Monthly Archives: July 2021

Circe on the Beach


Falling
out of sleep into the
sea.
Flailing.
Dragged down by clothes and
current.
Choking.

Swimming.
Buffeted by waves and
logs.
Tumbling
Swept along by tide and
surf.

Scrambling
Across debris and
rocks.
Crawling
over sand.

Waking
on a vast beach.

Standing.

A procession approaches:
A stately woman
guarded by lions and
wolves.

Waiting.

This is my island.”
Cats sniff me
Beasts lick my legs.

Bowing.

Welcome to Aiaia.”

The Ballad of MaryLu


[Sung to the tune “Big John.”]

In the Occidental morning
She’d be out walking
You could hear for miles
The sound of her talking.
Mary Lu

Perhaps she came from Frisco
Some said Mill Valley
You could hear her coming
Down each lane and alley.
Mary Lu

Not too tall
Built like a welder
She sure did hate
Becoming an elder.
Mary Lu
Big bad, Mary lu.

Painted a lot
Sometimes she’d dance
Used to write poems
About love and romance.
Mary Lu.

Then came the troubles
No one seen ’em coming
Kept her up at night
Interfered with her plumbing.
Mary Lu.

“We gotta get out”
She said to her mate
“Stick around too long
We’re tempting bad fate.”
Marylu
Big bad, Marylu.

They sold everything
And hit the trail
Ignoring their friends
Who let out a wail.
Mary Lu.

It’s quiet without her
Sort of sad
When I think of her leaving
Makes me mad.
Mary Lu

Every Occidental Morning
There’s a trace of her ghost
A fragment of color
the laugh we miss most.
Mary Lu
Big bad, Marylu.

Biden’s First Six Months


So far, Joe Biden’s presidency has been a success.  Most voters continue to believe that Biden has done an excellent job handling the pandemic and the economy. As we might expect, Democrats are far more likely to approve of Biden than are Republicans.

The most recent CBS News poll (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/biden-pandemic-approval-covid-19-opinion-poll/ ) found President Biden with 58 percent approval (42 percent disapproval).  Biden’s rating is deeply split along Party lines: 93 percent of Democrats approve while 81 percent of Republicans disapprove.  (55 percent of Independents approve.)

Coronavirus Pandemic:  66 percent of poll respondents believe the Biden Administration had done an excellent or good job “handling the coronavirus outbreak.”  The majority of respondents approve of the way the Biden Administration has responded to the pandemic and 67 percent are “hopeful” or “excited” about the future.

60 percent of poll respondents were fully vaccinated; 3 percent have had one shot and will get another; and 7 percent promise to get vaccinated.  11 percent of respondents report they are “still deciding.”  19 percent say they will not get vaccinated.  The most recent YouGov/Economist poll (https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/articles-reports/2021/07/15/why-wont-americans-get-vaccinated-poll-data) indicates that those who say they will not got vaccinated are primarily Republicans: 29 percent of all Republican respondents.  Most of these Republicans believe: “The U.S. government is using the COVID-19 vaccine to microchip the population” — 20 percent of all US adults.

Meanwhile coronavirus-related hospitalizations are on the rise; due to the Delta variant (83 percent of new cases).  The new COVID-19 cases are overwhelmingly unvaccinated individuals.  Four states dominate the appalling statistics: Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, and Louisiana. (https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/back-to-this? )

Clinical trials have shown that the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious disease and death. (Breakthrough cases — when a fully vaccinated person becomes infected with COVID-19 — are rare after full vaccination; a recent CDC report found that they may occur in just 0.01% of all fully vaccinated people.)  “The message, loud and clear, that we need to reiterate is that these vaccines continue to [provide] strong protection against SARS-CoV-2, including the delta variant,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, during a July 16th White House briefing.

At his July 21 town-hall meeting (https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/politics/2021/07/21/joe-biden-cnn-town-hall-transcript/8051311002/ ) President Biden observed: “We have a pandemic for those who haven’t gotten a vaccination.”  He noted, “Since I got in office, we’ve inoculated over 160 million people, 85 percent of people over the age of 50. ”

The Economy: In the most recent CBS News poll, 53 percent of respondents approved of President Biden’s handling of the economy.  (60 percent rated their personal financial situations as good or fairly good — 33 percent saw it as bad.)  Once again Biden’s rating is split on Party lines: 68 percent of Democrats saw the economy improving; 71 percent of Republicans disagreed.

51 percent of respondents — of those with children under the age of 18 — believed the child tax credit would help their family.  57 percent of respondents believe that Biden’s stimulus package helped the economy.

In his recent town-hall meeting, President Biden observed: “[The economy is going] to grow at 7 percent, it’s expected. We created more jobs in the first six months of my — our administration than any time in American history.”

Infrastructure: 59 percent of poll respondents approved of President Biden’s infrastructure plan. Again Biden’s rating is split on Party lines: 93 percent of Democrats approve, 57 percent of Independents, but only 20 percent of Republicans.  The elements of the infrastructure plan have even stronger approval: 87 percent approve of work on roads and bridges, 73 percent of replying rural broadband, and 71 percent of more care for children and the elderly.  (Even Republicans approve the first two initiatives.)

Most respondents (62 percent) want Biden to “try to get Republican support” to pass infrastructure legislation. At his July 21 town-hall meeting (https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/politics/2021/07/21/joe-biden-cnn-town-hall-transcript/8051311002/ ) President Biden expressed confidence that a bipartisan infrastructure bill will soon be passed.

Unity: Joe Biden ran on a promise to unify the nation. A recent Harris-Hill Poll (https://thehill.com/hilltv/what-americas-thinking/538905-poll-majority-say-biden-has-prioritized-unity-so-far) found that a majority of respondents (57 percent) felt that Biden has been working to do this: “they think Joe Biden has made uniting the country a priority in his actions so far as president.”

The most recent CBS News poll (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/biden-pandemic-approval-covid-19-opinion-poll/ ) found that a plurality of respondents (41 percent) feel that President Biden has devoted the right amount of time to bipartisanship.  36 percent believed he needed to do more and 23 percent felt he had spent too much energy on this issue.

During the past six months, Biden has faced adamant Republican congressional opposition.  Republican members of Congress have seldom supported any move that he has made.  On major issues it’s unusual to find any Republican votes to go along with those of Democrats.

While Democratic-leaning pundits describe the Biden Administration as focused, empathetic, and effective, Republican-leading pundits describe Democratic actions in extremely negative terms.  Conservative voices suggest that Biden is senile, a hollow facade, being manipulated by radical socialists including Kamala Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  They decry the legislative initiatives — such as the proposed Biden Infrastructure plan — as socialist over reach.

Summary: the Biden Administration has had a productive six months, with no help from Republicans.  The bad news is that Congressional Republicans are unlikely to change.  The good news is that, on specific issues, Biden has the support of most of the electorate.

Erosion


In my youth
I regarded death as a
Time clock
Punch in on February 8, 1941, at 3:52PM
Punch out on February 8, 2041, at 3:52PM.

Tidy.

Now
I view death as
erosion.

Amorphic.

I built my house
on a bluff
overlooking the ocean.
Buffeted by nature:
sun
wind
rain
waves.

Lost to erosion:
First the ice plant
then the manzanita
Next the ceanothus
And the geraniums
My favorite Monterey cypress
A corner of the redwood deck
The guest bedroom…

How much longer can I stay in my house?
How much longer will I be myself?

Why don’t you move?”
I love the view.

Global Climate Change

The most recent Gallup Poll indicates that American voters have a lot to worry about. So many worries that voters don’t seem particularly concerned about climate change. That’s a problem because, in the long run, climate change is the most serious problem we face.

There’s abundant evidence about the climate change problem.  On July 7th, writing in the the New York Times ( https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/07/climate/climate-change-heat-wave.html) Henry Fountain observed: “The extraordinary heat wave that scorched the Pacific Northwest last week would almost certainly not have occurred without global warming, an international team of climate researchers said Wednesday. Temperatures were so extreme — including readings of 116 degrees Fahrenheit in Portland, Ore., and a Canadian record of 121 in British Columbia — that the researchers had difficulty saying just how rare the heat wave was. But they estimated that in any given year there was only a 0.1 percent chance of such an intense heat wave occurring.”

Nonetheless, in the June Gallup Poll (https://news.gallup.com/poll/351779/sharply-fewer-cite-covid-nation-top-problem.aspx ) of national problems, climate change was barely mentioned.  Respondents were most concerned about government (22 percent), followed by race relations (11 percent), immigration (9 percent), the economy (9 percent) and COVIDE-19 (8 percent).  As usual, there’s a partisan divide: Democrats (16 percent) are more concerned about race relations than are Republicans (3 percent), and Republicans (22 percent) are more concerned about immigration than are Democrats (3 percent).  And Democrats and Republicans see “government” through a different lens; Democrats are satisfied with President Biden and Republicans are not.  (Both parties are concerned about Congress.)

In the June Gallup Poll, climate change rated a measly 3 percent.  (The most recent You Gov poll (https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/trackers/most-important-issues-facing-the-us?) poll shows a higher number, 12.5 percent; still far from what one might reasonably expect.)

There are several explanations for climate change’s low problem rating.  The most likely explanation is that most poll respondents are overwhelmed by negative news and simply don’t have the attention span to deal with anything beyond the governmental crisis, race relations, economic turmoil, and the Coronavirus pandemic.  (An April Pew research study (https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/04/15/americans-views-of-the-problems-facing-the-nation/) indicated that most Americans (65 percent)  believe Climate Change is a serious problem just not as serious as the others.)

Another explanation is that Republicans, in general, do not take climate change seriously because their news sources do not.  During the Trump Administration, it was well known that Donald Trump did not regard climate change as a serious problem.  For this reason, the White House press secretary, and other administration press channels, did not talk about climate change.  In addition, for many years, Fox News (https://www.mediamatters.org/fox-news/2021-fox-news-still-spreading-dangerous-climate-denial ) has denigrated climate change and spread the lie that human activity is not overheating our climate.

Nonetheless, a majority of Americans believe that climate change is real (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/global-warming-perceptions-states-more-americans-accept-fault-n1265213 ).  A strong majority subscribe to the statement “global warming is mostly caused by human activities.”  Not surprisingly,  Democrats are much more likely to hold this belief.

While one explanation is that Democrats and Republicans subscribe to different news sources, another explanation is that their brains are wired differently.  There’s a growing body of neuroscience research that suggests that liberal brains are much more tolerant of ambiguity. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/conservative-and-liberal-brains-might-have-some-real-differences/) That finding has several consequences, one of which is that conservatives have a narrower span of attention, they tend to focus on only one or two political issues at a time.  At present that means that most Republicans focus on “government,” that is. a set of issues including Trump, “the big lie,” voting rights, and so forth.  In addition, they focus on “immigration,” that is the belief that the United States southern border is being invaded by Hispanic immigrants.  They do not focus on climate change because they don’t have the cognitive ability to handle an additional disturbing variable.  They are impaired.  (You probably already knew this.)

Someone has to lead.  Someone has to ensure that all of America’s problems are dealt with — not just the Fox News crisis du jour. That someone is President Biden.  He has to mount national programs to respond to climate change because the Republicans are incapable of doing this. Godspeed, Joe.

Biden’s Infrastructure Strategy

On March 31st, President Joe Biden introduced his infrastructure plan, “The American Jobs Plan” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/ )  This is an omnibus $2 trillion plan to repair the major holes in America’s infrastructure, and to create jobs.  After three months of negotiation, it appears that Congress will pass at least a $1 trillion bipartisan plan. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/06/24/fact-sheet-president-biden-announces-support-for-the-bipartisan-infrastructure-framework/ )

The bipartisan infrastructure plan polls well.  A recent Yahoo/YouGov poll (https://news.yahoo.com/poll-6-in-10-gop-voters-favor-new-12-trillion-infrastructure-plan-boosting-bidens-hopes-of-a-big-bipartisan-win-201833741.html) found that only 17 percent of respondents disapproved of this plan.  “The survey of 1,592 U.S. adults, which was conducted from June 22 to 24, found that a full 60 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of the compromise infrastructure plan recently put forward by Republican and Democratic senators that would “rebuild roads, bridges and other traditional infrastructure and cost $1.2 trillion.”

What’s in and What’s out: The first cut of the Biden Infrastructure/Jobs plan had $2.15 billion in projects.  The compromise plan has $1.2 billion in projects.

1.Transportation Infrastructure: (Original plan $621 Billion; bipartisan plan approximately $500 Billion)  In essence the compromise plan kept the traditional infrastructure projects and reduced three varieties of investments: construction of an electric-vehicle infrastructure,  funds for climate-related disasters (“infrastructure resiliency”), and projects for “underserved neighborhoods” — “a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.”

2. “Quality of Life at Home”: (Original plan $650 Billion; bipartisan plan approximately $400 billion) In essence this is the original Biden proposal less an allocation of $213B to “build, preserve, and retrofit more than 2 million affordable homes and commercial buildings.”

3. Caregivers for elderly and disabled. (Original plan $400 Billion; bipartisan plan $0) Biden’s original plan would have expanded Medicaid to provide affordable, quality care for everyone who needs it.

4. Research, Development, and Manufacturing: (Original plan $480 Billion; bipartisan plan approximately $100 billion.)

The Biden Infrastructure/Jobs plan collected many of the elements of previous plans and  linked them together.  There were standard infrastructure improvements, such as roads, bridges, ports, and trains, and non-standard items such as home-improvement, removal of lead water pipes, and provision of a high-speed broadband network.  The bipartisan plan retains most of the traditional infrastructure elements.

Playing the bipartisanship card: President Biden lauded the bipartisan plan: “Democracy requires compromise. The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework will make life better for millions of Americans, create a generation of good-paying union jobs and economic growth, and position the United States to win the 21st century, including on many of the key technologies needed to combat the climate crisis.”

Clearly, Biden relishes the idea of Congress passing a significant bipartisan piece of legislation.  Writing in a June 28th editorial (https://news.yahoo.com/biden-americans-can-be-proud-of-the-infrastructure-deal-214533346.html) Biden observed: “The deal… is a signal to ourselves, and to the world, that American democracy can work and deliver for the people.  Neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted in this agreement. But that’s what it means to compromise and reach consensus — the very heart of democracy. When we negotiate in good faith, and come together to get big things done, we begin to break the ice that too often has kept us frozen in place and prevented us from solving the real problems Americans face.”

Nonetheless, Biden hasn’t given up on the other components of his original infrastructure proposal.  In his editorial,  Biden noted: “I will continue working with Congress to pass the remainder of my economic and clean energy agenda. We have an urgent need to invest in housing, clean energy deployment and the care economy. And we need to make equally critical investments in our human infrastructure: in childcare and paid leave, universal pre-K and free community college, and tax cuts for working families with children. They are inextricably intertwined with physical infrastructure.”

BB prediction: The bipartisan infrastructure plan will pass this summer.  The remainder of Biden “Jobs Plan” will pass in the fourth quarter by means of reconciliation.

 

Tough Love


It was hard
Visiting her in jail.
Prison clothes
No makeup
Sleepless eyes.

“You have to believe me,”
She pleaded.
“I’m innocent.
Wrong place, wrong time.
Mistaken identity.”

I wanted to believe her.
We’d been friends for years.
But this had happened before
And she refused
To take her medicine.

“The DA offered me a deal,”
She begged.
“6 months Jail,
5 years probation,
If you vouch for me.”

I’d loved her
Before I understood
She meant well
But wouldn’t
Change.

I handed her
The Gideon Bible.
Muttered,
“You have a friend
In Jesus.”