Friday, November 27, 2020

Happy Black Friday

This is not what you’re going to see this year.

Photo by Cris Faga/REX/Shutterstock

Although there are predictions that this will be a banner year for sales — they say that every year — I’m pretty sure most of them will be done the way I do it: sitting at home in front of the computer or iPhone and waiting for the Amazon Prime truck to roll up.

But if you do venture out, be safe, be masked, and keep your eye on your wallet and credit rating. Shopping locally is good for your friends and neighbors.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Drug-Induced

From the Washington Post:

Economic relief talks screeched to a halt Tuesday as President Trump ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to stop negotiating with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi until after the election.

In a series of tweets less than 24 hours after he was released from a hospital, Trump accused Pelosi (D-Calif.) of failing to negotiate in good faith, after she rejected an opening bid from Mnuchin in their latest round of talks.

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump wrote.

Trump’s surprising announcement stood in stark contrast with recommendations from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell, who had said in a speech hours earlier that more economic stimulus was needed to sustain the recovery.

Trump’s tweets sent the stock market lower, as many businesses, households and investors had been hoping for a jolt of fiscal stimulus amid signs the economy had lost momentum. The Dow Jones industrial average ended down 376 points, or 1.3 percent. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 also fell.

Trump is still dealing with his recent covid-19 diagnosis, but he has tried to dismiss the illness’s impact on him in the past two days.

[…]

Trump’s pronouncement came after days of sustained if long-shot negotiations between Pelosi and Mnuchin. Pelosi later speculated to Democratic colleagues on a conference call that the president’s sudden change in position might be connected to the steroids he’s taking as he battles covid-19.

“Believe me, there are people who thought, who think that steroids have an impact on your thinking,” she told Democrats, according to a person on the call, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private comments. “So, I don’t know.”

Trump later tweeted out something about a stand-alone stimulus bill to send everyone $1,200 with his signature on it. It has no chance of passing, but he sweetened the deal by suggesting the checks all have pretty unicorns drawn on them…

It’s gotta be the drugs.  That’s the only reason I can think of for pulling this stunt because it submarines the economy less than a month before the election, stiffing the airlines and businesses that were counting on the stimulus, not to mention the millions of people who need the money to cover their rent and food and the essential elements that make the country run.

Either that or he’s doing it on purpose so that when he loses he can blame the oncoming depression on Biden, Obama, and those pink elephants dancing on the South Lawn of the White House.

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Price We Pay For Civilization

From the New York Times:

Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.

He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.

The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.

All this time he’s been telling us he’s the smartest businessman out there and that’s why we need to have him running the country. He can’t even run his own businesses.

But I think this points to a larger, more important issue. Trump — along with many of his followers — think they have the bounden duty to avoid paying taxes as if the Internal Revenue Service didn’t have enough deductions and loopholes to pay the least amount legally. We all do that, and there’s an entire industry that advertises about getting us the largest tax refund that we’re entitled to. But I also think we have the moral — the civil — obligation to pay our fair share. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. noted, “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” If you want to have the greatest country in the world, you have to pay for it. And while it could be perfectly legal for Trump and people like him to avoid paying taxes, it doesn’t make it right. As my friend and fellow playwright Franky Gonzalez noted on Facebook:

Anyone can go to the local food bank to get food. Anyone. Just go in and get it. Perfectly fine. It’s meant for the needy, it’s meant for those who desperately need food, but really, anyone can go. Anyone can get food.

Those of us lucky enough to have food in our kitchens and the ability to feed ourselves can even go.

And if we did, it’s perfectly within our rights to do so.

But it speaks to a shameful moral character to take something meant for the disadvantaged for our own benefit when we didn’t have to.

It’s much the same here with our president. Only in this case here, it also includes financial entanglements with strongmen and lobbyists who are funneling money and turning the presidency into an office for bribery like many authoritarian governments, but I digress.

He’s certainly entitled to do as he pleases. He can even lie about what he does. It’s in his right to do so. But it speaks to a deeply and morally flawed individual to use programs meant generally for small businesses in dire circumstances to make himself wealthier and then lie about paying the taxes. If it’s a non-issue, why not release the returns and be done with it all?

We know why. It’s like a well-off family taking from the food bank. You can do it. But you’re a real asshole for doing that. To release the returns would prove he’s lied about his wealth and how he’s used it in relation to the tax code. And that makes him an asshole.

When you get right down to what really matters, it is that here in America we need to remember that we have more to look out for than just ourselves. If there is anyone in this country who should lead by this example, it is the president, and that is why this story is such a revelation about the true character of Trump.  That it is no surprise that he is as morally bankrupt as his businesses says more about us than it does about him.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Going (For) Broke

Trump was supposed to be the guy who had all the money.  Turns out his campaign is hurting.

Money was supposed to have been one of the great advantages of incumbency for President Trump, much as it was for President Barack Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004. After getting outspent in 2016, Mr. Trump filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration — earlier than any other modern president — betting that the head start would deliver him a decisive financial advantage this year.

It seemed to have worked. His rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., was relatively broke when he emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee this spring, and Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee had a nearly $200 million cash advantage.

Five months later, Mr. Trump’s financial supremacy has evaporated. Of the $1.1 billon his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than $800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable: a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election, according to Republican officials briefed on the matter.

Where did it go?

Brad Parscale, the former campaign manager, liked to call Mr. Trump’s re-election war machine an “unstoppable juggernaut.” But interviews with more than a dozen current and former campaign aides and Trump allies, and a review of thousands of items in federal campaign filings, show that the president’s campaign and the R.N.C. developed some profligate habits as they burned through hundreds of millions of dollars. Since Bill Stepien replaced Mr. Parscale in July, the campaign has imposed a series of belt-tightening measures that have reshaped initiatives, including hiring practices, travel and the advertising budget.

Under Mr. Parscale, more than $350 million — almost half of the $800 million spent — went to fund-raising operations, as no expense was spared in finding new donors online. The campaign assembled a big and well-paid staff and housed the team at a cavernous, well-appointed office in the Virginia suburbs; outsize legal bills were treated as campaign costs; and more than $100 million was spent on a television advertising blitz before the party convention, the point when most of the electorate historically begins to pay close attention to the race.

Way back in 1996, Sen. Phil Gramm (R) announced his run for the presidency, bragging that he had the biggest advantage over all the other GOP candidates: “Ready money.” That, however, didn’t help; neither did his prior investments in porn films (nowadays that would probably win him the GOP nomination) and he got run over by the Dole campaign. So even having a lot of money at the start doesn’t guarantee anything except a lot paperwork for the FEC.

It’s not how much you have, it’s how you spend it.

It’s also a part of the long con of conservative politics, according to Paul Campos at LGM:

Right wing politics in this country is basically just a series of elaborate con games, designed to separate frightened old white people from their money.

Yet it’s a sign of what an incredibly powerful force white supremacy remains in America that a malignant buffoon like Trump can spend his entire presidency stealing everything that isn’t nailed down, and a lot of stuff that is, and yet he still has a chance to actually get elected, despite openly turning the presidency into just another of his unending series of brazen grifts and rackets.

And while Trump and his enablers should all go to prison for the rest of their lives, it’s also true that everybody he is now ripping off absolutely deserves to get ripped off, given how utterly transparent his bottomless corruption has been for so very long.

Basically it comes down to the reason all those calls from “Microsoft” and “Apple” and the “extended warranty” keep ringing your phone: there’s always someone out there who will fall for it.

 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Labor Day

Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times

Having grown up in a union town that was near a large city that relied on union labor, I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the people who most hate unions are folks who think that it is unconscionable that workers should have the same rights as the managers and the owners of the company. How dare they demand a living wage and safe working conditions. Who do they think they are?

Yeah, yeah; in every large group there are bad apples and examples of bad faith and extremism. Welcome to the human race. The Republicans hold the unions up as the boogeyman of the Western world and label them as thugs… and give tax breaks to the corporations because they know that if they don’t, the corporations will kneecap them. Not literally; they’ll just stop giving them money, which, in corporate circles, is thuggery. The people who whine about “class warfare” always turn out to be the ones who are winning the war.

Perhaps one of the reasons that union membership is down is that unions have accomplished a lot of what they set out to do 100 years ago. Factories are safer, working hours are reasonable, wages are better than the minimum, and pensions provide some security. The unions have learned, however awkwardly, to accept that they have been successful, but they also know that if some people had their way in the world, they would turn back to clock to 1911, put children to work, take away the healthcare, and demand more production. After all, it works for the Chinese, and look how they’re doing.

By the way, not all union workers are Democrats; they certainly weren’t were I grew up. A lot of them are hardcore Republicans or conservatives — including police officers — who don’t care about the politics; they just want to be treated fairly. And a lot of people who are not union members are working under union contracts; in most places there is no requirement to join a union to benefit from their efforts. So while actual union membership may be down to 15%, the number of people who are part of the union is far greater. That includes public sector jobs as well as private. So the next time someone feels the urge to union-bash, be sure you’re not peeing in your own campfire.

Full disclosure: I am a dues-paying member of a union of sorts; I belong to the Dramatists Guild. It provides services for writers and lyricists and makes sure that when our works are produced, we have a fair contract and get paid our royalties. The joke among us is that we don’t go on strike; we just get writers’ block.

[Originally posted September 2, 2013]

Monday, August 10, 2020

Nerf Vibrator

From the Washington Post:

Trump’s new executive actions to disburse coronavirus relief without congressional approval sparked confusion and frustration on Sunday among businesses, Democrats and state officials, some of whom lamented the moves would not deliver the necessary relief to cash-strapped Americans.

Trump’s directives were aimed at offering new unemployment benefits, protecting renters from eviction and postponing the payment of a federal tax. But some economists and experts faulted these policies as incomplete or legally questionable — raising the prospect that the president’s attempt to boost the economy may have only a muted impact.

One of the orders allows employees making less than $104,000 to delay until January payment of a payroll tax that funds Social Security and Medicare. Trump added he would try to change federal rules next year to make the deferred payments into a permanent tax cut — but only if he is reelected.

The tax is typically taken out of paychecks by employers. And businesses, payment processors and economists signaled Sunday in the absence of a guarantee that the payroll taxes actually will be absolved, businesses would be unlikely to alter worker paychecks.

So it was all a show; not only will it not help the people that need it the most, it could come back to bite them when the postponement of the payroll tax comes off and it has to be made up.

The end result is that not only were the executive orders questionable and surely a violation of the Constitution — as if that matters to him — they will have little to no immediate impact, and will actually make it worse.

Hey, all you seniors who love Donald Trump. Not only does he consider you all expendable (practically dead already) to the economy with COVID-19, he’s intent upon ending Social Security and Medicare.

Anyone who gets this “tax relief” had better save the money because they’re going to have to pay it back next year when they do their taxes if Trump loses. If he wins they’d also better save their money because all their older relatives will be moving in with them. Maybe Trump will let you write them off as dependents.

And speaking of making it worse:

The number of coronavirus cases reported to date in the United States topped 5 million on Sunday, meaning that more than a million cases have been reported in the past 17 days alone. The tally has doubled since late June, and now accounts for approximately a quarter of all cases reported worldwide.

Remember when the GOP went nuts when President Obama used the pen-and-phone executive orders method to get around Congress? So what are they saying now?  At least a Nerf vibrator won’t kill you.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Raging Fire

It’s getting worse, not better.

The United States has entered a “new phase” of the coronavirus pandemic, Deborah Birx, the physician overseeing the White House coronavirus response, told CNN on Sunday. Outbreaks are increasing in both rural and urban areas, touching isolated parts of the country that once counted on their remoteness to keep them safe.

“What we’re seeing today is different from March and April,” Birx said. “It is extraordinarily widespread.”

Alaska, Hawaii, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma are among the states witnessing the largest surge of infections over the past week, according to a Washington Post analysis of health data. Experts also see worrisome trends emerging in major East Coast and Midwest cities, and anticipate major outbreaks in college towns as classes resume this month.

At least 4,641,000 coronavirus cases and 151,000 fatalities have been reported in the United States since February. Close to 50,000 new cases and 478 deaths were reported on Sunday, a day of the week when numbers are often artificially low because some jurisdictions do not report data.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans showing very little interest in doing anything about the economic impact because at least a third of them think that it’s not the job of the federal government to do anything.

The Trump administration is looking at options for unilateral actions it can take to try to address some of the economic fallout caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic if no relief deal is reached with Congress, according to two people with knowledge of the deliberations.

The discussions are a reflection of officials’ increasingly pessimistic outlook for the talks on Capitol Hill. The White House remains in close contact with Democratic leaders, but a wide gulf remains and deadlines have already been missed.

It’s not clear what steps the administration could take without the help of Congress on issues such as lapsed enhanced unemployment benefits or the expired moratorium on evictions — the two matters President Trump has recently identified as his highest priorities in the ongoing talks. Both of those programs were authorized by Congress earlier this year but were designed to be temporary.

If you think a vaccine will be the savior of us all and we’ll all be saved and back to normal, well, that only works on Star Trek when Dr. McCoy comes up with a cure ten minutes before the episode ends.

In the public imagination, the arrival of a coronavirus vaccine looms large: It’s the neat Hollywood ending to the grim and agonizing uncertainty of everyday life in a pandemic.

But public health experts are discussing among themselves a new worry: that hopes for a vaccine may be soaring too high. The confident depiction by politicians and companies that a vaccine is imminent and inevitable may give people unrealistic beliefs about how soon the world can return to normal — and even spark resistance to simple strategies that can tamp down transmission and save lives in the short term.

Two coronavirus vaccines entered the final stages of human testing last week, a scientific speed record that prompted top government health officials to utter words such as “historic” and “astounding.” Pharmaceutical executives predicted to Congress in July that vaccines might be available as soon as October, or before the end of the year.

As the plotline advances, so do expectations: If people can just muddle through a few more months, the vaccine will land, the pandemic will end and everyone can throw their masks away. But best-case scenarios have failed to materialize throughout the pandemic, and experts — who believe wholeheartedly in the power of vaccines — foresee a long path ahead.

“It seems, to me, unlikely that a vaccine is an off-switch or a reset button where we will go back to pre-pandemic times,” said Yonatan Grad, an assistant professor of infectious diseases and immunology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Or, as Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen puts it, “It’s not like we’re going to land in Oz.”

Mixing metaphors: he’s in Oz, I’m on the Enterprise. The point is the same: it will take years before it’s under control, and it may never be eradicated.

All of these scenarios could have been prevented or drastically reduced if we had had competent and caring leadership in the White House.  Remember that.  And wear your fucking mask.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

It’s Like They Want To Lose

The GOP version of the stimulus bill to replace the one that expires on Friday has some interesting elements in it.

“The American people need more help, they need it to be comprehensive and they need it to be carefully tailored to this crossroads,” McConnell said. “That is what this Senate majority has assembled.”

But the GOP legislation contains a number of provisions not directly related to the coronavirus, including $1.8 billion for construction of a new FBI headquarters in Washington. President Trump has taken a personal interest in this project, but White House officials have not stipulated why they believe the language needed to be inserted in the coronavirus bill. Critics have alleged Trump is trying to keep the FBI building at its current location, which is diagonal from a Trump hotel property in downtown D.C.

The Trump administration previously squashed a plan to relocate the FBI building to the suburbs, which could leave the lot near the Trump hotel open for development.

“That’s a good question,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), when asked what the FBI project had to do with the coronavirus. He said the administration had sought its inclusion.

McConnell and his team worked for days to try to put together a $1 trillion package that could unite Republicans in a way that would strengthen their negotiating power with Democrats, but there were signs Monday that Republicans remain split over how to proceed. Congress already pumped $3 trillion into the economy in March and April, a level that many Republicans believe is sufficient.

“There is significant resistance to yet another trillion dollars,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). “The answer to these challenges will not simply be shoveling cash out of Washington; the answer to these challenges will be getting people back to work. And as it stands now, I think it’s likely that you’ll see a number of Republicans in opposition to this bill and expressing serious concerns.”

[…]

In the new GOP plan, Senate Republicans propose cutting weekly emergency unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 until states can bring a more complicated program online. The $600 weekly jobless benefit expires in a few days, and House Democrats have proposed extending it until January because the unemployment rate remains very high.

Senate Republicans want to put the $200 in place until states can implement a new approach that would pay the unemployed 70 percent of the income they collected before they lost their jobs. The states are supposed to phase in the new formula within two months under the new GOP plan, though it’s unclear how cumbersome that process could prove to be.

So their idea of “help” is a boondoggle construction project to boost the property values in Trump’s neighborhood while cutting the emergency relief benefit by 2/3 because they want to encourage people to “get back to work,” which means go out there and expose yourself to the pandemic that’s killed over 145,000 Americans because it’s socialist to stay home.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that the Republicans are doing everything they can now to tank their re-elections so that they don’t have to deal with the pandemic and the economic collapse, and under it all, be bound to the cratering flaming meteor strike that is Trump. It’s like they want to guarantee that he loses by such a big margin that only the looniest of the QAnonistas will claim it’s some vast conspiracy. They can then slink home in January 2021, collect their fat pensions, and yell from the cheap seats or a gig at Fox News — same thing — at how terrible things are now that Joe Biden is in charge and it’s all Obama’s fault and rally the surviving MAGA’s for another Confederate flag-draped march the take their country back to those heady days of graft, corruption, and choke-holds on those uppity Others.  But only if they can stay home.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Happy Friday

All of a sudden the Republicans realized that holding a convention in the middle of a pandemic was not a great idea.  The Democrats figured that out a few months ago and have already come up with alternatives.  But the GOP is going to host a giant Zoom meeting with all that goes along with it (“Hey, you’re still muted!”) and then try to make the case that while it’s too dangerous to hold the convention, schools must be re-opened.

Meanwhile, the Senate Republicans can’t even agree between themselves what to do about the stimulus bill to replace the one that is going to end a week from today and throw a whole lot of people into limbo regarding their unemployment payments.  And we’ve passed 4 million cases of Covid-19.

On the upside, or at least a glimmer of hope, Biden is leading Trump by 13 points here in Florida.  But remember that polls don’t matter.  Do they?

A moment of zen to appreciate some backyard nature.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Question of the Day

Can Trump cut funding to public schools to punish them for not going along with his Covid-19 super-spreading?

Short Answer: No.

Long(er) Answer: Neither the president nor the U.S. Department of Education can rescind funding to public schools.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, the USDOE does not directly fund local schools.  The department is prohibited by federal law from doing that.  (Nor can they directly dictate what is or isn’t taught in the classroom.)  What the USDOE does control is grant funding, but it takes an act of Congress to both send the money out for grant opportunities for such things as magnet schools, Title I education for poor children, and IDEA – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a part of the civil rights acts passed in 1964 — and other funding above and beyond what school districts get from their state and local tax revenues.  Those federal programs are managed by the states, and the budgets for those programs were passed in the last Congress.  It would require another act to take the money back, and in most cases, it’s already been included in the 2020-2021 fiscal year budgets at the state and local level.

In short, it’s all about the money.  That seems to be the only language both Trump and Ms. DeVos understand, and they think by threatening the flow of dollars they can somehow convince the 17,000+ local school districts into following their guidelines about dealing with Covid-19.  Except they don’t have any guidelines.

So it’s all bullshit.  It would be easy to ignore, except children are going to die.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Harsh Reality

Trump is threatening to cut off funding to schools that do not fully re-open, virus or not.

Trump on Wednesday intensified his demand that schools fully reopen this fall, slamming the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pressuring it to loosen guidance and threatening to cut funding for schools that do not open.

The CDC was already planning to issue new guidelines for schools in the coming days. But Vice President Pence on Wednesday explicitly tied the effort to Trump’s ire.

“The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence told reporters. “And that’s the reason next week the CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools.”

Pence, speaking at a briefing of the White House coronavirus task force, was replying to a question about the CDC’s recommendation that students be kept six feet apart to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

School officials across the country have concluded they cannot fully reopen while following that guidance, because classrooms are too small to accommodate all students with the recommended distancing.

Just so you know, the president — whoever he/she is — cannot just “cut off funding.”  Neither the Department of Education nor the OMB can do that.  The only power the USDOE holds over local public schools is the ability to not reimburse school districts for the expenditures they have made on behalf of federal grants that were already funded by Congress.  So what Trump said — surprise! — is bullshit.

But doesn’t mean that it won’t have an impact on the school systems. From a teacher here in Miami via Facebook:

So apparently the federal government wants us all back in the classroom no matter what, so the guidelines that the CDC has put out (having students and teachers being six feet apart) will likely be watered down to fit an election agenda. There is not enough data on how much transmission can occur from kids (although due to increased lung capacity, kids in middle school and up likely have a higher ability to do so than smaller kids) but until we have a 14 day period where there isn’t an increase in cases locally, I do NOT feel safe going back in a brick and mortar setting. While distance learning is not the same and has its notable cons, my health and those of my colleagues are not being adequately considered by this administration. Please,if you don’t work in a classroom…don’t post here. You want to insert yourself into the convo? Then get a teaching certificate.

Ironically, the Florida Department of Education is pouring money into grant programs to provide schools with funds to do remote learning and to provide for infrastructure support to make the schools safe.

There’s another harsh reality: the toll on the mental state of people who have been isolated by the necessary precautions taken to prevent the spread of the virus. I’m thinking of people in retirement facilities who cannot be visited by relatives or who have been left behind by the toll.  Via my sister on Facebook:

The other group suffering from Covid are the grieving and depressed survivors of the covid death of a loved one who is then left in loneliness and isolation. Giving up on life. “Nothing to live for. Can’t see my family. The isolation is so painful and so depressing!”

But the harshest reality of all of this could have been prevented or allayed or brought swiftly under control were this country not being run by a sociopath and his fawning minions who care more about their political future or fear a midnight tweet from him. When it’s all over, they have to be held accountable.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Florida’s Priority

It’s pretty obvious what’s most important to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis:

As the number of Florida coronavirus cases continues to climb and after his own administration announced that those who work at elder-care facilities must now be tested, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he’s not considering another shutdown.

“We’re not rolling back,” DeSantis said during a news conference when asked whether he would consider stopping some reopening efforts. “The reason we did the mitigation was to protect the hospital system.”

On Tuesday, Florida reported 2,783 new coronavirus cases, more than it has ever recorded in a single day. It was the fourth time in six days that the state reported a record number of cases.

[…]

He suggested that Floridians should be living with the virus without the prospect of shutting down the economy again.

“You have to have society function. You have to be able to have a cohesive society. That’s the best way to be able to deal with the impacts of the virus,” DeSantis said. “To suppress a lot of working-age people at this point I don’t think would be very effective.”

So it’s the money that matters.  Sure, people are gonna die, but that’s what makes America great.  As long as the cash registers ring, it’s an acceptable risk, and since Florida’s tax structure is based on sales and tourism taxes, it’s how it works.  That’s his idea of a cohesive and functioning society.

Pretty hard to do when you have over 2.1 million people infected and 116,000 dead in the the U.S.; the largest count in the world.

Jesus-Freaking All The Way To The Bank

The Jesus-shouters have their thongs in a bunch over the Supreme Court at long last affirming that civil rights are applicable to everyone.

E.W. Jackson, a “christian” radio host, is miffed.

Neil Gorsuch has betrayed the Constitution, the American people and President Trump. He has joined the back stabbing Roberts and the degenerate leftists on the Court who are engineering sweeping social depravity and confusion through judicial tyranny.

Now every employer must accommodate some mentally ill person who thinks he’s a woman today, a man tomorrow and a combo the next? Or be sued for using common sense and protecting your business?

This is beyond disgusting. It is a declaration of war on the American people, our businesses, culture, Constitution and our Judeo-Christian values. The only hope we have is to amend the Constitution to do what we should have done early in this fight – define marriage as a union between one man and one woman in the federal Constitution.

Tony Perkins, another “christian” con artist, is in a tizzy.

Six justices, against the laws of science, history, and morality, decided to create their own Autonomous Zone — where humanity’s laws about male and female no longer apply. In the last 24 hours, people across the spectrum have scrambled to make sense of the cultural IED.

If the court decided to dramatically rewrite the 1964 Civil Rights Act, most experts assumed it would have been because loose cannon Chief Justice John Roberts defected — not because one of the president’s new originalists did.

To most Americans, the sellout of Neil Gorsuch, who not only voted with the liberal members on the Harris case but authored the majority opinion, will be the lingering horror. If even he can’t bring himself to agree that the word “sex” means male and female — not the Left’s wild reinterpretations of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” who will?

And, more importantly, what will it mean for privacy, pronouns, Christian schools and businesses, public housing, adoption, girls’ sports, and a basket of major issues confronting America?

Not to worry; this is the Jesus-freaks’ ticket to raise millions of dollars off their marks who think that every time Trump farts they’re hearing Lawrence Welk.  The faux outrage will last as long as the Venmo and PayPal accounts are chiming.

HT to JoeMyGod.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

No One Could Have Predicted…

Via the Washington Post:

One month ago, seven states made up 60 percent of the coronavirus cases in the country. Most of those cases were in New York, the main U.S. hotbed of the outbreak. But an additional 28 percent of cases were in California, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey.

The good news is that the number of new cases those states have seen each day over the past month has steadily fallen. The bad news? That the number of new cases everywhere else has steadily increased.

There’s some irony to this, given how these two groups of states are responding to calls from President Trump to scale back efforts to contain the spread of the virus. States that expect to keep restrictions in place aimed at encouraging social distancing — including most of the seven states above — have seen drops in the number of new daily cases relative to a month ago. States that have already begun to scale back those measures have seen a rapid increase in daily case totals relative to one month ago.

Or, to put it simply, social distancing and shut-downs are saving lives.  Re-opening is killing people.

Trump says we have to re-open our country because “the economy” (in other words, his poll numbers) is in trouble.  Well, that’s fine to have a booming economy; we all want that.  But it seems kind of pointless if you’re dead.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

“We Have A Deal”

It took five days of marathon wrangling, but the coronavirus stimulus bill is ready for a vote.

Senate leaders and the Trump administration reached agreement early Wednesday on a $2 trillion stimulus package to rescue the economy from the coronavirus assault, setting the stage for swift passage of the massive legislation through both chambers of Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the breakthrough on the Senate floor around 1:30 a.m., after a long day of talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials.

“At last we have a deal,” McConnell said. “After days of intense discussion, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic. … I’m thrilled that we’re finally going to deliver for the country that has been waiting for us to step up.”

“Help is on the way, big help and quick help,” Schumer said. “We’re going to take up and pass this package to care for those who are now caring for us, and help carry millions of Americans through these dark economic times.”

The agreement capped five straight days of intensive negotiations that occasionally descended into partisan warfare as the nation’s economy reeled from the deadly pandemic, with schools and businesses closed, mass layoffs slamming the workforce and tens of thousands falling ill.

The legislation, unprecedented in its size and scope, aims to flood the economy with capital by sending $1,200 checks to many Americans, creating a $367 billion loan program for small businesses and setting up a $500 billion fund for industries, cities and states.

Other provisions include a massive boost to unemployment insurance, $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds, and $130 billion for hospitals. The bill more than doubled in size in just a few days.

As with any bill like this, there are bound to be a few turds in the giant punch bowl; loopholes and pork that got packed into the package, so we’ll see, but at least they did what we pay them to do.

Trump: Your Money Or Your Life

Via the Washington Post:

With President Trump saying he wants “the country opened” by Easter to salvage the U.S. economy, a fierce debate is now raging among policymakers over the necessity of shutting down vast swaths of American society to combat the novel coronavirus.

Health experts point to overwhelming evidence from around the world that closing businesses and schools and minimizing social contact are crucial to avoid exponentially mounting infections. Ending the shutdown now in America would be disastrous, many say, because the country has barely given those restrictions time to work, and because U.S. leaders have not pursued alternative strategies used in other countries to avert the potential deaths of hundreds of thousands.

But in recent days an increasing number of political conservatives have argued that the economic cost is too high. At a town hall broadcast Tuesday, Trump suggested dire consequences if at least some economic sectors aren’t restored.

You’re going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression,” Trump said. “You’re going to have all sorts of things happen, you’re going to have instability. You can’t just come in and say let’s close up the United States of America, the biggest, the most successful country in the world by far.”

At the event, Trump amplified a message that has been bubbling among conservative pundits in recent days. Speaking of the economy, he said, “The faster we go back, the better it’s going to be.”

So what he’s basically saying is that it’s more important that Wall Street — located in the epicenter of the outbreak — gets rich again than have people survive and are healthy.  The Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, said much the same thing: better that some old people fall off the perch so that the younger survivors can get back to work.  Or the beach.

The bottom line for Trump, of course, is to guarantee his re-election, and the longer the pandemic continues and he keeps on flailing at it, the worse it is for him.  So no wonder he wants America to return to work and that all the restrictions are eliminated.  He wants to make sure that his base can get out there and vote for him.  That’s kind of hard to do when you can’t leave your house, and it’s only in certain wards of Chicago that dead people vote.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Big Bucks

From the Washington Post:

Americans could get a check for $1,000 or more in the coming weeks, as political leaders coalesce around a dramatic plan to try to prevent a worse recession and protect people from going bankrupt.

The idea took off Monday when Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called for every American adult to receive a $1,000 check “immediately” to help tide people over until other government aid can arrive. By Tuesday, there was bipartisan support for the idea, including from President Trump. The White House even suggested the amount could be over $1,000, an acknowledgment of how big the economic crisis is becoming.

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, adding that Trump wants checks to go out “in the next two weeks.”

Great idea.  I’m all for it, especially since I work hourly and only get paid when I show up, and my job is shutting down for at least two weeks, if not more.  And even if I was on contract like I was before I retired, I’d still be in favor of it because that’s what government is supposed to do: support the people it works for.  After all, those are our tax dollars.

What’s ironic is that this plan and the rest of it — bailing out the airlines and other industries hit hard by the pandemic and shut-down — is socialism with a big red capital S.  This is what happens in places like Sweden and Denmark when catastrophe hits and the people are in need.  And it’s what the preamble of the United States Constitution promised We The People.

Adding to the irony is that when Republicans, especially those from the heartland who are so proud of how they are so independent and don’t need the guvamint coming in with all their pointy-headed liberal ideas about sharing the wealth and all that commie pinko nonsense, are the first hogs to the trough when it comes to farm subsidies and giving out money to farmers hit hard by the tariffs against the Chinese or the Russians, even if they are imposed by their guy in the White House.  And now you have whooping bipartisan support to give out free money to just about everyone whether they need it or not.  But it’s an emergency, isn’t it?  Yes.  But then again, for a lot of people who work three jobs and can’t afford health insurance, even Obamacare, every day life is an emergency, and one check for $1,000 during a global pandemic isn’t going to pay the rent in July.

It’s hard not to be cynical and wonder out loud if this isn’t a rather naked ploy to get Trump back in the good graces of the electorate.  That’s how he’s run his business and his life: he thinks he can throw money at it — or at least say he will — and that will solve the problem, at least in his way of thinking.  Oh, I do believe it’s a good idea, and when the check arrives, I’ll take it and deposit it.  But that doesn’t mean I will vote for him.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Predicting Panic

The one thing that will make Trump and his minions freak out about coronavirus COVID-19 isn’t that a lot of people in the United States will get sick and a number of them will die.  It’s that the stock markets will see what’s coming and do what stock markets do: crater.

Wall Street looked poised for a sharp drop on Monday morning after the outbreak worsened in Europe and the U.S. Oil prices and bond yields tumbled.

Financial markets don’t care whether or not people actually get sick; they can handle that.  What they can’t handle is instability and how governments and populations respond to a crisis.  Right now Trump & Co. have no idea how to deal with the disease or what to say about it.  They’re putting out contrary and contradictory messages, all backed up by the fact that Trump himself has no clue as to what the disease really is, what tools he has to deal with it, and what to do with the flood of information and scientific insight that is out there.  He’s spent most of his term denigrating science and scientists who aren’t sufficiently sycophantic to his political point of view, and he’s playing to his audience at Fox and telling them — mostly old people who have the greatest chance of dying from the disease — that there’s nothing to worry about.  The only sure thing that he and his cronies will do is to find some way to blame this all on Obama, then go off and play golf in Florida.

I’m not a financial guru, but I can see that the worldwide financial markets don’t give a shit about whether or not Trump is dealing with the crisis to his advantage or not.  They see China closing schools and factories and know that will impact whether or not a charter school in Miami will get the delivery of their computers in time to pay for them from a grant before it ends.  They see schools in Italy teaching their students via Skype and know that those kids won’t be shopping in downtown Florence, and they see authorities closing the borders in provinces and know that the tourists won’t be going to Milan to see opera or buy clothes.  They see cruise ships lying idle in the ports in Florida or languishing a hundred miles off the coast of California and know that the people who come off the ships will not be replaced by eager passengers looking forward to being locked in their cabin for two weeks, and they know that places like South Padre and Fort Lauderdale and Naples and Punta Gorda and Key West will see empty streets, beaches, and bars when spring break starts in a week while snowbirds and college kids stay home.

In a number of ways the financial markets are lagging indicators; they catch up with trends rather than lead them.  But when it comes to bad news and uncontrollable things like natural disasters such as hurricanes or epidemics, they are often out in front, often over-reacting but predicting where the money will land somewhere way down the road.  Smart investors have been predicting an economic reckoning for Trump’s financial maladroitness for years, saying it was just a matter of time before the unsustainable tax policies and literally staggering handling of the U.S. economy would end up teetering on the edge of disaster.  They just couldn’t say for certain what would or could cause it.  Now we know.  It’s not just some microscopic life form that makes people sick and spreads easily.  It’s that the people who have been warned for years that something like this would come along were ignored, then mocked, then vilified, and finally proven right.

And karma will exact her price: the idiot Rep. Matt Gaetz, who mocked the coronavirus by wearing a gas mask on the House floor, represents the district in Florida where the first fatality from the disease occurred.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for the coming year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019. There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.

That was an easy A.  As of today, the articles of impeachment are still with the House as Speaker Pelosi holds on to them.

The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing. Despite that, see above.

I get a C on that.  There were no leaks and the Mueller report was too nuanced for the punditry to read it and spit out sound bites.  The unintended consequence, though, was that the day after Mr. Mueller testified before Congress, Trump picked up the phone and placed an overseas call to Ukraine.

There will be no wall. There never will be. Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.

That was a gimme.

There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke. There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.

Another gimme, more’s the pity.

Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.

Roe vs. Wade will still stand.

With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.

An A- on these three.  As of today, Obamacare is still in place but the Supreme Court is sniffing around the whack-ass lower court ruling, so see below, and the same goes for Roe v. Wade.  The House has passed over 250 bills and sent them on to the Senate, but Mitch McConnell has not touched them, and won’t.

We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020. I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes? That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.

A big old red F on that one.

The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations. The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space. But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.

That’s a C.  It hasn’t happened yet, but with the deficit doubling since Trump took office, something will have to give.  The question was — and remains — when will it?

There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening. Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.

That’s an A.  It’s already happening.

I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.

Another big old red F, right up there with the Dolphins and the Lions ending up in the Superbowl in 2020.

Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.

Things went pretty much as planned this year.  I retired on August 31 and started my new part-time jobs the next week.  The run of “Can’t Live Without You” was great, and I had a very busy year in getting plays done and conferences attended and new friends made from Miami to Alaska.

On to the predictions:

  • Trump will survive impeachment.  The fix is in.  Revelations about his corruption will keep on coming, and yet the Republicans will cower with him.  It will be his big campaign rallying point.
  • I have no idea who the Democratic Party will nominate for president, and neither do you, but whoever it is will beat Trump in November despite the best efforts of the Kremlin.  I hope it is by such a margin that even Fox News will call it a blowout.  Trump will scream and carry on about it being rigged, but by this time in 2020, he’ll be doing everything he can to trash the place on the way out the door with pardons and lame-duck appointments of Nazi sympathizers and pedophiles.  (If I’m wrong on this and Trump is reelected, I’m moving to Montserrat.  It’s safer to live on an island with an active volcano.)
  • Obamacare will survive in the Supreme Court but by a 5-4 ruling.
  • There will be more restrictions placed on reproductive rights, but Roe v. Wade will not be struck down.
  • The Democrats will take back the Senate by one seat and all that bottled-up legislation will finally get through in time for the House, still under Nancy Pelosi, to pass them all again and get them signed by the new president.
  • The economic bubble will burst, the trade deals with China and Europe will screw over the American consumer, and it’s going to look like one of those 19,000 piece domino videos.  Trump and Fox will blame the Democrats for the monster deficit and carry on about how we need to cut more taxes and destroy Social Security and Medicare to save them.
  • Even with the Democrats taking over in 2020, they won’t be in office until January 2021, so I’ll save predictions for what they’ll come up with in terms of health care, gun safety, and climate change until this time next year, assuming my house in the suburbs of Miami at 10 feet above sea level is still on dry land.
  • As for me, my playwriting and productions thereof will continue.  I’m planning on my 29th trip to the Inge Festival in May and hope to be invited back to Alaska in June.  As I’m writing this, the novel that I started twenty-five years ago tomorrow is on the glide path to land by the time I go back to work next week.  I can predict that it will never be published because I never meant it to be.
  • As for hopes for the new year, I hope for continued good health and fortune for my friends and family.  I can’t ask for more than that.

Okay, your turn.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday

I’m all in favor of capitalism and patronizing local businesses, so if spending money for Christmas is what you want to do, go forth, drive carefully, bundle up if it’s cold, and remember where you parked.

Photo by Cris Faga/REX/Shutterstock

Me, I’m staying home, doing some writing and reflection, and enjoying a four-day weekend.