By Rich Weissman, Palm Springs, California (www.richweissman.com)
Here are some random posts I wrote from April thru November, 2020 (in date order going back)...
November 11, 2020:
Let’s be sure to pay serious attention to this incredibly important story: When Trump loses his ability to hire quality legal firms to represent his campaign for the next months, and later to represent him personally after January, the game changes significantly. Typically, the DNC is represented by the legal firm of Perkins Coie as their primary counsel (and that remains so, along with other top tier firms), and the GOP is represented by the legal firm of Jones Day as their primary counsel (also along with other top tier firms). These are both among the largest and top tier firms in the nation. I have a close friend who works at Perkins Coie (and he took the marriage equality case to the Oregon courts and won). They are top-notch. It so happens that Jones Day was the firm that represented the buyer that purchased my tech company, and they were on point in legal negotiations. I, too, had a top tier firm, and having quality attorneys on both sides made it easier and all worked out well. But in today’s NY Times (“Growing Discomfort at Law Firms Representing Trump in Election Lawsuits”), it is reported (and in other sources, too), that Jones Day is tiring of working with Trump. The same is true of Porter Wright Morris and Arthur, another large top tier firm that the GOP/Trump uses. And, it was reported today in the Washington Post that the Lincoln Project has developed ads targeting Jones Day and Porter et. al. shaming them into resignation from these cases. Trump has been reported “shopping“ attorneys, and has been unsuccessful in finding large firms of quality. They are turning him down. Trump is being forced to use low tier, more local attorneys, and that’s when they are unable to put together and execute a national legal strategy of value. Trump's people are saying they are now working more with “boutique” firms. Really! The debacle with Giuliani and the Four Seasons (the landscaping business parking lot situated between the porn shop and the crematorium, not the hotel!) shows the sophomoric level of the current legal activity in the Trump campaign. Nothing wrong with working with small and local firms, but not when you are the GOP and the President working on a national level. Without national firms with access to attorneys and a vast staff in all geographies with a wide range of experience and expertise, the legal staffing issue becomes a real barrier for Trump. Now just wait until January 2021, when he and his family will personally need their own cadre of attorneys, and Trump won’t be able to use the resources of Barr and the DOJ anymore. This aspect may not have been foreseen in the equation, but it is fascinating to watch it unfold. Karma.
November 7, 2020:
Let's all send a clear message... Mr. Trump, tear down that wall around the White House. In America, the White House is not a bunker for the fascists. Today, we defeated fascism (again) and returned to the values of truth, decency, compassion, fairness, equality, inclusiveness, respect of the law, democracy. Mr. Trump, tear down that wall - President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris won't be needing it.
November 5, 2020:
The nation has voted. Let’s not rush the counting.
1) National elections always take many, many days for votes to be counted. We are often unaware because we frequently know who has won before all the votes are counted. But they are ultimately counted and the final numbers take time.
2) In many states, typically few people vote-by-mail, and often these states wait until all in-person votes are counted before tackling the vote-by-mail ballots (including absentee, military, international, provisional, and ballots that need correcting). Some states have such a timing process embedded in their laws. It’s not that they are counting “late ballots,” but only starting to count all mail-in ballots when the polls close.
3) This year we have the highest level of voter participation in decades. And, because of COVID, so many people chose to vote by mail. Trump supporters didn’t because Trump frightened them into voting in-person.
4) The postal service deliberately slowed down the mail as an act of voter suppression, so valid ballots are still being delivered. We want them counted. The result of all 4 factors in close races means we need to wait. This is how the process works. So at this point, let’s be calm and patient, and let’s allow the poll workers to do their jobs correctly. We all benefit from a methodical ballot counting process.
November 4, 2020:
I’m a data scientist, a statistician, a researcher, a social, and am asked again how the pollsters can still be so wrong. Good question...
1) What people say they will do (poll) and what they actually do (vote) are two different things, and the greater the barriers between the intent and the behavior, the less likely the intent will prevail. Sure, at New Year’s I intend (and I believe it with my heart) that I will lose 10 lbs. That’s easy to say. But then I don’t. I join the health club meaning to go, and then I don’t. The public tends to equate intent to vote (and intent to vote and to do so in a particular way in a simple questionnaire) as an absolute measure (even taking into account +/- error) of what will happen. It’s not. It’s one thing to say I intend to get bread when I go grocery shopping and then write it on my list, because I am almost certain of that outcome. There’s little barrier to the purchasing behavior. But it’s an altogether different thing when assessing future voting. There are many barriers (including those self-imposed and those that result from voter suppression). I need to be registered and check that I’m still registered at my current address, and I need get my ballot in the mail or go to the polling location. If I am voting by mail, I need to be home during the election season to get my ballot, and I need to take the time to fill it out, to be sure to fill out correctly, to sign my ballot correctly and to either mail it or find a legitimate ballot box drop-off. I need to pay attention to timing of when I mail it or drop it off, and I then need to follow-up to make sure my ballot was received and counted. If I am voting in-person, I need to find out the polling locations and times, and I need to find a way to get there. I need to think about having valid ID just in case, and I need to find the time to stand in line to vote. I need to know what to do if I’m questioned. These are steps that remove the intent from the behavior. And, of real importance, I may very well change my mind in the process and vote for a different candidate or issue than I originally intended. And, people aren't always honest and give survey responses based on what they think is a socially acceptable response. Voting is complex, and polling assumes a simple linear connection between stated intent and behavior, and that’s simply not how most human behavior operates.
3) Fundamentally, research is about noticing trends, not predicting a specific outcome. Only fortune tellers can do that. Uncovering trends, projecting outcomes, and “predicting” the future are all quite different. The general population assumes that the research predicts the outcome. It doesn’t. It merely suggests where the population might be headed.
I know we all want certainty, and we aren't comfortable with nuance. Unfortunately, political polling does not provide that. And we need to live with this reality.
November 2, 2020:
Some things are time-specific, others are event-specific. It’s important to differentiate between them. Independence Day is always on July 4th and starts at midnight. It’s time-specific. When will COVID end? That’s event-specific, when there is a safe and reliable vaccine available to all. When will the election results be final? That’s event-specific, when all the votes are counted. You can be sure of the time of your next birthday, you can be sure of the time of your next teeth cleaning appointment. But you’ll have to think differently about when the final results of the election are known. It will only be over when every mail-in, absentee, military, overseas, early and day-of in-person, provisional and other ballots are counted. If that takes a few days or a week or more, then that is when the election results will be finalized. So everyone has to learn to appreciate that election results are event-specific. Not too hard to understand, as democracy is about counting all the votes, no matter how long it takes. Let’s be patient.
November 1, 2020:
On Tuesday, people just like those in the photos below will go to the polls and vote. The photos are from the 1940’s at Solahutte, a country resort just 18 miles from the Auschwitz concentration camp (the largest death camp in Europe). It was a quiet place for the Auschwitz staff to relax on their days off from the hard work of genocide. Over one million Jews and 100k other people (LGBTQ, Gypsies, political enemies, etc.) were gassed, killed and burned in the crematoria at Auschwitz in a short period of just a few years (including many from my family). These Solahutte guests were the 20th century deplorables, “innocently” following Hitler’s “make Germany great again” creed. And today, we have Americans who are truly no different – they relish in lies and conspiracies; they lack concern for the 230k+ who died from COVID; they don’t view all people as full human beings and they provide support for those who cause hatred and the deaths of black people, immigrants and other IPOC, and the disabled; they don’t care if children are separated from their parents and kept in cages; they openly deny LGBTQ people and women equality; they hate the Jews, Muslims and any religion that isn’t their own specific brand; they applaud those who run down and kill protesters (after all, there are “good people” on both sides); they engage in voter suppression; they support those who plot to kill Democrats who are leaders, and they even try to cause the bus carrying their opponent to crash on a highway. Yet, they seem to be like everyone else, no different from the people in the photos below, enjoying their day off, laughing and unwinding with their co-workers of death and destruction. Just think, the day before the photos were taken these people were lining up human beings in front of the gas chambers and then managing the process of moving the dead bodies to the crematoria. And the next day they are laughing and singing. The obscenity of these photos is alive in the era of Trump. Please, please vote and vote blue on every spot on the ballot. We need to outnumber those who in the last century would have enjoyed their visit to Solahutte.
October 18, 2020:
If I bumped into the realtor listing the house for sale on my street, and I was told that the house had sold to black, or indigenous, or Latinx, or Asian or any other people of color, or an LGBTQ couple with children, or a single parent, or immigrants, or Muslims (or Buddhists, Hindus, etc.), or people with disabilities, or any combination, I would say, “Wonderful, we need more diversity, and let the new owners know that I’m here to help out if they need anything.” Once they moved in, I’d invite them over for a “welcome to the neighborhood” party and invite everyone on the block.
And certainly, the property values would decrease if they fly confederate and/or Nazi flags, or have hateful signs in their yard or bumper stickers on their car. Having them for neighbors would be a nightmare and we would all be shaking our heads saying, “there goes the neighborhood.”
Humor aside, it’s time to articulate the dangers presented by the Trumpian culture and those who follow it. We need to see them for what they are.
October 5, 2020:
Look what just came out in the Desert Sun (local newspaper serving Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley in Southern CA):
Give Middleton Another Term
I live in Lisa Middleton’s district, and here’s why I support her re-election:
First, Lisa is an accessible listener. She begins to work on an issue by listening to her constituents, experts and other stakeholders. She starts with an open mind and gathers thoughts, ideas and information. She takes this step seriously so as to best represent the community.
Second, Lisa brings integrity to her position. She speaks openly and honestly, and always respectfully to those whom she represents. Her word means everything, and she can be counted on to deliver.
Third, Lisa focuses on the community at large. She always asks what the right thing is to do for the city, both short-term and long-term. She truly represents all of us, and no one is left out or viewed as unimportant. Lisa is a caring person, who genuinely brings compassion, empathy and inclusiveness to her position.
I have talked with Lisa about many issues. I have watched City Council meetings on TV, and I am always impressed with the depth, concern and thoughtfulness that Lisa brings to discussions. We are fortunate to have such a wonderful councilperson representing us, and we need her to be reelected.
Rich Weissman, Palm Springs
October 3, 2020:
With Trump having contracted COVID, we are now told to show compassion. Here’s a way to think about that request …
A wealthy man, with a long record of speeding in his collection of sports cars, drives 85 mph in a front of an elementary school where children are at the school crossing with red flashing lights, and runs down and kills 12 children and the 2 adult crossing guards, along with seriously injuring an additional 9 children. The man was seriously injured as well when he crashed into a tree after plowing down the children and the guards. He had previously been cited and warned about his speeding, and he had been forced by the court to take a course in safe driving (which he reluctantly took and then mocked). For whom do we mourn and feel sympathy, and for whom do we send our wishes for recovery? Pandemic ignored and dismissed, masking and social distancing mocked, and now millions of Americans infected and 210,000 dead, and my heart goes out for whom?
September 19, 2020:
On Rosh Hashanah, Trump tells American Jews, "we love your country" and asks for their vote. This is an age-old anti-Semitic trope in which Jewish people are considered to be "guests" of the "host nation," but certainly not citizens. No, J.D. and I, and my family, and all other America Jewish people are full citizens of the United States. We may love Israel, but we are Americans. Italian-Americans may love Italy, Irish-Americans may love Ireland, but Trump wouldn't think of saying to them "we love your country." The claim that Jews are somehow citizens of another nation other than the "host" is that which incited the Holocaust. And let's be clear - RGB was a true American and American leader. This blatant anti-Semitism is just another example of the hatred and divisiveness that Trumpism has engendered. BTW, the vast majority of American Jews won't be voting for Trump. We know how to read the tropes.
September 9, 2020:
The losers and suckers comments about fallen military men and women, the admission of knowing about the dangers of the virus, and the denial of climate change make it clear. Trumpism is about admiring one who relinquishes personal responsibility and duty, and who embraces selfishness and narcissism. It’s all part of a culture that relishes in lies, cheating, hatefulness, bigotry, ignorance, and that which is uncivil and lacking in empathy. It’s not about overlooking these behaviors; it’s about venerating them. That’s the key, and doing so as a religious experience, viewing these as somehow divine. No data, no fact-checking, no serious discussion changes the equation. It’s not about that which is moral and true; it’s about that which is self-absorbed and egotistical. And the more Trump and his cohorts engage and gloat in self-indulgence, denying that which we feel - the sadness for fallen soldiers, the fears of the pandemic, the anxiety about climate change, the disgust of the actions of bigots, the concerns for the economy, the worries of health care - the more the Trumpian followers worship him. No evidence, no science, no historical context will change any of this. No dialogue, no debate will matter. The Trumpians have managed to create a culture in which they are not responsible, in which they are not required to participate in society in a civilized way, where they can ignore the norms and the realities of the consequences of their behaviors, all under the guise of their religion in which they have no accountability nor need for personal or social conscience. This is what we are voting against in November; this is what is at stake - an election of the century, defining who we are as a people. We all must vote for a culture in which selfishness and narcissism are disdained. It’s that simple.
September 10, 2020:
Why would Trump have given all those interviews (and on tape!) to Woodward? Really, why would he do that? It's simple - Donald is a narcissist and a sociopath, and these kinds of people are incapable of understanding future consequences of their behaviors. The believe in their own omnipotence and cannot see how they can lose. They genuinely cannot imagine a scenario where they cannot talk themselves out of any situation. Donald believes he can outsmart, outdebate and out-present "his side" without failure. He cannot image a script in which he does not win. And when such scenarii do happen, he blames others as he is incapable of seeing his role in any way other than positive. So he talks with Woodward, says it all, and he thinks that he will somehow look good in the end. No need for further analysis - it's pure narcissism and sociopathy. And when it goes wrong, blame someone else because he simply cannot see his role in a negative outcome. This is who he is (and not pretending to be), and all of his actions are grounded in this core personality disorder. It's that simple.
August 18, 2020:
I'm confused. We don't talk about the "dire" financial condition and revenue losses of the military, the secret service, the coast guard, homeland security, IRS, federal parks, highways, the branches of government, the courts, etc. These are costs, not revenue producers, so why is the post office viewed as product that needs to produce more revenue than it costs. Would we shut down the IRS because it doesn't generate sufficient fines to cover its costs? Would we shut down the White House because the gift shop doesn't cover the costs of the president and the administration? Would we shut down the courts because their fees are far less than the costs of running the judicial system? Of course not. Government is not in the business of making money. It's in the business of collecting tax revenues and distributing them as Congress mandates. This notion that the postal service needs to be a profit center, and cover its operating and retirement benefits costs, is an abomination. Let's call it what it is.
August 13, 2020
Great strategy and, of course, Trump takes the bait. Rather than ignoring the VP opponent (Kamala Harris), Trump's going after her and creating a debate between Trump and Harris. It elevates her and allows her to take him on in ways that Biden cannot. Whereas Pence is not a factor, it's now Biden AND Harris against Trump. Trump has allowed himself to be in a position where he is attacked from two sides by both opponents, each of whom can attack him and excite voters in different ways. Notice how silent Pence remains. It's Trump who is taking the lead against Harris. Mark my word, the Biden-Harris team will now be in a position to attack at a new level, and that seems to be their strategy (often called a flanking strategy), knowing that Trump is incapable of resisting the bait. So when you see Trump attack Harris, my thinking is that it's all good and all part of a smart Biden strategy. She will keep prodding him and he can't resist. In strategic terms, one never wants to be flanked, but Trump is who he is, and this may be one additional component in selecting Harris.
July 29, 2020:
I asked myself what I would do if BLM protesters were marching in front of my house. The first thing that came to mind would be to grab a folding table, a few cases of bottled water and boxes of protein bars, and set it up at the sidewalk. I would thank the protesters for speaking up about this important issue and offer them refreshments. Imagine how different things would have turned out for the McCloskeys if they had done that. But, the Trumpians only know the impulse of fear and violence, not the response of compassion and kindness; they see the protesters as the enemy, not as fellow human beings. And that’s the fundamental problem we face.
(Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the couple who wielded guns at Black Lives Matter protesters, St. Louis MO)
July 12, 2020:
I saw these numbers today, with a clear answer to those who suggest we should all “just get infected and get it over with, and only 1% to 2% will die.” First, it sounds low as a percent but not when put into numbers; second, it assumes that if one doesn’t die, then all is good.
The US population is 328.2 million people. If 1% die, that’s 3.3 million people dead. At 2%, 6.5 million people dead – imagine that!
What about the people who survive? For every one person who dies:
19 more require hospitalization.
18 will have permanent heart damage for the rest of their lives.
10 will have permanent lung damage.
3 will have strokes.
2 will have neurological damage that leads to chronic weakness and loss of coordination.
2 will have neurological damage that leads to loss of cognitive function.
So with “only” a 1% fatality rate:
3.3 million people dead, along with:
62 million hospitalized.
60 million with permanent heart damage.
33 million with permanent lung damage.
10 million people with strokes.
7 million with muscle weakness.
7 million with loss of cognitive function.
And when Betsy DeVos says that only 1% of children will die if we open up the schools, we’re talking about millions of children facing death or permanent disability, not to mention spreading the disease to their families, teachers and communities.
But Donniedeath and his cohorts don’t care. All they think about is the economy of the moment and the visuals between now and the election. But how can the US have a strong economy when over a third of our population can be so severely impacted? We can’t, and our nation is at risk of failure in economic, public health and social terms with these kinds of potential numbers. This is a crisis, and ignoring it to keep things going for an election (or because we’re “bored with the pandemic”) is heartless. If we don’t take immediate action we will regret it for years and generations to come, and the devastation noted above will become our new normal.
June 22, 2020:
I leash my dog and clean-up after him because I want to live a healthy life in a healthy community. I take my garbage to the trash can because I want to live a healthy life in a healthy community. I use the bathroom in my house and then wash my hands because I want to live a healthy life in a healthy community. I stay home with the flu because I want to live a healthy life in a healthy community. We all do lots of things for our health and for our community's health, even if there are times we don’t want to. It might be easier to let my dog loose and not clean up after him, or throw my trash in the road, or go to the bathroom in the street and not wash my hands, or go shopping with the flu. But that wouldn’t be healthy for me and my community. And that’s why I always wear a mask outside my house and maintain social distance. Sure it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient, but I want to live a healthy life in a healthy community. That’s what civilized people do. Kinda easy concept.
Eleven southern states initially created the Confederate States of America in 1860, and it existed for less than 5 years until 1865. ONLY FIVE YEARS! And the Confederate (aka rebel) flag was created in 1863 and lasted less than 2 years. ONLY TWO YEARS! They declared themselves to be independent of the United States after Lincoln was elected, so as to form a separate nation with highly limited central government and with the institution of black slavery at its core. So let’s get real. Although based on centuries of brutal and horrific slavery and racism, the Confederacy itself was defeated and represented an ugly and short period in which an enemy of American democracy and the Constitution emerged and was vanquished. There is NO reason to celebrate it or its flag other than to continue to promote racism and treason. And let’s put it in perspective and list American periods which lasted longer than the Confederacy: Obama’s presidency, Shirley Chisholm’s Congressional seat in the House, Wanda Sykes’ career, Kwanzaa, tv shows “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons,”, and even RuPaul’s “Drag Race,” to name just a few. Let the south (and others) put up statues of these and take down anything and everything related to that which celebrates slavery and treason.
June 11, 2020:
I was thinking... Imagine being afraid to walk outside in your neighborhood or in a local park, imagine being afraid to drive your car, imagine being afraid to go shopping in a store, imagine being afraid of the door bell as it might mean danger, imagine being afraid of sending your kids to school or worrying about your spouse going to work. Imagine living like this every day. I'm not talking about COVID; I'm talking about being black in America and living one's life afraid because of the ongoing racism and injustices that make each day an anxious and potentially deadly one for black people. White people like me need to begin to try to understand. We'll never experience it; we'll never fully understand it; but we need to try to empathize and then get on board and fight for change, because black lives matter and black people should not have to live lives in fear. Racism is a white problem and we have to own it.
June 7, 2020:
Interesting idea that hit me today: It seems that almost all I see are white policemen who are brutalizing people of color and protesters. Not surprising, since among all police in the US, less than 15% are women, and over 75% are white. It is dominated by white men. With the recent talk about defunding police, how about cities/counties/municipalities require specific minimum levels of women and people of color in order for police to receive funding, where half the force must be women and half must be people of color. Perhaps approximately 25% women of color and 25% men of color, with 25% white women and 25% white men. This way, white men would be only a quarter of the force, and a minimum of half the force would be women and a minimum of half the force would be people of color. Otherwise, no funding. Until we change the composition of the police force, brutality and racist policies/activities will continue. I certainly trust women and people of color to more humanely and equitably provide policing to all communities. Mind you, we should also move many of the policing activities to social services (domestic disputes, drug usage, homelessness, etc.) that are not policing issues but are better served through social service intervention. Just a thought.
April 26, 2020:
Your car’s gas is near empty, and you’d like to go for a long drive. Question: Do you want to get gas or go on a road trip? Clearly, that’s a ridiculous question - it’s a false dichotomy. You can’t go on a road trip if you don’t first get gas, one action is dependent on the other. The same is true of the false dichotomy we are asked to select: do you want to get the economy moving or stop the spread of the pandemic? That, too, is a ridiculous question. We are a consumer-based economy (70% of our economy is consumer spending), and only when consumers feel confident in their personal lives and their futures do they spend money. That’s why the consumer confidence index is the key leading indicator for economic growth, and it’s down 46% since end of January, 2020, with over 60% of Americans now perceiving both the beginning of a long epidemic and economic recession/depression. If people don’t feel safe, healthy and on comfortable footing, then they spend less. We are seeing among the highest rates of savings, declines in credit card outstandings and loans, and other activities that typically represent a worried populace, making fewer purchases. Simply “letting” people go back to shopping, restaurants, travel, etc. without addressing the underlying issues of consumer anxiety will not ultimately help the economy recover. Dealing with the pandemic in a rational, proactive way with widespread testing, mandatory safety (e.g. masks/distancing/limited indoor activity) and confidence that the federal government is reliably and honestly reporting and handling the situation, and behaving in the best interests of the populace is what is needed FIRST. Otherwise, most people will not simply return to their old spending habits. People are worried about their jobs (with many now unemployed and without any income), declines in sources of income, loss of health insurance, inaccessible childcare, 401k and other retirement income losses, and most importantly, worried that they and their loved ones will get sick and potentially die. Not everyone - there are the crazies on the right who refuse to accept the current dangers - but most Americans are concerned. That is the issue that comes first. Just as you have to get gas before you can start your road trip, the American people need to be assured that the pandemic is under control before they will venture out and resume spending. Donniedeath doesn’t understand (he fails at the most basic economic and business concepts) and his cronies don’t care. So they present this false dichotomy. Don’t buy it; it’s ridiculous (and dangerous).
April 20, 2020:
Last week on FOX News, Sean Hannity asked Dr. Oz (a FOX medical expert) what steps should be taken to restart the economy. Oz replied: "Schools are a very appetizing opportunity… Opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3% percent in terms of total mortality… [which] might be a trade-off some folks would consider.” And Hannity was okay with that idea. They didn’t give the math, but I will: there are over 76 million children in schools in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau). A mortality rate of 2 to 3% would result in 1.5 to 2.3 MILLION deaths among children. Let me repeat, 1.5 to 2.3 MILLION children. And FOX and its GOP base see this as a reasonable “trade-off.” This is the depth of depravity which Donniedeath has brought upon this nation, where GOP supportive newscaster and medical expert (Oz is a surgeon, educated at Harvard and U of Penn!) talk casually about murdering 1.5 to 2.3 MILLION children. Oz later tried to explain and talk it back, but I for one cannot accept any explanation or forgiveness. I'd rather see my stock portfolio go to zero than to kill children. But these people are monsters and this, yes this more than anything else, has to unite us all against the Donniedeath regime. Let me repeat, 1.5 to 2.3 MILLION children are viewed as expendable for economic growth. This is what Nazism looks like. The horror of it all!