Viva Escritora

Reporting from the bleacher seats …

TL;DR?! Mostly observations made from the bleacher seat tossed with a mid-year review of 2020 New Years resolutions.

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June 29, 2020 Well, looks like mid-year scrolling through the ‘drafts’ folder the correct choice for making 2020 New Years Resolutions was ‘not’. But we tried.

As is customary to mark the passage of “annual” as we roll the calendar into a new year, we make up lists of changes to make in the coming year in an effort to make them “better.”

I started off the year with the resolve that I’d push ‘publish’ on a post no matter how bleak the subject matter, no matter how often I grind the same dead ax over and over, no matter what high horse or rickety orange crate I find myself shouting from, I would fearlessly push ‘publish’. My bold resolve dissolved in the tide of events we now swim in — the COVID-19 pandemic, the re-energization of social justice movements (Black Lives Matter, voting rights, policing and incarceration), ascendant economic downheaval, the treasonous blowout sale on military personnel by the Bone Commander in Chief Spurs and today I see that a plague of locusts is rolling into New Delhi, India. Another one to add to a long list.

The summer solstice passed us by a week ago so this is as a good a time as any to revisit the good intentions we had in January.

Enjoy!

Or not.

2019 Sculpture Milwaukee
Magical Thinking, Gail Simpson/Aris Georgiadis

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Bix

Across the street, Bix is my neighbor’s dog named for Bix Beiderbecke the American jazz cornetist I’d never heard of until I met Bix the big black beautiful dog.

Bix loves me. He steps his way across the street to see me when he should not. He sings to me the song of his people when I ring the doorbell. I know it is the song of his people because the doormat says so.

And so as I picked up my fluffy little dog’s Tootsie roll-sized poop to drop it in a small wastebasket in the garage, I think of Bix and I take a moment for wonderment that for my dear neighbors, Bix’ waste management is a BIG deal.

Update June 29, 2020 – Territory. My fluffy little dog’s territory is his yard. Bix’ territory is his neighborhood and beyond. And Bixy has been sick. Get well soon my big black beautiful four-legged friend.

Milwaukee Spots

The DNC will be in Milwaukee in July of 2020. In an effort to be a source of local “color”, I will post a sundry assortment of Milwaukee photos, places, and stories from my misspent youth, adulthood, and middle age.

Update June 29, 2020 – I’m crossing my favorite ‘Milwaukee Spots’ off my list as a big COVID nope. The DNC will be held August 17-20. The venue was moved from the FiServ Forum (capacity: 17,341) to the Wisconsin Center (ballroom capacity: 3,150) with more emphasis on virtual events.

The upside to the change in the DNC Convention plans is that I can virtually observe.

Geriatrics at work

Mr. Viva and I watched The Rolling Stones 2016 Havana Moon concert stream last night (December 31, 2019) and blessed be, the only regular who isn’t over 70 is Darrel Jones, the bassist who is not a Stone but has played with them forever.

According to the wiki-Wiki-Googles, the free concert drew about 500,000 people and The Rolling Stones rocked.

On the Graham Norton Show, Henry Cavill talked of being dehydrated for shirtless photo shoots. Photographic evidence suggests that dehydration enhances muscle definition. And so Mr. Cavill reported that he was thirsty so thirsty for those photos.

When I watched The Rolling Stones they looked thirsty so thirsty minus the beefcake musculature. Gimme shelter? Rolling Stones rock but look all like ‘gimme water.’ Just sayin.’

Locate the sentence as clean as a bone.

For 2019, I kicked off with a mediation on James Baldwin’s advice to write a sentence as clean as a bone. Clean sentences are hard work. In 2020 I would like to excavate more thoroughly, more decisively, and possibly over there — in a different pit — think of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones digging in Raiders of the Lost Ark in a different place than the Nazis. I’m want to explore some new and different digging territory. The sentences will be written. That’s clean.

Update June 29, 2020 – The public execution of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 means my interest in, and consideration of James Baldwin’s writing took a different direction. I am reading Mr. Baldwin not for style but for content.

And we will be the better for it. James Baldwin is a brilliant thinker.

Circuit Court Judges

January 2020 – Well, this was distressing to read. Given that Senator Comrade McConnell withheld Senate judiciary approval during the Obama Administration for judges all the way up to Merrick Garland for Supreme Court, 1 out of 4 current circuit court judges have been appointed by the Trump Regime whose recommendations come via The Federalist Society.

Pantone Color of the Year

Well, this is rich. Classic Blue is the Pantone Color of the Year.

I hope there is a blue, blue, classic blue wave of cleansing vote in November. Ignore the polls. Vote.

Julian Castro drops out of Presidential bid

Jan. 2, 2020 – Upset I am! After years of declaiming that I am an independent, in a moment of self-reflection and coming to truth, I am a Democrat. I registered.

The strength of the Democrats is their big tent which has room for many factions, points-of-view, policy positions, circus rings, ring leaders, etc. I consider it a feature that they are a slow-moving behemoth. In having to reconcile various party factions, the arrival at a piece of legislation most of them can agree on and pass is a good thing.

And so it upsets me that with the s*it*how primary system the DNC is running that both Kamala Harris and Julian Castro — two of the more diverse voices in the sea of old white guys and Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar — that there must be a better way to select the party’s front-runner-spokesperson-banner holder.

If I compared Kamala Harris with Marianne Williamson, Harris would still be in. And Julian Castro head-to-head with Andrew Yang? Castro would still be in. And I would question “Andrew who?”

Individual Mass Transit

In a distraction from all the politics, I think about self-driving autonomous vehicle transport A LOT. I’m all in and most drivers I talk to are all NOT. Like it is not going to happen. Well, I disagree. I’ll make the case. Self-driving vehicles are in our future.

Update June 29, 2020 – Individual Mass Transit (IMT) seemed like an up-and-coming trend. With COVID, unemployment, unrest, political machinations beyond what we ever thought an untethered and unhinged POTUS could get away with — 2020 has been a year of massive, rapid change socially, politically, economically. Individual Mass Transit has moved to the backseat where it will be nice to visit for a break from the rest of the mess once and a while. IMT will be my flight of fancy, why not?


I started this post in January 2020 looking forward to a new year. We are half-way through the year but it feels so much longer.

If a human year is 7 dog years, is it 2023.5 yet?

Wishing Bix, the big black dog who lives across the street and loves me, good health.

Peace my friends. Be well. Wear a mask and above all, be kind.

Ttl;dr?! At it’s root, the value of money is it allows us to efficiently transfer or exchange goods and services.

Hanging out at the root of all evil, billionaires are hoarders.

Eat the rich.

We ride at midnight.

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Spring cleaning. Written pre-COVID-19, the text still stands. May 2020 updates below.

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Bartering

I don’t pay my dentist in beets. My dentist doesn’t deny me dental service because he doesn’t eat beets. I don’t have to grow my beets and ration my beets and store my beets in a root cellar through the year and search for equitable trade of my beets for goods and services I need.

On a basic level, money gets us out of bartering. In this example, we abstract the value of my beets (goods) and the value of dentistry (services) and value both with an object we call money. In Ancient Rome, money was in physical metal coin. As economies evolved, we stored our value in paper backed by a precious metal — gold until Nixon. If we so choose, we could decide that marbles could stand in for money.

Money gets us out of bartering. Money is a stand-in for the value of our goods and services. It is not a good or a service but a transferable object. I don’t barter with my dentist for his services. I don’t go to the grocery store and trade beets for milk.

Money allows us to specialize. I grow beets. Teachers teach. Dentists practice dentistry. The value of money is the useful and efficient transfer of goods and services that allows us to specialize in production of goods or services.

The flow of money between individuals is what makes for a healthy economy. I say these things not as an economist but as an observer. From where I report, there is not enough flow of money on Main Street. Services are undervalued to the tune of minimum wage. People are forced to work two or three jobs to grow enough beets make ends meet. Government subsidies allow corporations to devalue human labor, the working poor. Imports allow corporations to devalue human labor in other countries. Work the poor world-wide.

Corporations deface and devalue the environment in someone else’s backyard but I digress.

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Government subsidies to corporations is not as objectionable as government subsidies to citizenry, to individuals. Why is this? Why is it so easy for us to under-fund the social safety net while offering tax breaks to corporations? Let’s face it, the social safety net is so thin now that more and more people fall through and land smack down on the bottom of the circus floor. And this circus is a s*itshow shamshow.

Although this may read as a screed against corporations, it is not. Corporations specialize. Corporations provide societies with complicated products and services impossible to produce by one individual. Henry Ford. Steven Jobs. Individuals who started behemoths. Look around. If you are reading this, your world is filled with product, human creativity, and innovations attributable to successful corporations. And we are all of grateful.

But currently Main Street businesses do not thrive because money flows to Wall Street. The Wall Street named for a wall the Dutch built and it might as well have been a dam. Ain’t enough water make it to Main Street once it’s behind the wall.

Money as water

Water, like money brings the green. Spread over a large area, it greens up. Farm fields with irrigation, watered lawns in Las Vegas. In the absence of water, they brown up. The corn isn’t knee-high by the Fourth of July. Dry and thirsty barren landscapes.

A Reagan era economic relic is trickle down economics. It’s a nice theory — as business flourish so will the populace. As direct evidence that trickle down does not work, I offer billionaires. Bill Gates retired in 2009 with only $50B or $50,000,000,000 dollars or wimwams1. If you check on Bill Gates’ net worth today it is over $100B or $1×1011 wimwams. That’s a lot of wimwams Bill.

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Let’s do math! Bill Gates doubled his money in 10 years.

10 years = 87,600 hours (24*365*10)

Bill Gates’ was earning $570,771/hour ($50,000,000,000/87,600 hours) and that is if Bill is working 24 x 7. But I assume Bill isn’t and doesn’t. So …

~2,000 working hours/year * 10 years = 20,000 working hours

I assume Bill works more than 2000 hours/year. Let’s use 3,000 hours. He must be at least 0.5 more productive than someone working 8 hour days, so since he has retired:

$50,000,000,000/30,000 hours = $1,666,666.67/hour.

That is $1,666,651.67 dollars more than someone making $15/hour.

Whoa! Bill is a long way from a proposed minimum wage.

$1,666,651.67/hour / $15/hour =

111,111 employees paid a minimum wage of $15/hour

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Spilled coffee and what else?
Gratuitous photograph included for interest and those captured by short-attention span theater.

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May 2020 Update: Amidst COVID-19

Thirty-six million people (36 x 106 or 36,000,000) are now unemployed. The US Senate hesitates on legislation to provide direct relief to individuals. It is still more palatable and easier to pump water money into the economy via trickle down than provide direct relief to individuals.

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The US National Debt clock today is at ~$25T or $25×1012. To put that in less science-y perspective, it is at ~$75K or $75,000/citizen.

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Jeff Bezo didn’t retire but he and MacKenzie divorced. His net worth was in the $150B range and MacKenzie took less that half.

A check of the Bezos’ net worth today (May 15, 2020):

Jeff: $142,100,000,000 ($142.1B)

MacKenzie: $46,400,000,000 ($46.4B)

Or a total Bezos’ net worth of $188.5B.

Whoa! That’s even more wimwams. I guess the divorce really paid off.

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I use the Bezos’ and Bill Gates as evidence that trickle down doesn’t. Their wealth may be on paper, but so is the national debt. Paper. Money. In the hands of real people it becomes physical goods and services.

Or food, lodging, transportation, dentistry, beets. IT’s a long list.

Eat the rich.

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1Wimwams: Wimwams is a generic term for any unit of money. This term was coined by Mr. Viva while on a trip in which we were made painfully aware of the “exchange rate” of our dollars. How many wimwams for that nutella? How many wimwams to stay here tonight? How many wimwams for us to hop on that bus? I stopped translating our spending to US dollars.

And doesn’t wimwams sound way funner than dollars? Heh, heh. Funner. More way fun. Wimwams.

Tl;dr?! In praise of long-form time-consuming activities whate’er that activity is. Perhaps today it is reading the rest of this here whole post with it’s promise of rambling on and and on and oh, it does. Maybe it is taking a long walk. Maybe it is reading a book. Maybe it is cleaning out the hall closet for the first time in five years … er … never mind. Let’s not go there. You do you.

Let’s go!

Or not.

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Written in the time BC. Before COVID-19.

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I write to know what I think. Sometimes this takes a long time.

The main character, Captain, in News of the World by Paulette Jiles travels from town to town in post-Civil War Texas. He reads to a paying audiences. It is a story about audiences entertained by newspaper stories from all over the world in the time before radio, television, internet were invented. Before fifty states, before interstate highways, before airplanes and airlines, before, before, before. News read like a bedtime story to a paying audience. How wonderful is that!?

Aside: Do not read news before bedtime now.

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The Captain selects stories from hard print newspapers that are as current as he is able to find or able to afford. Newsprint with days-, weeks-, months-old news. Stories are selected based on his perceptions of what will expand his audiences’ horizons, transport them to other places than dusty old dangerous post-Civil War Texas. Introduces them to teas hosted in gardens, to life lived in and events happening in foreign countries, “ … listeners would for a small space of time drift away into a healing place like curative waters.

Curative waters.

Have I mentioned that Paulette Jiles writes beautifully? Meditatively? Given that the novel is packed with action, her prose is a feat. She does the literary equivalent of Simone Biles landing a triple double. Graceful prose delivered in the twist of the moment. A solid landing at novel’s end. She nailed it.

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I mention the slow delivery of news from print media to an audience to contrast with the speed of delivery of news now. In an internet micro-second, I have available to me all the news that’s fit to click. Being first is more important than being right. Being first captures the click, grabs your attention, monopolizes and monetizes your time until, wait for it, oh look! Another first. Another click. And we’re off and gone on to the next news, the next idea, the next airborne data presented as information.

But we are the customer and our personal data is a valuable commodity we offer willingly, even unknowingly as we search for meaning, message, news in all the data. We want information. But the information is thin. So click, click, click.

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Near as I can figure in today’s environment, the closest to the Captain’s business model is audio books. But audio books usually count an audience of a single listener. Listening is not an event. The listening is not a shared experience. In our age of news as click-bait, the Captain would either starve or be an acquired taste. Like steampunk or cilantro.

Or perhaps the Captain would inhabit that section of society that stands at a street corner on an orange crate with a bullhorn to read the news to passersby. And with that observation, I love the Captain even more than I did in the book. I stand here on my little internet orange crate and bullhorn into the click-bait ether.

Go! Captain! Go!

We are soulmates as separate as pen and ink is from keyboard and screen but I feel the need to stand up and read what I think too. A thought worthy of sharing, worthy of speaking, worthy of writing. It can take a long time to get here.

Go! Viva! Go!

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The business model for news has changed to accommodate the internet of clicks. This has not been good. The technology of personal computers and ARPANET morphing into the internet — Bill Gates and the Cisco kids may not have done us many favors — it is not gratifying. We’re never satisfied. Never sated. We keep clicking. Is it the sense of an instant connection? Is that the search? The next click holds life-changing promise? Is that what the internet represents? Connection we haven’t found in the physical? Is that what we long for?

I’d claim that “I digress” but I believe this whole post is best read as digression.

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The news is now an escalating tower of click-bait. Personal opinions and ideas up-close-and-personal are formed and flown into the ether to compete with professional observers and reporters and ofttimes we are well-challenged to tell the difference. In this era of connectivity, we are all reporters. News organizations and journalists are left to scrabble their way with click-bait, subscription paywalls, and your data to make their money.

Institutional news behemoths lower themselves to worship in the company of fresh internet-only news organizations at the base of the internet tower of babble. The all of them in search of the magic formula for the click-bait that pays. The click-bait that buys. The click-bait that stays and subscribes. That old gray-lady The New York Times features on the daily click-bait headlines for articles whose content does not match the promise baited. But we clicked! The bait worked.

And the local news has been decimated by the dynamite thrown in the lake. Most of the little fish — the little papers that reported events, recorded announcements, marked the time in increments of weeks and although we didn’t notice, they were keepers of the local collective memory — those little fish are mostly floating belly up. The culture as a whole has moved on to national events, ceremonies, celebrities.

The future will tell us what we’ve lost. The environment of quaint local life recorded and captured in newsprint has gone missing.

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If you still have a small local newspaper, subscribe. Give them your support. Write to them. Tell them what they get right. Tell them what they get wrong.

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Back to where I started. In praise of long-form <insert activity here>. Specific to me is putting thoughts on paper.

I think back to term papers. Written papers with specific layout — double-spaced in the typewriter font as only a typewriter could deliver and a page requirement or worse, a word count in an age of manually counting words — assigned by teachers, professors as an opportunity to show an understanding of course material. Put forth a theme and offer supporting material with research and quotations and footnotes.

Wrestle ideas to the ground, dig up a clean bone, sweep the street for just the truth and only the truth — these things take time. Libraries and card catalogs and biases and opinions uncovered in the dig, facts unearthed that controvert our tightly held assumptions, pages turned over and back, pans scoured and scraped clean looking for that Hershey’s chocolate morsel of truth. Turn a notion inside and out and against itself, fish it out, throw it at the wall. Does it stick? No. We unknowingly threw the baby out with the bathwater and who would knowingly throw a baby out anyway? Chew on an idea until all that’s left is gristle and you can spit it out. The best is gone, already taken and your assumptions were not complete or imaginative but then where were we headed in this tangle of mixed metaphor? Ah yes! Long form. Taking time. Not geologic time but not click-bait.

Thought. We write to know what we think.

The instantaneous reaction, the internet speed of delivery, the click-bait, the new speed of news delivery is data. Consumers in the flash of the internet where form and meaning have gone missing. Everyone doing their best but there isn’t time for that now. Sure, the truth will out in time. Until then, click, click, click.

And we wait for information.

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There is information on the internet. But it lags current events by more than hours, it’s curated, it often is hidden behind paywalls. Information comes with expertise and point-of-view.

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Manhattan skyscraper sun shimmer. New York, New York, 2018. The reflection of skyscrapers on each other is not unlike the shimmer of moving water. We long for a New York minute.
Photograph included for those of us in the Theatre of Limited Attention Span.

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During Covid-19 – Safer at Home

I had planned to publish all of the above during the last week of March when the effects of COVID, the transmission of the virus, the impacts on the all of us were a developing story. I was not going to waste any more time lathering up my ire and commentary on the Trump Regime. Longer form pieces would be my jam — observations from my bleacher seat, positive shout-outs from my bullhorn, maybe a book review or two, ramble a bit about a future with self-driving vehicles, reminisce, poetry, short fictions.

But oh that thinking was so March. In a Midwest week like a New York minute, everything changed. COVID-19 hit the top of the charts, became the soundtrack of our lives. We are safer at home, we paint our faces for Zoom meetings, we meditate on mass mask production. Ala Monty Python, COVID-19 is the new Spanish Inquisition. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

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I write to know what I think.

Everything is broken.

Bob Dylan

During Writing Circle, Helen encourages us to be witnesses to this time and place. But everything is broken and it’s springtime. Daffodils bloom, the fat robins nest, nature and religions claim renewal. We want to ignore the headlines. We want to turn our heads away and not know about hospitals under siege and not enough PPE and available tests and unemployment lines and food pantries and stimulus checks and masks and keeping a safe 6′ distance to avoid 6′ underground and the Regime President OTUS who fires up his kult with tweets hot enough to start a civil-not-civil war and takes available credit and no responsibility and on and on.

Yes, we’d like to focus on what’s growing right outside our windows. But we won’t.

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In response to the question, “Are you writing?”

“I’m not writing. I think we have to expand our definition of writing. I’ve taken to saying in recent years that walking is writing. Crying is writing. Talking to your friend is writing. All these experiences help you give a shape to what you’re thinking about the world, and that will come back to the page eventually, even if you’re not able to form words right now.”

C Pam Zhang (from an interview with Scott Simon aired April 4, 2020 on NPR

The commutative property of mathematics. If crying is writing, maybe writing is crying.

Witness to this time. We are crying.

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Celtic Prayer received from FAL on her birthday.
She was thinking of me.
I wish you all an FAL in your life.

Breathe. Peace. Bless.

Tl;dr?! Wash your hands. Be kind. Check on your neighbors.

Will read? This post is not the text I’ve been working on, but overcome by the interesting times we live in, this is a collection of a sundry assortment of observations of life in the COVID-19 virus era.

In no particular order, let’s go!


Tractor from another era.

Facts & Faith

Facts are transferable. If a fact is true for you, the fact remains true for me.

Faith is non-transferable. Faith is a personal belief.

If you believe your faith shelters you from the Coronavirus, fine. Believe your faith.

But we — you and I — share facts. Don’t touch your face. Wash your hands and self-isolate even in public places to the extent possible.

$1,500,000,000,000

One.point.five trillion dollars or $1.5X10**12. Scientific notation!

Within hours of Wall Street — the Dow Jones, the S&P, the NASDAQ — meltdown the Fed was able to pump $1.5 trillion dollars into the financial system.

The Federal Reserve was designed to keep the economic boat afloat and upright during times of distress and upheaval. Their response time is quick and corporate. Their intervention is important to keep the big institutions aright. Banks, corporations. The dollars tinkle down to Main Street.

Yes I wrote that. Tinkle. Not trickle. Dollars tinkle. Tinkling dollars. It’s Friday the 13th.

$1,000,000,000,000

One trillion dollars or $1.0X10**12.

$One trillion USD is the estimated amount of student loan debt but student loans are individual. People walk Main Street with their backpacks full of student loans.

Student loan forgiveness or buyback or restructuring would jack the economy. Main Street spending would gush up to Wall Street. Think of the water flowing money that would be put in play if student loan payments were directed by individuals to transportation, housing, hard goods and services, fancy lattes. It’s a long list.

Society benefits from an educated citizenry. Financial institutions benefit from student loan debt. Main Street waits.

And the House of Representatives is the institution that needs to propose relief for individual student loan debt relief and that body has to negotiate agreement on policy before throwing it over the wall to the Senate.

And all that takes time. And elections. Student loan debt is an economic drag. Time to address it as such.

2019 Sculpture Milwaukee
Hera (half), Tony Matelli
777 E. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI
US Bank

COVID-19 Coronavirus

In an effort to contain or manage or reduce the spreading contagion of the COVID-19 virus, the collective ‘we’ is removed from public venues and events — crowd control in the sense of no crowds — and we are encouraged to self-quarantine or isolate ourselves for two or more weeks while … well, we’ll see where we are in a couple of weeks.

My observations on potential long-term societal pivots and impacts follow.

Separation of Employment from Health Insurance

Pandemics don’t discriminate on who has what and how much. I mean, President OTUS has been exposed to two individuals testing positive for COVID-19 and he didn’t need to leave home his resort! The Coronavirus doesn’t check your address, bank account, health insurance status or lack thereof.

In the US, in our worship at the tower of the capitalist dollar, healthcare is dependent on insurance. Health insurance depends on employment.

And so maybe as a society, this would be a good time to acknowledge that healthcare is a basic human need regardless of employment status. Break the capitalist notion that your health is worth the dollars you’re paid for the work you do.

Separation of Health Insurance from Health Care

Health insurance is part of the healthcare industry.

Health care — two words — is provider action. (Source: Arcadia.io – (a healthcare & analytics company), The Final Word: Healthcare vs. Health Care)

The pandemic underlines the gap in care that those with insurance receive versus those who walk among us without. As a preventative to limiting the spread of the Coronavirus, large public gatherings, businesses, etc. have been shut down. We limit our exposure to each other as much as possible — insured or not.

This would be a good time to take healthcare on the road and provide health care. Mobile health care units. As far as we know, they are not widely available or deployed. They would address accessibility and focus on care. Not insurance. Actual service. Actual CARE.

Let’s do it for the health of it!

The Home Work Economy

Businesses that can are encouraging, nay, even requiring employees to work from home.

We note that this will result in a more accurate measurement of what percentage of the economy and the workforce is based on information transfer, data management, gigs, etc. and not based on physical handling of goods and services.

Outsourcing of call centers to foreign countries happened. Will this be another self-identifying out-sourcing opportunity? If I can do my job from Podunk anywhere, why not make it Podunk as cheap as Englishly or <insert language here> possible?

And, or will businesses shed themselves of some square footage after the COVID-19 passes and they realize it is cost-effective to have employees use their home square footage?

And home, sweet home.

With work from home, I wonder if reports of a hostile work environment will spike?

Asking for a friend Mr. Viva …

Separation of Education from Location

Colleges and universities are expanding spring break, sending students home to study and “attend” classes remotely. We question both the cost of a higher education — what exactly are we paying for? And the location of the education attained — where exactly are we paying for it?

Students pay for knowledge and learning but most importantly for being taught how to learn. By reducing the university experience to online learning, what are universities not providing? What are students missing out on with a virtual environment?

This virus is going to break the link between education and location.

We posit that a lions share of education IS location. Education is more than textbooks. Education is contextual. Education is cultural immersion. As proof, we offer regional differences between East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, South, Southwest, Northwest, Northeast, Texas. You get the idea. Local customs, behaviors, language — bubbler? or drinking fountain? — infiltrate and permeate the way people think and make meaning.

And so education. Place matters.

Until it doesn’t. Until we find out the new twist Coronavirus makes on spring break and school attendance and graduation and how much it doesn’t matter or how much it DOES matter. The new classroom is online in a sanitized COVID-free environment and we don’t have to meet anyone new ever. But full circle. Sanitized from physical germs, an online-only world is a virtual toilet of horrible and deplorable human psyche. Misunderstandings, communication complicated by the screen and keyboard between the you and me, the student and teacher. (See also: Reflections on Twitter.)


Societies change. Sometimes change is slow. Sometimes it is rapid — a sea change, a typhoon, a monsoon, a big blue wave.

But remember, even after COVID-19 passes, don’t touch your face. Wash your hands and above all be kind.

Peace.

-Viva E.


Another picture, why not?

Pictures add interest or 1000 words so I’ve been told.

So here are more words:

Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948-2015), Sculptor
MOMA, New York, NY
Viva: This scene looks COVID-19 free.

Note: Somewhere in the interwebs of drafting and publishing posts, I smashed an existing post with the post below. My bad. My apologies.

My practice is that if I republish, it is to correct an error. Not to change the body of a text. As such I have restored the text of the original post and the text below is published under its own title. Enjoy!

Or not.


tl;dr?! Occam’s d*ck, monopoly, monopsony, Amazon, Jeff, verb: bezos, bezosed, bezosing, oligarchs.

From some morning rumblings ramblings over coffee.

Let’s go!


Occam’s deck? duck? d*ck?

Jeff Bezos read the National Enquirer’s e-mail threatening to publish pictures of his deck or duck or d*ck and in a moment of self-reflection he realized he has more chips than the house than anyone else. He upped the ante, called their bluff and published e-mails he received from David Pecker’s attorneys. (David Pecker is owner of the Enquirer.)

And taking a moment here, we recognize that Jeff Bezos was able to read the letter and Occam’s writing on the wall. Although oscillation of of the waves his wealth takes in the markets would make us seasick, Jeff still had enough light to see that if he doesn’t have enough wealth to stop a blackmailer, no one does. So good job Jeff!

And David Pecker! His last name is capitalized. But if we read of David’s pecker, would it be censored as p*cker? Could we read smoothly of David’s packer, picker, or pucker? But to read of his p*cker, it must be capitalized?

And in this whole imbroglio, the media had a field day with the coincidence of d*cks and p*ckers.


Monopoly

Seth Godin is one of my favorite thinkers. March 11, 2019 in his blog (published impressively and relentlessly daily), he made the observation that “monopoly is the opposite of capitalism.”

Monopoly. The goal of the game of Monopoly is to bankrupt all of your opponents. Game over. And so it does not surprise me when money in a loosely regulated capitalist system has grown into a concentration of money held in the hands of a few thousand oligarchs while the millions and billions of us dry up from lack of water money to circulate in a healthy exchange of goods and services.

Monopsony

Monopoly and monopsony. We hear more about monopoly than monopsony. I’m assuming monopsony was touched on in the macroeconomics class I took a while back last century. Monopsony is a market situation when there is only one buyer. Monopoly is a market situation where there is only one seller. In the Frontline episode “Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos (full film, 1 hour and 53 min)”:

He [Jeff Bezos] owns the main street.

– Jason Boyce (disambiguation: Jason Boyce, the CEO of Avenue7Media. NOT Jason Boyce, the ex-model. Mercy me, Google. Really.)

Amazon is running both sides of the mono-economics-house. Monopoly — a web search for any product posits Amazon at the top. And more subtly, Amazon is a monopsonist. Amazon, one seller provides Everthang. Remember when Main Street shopping migrated to malls, and then from malls to big box stores and then to the internet and now Everthang is starting to filter through Amazon? Whoo-ee! Where are we headed.

Buying. And selling. And skirting. But that’s another post …

Bezos’ Lottery Winnings

In Bezos’ own words:

“The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” he said this spring. “I am going to use my financial lottery winnings from Amazon to fund that.”

Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure, Annie Lowrey, The Atlantic, August 1, 2018. Viva’s bold.

Bezos’ business degree may be ruining capitalism for all of us. In the Frontline episode, he starts out and looks to be a nerd with a big idea he wants to pursue and he has forgone money early to capitalize market share and monopolize later and he is wildly successful but he still looks like a nerd who forgoes his first beautiful wife to hook-up with an exciting stunner and the excitement that comes with the power to set whole communities in motion to bid for the location of Amazon HQ2 – oh, he is wanted, he is not a nerd, what he has is desirable, he is desirable – and Amazon hides behind the safety standards of 3rd parties and gobbles up competitors using the “Gazelle Concept” and we are reminded of Gene Wilder and the children of Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Jeff is busy collecting all the candy he can imagine but he is boxed in by his own lack of imagination and …

I digress.

Is oligarch a good verb? I think so. Or maybe bezosed.

Bezosed

Bezos, -ed, -ing (verb): 1) business demolished, developed, or owned by Amazon. Includes all verb tenses. Examples:

  • Brick and mortar businesses have been bezosed, big box stores are not far behind. (demolished)
  • Alexa was bezosed. (developed)
  • Amazon bezoses customers. (owns)

Should Mr. Bezos decide he has had enough time and space out at wealth’s end, here are a few ideas for him to walk back to participation in a civic life that doesn’t involve Washington DC mansions, lobbyists up the wazoo, and throwing money into the universe in the form of space travel when there are still so many problems from lack of running water money in circulation here. Jeff! Reclaim the verb ‘bezosed’ – essentially a synonym of destroyed, demolished, eliminated.

Turn it into a good thing. Creative problem-solving, float lots of boats, be a blessing rather than wallow in your blessedness. Watch Willie Wonka. Don’t be Augustus or Veruca or Violet or Mike. Be Charlie.


Oligarchs be bezosing.

As of this writing, Howard Schultz is still running for President. Michael Bloomberg is running for President. They are bezosing the DNC presidential candidate race. They are both plutocrats who are of a mind that their business acumen and, at least in the case of Bloomberg, previous political experience – qualifies them as head oligarch President OTUS.

We hope there is some good that our way their foolishness runs. Either one of them could have thrown their vast fortunes and names behind other candidates with more experience — Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Julian Castro — but no. Evidently with great wealth comes confusion and they are convinced their business experience qualifies them to run the country. The same reasons for which we have the Trump Regime now.

Our hope is that they bring enough heat money to the fire election to have an impact.

Maybe support some downstream candidates guys?


For completeness – definitions

From the Googles:

Plutocrat: a person whose power derives from their wealth

Oligarch: a very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence

tl;dr!? If $1 bought 1 inch, literally how much distance you could buy with increasing orders of magnitude?

Note: This information originally appeared in “Can we finally agree that trickle down doesn’t?” I have expanded the original text to include:

  • scientific notation
  • individuals or classes of people as markers of attainment
  • a trillion inches or dollars and the national debt

The section ‘Background’ below contains the definitions, measurements, and conversion factors used to develop the following comparisons.

Let’s go!


Poor quality gratuitous photograph of one dollar and a tape measure. I’ve been instructed that photos increase the appeal of a post. I’m testing that assertion. -Viva

Dollars to Distance

How far does that dollar go if one dollar buys one inch? Shouting distance? Out of sight? Out of the country? Off the planet?

Here is the distance money buys you as represented as a distance at each increasing order of magnitude:

$1 = 1

1 X 100 (“ten raised to the power of zero”)

One dollar is one inch which looks like large print taking up two lines of half-inch blue-lined paper. You sign your name with flourish. Or maybe it looks like a straight pin.

$10 = 10

1 X 101 (“ten raised to the power of one”)

Ten dollars looks like 10” which is almost a foot. Ten inches looks like shoe. A bigger shoe, but a shoe.

$100 = 100

1 X 102 (“ten raised to the power of two”)

One hundred inches is 8.33 ft. A standard ceiling height is 8 feet or about one hundred dollars in height.

$1000 = 1000

1 X 103 (“ten raised to the power of three” or 1K)

One thousand inches is 83.33 feet which is 27.778 yards which if you’re a football team moving the ball from the 20 yard line is just 2.222 yards short of a first down (10 yards minus 7.778 yards).

$10,000 = 10,000

1 X 104 (“ten raised to the power of four” or 10K)

Oh boy! Now we’re into using commas for readability. Ten thousand inches is 833.3 ft which is 277.78 yds which is 2.7778 football fields:

  • Lambeau Field
  • Aloha Stadium
  • And 22.22 yds short of a touchdown at Soldier Field

The poverty line for a household of 1 person in 2019 is $12,490.

$100,000 = 100,000

1 X 105 (“ten raised to the power of five” or 100K)

One hundred thousand inches is 9.26 long side Manhattan city blocks or 1.578 miles.

The average salary for a physical therapist is $73K-$102K/year.

$1,000,000 = 1,000,000

1 X 106 (“ten raised to the power of six,” “one million” or 1M)

One million inches is 15.78 miles which will take 15 minutes to drive at a speed of 63.12 MPH. I don’t have a great visual for ~ 16 miles. I did see this headline – “Most Americans think $1 million will be enough for a ‘comfortable retirement’ …” so maybe a smallish pot of gold?

** Reminder: we are working in units of dollars to INCHES. Inches convert to feet which convert to miles. Carry on. **

$10,000,000 = 10,000,000

1 X 107 (“ten raised to the power of seven,” “ten million” or 10M)

Ten million inches is 157.83 miles which is a trip from Milwaukee to Chicago and 0.716 of the way back. Stop in Racine for dinner, whydoncha?

The adjacent apartments Jeff Bezos purchased in New York cost $80M or $8 X 10,000,000.

$100,000,000 = 100,000,000

1 X 108 (“ten raised to the power of eight,” “one hundred million” or 100M)

One hundred million inches is 1,578.3 miles which is 4 miles short of a complete round trip from Milwaukee to Chicago to Washington DC and back. We are really moving now!

$100M is also the amount of money I heard Mitt Romney had in offshore accounts when he ran for President in 2012. Whatever the actual amount was, I believed such great holdings showed a serious love of money and lack of creativity for a Presidential candidate. I still do.

Jeff Bezos purchased a Los Angeles mansion for $165M.

$1,000,000,000 = 1,000,000,000

1 X 109 (“ten raised to the power of nine,” “one billion” or 1B)

One billion inches is 15,783 miles which gets us international travel TO Hong Kong from Washington DC and 93% of the way back. And a billion dollars? If you have a billion dollars and lack imagination on what to do, here are my suggestions.

Forbes estimates the Green Bay Packers franchise value at $2.63B. Forbes so silly! Everyone knows the Packers are priceless.

$10,000,000,000 = 10,000,000,000

1 X 1010 (“ten raised to the power of ten,” “ten billion” or 10B)

Ten billion inches is 157,830 miles which is 6.338 trips around the earth at the equator.

  • Jeff’s ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos’ net worth is an estimated $42.2B.
  • Michael Bloomberg’s net worth is an estimated $61.8B but his real worth is in his Twitter game.

Net worth source : Forbes.com, accessed February 13, 2020.

$100,000,000,000 = 100,000,000,000

1 X 1011 (“ten raised to the power of eleven,” “one hundred billion” or 100B)

One hundred billion inches is 1,578,300 miles which is out-of-this-world! It is 3 round trips from earth to moon and back with 144,900 miles still left over. Or, <does more math> almost 6 more trips around the earth (9,180,864,000 inches)!

  • Jeff’s Bezos’ net worth is an estimated $130.7B.
  • Jeff Bezos’ recent property acquisitions for $245M set him back 0.18 % of his net worth. Less than 1% of his worth for two residences.
  • Bill Gates’ net worth is an estimated $112.9B.
  • Bill Gates retired in 2014 at a net worth valued at $58B.
  • If we consider that Bill has been retired for 10 years, 7 months, he has earned $174.09/second or the equivalent of 8.7 employees paid $20/hour.each.second .for. 10.yeARS. AND.7.MONTHS. EAT.THE.RICH. (Show your work: [$112,900,000,000-$58,000,000,000]/[10 years * 365 days/year * 24 hours/day * 60 minutes/hour * 60 seconds/minute] = $174.09/second)
  • Don’t get me wrong. Bill Gates and his heart may be in the right place. But his money, his philanthropy does not provide gainful employment for many people. Again, his net worth represents a lack of creativity and a systemic unregulated capitalism fail.

Source for net worths: Forbes.com, accessed February 13, 2020.

$1,000,000,000,000 = 1,000,000,000,000

1 X 1012 (“ten raised to the power of twelve,” “one trillion” or 1T)

One trillion inches is 15,783,000 miles which is out-of-this-world! It is 16.97% of a trip to the sun!

With the US National Debt in the $23 trillion dollar range we could travel in INCHES 3.9 times or almost 2 full round trips to the sun and back.

(Aside: I also explored the National Debt in this post: Scientific Notation.)


Background

For those of you who want or need further documentation, these are the definitions, measurements, and conversion factors I used to develop the above information.

Definition by example: Base 10 Order of Magnitude

In base 10, the most common numeration scheme worldwide, an increase of one order of magnitude is the same as multiplying a quantity by 10. An increase of two orders of magnitude is the equivalent of multiplying by 100, or 102. In general, an increase of n orders of magnitude is the equivalent of multiplying a quantity by 10n.

Margaret Rouse, WhatIs.com, accessed February 13, 2020

Scientific Notation

Scientific notation aids in accurately representing a very large or very small numbers from the reference point of the decimal point.

Scientific notation avoids inaccuracy in typing, reading, or counting the number of zeros to the right or left of the decimal point. By example:

  • 10n is “ten raised to the power of n”. (The notation **n is useful when superscript is not immediately obvious or available.)
  • 1 X 1013 or “ten raised to the power of 13” would be a 1 followed by 13 zeroes left of the decimal point, or 10,000,000,000,000.0
  • 1 X 10-9 or “ten raised to the negative ninth” would be a 1 preceded by 8 zeroes to the right of the decimal point, or 0.000000001

For this discussion, we will only concern ourselves with powers of ten to the left of the decimal point.

Conversion Factors

  • 1 foot = 12 inches
  • 1 yard = 3 feet
  • 5,280 feet = 1 mile

Common Distances

In the event you want to check numbers used for imagery and illustration, these commonly recognized distances will be used for our Order of Magnitude math.

Conversion Factors

From the Googles:

  • 100 yards = 1 football field
  • The yard = 3 feet
  • 5,280 feet = 1 mile

Common Distances

From the Googles:

  • 100 yards = 1 football field
  • The standard block size in Manhattan, NYNY is 264 ft by 900 ft. We’ll use the long side of the block – 900 ft.
  • The distance from Milwaukee, WI to Chicago, IL is 92 mi.
  • The distance from Chicago, IL to Washington DC is 699 mi.
  • The distance from Washington DC to San Francisco, CA is 2,813 miles.
  • The distance from Washington DC to Hong Kong is 8,140 miles.
  • The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901 miles.
  • The average distance from the earth to the moon is 238,900 miles.
  • The average distance from the earth to the sun is 93,000,000 miles.

Thank you for taking this mental exercise with me! I find it helpful to take numbers which can sound so similar — millions and billions and trillions — and break them into relatable dimensions and discover they are really worlds apart or just out-of-this-world.

Any errors you find, I own. Peace.

tl;dr?! Billionaires are a natural outcome of a system built to grow billionaires. Poverty is a natural outcome of a system built to grow billionaires. Eat Tax the rich. Or! How about this? Value labor. Increase wages regardless. I’ll make the case.

Here we go!


January 22, 2020 – A check of the Googles today indicates that there are 607 billionaires in the US. Some billionaires were the product of a lucky sperm and/or affluent egg merger. This group includes the Waltons, the Kochs, Trump. Other billionaires had a scratchier start — Bezos’, Bloomberg, Steyer. Regardless, they are billionaires with lagoons of money at their disposal.

Money like water.

Money is for efficient exchange of goods and services.

And I love me metaphor.

Too little water? Brown. Limited growth. Plants die. Soil blows away in the wind.

Too much water? Flooding. Water logged. Or think of the ocean. Travel at sea is comfortable if you are in a REALLY BIG BOAT! And how many of us can afford a really big boat? I mean really big? All those billionaires be out in their own big boats floating in their own big oceans. Big chunks float.

But water flowing greens things up in a field, creates fresh water lakes to float lots of little boats, is the current in a river, avoids the stagnation of a swamp. The stagnation of the minimum wage.

And so I submit that money freely flowing greens up the environment for all. And trickle-down economics is not working. The collective WE suffers from not enough to go around for the benefit of the few. The billionaires. And let us be clear. Billionaires are people, but at some point as they floated up, they did not pull enough others up along with them. They did not launch lots of little boats. They built their own branded behemoth boats and be floating out all alone on their own big oceans.

They did not pull enough others up? How can you be so ungracious and make that statement Viva? I offer as my evidence: they have more than a billion dollars.

A photo to break up the text. Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota. Spring running water.

Not just B&M.

I believe that one of the problems with the perception that a billion dollars is a worthy goal is that it doesn’t SOUND much different than a million dollars. Swap an ‘m’ for a ‘b’ and both millionaires and billionaires are rich.

Perhaps it is a relic from my youth or it is just the nature of time and inflation, but the end goal of being a multi-millionaire does not seem to be removed from society at large. To start and run a small business can take several million dollars. When Bernard Sanders finally released his tax forms, we were not surprised that he has a net worth over a million dollars — he is in his 70s and we EXPECT that he would be fiscally responsible enough to save for retirement. His was not an obscene amount of money. His ho-humming and posturing were a bigger problem than his million dollars plus. Grow up Bernie. Millions or a few are a worthy goal.

But as a culture, it seems we’re conditioned to hear ‘million’ and ‘billion’ and put the numbers in the same bucket. Rich. Of course millionaires become billionaires! But they are worlds apart and there are gradations on the way. For example, Jeff Bezos has two more zeroes in his net worth than the Don Don has in his. Two orders of magnitude.

Orders of Magnitude illustrated.

Orders of magnitude. Let’s illustrate orders of magnitude into relatable dimensions and do math! We’ll use ye olde English measures of length for this discussion.

Conversion Factors

  • 1 foot = 12 inches
  • 1 yard = 3 feet
  • 5,280 feet = 1 mile

Orders of Magnitude represented as distances.

To illustrate orders of magnitude, I’m going to use familiar distance measure as a stand in for dollars. Assume one dollar buys one inch. Here is what money looks like represented as a distance at each increasing order of magnitude:

  • $1. One dollar is one inch which looks like large print taking up two lines of half-inch blue-lined paper. You sign your name with flourish. Or maybe it looks like a straight pin.
  • $10. Ten dollars looks like 10” which is almost a foot. Ten inches looks like shoe. A bigger shoe, but a shoe.
  • $100. One hundred inches is 8.33 ft. A standard ceiling height is 8 feet. One hundred dollars in height.
  • $1,000. One thousand inches is 83.33 ft. which is 27.778 yds which if you’re a football team moving the ball from the 20 yard line is just 2.222 yards short of a first down.
  • $10,000. Ten thousand inches is 833.3 ft which is 277.78 yds which is 2.7778 football fields — Lambeau, Aloha Stadium, and 22.22 yds short of a touchdown at Soldier Field.
  • $100,000. One hundred thousand inches is 9.26 long side Manhattan city blocks or 1.578 miles.
  • $1,000,000. One million inches is 15.78 miles which will take 15 minutes to drive at a speed of 63.12 MPH. I don’t have a great visual for ~ 16 miles. Oh well.

——- Reminder: we are working in units of dollars to INCHES, not dollars to miles or dollars to donuts. ——-

  • $10,000,000. Ten million inches is 157.83 miles which is a trip from Milwaukee to Chicago and 0.716 of the way back. Stop in Racine for dinner, whydoncha?
  • $100,000,000. One hundred million inches is 1578.3 miles which is 4 miles short of a complete round trip from Milwaukee to Chicago to Washington DC and back. We are really moving now!
  • $1,000,000,000. One billion inches is 15,783 miles which gets us international travel TO Hong Kong from Washington DC and 93% of the way back. And a billion dollars? If you have a billion dollars and lack imagination on what to do, here are my suggestions.
  • $10,000,000,000. Ten billion inches is 157,830 miles which is 6.338 trips around the earth at the equator.
  • $100,000,000,000. One hundred billion inches is 1,578,300 miles which is out-of-this-world! It is 3 round trips from earth to moon and back with 144,900 miles still left over. Or, <does more math> almost 6 more trips around the earth (9,180,864,000 inches)!

I’ll not continue with $1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion dollars). It is stratospheric. (See also the Viva post Scientific Notation.)

So, start small. Sign your name with an inch of flourish!

Distances

These defined distances were used for our Order of Magnitude imagery above, included here for completeness. For extra credit, you can do the math too!

From the Googles:

  • 100 yards = 1 football field
  • The standard block size in Manhattan, NYNY is 264 ft by 900 ft. We’ll use the long side of the block – 900 ft.
  • The distance from Milwaukee, WI to Chicago, IL is 92 mi.
  • The distance from Chicago, IL to Washington DC is 699 mi.
  • The distance from Washington DC to San Francisco, CA is 2,813 miles.
  • The distance from Washington DC to Hong Kong is 8,140 miles.
  • The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901 miles.
  • The average distance from the earth to the moon is 238,900 miles.
  • The average distance from the earth to the sun is 93,000,000 miles.

The Dirac Delta Function

As a percentage of the US population, 607 billionaires/330,000,000 non-billionaires = 0.00000184 or 0.000184% or, approximately 0%. Zero.

Billionaires. A lot of economic power vested in a very small handful of citizens.

And here I’ll digress into a little more math. Billionaires are the Dirac Delta of capitalism. The Dirac Delta function is zero except AT zero when it has a value of infinity. But! At zero with a zero width and an infinite height, the area under the curve is one (1)! Or zero times infinity is equal to one!

Aside: the Dirac Delta is a function. You can still trust your calculator. In regular math zero times any number is still zero. The Dirac Delta is a theoretical construct and trust me, it solves so many engineering problems.

But back to my point. Billionaires are basically 0% of the population but because their wealth is infinite, they have a disproportionate value of one. As evidence, I offer Citizens United. I offer Michael Bloomberg who threw his hat in the run for President and has come up in the polls (he was at 10% today) by just applying some money. I offer the Don Don Grifter-in-Chief who conned his way to POTUS using the chimera of he’s a billionaire too.

As we continue to struggle a more perfect union on the obeisance to capitalism at all costs, veneration of titans of industry, worship of the Cheeto of Teflon — money as an ultimate goal, or the ultimate goal, gives disproportionate power and voice to a very small, very wealthy minority.

Taxes? More for the many!

Gonna pick on Jeff Bezos, Amazon predator proprietor. In 2018, the most recent documented tax year, Amazon paid a whopping $0 dollars in Federal taxes on $11,000,000,000 in profits. $11 Billion. If we plot a graph with taxes on the x-axis and profits on the y-axis, Amazon would look like the Dirac Delta function!

Instead of federal taxes, consider state and local sales tax. If Jeff Bezos buys a single pair of really fine $2500 pants every day for a year he will spend $912,500 – almost $1,000,000 – on a pile of pants. If we apply a Seattle sales tax rate of. 10.1%, Jeff will contribute $92,162.50 from pants tax to the Seattle public coffers which is approximately $92,162.50 more than Amazon contributed to the Fed.

On the other hand, if the 566,000 employees of Amazon are paid such that they can afford one pair of $60 khakis a year, they will have spent $33,960,000 on khakis or $33,047,500 more dollars on pants than Jeff Bezos. And! If they paid HALF the Seattle tax rate of 5.05%, they would contribute $1,701,396 to the public coffers. Whoa!

And they’d all have new pants!

If you extend the purchasing power of living wages into housing, food, childcare, transportation — basic necessities plus maybe some wild fun money for a new pair of pants, the quality of life improves for many, not just one lone billionaire. The free exchange, flow, transit of money improves the landscape for all. Individuals make investments into their quality of life. Money doesn’t stop flowing when it hits their wallets.

Billionaires are not constrained by minimum wage requirements. They can pay more. They should pay more. Amazon 2018 profits $11,000,000,000/550,000 employees = $20,000. Surely Amazon can cut a bit of profit and float a few more boats.

Money for money’s sake serves no one. Value labor. Float everyone’s boat. American exceptionalism is hampered by a lack of imagination and the concentration of money in a select few pockets.

Patricia Miller 2014

This sentiment was completely handwritten (!) inside a Christmas card I received via USPS:

Every time a hand reaches out to help others … that is Christmas.

Every time someone puts anger aside and strives for understanding … that is Christmas.

Every time people forget their differences and realize their love for each other … that is Christmas.

May this Christmas bring us closer to the spirit of human understanding.

Closer to the blessing of peace.

Author unknown

Be the Christmas seasoning – help, understanding, and love.

Wishing my dear readers all the best during the holidays whatever traditions you observe, wherever and however you celebrate!

Peace.


A note of interest: I was going to interleave “MERRY CHRISTMAS” all caps with “happy holidays” lowercase but it isn’t pretty and it isn’t cute.

CHRISTMAS + holiday = ChHoRlIiSdTaMyAsS

which looks like a feisty Festivus salty under-your-breath swear to save when you’re in for a long sweaty checkout line. You know. Be the seasoning!

Tl;dr?! The Christmas story. A clean porcelain nativity. News that $1T USD would be spent on the Christmas holiday (2016). I was inspired to write a piece of Ekphrastic poetry. And I finish with a holiday photo inspired by the art of Hilma af Klint.

Enjoy!

Or not.


Nativity

The nativity tableau, the crèche so clean, but the story so, so messy. A stable is not a safe, clean place to bear a child and entertain guests from afar. It smells. It is dirty. It is not well lit.

And birth. Infants present as independent ecosystems that are very, very dependent. Their survival is dependent on older others and in this story, the others are tired and scared. The sacred scared nativity surrounding a makeshift crèche is the result of leaving a country in a big hurry and landing in a place where hoteliers claim there is no room. They don’t know anyone. Do they even speak the language? Mary gave birth, gave life, to the Son of God. She is sore and tired. Comforts she had known are missing. Family is afar. She wants to bathe herself and her infant and eat and snuggle and sleep.

Joseph would like some sleep too. It was hurried long trip. Gifted with this new addition, charged with the care and feeding of an infant, the Son of God the angel said, the hurried flight from Judaea, their situation is bleak. He and Mary have made it this far but they are destitute, on entry the stench in the stable is overpowering, Joseph craves some sleep. He is sure their next move will be clear to him with some sleep.

Cluttered, confused, muddled, smelly. Real life is messy.

In contrast, nativities are mise-enscene static. Animals, audience, lead and character actors are clean, pristine, and motionless. Cast in their roles, there is no breath, no stench, no worry, no life.

[And this would be the spot to compare the situation of Mary and Joseph to immigrants at the US-Mexico border. But today, I’ll not. Here’s a link to what an immigration nativity scene looks like.]

Ekphrastic Poetry

An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene, or more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.

Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org

And so there you have it! Inspired by the disconnect between the amount of money spent by Americans during the Christmas holiday season and the poverty and destitution of the original Christmas story, inspired by the disconnect between a porcelain nativity scene and a real-life stable, inspired by the disconnect between acting a part versus living the part, I give you this ekphrastic poetry mash! But isn’t all poetry a mash of sorts really? I digress.

As I haven’t yet mastered the indentation skills necessary for my poetry renditions in WordPress, a photo will have to do. This is my poetic ekphrastic nod to the Gianni Benvenuti nativity scene in porcelain which is really just a stand-in for any sanitized nativity scene.

Enjoy!

Or not.

I haven’t yet discovered an easy way to indent a line and the next line, etc. in WordPress so this is a picture of the poem. – Viva

Photography in the style of Hilma af Klint

Look up! Look around!

I looked up. The tree top and rotunda at the confluence of the Saint Kate Hotel, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, et al. I can see where Hilma af Klint would take inspiration in the architecture, lighting, geometry and theology available to us.

The 2019 photo above was inspired by this painting by Hilma af Klint. The above photograph looks like a black & white photo compared to Hilma af Klint who used all the colors!

October 2018 – Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim Viva would have titled this “My rainbow pencil draws circles around me.”

Wishing you health, warmth, peace, love, and joy and a happy holiday season with all the colors!

Tl;dr?! Apparently it’s all the rage to run for President of the United States if you have a billion dollars (US) — and I’m looking at you, Tom Steyer and you, late-entry, Michael Bloomberg. Don’t you have better things to do with your billions? This is my take of how to spend a billion dollars if I were of a mind had a billion dollars. (Sung to the tune of 🎶 “If I had a Million Dollars by the Barenaked Ladies” 🎶 )


Hey buddy! Can you spare a billion?

In the current field of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for POTUS, the accumulated wealth of Tom Steyer ($1.6B) and Michael Bloomberg ($52.4B) give us pause. Evidently they believe that the dollars they’ve hoarded unto themselves are enough evidence that they should run the country. And Mr. Steyer might be only 3% of a Mr. Bloomberg, and Mr. Bloomberg might be 33X a Mr. Steyer, but me? I believe the excessive number of zeroes (9) that follow the significant digits of their net worth are a testament to a their lack of imagination and their latent-, or maybe even overt-selfishness. Eh, today I’ll cut them slack. They’re latently selfish.

Well, we believe there are plenty of opportunities for them to be overtly selfless. The minimum wage is just that. A minimum. If one can pay people more, why not? If one has the means to create companies with benefits and well-paying jobs, why not?

As I’ve written before, out at wealth’s end there are ways to apply wealth to pursuits other than vanity projects like a 500′ clock in the Texas mountains, or a rocket program whose intent seems to pine for the abandonment of human life here on earth, or running a campaign to be President of the United States.

A billion dollars in $100 bills weighs about 10 tons. Think of it! Literally 10 tons! That’s enough to kill someone or even a small crowd. So as not to intentionally harm anyone, here is a list of other projects one could fund with a billion dollars.

Let’s go!


Grocery Stores in Urban Food Deserts

There are well-populated urban communities which do not have access to affordable, healthy food options in the form of a local grocery story.

I’d install as many urban food desert grocery stores as I could afford! A quick check on the Googles and I’d allocate $1 Million per Grocery Store Start-up. So maybe start with 600 grocery stores? Reserve the remainder for operating and unexpected costs? Just think of the positive impact I could have on 600 or so communities — local access to affordable, healthy food options for low-income folks, non-minimum wage employment with benefits (yeah, I’d be all in on that), add vitality to communities suffering from inadequate nutrition choices.


Guaranteed Minimum Income in an Economically Depressed Area

The United States has many regions whose economic balloon has never been inflated or whose balloon is woefully under-inflated now. Infuse some air in that balloon and give a guaranteed income to anyone living in the zip code. This is essentially expanding on the Universal Basic Income idea Andrew Yang has proposed but, I mean, I have a billion dollars, right?

Go big or go home.

Instead of Yang’s 10 random families, I’d target every residence in a geographic area and see what this way comes. A socioeconomic experiment writ large, this would need careful consideration and definition because as a quick shot there are so many built-in undesirable consequences. For example, we would introduce income disparity with our neighbors across the street whose residence is in a different zip code. Hmm … well, it’s worth considering.


It occurs to me while exploring this option, that a guaranteed minimum income was what the very large middle class had back in the 1950’s – 1970’s. More than 50% of the population had a “middle class” income and lifestyle. It felt secure. When the Teflon Cheeto and MAGAs want to “Make America Great Again,” this is what they long for, this is what they remember as “great.” If one was born middle class, one could reliably stay middle class.

Evidently, the MAGA memory celebrates that the racism, homophobia, misogyny, religious piety, hate, and on and on, of that era is stuck to the bottom of their shoes like toilet paper and we remain gobsmacked that they are proud of this stench of a bygone eras. Don’t they realize there is no “again” in MAGA? No they don’t. We’ll all have to clean up the s*it and toilet paper on the floor but I digress and wax deep in the mixed metaphor and gah! it stinks in here.


For more reading of life in an economically disadvantaged zip code: “A Closer Look at Milwaukee Zip Code 53206,” (2015).


Public Library Expansion

Build some libraries in urban deserts. Libraries today are so much more than books. They are community centers — books, media, internet access, reading spaces, meeting spaces, reference and all the other stuff I don’t know.

Thinking of Andrew Carnegie here.


Assistance for SNAP Beneficiaries

Approximately 700,000 families SNAP benefits are being cut. Provide monthly assistance to the “able-bodied” who still need to eat. Feed people, why not?

Note, “able-bodied.” I have a problem with this. When I see the bill checking out at the grocery store, I wonder how bad my diet would be if I had to rely on a minimum wage job to feed myself. I see “able-bodied” people working minimum or near-minimum wage jobs because corporations and employers devalue labor. Do these employees have to make a choice between food? or shelter? In a country with this much wealth — there are hundreds of multi-billionaires — do we really want a society where people are forced to make a choice between two basic needs? We’ve read the reports of Amazon employees who rely on food stamps.

Help people feed themselves.


Mobile Healthcare

I read of areas of the country where there is a dearth medical facilities — clinics, hospitals, doctors, nurses. Well, take that show on the road!

Healthcare is self-care and I believe that medical care is often given over to industry-type thinking rather than actual health and preventative care. Start a business — just think of the people you’ll employ, the places they’ll go, the people they’ll serve!

Healthcare. Avoid making “patients.”


Although the graphic of an ambulance is misleading as to the actual article content, this is an excellent read on mobile health clinics: “How Do Mobile Health Clinics Impact Patient Access to Care?” by Sara Heath, November 07, 2018.


Low-income Housing Insecurity

I visited the exhibit based on Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted in September. The amount of time and percentage of income low-income folks spend scrabbling for inadequate, sub-standard housing is such an unbelievable tax on their humanity. As I can’t imagine how I’d feed and house myself on a minimum wage income — it is an “or”, food or shelter, one of them, not both — I can’t imagine the stress induced by constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the eviction hell-hound.

At the end of the Evicted Exhibit, there were models of alternative low-income housing put together by architecture students. Well! If I had a billion dollars, I’d explore a project to innovate on low-income housing and community building.


Fund Half a Presidential Candidate Run

I did a back-of-the-envelope analysis of the amount of money spent en toto by the Clinton and tRump campaigns in the 2016 election. It worked out to ~$2.4 Billion USD on a turnout of 129 million voters or ~$18.69/voter.

This made me ill.

Holding the envelope to my head this year, I predict that to fund a blue wave in the 2020 election cycle, the DNC should get at least $2 Billion.

And the envelope says:

100,000,000 (D) voters * $20/ (D) vote = Yep! $2Billion

This should make you ill too. And I’m not just sayin’. Citizens United needs to go. We citizens and voters are tired of this eternal election cycle churn.

So with a $1 Billion, I could fund half of a better-politician-than-me’s campaign!

Or shine more light money on someone else’s spotlight. Kamala Harris, my first choice for presidential candidate dropped out of the race. Lack of funds to stay in this circus? Probably. Again, makes me ill. There has to be a better way to filter POTUS candidates but that’s another post.


Contribute to the public school system

Local property taxes (usually) determine the quality of education, the resources available to the local schools. As someone who holds her public education near-and-dear to her heart, I’d like public schools to be funded more equitably. The quality of your education should not depend on the housing your parents can afford.

I could contribute $2M to 500 schools “🎶… if I had a billion dollars …🎶”


Pick an Epidemic

Pick an epidemic. Any epidemic.

Well, don’t pick malaria. Bill Gates has malaria covered. He’s pledged billions.

Pick a different epidemic to focus your billion on.


Entrance fees — museums, zoos, botanicals, etc.

Pay it ahead! Instead of dropping your money in huge philanthropic gestures on the back-end of museum, et al, support, go for the front-end! Pay or subsidize entrance fees for anyone and everyone.

Let’s do some math:

If we assume an entrance fee of $25/person (that’s what I paid at the Museum of Modern Art in New York), then

$1,000,000,000/$25 person = 40 million attendees

The money would run out long before a year was out, but think of the legacy! Change it up. Front-end philanthropy. Let people in, why not!?


Transportation

Kansas City announced fare-free public transit and although it doesn’t inspire me to visit Kansas City immediately, it does speak to their recognition that availability of transit impacts quality-of-life. For the better! And we approve.

The estimated cost to Kansas City for fare-free public transit is $8M. So using math and assuming $10M/year, we could provide 100 cities with free public transit for a year!

Whoa! Maybe we will visit Kansas City. I look forward to the reports on how this changes their system — ridership, use, expansion — the hidden benefits, the unknown consequences.


If you have a billion dollars …

When implemented many of these are economic incubator/test ideas. Best if you can influence and aid the creation of self-sustaining communities. The point is not to make MORE money for yourself. The point is to make a difference in the quality-of-life for OTHER people. Share the wealth.

And yes, the risks are great. Or maybe not. If you already have $1B, you’re well-insulated. You could lose a zero or two off that net worth, but! But! Not many people can say they just spent $1B with the singular goal of improving the lives of others. Join Bill Gates. Not one in a million, but one who could spare a billion! Think about it.

Please, don’t make us eat the rich. We’re not really interested. We’d rather you walk back from wealth’s end and participate with us in this great society.

And just think what you could do with a couple billion!


And for the rest of us? Be as generous to others with your time, resources, money, or even just attitude, as you are able.

Here’s an ear worm for-you-from-me waiting to happen:

Enjoy! Or not.

Peace.