LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WILLS FAMILY THROUGH MARALYS' MEMOIRS: A CIRCUS WITHOUT ELEPHANTS AND A CLOWN IN THE TRUNK

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A SAD DAY FOR AMERICA



A SAD DAY FOR AMERICA

Make that another sad day for America.

The first came in November with our election of the least qualified man ever chosen as U.S. president. Today, even FBI leader, James Comey, says he is “slightly nauseous” that he may have influenced the outcome.  Whatever.  He certainly didn’t help.   

Early this week, just as I was celebrating the bipartisan House spending bill that incorporated compromises most of us can live with . . .  the issue of a major health care reversal loomed like a grizzly bear on the sidelines, ready to eviscerate its victim. 

Today—just minutes ago--it happened.  Our House of Representatives has taken the first step to make Obamacare disappear.  Claiming that in some states it has already vanished,  the “house,” by a narrow margin, voted down the rest. Instead of fixing what was already there, house members placated Freedom Caucus members (notoriously against spending money to help anyone), to get needed votes.

If the Senate agrees,  ailing Americans will suffer just as surely as though attacked by bears.  The hurried, careless way this bill has been thrown together—with zero input from health care professionals—means millions of sick Americans will find themselves with minimal care.  Or none.    

Oh, yes, the Republicans pretended that “The States”  would take over the “pre-existing conditions” issue, putting sick people into high-risk pools.  But California, the most liberal of states, has already proven such pools don’t work.  Today’s front page article in the Los Angeles Times (“A Case Study in State-run Health Failures”) describes what happens.  People are put on long waiting lists. And meanwhile they get sicker.

Richard Figueroa, a past enrollment director of such a pool, laments the outcome when desperately ill people are finally sent the all-important, life-saving letter. “They would say, “Thank you, but you can give our slot to someone else, because my brother or my wife or my daughter has died.”

A vital question:  who among you, reading this piece, does not already have a “pre-existing condition?”  If,  during your thirty, forty, or however-many years, you’ve been to the doctor for anything,  you can be presumed as having such a condition. My twenty-something grandson,  prone to strep-throats, has been seen by doctors several times . . . no doubt a disqualifying ailment for traditional insurance companies.

With today’s all-political, non-medical bill a victory for Trump and Ryan, ordinary citizens are about to reap what the voters sowed in November.  We hope it’s not a medical disaster.

But with health care now dictated in part by the Freedom Caucus . . . what else can it be?    

Thursday, April 6, 2017

TRUMP: HOW MANY LAWS WILL WE LET HIM BREAK?




TRUMP: HOW MANY LAWS WILL WE LET HIM BREAK?


I hardly need to blog about Trump any more; the Los Angeles Times is doing all the
work for me . . . and for everyone else who feels that our president is an unmitigated disaster.  The Times’ five editorials, so far, are so strongly-worded they tend to ring in your head.  For hours.   

Yet one question remains unanswered:  How about all those laws Trump is breaking—and when will the American public demand he be held accountable?

Among them: 

1.) The law against presidential despotism, enacted after Jack Kennedy made his brother, Robert, Attorney General.  So far, both daughter,  Ivanka, and son-in law Jared, are acting as semi-official Secretaries of State. They may not receive salaries, but both have been given top security clearances, and Ivanka, at least, has a White House office--plus other benefits of high office. If this isn’t nepotism, what is?    

 2.)  The Supreme Court provision about a president accepting “Foreign Emoluments." Heads of State from foreign countries seem prone to stay at various Trump Towers, thereby offering foreign monies to enrich our president.  

3.) Rules against Conflicts of Interest.  Since the president has never divested himself of his business interests (perhaps not required by law), his Trump Enterprises continues to grow during the president’s reign—with new “deals” constantly being arranged in various American and major foreign cities . . . a direct nod to the power of our highest office.  How can this continuing behavior not be seen as a Conflict of Interest?   

4.) Rules governing Charitable Foundations: It’s already been proven that the Trump Foundation gave $25,000 as a “gift” to a Florida Attorney General--which resulted in her dismissal of a Floridian suit against Trump University--plus the public has seen photos of the life-size portrait of himself, purchased by Trump with Foundation funds.  

These two acts suggest that here not one, but two rules have been broken--a rule against bribery, and another against self-enrichment with Foundation funds.

A few judges have declared, “Even the president is not above the law.”

Yet so far our various law enforcement agencies have noted these transgressions but taken no action.  Who is responsible, anyway, for getting him into court? When will the American public rise up and demand that even King Trump must follow the rules?

Once again, I can’t help pointing out: When we elected a man with no character to the country’s highest office, we can expect an administration with no morality . . . operating in flagrant disregard of accepted laws.    




Friday, March 31, 2017

THE NINE-THOUSAND DOLLAR BLOG



THE NINE-THOUSAND DOLLAR BLOG


Over the phone I heard the excitement in my friend’s voice: “You saved someone’s life. I couldn’t wait to tell you.”

“Really?”  Now she had me excited, too. 

“Remember that blog you wrote about the scam you fell for?  Or nearly fell for? And how you barely escaped losing a ton of money?”

“Four thousand dollars,” I said. 

“Well, let me tell you about what happened to my daughter, Allison.  An older man came into her bank and wanted to withdraw nine-thousand dollars.  He seemed agitated and in a hurry. As bankers have been trained to do, Allison asked,  ‘May I ask what the money is for?’”

 Predictably, he said, “None of your business.’”

Suspecting he might be on the verge of trouble, Allison said, “Let me tell you a story. This happened to a friend of my mother’s.”  And she related the details from the blog I’d sent out--about the phone call from a grandson: “This is your favorite grandson,” how, with that phrase, I honestly thought it was him.

How from then on, I was hooked.  That I believed the young man’s tale about having done some light drinking (never mind that my grandson doesn’t drink), about his being in an auto accident with a car full of diplomats (meaning “diplomatic immunity”),  then, my talk with his “lawyer” about averting a DUI—if I came up with $4000 bail money. 

The rest involved gift cards at Target . . . and quickly thereafter, an appointment  with my hairdresser, who said immediately, “I know how this is going to end.” With that I leaped out of the chair, called my husband, (who called the grandson), then made another fast call to Target—just in time to cancel the cards.

Allison’s customer, a retired attorney, listened avidly, then at last swallowed his pride and related his own story: a grandson calling from the wrong state (“I’m here for a friend’s funeral,”)  a voice that didn’t sound quite deep enough, the talk with the grandson’s  “attorney”,  something about an accident in a Uber car, about marijuana in the car, and the need for an attorney to put up bail . . . which meant nine-thousand dollars—in cash. 

At that, Allison said, “Let’s call your grandson,” and so they did, right there in the bank. “May I speak to him?” Allison asked, and the customer nodded. Of course none of the details given to the gentleman were true.  With that, Allison turned the now-grateful customer over to her supervisor.

“Without your story,” my friend told me over the phone, “That man would have lost his nine-thousand dollars.”  As it was, the customer, still shocked, left the bank.

But the tale isn’t over:  An hour later, the gentleman returned—with three boxes of chocolates . . . for Allison, for the bank manager, and for another teller. 

For me, the lovely result is that I’m now getting all the credit. But hey, I’ll take it. Whatever time I spent on that blog, it has suddenly become a nine-thousand-dollar effort . . . clearly, more than worth it.



Friday, March 17, 2017

CLAW MARKS ON AMERICA




CLAW MARKS ON AMERICA



Trump is dismantling our country: look around, his small, ugly hands are leaving scratch marks everywhere.

His plans for America are right there, in his budget---huge, monetary cuts from everything most of us care about.  A)  Medical Research  (NIH)  B)  Clean Air and Clean Water (EPA),  C) Innovation in Research and Development (NOAA)  D) Good Public Schools  (Funds Diverted to Charters)  E) Safe Airline Travel  (wants to Privatize FAA & ATC)   F) Music and Public Broadcasting (NEA, CPB, NEH )   G) Assistance to the Old and the Poor (Meals on Wheels . . . Free School Lunches.)  H) Affordable Health Care (“access” to such care is like “access” to a Lamborghini . . .  you can have it if you can afford it.)   I) Women’s Reproductive Health Care. (Planned Parenthood.) 

Equally terrible is the budget’s other direction:  A) An extra 54 Billion for Defense (with a promise of more atomic bombs)  B) Huge increase in border patrol agents  (now with more immigrants leaving than coming)  C) 2.6 billion for The Wall  D) Tax Cuts for the Wealthiest Americans.

America’s CEOs are happy. Very happy.  Soon they will be the only Americans who are.

If Trump’s wish list is filled, Big Corporations won’t have to worry about:  a) Creating Pollution  b) Offering Less Than Minimum Wages  c) Merging until they Eliminate all Competition d) Big Taxes on Big CEO Salaries  e) Safety Rules that Protect the Public.

To no one’s surprise, Trump himself leads a regulation-free life: No divesting of business interests . . . no apologies for tweets and lies . . .  no revelation of personal tax returns . . . no reimbursement to Secret Service for extra Personal Security . . . no apologies to  innocent Immigrants for Lives Ripped Apart . . .  no apologies for putting trouble-maker Steve Bannon on the Security Council . . .  no explanations for costly rallies in advance of his next term.

For those few Americans who despise regulation, here’s a trial solution: In your city, for one month, eliminate all stop lights and stop signs.  See how it works.

Editorials now beg us to “Normalize” President Trump.  But this man isn’t, hasn’t been, and will never be “Normal.” 

The Donald is, in fact, so abnormal we can only hope his presidency won’t last for a full four years. By then our country will consist of a few exultant CEOs . . . and the rest of us coping with a new and distinctly abusive Dark Ages.    



Friday, February 24, 2017

CALIFORNIA'S KINDEST PEOPLE




CALIFORNIA’S KINDEST PEOPLE


At least the kindest to me . . .

I first noticed this group while standing in line outside a jail—an unwelcome interval in an active life. I was there to visit someone I cared about.

I arrived full of irritation and snobbery.  I hate this!  I hate being here . . . standing among this crowd. Can’t relate to any of them  . . . why am I even here?  My internal hostility went on.  

And then to my surprise, a Hispanic lady leaned my way. “Why don’t you go sit down over there?” she said. “I’ll hold your place in line.”  She was so utterly selfless, I accepted her offer—instead of standing, I perched on a nearby cement block.

You can’t generalize from a single incident.  But I’m here to say that in that same jail setting, I’ve been offered solace in line so many times it’s no longer an accident or an oddity.  It’s cultural. Kindness that emanates from within certain people. 

In fact, the last time I was in a line elsewhere, it was raining, and it was a Hispanic lady who offered to share her umbrella.

My guess is, no such scenario would result from a line at Nordstrom’s.

Yesterday, in a wholly different setting, it happened again.  Because I teach on Wednesday nights, my routine starts with an early supper at Soup Plantation. I get there first, and twenty minutes later Rob joins me.

But this week I was faced with an impossible situation: I couldn’t walk.

Well, I could, but the pain in my leg was awful.  Took me five minutes and a cane just to get from my car—parked right outside—to the door.  How will I ever make it to class? I wondered. Down an impossibly long hall?  When I can’t even reach the inside of Soup Plantation?  I’ll have to call the school and cancel.

Still, I had to eat something.

Just outside the door, a Mexican woman and her grown son saw me coming. “Can we help?” she asked. When I hesitated, she said, “Here, I’ll carry your purse. Put your arm around my shoulders. We’ll make it to the counter.”  To her son, she said, “Get a tray and a dish. You handle that part.”

So between the two of them, with me leaning first on the mother, then on the counter, and the son scooping onto a plate whatever I wanted, the two became a kind of three-legged team . . . until we all reached the check-out station. Without those two wonderful strangers, I couldn’t have managed any of it.

From the cash register, our favorite waiter, Baldo, carried my tray to a table--while I painfully limped along behind him. To help out, Baldo went back for soup, drink, and muffins.

By coincidence, as I hobbled out of the restaurant, another Mexican lady expressed concern and an offer of help. Before she backed away, I had to reassure her that I’d be okay . . . meaning that someone else would come to my rescue.   

About then my close friend and student arrived. She drove us to the school and left me just inside the office while she hurried to my class . . . down that long hall to bring back two, strong-shouldered men. Instead, they brought a wheelchair—a light bulb idea from the woman who habitually arrives on wheels. My students are terrific, always have been—so no surprise there.

But it’s the kindness of strangers I’ve found so remarkable. And so did my grandson, two days ago, when it was a Mexican who worked for hours to pull his truck out of the mud. No matter what the setting, it’s invariably someone of Latin heritage who reaches out, fanfare-free, to offer help. 

Clearly, kindness is everywhere. But why do Latinos offer so much of it?  Why, in general, are they so willing to assist strangers?  And why do they make so little distinction between themselves and everyone else?   

It’s with such thoughts that I grieve over today’s headlines—that ICE plans to “uncover” millions of these mostly-kindhearted people and mercilessly rip up their lives. Never mind that their crime rate is statistically lower than that of the native-born. Thanks to our vindictive president, a number of Americans express delight that we’re “hunting them down” . . . that we’re inflicting cruelty on some of the hardest-working, most unselfish people within our borders.


Monday, February 6, 2017

TRUMP'S FACE SAYS IT ALL



TRUMP’S FACE SAYS IT ALL


There it is for the world to see:  Petulance. Discontent. Anger. Meanness.  An unbroken movie-reel of negative, ugly emotions passing nonstop across his rounded visage . . . all overlaid by a shock of wrong-way hair, like a finger wagging at the world in disapproval.  

Watch his expression as he talks. Trump never smiles, he frowns. He grimaces. Whatever the topic, his attitude his plain: he hasn’t shown up to do good, he’s there to get even.  And heaven help the person or group who crosses him, or worse, gets in his way. Consider his pathway to fame . . .  “The Apprentice.”  There we see his darkest inner impulses, the tyrant who growls at hapless performers, “You’re fired!”

It’s no accident that he chose as his closest advisors two men named Steve, each with a personality reflective of the boss. Steve Miller and Steve Bannon.  Bannon is well known for his predilection for control, for conflict, for destruction—possibly translated as a desire to go to war. Bannon is now seen as Trump’s Svengali.  In fact, a recent New York Times editorial referred to him as  “The de facto president.”  

Lately, Trump is re-thinking his decision to give Bannon such a large role on our country’s vital Security Council.

Less well known is Steve Miller . . . though it happens our family is privy to some inside information. One of our good friends, a renowned teacher, had occasion recently to discuss Steve Miller with the teacher who taught him in high school. “Steve Miller is brilliant,” that teacher reports. “But he’s also scary.” 

Here’s a prediction: more and more people will come to regret voting for America’s face to the world . . . that ongoing expression of dyspepsia, irritation, even fury.  All reflecting his dawning realization that most of his pre-election promises will never be realized. (Only his idol, Putin, has such power.)      

It must now be clear, even to Trump: he’s got the whole world to contend with. This isn’t a business he’s leading, it’s a government—with three independent branches, two of which are mostly beyond his control.  What a shock it must be, the final realization he will never be King.    

Here’s one book you can judge by its cover: THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

ANOTHER CATASTROPHE FOR SAMSUNG



ANOTHER CATASTROPHE FOR SAMSUNG



It’s not enough that their cell phones are apt to catch fire—anywhere, at any time. Which of course the company takes seriously. “Store your phone in a fire-proof container,” they advise. With an add-on from the FAA: “Never, ever, carry a Samsung phone on air planes.” 

But now the company is once again in the news. They’ve developed top-loading washing machines with what you must admit is a distinctive feature. They explode.

“I was sitting in my living room, when there was this awful boom,” said one customer. “I thought the roof had fallen in.”

But it wasn’t the man’s roof--the problem was out on the service porch . . . with what is normally considered a docile, non-aggressive appliance. No lithium batteries. No toxic ingredients. No bad behavior in its DNA--expect for possible overflowing.  

Still, a lack of lithium and carcinogens must not be enough. Thanks to Samsung’s creative engineers, suddenly you see their washing machines on television—their tops blown off, the insides exposed and destroyed, bits and pieces of everything spreading across the floor. You can’t help thinking, A washing machine with a suicide vest?    

Luckily, injuries so far have been minor, except for one woman who suffered a broken jaw.

But here’s the real hooker. Samsung has a message for its customers: you, the forgiving customer, can get a coupon for a new washer. (Explosive? Or non-explosive?)  Or alternatively, you can buy a new, “reinforced” lid.    

A new, “reinforced” lid?  Seriously?  To keep the eruption confined to one place? So the socks and underwear and assorted pieces of machinery won’t fly round the room?   

As Rob said, “Well, at least the new lid won’t go anywhere. But the machine won’t wash, either.”

Which you’d know the second you looked inside . . .    

Right then you’d realize, of course, you could no longer finish your laundry—what was  left of it.  But maybe you could save the reinforced lid for the next exploding machine. Hey, it might be reusable.

Poor Samsung. You really have to feel sorry for . . . well, for starters, whoever put out those suggested remedies.