BIDEN INAUGURATION

At last the big day, the day the Trump-haters have longed for since the 2016 election, has arrived. Trump is out, and Biden is in. The anti-Trump coalition – the Dems (and a few GOPers), the “elites,” the media, the tech moguls, Big Pharma, the DC establishment, the Hollywood liberals, the swamp dwellers, et al – can all exhale. Things are back to normal. The world has returned to spinning on its axis. All is well once again. Order has been restored. Right? Uh, not so fast as I will explain below.

First, a brief commentary on the inauguration, itself. Once again, America has demonstrated that despite our differences we have effected a peaceful, orderly transfer of power. I agree with those who say that Trump should have attended. Even though Biden said he didn’t want him there, and his presence would likely have overshadowed the proceedings, it is customary for a former president to attend. Every one has done so since the Civil War. Despite the biased manner in which he has been treated for the past four years and the obvious antipathy between Biden and Trump, it would have been the right thing to do.

That said, I thought Biden’s acceptance speech was okay, not great, not inspiring, but okay. Fox anchor Chris Wallace gushed that it was the best inauguration speech he has ever seen. He is entitled to his opinion, but I don’t agree. I think he was a little carried away by the moment. He and I are about the same age. I’m sure he remembers JFK’s inauguration speech. Now, that was inspiring. Biden’s, by comparison, was desultory, almost boring.

The central theme of Biden’s speech was a desire to unite the country, “bring America together.” Biden vowed to be the president of all the people, not just the ones who voted for him. If only! Biden didn’t explain how he will accomplish it. In summary, he offered platitudes, not policy. Talk is cheap; it’s actions that count. In the interest of fairness, I will reserve judgment until I can assess his actions. However, as I have outlined below, I don’t think he is off to a good start.

The inflammatory rhetoric on the left has been accelerating in the last few weeks. It is clear that the far left wing of the Dem Party has no interest in uniting the country. The “cancel culture” is in full swing. Revenge and vindictiveness are in the air. For example:

  1. The House Dems pushed through a rush impeachment of Trump in one day. One day! The constitution contemplates that impeachment should be a deliberate, carefully thought-out process with witnesses, debate, and counsel for the accused. It should not be done on the spur of the moment. It should not be marred by emotion. This impeachment violated all of the above guidelines. Moreover, President Trump’s term in office was virtually over anyway, and many constitutional legal scholars have opined that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to impeach a private citizen. The House’s action was ludicrous on its face. The purpose of impeachment is to remove someone from office. How can you do that when the person is no longer in office?
  2. Biden has issued a slew of provocative Executive Orders. Of course, it is his right, but some of them, such as inviting migrants to enter the country, halting construction of the southern border wall in the midst of a pandemic, no less, ending the “travel ban,” rejoining the Paris accords and WHO, broadening protections against “discrimination in the workplace,” and closing the Keystone X L Pipeline, will be deleterious to the country and make no sense except to enhance divisions among the populace.
  3. Leftist radicals, such as the “squad” and certain news commentators, have been advocating extreme programs such as banning “unacceptable and “inflammatory” comments (from conservatives) from social media, blacklisting Trump supporters in the job market, banning books with a conservative viewpoint, voiding college degrees of certain senators, and sending Trump voters’ children to “re-education” camps. I kid you not.
  4. Many of them, including Biden, believe and have stated that the country is infested with “white supremacists,” and “domestic terrorists” that must be “rooted out” and “defeated.” That, my friends, is code for Trump supporters, all 75 million of them, indeed, anyone who doesn’t share their political opinions. No dissenting opinions will be allowed. How are comments like that supposed to unite us all? I don’t know any white supremacists nor, to my knowledge have I ever met one. Have you? I doubt it. There are very few in the US.
  5. In previous blogs I have discussed the Dems’ radical programs, such as the Green New Deal, statehood for Puerto Rico and DC, a huge tax increase, ending the filibuster in the Senate, and packing the Supreme Court. These “hot-button issues, which the Dems have vowed to pursue, will be very damaging to the country and certainly will not unify it.

CONCLUSION

If Biden is serious about unifying the country, he will have to start by reining in the radicals in his Party. I fear he doesn’t have the “stomach” to do it, but, I am willing to “wait and see.” As I said, actions speak louder than words.

By the way, it is an “open secret” that Biden is not well, physically and mentally. His supporters know it; the opposition knows it; the media knows it; anyone that has been paying attention the last few years knows it. However, no one has wanted to say it publicly. It is like the children’s story “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” Now that Biden has won, how long will it be until it leaks out? My guess is not long.

I fear the country is in a bad place, very bad. As a student of history, I see some scary parallels with Soviet Russia of the early 20th century and 1930’s Nazi Germany. Then, as now, the signs of autocracy are being advanced by a small, vocal, well-organized group, but they are being ignored. Our Bill of Rights is under attack, and few people seem willing and able to do anything about it. I hope we can survive until 2022.

A TALE OF TWO STATES

As everyone has seen, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has been fraught with problems. The apt description that comes to mind is “FUBAR.” For those of you who are not familiar with the acronym it stands for “Fouled up beyond all recognition.” (For those of you who favor more colorful language feel free to substitute another word for “fouled.”)

From what I can discern based on various news reports the success or failure of the rollout has varied from state to state depending on the adequacy of that state’s planning, organization and leadership. Every state has had to cope with a shortfall of supply to some extent, but some have dealt with the problem better than others. One common theme is that politicians at all levels – federal, state, county and local – have been doing what they do best: blame someone else. It’s so typical and expected, but no less annoying.

Rather than trying to analyze the experiences of all 50 states, with apologies to Charles Dickens I will compare the experiences of two states – New York and Florida.

NYS’s rollout has been problematic from the start. For instance:

  1. Apparently, Governor Cuomo is unaware of or has forgotten that old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” NY has proven to be as ill prepared for the rollout as it was last summer for the pandemic, itself. As a result, it has been scrambling to catch up. NYS State Senator Phil Boyle opined that the state should have had a distribution plan in place and ready to go prior to the arrival of the vaccines. Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University echoed that sentiment. “We had the the time to engage the [local] communities, engage the leaders, [and] educate them. We lost that opportunity.” I agree. It’s not as if we were taken by surprise. Everyone knew months ago that the vaccines would be ready eventually, and that when they arrived time would be of the essence.
  2. In my view, NY has been one of the many states guilty of “micromanaging.” NY officials from the governor on down have been trying to exert too much control at the state level instead of delegating the rollout to local authorities who, obviously, are more cognizant of the needs of their communities. When asked to comment on this issue Nassau County Chief Executive Laura Curran tried to be diplomatic, but her frustration came through anyway. “We communicated to them [the state]….that we were ready to be helpful. ….”I think the state is now seeing how valuable we can be on the local level.” The cruelest irony of all, as pointed out by Alex Azar, HHS Secretary, is that while many people were unable to arrange appointments thousands of doses were lying in warehouses undistributed. There were reports of some that had to be destroyed.
  3. The vendors have been unable to deliver sufficient supplies of the vaccine. There are various reasons for this. All states have had to figure out how to deal with this issue.
  4. In addition, there have been reports of shortages of necessary supplies such as needles, vials and swabs
  5. Some states have coped better than others. Florida is one of the states that has been able to adapt; NY, not so much.
  6. Cuomo has been complaining that the Feds have “shorted” NY by tens of thousands of doses. Cuomo spokesman, Jack Sterne, tried to deflect responsibility stating that “every state had trouble in the beginning due to a lack of support and planning from an incompetent federal administration.” Yes, but as I said, some states have handled it and adapted to it better than others. Like I said, every state is being forced to deal with the same issue. I say, Andy, put on your “big boy pants” and deal with it. Take responsibility. Show some initiative and some leadership. Instead of griping, find a solution.
  7. NYS failed to delineate clearly the order of priority of different groups of people. For example, the second group to receive the vaccine was “essential” workers and people over 75, but before all of them could be inoculated the next group was authorized to and began to receive the vaccine. Thus, in one fell swoop the state tripled the number of persons eligible to receive the vaccine. Millions of persons were vying for appointments at the same time, which overwhelmed an already taxed system. Also, some people in the third category have been vaccinated ahead of those in groups 1 and 2.
  8. Making appointments has been plagued by computer glitches. Predictably the system has malfunctioned and “crashed” on multiple occasions. It became routine to spend hours on line trying, in vain, to get an appointment. Often, people would continually get error messages. Try to imagine the frustration and stress of an 80 year old person trying to navigate through such a situation. Also, many people don’t have access to a computer, or are homebound. What do they do? How is a nursing home patient, who is likely immobile, supposed to get to an inoculation site? The worst situation occurred with respect to the facility at Stonybrook. Some 20,000 persons had their appointments voided. Melissa DeRosa, a senior aide to Governor Cuomo ascribed that to that old standby excuse, a computer “hack.” But, Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Pubic Health, has ascribed the malfunctioning computer system to a “lack of preparation.” I believe that is the more likely explanation.
  9. Trying to get an appointment by telephone has been no better. If one were lucky enough to get through it was common to wait on hold for long periods and then either get cut off or be told their were no appointments available.
  10. According to Newsday NYS’s rigidity as to who was eligible to be vaccinated has contributed to the problem. Governor Cuomo’s defense was that he was merely following CDC guidelines.
  11. Newsday reported that additional sites have been needed to cope with the demand, and some are scheduled to open up over the next few weeks. Fine, better late than never, but the state will be playing catch-up. It will also have to resolve the other abovementioned issues.
  12. Even these new sites have proven to be inadequate. For example, last week a new site opened at Jones Beach. There were 55,200 slots available. They were filled within two days, and the dates were months away. How many more people will die before they can get their vaccines.
  13. On the other hand, Florida appears to have been better prepared and better organized. It should be noted that FL’s population has a higher risk profile than that of NY in terms of COVID. According to the latest US Census Bureau figures available it is the third largest state in terms of population with 21.9 million and ranks second in percentage of residents in the high risk category of 65 and over (20.5%). Do you know which state is first? See answer below. It will surprise you. By comparison, NY is the fourth largest state with 19.4 million and ranks 26th in percent of elderly (16%).
  14. FL’s Governor Ron DeSantis has affirmed that the elderly and healthcare workers and patients have been and will continue to receive top priority.
  15. FL has been utilizing the local infrastructure of its individual counties. Vaccines have already been shipped to all 67 FL counties for distribution. People I know who live in FL have had a much easier getting vaccinated than New Yorkers. FL appears to be well ahead of NY in distributing the vaccine to those who need it.
  16. According to Florida Health Carlos Montoya, president and CEO of Jackson Health System, praised Governor DeSantis for his “planning ahead” and exhibiting “tremendous leadership in getting the vaccine out into our community quickly.” FH noted that from the very outset DeSantis ensured that those at the greatest risk were given top priority. He “prioritized frontline healthcare workers as well as residents and staff of long-term care facilities.”
  17. According to Business Insider since FL is not requiring proof of residency many “snowbirds” have been flying down there to be vaccinated. Many of them stay for a while and enjoy a mini-vacation while they wait for the booster shot. DeSantis called the practice “vaccine tourism.” According to the Wall Street Journal FL health official explained this policy thusly: “If [people] are spending time in our community….they can be spreaders.” In addition, people have come from as far away as Argentina.

CONCLUSION

NY is continuing to be plagued by a resurgence in COVID cases, hospitalizations and fatalities. According to various news sources total hospitalizations have exceeded 8,800 for several days running, a total not seen since last May. At the same time, as discussed above thousands of elderly and immunocompromised persons have been unable to get vaccinated.

This is a chance for president-elect Biden to show some leadership. He made COVID the central issue of his campaign. He has said he will direct the feds to establish mass inoculation sites and mobile clinics, provide billions of dollars in additional funding, and pressure the manufacturers to step up production not only of the vaccine but also of related supplies such as vials, needles and swabs. Talk is cheap. Let’s see if he can pull it off. I, for one, will remain skeptical until and unless he does so.

Quiz answer: Maine (20.6%).

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS RUN AMOK

We shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not as if the Dems didn’t give advance warning. The signs have been there in plain sight for those of us who were paying attention. They have been planning this for months, if not years. Now that they have gained control of all three branches of government they can act with impunity, and they know it, and they are doing so. The Dems, the social media outlets and the media have formed an unholy alliance to control the country. Anyone who does not toe the far left line, who dares to offer a dissenting opinion, who does not submit will be crushed. If they can do all this to the president think what they can do to you and me. As Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, giddily predicted months ago “everything will be on the table.” Those of you who are silent now think of the song “Bad Boys.” “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?”

I see parallels between the current situation and Nazi Germany of the 1930s and Soviet Russia. Make no mistake about it. This is a very scary time for us all.

The demonstration at the Capitol last week was just an excuse. Yes, it was wrong; it was dangerous; it was extreme; and people died. Everyone agrees. I have not heard one person defend it. There is no defense. But, is it grounds for impeaching a president who is leaving office in one week? Is it grounds for the runaway PC that has followed and, in all likelihood, will continue to follow? More on that later.

Keep in mind, we are talking about one incident that got out of hand. I submit that it was a far cry from all the rioting, looting and lawlessness that the Dems, BLM, ANTIFA and their sympathizers perpetrated in many cities throughout the summer and fall. As anyone who followed the news knows, people were killed; their businesses were destroyed; churches and government buildings were burned; police were attacked, injured and killed; and alternative “countries” were established in the middle of Portland and Seattle. Harris, Pelosi and other Dems openly supported these riots and even helped provide bail money to put those arrested back on the street. Why weren’t they charged with insurrection and sedition? Biden and the mainstream media stayed silent throughout. I didn’t hear all the widespread outrage we are hearing now.

That said, let’s examine the current extreme, over-the-top reactions by the PC crowd. I will cite just a few examples courtesy of Fox News. You decide if they are appropriate or extreme. You decide if they are examples of suppression of free speech guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Keep an open mind.

  1. Today, the House led by Speaker Pelosi voted to impeach President Trump for a second time. This was truly an ill-advised and time-wasting endeavor. The Constitution views impeachment as a very serious and deliberative process, not a snap judgment to be completed in one day. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has stated that there is simply not enough time for the Senate to conduct a trial before the President leaves office on January 20. Furthermore, according to renowned attorney, Alan Dershowitz and others the Constitution does not permit the impeachment of a former President, so the Senate cannot act after January 20 either. Therefore, this impeachment, like the one earlier this year, will not result in a conviction. Jesse Watters commenting on Fox News reported a poll by the McLaughlin Group that 77% of voters in the battleground states think it was a protest that got out of control, not an insurrection. They consider impeachment to be divisive and a waste of time and money. They would rather the Congress focus on COVID. In my view, Pelosi is grandstanding for the left wing of her Party. Hello, Nancy, we are in the middle of a pandemic. People are suffering; people are frightened; people are dying. Why not focus on that instead of acting like a modern-day Nero.
  2. A Newsweek reporter named Darragh Roche has advocated putting Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley on the “no fly list.” Keep in mind that this list is reserved for terrorists and other dangerous criminals. Cruz and Hawley are far from that. They elected sitting US Senators. What was their “heinous crime?” Advocating for an an audit of the 2020 election results in a few states. This was not unique. Historically, such audits and investigations have not been uncommon.
  3. Simon and Schuster, who are they publishers of Hawley’s new book, have dropped representation. On what legitimate basis? Who pressured them to do so?
  4. Senator Dick Durbin has introduced a bill to classify Trump rallies as domestic terrorism. What rallies? He will leaving the presidency in one week. To me, this is inane grandstanding. Durbin should know better.
  5. Forbes magazine has proposed blacklisting former White House staffers who might apply for a job prospectively. Why punish staffers just because you hate Trump?
  6. The major social media outlets have conspired to silence and destroy Parler, a new media outlet that had the audacity to publish conservative opinions. Unknown forces went so far as to pressure Parler’s attorneys to resign. I thought in America everyone had the right to legal representation. Even terrorists and the worst criminals do.
  7. The Bar Association is considering taking action against Rudy Giuliani because he was working on behalf of President Trump.
  8. The PGA has announced it will not sponsor any events at a Trump-owned facility.
  9. And my favorite, a PBS attorney has advocated putting children of Trump supporters in “re-education ” camps. I kid you not. (I understand his employment has since been terminated.)

CONCLUSION

Even if you hate President Trump, even if you think he has been the worst president ever, that is still not justification for the above measures. The “left” and its PC have truly run amok. These measures are un-American. They are akin to those imposed by Soviet Russia and other autocracies back in the day. And they’re just getting started. What’s next? Denying Trump supporters a mortgage, a car loan, admission to a college, the right to fly? The possibilities are endless. The country is heading down a slippery slope. It will not stop with President Trump. Who knows where it will end.

President-elect Joe Biden has been proclaiming he wants to unite the country. Sounds good, but actions speak louder than words. Joe, this is your chance to reach out to the other half who did not vote for you. How about showing some leadership by telling the Dems to “stand down.” You won. Rather than being vindictive, how about being gracious in victory. How about thinking of the country for a change.

This is a very dangerous time for America. We are divided as never before, with the possible exception of the 1960’s. Division weakens us. Our enemies are always looking to exploit a weakness. You can be sure they are paying very close attention. Are our leaders?

A TIME FOR HEALING

ENOUGH, ALREADY! Enough with the hateful, vindictive language! Enough with the squabbling! Enough with the violence! Enough, enough, enough!

Now is not the time to exacerbate the divisions among us. Now is the time for healing. Now is the time for our leaders on both sides of the aisle to step up and demonstrate their leadership. Now is the time for our leaders to validate the reasons why we elected them in the first place. We did not elect them to make things worse. We elected them to make things better.

This has been and is a very tough time for America. People have lost their jobs. People have lost their small businesses into which they have poured their life’s blood. And on top of all that we are in the midst of the worse pandemic in over 100 years, if not ever. People are dying. People have stood by helplessly while their parents, friends and neighbors have died at the hands of an arbitrary, capricious and merciless virus, and they have been unable, in many cases, even to say good-by or even to give them a proper, respectful funeral.

People are scared, very scared. They want their elected leaders to make things better, not worse.

Now is not the time for the Dems, who control the entire government, to flex their muscles. Now is not the time for vindictiveness. Now is not the time to pile on. Now is not the time to ban people from social media because they express opinions we don’t like or agree with. Now is not the time to waste our time, energy, and money on trying to impeach a president who will be leaving office in ten days. How ridiculous is that? It would take much more than ten days for the process to play out. As I said above, we have much bigger problems to address.

CONCLUSION

Now is the time to forgive, to forget, and to heal. Many of us will remember that after President Nixon’s resignation in August 1974 his successor, President Ford, granted him a full and complete pardon. Nixon’s many enemies howled. They wanted blood. But, President Ford knew it was more important to heal and move on. He didn’t get a lot right during his presidency, but he was spot on right about that. History shows that we did heal, and we did move on.

I ask Joe Biden and the other Dem leaders to forget about revenge, forget about “getting even,” put aside your personal animosity to President Trump and his supporters, forget about placating your radical friends and supporters. Show some leadership. Do the right thing. The people will be grateful. History will vindicate you.

Be fair. Be kind. Be magnanimous. Put aside petty differences. Focus on what is important.

Now is a time for healing.

TOMMY LASORDA

Tommy Lasorda often said he “bled Dodger Blue,” and few followers of baseball would dispute that. During his 71-year association with the team he came to symbolize the Dodgers more than anyone else with the possible exception of longtime announcer Vin Scully. Moreover, he loved the fans passionately, and they loved him right back.

Thomas Charles Lasorda was born on September 22, 1927 in Norristown, Pa. one of six boys. His scrappy, bombastic, pugnacious personality was an outgrowth of his upbringing. Money was tight, there were many mouths to feed, and it was not easy to hold one’s own among five brothers. Young Tom was a “go-getter.” He was always working to make a few extra bucks. For instance, during summers among the many jobs he had were as a bellhop and laying track for the railroad.

Baseball was his ticket out, so to speak. He was a good enough pitcher to attract the attention of the Philadelphia Phillies who signed him directly out of high school in 1945 as an undrafted free agent. After serving two years in the military he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 1948 minor league draft.

Lasorda, a lefthanded pitcher, possessed limited talent as a player. He languished for 14 years in the minor leagues and often played Winter Ball for teams in the Caribbean. He appeared briefly in the major leagues with the Dodgers and KC Royals, and never won a game, going 0-4. During his only start for the Dodgers in 1954 he tied a dubious major league record by throwing three wild pitches in the first inning after which he was removed. For good measure, he was spiked by one of the players who was scoring after one of those wild pitches. After that debacle he was sent to the minors, never to return as a player. Lasorda always said, with his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek, that the Dodgers had to make a tough choice between keeping him or another young wild lefty by the name of Koufax, and it took one of the best pitchers ever to displace him.

Lasorda spent some 20 years working his way through the Dodgers minor league system. He started at the bottom and eventually worked his way up to AAA. He did everything. He was a scout, coach, manager, sold tickets and even cooked team meals. He accompanied several players as they rose through the Dodgers minor league system all the way to the majors. Among the many players were infielders Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Roy Cey who were to play together for the Dodgers for a record 11 1/2 consecutive years. By the time he got to the Dodgers, he knew the players and their abilities and they knew and respected him and his abilities. Some 75 of the players he managed in the minors made it to the majors (not all with the Dodgers).

Probably, his best achievement as a scout was recommending Mike Piazza, even if it was by accident. In high school Piazza was an infielder of pedestrian ability and achievement. Lasorda was a close friend of the Piazza family which lived in the Norristown area. He convinced the Dodgers to draft him as a special favor to him. They were reluctant. They did not want another infielder, but they needed a catcher. So, Lasorda told them “sure he can catch,” even though he had never played the position. The Dodgers drafted him in a late round. We all know how Piazza turned out.

He made his mark as a manager for the Dodgers from 1976 – 1996. During that span he won 1,599 games against 1,439 losses. He won two World Series (1981 and 1988), four pennants, eight division titles, and his teams were almost always in contention. I will always remember those two WS. The Dodgers were big underdogs in both, yet they prevailed in large part due to Tommy’s leadership. In 1981 they had to come from behind in both the playoffs against Montreal and the WS against the Yankees. They lost the first two WS games, then won four straight. The other noteworthy thing about that Series is that my seven year-old son, Matt, who was a Yankees fan, abruptly switched allegiance to the Dodgers during the Series. I still like to remind him of that.

The 1988 win featured a dramatic victory against the Mets who had a much better record and had dominated the Dodgers during the regular season. Then, the Dodgers upset Oakland in the WS aided by an otherworldly performance by pitcher Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson’s dramatic homerun. Gibson was injured and could barely walk, yet he homered off one of the best relief pitchers at the time. (I will never forget Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck’s iconic call “I don’t believe what I just saw!).

He was voted Manager of the Year twice. In addition, he led the US Olympic baseball team to a Gold Medal in 2000. From time to time, some critics questioned his strategic moves, but there was no denying his proficiency as a motivator, handler of players, and his popularity with the fans. He was a superb ambassador of the Dodgers and of MLB, in general.

When he was hired, ascending from the job as third base coach for the Dodgers, he was replacing a very successful manager, Walter Alston, who had held that post since 1954 winning four World Series and numerous pennants. A reporter asked him if he felt any pressure replacing such an iconic manager. He said, “no, I’m worried about the pressure on the guy who is going to replace me some day.” Everybody laughed at the obvious joke, but 21 years later it came true.

CONCLUSION

Tributes for Lasorda from contemporaries have been pouring in. For example:

  1. Longtime LA Times columnist, Jim Murray: “Some managers are worth five games a year to their franchise. … Tommy Lasorda is worth …. a few hundred thousand in attendance.”
  2. The LA Times opined that he had “achieved near mythical status among loyal Dodger fans.”
  3. Hall of Fame Dodgers announcer Vin Scully recalled his “boundless enthusiasm, his determination, his self-belief and his competitive spirit.”
  4. Commissioner Rob Manfred called him “one of the finest managers our game has ever known.

I actually met Lasorda a few times at Spring Training. I found him to be gracious and entertaining. Once, he signed a baseball for my grandson, Mason. The fans would always respond to him with love and enthusiasm as he did to them. There really was mutual love and admiration between them.

Lasorda passed away from a heart attack on January 7, 2021 at the age of 93. He was fond of saying that when he died he would be “going to the big Dodger in the sky.” Hopefully, he is there now, watching over his favorite team.

2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE

Today, Wednesday, January 6, 2021 has been a day that Americans will not soon forget. Since the founding of the Republic over 240 years ago the primary characteristic that has distinguished us from all other countries has been that we are a nation of laws. We have this remarkable document called the Constitution, which reigns supreme. Whenever there has been disagreement among different factions we generally settle them with debate, not violence. We may disagree, but we generally treat the opposition with respect. If we don’t approve of a government representative or his policies we vote him or her out. We are not a “banana republic.” We are not Soviet Russia. We are better than that.

That is what made today’s events so disturbing. The sight on tv of hundreds of thousands of protestors gathering at the Capitol and some of them even breaching the Capitol, itself, was something I had never seen before and never thought I ever would. The crowd was mostly peaceful, but, some got violent, and tragically, one demonstrator was killed. The threat of additional violence was omnipresent. The situation was beyond embarrassing.

The House and Senate had been in session fulfilling their constitutional duty to certify the electors from the November election as required by Article 2 of the Constitution. They were in the midst of debating the merits of a challenge to the validity of the electors in some of the states. These challenges had been brought by a group of senators and representatives who were alleging election irregularities and fraud. They were forced to recess and shelter in place for their own protection, “subject to the recall of the Chair.” Additionally, Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Grassley, the VP, Speaker and President pro tempore, respectively, were sequestered in an undisclosed location. The Capitol, itself, was put on “lockdown.” As I write this Congress is back in session, and as Mitch McConnell said it will fulfill its duty and certify the chosen electors.

The genesis of the protests was that approximately 40% of voters are convinced that the 2020 presidential election was not free and fair. In their minds there is ample evidence that the election was “stolen” from Mr. Trump. Several examples of “irregularities,” if not outright fraud, have come to light since the election, which I have detailed in previous blogs. Many of these have been supported by affidavits, videotape, and eyewitness accounts. Trump and his supporters have been pursuing these in various venues, but have been thwarted at every turn. The Supreme Court has declined to even hear the case, not on the merits, but on the basis of lack of standing. To most people who are not constitutional lawyers, this distinction without a difference has only served to fuel the anger, frustration and the sense that they are being denied justice and fairness. Remember, our system of government only works if the people believe the elections are free and fair.

These people needed to vent their anger and frustration. In addition, they wanted to show their support for President Trump. I believe that Trump went a little overboard with respect to this protest. He encouraged his supporters to march on DC to demonstrate. Fair enough. That’s what Americans do. But, he went too far. He issued several tweets that served to inflame the situation. Moreover, he attacked several prominent GOP supporters who had always been in his corner, such as Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell. Thus, in a few short weeks he has destroyed much of the legacy he has built up in four years. At the moment, he looks like a spoiled, petulant child who is “acting out” because he did not get his way.

By vowing to “never concede” and continuing to insist that he really won the election he is doing what he criticized Hillary Clinton for doing after the 2016 election. He has taken this as far as he can. At this point, it is apparent he is not going to prevail in the courts or anywhere else. Further action will only lead to false hope. Now, he should concede graciously. He should thank his supporters for their loyalty and advise them to “stand down.”

The “fat lady” has sung. In another context the late Yogi Berra once intoned sagely that “it ain’t over ’till it’s over.” Well, sorry to say, it’s over.

CONCLUSION

All that said, let’s not forget about the 40%. Our government leaders have to deal with their feelings. They cannot just say, “the election’s over; forget it and move on; stop complaining; shut up and go sit in the corner.” People feel they are being victimized by a do-nothing Congress that once elected does not follow through on campaign promises, a corrupt, biased media that does not print the truth, and by autocratic tech oligarchs that censor social media postings arbitrarily. They are frightened by the pandemic and frustrated by their leaders’ response to it. Many of them have lost their jobs and their businesses and are at the end of their rope. Those same feelings of anger and frustration and sense that they are being ignored will not just go away. They will fester, and at some point they may explode again. I am reminded of the scene from the movie, Network, in which the lead character says he is “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” That feeling has to be dealt within some equitable and reasonable way. People need closure for what is bothering them. They need to feel that their leaders care about them and will protect them.

I remember that after the JFK assassination when a goodly portion of the people were convinced of a conspiracy the government sanctioned an independent investigation headed by Earl Warren, a much respected former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Warren Commission’s report helped tamp down the feelings of conspiracy (although not entirely). Something like that might help. Another suggestion would be a sincere attempt at meaningful election reform, so that at least people would have confidence in future elections.

There may be other good ideas out there. I will leave it to people smarter than me to deal with it. The one thing our leaders cannot do, however, is nothing. Unfortunately, though, doing nothing is something at which the government is very good.

NEW YEARS EVE 2020

Wow, another year has gone by! That was fast. As we all know, the older we get, the more time seems to speed up.

Tonight, people around the world will celebrate New Year’s Eve. Although the specifics of the celebration may differ in various countries, it is generally a time of social gatherings, parties, eating, drinking, and merriment.

As you know, 2020 has been a unique year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our lives have been changed radically in ways we could not possibly have imagined at this time last year. Some of these changes will likely be temporary; others will probably be irreversible.

Consequently, New Year’s Eve celebrations will be very different this year. For example, take the world famous ball drop at Times Square. The NY Times reported that the ball drop will still take place at midnight, but there will be no crowds at Times Square (except for a few first-responders). That will seem eerie, but no more strange than many other events that have been altered or cancelled during this year. In 2020 much of what we have always thought of as normal has been replaced by strange and unique, a so-called “new normal.” One group of people who will probably be pleased by the lack of crowds will be the sanitation workers who are normally tasked with the job of cleaning up the approximately one ton of trash left behind by the celebrants.

So, what do we do tonight? Every year many of us look forward to celebrating NYE. The raucous scene at TS has been an integral part of this celebration. All over the world people view it on tv. To many of them it symbolizes NYE.

The good news is, according to multiple media sources, the NYE celebration will go on without the live crowd. It is estimated that some 200 million Americans and approximately 1 billion persons worldwide will watch on tv and/or live streaming on their mobile devices. 

  1. Normally we are treated to live entertainment from various venues around the world. I’m not sure what will be available this year. Some of you may recall, with nostalgia, the most famous and enduring NYE entertainer of them all, Guy Lombardo. From 1928 until his death in 1977 he entertained us from the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria, first on the radio, then on TV.
  2. Traditionally, NYE is the busiest day at Disneyland and Disney World, which feature Disney-character shows and fireworks. Disneyland is open this year, and will likely present a modified show adhering to COVID social distancing guidelines. Disneyworld is closed, a victim of CA’s strict, and some would say ill-advised and excessive, lockdown policies.
  3. At Times Square there will be some live entertainment featuring the “Heroes of 2020” honoring first responders and “essential” workers. I think we can all agree that they were the real heroes of 2020 (and Time should have honored them as its “Person(s) of the Year”).
  4. The “One Times Square” website has announced it will be offering what it calls a “virtual celebration” featuring various celebrities that viewers can live-stream.
  5. In addition, there will be Facebook Watch’s “Peace Out 2020” featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Anne Hathaway and others.
  6. Of course, there is the perennial standby, “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” which will be televised for the 49th consecutive year. It will feature Ryan Seacrest, Lucy Hall, Billy Porter, Jennifer Lopez, Ciara and others. Entertainment from various venues will likely be featured.
  7. If none of those offerings “floats your boat” you can escape with the Honeymooners marathon, featuring Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph, which is offered every year but never gets stale.

The Pacific island nations of Kiribati (aka Christmas Island), which is nothing more than a coral atoll in the Central Pacific, and Samoa, which is the western-most of the Samoan Islands, will be the first to celebrate; American Samoa, which includes seven tiny islands and atolls in the eastern part of the Samoan Islands, and Baker Island, which is an uninhabited atoll 3,100 km southwest of Honolulu, will be the last.

New Years Day has been celebrated on January 1 since 45 B. C. That year, Julius Caesar decreed that the Roman Calendar, under which the new year occurred in March, be replaced by the Julian calendar. It has been January 1 ever since.

Below please find a sampling of normal celebration customs in various countries. As I said, these will likely be curtailed or, perhaps, cancelled outright this year due to the coronavirus. However, hopefully, they will be reinstated prospectively once we have eliminated the virus as a major health threat.

  1. Elsewhere in the US NYE is traditionally celebrated with parties with family and friends and other special events. For example, Chicago features a music show and fireworks over Lake Michigan; San Francisco features yoga parties and concerts; Atlanta boasts the (“Peach Drop”); Nashville has the (“Music Note Drop”); and New Orleans features live music, a “fleur-de-lis drop,” and parties centered around the French Quarter.” (Authorities of the city of Nashville have announced that the city’s celebration will be cancelled this year out of respect for those killed and injured in the Christmas-Day bombing.) The other celebrations will likely be muted somewhat this year depending on local COVID restrictions and personal choice.

However, by far the biggest and most significant celebration, as mentioned above, is in NYC. Since 1907 people have been gathering in Times Square to watch the “Ball Drop.” The “Ball Drop” has been held annually every year since, except for 1942 and 1943 when it was canceled due to the wartime blackout. As I said, this year it will be held but without the customary raucous crowd.

At precisely at 6:00 pm a huge Waterford crystal ball will be raised to the top of the pole at One Times Square  At 11:59 pm, the ball will be activated by the push of a special button. The original “ball” was constructed from wood and iron and lit with 100 incandescent bulbs. Over the years, it has gone through various iterations. The current iteration is a geodesic sphere. It is 12 feet in diameter and weighs 11,875 pounds. It contains 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles. This triangular design enables it to support extremely heavy loads. The ball will be illuminated by 32,256 light-emitting diodes (aka LEDs) of various colors – red, white, blue and green. It will look gorgeous on tv. It will begin its descent from the roof of One Times Square down a 141-foot high pole. Exactly one minute later, at midnight, the ball will reach the roof of the building, and huge lights will signal the start of the New Year.

Times Square has been the focal point of NYE celebrations in the US since 1904. That year, the first organized NYE celebration, consisting of an all-day street festival culminating in a huge fireworks display, was held there. It was reported that at midnight the celebratory noise could be heard as far away as Croton-on-Hudson, some 30 miles away.

The celebration was organized by the New York Times owner, Adolph Ochs, to commemorate the opening of the Times’ new headquarters located in the tiny triangle at the intersection of 42nd Street, Broadway and 7th Avenue. The city renamed the area Times Square in honor of the venerable publication.

Quiz questions:

1) What other historically significant event occurred in NYC in 1904?

2) What was Times Square’s name prior to 1904? See below for the answers.

Two years later the City banned the fireworks display. Ochs’ response was to replace it with the “Ball Drop.” The details of this “Ball Drop” have evolved over the years, especially technologically.

2. In Canada the mode of celebrations vary by region. For example, in Toronto, Niagara Falls and other areas of Ontario, there are concerts, parties, fireworks and sporting events. On the other hand, in rural Quebec some people go ice fishing. Montreal features concerts and fireworks. This year, depending on local guidelines, some of these will likely be severely restricted or cancelled altogether.

3. In Mexico, families decorate their homes in various colors, each of which symbolizes a particular wish for the upcoming year. For example, yellow would symbolize a wish for a better job, green, improved finances, white, improved health, and red, general improvement in lifestyle and love. I would imagine that white will be very popular this year. At midnight, many Mexicans eat a grape with each chime of the clock and make a wish each time. Some people bake a sweet bread with a coin hidden inside. Whoever gets the piece with the coin will be blessed with good fortune in the coming year. Finally, some people make a list of all the bad events that occurred to them over the past year on a piece of paper and then burn the paper to symbolize a purging of all the bad luck.

4. As you might expect, celebrations in England focus around Big Ben. People gather to observe fireworks and celebrate. In addition, many celebrate in pubs or at private parties. In view of the mutated strain of the virus that recently surfaced in the UK these activities will almost certainly be severely curtailed or cancelled

At the stroke of midnight it is traditional to sing “Auld Lang Syne.” I have always been curious as to the derivation of this song and why it is sung at New Year’s. The origin is murky, but it has generally been attributed to the Scottish poet Robert Burns. He wrote it in 1788, but it is likely that some of the words were derived from other older Scottish poems and ballads. “Auld Lang Syne” literally translates into English as “long, long ago,” “old times,” or “days gone by.” Thus, at the stroke of midnight we bid farewell to the past year and, at the same time, wish to remember the good times. In some areas the song is also sung at funerals, graduations and any other event that marks a “farewell” or “ending.” Sometimes the singers gather in a circle and hold hands.

CONCLUSION

Whatever your NYE plans may be and however you may celebrate, I urge you to be careful and drive safely and defensively. Pay particular care to watch out for the “other guy.” This is one night where too many people celebrate excessively and drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. These people should not be on the road, but, nevertheless, they are, and they are dangerous both to you and themselves.  For this reason, Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s long-time side-kick on the Tonight Show and a noted party-goer, used to refer to New Year’s Eve derisively as “amateur night.” New Year’s Day is the second most deadly holiday for drivers. (Thanksgiving is #1.) Moreover, a whopping 42% of the driving fatalities on NYD are the result of DUI.

Answers to quiz questions: 1) The city’s first subway line opened in 1904. 2) Longacre Square.

NAZIS’ PERSECUTION OF “GENETICALLY INFERIOR” PERSONS

The Nazis’ relentless persecution of Jews before and during WWII has been well-documented. But, how many of us are aware of their persecution of the mentally and physically handicapped? How many of us are aware of their persecution of other religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. The record of such persecutions, as detailed below, is horrifying as well.

The primary source of the information in this blog is the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, although some of it was gleaned from other historical sources. As you read it, be prepared to be shocked, horrified and disgusted at the Nazis’ callous disregard for human life.

The Nazis targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses because they were not malleable. In particular, they would not bend to Nazi ideology; they resisted obeying the authority of the State; and they were opposed to engaging in war. In addition, many of them refused to give the Nazi salute, to display the Nazi flag, to join Party organizations or to let their children join the Hitler Youth. The Nazis could not abide these acts of independence. They considered them subversive. Accordingly, they commenced their campaign of persecution against the Jehovah’s Witnesses within months of their taking control of the government. For instance, they crashed JW meetings, attacked the people, destroyed property and sent thousands of them to concentration camps.

One of the basic tenants of the Nazis was that the Germanic people were the descendants of a superior race (Nordics or Aryans). All other people, such as Slavs, Gypsies, Jews, and non-pure Nordics, were inferior. The Nazis sought to create a “Master race” consisting solely of these Nordics and Aryans. In order to achieve this goal it would be necessary to weed out and eliminate certain “substandard” and “deficient” persons, which they believed were actually “unworthy of life.” In their twisted minds, it was their right and duty to do so. This included not only the aforementioned groups, but also those with physical, mental, or emotional handicaps. Thus, in the 1930s the Nazis established six major “euthanasia” facilities whose sole purpose was the sterilization and euthanasia of the handicapped. Thousands were euthanized in these facilities, including some 5,000 children.

In typical fashion, the Nazis promulgated an elaborate set of organized procedures to achieve their goal. Phase 1 was child infant and euthanasia, which began in 1939. Doctors and midwives were required to report to health authorities any newborns that exhibited certain characteristics. Among these were blindness, deafness, mongoloid appearance, paralysis, malformed or missing limbs, hydrocephalus or microcephaly (overly small head, which was believed to be a forerunner of various maladies such as poor motor function, poor speech or intellectual disabilities). Phase II was adult euthanasia. Phase III was the euthanasia of the disabled or handicapped.

One of the euthanasia facilities was located in Hadamar, which opened in 1939. It is estimated that 15,000 German citizens were murdered, including a goodly number of children. The head nurse at the Hadamar Clinic was Irmgard Huber. As far as I could discern, before the war Huber was a normal person who led a normal life. She was born and raised in Hadamar, attended the local primary and secondary schools, then nursing school, and upon graduation in 1932 became a nurse. One becomes a nurse to care for the sick and save lives, but at some point Huber underwent a metamorphosis and became a monster.

Before and during the war Huber was the head nurse at Hadamar. Although she later insisted she never actually killed anyone (a claim that was supported by co-workers and witnesses), as head nurse she certainly procured the drugs that were used in the murders and would have supervised the process. In my view, this made her equally culpable, if not more so.

Before and during the war, some 250,000 persons were euthanized at these facilities. Most of them were German citizens, although some 500 were forced laborers from foreign countries. There were countless examples of this wanton cruelty, especially to children, but, in the interest of time and space, I have selected just one to illustrate the process.

Helene Melanie Lebel was born in Vienna in 1911 to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. Her father was killed in WWI and her mother remarried. She was raised in the Catholic faith. At the age of 19 she began to exhibit signs of mental illness. Eventually, she was diagnosed as schizophrenic and in 1936 was placed in a psychiatric hospital in Vienna. In 1938 Germany annexed Austria. Even though Helene was showing improvement she was one of thousands who were transferred to the Brandenburg Euthanasia Center, which was, in fact, a converted prison without her parents’ knowledge or consent. She was severely mistreated and eventually gassed along with thousands of other children and young adults. The “official” cause of death and what authorities told her parents was that she had died in her room of “acute schizophrenic excitement,” whatever that is. In 1938 alone over 9,000 persons were gassed in that facility.

CONCLUSION

After the war it was time for the reckoning. In the post-war divided Germany Hadamar was in the American zone. The Americans who were prosecuting these cases were limited by international law to only prosecuting the murders of non-German citizens. Huber was one of those arrested by the Americans, but in view of her claim that she never actually killed anyone she was initially released. Later, she was rearrested, tried, and convicted as an accomplice. Being a female she received a lighter sentence, 25 years. ( In 1946 a German court did try her and others for murdering the 15,000 German citizens at the facility. She was convicted and sentenced to an additional eight years.) Her male nurse co-defendants were sentenced to death.

In 1952 as a result of America’s greater focus on the Cold War and a more lenient attitude toward ex-Nazis Huber was released from prison. She continued to reside in Hadamar until her death in 1983.

In my opinion Huber was another example (like the thousands of administrators I discussed in a previous blog) of a pre-war normal citizen who became corrupted by the Nazi ideology and the lure of power and influence. It did not, however, diminish the heinous nature of her crimes. I believe she got off easy.

COVID VACCINE – WHO GETS PRIORITY?

It should be simple. It should be a “no-brainer.” Broadly speaking, the equitable and logical procedure should be to give priority to (1) medical personnel who are on the front lines, (2) residents and staff of assisted living and nursing homes, (3) the elderly and (4) those with compromised immune systems. Makes sense. Right? They are the ones with the greatest risk of dying from COVID. Right? Well, not so fast. Various groups have been making a case that they should be considered “essential” and therefore should be prioritized. Obviously, everybody cannot receive priority, and this has created perhaps the most intense lobbying campaign in memory. More on this later.

Let’s start with some facts. Facts have been in short supply regarding COVID, but I have ascertained a few courtesy of various media outlets, such as the NY Times, the NY Post, STAT, AARP, Cal Matters, Fox News and CNN:

  1. The CDC’s Advisory Committee regarding COVID has made various broad-based recommendations with respect to the vaccine distribution. Following an emergency meeting last Sunday it stated that its overall goal was to strike a balance between minimizing illness and death and maintaining societal functioning and equity. Fine objectives, but very difficult to achieve.
  2. The CDCAC announced that to date some 5oo,ooo persons had received the Pfizer vaccination. The goal is to have vaccinated 100 million persons with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines by the end of February.
  3. The CDCAC stressed that the states need more federal funding. It is estimated that $8 billion will be required to support the inoculation program, and the feds have provided less than $500 million so far. One committee member explained the situation thusly: “Operation Warp Speed has delivered two Cadillac vaccines to us. But they’ve come with empty gas tanks, and we have a long and difficult road ahead of us.”
  4. According to AARP, the CDCAC compiled five groups or phases. Phase 1a includes healthcare personnel and residents and staff of long-term care facilities [24 million persons]. There seems to be little dispute regarding this group. The composition of the other groups is not as clear-cut.
  5. Phase 1b includes frontline essential workers and persons 75 and older [49 million].
  6. Phase 1c includes persons age 65 – 74, persons 16 – 64 with “high-risk conditions,” and other essential workers not included in Phase 1b [129 million].
  7. Phase 2 includes all other persons age 16 and older.
  8. Once the vaccines have been delivered to the individual states, however, these states have the authority to make the final determination as to priority. They are free to make subjective judgments and refinements. This is where the “fun” will begin. The Kaiser Family Foundation has opined that the order “has yet to be resolved in …. a majority of …. states.” Robert Mujica, NYS budget director, stated that priority will be based on the “risk and the number of contacts … and the risk profile of the individual.” NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has reiterated again and again that “there will be no political favoritism.” I would hope not, but based on past performance I have my doubts. We shall see.

As I said above, many groups have been lobbying hard to receive priority. For example in NY Uber, Con Ed, the financial institutions, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the transit union, the hospitality union, school nurses, truck drivers, morticians, zookeepers, and even a presidential elector are just some of the groups that have petitioned either directly or through their lobbyists for status as “essential.” They have made reasonable cases, but, as I said, not everyone can receive priority. The math simply does not allow it. Some people will have to wait. One state official characterized this as “the big fight.” There will be winners and losers, and no one wants to be a loser. No final determinations have been made. According to the NY Times emergency responders such as police officers, transit workers and those who maintain the power grids will likely receive priority.

Some states will be prioritizing workers in industries that are important to the local economy. For instance, Colorado has decided that ski industry personnel residing in congregate areas will be included as essential; and Georgia and Arkansas intend to give priority to meatpackers and food processors. In a somewhat controversial decision the NY Post has reported that MA Rep. Ayanna Pressley has successfully convinced the State of Massachusetts to grant priority to prison inmates and include them in Phase 1b. Her chief argument was that the prison population consists disproportionally of poor people and people of color and that to deny them priority would constitute racism. Thus, at least in MA, violent felons of all ages will get inoculated ahead of people who are elderly or at-risk. Equally disturbing are reports that some well-heeled individuals have been offering bribes to medical personnel to “jump the line.” Some states, such as Illinois, have announced they are waiting for additional guidance from the CDC beyond the initial wave.

Many congresspersons have already been inoculated. Ironically, some of them such as Biden, Kamala Harris, and AOC, among many others, are the same ones who during the campaign were denigrating the virus and casting doubt on its efficacy. They did not trust it since it was being produced by the Trump Administration and expressed reluctance to take it (as if he was personally stirring it up in a huge caldron in the White House basement). Now that the election is over their attitude has changed. What a surprise! By the way, hats off to Rep. Tulci Gabbard (Hawaii) and some others who have stated that they would not get vaccinated until all at-risk persons had been inoculated.

The distribution plans have been compounded by the fact that, to date, states have been allocated an amount of doses which is far less than the demand. For instance, NY’s initial allocation of the Pfizer vaccine was 170,000 doses, and it is expecting a shipment of 346,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine shortly. That is a substantial amount of doses, but it will not cover the Phase 1 demand of some 1.8 million persons.

Quiz:

As a sidebar, Joe Biden has been making a habit of blurting out non-sequiturs. Some find these entertaining and harmless; others cite them as examples of his declining cognitive functionality. During the campaign he called one voter a “lying dog-faced pony soldier.” Recently, he called a reporter a “one-horse pony.” Does anyone know what these mean, if anything, or are they figments of a confused mind? See below.

CONCLUSION

This would be a good time to remind ourselves to return to that tired mantra – “follow the facts; follow the science.” Many groups can and have presented compelling cases as to why they should receive priority. However, as I said above, not everyone can be prioritized. The CDC has set a goal of 100 million inoculations by March. That is a lot, but not nearly enough in a country with a total population of 328 million. Tough decisions will have to be made. These should be based, not on power and influence, not on racial or gender guidelines, and not on quotas, but simply on who is most at risk of dying. To me, those at the greatest risk of dying should go to the top of the list. Luckily, we can determine that objectively. So far, in the US overall roughly 1.5% of those who have contracted COVID have died. Some 40% of those fatalities have been nursing home residents. Some 80% of all fatalities have been persons over the age of 65. Thus, those not in those high-risk groups, although they may get sick, are not in any realistic danger of dying. FL and TX are cognizant of this and are prioritizing those groups. Clearly, that should be the universal approach. Individual states can determine the rest of the order.

A final thought, many people, perhaps as many as 20% according to Fox, have expressed reluctance to get vaccinated. Some of this is based on mistrust that the vaccine will work, fear of vaccines, in general, possible allergic reactions, and/or that it has been developed under the Trump Administration. As Americans, that is their right. However, be advised that that decision will impact the rest of us as it may prevent us from achieving “herd immunity,” which medical experts have been saying would be the ultimate protection against the virus. Moreover, according to Rogge Dunn, a Dallas-based employment attorney, the law permits employers to fire employees who refuse to be vaccinated. Furthermore, I do not think it is too farfetched to foresee a time when those who have not been vaccinated could be barred from certain places, such as restaurants, theatres and airplanes.

This is a very fluid situation, so stay tuned for prospective developments

Quiz answers:

  1. “Lying dog-faced pony soldier.” Biden has attributed this to John Wayne in one of his movies, but no one has been able to verify it.
  2. “One-horse pony.” It appears that Biden may have conflated two expressions: “one-horse town” and “one-trick pony.”

COVID AND SMALL BUSINESSES

All of us have had to make sacrifices and adjustments to our lifestyles due to the COVID pandemic. Some of us have endured the pain of the virus firsthand. A lucky few of those have had a mild case, but most of those who have contracted it say it was a horrific experience. Many of those who have remained healthy have suffered in other ways. For example, they have been forced to stand by helplessly while loved ones got sick and passed away, sometimes alone and neglected. Others have lost their jobs or businesses and/or have been confined to their homes, precluded from spending time with family and friends. To be sure, those things are devastating, but the focus of this blog will be on the impact of the virus and the government’s policies on small businesses.

In many ways, small businesses are the essence of America. They embody many of the characteristics that define us – entrepreneurship, free enterprise, independence, risk-taking, being one’s own boss. Being a small business owner entails financial risk, long hours, and sacrifices relative to one’s family. According to the SBA the failure rate is high. About one-half fail within five years, and the resultant fall-out can be severe, such as personal bankruptcy or divorce. However, if one is successful the rewards are substantial. Growing up, my father owned a small pharmacy, and I experienced the various ups and downs firsthand. For some, the experience is not unlike the children’s game of Chutes and Ladders.

The Small Business Association generally defines a small business as one having fewer than 500 employees and generating less than $7.5 million in annual sales. Furthermore, according to the SBA there are currently approximately 30.7 million of them in the US, and they account for 99.9% of all businesses. According to the latest statistics available they account for 62% of all new jobs. Yes, the large businesses are more well-known, but small businesses are the lifeblood of the US economy. Additionally, they provide a livelihood for much of the middle class, immigrants and the working class.

As I said, owning a small business is a high-risk endeavor. However, it is bad enough if one fails due to one’s own actions or inactions, such as a poor product, poor management or lack of sufficient financing. It is much worse to be tripped up by outside events which you could not have foreseen and over which you have no control, such as the events of 2020. First, there was the COVID pandemic, which originated in China and which no one could have foreseen. Then, to combat the pandemic the government was forced to impose a general shutdown of all but what it arbitrarily and unilaterally deemed to be “essential” businesses. Next, the government failed to provide sufficient relief to those affected. Finally, it extended the shutdown of certain businesses based on questionable facts and motivations. More on that last one later.

As I write this we are nine months into the pandemic. Thousands of businesses have already failed, and more failures will be forthcoming. The hardest hit have been the service industries, which are based on person-to-person contact, such as restaurants, catering, beauty salons and gyms. In many states the politicians have deemed these to be “high-risk” enterprises and have imposed stringent restrictions on them, which for all intents and purposes have forced them to shut down.

Many of these restrictions are arbitrary, and punitive. Contradictions, inequities and inanities abound. For example, in many states one is precluded from attending religious services, even if one remains in one’s car, yet one can buy liquor or a lotto ticket.

Our political leaders often ignore their own rules and flout it as if they are above the laws they themselves have instituted. (“Good for thee, but not for me.”) For instance, Nancy Pelosi goes to a closed beauty salon to get her hair done; Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot gets a haircut when the rest of Chicagoans are forbidden to do so; NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo makes plans to fly to his mother’s on Thanksgiving (until he was found out and forced to cancel); his brother, Chris Cuomo, goes jogging when he was supposed to be in isolation and then berates a passerby who questions him; and CA governor Gavin Newsome ignores his own rules and dines in an exclusive restaurant with over a dozen family members, friends and donors without masks or social distancing. These “in your face” demonstrations of entitlement only serve to frustrate and anger people. who are forced to sacrifice.

In states such as NY and CA the rules on restaurant dining have changed several times, often without science or logic. First, only takeout was permitted, then takeout plus dining outside, then dining inside was all right with restrictions, then only outside, then not at all. Often, these restrictions would vary from locale to locale as if the virus could not cross the street from one area to another. This continual moving of the goalposts is enough to make one dizzy. In some states restaurant dining is prohibited, but one can go to a strip club where, presumably one can eat and drink. Maybe if an enterprising restaurant owner were to have his waitstaff wear “G-strings” they would be allowed to open up. These ever-changing health and safety standards merely add an extra layer of stress, frustration and anger to an already-difficult situation. Furthermore, they are being imposed by self-righteous, self-important politicians who exhibit indifference, if not callousness, to their constituents who elected them to protect them and who are struggling. Meanwhile, these same politicians remain insulated from the pain and suffering they have caused and continue to draw paychecks. As I said, “good for thee, but not for me.”

There have been many instances where a restaurant, a gym or a salon is prohibited from operating, but a few blocks away a competitor in a bordering county, zip code or state is permitted to open. Try explaining the logic behind that to the exasperated business owner who is forced to watch his clientele move a few blocks to said competitor. Some states have been imposing a 10:00 pm curfew, as if the virus were dormant all day and only came out after 10 pm. Even more unjust was the case of the LA restauranteur who was required to close down her outdoor dining facility when literally next door a movie company was permitted to open and operate an identical outdoor dining setup for its cast and crew. Go figure.

It is instructive to compare the situations in NY and FL. I could write an entire blog on this, but suffice to say the two states are a study in sharp contrasts. Last summer the NY governor required nursing homes to accept COVID patients. Predictably, over 10,000 nursing home patients caught the virus and died. FL kept COVID patients out of nursing homes, and has had fewer deaths even though it has a higher population and an older demographic. NY has shut down many businesses and schools. The NYS Restaurant Association has disclosed that since March some 1,000 NYC restaurants have closed permanently, and many more are anticipated. Moreover, as many as 2/3 of NYS’s restaurants could close by year-end if they don’t receive additional government aid, which, as I write this has not been passed. According to Yelp nationwide about 100,000 small businesses have closed since the advent of the pandemic. The NY governor seems indifferent to the plight of the people; he appears to be more focused on his public image and self-perceived “celebrity.” On the other hand, Fl has encouraged businesses and schools to remain open. Recently, the FL governor has reiterated to the people that he “has their back.” Is it no wonder that many NY residents are fleeing the state for FL?

During the summer, many cities were being victimized by “protests,” which, in reality, were riots and convenient excuses to loot and destroy businesses. Social distancing guidelines were ignored. The politicians directed the police to stand down and ignore those crimes. The final indignity was that in some states, such as NY, the few rioters that were arrested were immediately released to riot again thanks to the state’s illogical and inane “no-bail” policy. Yet, many business owners who dared to open up in defiance of the mayor’s or governor’s order were hounded, jailed and lost their license.

CONCLUSION

I understand the desire to keep people safe from a deadly pandemic. However, in my opinion, one must find a balance between safety and economic well-being. Shutting down the economy has fostered social and economic problems and exacerbated political divisions within the populace.. Virtually, every physician I have heard has denoted that isolation in and of itself leads to various health hazards, such as depression, alcoholism, drug use and domestic violence. Destroying businesses that people have spent years building is unconscionable. What benefit is it to defeat the virus and, in the process, destroy the country?

As we know, help is on the way. The FDA has approved one vaccine and more are on the way. Inoculations have already commenced for healthcare workers and will soon expand to other groups. It is expected that millions of doses will be available by late Spring/early Summer. There is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. As I said, let’s hope that after the virus has been defeated there is still an economy and a country left.