Random unrelated thoughts


Kelly wrote a brief blog post titled Random unrelated thoughts that are actually quite related.

I had been musing on the same theme.  Specifically, his second point: “Americans are very, very, very bad at seeing how societal problems tie into one another.”

ITEM: Per this 2021 article:  “The gas tax has not been raised in 28 years, and America’s infrastructure network is suffering the consequences. The tax was last raised in 1993 from 14.1 cents to 18.4 cents per gallon, where it remains today.

“Because the gas tax is not pegged to inflation, its purchasing power has eroded significantly over the past 28 years, and the tax is now ‘worth’ 45 percent less than in 1993; if the tax had been indexed for inflation each year since 1993, it would be approximately 15 cents higher in 2021.”

This is why the vast infrastructure bill became necessary. And of course, certain people – OK, Republicans – are taking credit for a bill they voted against. But there would have been no need for the massive legislation if the gas tax had been raised periodically. 

Living wage

ITEM: The federal minimum wage for covered nonexempt employees has been $7.25 per hour since 2009. That is insane. Several states have a higher threshold.

When market pressure to raise wages occurred, the general argument was why that kid working at Mickey D’s should make $15/hour. It became a shock to the system for many employers. 

However, employers would have more easily absorbed the increase if the rate had increased incrementally.

A related topic: the ideal CEO-to-Employee Pay Ratio. This article notes that “The phenomenon of firms with overpaid CEOs and underpaid employees is not new. In 1977, the late Peter F. Drucker, arguably the most famous management thinker, suggested the pay ratio between CEOs and employees be a maximum of 25-to-1.

“However, in 2011, he scaled it slightly back to a ratio of 20-to-1. Drucker said at the time: ‘I have often advised managers that a 20-to-1 salary ratio is a limit beyond which they cannot go if they don’t want resentment and falling morale to hit their companies.'” Yet the ratio is ten times that.  Hospital executives are overcompensated, while nurses are underpaid, for example.

From THR. “A-list actors are known to pull in larger paydays, but SAG-AFTRA advocates for all of its 160,000 members, including background actors, singers, dancers, and stunt performers. Only 12.7 percent of SAG members make the annual $26,470 needed to qualify for union health insurance, according to some guild members. Actors made a median salary of $46,960 in 2021.”

Meanwhile, “when he re-upped at Disney as CEO, [Robert] Iger’s 2023 pay package was valued at $27 million. [Warner Brothers’ David] Zaslav’s 2022 compensation package hit $39.3 million.” So Iger is making over 500 times the median SAG salary, yet calls the unions’ demands “just not realistic.”


ITEM: With more indictments of djt come more defenses by the usual suspects. The former prez speaks with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, “who leads the House GOP’s messaging efforts,” and their responses parrot their handler. The term “unpresidented” – I mean unprecedented  – is thrown around a lot. No president has been charged so often.  

But this article from Foreign Policy was helpful. “Trump is just one of 78 political leaders in democratic nations who have faced criminal charges since the year 2000.”

“In the past five years alone, South Korea has convicted two of its former presidents on corruption charges… Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of bribery in 2021…  Just last year, former President of Bolivia Jeanine Añez—who stepped forward as a proposed interim president in 2019 following the resignation of her predecessor, Evo Morales—was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was accused of illegally taking over the presidency.


Possibly most instructive: “Prosecuting a former leader can also ignite political tensions and destabilize domestic politics. One of the most contemporary examples is Israel, where the charges of corruption against Benjamin Netanyahu sparked a political crisis in 2019 that continues to run its course. It resulted in a tumultuous power swing that saw five elections in four years with Netanyahu returning as prime minister in December 2022 despite his legal troubles. It’s unclear whether he’ll be found guilty, or whether the courts could enforce a guilty verdict.

“Now back in power, Netanyahu has proposed a sweeping judicial overhaul that would give him final say over judge appointments and his government the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions. The proposal led to mass protests this year, and opponents call it a conflict of interest as Netanyahu remains a criminal defendant.”

When leaders aren’t held to account, bad things can happen to democracy.

This was the year that was


That Was The Year That WasIt’s time for my annual look back at the year that was. The questions were stolen from Kelly because why not?

Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

To part one, not so much if I made them, which I may or may not have. Regardless, the list of things I want to finish, if anything, has gotten longer. So making more of them would be foolhardy.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Someone named in part after me had a third child

Did anyone close to you die?

Four people were in the choir:  BettyMike, Nate, and Susan. KenJimPaul, Mary, and Kay. I never mentioned my wife’s aunt Effie Oliver, who I was very fond of. Nor did I discuss my father’s favorite cousin Sheldon Walker. I feel as though I have forgotten someone.

What countries did you visit?

None. Maybe in 2023.

What would you like to have in 2023 that you lacked in 2022?

This is what Kelly wrote last year. “An end to the pandemic, and a feeling that my country is moving toward rationality and a renewed commitment to thinking collectively and valuing democracy.” I’ll still buy that.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I didn’t get as detailed about how sick my wife had been in October, though I wrote about it in two posts. Anyway, taking care of her – changing bandages, making meals, whatever. My MIL is pleased with how well I cared for her daughter, so that’s nice.

What was your biggest failure?

I think not getting to the genealogy stuff.

What was the best thing you bought?

A portable white noise machine.



Whose behavior merited celebration?

Anyone who tried to protect democracy. The Jan 6 committee. Librarians.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The Supreme Court. Most federal Republicans. The newly re-elected governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL). I could name LOTS of names, but I don’t have the energy. But I will select one: Lindsay Graham, a spineless worm. (Or is that an insult to worms?)

Where did most of your money go?

My daughter has gone to college.

What did you get really excited about?

Singing in the choir. Albany was COVID-green far too infrequently, but I relished it every week.

Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

I’m working on this apparently popular theory that you can fake it until you make it. So I’m working on at least pretending to get happier, even though it feels… wrong.

Richer or poorer?

My daughter is going to college.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Reading more books: I read stuff online, in magazines, and newspapers, but books fall by the wayside. Also, taking more naps.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Deleting political emails because I’m always inundated.

How did you spend Christmas?

With my MIL, eventually.

Did you fall in love in 2022?

Yes, actually

How many one-night stands?

Same as last year


What was your favorite TV program?

I’ve watched almost no television except Abbott Elementary, The Good Doctor, JEOPARDY!, and news programs. No time.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

If that one guy would just GO AWAY…

What was the best book you read?

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, which had sat on my shelf for a few years.

What did you want and get?

A Democratic US Senate

What did you want and not get?

A Democratic US House of Representatives, not that I was expecting one.

What were your favorite films of this year?

I have a difficult time seeing films on TV or the computer. That said, I’d pick  CODA. I did see and enjoyed SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME, She Said, and Devotion at the cinema.

What did you do on your birthday?

It was a Monday. Optimally, as little as possible. I really don’t remember. I probably wrote a blog post.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2021?


Assuming facts not in evidence

What kept you sane?

Music, always. Also, this here blog and the interactions it’s led to.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine. Rightly the TIME Magazine Person of the Year, though, as someone said, the cover looked like something designed for an MCU poster.
Nancy Pelosi. Wrangling a herd of cats is not easy. I saw Paul Ryan, one of her predecessors as Speaker of the House, on ABC News acknowledge that she did a good job, though he disagreed about her priorities.
Taylor Swift. I only have two of her albums, but she markets herself very well and uses her power for good, not evil.

What political issue stirred you the most?

The threat to democracy itself. And it’s not just in the United States. The attempted coup in Germany, the retrograde leadership in Hungary, and the chunk of votes that Marine Le Pen got in the last French elections.

Related, the power of the lie and the astonishing willingness of some people to believe it.

Who did you miss?

The weird thing even now is that you don’t see folks. Several people from my church are still attending online.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2022:

For me, in-person is SO much better. Better than plays online, ZOOM meetings, et al.

A year in the life of Joe Biden

overturning Trump policies

joebidenA year in the life of Joe Biden. Well, he did ask for the job. I’m just going to touch on the points that most resonated with me. So it won’t cover EVERY SINGLE THING he did in the past 365 days. First, the good.

He named “literally thousands of talented and diverse appointees… the ambassadorial corps, and the leadership of numerous regulatory agencies – most of whom have already effected huge and positive federal policy shifts in everything from student loans to toxic chemicals to human rights.”

Specifically, he’s gotten  40 federal judges approved. “80 percent are women and 53 percent are people of color.” His predecessor got half that many approved in that first year and received huge praise.

Also, there’s the $1.9 trillion Covid relief deal, which kept many American families afloat.

Biden reinstated the pause on the federal death penalty. The previous guy ended a 17-year pause on federal executions and 13 people were put to death between July 2020 and January 2021.

Indeed, much of what he accomplished, particularly early on, involved undoing what had taken place in the previous four years.

But beyond that, I feel that he’s a fundamentally decent person, prone to gaffs as he has been for decades, but not inherently nasty.

The mixed

Sure, the trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was passed in November, AFTER the election, when it was uncoupled from the Build Back Better bill. All old poli sci folks know that politics is the art of the possible. Personally, I would have preferred passing an infrastructure bill in August and working on the passable components of BBB in separate bills.

The US rejoined the Paris climate accord which Biden’s predecessor had left. I’m not sure what the 2021 event accomplished…

72 percent of American adults were fully vaccinated, a little later than the target. Which means a whole lot of people are not. The US rate still trails much of the world.

The unemployment rate has dropped dramatically, but so has the workforce.

The bad

I think most of his problem has been overpromising, creating extraordinarily high expectations, and underdelivering on them.

In July 2021, he said that the withdrawal from Afghanistan would in no way look like the 1975 pullout from Saigon, South Vietnam. As noted, I supported the action, but the failure to get more people out before the pullout was a blunder.

Biden declared that we would be free of the COVID by the 4th of July. Of course, he didn’t anticipate the delta and omicron variants. But one could see the sluggish growth in the number of vaccinated, despite the mandates, and the ill will they generated. The administration needed to do better making the testing kits available much sooner.

No voting-rights legislation was passed and his recent plan to end the filibuster, despite his fiery rhetoric, was never going to happen.

The ugly

A lot of the economic strains have been baked into the system. An increase in wages has been long overdue; the federal minimum wage is STILL $7.25. Now there is some leverage for higher wages.

The “just in time” supply chain, with so much manufacturing from outside the United States, has long been one pandemic, one large war away from the crisis that took place in 2021. As Reuters notes: “The economy is experiencing high inflation as the COVID-19 pandemic snarls supply chains.” Some like to call it Bidenflation, but I’m not sure what he could have done to prevent it.

He IS the oldest US President, and I believe the stiffness of his “ambulatory gait” over the past year allows some to write him off with a Let’s Go, Brandon meme.

The unfixable?

Here’s a larger question, though. Is the United States governable? The New York Times asked that very question a year ago. It quoted Julie Wronski, a political scientist at the University of Mississippi.”When two people playing a game cannot agree on the basic rules and layout of the game, they cannot play. When groups within American society believe in two different sets of rules on how to play the game of democracy, it cannot be played and we become ungovernable.”

So when Biden promised to work “across the aisle” to pass legislation, and some in the GOP deign to actually work with him, they’re dubbed RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). They are threatened with primaries, backed by 45. Nate Silver of 538 posits that Jan. 6 strengthened Trump’s hold on the Republican Party. It’s sad, but I have to agree.

I’m not sure what Biden can do about the fact that most Republicans continue to believe in the Big Lie, that the 46th President was not legally elected. Perhaps America is heading to a place where it can no longer call itself a democracy.


Right after the 2020 election, when it was clear that Biden had WON, I ordered a half dozen buttons. Two of them are Biden/Harris. One said, “Unity over division” – not happening yet. “Hope over fear”; fear seems pretty strong. “Trust over lies”; lies are still winning. “Science over fiction”; it would be nice.

If you’re more optimistic, PLEASE let me know.

Things we learned from djt

Our democracy is fragile

On Facebook last week, I made a request. What are things we learned from djt and his last four or five years in public life?

One couple has downloaded the Constitution, referring to it often for the past 4 years. Another has learned more about the document, “in particular the 12th amendment. But also the 13th and the 25th.”

Of course, I knew about the Electoral College, but prior to the 2020 presidential election, I’d thought of the post-Election Day aspects of it as often as I’ve considered gravity. The recent machinations on December 14 and January 6 are like the wedding guests storming the officiant’s office demanding to see the couple’s license.

A friend chimed in: “The legal meanings of the word treason and what distinguishes it from sedition; and the federal statutes regarding both. How martial law works.

Also, “the structure of the United States District Courts; how and the meaning of SALT (in addition to Strategic Arms Limitation Talks).” Are you referring to that Angelina Jolie movie?

My buddy Steve noted: “The difference between simple corruption and an actual impeachable offense.” I thought when he was impeached they should have gone after him over the emoluments clause.

A friend suggests “There are innumerable norms that have provided guidelines for presidential behavior.” That’s irrefutably true. Will the other members accept djt into the former prez club? Doubtful. It got me thinking of the fact that I can’t remember half the people in his Cabinet.

Who knew the Hatch Act was so ineffectual on the highest-ranking folks? Who has violated it? Ivanka Trump, repeatedly. Kellyanne Conway, ditto.  And others.

You folks have done well

A parent noted “The names of dictators around the world, as well as names of responsible world leaders.” Yow, me too, and I hadn’t thought about it. Their child wants to know whether “there is any better leadership anywhere in the world, especially related to COVID and climate change.”

“Inherently good people can become mean and vindictive when pushed to their limits. Let’s hope that’s just a temporary condition and they can heal.” Unfortunately, the “good” and “temporary” nature I’m just not feeling.

The January 6 insurrection one can trace to a time before djt. In the last four years, it runs from Charlottesville (2017) to the planned kidnapping of the Michigan governor (2020) and beyond.

Some other responses:
Our democracy is fragile
The danger executive orders pose for human/civil rights. Methods a political party uses to suppress the vote of American citizens.
The “loving thy neighbor” commandment is frustrating and confusing. I knew that already but nothing brought it home as these four years have.

What “deplorables” can accomplish when they work together and by extension what any group can accomplish when they work together.
Some people are happily embracing their prejudices, and that empathy is a quality to be embraced.
Misogyny is our biggest problem. The majority of folks would rather have a racist president than a woman President.
There are more bigots and haters than I could ever imagine. And it makes me sick

Our culture is suicidal.
There are no checks and balances in our government.
The process of the transition of the president on inauguration day.
How is it that nearly one-half of the country could support after living through 4 years of narcissism, bigotry, and daily lying?

[“I learned…”] Not everyone who lives in America loves America and respects the Constitution. The symptoms of malignant narcissism. How easily we could go from a democracy to an autocracy. That I could really hate someone with every fiber of my being.

His accomplishments

Someone I do not know says, “Anyone saying Trump didn’t do a good job as President is full of Fake News BS…Pelosi is promoting sedition and Treason…this Congress is a Malcontent Group of vindictive people…Hillary Lost…period…now listening to PBS. I’m beginning to think the Durham Durham investigations have found out WASHINGTON is Corruption…and the best way to avoid exposure is for the Corruption to Cheat and Lie. Shame on Congress…”

If you’ve read my blog over the past quadrennial, you’ll note that I have a different POV. I will give him credit for two things, though. The First Steps Act. “The act was… an effort to improve criminal justice outcomes, as well as to reduce the size of the federal prison population…”

The other is to pour money into getting a COVID vaccine. Unfortunately, he totally undercut that effort by denying the pandemic’s seriousness, contradicting CDC guidelines on mask-wearing, failing to provide any federal coordination for PPE acquisition, and holding superspreader events, among other failures.

The big lie

Unfortunately, lies can trump the truth.

There was a bit of dialogue:
“I have learned is how effective ‘The Big Lie’ technique can be.”
“A man said the bigger the lie, the more people believe it because a big lie has the quality of being unbelievable, therefore people don’t believe that someone would make it up. So they believe it’s true.”
“If everyone believes it then it must be true. I have been debating the election fraud story with believers of it. I have shown and proved how everything they believe is not factual but even then, they won’t admit to the lie or acknowledge even a part of the truth.”

And in fact, part of that quote is attributed to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. It probably wasn’t him, though he is cited on millions of webpages.

Conversely, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” That’s a quote by Maya Angelou

Back in August of 2020, he said, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”‘ He was announcing his strategy for undermining the election, attacking the postal service, et al. That was the birth of the series of baseless post-vote challenges.

In the midst of a 2020 election debated, he made a statement to the Proud Boys. “Stand back and stand by.” That dog whistle was blown just a few months later. Afterward, he tells the insurrectionists, “We love you. You’re very special. Go home.” How sweet.

Decline of American democracy: Chavez, si; Hitler, nein

“Sharif’s daughter – who also has political ambitions – gave investigators an ’06 document she says proves she doesn’t own these properties.”

When I saw the Vox piece, The decline of American democracy won’t be televised, it made a lot of sense to me. Arthur has conveniently explained the premise further.

What I was really happy about in this piece, though, is what it does NOT contain: a reference to Adolf Hitler. It’s not that one cannot make parallels between what’s going on now in the United States and that prewar period “in which the Nazi party rose from obscurity to stand on the brink of complete power over Germany.” It’s that it has been used so often, in references to both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, among others, that it has lost almost all meaning.

The example used by Vox in the “democratic backsliding” is Hugo Chavez, the late leader of Venezuela, in his attacks on the courts, free press and other institutions designed to create checks and balances.

Not incidentally, his successor, Nicolas Maduro has thrown opponents in jail and now he’s pushing to rewrite the constitution, which will further consolidate his power. This week, his opponents organized an unofficial protest vote against the constitution change. Millions of Venezuelans showed up. Gunmen fired on crowd of protesters in Caracas, killing a woman and injuring others.

Another international story that’s caught my attention: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could lose his job. From, of all things, the Daily Skimm:

“Last year, the Panama Papers were leaked. They’re the millions of docs that outed some high-profile people for being shady with their finances to avoid the Tax Man. On the list: Sharif’s three adult kids. They allegedly used offshore companies to buy expensive London real estate. Pakistanis want to know where the money came from. So, the country’s Supreme Court asked a group of investigators to look into it.

“Last week, the investigators accused the Sharifs of forgery and hiding their financials, but the Sharifs say ‘not true.’ Sharif’s daughter – who also has political ambitions – gave investigators an ’06 document she says proves she doesn’t own these properties. But turns out, the doc was typed out in Calibri font…which didn’t come out until ’07. Oops.”

Of course, there are no parallels between these three children of a politician and any other three adult children of a public official. I just thought it was… interesting.

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