welch, isn’t it?

Bob:  Ah, Walsh, sir.  Bob Walsh.

Swanson:  Of course, of course.  Come in, Welch.  You know my door is always open.  That’s what I always say:  “My door is always open.”  Sit down, Welch, sit down.  Now what can I do for you on this fine Friday after Thanksgiving?

Bob:  Well, sir, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.  Thanksgiving was yesterday and…

Swanson:  Yes, Welch, and?

Bob:  It’s Walsh, sir.

Swanson:  What is?

Bob:  My name, sir.

Swanson:  Is that what you came to talk to me about?

Bob:  No, sir.  It’s about the turkeys.  The turkeys we didn’t sell for Thanksgiving.

Swanson:  Yes, yes, what about them?

Bob:  Well, ah, there’s a lot of them, sir.

Swanson:  “A lot,” you say.  (pauses)  And what do you mean by “a lot”?

Bob (swallows):  Two hundred and sixty…

Swanson:  Well, Welch, I’m sure we don’t need to be concerned about 260 turkeys.

Bob:  Tons, sir.  Two hundred and sixty tons of unsold Thanksgiving turkeys.

Swanson (after a long pause):  Close the door, Welch.  (Bob does)  Now.  What’s this you’re saying?

Bob:  We had a very successful breeding season, sir, very successful, but sales didn’t meet our projections.  So this morning I’m reporting an overstock of 260 tons of turkeys.

Swanson:  Two hundred and sixty tons.  I see.  (pause)  And in terms of just pure numbers, Welch…

Bob:  Well, sir, at an average weight of 25 pounds – and you know that’s our standard, sir, or as the boys in advertising say, “A 25-pound turkey on every table!”  It’s, ah, twenty thousand…

Swanson:  Twenty thousand?  Did you say twenty thousand?

Bob:  …eight hundred, sir.  Twenty thousand eight hundred turkeys, sir.  Give or take a turkey.

Swanson (after a long pause):  Are you attempting levity, Welch?

Bob:  No, sir.

Swanson:  We have twenty thousand eight hundred Thanksgiving turkeys.  Today is the day after Thanksgiving.  This is a calamity.  This is a catastrophe.  This is – I don’t have a word bad enough for it!

Bob:  Disaster, sir?

Swanson:  Welch!

Bob:  I mean, it’s not a disaster, sir.  At least, I don’t think it is.  I’ve been thinking…

Swanson:  Not now, Welch.  I have to think.

Bob:  But I’ve been thinking sir, and I have an idea.  An idea of what to do with all those turkeys – and even turn a profit, sir!

Swanson:  I said not now, Welch.  What I need is to find is something to do with all those turkeys, and somehow turn a profit.

Bob:  But that’s what I’m saying, sir!  I have an idea! 

Swanson (mumbling):  This is a disaster.  And absolute disaster.  Twenty thousand…

Bob:  I’ve put some figures together, sir, and if you’ll just take a look…

Swanson:  Welch, tell my secretary to get my brother on the phone.

Bob:  Your brother, sir?  You mean W. Clark himself?

Swanson:  Yes, I mean W. Clark himself!  Do I have any other brother?  (Bob goes out to the secretary, then returns, closing the office door)

Bob:  Sir, if you’ll just look at these figures, you’ll see – wait, better yet, let me tell you my idea.  We cook all the turkeys – well, not all at once, of course – but we cook the turkeys!

Swanson:  Cook the turkeys, you say.  That’s very advanced thinking, Welch.

Bob:  I’m not finished, sir!  And we make gravy, and dressing, and mashed potatoes and maybe a vegetable.  Carrots.  Or peas.  Yes, peas!  Then we put it all together in individual metal trays that have sections, sir.  Sections!  Can you picture it?

Swanson:  No, Welch, I can’t.  I’m too busy picturing this disaster.

Bob:  In the bigger section we put the dressing, and some sliced turkey, with gravy on top.  Then in one smaller section, the peas.  With butter on them.  And in the other section, mashed potatoes.  It’s one individual meal, sir!  An individual turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Swanson (after a long pause):  Did you say mashed potatoes, Welch?  White mashed potatoes?

Bob:  Yes, sir!

Swanson:  I hate white mashed potatoes!

Bob:  Then sweet potatoes, sir!  Or no potatoes!  I’m just trying to explain…

Swanson:  Ah, sweet potatoes.  Now you’re talking.  My mother made the best sweet potato casserole every Thanksgiving.  I swear it was my favorite part of the meal.  I remember…

Bob:  Mr. Swanson!

Swanson:  Yes?

Bob:  The dinner, sir.  The individual dinner.

Swanson:  What about it?

Bob:  So we make all the individual dinners, and here’s the magic:  We freeze them.  First, we put each one in a nice box with a picture of the wonderful turkey dinner that’s inside the box, then we freeze them.  And housewives will buy them, and take them home and put them in their freezers, and then one night – just picture this, sir.  One night, when Mom can’t figure out what to make for dinner, she opens her freezer and – viola!

Swanson:  “Viola,” Welch?

Bob:  Her dinner is already made!  It’s in those nice boxes with the picture of the wonderful turkey and dressing and gravy and mashed potatoes…

Swanson:  I thought we said sweet potatoes?

Bob:  …Sweet potatoes, and peas with butter!  And Mom says, “No cooking for me tonight.  I have Swanson dinners right here in my freezer, all ready for me to heat and serve in just 25 minutes.  My family will love them!”

Swanson:  “Love them,” Welch?

Bob:  The kids will love them because they’re delicious.  And different.  And…

Swanson:  “Different,” Welch?

Bob:  Yes, sir!  A whole dinner right in its own little tray.  No more plate for this and bowl for that, because the whole dinner is right there.  Fun for the kids, and easy for Mom because after dinner you just throw the trays away.  No dishes!  In fact, if the family has a TV, they could have dinner in front of the TV.  And…that’s how I, ah, came up with the name, sir.

Swanson:  “The name,” Welch?

Bob:  TV Dinners, sir.

Swanson:  TV…?

Bob:  TV Dinners!  Experts are predicting that pretty soon every family in America will have a TV, and just think how exciting it will be to eat this new kind of dinner while you’re watching your new TV.  I don’t think I’m overstating my case when I say this will revolutionize dinnertime as we know it.

Swanson (the secretary buzzes, informing Swanson that his brother is on the line):  Tell him I’ll call him back.  Now, Welch…

Bob:  Walsh, sir.  I’ve priced it out, sir, and we can sell Swanson TV Dinners for 98 cents and still make a profit.  Just think – dinner for less than a dollar!  (pauses)  I’ll have to remember to tell that one to the boys in advertising:  “Dinner For Less Than A Dollar!”

Swanson:  Less than a dollar, you say?  And we’d still be making a profit?

Bob:  Absolutely, sir.  And once our turkey TV dinners are a success, we can create more dinners like chicken, and Salisbury steak, and, and – with your permission, sir, I’m going to get the kitchen working on some sample dinners.  I mean, TV Dinners.  And the advertising boys working on the box, and –

Swanson:  Hold on, now, just hold on.  Don’t let’s get carried away with an idea, an idea that may have some merit, perhaps, but still just an idea. 

Bob:  Yes, sir.

Swanson:  Now, leave those figures with me, and I’ll give it some thought.  But – not a word about this to anyone.  And I mean, anyone.  Is that understood, Welch?

Bob:  Yes, sir.

Swanson:  Very well, then.  And tell my secretary to get my brother back on the phone.

Bob:  Yes, sir.  And…sir?

Swanson:  Yes, what is it?  (the phone rings.)

Bob (softly):  It’s Walsh, sir.  (closes the door behind him.)

Swanson (ignores Bob and answers the phone):  Clark?  How are – yes.  Well, I heard this morning that our Thanksgiving turkey sales fell below projections and… How far below?  Well, considerably.  And – yes, I know that, and… Yes, I know we have to do something with those turkeys.  That’s why I’m calling.  I had an idea about what to do with all those turkeys.  A rather brilliant idea, if I may say so myself…

The End

According to Smithson magazine, in 1953 Swanson sold 5,000 TV dinners.  In 1954, their first full year of production, they sold more than 10 million TV dinners.

A Q&A: Why Is Emily Murphy’s Momma Is Proud of Her?

Q:  Who is Emily Murphy?

A:  There are many Emily Murphys, but the one we’re talking about is the administrator of the GSA.

Q:  What’s the GSA?

A:  According to a November 23 CBS News article, the GSA – General Services Administration:

“…is a sprawling bureaucracy established in 1949 that now has 12,000 employees and a $21 billion budget.  It works largely behind the scenes to support other federal entities, with responsibility for managing federal office space, procuring supplies and improving the use of technology across the government.

“The GSA provides a presidential transition team with Washington office space and coordinates access to federal agencies to plan potential policy changes with current administration officials, using $6.3 million allocated to support its efforts.”

Q:  How did Emily get to be administrator of the GSA?

A:  Trump and his toadys liked her.

Q:  Is that why Emily’s Momma is proud?

A:  No.

Q:  Is Emily a Republican?

A:  Well, after graduating from college, Murphy moved to Washington, D.C., beginning her career at the Republican National Committee.  She also worked for Jim Talent, a Republican and former Senator from Missouri.  She was an advisor to acting GSA administrator Timothy Horn, who was appointed by Trump.  Then Horn nominated Emily for GSA administrator.  Are you doing the math?

Q:  Is that why Emily’s Momma is proud?

A:  No.

Q:  I’ve noticed that Emily wears a lot of purple…

Q:  Is that why Emily’s Momma is proud?

A:  Emily does take her purple fashion cues from Ivanka…

A:  But, no.

Q:  So Emily, whom nobody ever heard of until recently, heads a government agency that nobody ever heard of until recently.  Why is she all over the news now?

A:  After November 7, 2020, when Joe Biden became generally acknowledged as president-elect, she refused to sign a letter allowing Biden’s transition team to begin work to facilitate an orderly transition of power:

Q:  Wow!  That’s really important!  Is that why Emily’s Momma is proud of her?

A:  No.

Q:  How long did Emily hold out?

A:  Until November 23, when Emily issued what’s called a “letter of ascertainment,” which allowed the transition of power to begin.

Q:  What did the letter say?

A:  Among other things, Emily hedged her bets: 

“…she was now making ‘certain post-election resources and services available to assist in the event of a presidential transition.’”

Q:  Is Emily’s Momma proud because of Emily’s bet-hedging skills?

A:  No.

Q:  What took Emily so long to issue the letter?

A:  A November 23 article in the Washington Post suggested Emily was afraid:

“Then there was the president’s anger, and the risk that he would fire her and her top aides if she moved forward.”

Then, after Emily issued the letter…

“Murphy and her senior staff were bracing for a tweet from Trump announcing that they were fired, two people familiar with their thinking said.  They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.”

Q:  Didn’t Emily care about all the havoc her actions were creating?

A:  Apparently not as much as she feared getting fired by Trump.

Q:  Is anyone holding Emily accountable?

A:  Some Democrats are trying to.  A November 23 New York Times article says,

“The Democratic chairwomen of the House Oversight and Reform and Appropriations Committees demanded last week that Emily provide a briefing to lawmakers no later than Monday [November 23] to explain why she had departed with past practice and had so far refused to approve the start of the process for Mr. Biden.”

That deadline came and went, and “the GSA suggested that Ms. Murphy would not meet with top lawmakers on the issue, instead offering a 30-minute briefing by her deputy, Allison Brigati, on November 30.”

On November 24, the House Democrats wrote Ms. Murphy yet another letter, demanding a briefing on Tuesday:

“‘We cannot wait yet another week to obtain basic information about your refusal to make the ascertainment determination,’ wrote the chairwomen, Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney and Nita M. Lowey of New York, as well as the chairmen of the panels that oversee and fund the GSA, Representatives Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia and Mike Quigley of Illinois.”

They gave Emily until 5pm on November 24 to respond.

Q:  Ewww.  After all this, how the heck can Emily Murphy’s Momma be proud of her?

A:  Because it appears that Emily’s actions won her something that many do covet, but not all achieve:

Her very own, spankin’ brand-new listing in Wikipedia:

(Wikipedia as I found it on November 24: “4 hours ago.”)

I Love This Story: 30+ Publishers Rejected A Novel That Just Won The Booker Award

In Scotland, the surname “Stuart” has long-time royal connections.  Nine Stuart kings ruled Scotland from 1371 to 1625, and the ninth Stuart king transitioned from king of Scotland to king of both Scotland and England.

If current-day author Douglas Stuart, 44, has royal connections, they weren’t in evidence in his growing-up years in Glasgow, Scotland.

According to an October New York Times story about Stuart, 1980s Glasgow was a city of “economic and social stagnation…after the region’s shipbuilding, mining and steelwork industries collapsed.  Stable, working-class communities became destitute, leading to widespread poverty and addiction.”

From an article entitled “The Slums of 1980s Glasgow Through the Lends of a French Photographer.”

Stuart was “the lonely youngest son of a single, alcoholic mother” and…

“…he felt like an only child, as his older brother and sister were teenagers when he was born and found jobs to escape the chaos at home.  He barely knew his father, who left when Stuart was young.  Stuart often functioned as a caretaker for his mother, who would black out from drinking and sometimes try to harm herself.”

Stuart was also gay, and while he couldn’t have articulated it at the time, he knew he was different.  He was shunned by the boys at school, who attacked him for being too “poofy.”

Stuart’s mother died when he was 16 and he ended up in a boarding house.  He became the first person in his family to graduate from high school, decided to study textiles, earned a bachelor’s degree from the Scottish College of Textiles and a master’s from the Royal College of Art in London.

More than ten years ago, when Stuart was working as senior director of design at Banana Republic, he began writing.

What he wrote would become the novel Shuggie Bain, a fictional account of his childhood.

The novel would be rejected by more than 30 publishers.

It finally found a home at Grove Atlantic, an American independent publisher based in New York, where Stuart had moved years earlier.

And on November 19, Shuggie Bain won the Booker Award, “one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world,” according to this article in The New York Times:

The Booker website says this award is:

“The leading literary award in the English-speaking world, which has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over 50 years.  Awarded annually to the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.”

Douglas Stuart may not have royal connections, but he’s being treated like royalty now.

Stuart’s story resonates with me because of the rejection he endured – not once, or twice, or 10 or 20 times, but by 32 publishers.  Everyone who endeavors in a creative field, whether it’s writing or acting or singing or painting or myriad others, faces rejection. 

And every time, it hurts.

People who don’t understand will say, “But it’s not personal.”

They’re wrong.  It’s very personal.

An artistic effort comes from the deepest part of you, and when that effort is rejected, so are you.

So I’m rubbing my mental hands together in glee about Stuar’ts success, and reveling in how stupid those 32 publishers must feel. 

Now:  After all this, it may sound contrary that I won’t read Shuggie Bain, despite all the accolades.

I don’t care to read a story about growing up with an alcoholic parent, because I lived that story.

But I love this story:  of a child who preserved; of a man who took the wreckage of his childhood, wrote about it, persevered more, and turned his artistic endeavor into this:

And this…

And this…

It’s WAY Past Time To Say Goodbye And…

In my November 13 blog post I said goodbye to Melania, and on November 16 I bid Ivanka adieu.

Now I’ll do a group goodbye, and what a group it is.

For an assist I turned to Slate, an online magazine that launched in 1996.  The team there was SO ready for Trump to lose, they had all their goodbyes written and ready to go on November 7, the day Biden was declared President-Elect.

I’ve included excerpts from the Slate articles and other sources to round out my farewells, along with some images:

“Already a devout Republican and unquestionably the most groveling of his offspring, you were exactly the hype man your father needed:  dumb enough to believe whatever Daddy told you, coiffed enough to look halfway decent on cable news, and more than passionate enough about hunting to rub elbows with the red state riffraff.” 

I think that covers it for Jared.

“Pence was made head of the White House’s coronavirus task force, a fittingly Trumpian choice, given that Pence had historically been disastrous on public health.” 

“In just two years, Attorney General William Barr transformed the Department of Justice into a sleazy, third-rate law firm devoted to shielding Donald Trump and his friends from the consequences of their crimes.”

“Pompeo’s rhetoric straddled the line between the self-righteous bombast of the George W. Bush administration and the craven cynicism of the Trump years.  By embedding foreign policy even deeper within the U.S. culture wars, he has done damage to U.S. credibility abroad that will take years to repair.”

“It wasn’t just that you were unqualified to lead America’s educational system, as someone who never worked at a public school, attended a public school, or took out a school loan.  It was that you were the opposite of qualified, an early example of the Trump administration’s elitist disregard for the very role of government agencies themselves.” 

“…the provocateur in chief and petty tyrant of the White House’s anti-immigration crusade…”

Larry, Moe and Curly.  Wait – I mean, Sean Spicer, Sarah Sanders, Kayleigh McEnany.

Giuliani will be remembered for the above:  His November 7 press conference at the Four Seasons – no, not the glitzy hotel, but rather Four Seasons Total Landscaping on the outskirts of Philadelphia.  The best thing to come out of it was the store’s new merchandise, featuring these slogans:

And finally, the BEST goodbye of all…

Ivanka, Ivanka, Let Down Your Long Hair – Daddy Lost, Suck It Up, Get The Hell Out Of There

A “senior advisor,” ah, yes – so we’ve seen,

For perfume and purses and canned Goya beans:

Your Africa trip – a great waste of time,

Our taxpayer dollars?  You spent all of mine:

In fact, your successes – I can’t think of one,

Except for your implants, they’re second to none:

And Kushner, your husband, I’m sick of his name,

His daddy’s a felon and he’ll be the same:

Ivanka, Ivanka, when you’re gone I’ll be glad.

Go home, get undressed, and have sex with your dad…

Melania, Melania, When You Go, I Won’t Grieve – And Here’s Some Advice To Help As You Leave

Melania, Melania, you are old news,

Get cracking, start packing all your Jimmy Choos:

Melania, Melania, just leave with your kid,

Trust me, for sure – you’ll be glad that you did:

Melania, Melania, get out that pre-nup,

Read it, re-read it and then lawyer up:

Melania, Melania, go have a long rest,

And maybe, just maybe, someday you’ll…

I Have Some Advice For President-Elect Biden:

Under normal circumstances I would never presume to give advice to President-Elect Biden.

But these are far from normal circumstances.

And he’s far too busy to be thinking of this.

So here’s my advice:

Mr. President-Elect, do some serious fumigation of the White House before you move in.

I’m talking big-time, serious, 24/7 fumigating, until the fumes fill the White House and spill out into the evening air:

If you’re hesitating about this for even a moment, please consider:

COVID-19 has been in the White House for months.

Starting here:

Trump’s response:

“Yeah, that valet guy helped me get dressed every day, but I never met him.”

This positive test did nothing to prompt Trump and others to wear face masks and social distance.

So, as time passed, even someone as dumb as dirt was avoiding the White House:

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he has been avoiding the White House since August ‘because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing.’”

Then came September 26, Trump’s super spreader event in the Rose Garden, and these consequences:

After that, in the White House, COVID-19 went viral, literally:

Then this:

At some point, the kid got it:

And then that creep, Mark Meadows, and his cohorts:

And this just in – HUD’s Ben Carson has tested positive:

It seems Meadows and Carson were at Trump’s election night party, along with hundreds of other maskless, no-social-distancing people.

Party hearty, folks!

It’s reached the point that the White House has earned the designation “Coronavirus Cluster”:

More of a “coronavirus cluster f**k,” if you know what I mean.

So, please, Mr. President-Elect, before you move into the White House…

Otherwise, to just walk in the front door you’ll have to suit up in full PPE – Personal Protection Equipment…

Fortunately, thanks to you, PPE will be available:

Calling Out Around The World – Are You Ready For A Brand-New Beat? Trump Is Out, And November 7 We Were Dancing In The Street!

We were dancing in Delaware…

In San Francisco, you see…

We were dancing from Seattle…

To Washington, DC…

We were dancing from Philadelphia, PA…

All the way to LA…

Wearing masks ‘cause we care…

In cities everywhere…

And I mean, everywhere…

Rant: Here Comes Damn Daylight Saving Time Again

As we approach this weekend, a lot of people in California are thinking, “Didn’t we vote to do away with the twice-a-year clock changing and all that Spring Forward/Fall Back stuff?”

The answer is, yes, we did.  In November 2018 we voted on Proposition 7, and a clear majority of us – 60 percent – said, “Let’s stop this clock-changing crap.”

And it wasn’t only in California.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website,

“In the last three years, thirteen states have enacted legislation to provide for year-round daylight saving time.”

But this weekend, we’ll be turning our clocks back…again…

And here’s the reason:

No matter how many states pass legislation to do away with the clock changing, nothing can happen because it would require an act of Congress to make the change.

That means that these folks must agree:

And Trump would have to sign it.  And while, during his hospital stay, Trump proved he was good at signing a blank piece of paper…

There’s nothing for Trump to sign, blank or otherwise.

Because at present, getting the House and the Senate to agree on what day it is, much less on daylight saving time, is pretty much impossible.

And even if the House and Senate came together and passed a bill, Trump is way too busy losing the election to pay any attention.

So we’ll have to wait until Biden and Harris are in the White House…

And Democrats hold the House and win a majority in the Senate…

And the congressional gridlock…

Starts to ease.

Till then, we’ll be doing the clock-change thing twice a year.

And this Sunday, we’ll turn our clocks back.

Or, maybe not all of us.

Some folks may get more creative…

Ah…Michigan, My Michigan

Michigan in October can be beautiful.

The hot, humid summer gives way to cooler fall temperatures.  People start breaking out their warmer clothes, and trees start breaking out their amazing fall foliage…

And an in-law family member – I’ll call her “G” – has an October ritual with her side of the family:

A visit to Yates Cider Mill:

For years G and her family have gathered at Yates Cider Mill every October, including this year, on October 24, the same day that this story ran:

“Record-breaking COVID-19 numbers.”

“New daily coronavirus record.”

So even though this October isn’t like last October, or any October in living memory…

That didn’t stop G and her family.

And those pesky face masks didn’t get in the way, either, especially when worn beneath the nose…

Yates Cider Mill has been around a long time, and it offers all sorts of attractions – pony rides, petting zoo, river walk.   And plenty to buy – fudge, apples, gifts, apparel, donuts, and of course, Yates famous cider.

So there are lots of reasons to visit Yates Cider Mill.

And this year, I’d say lots of reasons not to:

Now, Yates Cider Mill is in step with the times – sort of.  On their website there’s a link to their “COVID-19 Safety Plan,” where they “PROMISE to keep you safe” by providing hand sanitizer, increasing spacing at the register, screening employees, and ramping up their cleaning procedures.

And in return, says Yates…

“Masks are not required at all times.”

On October 24, apparently for G and family, masks were not required, period:

Yes, there were a few masks in evidence.  They’re especially effective when worn beneath the nose, beneath the chin…

On the morning of October 25, Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Witmer, appeared on Local 4 News, a day after the state reported the highest one-day increase in COVID-19 cases:

The governor said, “We have to double-down on mask wearing, not having gatherings, having real physical distancing, ensuring that we’re hand-washing…We need everyone to do their part so we can avoid having to take steps backward…We all have to be a part of bringing these numbers down.”

This story appeared that same morning:

I hope this poll continues to be true.

And I hope, for G and her family…

That that trip to Yates Cider Mill doesn’t turn into a…

“Each Flag Has A Soul”

The October 23 story on NPR begins this way:

“Thousands and thousands of small white flags stand sentinel outside the D.C. Armory in Southeast, near RFK Stadium.  When the breeze blows, the flags ripple in unison like a vast troupe of dancers, swaying between the long shadows cast by the trees that line the armory parade grounds.”

The “D.C. Armory in Southeast” is the D.C. Armory Parade Ground located in Washington, D.C. near the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium:

The “small white flags” are a public art project by D.C.-area artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg:

The first flags are placed by the artist.

Each of the “thousands and thousands” of flags represents an American who has died of COVID-19.

The art project is entitled, “In America: How Could This Happen…”

The COVID-19 U.S. death count on Friday, October 23.

And as the death toll grows, so, too, will the number of flags, reaching an estimated 240,000 by the project’s end on November 6.

The flags are being installed with the help of dozens of community volunteers, some who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.  Members of the public are invited to visit during daylight hours to plant flags, which are available at the display, and personalize them with the names of lost loved ones.  

Visitors must wear face masks, and hand sanitizer is available at reception tables.

Firstenberg began to conceptualize the project in March, a few weeks into the pandemic.  Her vision was for an art installation that fully captured the magnitude of the public health crisis.

“This is public participatory art,” she says.  “I want the community to come plant flags right alongside me.  I want them to realize the importance of individual lives.”

And the community is coming – to plant flags…

To pray…

Because, as Firstenberg wrote in an Instagram post,

“Each Flag Has A Soul”

Instead of ending her project on November 6, if Firstenberg kept adding flags…

How many more flags?

How many more souls?

Legal Or Illegal, Republicans May Be Bringing These To Your Town, Too:

Recently I had the pleasure of taking two mail-in ballots – my husband’s and mine – to a very convenient drop-off location at our local library here in San Diego County.

This location was designated by, and manned by, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters office.

The box was located outside the library on a table, and two paid poll workers from the Registrar’s Office were present.

I presented two ballots, and one of the workers asked if I was dropping off for someone else.  When I answered in the affirmative, she pointed to the back of my husband’s ballot envelope where, on the right side, under “Person Authorized to Return,” there was a place to print my name, sign my name, and write the nature of our relationship, like this example:

I did as she asked, and dropped both ballots in the box. 

Not all Registrar ballot drop-off boxes are manned by paid poll workers, but they are official, legal drop-off boxes deployed and secured by the county elections office:

The next day I went online to track our ballots – a super-simple process – and learned that “Your ballot has been accepted.  Your ballot was received by your county elections office and will be counted.”

This happened so quickly because the ballot box went from the library directly to the county elections office.

This was an all-around easy experience, and I have the peace of mind that my husband’s and my ballot will be counted.

Not everyone can do this for a variety of reasons – perhaps they’re bedridden, or otherwise too ill to make the trip to a drop-off location.  Perhaps they feel safer staying home during the pandemic.  Perhaps there’s a group of people – in a nursing home, for example – who need to stay in place and give their ballots to a trusted person.

Whatever the reason, in California it’s legal for someone else to drop off your ballot.  It’s also legal for someone to collect a number of ballots and take them to a drop-off location.

This is called “ballot collection.”

According to an October 13 article in the Sacramento Bee:

“Ballot collection allows a designated person to deliver a voter’s mail ballot for them, and Californians have been doing it for several years.  

“Previously, if California a voter was unable to return their mail ballot themselves, they could designate a family member or person living in the same household to deliver it to a ballot drop box, the county elections office, or send it back in the mail.

“But in 2016, under Assembly Bill 1921, the state Legislature expanded the law to let any person, not just a family member, return someone’s ballot for them.”

The article goes on to say,

“Republicans originally opposed ballot collection, saying such practices could open the door for fraud and could give Democrats an unfair advantage.”

Critics of the process call it “ballot harvesting.”

Including this critic, in this May 2020 story:

How times have changed – and how Republican have changed their tune.

So far, only in California.  So far…

The California GOP decided to do their own ballot collecting, and installed more than 50 of their own ballot drop-off boxes in at least three California counties – Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange:

Some GOP ballot boxes look like this, with the word “Official” on the label:

Other boxes look like this – that taped-on label is a nice touch:

And I thought this “Authorized Secure” cardboard moving box in a local smog check business was an especially good idea:

California officials were not pleased, according to an October 13 story on ABC Action News:

“California’s chief elections official on Monday ordered Republicans to remove unofficial, illegal ballot drop boxes from churches, gun shops and other locations and Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned those behind the ‘vote tampering’ could face prosecution.”

(For future reference, in addition to Attorney General Becerra, another official we’ll hear a lot from is Secretary of State Alex Padilla.)

The California GOP responded as follows:

“Republicans say their collection of ballots is no different than the practice of ‘ballot harvesting’ where a third party collects signed ballot envelopes.

“‘Because ballot harvesting is legal, we wanted to be open about it,’ says Fresno County GOP Chairman Fred Vanderhoof.  ‘We let people know on Facebook and social media that they could drop their ballot at a secure ballot box and we’ll take it down for them.”

Also on October 13:

“Today, the Secretary of State’s office, jointly with the (California) Department of Justice, issued a cease and desist order to the California Republican party to remove these drop boxes.”

Also – of course – what’s-his-name, now enamored of ballot harvesting, had to put in his two cents’ worth:

Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA), appearing on Central Valley radio station KMJ on October 13, had an equally articulate response:

“Screw you!  You created the law, we’re going to ballot harvest.’’

But, according to an October 14 article in Politico:

“Officials argued that the placement of unauthorized drop boxes differs from Democratic ‘ballot harvesting’ efforts because voters assume their ballot will be delivered via an official-looking mechanism – all without signing their ballots.”

The deadline for the California Republican Party to comply or respond to the cease and desist order was Thursday (October 15) night.

The night of October 15 came and went.

Let’s go back to that phrase, “all without signing their ballots.”

That is not referring to the voter signing their ballot.  It’s referring to when the voter gives their ballot to someone to deliver it – as my husband gave his ballot to me. 

Let’s look again at that image of the back of a ballot return envelope:

Let’s assume that the people who put their ballots in the GOP drop boxes thought they were doing the right thing – using an “official-looking mechanism.”  In other words, a Registrar of Voters drop box, with ballots taken straight to the county elections office.

They would have had no reason to have someone else fill out information on the back of their ballot envelope.

But I had to print my name, write my name, and define our relationship so I could deliver my husband’s ballot.

By placing these ballot boxes, the GOP has become the third party responsible for delivering the ballots – haven’t they?

That means they must fill out the back of every ballot envelope collected in their GOP drop boxes – doesn’t it?

But the GOP is not the “Person Authorized to Return,” as is specified on the envelope – is it?

So…?

If GOP people fill out the back of the envelope, do they sign “John Doe” or whomever?  And in “Relationship to Voter,” they’ll write…

“Friendly neighborhood church”?

“Friendly neighborhood gun shop”?

Or – as in that cardboard drop box location, “Friendly local smog check business”?

I have visions of the GOP rushing to put together a commercial promoting their drop-off locations…

“Hey, there!  I’m Cal Fraud, owner of the Your Name Here Gun shop…

“…and I’m inviting all you voters with those mail-in ballot things to drop ‘em off – that’s right, drop ‘em off – here at my gun shop.  I’ve got this nice, secure box all set up…

“…and I guarantee that your ballots will be delivered – that’s right, DEE-livered – to a nice, secure place…

“So grab your ballots and come on down to the Your Name Here gun shop, and just ask for Ole Cal.  And while you’re here, I’ll make you a sweet – that’s right, SWEET – deal on that AK 47 you’ve been thinking about!”

Here’s where we were as of October 13:

  1. The Secretary of State’s office, jointly with the (California) Department of Justice, issued a cease and desist order to the California Republican party to remove the drop boxes.
  2. California Representative Devin Nunes summed up the California Republicans’ response:  “Screw you.”

Republicans did agree to remove the word “official” from signs on their ballot boxes.  The party’s general counsel suggested that it was “perhaps an overzealous volunteer” who affixed the “official” labels.

Perhaps.  But I doubt it.

Then, things really got confusing – from cease and desist to subpoenas.

According to this October 16 article in the Los Angeles Times:

The article says,

“California officials on Friday said that the state Republican Party has agreed to no longer deploy ‘unstaffed, unsecured, unofficial and unauthorized’ private ballot boxes and that subpoenas have been issued in an investigation into how the containers have been used in at least three counties.”

“But aside from correcting some boxes that were wrongly labeled as ‘official’ locations for dropping off completed ballots, GOP officials continued Friday to insist that their activities have been legal.  Party leaders have said they will continue to use the boxes to collect ballots, with staffers overseeing the process and delivering the ballots to county elections offices.”

And what about the issue of the voter giving their ballot to another person to deliver – the requirement that the person doing the delivering must print their name, write their name, and describe their relationship to the voter on the back of the envelope?

And according to this October 16 article on NPR:

The article said,

“[Secretary of State] Padilla and [Attorney General] Becerra reiterated that while ballot collection is allowed, state rules require that whoever assists with delivering a ballot sign the envelope to record a chain of custody.  But they also said ballots without that signature would not be rejected either.”

Those subpoenas were sounding like a lot of saber rattling, and not much more.  It seemed that…

  1. State officials had backed off, and they weren’t requiring the required information on the back of ballot envelopes.
  2. Republicans were keeping their ballot boxes in gun shops and et cetera and, by the way, possibly increasing the number of boxes.
  3. Stern warnings were issued – Padilla said that the Republican Party has “tried to spin their unlawful conduct by playing the victim all week long.”  Should his office receive any indication that state law is being violated, he said, it “will not hesitate to act on it immediately.”
  4. To which California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas sneered, “This is a thuggish voter intimidation and vote suppression tactic by our Democratic attorney general and secretary of state.”

At this point our newspaper’s political cartoonist joined the fray:

Then, on October 18, came this interview on the CBS Weekend News with Major Garrett and Secretary of State Padilla:

The interview included this:

Padilla (referring to the fake ballot boxes):  It’s a violation of state law and undermining voter confidence in the election.  Thankfully, it seems that they have been removed.

(Actually, it seems that the GOP was removing the word “official,” but not removing the ballot boxes.)

Padilla:  Ballot collection has strict requirements, including the person assisting the voter in returning their ballot must also add their name, signature, and relationship to the voter to the envelope.  And that, again, is what was lost with these unofficial, unauthorized drop boxes.

(So now the envelopes do have to be signed?  Who the hell knows?)

Garrett:  Mr. Secretary, I’m sure you noticed, President Trump said, “We’ll see you in court.”  He said that on Twitter.  Will this be fodder for post-election legal challenges and thereby throw some elections for the U.S. House or state races into doubt?

Padilla:  We stand by free and fair elections in California.  They are accessible, they are secure, and yes, they are safe, so if Team Trump wants to sue us for anything, we would like our chances (answer appears to be cut off).

The interview appeared to cut off Padilla’s non-answer, but it did include yet another version of the GOP’s fake ballot boxes:

And that’s where we are as of October 23.

Which leaves me with the question…

Why is the California GOP doing this?  What do they stand to gain?

In the Los Angeles Times article, California Democratic Party Chairman Rusty Hicks had one possible answer:

“I believe what the Republicans are doing is a creative attempt to add confusion to the election.”

And we all know who thrives on creating confusion:

But perhaps – probably – there’s something much more sinister going on here:

It is relatively easy to get a list of the party affiliation of registered voters.  That name also appears on the outside of the ballot’s envelope.  

So it would be easy (though felonious) for an unprincipled person (and we’re talking about Trump fans) to methodically go through the fraudulently collected ballots and throw away those from registered Democrats.

Unless voters were to check through WheresMyBallot, they would have no idea that their vote did not count.

If you put your ballot in one of these fake ballot boxes, I urge you to run, not walk, to the nearest computer and start tracking it:

Here’s A Giuliani I Can Like

Now and then, do you hear a quote that really resonates with you?

A quote you might write down and save, and maybe even share with others?

I encountered such a quote on October 15, and here it is:

“…corruption starts with ‘yes-men’ and women, the cronies who create an echo chamber of lies and subservience to maintain their proximity to power.”

The writer was Caroline Rose Giuliani, daughter of the nightmarish Rudy.

The quote was from an article in Vanity Fair that appeared online on October 15:

And in a way that’s too bad, because I suspect that the noise from the election, the ever-growing tragedy of the pandemic, and the overwhelm of other news stores all but drowned out Caroline’s article.

And it’s truly worth reading.

I knew next to nothing about Caroline, though from the article it was easy to discern that she was articulate, thoughtful – and truly scared of what Trump and his cronies (like her father) will do this country if Trump is reelected.

A bit of research told me that she’s 31, a graduate of Harvard, a filmmaker, and a writer.

She’s a darn good writer.

Here are a few more of the quotes that resonated with me. 

I urge you to read the full article, and perhaps pass along a quote or two to the people you know who have decided they’re disgusted with the whole election process and aren’t going to vote at all.

Caroline makes a convincing argument why they must vote in the November election – and vote Trump out of office:

“…running away does not solve the problem.  We have to stand and fight.  The only way to end this nightmare is to vote.  There is hope on the horizon, but we’ll only grasp it if we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

“Trump and his enablers have used his presidency to stoke the injustice that already permeated our society, taking it to dramatically new, Bond-villain heights.”

“Trump’s administration has torn families apart in more ways than I even imagined were possible, from ripping children from their parents at the border to mishandling the coronavirus, which has resulted in over 215,000 in the U.S. dying, many thousands of them without their loved ones near.  Faced with preventable deaths during a pandemic that Trump downplayed and ignored, rhetoric that has fed deep-seated, systemic racism, and chaos in the White House, it’s no surprise that so many Americans feel as hopeless and overwhelmed as I did growing up.  But if we refuse to face our political reality, we don’t stand a chance of changing it.”

“Biden wasn’t my first choice when the primaries started.  But I know what is at stake, and Joe Biden will be everyone’s president if elected.  If you are planning to cast a symbolic vote or abstain from voting altogether, please reconsider.  It is more important than ever to avoid complacency.  This election is far from over, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen.”

I will add this – an update of Caroline’s coronavirus death count:

If This Is An Example Of Amy Coney Barrett’s Listening Skills…

If the above image is an example of Amy Coney Barrett’s listening skills, we’re in even worse trouble than I’d thought.

Every health expert in the world – this includes none of Trump’s toadies – is telling us that the best tool we have for reducing the spread of COVID-19 is wearing a face mask.

Apparently Barrett is lacking in listening skills.

So there was ole Amy at her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week…

Maskless, as above.

Sure, she wore a mask to and from the hearings (pictured), but when she was in front of the TV cameras, answering the committee’s questions?

Nope.  No mask.

Why is that, I wondered?

Did she think her duck-and-dodge answers would be muffled by a mask?

Does she find a mask uncomfortable and/or inconvenient and/or claustrophobic, like so many of us do?

Well, get over it, and get used to it! 

Wearing face masks is how millions of us have lived for months, and there’s no end in sight.

When I’m around people – in the grocery store, for instance – I wear a mask.  And I communicate just fine with whomever I need to. 

Me, masked:  Do you have artichokes today?
Store employee, masked:  Sure do!  Right down there, just past the carrots.

Granted, that dialogue wasn’t Senate Judiciary Committee level, but we were intelligible.  I asked, the employee answered, effective communication occurred.

So why wasn’t Barrett wearing a mask?  She sure as hell was around a lot of people.

And, as the image clearly shows, people nearby were wearing masks:

So it’s too bad about poor ole Amy and her lack of listening skills.

Which, I suspect, will be working just fine when it’s time to…

Kill the Affordable Care Act.

When it’s time to hear cases about a woman’s right to choose, gay rights, immigration, the Census, and possibly the election…

Barrett will be swinging that pendulum so far right she’ll make the Fox Network look like a bunch of antifa-radical-leftist-extremist-commie pinkos:

What Will I Post About When Trump Is…

When I started this blog in May 2017 I decided to stay away from the topic of Trump.

My resolve was strong.

I did not talk about Trump.

At all.

I didn’t stay away from politics.  It was so much fun, and so easy, to skewer politicians – Democrats and Republicans – for their bad behavior.

Bad behavior – like financial improprieties, sexual improprieties, political improprieties.

Knowing that not one of them was sorry about their transgression, but they were very, very sorry they got caught.  Like this guy, Cal Cunningham, North Carolina’s Democratic candidate for the Senate:

So politicians were my targets, and government entities, too.

Like NASA, and the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and the Post Office, specifically Louie DeJoy, Trump’s buddy:

And I’ve had a blast, excoriating all of them.

I’ve written about lots of other things, as well – whatever struck my fancy.  I’ve done posts about books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched, and about the many strange and/or funny and/or absurd (I LOVE the absurd) things in our world.

And since I live in California, as most Californians will tell you, our state is an endless source of the strange and/or funny and/or absurd:

But, eventually…

The lure of Trump’s awfulness just became…irresistible.

Trump is SO easy to mock.  On a daily, even hourly basis, he hands us so many ways to mock him, you can’t hope to keep up. 

And in early December 2019 – I did my first Trump blog:

After that, there was no holding back.

In the 10 months since, I’ve done more than 55 posts about Trump, and the Trumps, since I consider his parasitic wife and older children fodder, as well:  the triviality of Melania, the vapidness of Ivanka, the shallowness of Trump Jr, the emptiness of Eric.

And now…

My Trump posts will soon come to an end.

Not soon enough – never soon enough – but soon.

No more writing about Trump’s always-unpresidential behavior, like this recent story:

Or about his self-serving, self-aggrandizing behavior, like this story:

Or about Trump’s lies, the endless lies that he tells and then lies about telling:

Or about his tweets, the endless tweets, especially the ones that Twitter calls him on – way to go, Twitter!

Or about the women who have accused Trump of sexual assault – it’s now at least 26, and counting:

And speaking of women, the often-racist, always-denigrating, always-bullying words Trump uses about women:

And, most recently:

And his repulsive, totally unwarranted braggadocio:

And the unforgiveable, Trump’s legacy:  the blood on Trump’s hands, past, present and to come:

I could on with this list, but I had to stop somewhere.

But – will I miss writing about Trump when he’s gone?

Hell, no.

I’m counting the seconds until…

Let’s Play Guess What This Is:

Q:  Is it one of those old embroidery sampler things I’ve seen on Antiques Roadshow?

A:  No.

Q:  Is it one of those old plaques I’ve seen hanging in an antique shop?

A:  Nope.

Q:  Is it…well, shoot.  What the heck is it?

A:  It’s something that’s vanishing from our world and may someday go extinct, like the dodo bird:

dodo_01 smaller

And dinosaurs:

dinosaur smaller

And dwarf elephans:

dwarf smaller border

And the answer is…

It’s a thank-you note.

Note Front (3)

And…

It’s a handwritten thank-you note:

Inside (3) redacted.jpg

Yes!  Handwritten!

(Are you feeling faint?)

A thank-you note.

Not a text or email or phone call.

(Now you’re really feeling faint.)

A handwritten note acknowledging a wedding gift.

Unlike so many gifts that go unregarded, unacknowledged and unappreciated, my newlywed nephew took the time to write and thank me.

Addressed it, put a stamp on it, and mailed it.

A mere 10 days after the wedding.

Yeah, me, too.

fainting-victorian-lady1 larger

 

Lucy Worsley Is…

I’m fascinated by anything related to English royal history, and when I find a new book, or spot a movie or TV show focused on the topic – I’m in.

A few years ago I discovered Lucy Worsley, hosting a program on PBS about English royal history.  The program description included the information that Worsley was the Chief Curator at England’s Historic Royal Palaces, so I figured I’d be hearing from someone knowledgeable and – I was in.

And I was in – until I saw this:

Wait.  What?

Lucy Worsley, the host of a PBS program, playing dress up? 

What is this?

Sure – I’ve seen lots of English royal history documentaries, and they often feature actors and actresses in period costume.

But the host of the program?

It turns out that this is what Worsley does – dresses up in a costume and injects herself into an otherwise interesting show:

Yes – female or male, our Lucy is an equal opportunity dresser upper.

Worsley had lots of great information to share in that PBS program, and I hoped her costume fixation was temporary.  That the show was a one-off, and the next time a Worsley program was on the TV schedule, Lucy would back off from the wigs, corsets, and et cetera.

Nope:

And as I said earlier, Worsley doesn’t just appear in costumes – she injects herself into the history she’s relating.  And not just into, but right into the center, so the actors playing actual historical characters fade into the background and it’s Worsley, front and center.

It’s all about Worsley.

And it’s the worst.

So when I saw the recent PBS listing for Lucy Worsley’s Royal Palace Secrets, I passed.

I knew I’d enjoy hearing those royal palace secrets, but I couldn’t stomach seeing more of this:

And this:

And this:

As is often the case, I’m out of step with many – perhaps most – viewers:

“I’m a big fan of Lucy Worsley’s documentaries, and found this one to be incredibly informative and entertaining.”

“Big fan of Lucy Worsley.  Her documentaries are engaging and colorful.”

“Lucy Worsley has a fantastic way of presenting historical events.  I highly recommend any of her work.”

There were a few naysayers, but only a few:

“Hard to watch the moderator.  She was just irritating.  In fact, her presentation made me leave the movie before it was over.”

“I fell asleep.”

“Stupid.”

Hard to know if that last review was a commentary on the content or her costumes, but I’ll go with the latter.

If I needed further proof of Worsley’s popularity, I had only to look online and learn that since 2009 she hosted more than 40 TV programs, many of them multi-part series, including:

The Brits version of I Love Lucy.

Well, the Brits – and all her fans – are welcome to her.

Ole Lucy and I have parted company, but as a send-off, in case you’re curious – here’s what she looks like when she’s not in front of a camera but at home, relaxing and having dinner:

Trump, What A…

If only Trump had planned ahead, on October 4 he could have done the joyride outside Walter Reed Hospital and recreated his June 1 photo op in Lafayette Park…

If only Trump had planned ahead, on October 5 he could have returned to the White House from the hospital AND recreated his June 1 photo op in Lafayette Park…

The location of Trump’s next public appearance – a debate? a rally? is to be determined.  But whatever it is…

Heads-up to Trump:  Don’t let it be another missed opportunity…

If Trump Had Had His Way, Tonight’s VP Debate Would Look Like This:

Sickening?  Read on.

In June 2016 when he was the presumptive presidential nominee, Trump wanted Ivanka to be his running mate, saying this to his top campaign aides:

“I think it should be Ivanka.  What about Ivanka as my VP?  She’s bright, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, and the people would love her!”

It sounded like Trump was talking about a contestant in one of his beauty pageants, but no – he was describing daughter Ivanka.

This is according to a book that debuts next week, Wicked Game, by Rick Gates.

I had to stop for a moment to try and remember who Rick Gates was.

I associated the word “Gates” with “Trump” and “convicted,” but which criminal was he?  There are so many…

Gates, pictured in the bottom row, was Trump’s former deputy campaign manager and pal of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, also pictured above.  Gates pleaded guilty in February 2018 to conspiracy against the United States and lying to federal investigators about lobbying work he and Manafort did in Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign.

Trump berated the “Fake News” for reporting the excerpt from Gates’ book…

But Trump stopped short of calling Gates a liar.

I find the story quite plausible.  First, because Trump lies all the time. 

And second, Trump’s regard for Ivanka has been visible for years:

So let’s imagine Trump and Ivanka on the 2016 ticket…

Instead of kissing babies, Ivanka and Trump would kiss each other…

In her favor:  Ivanka has been a public speaker for years, hawking her jewelry line…

And her cleverly named clothing line:

And her cleverly named perfume line:

Plus – another Trump talking point – Ivanka had large breasts.  Or at least, she does now:

So I think Ivanka could have done well on the 2016 campaign trail.

For example, when giving a speech about her position on climate change and the natural world…

And her speeches about international relations would have wowed us:

And her commitment to child and adult literacy would have been front and center as well:

Yes, if Trump had been granted his wish, tonight at the VP debates we might have been treated to scenes like this:

But, alas, it was not to be.

Still, if you’re so inclined, you can hope that someday Ivanka will actually have her place in the White House, not down the hall as her Daddy’s senior suckup, but in the Oval Office:

Former President Donald Trump and current President Ivanka Trump; she’s seated at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.

Or perhaps even sooner than “someday…”