The weirdest presidential election in my lifetime

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And I thought the Bush-Gore election of 2000 was surreal, since it took a Supreme Court ruling to decide it (or steal it, more likely). No, this one makes the nightmare of hanging chads and butterfly ballots look like a perfectly sane, normal election year. Today, we go straight off the rails into the Twilight Zone.

Sometime this afternoon, all the major news outlets (I think starting with PBS, but eventually followed by CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, etc) called the election for Biden. The writing was on the wall when the predictions showed Biden with 253 electoral votes and both Nevada (6) and Arizona (11) likely to be won by Biden, making exactly 270 electoral votes and barely enough to win. PBS had called Arizona for Biden sooner than the other networks, but then it became obvious that Pennsylvania would turn blue along with them, easily making it a Biden victory unless something really screwy happens in the legal arena.

But no, in case you are wondering, that is emphatically not where we go straight off the rails into the Twilight Zone. That is here as evidenced by the following tweets:

(Original text mentioned only Four Seasons, leading most to believe it would be the hotel.)

(News articles covering this: The Mirror (UK), The Mary Sue, Huffington Post, among many others I’m sure)

The news media had a field day with this, for obvious reasons. I had to double check to make sure the story wasn’t from one of those joke/spoof/satire websites. I mean, this has The Onion or The Babylon Bee written all over it. But no, this is the real thing. This actually happened: a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, not the famous hotel. Next to an adult novelty/book store, across the street from a crematorium. Perhaps the dumpiest place to have a presser.

That this is perhaps the perfect metaphor for DJT’s entire tenure as occupant of the office of president is not lost on me. (At least I hope it is his entire tenure, he has mentioned running in 2024 and I really, really hope we have enough smart people to ensure he does not get re-elected.) This is someone who has his name on resorts and hotels. That he couldn’t just use one of his own hotels speaks volumes, and is perhaps a telltale sign we’ve been dealing with a much bigger fraud than most would believe.

What’s most worrisome to me, though, is what the orange guy with a dead rat on his head can do as a lame duck president. To be honest, a lot of the questionable decisions he has made and things he has said make me wonder if he didn’t intend to tank any chances at re-election from day one. I head read or heard that the original plan was to run, lose, and profit from the book deal. Unfortunately I can’t find the source anymore but this certainly passes the smell test for the Trump way of doing things.

Buckle your seat belts, America. The plane hasn’t landed yet and we are headed for what may be some real turbulence.

Shutting down the world: the COVID-19 pandemic

I have not really addressed the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. When the countermeasures to address the pandemic started in March, it  blindsided the vast majority of people in the US and around the world. Just a small list of things that have happened in the last couple of weeks, in no particular order:

  • Early on, grocery stores have sold out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, some cleaning supplies, and more recently, some food items. (The supply chains have since stabilized, of course, but various other items would sell out temporarily in the meantime.)
  • Just about every type of social event has been cancelled or postponed, and other spaces such as museums closed temporarily as well. Here is a partial list of just what I have observed:
    • Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park (first postponed, then effectively cancelled with efforts redirected to the downtown event in October, which was eventually pivoted to a virtual/online event)
    • Woodlands Waterway Art Festival (postponed, then pivoted to a virtual/online event in October)
    • WordCamp Houston 2020 (postponed until 2021 March)
    • Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (last two weeks cancelled; first time in over 80 years)
    • Many performing arts organizations, including but not limited to the Houston Ballet;Alley Theater; Theater under the Stars; They, Who Sound
    • FotoFest biennial (postponed, including a temporary closure of the exhibits, which at first had been kept open)
    • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (closed, after first cancelling public programming, since reopened)
    • Houston Museum of Natural Science, all campuses (complete closure, since reopened)
    • Texas Pinball Festival (cancelled/postpond to 2021, including associated tournaments)
    • IFPA has suspended endorsing/ranking tournaments, originally until March 31, now indefinitely (prior to this announcement Space City Pinball League announced they would “take this week [March 16-22] off, and see where to go from there” and Bayou City Pinball League pushed back its inaugural tournament from early April to originally sometime in May, now possibly December or early 2021)
    • Professional sports: NHL, MLS, MLB, XFL, NASCAR, NFL have all either postponed games or cancelled large portions of the season, with MLB finally agreeing to a shortened season with the players’ union
    • All Sofar Sounds shows
    • Dine-in closed at all restaurants in Harris County by order of the health department (with neighboring counties likely to follow suit), then all non-essential businesses closed for at least two weeks (since reopened, with bars closed once again due to a spike in cases)
    • Houston city parks have cancelled programming
    • Discovery Green has cancelled programming and closed the roller rink for the season
    • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and Times Square New Year’s Eve celebrations to be pivoted to virutal events

To say the least, I’ve never seen anything like this, and I sincerely hope this is the last time in my lifetime something like this happens.

With that out of the way, this crisis has highlighted several issues with our previous way of life. A lot of stuff that could have been done online just wasn’t, because it didn’t have to be. It’s amazing how all of a sudden so many people can work from home when previously that was just not an option according to company management. Restaurants either adapted to a primarily take-out model or went out of business. Even the Chuck E. Cheese near me was offering takeout for a time, but there is speculation the chain might become yet another victim of the pandemic. We have already lost (here in Houston): Barry’s Pizza, Bernie’s Burger Bus (which may make a comeback later), Sweet Tomatoes, five restaurants owned by the Pappas group, and the Boomers amusement center near Willowbrook Mall (which I can’t confirm is specifically from the pandemic but it can’t have helped). Elsewhere, Laser Quest has ceased operations in North America in 2020 September (both remaining Houston centers had been closed for a while, with the rest of Texas following suit prior to corporate calling it quits for the rest of the country). The water amusement parks (both the one in Spring now owned by Six Flags once again as well as Typhoon Texas in Katy) lost the 2020 summer season; it remains to be seen just what that will do for their future viability.

I first started writing this article in the early stages of the pandemic, revising it here and there as time allowed. I know parts of it are a bit dated now and believe me, I would have liked to get it up sooner, but like a lot of people, I am readjusting my way of life (including my finances and income-producing activities) in light of the new situation.

Perhaps the saddest part of this is what has become of the entertainment industry. It was barely two summers ago that I took my first real face painting class (in Las Vegas, as part of a larger trip) and started my face painting business, which I had hoped to expand into something bigger later this year. To say the least, that’s on hold right now, as I’m looking at possibly repurchasing supplies that are past their rated shelf life.

A lot of the blame for the current state of the pandemic has to fall at the feet of our idiot in chief, the guy that ran for president to lose and make money off of the book deal, the one I previously referred to by just his initials. (Now, I’m just going to call him “***”.) The administration of Barack Obama, the last true president this country had, prepared an actual “playbook” (hey, that’s what they called it) for exactly this situation. The first thing *** does? He decides this pandemic response team is not worth spending money on in the unlikely event that The Shit Hits The Fan. Also, there’s probably a racist motive as well as a motive to just trample on Obama’s legacy as much as possible. (Way too much of what the Republican-majority leadership has done in recent years has come back to selfishly undoing “things Obama did”, which is a very sad thing in and of itself. But that’s not really what this post is about.)

Well, needless to say, we have indeed had exactly that excrement-ventilator collision and in quite a big way. And we as a country weren’t ready for it. We’re long past the point of trying to contain what we now call COVID-19 inside China. We now have to wear masks to go to most businesses–including the bank (it’s quite the irony of not being allowed inside a bank with a mask, when usually it’s only the bank robbers wearing them and in the past instructions have specifically stated to remove masks, hoods, and sunglasses).

Why am I adding a political portion to this post? Certainly now with COVID-19, we are past the point where politics is something that can be ignored. Politics affects everyone, whether you participate (follow the issues and vote, at the minimum) or not. Some people are turned off by the mention of a political issue. That’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t change the world we’re in; politics will continue to affect you.

I am disappointed that we were left with a choice between *** and Joe Biden (and that is the choice; more on this later). I was disappointed in 2016 that we had to choose between *** and Hillary Clinton. I thought Hillary was going to win easily. To say the least I’ve not been so unhappy about being wrong in at least 20 years.

It’s really unfortunate we have a system that is pretty much designed to screw over third party candidates. The Electoral College, as most states participate in it, is an all-or-nothing proposition. If you are in a red state, voting third party is more than likely the same as voting for *** (or, more accurately, voting against Joe Biden). Same thing the other way around for blue states. Either way it’s going to screw over a candidate who otherwise could have won (Ross Perot showed us that back in 1992, and arguably, it was Mr. Perot who helped pave the way for *** to win in 2016).

While all the votes have been cast if not counted, I remain hopeful that whoever our leader is, we will get back to normal sooner rather than later. I would like to get back to going into the various establishments I patronize on a regular basis without having to put on a mask or check if dine-in seating has been re-opened yet. It was only earlier this week that I finally played pinball in an arcade for the first time in months (and mini-golf for the first time in years). That gives me some hope things are on the way back to normal.

Given the massive disruption COVID-19 has caused, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to figure out how it started, and remain ready from a medical and governmental standpoint from having a future disease of this sort get this far out of control going forward.

No, we still don’t know who won

So it’s the day after the election here in the US, and due to a much larger number of mail-in ballots than is usual for an election, we do not have a clear winner even though the day after election day has come and gone.

The hope of a Biden/Harris landslide victory has long since evaporated. Now, we are hoping that 17 of the remaining 71 electoral votes go to Biden/Harris (according to NBC News, as of the time I am writing this), so come 2021-01-20 we can start to finally put this nightmare behind us.

The most unfortunate news is that while Harris County, Texas, clearly went blue, the rest of the state added up to go red once again, including re-electing Senator John Cornyn, along with the Republican presidential ticket. The silver lining to that cloud, however, is that sheriff Ed Gonzalez has been re-elected, meaning Joe Danna has now lost his third general election running for a law enforcement-related position. (As an interesting sidenote, Alan Rosen, who was Danna’s opponent in the previous two elections for constable of precinct 1, was unopposed this time.)

From what I am reading, there are still a lot of votes to be counted and potential legal challenges to be sorted through. While we all would like to see this all resolved sooner rather than later, that is not likely to happen, and it is definitely too early for either candidate to claim victory. I believe good things will come to those who wait.

The last straw: harassment and endangerment of the campaign bus

I know I’ve been relatively quiet lately. I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life so I haven’t been able to comment on events as they’ve been happening. I still have a post from the start of the pandemic I have been working on that I will try to get up shortly.

I didn’t watch either of the debates, but I think it speaks volumes that CNN’s Dana Bash called the first debate a “shit show” on live cable TV, quickly clarifying “we’re on cable, we can say that.” I don’t blame Dana for not mincing words. I’ve never heard of a presidential candidate rudely interrupting his opponent so many times and making the moderator’s job so difficult. How hard is it to understand how a debate works? The moderator asks the question or provides the talking point. One person talks while the other shuts up and listens. The other responds while the first person shuts up and listens. Then the moderator asks the next question, etc.

Are people really voting to re-elect someone to lead our country who cannot even grasp basic elementary-school-taught manners?

For that matter, in many ways, ***’s conduct and attitude during the debate is a microcosm of his presidency so far. This whole presidency to date has been a shit show, as much as I would prefer not to use that kind of language to describe it.

Perhaps the most damning strike against *** is the one I allude to in the headline. A few “supporters” decided to harass and intimidate the Biden-Harris campaign bus on its trip between Austin and San Antonio. What does *** do right afterwards? He gets on Twitter and tweets “I LOVE TEXAS!!!” with a video of this dangerous criminal act committed in the name of his presidency and campaign. Any president worth anything would have immediately condemned this. These so-called “patriots” are the reason I’m a bit ashamed to be a Texan right now. Honestly, for me, this is the last straw.

And then, of course, there is the most egregious broken campaign promise I have ever seen. “When I’m elected I won’t have time to play golf, I’ll be too busy working.” Yet *** has spent more time out there on the golf course playing “ah shit” golf you’d think he was trying to become the next Arnold Palmer–at taxpayer expense, at that! At least Barack Obama took into account that the taxpayers pay for the Secret Service (and he didn’t own the golf course and surrounding resort either– I really have to wonder if that has something to do with it as well).

I get that a lot of people think Hillary was (and probably still is) unelectable as president. Joe Biden certainly has at least a decent chance; certainly his campaign team understands what’s at stake. Joe isn’t the perfect candidate, but if we tried to find the perfect candidate every election we’d never elect anyone.

Four years of this was four years too many. We can’t stand to have another four years of it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go vote.

The 2020 elections

It’s that time again. Four years later, and along with the big one (the presidential election), here in Harris County, Texas, the major law enforcement-related positions are once again up for election.

I’m going to just comment on the races I know about, some of them from the standpoint of the party primaries, some of them mainly in the context of the general election, in no particular order.

First up, Harris County sheriff. Both parties have multiple candidates vying for the position. The Democrats have incumbent Ed Gonzalez, running against Harry Zamora and Jerome Moore. I personally see no reason to replace Ed Gonzalez, plan to vote for him in the primary, and also expect him to easily win the primary.

If only things were so simple on the Republican side. Randy Rush got the endorsement from the Houston Chronicle. His challengers are Paul Day, who might not be so bad… and of course, two-time losing candidate for Precinct 1 Constable Joe Danna, who I just now found out actually got fired from his deputy constable position right after the 2012 election (for falsely stating he served someone with papers at an address later shown to be a vacant apartment at the time). His LinkedIn listed his occupation as self-employed; the Community Impact Newspaper lists it as deputy sheriff which means either someone failed to check him out or chose to ignore what they found. I’m encouraging my Republican readers to vote for Randy Rush, the most fit for the office of the three.

The Precinct 1 Constable election also looks interesting, with three Democratic challengers to incumbent Alan Rosen, those being “Ced” Collier, Perry D. Wesley, and Gilberto Reyna. Nobody is running in the Republican primary, so this may well be a de facto election of a new constable. I don’t see any reason to unseat Alan Rosen as of now.

My choice for president is pretty easy: Bernie Sanders, probably the most electable of the field. Though, there are a lot of good choices; if you are voting Democrat and just can’t bring yourself to vote for Bernie, please choose wisely among the remaining candidates. On the Republican side, there are challengers to the incumbent but I’m not expecting any of them to carry Texas. (I will probably discuss this more as the general election draws closer, but we need to slam the brakes on the country’s ride straight to hell, and that means voting for whoever wins the Democratic primary come November.)

There’s a US senator seat up for election in Texas, too. On the Democratic side, I’m not sure who the front-runners are in the field of eleven, but Sema Hernandez seems to be a solid choice. On the Republican side, it would be nice to see someone oust John Cornyn, but I’m not counting on it by any means. I do think Cornyn needs to go. Beto O’Rourke almost beat Ted Cruz in 2018; I’m hoping higher turnout this time around means we will finally get rid of Cornyn.

More as we get closer to election day…