Archive for the 'Government' Category

I’m on sensory overload

Normally a placid, accepting person with a don’t rock the boat mentality, my patience has been worn dangerously thin by the pandemic. So thin that I physically react to sharp sounds, like the shutting of doors and even the clink of new ice cubes as they exit the freezer cube tray and drop into the awaiting receptacle. I’m convinced that I no longer require my hearing aids since I hear everything within a three-block radius.

We’re in a race. A race featuring two competitors, the Covid-19 virus and the County of Ventura. Winner take all.

I’ve adjusted my life to the pandemic. I’ve tightened up my exposure to situations that seemed to almost dare the little Covids to bite me.

I can be seen wearing a tight fitting, blood clotting mask at 6am while I walk down Montgomery Street to the gym in the dark without encountering another soul.

I’ve have worn several layers of skin off my hands as I meticulously scrub them with soap and sanitizer, even though I have touched nothing but the inside of my coat pockets.

I now religiously launder masks that were previously left alone to accumulate substantial quantities of food particles in the belief that the stoppages caused by my meal detritus would produce a significant barrier to the entry of the virus.

I don’t touch door handles as I enter or exit business establishments. Instead, I use my well insulated upper arm to deftly shove the door open in a manner that offers me enough time to navigate through the opening before the door can slam itself into my fragile body.

I avoid using cash. Paper currency surely harbors the virus in its green ink. I always leave my coins on the counter as a tip, even at the dry cleaners, the pharmacy, and the grocery; I get a lot of smiles that way.

I created an Excel spreadsheet that records any encounter with a living being…including animals.  I carefully monitor the 14-day incubation period during which I wait to see if a confrontation can be dropped from my active list. It’s a sobering exercise that reveals the heart-stopping volume of such encounters and which does nothing to tame my blood pressure.

I visit with friends only via iPhone and Zoom, but I’m not totally convinced that the Covids haven’t found a way to participate clandestinely in the meetups. I have toyed with the idea of wearing a mask during these calls but decided that my friends would not understand and would strongly suggest that I seek professional help.

I’ve signed up to receive notices from the Ventura County Recovers website. Valuable information is communicated daily that includes new case counts, deaths and my favorite…where I stand in the pecking order to receive the vaccine. Old guys like me have been assigned to Phase 1B, Tier 1, right behind the phase that includes mortuary and cemetery workers. So, I can either get the vaccine or die in the process and be disposed of by my betters.

Veterinarians are treated no better than I, which is probably a mistake. If we lose veterinarians to the virus, Fido won’t be able to get his rabies vaccine, leaving the door wide open to a rabies pandemic. It offers me a double whammy: the option of dying from rabies-caused muscle paralysis or suffocating due to the diminished lung capacity offered by Covid.  Poor Fido, poor me.

None of this irritates me. What does make me want to leap from my chair and strangle someone is the unbelievably shoddy way that the vaccine has been produced, distributed and administered.

It’s not like we just heard about vaccines from some extraterrestrial source. No alien being rang the White House doorbell at the 11th hour and said “Surprise, here’s how you make vaccines…go for it.” We had fair warning; we weren’t left alone with just a three-day weekend to work out the details. We had plenty of time to whip out an Excel spreadsheet and document a viable plan. My newly retired daughter could have done it in a week, by herself, with a long lunch hour and without help.

Now we find ourselves dependent on quickly producing the vaccine and efficiently sticking it into 350 million people. We are dependent on each county doing the right thing. Dependent on each bureaucracy to treat people fairly. And, as a result of this Three Stooges planning method, what we have is a very mixed, everchanging, irritating comedy show.

Three days ago, at 6pm. I received an email from the county updating me with the latest bad news…You’re out of luck…no vaccines for you ancient beings for at least two, maybe three, weeks. Find something to do with your spare time.

Unwilling to leave my life to a chance encounter with an asymptomatic virus carrier for the next three weeks, I considered holding my breath for that period of time or laying low at the bottom of my jacuzzi to avoid ingesting any new Covids.

While I was weighing the benefits of each option, a second email from the county tooted its arrival on my iPhone at 7pm.  Good news…pay no attention to the bad news delivered by our 6pm email. Salvation has arrived! You old farts who have managed to be a burden on society for at least 75 years can sign up for your vaccination. Move your fat ass off the couch and make an appointment before we change our minds. More emails to follow.

As a dutiful ward of the state, I made an appointment for 3:40 today.

I’ve spent the last 36 hours worrying about them running out of vaccine at 3:30.

Well Donald, you’ve finally done it

Well, Donald, you’ve finally done it.

Your ego and lies have taken root in the unfathomable depths of the minds of many of your most ardent supporters.  Your unwavering need to satisfy yourself at a dire cost to others has brought us to the scene I am currently witnessing in our most sacred of places, the Congress of the United States.

Heeding your calls this morning to get tougher, hundreds left your rally and stormed the Congress. Here is what one observer, Washington correspondent Michael Schmidt said…

They said that throngs of Trump supporters left his rally to head directly for the Capitol, marching down Constitution Avenue, chanting “U-S-A” and shouting insults to Biden.

Few of the Trump supporters were wearing masks and many had American flags in their hands. In an odd twist, some of the protesters were blaring the song “Y.M.C.A.” from speakers as well as Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.”

Although you promised those at your rally that you would accompany them to the Capitol, you went back to the comfort of the White House where you angrily Tweeted…

Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!

Vice-president Pence, being faithful to the Constitution, spoke loudly this morning when he rejected your demands that he illegally reject the results of the election. You must have been enraged, especially because your attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had assured you that Mr. Pence could follow your directive and toss the electoral votes of your choice. Given Mr. Giuliani’s lack of any success in convincing the courts of anything, you should have relied on someone else for advice…Maybe one of the convicted felons that you recently pardoned, like Michael Flynn who urged you to declare martial law a few weeks ago.

Your willingness to sacrifice the basic principles of our country to satisfy your insatiable ego is half the reason why we find ourselves a tragically divided nation. The other half of the reason can be traced directly to the elected representatives who were doing your bidding in an effort to advance their own careers.

Led by Senator Ted Cruz, they demeaned the efforts and thoughtful conclusions of state legislatures, election workers and the courts, all of whom testified to the accuracy and fairness of the votes cast by their citizens. Instead, Cruz and his cohorts continued their lying and the grandstanding they hoped would gain favor with enough of their constituents to keep them on the public dole, and maybe run for President.

They knew they were wrong. They wanted a spot in the limelight and never thought it possible that what they were doing would result in violence or rip through the very fabric of this country. 

Some less faithful to you were strong enough to recognize the truth and said so…

“This is what you’ve gotten, guys,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, yelled as the mayhem unfolded in the Senate chamber, apparently addressing his colleagues who were leading the charge to press Mr. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.

Representative Nancy Mace, a freshman Republican from South Carolina, described seeing protesters “assaulting Capitol Police.” In a Twitter post, Ms. Mace shared a video of the chaos and wrote, “This is wrong. This is not who we are. I’m heartbroken for our nation today.”

Even Mitch McConnell rose at the debate and sternly warned his colleagues of the dire consequences of the tactics used by Cruz and Company.

But there were more to blame. The self-dealing political leaders led by Cruz were accompanied by other, less prominent, co-conspirators. They are those among us who supported conspiracy theories, believed without evidence that the election was rigged, and refused to criticize you when they knew full well that you were lying, obstructing and violating the rule of law. Perhaps their original motivations were benign, but in the face of the facts they have been unable to say I was wrong, and even doubled down as your image, like that of Dorian Gray, deteriorated.

They have had the opportunity to call you out. They have chosen instead to luxuriate in the benefits of your presidency…their 401k, the stock market, freedom from burdensome regulations and a laissez faire attitude. While others have suffered greatly during your time in office, your supporters loved your policies and excused your behavior as an inconsequential aberration that was worth tolerating while you showered them with their every wish.

I’m continuing to watch the scene unfold. Where are you; shouldn’t you be there with your supporters? Are you hunkered down? Is your hair mussed, even a little?

Your co-conspirators are hiding under their desks, getting nervous and Tweeting the need for calm, and law and order.  In a curious twist of fate, they are protesting against the lawless protesters. It’s a little late for that. You’ve created the beast and he is now attacking the trainer.

Good job, Donnie. You’re the center of the universe.

My e-mail runneth over

I thought the election ended six weeks ago…foolish me. Failure to elect two U.S. Senators from Georgia has precipitated a run-off and the attendant pleas for funds with which to wage battle.

The Republican candidates, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, are pitted against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rafael Warnock. I am intimately acquainted with Ossof and Warnock as evidenced by multiple e-mails delivered each day. Failing to consider the consequence of my actions, I made an early contribution to each of their campaigns without realizing that this would make me fair game for additional requests…my bad.

As justification for embracing this wholesale e-mail onslaught, social scientists would have me believe that the rapid-fire delivery of hourly messages will eventually, like brainwashing, break down one’s defenses and result in making unaffordable contributions with my nearly maxed-out credit card.

Things seemed to be moving swimmingly with Loeffler and Perdue as they aped the rantings of their savior, the President. Ossof and Warnock seemed to be stuck complaining about the President with stories that we’ve already heard. Anxious to fully concentrate on who gets to the Super Bowl, most Georgians have probably already made their choice and are simply awaiting the results delivered by Russian-hacked election machines and hanging chads.

Even the Senate fell into line by approving a stimulus bill that would provide $600 to the eligible unemployed, just enough to have a decent night out if there was only someplace to go. I’ve been waiting so long for the conclusion of this tortuous Congressional process, that the eventual approval of a $900 billion aid package seemed a bit like chicken feed, even though the bill itself ran 5,600 pages.

It’s not the best of bills, but that’s what comes of compromise. We can explain, the politicos figured, the nuances of the bill to our constituents, knowing full well that their attention will be focused on the $600 Treasury check in hand and the Super Bowl…not necessarily in that order.

What a relief thought McConnell and Pelosi. We’ll be home for the holidays. McConnell was especially ebullient with his primary role in the proceedings. Speaking to his constituents he promised, “Help is on the way”. A job well done. Just sit back and relax.

And then came Trump. Feeling unwanted, he took action that would force everyone to refocus on him and forget about the Super Bowl. First, he refused to sign a military spending bill that had veto-proof majorities in Congress. A number of provisions irritated him including stripping the names of Confederate officers from military bases. Other objections included his demand that legal shields be stripped from social media companies…the ones that seemed to delight in criticizing him.

Still feeling unloved, he then took aim at the $900 billion Covid-19 aid package by declaring it a “disgrace”. Until this fit of pique, Trump had left the negotiations to Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin. Steve, believing he had a done deal on Monday as a result of the President’s earlier promise to sign the bill, said that the $600 payments could be distributed “as early as next week.” In a CNBC interview on Monday, Mr. Mnuchin said, “It was a great birthday present for me to have Congress pass this today.”

Not so fast, Steve. Better ask your wife to return that present to Amazon.

On Tuesday, apparently forgetting which Party he belongs to, Trump demanded that the payments be raised from $600 to $2,000. Republicans who had been loudly celebrating their success in capping the $600 came unglued. Were they supposed to support Trump’s newly discovered generosity, or should they risk the President’s animosity which will reign supreme in Mira Lago after he packs his bags and rolls out of the White House? 

Like a boa constrictor sensing a potential victim, Nancy Pelosi congratulated the President for his newly found sensitivity to his citizens’ plight. She reminded him that this is what the Democrats always wanted anyway and offered to bring the $2,000 plan to Congress for unanimous consent. Knowing full well that the Republicans would reject it and create a firestorm of criticism, she licked her lips and spent the rest of the day waiting for other diabolical opportunities.

The Republican senators in the Georgia runoff found it difficult to extricate themselves from their original announcement supporting the $600 bill. When asked what she thought about tripling the payments, the best that Kelly Loeffleur could offer was that it might be ok if we could squeeze the extra bucks out of other wasteful government spending. That approach should be doable well before the next ice age, well after the Georgia runoff.

Faced with a delay in passing any kind of bill that would provide financial relief, an exasperated Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, Twittered“Does the president realize that unemployment benefits expire the day after Christmas?”

The answer to the Senator’s query is, probably not. I wondered if President Grinch even knew when Christmas was.  And then I got this e-mail from the National Republican Congressional Committee, labeled Christmas Card Update. It warned me…We noticed that you STILL have not signed President Trump’s card. HURRY–failure to respond tonight will result in your exclusive spot at the top of the card being given to the next top Trump Patriot on our list.

At least someone will be happy.

Waiting’s a Bitch

It’s warm today and I’m sitting outside soaking up some heat. The air is still as concrete, and the only noise is coming from my neighbor’s pool pump.

Funny, I’ve never met this neighbor even though I can hear her movements on the other side of my concrete block fence. I wonder if she’s a Republican.

I wonder if she is as agitated as I am waiting for this thing to end.

Waiting for Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada. A strange mix of states, all of which are mucking about in a feeble attempt to count ballots. To determine who’s the next guy to suffer the job of President.

Why must I go through this ordeal every four years? An ordeal that plays mind-games with my head. That takes me from high to low and back again.

It all began well before voting day, November 3. The onslaught of early voting only added to the suspense. Who were these people who voted early?

I started counting the days until election day two months ago. Watching my candidate on the screen, I found myself hoping he wouldn’t fall down and die…at least not until November 4. I feared that a Covid nasty would bring him to his knees.

I prayed that he’d stay conscious and erect at least until his running mate could assume the office.

Two weeks ago, I called son David and asked him what would happen if my candidate died after the election but before taking the oath of office on Inauguration Day. David Googled and found that the elected vice-president would take the oath. Unfulfilled, I asked him what would happen if both of them died before taking the oath; I think he’s still working on it. Meanwhile I have morbid thoughts about flag-waving guys wearing cowboy hats, racing around in souped-up Ford F-150’s.

I foolishly thought that I would feel better the closer we got to election day. Opinion polls seemed to be headed in the right direction, a comforting thought until I remembered what happened four years ago. To overconfident supporters I said things like, “Don’t count your chickens…” Or, “It ain’t over til the fat lady sings.” Or the Yiddish, “Be quiet, you’ll give yourself a kinehora.” Mostly I just smiled and said nothing.

On election day Jackie was in LA. I was alone with a big TV set and afraid to watch it. I promised myself that I would not turn it on until 5pm. I called Bocalli’s and ordered a medium sausage pizza that left me without an appetite. I made myself a vodka martini that did little to calm my nerves. It took forever to chew the drink’s four olives with pimentos; I was certain they would ever enter my digestive system.

I turned on CNN which was once once a reliable, neutral observer. It was either that or MSNBC which probably called the election for my guy months ago. Or Fox, that rivals MSNBC for best in class for fantasy.

I sat on the couch, chewed on a lukewarm piece of pizza and stared at CNN. John King was standing in front of an electronic map, waving at it with what looked like a Sharpie. Magically, the map segments moved at his command and produced new maps of various permutations and combinations. I was impressed with his sleight of hand and his grasp of numbers but had no idea what he was talking about.

Only one hour past the election, and he was comparing historical data with current voting trends. What-if statements poured from his mouth as though he had a goal of predicting the outcome based on just the votes cast by my Aunt Tilly and my Uncle Max.

It was depressing. I watched the infallible polls being shredded. My guy was a sure loser. Maybe a good thing, since he probably wouldn’t make it to Inauguration Day anyway.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I brought up Netflix on my Roku TV and spotted Moneyball. The ten-year-old movie based on a true story stars Brad Pitt as the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team. The team has just lost three of its top stars and Pitt has hired a numbers whiz kid played by Jonah Hill. They use statistics and probabilities to remake the team to the consternation of its on-field, old-time manager played by the late and lamented Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

I tried to keep my mind on the film but was constantly drawn back to CNN. I flipped back and forth. John King was still dazzling, and I was getting more depressed as the numbers seemed to be beating up on my guy.

It got worse and I fell asleep, probably from a combination of two martinis and a desire to escape reality. I awoke at 11, said good night to a tireless John King, sent Jackie a text, and went to bed where I spent a restless night having muddled thoughts about the upcoming calamity. I even tried to rationalize the worst by thinking about sweet revenge in 2022 and again in 2024…when I’ll be 85.

It’s no better today. I visit the NY Times, CNN, and Facebook with the rapidity of a Gattling gun. I wait for the other shoe to fall, hoping for closure yet dreading the outcome. 

Tomorrow I’ll knock on my neighbor’s door. Maybe she knows something. 

It is a big deal

I’ve exposed myself.

Not to small children; and always fully clothed.

No, I’ve thrown caution to the wind and put myself in situations that are simply irresistible to the little Covid-19 viruses. They look at me like fresh meat; someone who is old and unable to resist their charms. Someone of the sort I often hear referred to as one who would have probably died anyway.

Jackie and I have visited the innards of restaurants and dined in what I laughingly call mask and wipe conditions. We’ve sat on our favorite Arcade bench on Sundays stuffing our faces with Acai Bowls while surrounded by hordes of visitors who’ve left the safety of the big city and brought their asymptomatic disease-ridden bodies to our normally pristine Ojai.

We sit apart from friends at weekly backyard tete-a-tetes, yet we feel little compunction touching a hand or sitting while a guest stands over us and delivers a dissertation filled with water droplets dredged from their innards.

Our beloved cars are no longer sanctuaries. I took a good friend to the doctor on Wednesday. Our sixty-mile round-trip was punctuated by sidelong glances at each other as we silently wondered if our travelling companions included the little Covid guys. It was a long trip.

Jackie and I ended our customary five-mile hike through the Arbolada with a visit to Java and Joes where we waited for our coffee and reminisced about the passing of one of its owners. Lorraine, a delightful personality had died just prior to the ascendancy of the virus and was blessedly relieved of that nightmare.

Having memorized the Java and Joe protocol, I invited Ralph to join me on Tuesday. A good friend with a perpetually smiling face, I enjoy his company. Since his coming over from the Dark Side because of Trump’s ascendancy, Ralph and I tend to agree on the larger issues more often.

So, I was surprised when half-way through our medium roast coffee, he said, “Why are they making such a big deal out of this George Floyd thing?  Protests, riots, speeches, cop blasting. The cops are always doing something stupid. That big funeral. When have they ever done anything like that for others? And anyway, what about the Mexicans. They’re always getting the short end of the stick. And they don’t riot in the streets.”

I had to take a breath and pause before answering. But all I could say was, “It was a tipping point. Blacks have been screwed so often that the Floyd thing just set them off.”

We finished our coffee in relative silence, hoping we hadn’t pissed each other off. I walked home thinking what a lame thing I had offered in defense of the events precipitated by Floyd’s killing. A killing that was launched by a counterfeit $20 bill. A killing shown on national TV just like it was the Super Bowl. A killing perpetrated by a cop who treated it like a sporting event. A killing that some of our elected leaders took far too long to condemn. A killing that some attempted to bury by focusing on the looting done by the demonstrators.

If I had been more knowledgeable at the coffee shop, I would have itemized the things that had contributed to Floyd’s murder and more specifically why African Americans are making, as Ralph said, such “a big deal” out of it.

Because the median White family has 41 times more wealth than the median Black family.

Because in the last quarter of 2019, the median White worker made 28 percent more than the typical Black worker.

Because the U.S. poverty rate for White men is 7 percent, yet it is 20 percent for Black women.

Because, for each 100,000 Americans, 55 Blacks have died from the coronavirus, compared to 23 Whites.

Because African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.

Because African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is 6 times that of whites.

Because on average, nonwhite school districts received $2,200 less per student than districts that were predominantly white.

Because, in 2019, African Americans were more than three times more likely to be killed by police but were less likely to carry guns.

Yes, I would have cited these statistics and convinced myself that Ralph would clearly understand why this is such “a bid deal.”

But then he might have paused and said, “You’re a Jew. You’ve had your share of holocausts and lesser acts of discrimination. Where are the Jewish protests and street riots? The flamboyant displays of anger and the resounding demands for action. The cop bashing.”

And if I had thought of it, I would have said, “The difference is that whenever I am threatened, I run toward the police, not away from them.”

It’s hot…

It’s hot

All over the world

You’d think we had enough to worry about

What with the virus

Then some asshole puts his knee on a black guy’s neck

And kills him

Then some other black folks decide they’ve had enough

And they protest

Peacefully

Then it becomes less peaceful

And riots light up the night sky

Some protesters break windows

And steal from CVS, Macys and momma papa stores

Because they’re hot, pissed and poor

And some are very bad

Just like white folks

Then some mucky-muck shyster tweets

A shit storm

And says that the Democrats, the mayors and the governors are all deadbeats

For not doing their jobs by killing more black folks

And then he promises to do it

With dogs and space age weapons

Just to calm things down

Then a bunch of protesters stand outside the shyster’s home

And throw rocks and burning bottles at his white house

And the shyster retreats to his basement

When what he really should be doing

Is speaking to the people with non-threatening words

But he’s too busy tweeting from behind a wall

And blaming China and Barack Obama for everything

Including the shortage of covid-19 face masks

Then the same shyster decides he wants a photo op

And uses tear gas and flash grenades

To clear a path through peaceful protesters

So he can look like he’s in charge

He holds a bible in front of him like a man of god

And says that he loves black people

Then the shyster’s bodyguard promises more violence

If the black folks’ violence isn’t less violent real soon

The same black folks that the shyster loves

And then the shyster promises to use his clout

To bring the army to the party

So things will be less violent

And then we can all be just like before

Hot.

Who Was That Masked Man?

If you haven’t spent all your time violating social distancing rules and fingering the cops in Newport Beach, you probably know about Mr. Trump’s carefully thought out cure for Covid-19.  His willingness to experiment on others with ultraviolet light in combination with the injection of household disinfectants, proves that he is indeed a modern day Jonas Salk, and an expert in dreaming up innovative techniques that will allow us to get back to what we were doing before the virus. Like watching TV and boozing it with the neighbors, eating triple-decker Carl’s cheeseburgers in the comfort of their yellow plastic seats, and having sex with strangers who don’t wear masks.

I also have it on good authority that Mr. Trump is convinced that there are untapped benefits to the revival of other drugs and procedures that were once believed to cure many challenging conditions. Accordingly, he has ordered Dr. Deborah Birx, the president’s corona response coordinator, to research possible solutions for eliminating the virus.

You may recall seeing Dr. Birx on TV, head down and looking for a place to crawl under, as Mr. Trump described his enthusiasm for the Bright Light and Lysol Solution to Covid-19. Her less than enthusiastic reception to Mr. Trump’s scientific dissertation last Thursday was replaced on the following Sunday talk shows with a more nuanced response; one that undoubtedly resulted from a hastily convened private chalkboard presentation to her by the president.

Since then Dr. Birx has focused exclusively on the president’s priorities. Her plate is overflowing as she wades through trepanning (drilling holes in your skull to allow the escape of evil spirits), bloodletting with leeches, electroshock therapy, beneficial maggots, and frontal lobotomies like the one performed on Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Not to be upstaged, the vice-president, looking for something to do, has formed a special task force dedicated to the evaluation of the benefits of wearing face masks. A true American hero, Mr. Pence has established two volunteer groups. One in which everyone wears a face mask and a second which includes only him. Over time, Mr. Pence will compare the number of infections in the masked group with those of his own. He has studied the creation of double-blind tests and is convinced that his methodology is likely to produce one of the most exciting outcomes of the pandemic.

During a trip to the Mayo Clinic on Tuesday, Mr. Pence identified a further benefit to keeping his face uncovered. Doing so allows him to “look workers in the eye” while thanking them for their efforts. When reminded by his aides, who were all wearing masks, that a mask does not cover the eyes, Mr. Pence said “Really?” Asked by reporters whether his lack of a facial covering was a knee-jerk reaction to the president’s disdain for face masks, the vice-president reiterated the importance of his double-blind test and said that putting a mask on would invalidate the results, waste taxpayer money, and keep him from fulfilling god’s plan.

Mitch McConnell, who took time out from suggesting that cities and states declare bankruptcy rather than take federal government handouts, joined the face mask discussion. A frequent guest on Fox News Sunday, he took nearly all his allotted time with Chris Wallace to thank the president and vice-president for their leadership and their unselfish willingness to die because they refused to wear a fifty-cent mask.

Mr. McConnell then revealed that being patriotic, he had joined Mr. Pence in his double-blind test and was fully committed to seeing it through despite the probable dangers of wearing a face mask. He explained that he would religiously wear a mask, even while eating. When Chris noted that Mitch’s approval ratings had suffered a thirty-point drop in the latest polls, the Senator opined that the mask might have the additional benefit of helping him remain hidden from view and thereby retain his Senate seat.

Struggling to keep political pace with the president’s call for more virus research, Joe Biden had mixed feelings about wearing a face mask. Queried by Chuck Todd on this Sunday’s Meet the Press, he said he doesn’t want to look like a pussy and so he makes his on-screen appearances unmasked. Concern about contracting the virus coupled with his advanced age, inability to complete a sentence, and his questionable hair style, Mr. Biden admitted to being torn. Helpfully, Mr. Todd suggested that Joe might consider joining the vice-president’s double-blind face mask trial and so put the blame for wearing one on the rules of the trial.

To which Mr. Biden responded, “Why don’t you say something nice instead of being a smartass all the time?”

Pot Parade

You’ve come a long way, baby.

When I was much younger, the thought of smoking pot was very exciting. That I might be arrested and jailed for possession of the forbidden substance made it an adventure. Keeping it secret from friends and relatives only added to the enjoyment of what was, at most, a once a year habit…I swear.

My buddy Ralph and I would enjoy a joint and, when we had more time for the body to recognize the drug, ingest it baked in a brownie. I remember the first time we ate one of the forbidden desserts. We were sprawled on the floor of his den waiting for our stomachs to absorb the drug and deliver it our brain.  After ten minutes, I said “I feel nothing.”

“Me neither” he agreed. Twenty minutes later, as we were about to call it a day, I said “I feel a itty-bitty tingle in my left elbow.” And then the world turned itself on for us.

Once legally unavailable at all, clearer heads eventually prevailed, and the drug was provided to those who could conjure up a medical prescription. Thankfully, California voters in 2018, having seen the light, legalized the sale and consumption of pot, weed, grass, dope, herb, reefer and joints. As expected, a raft of regulations accompanied the burgeoning pot parade.

The California Bureau of Cannabis Control is largely responsible for promulgating and enforcing the regulations. The first paragraph of the regulations gives you some idea of what’s in store for anyone wishing to make a legal buck supplying the masses with the mind-altering substance…

  • A temporary license is a conditional license that authorizes the licensee to engage in commercial cannabis activity as would be permitted under the privileges of a non-temporary license of the same type. A temporary licensee shall follow all applicable rules and regulations as would be required if the licensee held a non-temporary license of the same type. (b) A temporary license does not obligate the Bureau to issue a non-temporary license nor does the temporary license create a vested right in the holder to either an extension of the temporary license or to the granting of a subsequent non-temporary license.

The first dozen pages of the regulations are devoted entirely to guiding one through the arduous process of filling out an application to sell weed. Notwithstanding the not insignificant regulatory obstacles thrown in the path of anxious sellers-to-be, the demand for licenses has surged ahead with as much determination as one seeking cheap tickets to Hamilton, the musical.

There are now three pot dispensaries in Ojai. All are located on Bryant Street along with the humane society, a self-storage facility, a veterinary hospital, a fitness center and a clandestine mobile home park. If we could coax Trader Joe’s to take up residence, one might never need to leave the cozy confines of Bryant Street.

On Saturday, Jackie and I were finishing up a $43 lunch of two salads and an order of fries at Ojai’s newest touchy-feelie restaurant when she said, “It’s such a nice day. Why don’t we walk over to Bryant Street and visit one of the pot palaces.” Excitedly throwing caution to the wind, I quickly ate my last fry that I had dipped in something that pretended to be mayonnaise and leapt to my feet, ready to take on a brave new world.

No one walks down Bryant Street on Saturdays. It has no views, no trees, no sidewalk and a host of buildings that look like temporary facades put in place by a Hollywood movie crew. A perfect place to hide a pot dispensary from public view.

We arrived at 408 Bryant Circle, Unit C, the home of the Sespe Creek Collective. Unassuming from the outside, I entered expecting to find a host of shoeless young people adorned with pierced noses, eyelids and other desecrated body parts. Tattoos were sure to be front and center. Harleys were certain to be their conveyance of choice.

We found ourselves in a waiting room overseen by a very large security guard, and two normal appearing people seated behind a desk. The large guard asked me to remove my hat so that the overhead cameras could have a clear view of my smiling face. I fully expected to find myself emblazoned on a wanted poster in the next episode of HBO’s True Detective.

The acceptance process included electronic registration into Sespe’s database. No more hiding from the Feds for me. Anonymity was no longer an option. I was sure that a call for my apprehension would soon deliver the FBI to my Upper Ojai doorstep.

We waited for a few minutes. A door opened and a smiling young woman greeted us with “Hi. I’m Cathy and welcome to Sespe Creek. Come with me and I’ll give you a tour of the dispensary.” We entered a showroom that was modern, clean and tidy. A dozen customers milled about. Of various ages, none sported visible tattoos or extraordinary skin punctures. In short, they looked a lot like us.

A myriad of products met our gaze. I must have looked as wide-eyed as the kids who entered Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Paying close attention to Cathy, I learned that there are two basic types of compounds produced by the cannabis plant. One is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the substance ingested by Ralph and me that produced various flights of fancy as we sprawled on the floor of his den. The other, CBD (cannabidiol) has no hallucinogenic properties and therefore no fun; it does, however, have purported medical benefits.

Impressed by Cathy’s abundant fact base and hoping for some improvement to my left knee, I bought some CBD infused salve that promised to reduce pain and swelling. But just in case the salve didn’t work, I bought some THC infused mind-altering bite sized licorice packed in really cool individual wrappers.

Cathy took my credit card like any other establishment would and placed my goodies in a cute paper bag that was imprinted with various cautionary statements that I dismissed out of hand. Happily, we left the facility looking forward to using our new-found goodies.

Here’s hoping my knee aches.

Is anyone listening?

Many years ago, in a country far, far away, there lived an old man who thought he had seen it all. He had been through every kind of natural and man-made disaster but had managed to cheat death and live a peaceful existence. Until now.

His neighbors and friends, having been impacted by global warming, immigration, declining food stocks and 24/7 exposure to events around the world, had grown increasingly sullen, insular and argumentative.  Mere differences of opinion could not be solved by peaceful discussion. A profound loss of common decency was replaced by strident self-interest. This rapidly deteriorating state-of-affairs was something the old man hadn’t  seen before. His neighbors, once unified and caring, had turned surly. They no longer spoke to one another. They only sought the company of those who were like-minded and who shared similar opinions of right and wrong.

People separated into two distinct groups, each easily identifiable by the color of their clothing. One group wore red. Red shirts, red pants and red shoes. The other wore blue, including their underwear. The Blues walked down the left side of the only street in the country, while the Reds filled the right. Some Reds and some Blues, more strident than others in their group, wore large felt hats emblazoned with their group motto Me First. They also carried large signs that, in appropriately colored letters, shouted their group’s demands. They carried the signs wherever they went; into the supermarket, the church and the schools.

Their children were indoctrinated from the age of three by TVs, computer screens and smart phones. Talking heads poured forth their vitriol twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Panel discussions deteriorated into near brawls. Children freely mocked other children without punishment.

Each group embraced leaders who promised to ignore the pleadings of the other group.  Once amiable and social despite their differences, the leaders of each group now shunned their counterparts and never crossed the street. Eye contact became rare; verbal intercourse was only used in dire circumstances. The unwillingness of the groups to speak with each other left the street in disrepair and eventually all public conveyances had to be removed from active service. Unable to move without restraint, people became even more insular.

The only meaningful activity was voting in elections that occurred every two years. Pitting Blues against Reds, these elections were preceded by attack-ads that focused on the personal traits and imaginary foibles of one’s opponent. Real issues, in particular the much-needed repair of the only street in the country, were either ignored or promises made that were either impractical or required solutions that were well beyond the available financing. Elections regularly caused the in-party to lose control. Every two years, any positive steps taken by the party last in power were undone by the incoming party.  Soon, fed up by the lack of any solution, the street issue faded into obscurity.

Although elections occurred only every two years, campaigning was non-stop. Fundraising for candidates began the day after the bi-annual election. Pleas for funding soon eclipsed the funds raised in the last election. People, fearing that the other side would eclipse their own meager resources, poured money into the pockets of their chosen candidates. Property taxes, income taxes and other revenue sources were regularly reduced by the party in power in order to fund candidates.

Other public services began to diminish. Schools closed, police and fire personnel were laid off and the street continued to crumble. Each side blamed the other for this lack of service. Those who won an election would initially promise to create greater unity with the other party. This commitment soon faded, and threats continued to be hurled across the potholed street by both Reds and Blues. Blues who were seen consorting with Reds were deemed traitors. Reds suffered the same consequences. Meaningful discourse ended.

Financially bankrupt, their infrastructure in ruins and unwilling to compromise, the country became insolvent and unmanageable.  Other countries surrounding it viewed the dire situation as an opportunity for expansion. Efforts to fend off the attackers weakened the country and left it without recourse. It gave up and was absorbed by its strongest neighbor.

The old man, now close to death, walked the barely recognizable street. He confronted his former countrymen, whose Red and Blue uniforms were now in tatters and indistinguishable. He asked, “How did this happen?” But no one listened.

Has the pendulum swung too far?

“I want all Jews to die.”

That chilling statement was made by Robert Bowers, the man who shot and murdered eleven Jews on Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

My second thought, immediately following the realization that a new horror had emerged, was Thank God the shooter wasn’t Muslim or Hispanic. Adding more fuel to the xenophobic rantings of the president of the United States and others who condemn or ridicule people for their religious beliefs or who fear for their lives was unnecessary in the already supercharged atmosphere surrounding the mid-term elections.

There is little doubt that the president’s Twitter rants, rallies and politics have exacerbated and made fair game of the practices once held in check by more socially conscious and healing-attuned public servants. Poking fun at the handicapped, demeaning women, excusing the behavior of neo-Nazis and outright bald-faced lies have opened the door to even more despicable acts by others who once were forced to occupy the deep, dark recesses of this America we all love. The improving economy and Wall Street have, until now, served as cover for Republican congressmen who are unwilling to confront this man. Even otherwise observant Christians and Jews, who would normally be repelled by his statements and immoral conduct, are reluctant to reject him due, in part, to their affirmation of his Supreme Court selections and his social agenda.

Trump’s failure to accept any blame for what is happening to the social fabric of this country is evidenced by his continuing assault on the press and his pronouncement of “fake news” on anything that does not fit his view of the world. Despite Saturday’s horror in Pittsburgh, he continued to Tweet on Monday “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open and obvious hostility and report the news accurately and fairly.” Like the failure of his self-appointed commission to bring to light any voter fraud, he offers little evidence of fraudulent reporting. He fails to note that the anger of his base towards the media is fomented by his own “fake news”, offered as red meat to those who believe he can do no wrong.

Anti-Semitism is an unwilling cousin to the xenophobic hysteria surrounding the immigrant caravan headed toward our southern border. Clutching it tightly as a wedge issue in the election, Trump and others have cited unproven and wildly exaggerated claims about the caravan’s composition. At a political rally in Kentucky earlier this month, Mr. Trump declared that Democrats “want to open America’s borders and turn our country into a friendly sanctuary for murderous thugs from other countries who will kill us all.”

George Soros, a Jew, has been widely and falsely claimed to be the principal supporter of the caravan. On October 22, a pipe bomb was found at Mr. Soros’s house; the police have charged a Trump supporter, Cesar Sayoc, with mailing the bombs to Mr. Soros and other Democrats who Trump frequently criticizes.

It is no coincidence that the rise in anti-Semitism has dramatically worsened in the first two years of the Trump presidency. It also coincides with increased Jew hating in Europe. The Anti-Defamation League reported that the U.S. experienced a nearly sixty percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 versus 2016. The League said…

“A confluence of events in 2017 led to a surge in attacks on our community – from bomb threats, cemetery desecrations, white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, and children harassing children at school,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director. “These incidents came at a time when we saw a rising climate of incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in society.

The road to the right continued to broaden with Sunday’s presidential election in Brazil which brought Jair Bolsonaro to lead the government. He has exalted the military, advocated torture, promised to pack the supreme court and threatened to destroy, jail or exile his political opponents. Per the NY Times, he won by tapping into a deep well of resentment at the status quo in Brazil — a country whiplashed by rising crime and two years of political and economic turmoil — and by presenting himself as the alternative.

When I was a child, I lived in a Chicago ghetto where I believed that everyone in my world was Jewish, other than the janitor. When it was Passover, there was only a vast emptiness in my elementary school. Since my parents and friends were from Russia, I assumed that everyone in that country was Jewish. Except for the language, I might as well have been living in Israel. I was comfortable with my identity.

That changed in high school and reversed itself completely in college. I learned that I was a member of a very small minority with different holidays, different foods and a different house of worship. I became increasingly aware of my Jewish history and I was less comfortable with who I was. I felt different. Terms like The Holocaust, anti-Semitism and bigotry became frequently used parts of my vocabulary. I married, reared our children in the synagogue and counted on it as my go-to sanctuary. I have generally been on the fence about calls for more protection in the temple during the high holidays and I have objected to armed guards during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

I used to talk about the pendulum and how it will always swing in the opposite direction after reaching its maximum horizontal position. How good times would eventually give rise to bad times and how it would again reverse itself after running its course.

Today, with the murder of eleven pious Jews, I have my doubts.


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