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December 20, 2021

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Merry Christmas, Mr. Talton, thanks for years of insightful opinion journalism!

A confusing essay. A great many sentences pointing out the many reasons the Democrats are polling badly, then seemingly asking for more of the same, blaming the fiasco on Trump at the end.
And the hyperbole. In this world of many monstrosities, Joe Manchin is hardly our biggest problem at any time, let alone this year.

You all have some good holidays.
Dont drive and drink.
Reference the politics
My New Years resolution is to plan to be out of the country, November 1st, 2023 thru January 2024.
Thanks for the great scribbling, Jon.
Hasta luego.

Hmmmm. I think we could all use a little more positive thinking about now. As I write this (Tuesday December 21, 2021, 9:25 AM CT) Manchin seems to be rethinking his stance against Build Back Better. Perhaps he's realizing that being jackass of the year is not an honorable distinction.

At any rate, that's what I'm hoping.

Yes. Where in the Bible does it say “Don’t get vaccinated.” I’ll take another look.

Mostly sad but mostly true. And I have to see this architectural mess
almost every day! So appreciate your writings and sorry to have missed you and Susan.
Good Holidays to you.

Ceil

And men still keep on marching off to war
Electrically they keep a baseball score

Nothing ever seems to change.50 years ago Cher and Sonny sung the above song and your “beat” comment reminded me of it.

Merry Christmas,RC and your wife who really deserves more of a vacation than coming here.

I love excoriating Manchin and Sinema for the crime of representing who elected them, instead bowing and scraping at the altar of wokeism. The Build Back Better legislation is monstrous, a wokester's wet dream, and needs to be brought back to earth if it is ever going to have a chance to pass. It is classic Dem overreach, reminds me of when Hillary was going to fix health care all by herself early in Clinton's first term. Hopefully Biden can have a similar epiphany to Bill and tack back to the center. He can thank Manchin if he does.

The howling about the filibuster conveniently ignores the reality of what happens when the Republicans would be similarly unconstrained. The truth is the filibuster is the equivalent of the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) strategy employed by both sides in the Cold War, as well as currently.

With an eloquence in local lore these yesteryear representations stirs ones imagination. Your pictures bring to light memories of life and feelings in a language easily absorbed, thank your for this education.

Uh, a couple of thoughts.

Trump may not even be alive in 2024, let alone running for President. Have you seen him lately? Of course, the more fervent MAGAts would vote for his rotting corpse. And if he is still above ground, I imagine he'll either be locked up somewhere, or fighting like a cornered rat to not be locked up. Trump 2024 is just one more scam designed to take money from the rubes.

According to polling, the vast majority of proposals in BBB are very popular with the majority of Americans. So Andrew Sullivan is wrong about the supposed antipathy to Big Government. Also regarding Sullivan's musings, what the hell is wrong with the concept of "equity" or calling people what they want to be called? Oh, and by the way, Biden's poll numbers are going up.

Joe Manchin is a very rich man from a very poor state. Many very rich people will fight like hell to not give up a single penny. And some people who are very rich have very thin skin, and have their feelings hurt very easily.

Kyrsten Sinema wants to be thought of as a "rebel" or a "maverick", but only within the parameters that her owners will allow.

And finally, I'll never understand the continuing nostalgia for palm trees. For one thing, at their best, they provide very little usable shade. As they grow taller, they provide less and less. And unless they are properly and regularly trimmed, they make a nice home for all kinds of pests.

Happy Holidays to one and all.

Jon - you HAVE jumped the shark with this piece. But, Merry Christmas anyway.

Terry, I had to research the meaning of the phrase and based on that I would say that both political parties have "jumped the shark". Both parties are "empty vessels" after a long, slow descent into corruption.

For God's sake, both parties are currently being led by old, corrupt, walking cadavers.

The Waling Dead has nothing on these parties.

As for our democracy, small d, I give you the following scene:

Dad, what happened to our democracy?

Son, our democracy was under full attack by Atilla the Hun, the R's.

Our democracy was defended by Walter Mitty, the D's.

That's why we're living in a cave.


Ruben - what is THAT all about? Because of our ages, I'll give you a pass. Merry Christmas to you, old sod.

Back at ya !

"Our ages?" Leave cal out of this.

Wow. I could really rant here but I dont want Saint Nick mad at me so I'll just scribble away until 010222 and then post on this column. Provided I'm alive.
Hasta luego.

I have seen the future and it doesn't work.

Like all the major west-coast cities, Portland is dysfunctional, trashed, unsafe, and depressing. Just 10 years ago it was considered one of the nation's best. Now it's overrun with drug-addled zombies, professional thieves, and the permanently "unhoused" (sadly, the lingo police have not been defunded).

Portland doesn't work anymore because it's been taken over by the very people who were attracted to its anything-goes ethos in the first place. This includes me. I'll admit this worked beautifully when there were still police to enforce laws and basic public safety. Since that quaint time, the Woke revolution has decided that anarchy is necessary because Racism!!! Injustice!!! Police Brutality!!!.

There's a glaring contradiction here because cities still need taxpayers, to foot the bills our zombies are generating. The steely-eyed social justice warriors solve this riddle by telling us to shut up because you're a racist if you don't! The Delusional Left wants to shame us into compliance while celebrating the mayhem killing some of our best cities.

The biggest mistake I ever made was leaving Phoenix. Yes, the city is looking down a very deep hole when it comes to climate change. What's worse, however, is having to live in a city where you necessarily watch where you step for fear of planting a foot in a pile of human waste. This is why the basic predicate of all human communities (aka, civilization) is public order. Politics is the means to improve that order, not to do away with it altogether.

The Democratic Party is dying because it's been taken over by childish idealists who's idea of a good book might be a video game. All the Republicans have to do is run TV ads showing what happens when liberals are in charge (see: Portland). Trump almost won in 2020 with those ads. In 2024, he'll have even more to work with. When liberals think they're smarter than the average citizen, their delusions become incapacitating.

I used to love San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. I am heartbroken to see how they are now.

I moved to a small town in retirement. The nostalgia that Jon has for old Phoenix still exists in small town America. (as long as you have adequate retirement income from elsewhere)

When I go to the valley, I feel the covid environment claustrophobic. We're open and fully operating here. We're careful, but not overreacting.

We have a great police force and we fully support them.

Our city council makes mountains out of molehills, but for the most part we ignore them. It they do get out of line, we stomp on them quickly and they quiet down until their next drama.

Just two years ago, retirees looking to move here faced the magic number of $200K for a nice place. That number is now $400k. So, if you were thinking of moving here, you may be too late.

I don't see big city living getting better anywhere. It will be interesting to see how the whole job market shakes out. Remote working may change the face of the workforce.


I think you have been listening too much to the pundits who always view the world as a glass half empty. It is challenging to see the "big picture" of what is going on in our country and the world. It is a complex tangle of competing agendas and actions and most people just want a simple analysis. I thought you were better than that. Please read this part of a recent post by Heather Cox Richardson. "Year-end accounts of the U.S. economy are very strong indeed. According to Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal—which are certainly not giddy media outlets—U.S. economic output has jumped more than 7% in the last three months of 2021. Overall growth for 2021 should be about 6%, and economists predict growth of around 4% in 2022—the highest numbers the U.S. has seen in decades. China’s growth in the same period will be 4%, and the eurozone (which is made up of the member countries of the European Union that use the euro) will grow at 2%.

The U.S. is “outperforming the world by the biggest margin in the 21st century,” wrote Matthew A. Winkler in Bloomberg, “and with good reason: America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years….”

In February, Biden’s first month in office, the jobless rate was 6.2%; today it has dropped to 4.2%. This means the Biden administration has created 4.1 million jobs, more than were created in the 12 years of the Trump and George W. Bush administrations combined. Wages in America are growing at about 4% a year, compared with less than 1% a year in the eurozone, as worker shortages and strikes at places like Deere & Co. (which makes John Deere products) and Kellogg’s are pushing wages up and as states increase minimum wages.

The American Rescue Plan, passed by Democrats in March without a single Republican vote, cut child poverty in half by putting $66 billion into 36 million households. More than 4.6 million Americans who were not previously insured have gotten healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act, bringing the total covered to a record 13.6 million. When Biden took office, about 46% of schools were open; currently the rate is 99%. In November, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will repair bridges and roads and get broadband to places that still don’t have it.

Support for consumers has bolstered U.S. companies, which are showing profit margins higher than they have been since 1950, at 15%. Companies have reduced their debt, which has translated to a strong stock market.

The American economy is the strongest it’s been in decades, with the U.S. leading the world in economic growth…so why on earth do 54% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy (according to a CNN/SSRS poll released yesterday)?

That disapproval comes partly from inflation, which in November was at 6.8%, the highest in 39 years, but inflation is high around the world as we adjust to post-pandemic reopening. Gas prices, which created an outcry a few weeks ago, have come down significantly. Patrick De Haan, an oil and refined products analyst at GasBuddy, an app to find cheap gas prices, tweeted today that average gas prices have fallen under $3 a gallon in 12 states and that in 36 U.S. cities, prices have fallen by more than $0.25 a gallon in the past 30 days. Falling prices reflect skyrocketing gasoline inventories.

Respondents also said they were upset by disruptions in the supply chain. But in fact, the much-hyped fear that supply chain crunches would keep packages from being delivered on time for the holidays has proved to be misguided: 99% of packages are arriving on time. This is a significant improvement over 2020, and even over 2019. It reflects that companies have built more warehouse space and expanded delivery hours, that people have shopped early this year, and that buyers are venturing back into stores rather than relying on online shopping.

What it does not reflect is a weakened retail market. Major ports in the U.S. will process almost one-fifth more containers in terms of volume than they did in 2019. Container traffic at European ports has stayed flat or declined. Consumer goods are flying off the shelves at a rate about 45% higher than they did in 2018: it looks like Americans will spend about 11.5% more in this holiday season than they did in 2020. Indeed, according to Tom Fairless in the Wall Street Journal, American consumer demand was the key factor in the global supply chain bottlenecks in the first place.

And yet 63% of the poll’s respondents to the CNN/SSRS poll said that the nation's economy is in poor shape. And here’s why: 57% of them say that the economic news they've heard lately has been mostly bad. Only 19% say they are hearing mostly good news about the economy.

How people think about the country depends on the stories they hear about it.
Those maintaining the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election know that principle very well."

Certainly you are not maintaining the Big Lie but bashing Biden and the Democrats gives ultra conservatives ammunition. The Democratic party is a reflection of our country with many divergent views on policy and action. However to equate the whole party with the statements coming from the Progressive Caucus is not fair. The caucus is made of up 95 representatives out of a total of 435. That is less than 25%, a small minority at best. Please go back to focusing on presenting facts from good research. And desertification of Phoenix is actually going back to its original state. The allocation of water resources to suburbs is not a logical idea in this time of acute climate change but we all would help our future by returning to as much of the original state of our lands as possible. You do know that the Native Americans survived and knew how to live in a desert. I hope we can relearn some important strategies before we are eliminated.

Soleri,

I feel your pain. But I was kicked out of Phoenix, losing my column because I criticized the Real Estate Industrial Complex, called the coming crash, wrote about the water situation, and —interestingly — wrote about Phoenix history, which proved most dangerous of all.

Note, Montini never writes about these topics, despite his reputation as a tough guy. And Bob Robb, a "Goldwater Institute" operative with no journalism experience, had to be kept on.

I was fortunate to land at the Seattle Times. Calling the coming collapse of Washington Mutual enhanced my reputation rather than putting me at risk, as it would have done at the Republic.

In 2007, Seattle was pragmatic center-left and filled with a vibrant downtown and world-class assets. Since then, it has seen the City Council take a hard left "woke" turn. After the Floyd murder, protests were sullied by riots and looting. Capitol Hill was abandoned to anarchy. The police were defunded. Crime has skyrocketed. Despite a billion dollars, the "homeless crisis" is worse than ever.

Now some sanity has returned with a new centrist mayor and a law-and-order city attorney. We still have so many of the great assets, from Pike Place Market to the Seattle Symphony.

Not a terrible exile.

As for Linda: Old Phoenix was a natural oasis. Today's desertization is not natural. The Indians were shaded by cottonwoods and other shade trees.

Cottonwoods signal water.
https://www.desertusa.com/flora/cottonwood-tree.html
The trees were doing just fine until humans with bulldozers arrived.
Most folks on the planet don't understand Wilderness and really don't get,
Roadless wilderness!
Phoenix probably in 1400 had some big Cottonwoods on the Salt but not sure they got as far North as Roosevelt.
Today in my drop of 600 feet to about 7th street and Thomas I noted the mountains were hardly visible. On the 202 I turned the A/C on at about Sky Harbor (black jet fuel cloud).
The air at Mid town was filthy and tiring.
Taking a breathe in Phoenix per the American Lung Association is hazardous to your health.
Breathe easy Ruben and keep in mind,
Arizona Population 2021
7,520,103 and growing.
What could go wrong?

It worked.
Coyote and i did a dance
around the Sajuaro yesterday.
So far 10 hours of rain
And counting.
Can't see the Lost Dutchman.
Will there be Snow on the
Superstitions?

"What is the proper course when nature breaks laws intended for people?"
From the book Fuzz by Mary Roach.

1445 hours. Rain stopped.

The Good News
Lots of Rain in Phoenix.
Xmas day one can breathe easy.
Heres to 2022
And my prediction for 2024.
Jimmy Carter is President
Bernie Sanders is VP
And AOC is Attorney General.
I hear she knows all about the Bar.

A post-Christmas present. Things are looking up in the Pacific Northwest.

City Observatory's Joe Cortright proclaims the triumph of the city as his home base of Portland powered Oregon from lagging the national household income average to exceeding it.

https://cityobservatory.org/oregons-economic-success-the-triumph-of-the-city/

Cortright's takeaways: This success has been powered by an influx of talent, especially well-educated young adults drawn to close-in urban neighborhoods

Income growth in Multnomah County accounts for essentially all of the net improvement in Oregon incomes relative to the nation over the past decade or more

The secrets of economic success: talent, quality of life, urban amenities, and knowledge industry clusters.

Cortright goes on to further note that Portland has narrowed the wealth gap between whites and minorities.

In 2009, poverty rates for persons of color in Oregon were effectively double those for non-Hispanic white Oregonians. After several years of sharp and steady declines, BIPOC* poverty rates fell by ten percentage points, from over 25 percent to 15 percent, and so were now only about four or five percentage points higher than for whites. And this is after four-decades win which there was no perceptible narrowing of these racial-ethnic differences.

*BIPOC: Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

I think there's less than meets the eye in the equity statistics. Portland is famously one of the whitest metro areas in the US, and had a very small minority population to begin with. Portland's diversity is owed to people of color with high educational attainment coming in for high-income jobs awaiting them, or attending the higher educational institutions in Portland or the state U's in Eugene and Corvallis and staying (or putting the degrees to use in Portland in the case of UO and OSU).

Barry Ritholtz, the founder of a wealth management firm and Bloomberg columnist, curates a daily list of important business and current events items that are more often than not very interesting.

He analyzed the New York Times' "Why Covid Death Rates Are Rising for Some Groups" interactive. With a year into vaccination, there's a large swath of America where COVID-19 deaths have increased. The source material is at:

https://ritholtz.com/2021/12/after-vaccines-where-covid-death-rates-have-risen/

Ritholtz's analysis is at https://ritholtz.com/2021/12/after-vaccines-where-covid-death-rates-have-risen/

You can compare the red map (increased deaths) and green map (decreased deaths) to see how uneven COVID-19 progress has been.

In many cases this is where the red and green spikes are a proxy of who Americans voted for in 2020 or where Fox viewership is the highest.

Green areas (and white areas, which means rates stayed stable) tend to be urbanized, red areas are generally more rural.

As far as states go, Florida, Kentucky, West Virginia and Idaho have done terribly. The Mountain West and Pacific Northwest are also a red belt. In the cases of Washington and Oregon, most of their populations are concentrated around Puget Sound and Portland, which are green.

Deep South states have a lot of green spikes, a good sign. The Upper Midwest and the Northern Plains also have a green curtain. The Texas Panhandle and the southern border are all green.

The coastal Atlantic does well, but rural New England and northwest Pennsylvania are unfortunately red.

Correction: The URL for the New York Times' "Why Covid Death Rates Are Rising for Some Groups" is: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/12/28/us/covid-deaths.html

I'm vaxed and boosted and careful in my activities.

I don't have any cool interactive maps but I can pass on the following expert stats which report that the survivability/ recovery rate for covid for the world is between 97% and 99.5%.

What? That doesn't make for headline news material. So Sorry.

Helpful hint for Americans. Want advise on you and covid? CHECK WITH YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR. You know, the one with a medical degree.

Ruben, don't play into the hands of the anti-mask, anti-vaxx, and COVID-19 denialists.

You can be correct with the survivability and recovery rates but fall prey to the cognitive trap of survivorship bias.

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

It doesn't make for headline news material because it's the 0.5%-3% that are causing 100% of the problems.

COVID-19 susceptibility is random, and the best we can do even with precautions like vaccines, masks and physical distancing is to reduce the severity and lethality of coronavirus once it's contracted.

The unknowns are for how many years, decades or generations the economic, social and psychological toll this two-year pandemic will have on us.

How many COVID-19 survivors will require long-term care because of lingering chronic symptoms? There are the most serious, such as impaired heart and lung function, then there are symptoms that require therapy (e.g., patients who complain of brain fog or numb fingertips and toes, which affect things like balance and finger grip strength).

Health-care workers are experiencing PTSD akin to World War I soldiers, who had never experienced industrial-scale war.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/from-shell-shock-to-ptsd-a-century-of-invisible-war-trauma

There are going to be knock-on effects in the health and life insurance sectors as well, with claims possibly overwhelming the ability to pay them.

There is even a cost of death that's borne by the living. Cemeteries are running out of land. Mortuaries are short of materials like caskets and cremation urns.

Death is also a public policy issue. Generally, coroners will try to recover the decedent's costs (transportation, morgue storage, autopsy) from the survivors or an estate. In addition to grief, survivors might not be able to come up with several hundred or thousand dollars to cover coroner's fees.

These are some reasons why we should refrain from bright-siding the pandemic.

Bobson, I am not being a smart-ass with this question. I'm being serious.

Do you have a medical degree?

@Ruben, I do not. The information I provide is from medical sources and news reports related to COVID-19. I attribute and report links where appropriate.

Best wishes to you in 2022 Bobson. You have been a great addition to the blog.

Rest in peace Betty White. I will most likely watch reruns of the Golden Girls almost daily until they spread my ashes in the mountains of Arizona.

@Ruben, agree with you on Betty White. Just three weeks shy of turning 100. Her biography is incredible, and as a woman in the entertainment industry, she blazed many trails.

We lost a national treasure.

Rest in Peace, Betty White.

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