No good answers for the Service Industry

Watching the posts from my friends in the service industry, I find myself torn between wishing I could help and cold facts of pragmatism.

All my friends in the service industry live on the razors edge of paying all their bills. One slow night, a cheapskates walking on tabs or not tipping, shift changes putting them on non-busy times, all hits to prospectives of a roof over their head, gas in their tank, money for school, or food for their families. A world usually without insurance, sick days, breaks or vacations. A world of eight to twelve hour shifts. A world I grew up in with my Mom waiting tables, often at two different restaurants.

We didn’t have to deal with this though. Beholden to the masses practicing safe habits, more often not. Having to shut down a restaurant due to an employee testing positive. Shutting down for weeks and months at a time due to Health Departments trying to contain outbreaks by folk who don’t give a shit ’bout anything but themselves. Their freedoms. Their rights. Everyone else can fuck off.

The service industry, much like the medical workers, are just background noise to the majority of Americans don’t notice them, but expect them to be there when needed. No respect for the work, and now a lot are largely forgotten, left to toil unseen. If they’re lucky, they can toil.

Restaurants currently can provide takeout, as if that will pay the bills. Kitchen staff are the most expensive staff to keep on as they don’t balance their wages with tips. And to do takeout, you need a cook there, even if it’s only one order on an eight hour shift. If you need multiple cooks as you ARE doing good business, you have to worry that one cook on a shift tests positive, taking any staff working with them out for two weeks.

While they’re doign takeout, stocking becomes more of an issue. Prices are going up, partly because of transport issues, partly because of warehouse staff shortages and meat packing plant outbreaks, partly because of failure to project needs. No one’s able to predict what’ll sell ,what won’t, so it’s hard to stock. Even if you get that down, what do you do with perishables for a two week (or longer) shutdown?

Most importantly, what do you do as an employee if  you test positive? I’ve been lucky to have worked for folk that would help out, but if you end up in the hospital? For a week? For two? For six?

If you run the restaurant, what do you do? A positive employee test is a two week shutdown, minimum. Are you’re staff insured? Do you help with bills? How far with no revenue coming in? What if there’s more than one employee?

The whole situation is unfair, both for employers, employees and owners. Six of one, half dozen of the other, which six weigh more? Work to make the bills, take the chance on the Covid roulette, or what?  There are no good options at this point, and no leadership who care.

The Trumpster fire continues

Christmas Eve, less than a month to Inauguration. Congress came together and passed a spending bill along with some Covid relief, in itself something of a holiday miracle in these divisive times. Not a great bill, mind you, but it does extend unemployment benefits for a couple more months for all those forced out by the pandemic, as well as offer more assistance for small business.

But.

The Petulant-Man-Boy-In-Chief has stated he’ll not sign it. The one-time check is too small in his tiny little mind. He has the Democrats and my own self agreeing with him (gasp!). But the one time check, whether it be $600 or $2000 to me isn’t the big deal.

First, a one time payment, while helpful and undoubtedly appreciated, is just that. One time. This bill also offers extended unemployment assistance. So, a one time payment of six or twenty hundred dollars, or an extra three hundred with EVERY unemployment check you receive while you wait for the vaccines to get you back to work? While I get instant gratification, it seems like a no brainer to me. Fact is, once people get a check, it’ll be spent. Then what?

Second is the bigger concern. The PMBIC has stated he’ll not sign the bill if it comes to his desk.

Now, he vetoed the military funding, which, speaking as a vet, is a right BASTARD thing to do. But, a veto can, and likely will, be overridden by a bipartisan vote. I mean, who doesn’t want to pay the troops that protect them, and that are playing a strong backing role in Covid assistance? Oh, right, the PMBIC, ’cause he doesn’t want to get kicked off social media when he leaves office.

But if he doesn’t sign the bill, is that the same as a veto? If it is, then Congress has enough votes to override it. But if he fucks off to Mar-a-Lago and puts it off, what’s to be done for it? Does it just set, already months overdue, like a hostage waiting to be released until its captor’s demands for another term are met? Does this make his supporters proud?

Well, the Trumpster fire continues, because some people just like to watch things burn. It’s been smoldering for four years, now it seems the door opening has let the oxygen in to fuel it.

Trump’s Post Court(s) Plan

Now that we’ve received another pair of Supreme Court defeats (Federal and Wisconsin) the Trumpicans have stated they’ll keep fighting. Despite over fifty rulings against them. Despite the fact there’s more evidence for Bigfoot than voter fraud.

Of course, they’ve gone from “widespread” fraud to “undetectable” fraud over the last couple days. Like every other bone he throws to his base, they both can’t be true. Just like Biden can’t be “slow and sleepy” and a “criminal mastermind.” Yet his supporters eat it up.

But Trump should take credit where credit is due. He did inspire the largest voter turnout in many an election. He made America vote again!

Doesn’t matter he lost the popular vote, that’s been the case in many recent elections, and he’s two for two on that front. It does matter he lost the Electoral in a landslide (his own words from ’16 when he had over three hundred).

As long as he files cases alleging fraud, his supporters will keep giving donations. $200 million to date. Never mind that only donations OVER $5000 go to the legal battle. Since he’s only spent under nine million on legal (mostly recounts), that makes sense. Every donation less than $5000 goes to his “election.”

Makes sense, the man’s got bills to pay. He’s in debt from this failed election. More to the point, he owes $400 million in loans to someone, and they’re coming due soon.

I’m thinking he’ll give up the court fights about the same time he has over $400m in donations. He’ll need the money to pay his loans, and his supporters will help him out in the name of “democracy,” or maybe “Trumpocracy.” They’ll not donate to local foodbanks, or businesses that have been hit hard by the last nine months of “pay no attention to what’s behind the hospital curtain. It’ll go away,” but they’ll freely give to him ’cause he’s the victim.

And he surely is. Most of the money he makes is from putting his name on things and getting royalties. Steaks, wines, golf courses, hotels, condoms, airlines, TV shows, all of these use his name because it stands for “The Best.” Doesn’t mean quite the same if he’s a petulant crybaby that lost an election.

Doesn’t smell quite like success. For the older among us, you might remember the diaper pails.

A new star glows…

Milky Way over Canadian Prairie - Stock Image - C044/3003 - Science Photo  Library

Tonight, go outside, lift your head up to look at the stars, and you’ll see a new one. See it? It’s right there, just to the left of the one you’ve seen all your life. No, not that one, you’ve a vague memory of that one, it’s the one that you’ve never seen.

That’s Eileen, the kindest woman you’ve likely never met. She took up residence in the firmament last night, shortly after I visited her amidst a Covid lockdown. She’s up there looking over me, looking for Dad, dearly missed, but at peace after a harrowing few years.

Thanks Mom, for everything, for teaching me the value of hard work, good friends and being a generous person. I’ll keep trying to make you proud.

Outrage, wherefore art tho?

Four days close to the 9/11 toll.  Apparently Stalin was right, one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.

We’re nowhere near a million in the States right now, but averaging an American death a minute for the past two weeks, we’ve got the can-do attitude to try! As promised by our voted out President, the United States is number one!

I’m bitter this morning as I was at my Mom’s skilled nursing facility early this morning. They’re locked down to a Covid outbreak, but I was allowed special dispensation to come in. Mom’s not a Covid case, but the entire west wing of the facility is all positive.

I watch as people do the NIMBY version of masking and shutdowns, “How dare you tell us what to do!” The businesses I feel for, their at the whim of the general public, and until the public acts together to mitigate the crisis, their plans for themselves and their employees can only go test by test for a foreseeable future. They’ve no control outside their doors, and outside their doors, the virus knows no border, line, limit, or party.

But of the people, the public that the businesses rely on, the customers who “are always right,” a large enough precentage don’t give a fuck. They seem to believe the virus does care about what county you live in, has the wherewithal to know not to cross a state line, the brains to know who you voted for. And that special insight gives them permission to give the finger to anyone else trying to stem the tide.

A band I follow has a lyric, “Cause we’re breaking down, and I can tell it’s deep. / There’s a tidal wave that’s rushing towards the beach.” Feels all too true right now. I see the copy-n-paste commentary on pages crying out wolves of conspiracies and misinformation, comfortably ensconced behind their keyboards, while I read from health care workers on the raggedy edge, trying to take care of patients while fighting to take care of themselves as well. One that sticks out is a nurse in Idaho who watched a patient succumb to Covid over a couple ICU weeks, the whole time the patient arguing how Covid is a hoax. The nurse had been working fourteen hour shifts in the ICU for eight weeks at that point, sleeping at the hospital so she wouldn’t inadvertently get her family sick. All the while her commumnity protests wearing masks and distancing. Such is community support these days.

When 9/11 happened, the American people responded as one, as well as easily traded their privacy for security. But when we face a daily, recurring toll equivalent to that one day, simple tasks are too much too ask.

When the debates come up BLM v All lives matter, they’ll fight and scream at each other, but when it comes to actual lives, simple tasks are too much.

The Election looms

“What we have lost is the sense that we are one nation, all in this together. Donald Trump is the first president in our history who has sought to divide us rather than unite us. We will heal once he leaves, but the scar will endure.” Walter Isaacson, historian

Sadly, this is so true. In the last four years we’ve become the red and the blue states of America, I’ve watched families torn apart, close relatives unfriended, a country that has become either us or them, Democrat and Republican, black or white. There is no grey anymore, just straight polemics of “I’m right” and “you’re wrong,” and this little post will engender that reaction from many.

We’ve lost the ability to discuss, to meet middle, to find common ground. There was a time when individual parties, be they political or personal,  would work together to come to a solution to an issue or argument, but that time has passed, and I fear with the election coming up no matter who wins, the damage will take time to heal.

Regardless of what happens, the election is going to be contested. One party will try to suppress votes, another party will try to get more votes in, and all the while our nation’s enemies will be laughing their a** off at us. They don’t need to attack us, we’ve done all the damage on our own. And sadly, we’ve done it willingly and gleefully.

Watching the Supreme Court

Watching and reading the current Supreme Court confirmation, one thing has been sticking out is the argument the GOP has been pushing the is that Democrats started the “judicial wars” (which has given them the prerogative to push this through nominee), and they continuously name Robert Bork.

Unsurprisingly, Bork had an interesting record. Early on he defended segregation, was critical of individual privacy, held views critical of the Fourth Amendment, believed in the right for government to censor writers and artists, and argued the Civil Rights Act was an imposition on Americans. Looking at his record as a whole, he seemed balanced, but there were some quarks in his record that stuck out.

The most damning fact was that he was key in the ‘Saturday Night Massacre‘ when President Nixon ordered the firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Cox after Cox asked for the tapes he’d recorded in the Oval Office. The Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General each resigned in turn after being given the order, leaving Bork acting attorney general, who then fired Cox. Bork claimed he carried out the order under pressure, but in his memoirs, he claimed that after he fired Cox, Nixon promised him the next seat on the Supreme Court[wiki]

Even with that background (hell, Strom Thurmond, of all people, called him “controversial“), he was given full, bipartisan hearings, was heard from, and the Senate gave him a full up-or-down vote on the floor.

Let’s remember that Merrick Garland never got this opportunity due to one party citing the “Biden rule.”

Sen. Joe Biden had said in a 1992 Senate floor speech — when there were no high court vacancies to fill — that “once the political season is under way, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.”

Admittedly, these days, it is hard to tell when the political season is underway. when the sitting president starts his reelection campaign days after he takes office color it’s hard to tell, but five weeks before a presidential election, that would seem to be a “season.” I hope those voting remember the hypocrisy that’s been put in office.

Covid and the County, Larimer

Covid has been tasking the County, with our being on the raggedy edge or in the high incidence range of infection. Hospitals and ICUs are at occupancy levels that haven’t been seen since May. Between Covid and folks having issues with smoke from wildfires, it’s a breathtaking time in Larimer County.

The County currently sits at Safer at Home Level 1 of Colorado’s Dial Framework. A retreat to Level 2 would trigger a range of new restrictions, including tighter capacity limits on offices, businesses, restaurants and houses of worship; group sports, gyms and bars; and even on certain outdoor activities.

Larimer County health Department, 23 October 2020
https://www.larimer.org/health/communicable-disease/coronavirus-covid-19/larimer-county-positive-covid-19-numbers

We’ve been running on a variance for months allowing us freer access to stores, restaurants and other gatherings. Part of keeping that variance running is the simple task of wearing masks and watching how close you stand to folk.

The mask is not a solution to keep you from getting infected, it’s a courtesy to everyone else around you to help keep them from getting infected. Their wearing a mask is helping you from getting infected, it’s a simple partnership with our neighbors that a lot of people are choosing not to take part in.

The concept of “public” health is it fairly easy one to understand, it’s public, not partisan, Covid doesn’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat or an independent, it doesn’t care how old you are, only cares about is reproducing and propagating.

That extremely difficult task putting a mask over your mouth helps tamp it down. We tamp it down, we get it under control, businesses will be able to reopen, my friends will be able to pay their rent and bills. Is that really such a hard thing to ask?

Watching Northern Colorado burn

Sitting here in the cold dark of the afternoon, ash and smoke from an over 500 thousand square miles of  fires just west of us dimming the sky to an early dusk, I’m fully cognizant of the impact of climate change. What I don’t get is why all the politicians and all the climate deniers dodge and weave anytime this comes up and says it’s not their fault.

It’s like walking into a room with 2 children and a broken vase and asking who broke it.  Not it!

The deniers, the politicians. and the conspiracy idjits all say “this has happened before, this is the natural way of the world.”

Technically, yes, the planet has seen apocalyptic climate change many times over its existence, we see it in the geological record. But these changes in the past occurred over hundreds of thousands if not millions of years, and the recovery from these changes took just as long to set back to normal. And very little survived tell the tale, mostly just rocks and fossils.

What we’re seeing now is the impact I’m just a few 100 years, in the common denominator of those couple 100 years has been our societies, our industrialization, our population growth. Essentially, we gave mother Gaia a very bad fever.

Even if you don’t want to accept that, accept that humanity is the cause for the current situation. Does it really f****** matter what caused it?

It’s obvious it’s happening, ask any firefighter up in the mountains right now, ask anyone who is going through multiple hurricanes in a season down South, ask anyone who is watching their streets flood on a sunny day on  the  East Coast.

It just doesn’t f****** matter who caused it. What matters is what can we do to mitigate it? What changes can we make to reduce the damage that will come in the future? Hoping for leaders that will look to the future, not their daily ratings or their reelection.

Reflections on an eve

Getting ready for my bookstore prep, thought I’d share this as my fiftieth eve approaches. 

It goes back to my seventh grade English teacher at South Jr. High in Boise. She had the class write up letters to ourselves, seal them in an envelope with our names and year on it, and give to her for a safekeeping. All she asked was that we’d come back for them after high school graduation

I’m not sure how many others came back, but I made it a point. I remember watching her sort through the boxes, labeled by year, from all the classes she’d taught, handling each box with a graceful dignity.

The lid from my year was lifted, she flipped through the envelopes like a card catalog until she had mine. She asked if I’d stay to read it, not wanting to know the contents, but just curious as to my response. Rereading a letter to myself with only a difference of five years was strange, the things I found important, the questions I asked. Looking back there are questions should’ve I asked her, but those are the questions of an older, not younger, me.

The letter’s been lost in the ensuing years of moves and deployments, as has the memory of the exact contents, but I still recall the reading proper, the feelings it brought up.

Thinking of that letter helps enforce my practice of keeping a journal and being able to randomly pluck one from the pile, cracking to a random page. Trying to maintain better breadcrumbs, especially after finding MS can lead to some memory issues.

Along those lines, I’ve a habit that I’ve been doing every ten years since my thirtieth birthday, but this particular reread involves books by others.

I do annual rereads often, usually for a holiday, like reading Martin Luther King on his birthday, Rabbie Burns on Burns Day, Bobby Frost and other poets just because. The obvious stuff. But there’s other reads that hit me harder than others, and deserve a bit more work.

The reads that changed my perspective on life the most were “Life without Principle” by Thoreau and Meditations by Aurelius. 

I reread both often, but I’ve made it a point every decadal birthday to go out, find and buy a new copy. Then, pencil in hand, I reread and mark up the points that interest me. After all that’s done, I’ll take the older copy, or copies, and compare to see how my train of thought has changed I since the last reads. 

If you have a favorite book that you’ve writ up the same, it’s a unique time capsule. Do the same passages still capture you? Why don’t older highlights make the same impact? What’s happened betwixt to cause the change? All sorts of questions can come to mind. Sometimes there might even be answers. Some you might even like.

And that again is how I’ll be spending my birthday on Columbus day, my fiftieth, this tumultuous year. With everything that has been going on this year, falling back on a routine of reflection seems to be a sound and comforting plan.