Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

A Day For Gloating!

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

In early 2003, I was honored to be part of a group that wanted to bring better health care to some of the neediest citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Dr. Bob Master, former Commissioner of the state’s Medicaid program, had the idea that if a number of us put our collective heads together we could actually do that. With him leading the effort, we created Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA), an HMO dedicated to serving people who were dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. These were the Commonwealth’s sickest of the sick and poorest of the poor. Paradoxically, their health care was woebegone, but the cost of providing it was astronomical.

CCA was a Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan, known in the business as a D-SNP. D-SNPs were created by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA), and are overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The potential afforded by the MMA was what intrigued Bob Master. He realized that if correctly harnessed, the power of the MMA could do a world of good for people at the lower end of the health care totem pole. And he was right.

Over the years, CCA took on the persona of The Perils Of Pauline, going from crisis to crisis. Our Board, comprised mostly of academics and clinicians, constantly fought above its weight. But, thanks to health care leaders in Massachusetts who saw the value of what we were trying to do, we were always rescued from our own folly. With their help, we grew and thrived—precariously.

In November, 2015, after Bob Master retired as CEO, the Board made the best decision in its history, hiring Chris Palmieri to take over the reins. Chris was a health care executive possessed of zeal, deep dedication to the cause and profound intelligence. Under his leadership CCA  for three years running was ranked number one in its class of health care providers nationally. I chaired the Board during this time and had a ring-side seat to the growth and respect CCA achieved.

During this time, the Board was deeply concerned about the diversity of our employees. We wanted them to look like the thousands of members we served. Great effort went into making that happen. It wasn’t easy, but management established protocols and stuck to them.

My term as Board Member and Chair ended 31 December 2019, but, as you can imagine, I have avidly followed the organization, especially as it navigated the terrible 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. During the last year, under Chris’s leadership, CCA has continued to perform at a superior level. I never doubted that it would.

Today, though, is special. Today, the Boston Globe published its rankings for diversity in hiring of all Massachusetts firms. When I saw that CCA ranked Number One in the Commonwealth!, I thought my chest would burst with pride. This is a remarkable achievement, brought about by the entire organization taking to heart the idea that all of us, working together, are better than some of us, working in ethnic, gender, racial and demographic silos.

Slowly, America is moving to a more inclusive society. After the darkness of the last four years, we are coming into the light. Although much work remains, diversity accomplishments and the recognition that comes with them, as demonstrated by Commonwealth Care Alliance, will propel us toward becoming all that we can be, not what we have been.

How Far We Must Go

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

In 1675, the first and one of the deadliest wars ever fought on what is now American soil began. Fifty-six years after the sailing of the Mayflower, the tenuous Native American-Puritan bonds, built with careful distrust, burst asunder with disastrous results for everyone.

In 1616, European traders had brought yellow fever to Wampanoag territory, which covered present day Provincetown, Massachusetts, to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. The epidemic wiped out two-thirds of the entire Wampanoag Nation (estimated at 45,000 at the time). So, when the first batch of Puritans landed in 1619, Massasoit, Sachem of the Wampanoags, was on high alert. He waited until 1621 to meet the new immigrants, and then forged a guarded relationship between his people and theirs. In late-March, 1621, he and Governor John Carver signed the Wampanoag-Pilgrim Treaty. In the Treaty the two peoples agreed to do no harm to each other, to come to each other’s aid if attacked by third parties and to have equal jurisdiction over offenders: if a Wampanoag broke the peace, he would be sent to Plymouth for punishment; if a colonist broke the law, he would be sent to the Wampanoags. In addition, the Wampanoag leaders agreed to tell neighboring indigenous nations about the treaty.

For fifty years, the entente, occasionally fraying, held. But as more and more English immigrants arrived with weapons native Americans had never seen, and as the new immigrants began asserting themselves more and more over the indigenous nations, it became a when, not an if, a war would break out.

When Massasoit died in 1665, his son Philip became Sachem. Philip had few of his father’s diplomatic skills, and his people were becoming more and more angry at the dictatorial actions taken by the white people. After three of his trusted lieutenants were executed by the pilgrims in a woeful miscarriage of justice, Philip had no choice but to go to war if he wished to remain in power. In 1675, he did just that.

King Philip’s war brought tragic consequences for all. As so often happens, the white settlers of Plymouth Colony grossly underestimated the tactical skill of the warring indigenous nations, but in the end European firepower won out. Before the war, historians estimate about 80,000 people lived in New England. Nine-thousand died during the fourteen months of King Philip’s War, more than 10% of the total population. Proportionately, that’s more than in both the Civil War and the Revolution. One-third of the towns in New England lay in ashes, farms were abandoned and the fields lay fallow. Philip was hunted down in Rhode Island’s Misery Swamp and killed. His body was quartered and pieces hung from trees. The man who killed him, John Alderman, sold his severed head to Plymouth Colony authorities for 30 shillings.

And so we come to war’s end in 1676, and Josiah Winslow, the governor of Plymouth Colony, had a problem. Namely, what to do with hundreds of native Americans—surviving leaders of King Philip’s War and their families.

Winslow decided to get rid of them by loading them all, including Philip’s wife and nine-year-old son, onto several ships bound for the Caribbean, one of which, ironically, named Seaflower.

As Nathaniel Philbrick writes in his masterful Mayflower (Viking Penguin, 2007):

In a certificate bearing his official seal, Winslow explained that these Native men, women and children had joined in an uprising against the colony and were guilty of “many notorious and execrable murders, killings and outrages.” As a consequence, these “heathen malefactors” had been condemned to “perpetual slavery.”

Thus, joining Rome and other ancient societies, our white ancestor enslaved a conquered people.

Yesterday, 345 years after the Seaflower sailed from Plymouth harbor, a jury of his peers, a diverse jury, convicted Derek Chauvin on all three counts of murder in the death of George Floyd. What struck me most, the image that cannot be unseen, is the smirk on Chauvin’s face as he kneeled the life out of a man who did not look like him. I imagine it to be the same look Governor Winslow had on his face as he signed the certificate condemning hundreds of indigenous people, who did not look like him, into perpetual slavery.

How far we’ve come. How much, much farther we must go.

 

The WCRI And Sidney Powell’s “No Reasonable Person” Nutty Defense

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

Interesting day today at the first 3-hour day of the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute’s virtual and strange two-day conference where all the presenters looked as if they’d really rather be in the Grand Ballroom of Boston’s Westin Hotel. I’ll have a wrap up of the two-day, six-hour conference after it ends tomorrow. But for today…

In early February, 2021, an Associated Press-NORC* poll found 65% of Republicans believed Joe Biden was not legitimately elected President of the united States. One week ago, a Monmouth University National Poll found exactly the same thing. Nothing had changed in a month and a half. Why do you suppose that is?

 

 

You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to know that since the election, in fact since well before it, authority figures in the Republican Party, including the President, insisted the only way Donald Trump could lose the election would be through massive fraud. One of the leaders of this disinformation campaign is the lady pictured here: Attorney Sidney Powell, Trump’s on-again off-again lawyer in his attempt to overturn the election result.

Powell manufactured far-fetched claim after monstrously far-fetched claim of election fraud beginning two days after the election. Powell and her team of conspiracy theorists filed more than 60 lawsuits around the country that all died in court. But that didn’t stop her and her sidekick Rudy Giuliani from sharing their bird-brained ideas from the stage of the Republican National Committee in a November press conference carried on C-Span. Neither did it stop them from doing the same dozens of times on Fox News and Fox Business, never challenged by anybody from the network.

When none of that worked, Powell went for the big time and won the Gold Medal for the craziest claim of 2021 (thus far). To wit, Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems conspired with Venezuela’s communist leadership, ditto with Cuba, and “likely” China to create software to fix the election for Joe Biden against Donald Trump. On 8 November on Fox Business she was interviewed by Maria Bartiromo and claimed Dominion created a secret “algorithm to calculate the votes they would need to flip. And they used the computers to flip those votes from Biden to—I mean, from Trump to Biden.”

In late January, after the Dominion Voting Systems leaders had heard this lie a few thousand times, they had enough and sued Powell, Giuliani and others for $1.3 billion for defamation. That’s billion.

Yesterday, Powell’s defense team responded to the lawsuit. It’s 90-page filing can be summarized in two words: Just kidding.

In legalese, what her lawyers said was, “no reasonable person would conclude that [Powell’s] statements were truly statements of fact.” Moreover, her high-priced defense team writes that Dominion itself “characterize(s) the statements at issue as ‘wild accusations’ and ‘outlandish claims,’” and that “Such characterization of the allegedly defamatory statements further support Defendants’ position that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact…”

In otherwords, if the company she defamed considers the accusations off-the-chart lunacy, then nobody else could ever possibly believe them.

Finally, the Powell team claims she never knew her accusations were false. “In fact,” they write, “she believed the allegations then and she believes them now.” So, she’s not guilty; she’s just crazy.

This would all be riotously funny if it weren’t so deadly serious. Deadly, as in five people died and more than 140 were injured at the Insurrection of 6 January, a day, to quote Franklin Roosevelt, “that will live in infamy.”

But notwithstanding the Insurrection, could Sydney Powell’s defense team actually be right? Would no one believe her claims, as well as all the other ridiculous claims made by Trump apologists, because they are all so nutty? The early February AP-NORC and the mid-March Monmouth University polls, as well as the Insurrection itself, appear to give the lie to that defense. Sixty-five percent of Republicans still believe Biden cheated his way to the Oval Office. They’re getting that belief from somewhere. And unless we figure out how to disconnect this significant faction of the American public from the Big Lie, it will continue as a grotesque cancer on our society.

In the 1930s, Joseph Goebbels made famous the Big Lie.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

We have seen this movie before. And it never ends well.
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* The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, founded in 1941 whose name is now officially NORC.

 

Deception, Deception, Deception (Tennessee Williams – The Glass Managerie)

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Oh, what a tangled web we weave
when first we practice to deceive.
Sir Walter Scott: Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field

The last 24 hours have not been the best for Ted Cruz.

First, the situation: Citizens of the Lone Star State are living through their worst weather crisis since 2010, (and that includes 2015’s Hurricane Harvey) in which at least 24 people have died, millions have been without power for days, water pipes have burst all over the state, and now two million are under orders to boil water, presuming they have any to boil in the first place. With that terrible scenario, Cruz, the Trump toady, who, to this day refuses to acknowledge that Joe Biden defeated the former president, boarded a United Airlines plane with his family last night and jetted off to Cancun, Mexico, where, as I write this the temperature is a balmy  84 degrees and the water is fine and fit to drink.

Next, a fellow traveler took a picture of the Junior Senator on the plane bound for Cancun.

Then the photo went more viral than Covid-19 presenting Mr. Cruz with a bit of a public relations nightmare. So, thinking quick like a bunny he released a statement saying his daughters had wanted a vacation so, like a “good dad,” he accompanied them to Mexico and was immediately returning to Texas to…well, here’s what he said:

“This has been an infuriating week for Texans. The greatest state in the greatest country in the world has been without power. We have food lines, gas lines and people sleeping at the neighbors’ houses. Our homes are freezing and our lights are out. Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power too.

“With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on and homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.”

Did you notice the “Like millions of Texans” line?

Cruz’s statement makes it seem as if all along he was planning to drop off his girls in Mexico, then jump on the next plane out to return to Texas “to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.” Of course, he was pulling quite the overnight bag behind him through the Cancun International Airport. Makes one wonder.

And then Edward Russell, a reporter for Skift, who writes on the airline industry, scooped everyone by revealing his sources at United Airlines confirmed to him that Cruz was originally booked — with the family — through Saturday, the 20th, but rebooked his trip early this morning — after the fecal matter impacted the spinning instrument — to return this afternoon.

As Cruz was awaiting departure, but before Russell broke his story, the Senator told reporters, “Yesterday, my daughters asked if they could take a trip with some friends, and Heidi and I agreed, so I flew down with them last night, dropped them off here and now I’m headed back to Texas.”

Sources within United Airlines subsequently confirmed Russell’s story to NBC News.

We’ll have more about the continuing Texas tragedy later, but Cruz’s hypocrisy, lack of sincere empathy and smarmy superior attitude deserve to be called out and condemned. Texans deserve better than this. We all do.

Thoughts Of The Day

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Was Azar intentionally lying, colossally incompetent, or both?

Given the last four years, I’m guessing Door Number 3.

Because both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots, administered 21 and 28 days apart, respectively, Operation Warp Speed’s initial plan, announced in early December, was to hold back half the supply to make sure there was enough for the second shots. At the same time, the Trump Administration was saying it would vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the year.

On Tuesday, 12 January, as it became apparent the first doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were proceeding much slower than predicted (the 20 million prediction had turned into an 11.4 million reality), U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar announced the government was making all of the coronavirus reserve vaccine supply immediately available, urged states to provide shots to anyone 65 and older and warned governors that states with lagging inoculations could see their supply shifted to other places.

You could hear the collective country-wide sigh of relief. Help was on the way.

That is, until three days later when we learned the only place the “reserve supply” existed was in Alex Azar’s imagination, because the Administration admitted to state and federal officials it stopped stockpiling the second doses at the end of last year as it attempted to hit the 20 million goal. The reserve supply no longer existed. The states were left to scramble again, as they have throughout the pandemic. Remember the PPE fiasco? States were forced to compete against each other and the Feds to get any. Remember the Administration’s leadership about masking? Neither do I. I could go on.

This latest FUBAR catastrophe led President-Elect Joe Biden to tell the world the vaccine rollout was “a dismal failure.” Seems fairly accurate to me.

“Never ruin an apology with an excuse” – Benjamin Franklin

Here’s the way it worked. After the election, which he lost, Donald Trump spewed lie after lie about how he actually won “in a landslide.” And he convinced millions of people this was so. A new Quinnipiac poll reports 73% of Republicans believe there was “widespread fraud” in the election, which allowed Joe Biden to win. Trump’s two-month assault on truth led to the 6 January armed insurrection.

It is questionable whether he would have persuaded his millions of followers to believe the lies if he had not had profound assistance from Twitter, Facebook and conservative media. Case in point: the conservative outlet American Thinker which, with no investigation,  bought the Dominion Voting Machines stole-the-election line – again and again.

Yesterday, American Thinker “screwed its courage to the sticking post” and apologized. It was not one of those, “We did a bad thing, but we did it because…” things. No, this was an apology that would have made Ben proud. Here it is in full:

We don’t know what prompted American Thinker to so abjectly fall on its sword. I choose to think optimistically, believing journalistic ethics won the day. Regardless, this is how you do an apology.

Speaking of optimism

Why not end on a lighter note?

Back in pre-pandemic times (you remember those, don’t you?), when you wouldn’t think twice about sitting in a pub with friends discussing the metaphysics of Sartre, I once did just that with two friends, one a conservative republican with whom one could actually debate policy issues with smiles all around; the other, an MIT engineering professor.

We were talking about how people so often view the same thing in different ways, which led us to a discussion about optimism. That led to further discussion about the differences between people who were naturally optimistic and those who were naturally pessimistic.

One of us brought up the old glass half full or empty screed. I, the eternal optimist, said to me the glass was always half full. My conservative friend said he couldn’t help seeing it as half empty.

My friend from MIT said, “There’s too much glass.”

Stay safe – and, if you can, optimistic.

 

 

 

 

 

This Is What Happens

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

This is what happens when leaders sell their souls for power.

In the last week, our country and the very concept of democracy have come perilously close to being crushed by the triumph of insurrection. Every day, every hour, we learn more about the plot to bring down the government and establish Donald Trump as de facto dictator. That this was predictable, yet still happened, will be analyzed for years. That it failed (so far), should give no comfort to anyone.

Sabateurs, terrorists in the literal sense of the word, hiding in the belly of the mob, were on a mission to kill Nancy Pelosi, Mike Pence and probably others if they could find them. The FBI is discovering a carefully planned attack, and we are fortunate, indeed, that the traitors’ targets survived. It could easily have gone the other way.

This is what happens when monumental hubris and blind ambition turn the leader of a political party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, into Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Four years ago, a Kentuckian named McConnell agreed to a deal with the Mephistopheles who rode the golden escalator in June of 2015 as The Music of the Night, from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, blasted through the basement of Trump Tower. How fitting.

In this Faustian bargain, the Kentuckian’s deepest desires were granted: remaking the nation’s judiciary; changing tax laws to benefit corporations and the wealthy; dismantling environmental regulations; eviscerating the country’s immigration system; abandoning global partnerships; solidifying a populist base. In exchange for this unholy alliance, Marlowe’s devil-in-chief ran amuck around America preaching authoritarianism, white supremacy and “American carnage,” which he “alone could fix,” to a congregation of millions of vulnerable citizens long fearful of the way life was changing and leaving them behind. They swallowed it whole.

This is what happens when, in April, 2021, armed white supremacists, Neo-Nazis calling themselves Proud Boys, but acting more like “Brownshirts,” stage a rehearsal for last week’s coup attempt in Lansing, Michigan, invading and taking over the state’s capital with plans for capturing and killing the governor, after which they face zero criticism from our modern-day Mephistopheles. What a boost to their movement.

This is what happens when a country, bombarded with more than 34,000 presidential tweets and 323 fan-the-flames presidential rallies over four years, becomes so desensitized to the stoking of racism and intense polemical bullying that politicians, elected to serve their constituents and the Constitution, become too fearful to denounce such behavior, let alone suggest it should never be condoned in America.

This is what happens when, taking a page from the propaganda manual of Joseph Goebbels, lies are told loud enough and often enough that gullible people believe with biblical certainty that the most secure election in our history was rigged and riddled with fraud. Polls continue to show more than 60% of Republicans believe this.

This is what happens when no one but toadying sycophants, whose moral corruption knows no bounds and whose sole job requirement is total devotion to the whims of their Mephistophelean leader, are placed in senior positions of authority. Now, as their deal with the devil unwinds, they are deserting the ship of state with nary a lifeboat in sight.

This is what happens when hate replaces kindness and a willingness to work collaboratively toward the common good to the extent that winning requires annihilation of one’s opponent. The result is a deep crack to the nation’s foundation.

This is what happens when the worst pandemic in a century is allowed to kill more than 400,000 of our fellow citizens by the time Joe Biden utters the solemn words of his oath of office. A pandemic during which never once has Donald Mephistopheles addressed the nation with words of comfort, empathy or even hope. A time in which the Oval Office has become an oval room of mirrors, where everywhere he looks he sees only himself. There’s no one there, Donald.

This is what happens when leaders sell their souls for power.

 

 

This Is Madness

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Let’s start with the numbers.

Global Cases

Global COVID-19 cases are rising and the rise is accelerating, as documented by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. There have been nearly 53 million cases around the world, 660 thousand yesterday. There have now been about 1.25 million deaths, and the death rate is also rising.

U.S. Cases

According to the New York Times Latest Map and Case Count, America’s case rate is surging faster than at any time in the pandemic.

Consider these four points from the above chart:

Since the beginning of COVID-19 in the U.S., the health care community has made tremendous gains in treating the disease, that is, in preventing deaths. However, no one yet knows the extent of long-term complications due to contracting the virus. Although COVID-19 primarily affects the lungs, it can damage many other organs as well. This organ damage may increase the risk of long-term health problems. Regardless, deaths are once again rising.

With respect to keeping safe, absolutely nothing has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. Hand washing/sanitizing, social distancing, mask wearing, and testing are, to this day, the only things we can do to control the disease. At some point in the future, perhaps by mid-spring, the vaccine cavalry will come charging over the hill. But until then, we’re on our own. COVID-19 is the enemy, the opposition, and we have to outlast it. Everyone needs to put on the moral cloak of responsibility.

It would be nice if that moral cloak were to become moral leadership from the White House, but the Trump Administration, obscenely obsessed with fighting the will of the majority, has gone AWOL, once again leaving the states to fight the disease by themselves, and most are now fully engaged.

Consider Ohio, where Republican Governor Mike DeWine is doing everything he and his team can to drive home the need for masks, hand washing and social distancing. Case in point: His Department of Health created a compelling video to illustrate the value of social distancing.

One of the most tragic things I have ever observed is going on right now across America. Millions of people have been persuaded the washing, wearing and distancing things are lies meant to steal the soul of the nation in a socialistic, Mephistophelean conspiracy. They believe government is trampling on their “rights.” Meanwhile, many of them get sick, some of them die, and they bring great harm to their neighbors who are trying to do the right thing. This is madness.

Can We Ever Learn From History?

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Yesterday was the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, Germany’s Night of Broken Glass.

Two days prior to Kristallnacht, Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew, had assassinated Ernst vom Rath, a young diplomat at the German embassy in Paris, shooting him five times at close range. This gave Hitler and his Minister of Propaganda*, Joseph Goebbels, the excuse they needed to organize a pogrom against Jews in Germany and parts of Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Goebbels told an assembly of National Socialists, “The Führer has decided that … demonstrations should not be prepared or organized by the (Nazi) Party, but insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered.”

And so, on 9 November 1938, thousands of Nazis and Hitler Youth erupted “spontaneously,” attacking Jewish homes, schools, synagogues and businesses, smashing windows and destroying property. They put everything Jewish to the torch. Firefighters were told to let the fires burn themselves out. Goebbels instructed police to round up as many Jewish young men as possible and cram them into jails.

As far back as 1925 when he wrote his autobiographical Mein Kampf (My Struggle) from jail, Adolph Hitler had made known his anti Semitic intentions. And by 1933 the people of the UK and America knew also, because in that year Mein Kampf was translated into English. Nobody paid attention.

Kristallnacht was Hitler’s first, large scale, organized and overt attack on Jews. Consequently, many historians consider 9 November 1938 the beginning of the Holocaust.

Immediately following the close of the Second World War, social scientists and historians began trying to figure out why so many Germans had, lemminglike, followed, even embraced, hate-filled Hitlerism. The answers are complicated.

Following the First World War, the victors had punished Germany in monumental fashion, both economically and politically. Germans resented this with seething anger. Hitler capitalized on this.

Then there was the Great Depression of the early 1930s, which plunged Germany into even more profound economic chaos. Hitler took advantage of this, also, calling on Germans to throw off the yoke of humiliation. He gave fiery speeches, observed by American and British diplomats, which should have alerted governments to what was coming, but did not.

Hitler  instilled in the German people an us-against-them world view, or Weltanshauung. They would have followed him anywhere, and they did.

A week ago today, more than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. That’s four million more than voted for him in 2016. Although I’m sure perhaps half of them voted out of economic self interest – they like his policies enough to stomach his lies and boorishness – what about the other half, the cheering cult, his own lemminglike followers at his rallies and beyond? As Hitler before him, Trump has sold them the us-against-them Kool Aid, and they have swallowed without questioning and without caring if whatever comes out of their Leader’s mouth is true or not.

As far as I can see, Joe Biden won the presidency and the republican party won the election. Not a single state legislature flipped. Republicans gained seats in the House, and are on the verge of holding on to the Senate. The last time we had a democrat elected president and a republican senate was 1885, 135 years ago, with the presidency of Grover Cleveland.

Donald Trump will eventually leave the White House, but he’s not going away, and neither are his followers or Trumpism. He gets tremendous satisfaction from his Rallies. Can you see him abandoning them? No, he will continue to stoke fear and hatred, just as a certain Austrian wannabe artist did long ago.

If you think 2020 was bad politically, just wait until you get to experience 2021.

Good luck to us all.

* Originally, Goebbels opposed the word propaganda, because in the public usage of the day it connoted – wait for it – Lies!

Shameful Leaders Play Chicken With The Economy Hanging In The Balance

Monday, November 9th, 2020

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced productivity, output and earnings data for Q3, 2020. This follows its announcement three days ago that the nation’s unemployment rate in October had fallen to 6.9%, the 6th consecutive month it has dropped.

While the drop in the unemployment rate is certainly good news, the long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 1.2 million to 3.6 million, accounting for 32.5 percent of the total unemployed. Further, the country has seen only half of the 22 million people who lost jobs due to the pandemic return to the workforce.

Regarding today’s announcement, while productivity and output rose 43.5% and 38.6%, respectively, real earnings, a very important number, dropped 9.1% in Q3.

Most of the relief bills passed earlier in the pandemic have expired, including the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which provided for additional unemployment benefits of up to $600 a week for many individuals.

The Federal Reserve, led by Chairman Jerome Powell, as well as the nation’s leading economists, have been arguing for months that we need a second relief package. Powell maintains that businesses, cities and states, and the unemployed are in dire need of help. On 6 October, in a speech to the National Association for Business Economics, he said the unemployment rate would be closer to 11% were it not for misclassification of idle workers and for people leaving the workforce. He warned the group that without additional support, the economy could slip into a downward spiral “as weakness feeds on weakness.”

Powell and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve say we need a new relief package NOW, and we need it to be BIG. Personally, I am not optimistic about that. I’m no economist, but I have friends who are, and they are not optimistic, either, at least not in the short term. And, although the 74 million (and increasing) Americans who voted for Joe Biden are happy Donald Trump has been handed his walking papers, we remain a house divided now more than ever. Some of us are euphoric, some in denial, others in despair, still others angry beyond words. It will take time and a lot of compassion for healing to even begin. But time is something many of our neighbors in horrific economic difficulties through no fault of their own simply don’t have.

In the next few days and weeks we’ll discover if our elected leaders can get out of the way of their ego-driven lust for power and display enough moral fiber, presuming they have some, to help the businesses, cities, states, and millions of our fellow citizens who hang by their fingertips over the edge of an economic abyss.

 

One Day More

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

Music is built on mathematics. Together they form humanity’s only universal language. With that in mind, here’s One Day More, the greatest Act One Finale in the history of theatre. Just to set the tone and get your blood moving.

“Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in heaven has in store.”

No gloom and doom today. Just a thank you to all who have voted and who will vote. We’ll probably wind up with the largest vote count in the history of the country in both raw numbers and as a percentage of population. If Donald Trump has done nothing else, and he sure has done a lot, he’s brought out the vote.

After the dust settles, we’ll get more into that “done a lot” thing.

Stay safe.