The year 2020 is rapidly drawing to a close and most of us will be only too happy to see it go. I can’t remember a year so angst-filled, whether by COVID-19, the presidential election, the collapse of the work economy and the insecurity of so many, or simply being without close contact with our families and the people we love. I hope for all of you that 2021 will be a better year, filed with hope and promise.

 

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The governor just appointed the California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to be the new U.S. Senator from California, replacing Senator Kamala Harris who will be sworn in as the Vice President of the United States on Jan 20, 2021, unless Trump manages to pull off a coup d’état. Padilla was an anticipated choice as he and Newsom go way back; they are longtime supporters and friends and Newsom was also looking for a minority appointment. I was sent a press release from one of the Republican county organizations attacking Padilla, his record and Newsom for appointing him. I assume the county Republicans were hoping that Newsom would appoint a conservative Republican to the seat but, alas, they were disappointed. I view Padilla as an American success story. His parents were both immigrants from Mexico, applied for green cards and immigrated to California. His father had only an elementary school education, began as a dishwasher at a local diner and rose to be head cook at the diner. His mother worked as a housekeeper for affluent families. Padilla was fortunate; he was smart—very smart—and focused and ended up graduating from MIT with an engineering degree. He got politicized in 1994, as did many other young Hispanics, by the anti-immigration ballot initiative that passed and was endorsed by then Governor Pete Wilson. It worked for Wilson, got him elected, but also energized a new generation of Hispanic young men and women, what in politics is sometimes called the rule of unexpected consequences. Padilla got into politics, ran and won and became the youngest LA City Council president in history. From there, it was the state senate and then statewide office as California Secretary of State. We all like to believe we live in a meritocracy and, if so, to my mind, this is the way it is supposed to work and, in addition to everything else, Padilla is a very competent and able guy.

 

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The COVID-19 picture is not very bright. Hospitals and ICUs are close to capacity here in Los Angeles—in fact, all over Southern California—still, many people still refuse to believe it’s real and, with Christmas coming, people are traveling to see their families. TSA, which keeps score of travelers, said more than 1,000,000 travelers per day passed through TSA checkpoints the last three days, the largest jump since the start of the pandemic. Currently, we have lost 321,000 individuals to COVID in this country, and the last few weeks at roughly 17,000 per week. With people traveling again, we can expect—considering incubation period of the disease—that January and maybe February will be bad, very bad, and we could blow through 400,000 and maybe more deaths. Sadly, even with the vaccines, we have a way to go. Stay home; stay safe.

 

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Congress finally cut a deal for $900 billion in relief to America’s citizenry to help ease the burden of what is really a COVID-caused recession now or coming soon, To no one’s surprise, the 5,593-page document bundled together into one bill: emergency economic relief (that’s the $900 billion), government funding and also tax cuts. There are lots of goodies in the bill for lots of industries, which I surmise have political clout. There were $110 billion in tax breaks for those COVID-related things like tax relief for liquor producers, the motorsport entertainment sector such as NASCAR and manufacturers of electric motorcycles, and the wind industry, among others. Prussian leader Otto von Bismark once said, many years ago, “Laws are like sausages, it’s better to not see them being made,” and he was right because, in the final analysis, you need the votes to pass the bill and everyone, and every state or every senator, has to get a piece of the sausage.

 

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We are finally getting to the end of this presidential election and, if the information leaking out of the White House is correct (actually, “leaking out” is not the right word, it should be called “gushing” out of the White House), the Oval Office is filled with characters out the court of Oz. Even Bill Barr, whom I must confess is not my favorite attorney general, finally said “enough,” packed up his kitbag and moved out, after refusing to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate election tampering or Hunter Biden or, most of all, not being willing to appoint attorney Sidney Powell as Special Counsel on Election Fraud. To think that they were actually discussing invoking the Insurrection Act and declaring martial law and seizing ballot machines and listening to advice from Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell is almost beyond belief. It’s gone from scary to farcical but the president still has real power and can cause real damage to the republic in these last acts of an administration that can’t bring itself to say they simply lost the election. 

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