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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The year of lines--is it a sign of failure of planning?


    The lines to get the vaccine is only the latest in 2020 being the year in lines.  We have seen the long voting lines and lines for food banks.  When a system is set up to receive applications online, like unemployment, we heard the frustration of not being able to login or get someone to answer the phone call-in number.  System design always seems to be a couple of steps behind the need for access.  The problem with the rollout of Obamacare at the federal level and statewide program in Maryland was similarly inefficient in enrolling new applicants.  States that centralized intake and decentralized distribution seem to have vaccinated more people quickly.  With the possible need for booster shots and the development of new viruses, the lessons learned with rolling out vaccines quickly hopefully we will have better systems developed to prevent the chaos we have all just lived through.



Thursday, March 25, 2021

Cold hard facts on mass shootings

      Americans makeup 4.2 % of the world's population but account for 42% of the guns owned in the world.  Americans make up 32% of the mass shootings in the world.

      Every time there is another mass shooting the opponents of gun control talk about the problem being related to mental health, video games, or our multi-cultural population. While these issues may be a factor in some cases of mass shootings in the United States the reality is that other countries have the same issues and have far fewer incidents of mass shootings.  The only relevant difference is the number of guns, especially assault weapons, with high-capacity magazines owned by Americans. 


       Background checks and more mental health services may help in a few cases but outlawing AR-15 and other semi-automatic guns with high-capacity magazines will make it harder to kill multiple people.  



P.S.

      With each mass shooting, it brings back my memories of landing in Las Vegas in 2017 just 10 hours after a mass shooter killed 59 people and wounded hundreds of others at a concert the night before.  Even though the airport was a mile from the stage it was hit with two of the bullets.  The stage where the concert was held the night before was still there 10 hours later.  The area around the stage still had sheets up as some of the bodies had not been removed from the crime scene.


                   The window the shooter had used was just boarded up the next morning.


                                  A memorial had already grown in memory of those killed.


P. S. 1

           Yesterday was also the 3 year anniversary of attending the March of Our Lives march in DC led by the students from Marjorie Stollman Douglas High School.



P.S 2



Monday, March 22, 2021

Have we already moved to a cashless society?

    


     I recently heard of a study that showed that 30% of people surveyed said they hadn't used cash in the past 30 days.  Some businesses have already gone cashlessSome countries are moving in this direction.  This reality made me stop and think of the last time I used cash to pay for something.  I couldn't remember the last time.   I have been carrying the same $35 in my wallet since I don't remember when.  I have carried the same amount of coins in my pocket since last year without using the coins once.  

     The primary reason I don't use cash is that using a credit card for all purchases is an easy way to track our monthly expenses.  I remember when I started doing this years ago and writing down my expenses on a piece of paper when I paid in cash.  At the end of the month, I would total the expenses up and enter them in a spreadsheet.  I would add the expenses from checks and credit cards and then arrive at our monthly expenses.  I finally realized that I could make the process much easier by just using a credit card for the expenses when I was using cash or a check. Having monthly bills automatically paid by a credit card also makes bill paying easier and rarely having to write a check.  PayPal makes it easier to send money to people than sending cash or a check through the mail.

    It will be a challenge to see if I can go the rest of the year without needing to touch that $35

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The United States is a leader in vaccinating its citizens when you have a competent government

         For the last year, the United States which should have better prepared to handle a health crisis has been a disaster in addressing the pandemic.  We were in the top 10 countries in how poorly we controlled the virus.  No other country has approached the 500,000 deaths of the United States.  Trump probably wasn't thinking of this when he said we would get tired of winning during his administration.

     Now with a different administration in charge, the United States ranks 8th out of 115 countries with the percentage of its population vaccinated. The United States is in the enviable position of being able to offer vaccines to other countries.  I think we can all now thank Georgia for giving us back a competent government.


P.S.



Thursday, March 18, 2021

The "personless" March 2020 with social distancing in Amazon photos

    With an Amazon Photos account each day you receive an email link that shows your photos from that day over the years.  In the past couple of weeks, I have noticed something different in my photos from 2020 than my photos from past years.  That difference was that the photos from 2020 were just pictures of sunrises, Spring flowers, and blossoms from my morning runs and nothing with people in the photos.  This contrasted with photos of other years that had many pictures that included people.  March 2020 was a month without "people" photos.  It made me reflect on how socially isolated we were in March 2020.  We thought we would only have to do this for a month and then our world would open up again.  If we knew that we were in for another year of social distancing I think we would have had a collective national case of depression.  Here are just a few photos showing the contrast in years.

                                                Pre-pandemic years photos of March






                                                         2020 photos of March







Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Democrats have put a "ticking time bomb" for the Republicans into the new stimulus bill

    

      The Democrat's ticking time bomb is set to go off next year before the 2022 mid-term elections.  The $300 a month per child checks to most middle-class families in the stimulus bill is set to expire next year.  The Democrats are planning on introducing new legislation to make the $300 payments permanent.  This will put the Republicans in the position of having to explain why they didn't vote to continue these payments to families.  Not exactly a position any Republican elected official will enjoy facing.  Democrat challengers will be sure to point out to voters that most of these elected Republicans voted to make Trump's tax cuts permanent that went mostly to the wealthy but want to take away the benefit that went to low and middle-income families.  The Republicans can try to run on their cultural issues such as Dr. Seuss books but taking money away from families will "trump" any obscure cultural issue.

P.S.

    You don't hear too many Republicans still talking about ending Obamacare.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Next Oprah must-see TV

 


    Tonight on Oprah - Biden's dog will be on talking about why he bit a staff member and how the dog collar they had on him made him feel oppressed. Must-see TV. And you thought your life was complicated.

P.S.
A little Doonesbury too



Friday, March 12, 2021

The 2021 version of the Great Society

    


    The election landslide of 1964 gave the Democrats the power to enact the most progressive legislation since the New Deal of the 1930s.  Now while the majority of the Democrats is much slimmer it is truly amazing there is the potential for addressing some of the needs that have been proposed by progressives for a long time. 
    While most of the attention of the stimulus bill, the American Rescue Bill,  has been on how it addresses the needs of the pandemic the truly game-changing aspects of the bill are the elements that have been the dreams of progressives for many years.  While it doesn't go as far as Andrew Yang's $1,000 a month guaranteed income proposal the $300 a month per child payment is a step in that direction.  This tax credit will be paid out each month and will reduce the child poverty rate by 50%.   The child poverty rate in the US has fluctuated around 20% for the past 10 years depending on the general economy of the country.  This reduction will be greater than was experienced during the time of the Great Society when the overall poverty rate was reduced from 17 % to 11%.  While this tax credit is now to only last one year there are plans by the Democrats to make it permanent.  The movement to guaranteed income will have a start through this child tax credit.  Expect Republicans to raise their cries of socialism when the time comes to make this permanent but it is always harder to take something away that people are used to.  Just think about how unsuccessful the Republicans have been to do away with Obamacare.  Speaking of Obamacare the Rescue Plan has money in it for more subsidy money to help pay for premiums"The American Rescue Plan eliminates the ACA's subsidy cliff and extends PTCs to those with incomes above 400 percent FPL for 2021 and 2022. ... Those whose income is 150 percent FPL would, regardless of age, pay no premiums, down from $800 under current law."  It is not Medicare for All but it closer to that reality.
     The other Great Society advancement of voting rights is still to come.  The John Lewis Voting Rights legislation and the For the People Act are the most progressive voting rights legislation since the 1960s. Both of these acts will have to get past the filibuster in the Senate by the Republicans who know that expanding voting will mean the death of the Republican party in many more states.  There are a couple of ways to get around the filibuster without doing away with it.  One is to change what can't be filibustered to include voting rights legislation the way the Senate does for budget reconciliation and judicial appointments.  This change would only require a simple majority vote.  The second change would be to require that senators filibustering stay in the chamber talking or give up their right to filibuster a bill.  This is called a "talking filibuster" and the rule again could be changed by a majority vote.   If the opposition to doing away with the filibuster is because of the need to give the minority a chance to make their case the talking filibuster gives the minority the right to be heard but not the right to block the majority.  Look for this battle along these lines in the near future in the Senate. 
       The lessons learned by the Democrats from the Trump years and McConnell's Senate actions have hopefully made the Democrats more willing to use their slim majority to move the most progressive legislation in 50 years while they can.  It should be "payback" time for what McConnell did with the Garland Supreme Court appointment travesty. 

P.S.
      As the Republicans have given up on governing their only tactic to give their base something to support Republican legislators are cultural issues.  The outrage at Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head shows how far the Republicans have to go to find an issue.  

The Charmery ice cream shop opens in Columbia today

   




  The Charmery ice cream shop opens in the Merriweather District today at 5 pm.  It is located at 6000 Merriweather Drive, Suite 185B. Look for it to be crowded. Hope it is as good as it sounds.

#hocoblogs


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Out of the darkness of the past year


     With the one-year anniversary of the pandemic being declared, it is time to reflect on the changes and losses of the past year.  The photo of the sunrise above is one I took on March 11, 2020.  Little did we know that our lives would be changing in ways in the next year that would profoundly change us.  Sheltering in place and social distancing were unknown concepts a year ago.  Living more of your life online meant virtual meetings on Zoom or some other platform and ordering from Amazon rather than going to a store.  Such regular occurrences as meeting friends at a restaurant became a memory.  Wearing a mask and avoiding getting too close to passing people made the world seem like a threat to our personal safety.
      How we come out of this experience as changed people remains to be seen.  Will we resume our normal previous patterns and look at the past year as an exception or will we become different people for good and bad.  Will the changes the world has gone through in the past year make the countries of the world more willing to work together to tackle common problems or become more nationalistic and protective of their internal needs? Will our experience with delaying addressing a pandemic mean we have a new recognition of the need to address the threat of climate change?  Will democracies thrive in our new reality or will countries move to more authoritarian models.  That is a reality we see being played out currently in our country.  We can see signs in both directions.
     We are about to move into a world post-pandemic that will be very different than pre-pandemic.  Will it be like the "roaring 20's" after the1918 pandemic or a time of turbulence in the world like the 1930s that led to the Second World War or a little of both?  Stay tuned it should be an interesting time.


P.S.
     One negative change today is that gas is not as cheap as it was a year ago.

 


Monday, March 8, 2021

Texas--the Jack Kevorkian state

      It is somewhat ironic that in conservative Republican states, like Texas, these days the right to live your life in a way that makes you more likely to catch the COVID virus and pass it on to others is seen as a right to live your life or die how and when you choose.  The "right to die" culture in Texas is strong.  "Choose Life" in Texas has nothing to do with abortion these days.

    The Washinton Post described it this way:

"At a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock this week, Gov. Greg Abbott (R)proclaimed that he would issue an executive order to open Texas up “100 percent” starting next week — including, as he told a cheering crowd, ending a statewide mask mandate. “People and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate,” he said.

 Last March, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that grandparents in Texas should be willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the state’s economy. When Abbott reopened the state in May, the move quickly resulted in a spike of cases, and he was forced to backtrack."

       The next thing we will hear from Gov. Abbott is that everyone in Texas has a right to freeze in the winter if that is what they want rather than have to government tell them how to winterize their energy grid.


P.S. 

      Maryland has to be cautious in reopening as we are only one of two states, Florida being the other one, that has recorded one case of all 3 of the variant strains of the virus.  Since the variants are the cause of most of the concern about the spread of the virus it might make sense to prioritize the distribution of the vaccines to those areas with the highest rate of the variants beyond what would be allocated based on population alone.  Microtargeting of the vaccine distribution would make sense if we had a rational federal response to vaccine distribution.  Unfortunately the virus is able to move faster than our uncoordinated governmental actions.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

What it looks like when you have one governing party and one insurrectionist party

    You know you must be doing something right when you can get no support from Republicans.

-1993 Clinton budget/tax deal [which led to budget surpluses]: zero Republican votes in House, zero in Senate. -2010 Obamacare [now popular]: zero Republicans in House, zero in Senate. -2021 Biden COVID Relief bill: zero Republicans in House, zero in Senate.



Saturday, March 6, 2021

Weekend funnies for the older crowd

 














P.S
    Also for the older folks a song from Neil Diamond.  Heard him twice at the old Capital Centre.  First time in 1982.  His rendition of Sweet Caroline went on for about 10 minutes with the crowd singing. He supposedly wrote the song for Caroline Kennedy.













Friday, March 5, 2021

New Resource for finding a vaccine appointment




    The Maryland Vaccine Finders Facebook group has become so popular (57,000 and growing) that they have changed some of their posting rules.   They were overwhelmed with postings about where appointments were available and have now encouraged people to use a spreadsheet that they have developed to find an appointment.  #hocoblogs

P.S.

     For those under 65 looking for an appointment, Pennsylvania has appointments for persons 18-64 with the following conditions.  Not sure how they check on any of these conditions like obesity or smoking.  Maybe you could have someone blow cigarette smoke on you before your appointment! Rite Aid pharmacies right over the state line are giving appointments to Maryland residents.

  • Persons ages 16-64 with high-risk conditions:
    • Cancer
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • COPD
    • Down Syndrome
    • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
    • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
    • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
    • Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
    • Pregnancy
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Smoking
    • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Thursday, March 4, 2021

"Mistake on the Lake" will close on April 30th

   

       

     The Columbia Association announced that the Haven on the Lake will close after April 30th.  The pandemic was the final nail in the coffin of this effort by CA to develop a spa-like retreat in Town Center. The concept has always been controversial in its viability hence the label of "Mistake on the Lake" by opponents of CA using its money on what was directed to such a narrow group of CA members.

   This is not the first time that trouble has found the Haven.  Three years ago the Still Point spa inside the Haven sued CA over a dispute with the revenue sharing between the two entities

     The Columbia Association will be facing some significant budget reductions caused by a loss of revenue from the shut down of its facilities in 2020 because of the pandemic and many members going on a $10 maintenance status.  Only 15 pools will be open this summer and CA has had to significantly reduce its workforce to absorb the loss of revenue.  With the closing of schools, the revenue from the after-school program operated by CA was lost.

    At this time the Columbia Association is currently recruiting for a new President/CEO.  That person will be starting at CA at one of the most challenging times in CA's history.

P.S.

     Read the CA Budget for 2022.


    #hocoblogs

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

    Is it any surprise that the Texas government that didn't require the power grid to be winterized is the same government that is no longer mandating masks?  Maybe it is time to stop sending bottled water to Texas and now send more medical personnel.  Seems like a death cult state to me.







Tuesday, March 2, 2021

CPAC denying symbolic racist symbol

     We are all learning about the coded words and symbols of the Trump-supporting right-wing followers.  The CPAC event this last weekend has now brought to our attention of the old Nordic Runic alphabet that has a history of being used by racists in the past who demonize non-white people.  Here is a description of how it is being used:
     "Runic alphabets are still used today in many mainstream and non-racist contexts. However, white supremacists have also appropriated the runic alphabet, in large part because Nazi Germany often used runes in its symbology. White supremacists use runes for transliterated Roman letters, creating an alternative alphabet (sometimes viewed as a code, since the vast majority of people do not know runic letters).
     It is also common for white supremacists to use runic letters to portray certain words of significance to the white supremacist cause, which may be seen on clothing or as tattoos."

    A Runic symbol used at the right-wing demonstrations in Charlottesville a few years ago.  The use of the Nordic symbols is a reminder of the desire of the Nazis to create an Aryan race.


The symbols were modified slightly by the Nazis as shown on the collar of a Nazi soldier.

      So that brings us to the CPAC conference last weekend and the floor design for the conference. I don't often follow conspiratorial theories but was that design a deliberate message to right-wing racists?  Given that CPAC has many right-wing supporters if it wasn't deliberate shouldn't someone have raised a "red flag" about the floor design?

P.S.

      Trump's preference for Nordic people was seen in wondering why we didn't have more immigrants from Norway instead of from African countries

P. S.

    The Trumps even lied about being from Sweden.