Looking out from Hell Town tonight...
  Navarre Beach in summer. Its 12 miles of shoreline lie on the western edge of Florida's Panhandle (a geographic term with a meaning both inexact and elastic). The Panhandle, bordered by Alabama on the north and west, Georgia on the north, and the Gulf of Mexico to its south, is roughly 200 miles long and 50 to 100 miles wide and is known for its long stretch of scenic white-sand beaches. Its largest city is Tallahassee, but its largest population grouping is in the Pensacola Metropolitan Area. The Panhandle's population was 1,407,925 in the 2010 census, just under 7.5% of Florida's total. Its population density (roughly 70 persons per sq. mi.) is less than one fifth of Florida's as a whole. In culture and climate it is more similar to the Deep South than to South Florida.
websitesammy.com (estab. 1999)
Home Page
- New U.S. daily cases 585,055 (Dec. 31)
7-day avg: 347,194
NY Times
- Vaccinations
One dose: 73.3% of pop.
Two doses: 62.4% of pop.
Booster dose 22.4% of fully vaccinated pop.
CDC COVID Data Tracker Dec. 31.

4th qtr. 2021 GDP: +6.9% annualized.
2021 Real GDP: +5.7% versus -3.4% in 2020.
Oct-Dec Fed Rev/ Spnd: $1,052/$1,428 (bil)
Wkly Jobless Claims (Feb. 19): 232,000, down 17,000
Jan. Consumer Confidence Index: -1.4
Need a little Christmas, as in right NOW? Visit this year's Christmas Page, and reflect a bit on why you don't feel better about things this year—and what, if anything, you might do about it. Then document your current outlook with the Christmas Spirit Index app. Right there, that ought to put you more in the mood. Feel free to do it again. See if your score hasn't improved.

The Next to the Last Train to Clarksville. Michael Nesmith, the serious Monkee, died peacefully at home in Carmel Valley, CA, in December, from heart failure. He was 78. In 1966 as a struggling 23-year-old singer/songwriter, he joined up with Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork to play zany members of an imaginary rock band called "The Monkees" on TV. The brain storm of two aspiring TV producers seeking to capitalize on the success of the Beatles’ movies. The show ended after two seasons. But The Monkees lived on through several best-selling albums they'd put out (featuring studio musicians and backup singers, especially early on). The boys were not exactly musical know-nothings. Both Nesmith and Tork (a folk guitarist) were gifted musicians, Jones was a British singer and actor just off his role as the Artful Dodger in the Broadway musical "Oliver!" Dolenz was truly an actor. (He starred as a child in a popular '50s TV show, "Circus Boy.") He had never touched a drum kit before. Don Kirshner, the Monkees' music supervisor, didn't want Nesmith and Tork playing on recordings. But in 1966, the Monkees began touring, so Dolenz quickly picked up the drums, while Davy Jones played tambourine (and eventually got proficient on rhythm guitar, bass, and drums.) With the band's third album, "Headquarters," the Monkees, at their insistence, were playing on every track. In 1967, Nesmith wrote a breakup song called "Different Drum," which his producers dismissed as, "Not a Monkees song," Micky Dolenz told Rolling Stone in 2016. "Michael said, 'Wait a minute, I am one of the Monkees.' He gave it to Linda Ronstadt." Tork and Nesmith left the band shortly after the TV series ended. Nesmith formed the First National Band and released an album in early 1970, "Magnetic South," which included a minor hit, "Joanne." Two more First National Band albums followed, featuring a country-rock sound just slightly ahead of its time—as Nesmith's group was petering out, groups like the Eagles began pushing a similar sound. Nesmith went on to a career that included making one of the rock era’s earliest music videos and winning the first Grammy Award for video. Over time he became more willing to embrace his Monkee past. He joined Tork and Dolenz on tour after Davy Jones’s death in 2012. Peter Tork died in 2019. Micky Dolenz is now the last surviving Monkee.
(posted Dec. 12, 2021)

 11/8/21 -- Is It Deja Vu All Over Again? 

Not really. If this chart looks hauntingly familiar, it's because it's the same one you saw back in the September 16 posting, only updated from July through October, because either the figures were provisional and got revised or are brand new (i.e., Sept. and Oct.). Still creeping in a pretty petty pace from day to day. Still about four million jobs light of pre-pandemic levels. Avanti ma lentamente.
Jobs Lost and Recovered, Jan. 20-Oct. 21
Selected Sectors
Sector Jobs Lost Recovered to Date
Services-Providing -14.91% 97.3%
Prof./Business Svs. -10.99% 99.1%
Goods-Producing -11.97% 98.0%
Leisure/Hospitality -48.45% 92.1%
Manufacturing -10.77% 97.1%
Financial Activities -2.86% 100.0%
Retail Trade -15.19% 99.1%

A very good jobs report for October—531,000 more employed and an unemployment rate down to 4.6%. Plus, the two previous months were revised upwards. There are now one and one-half jobs looking to be filled in this country for every person who's officially unemployed. Most of what was lost to the pandemic has been recovered, although hospitality and leisure is still a notable laggard. By now it should be perfectly clear to you why you can find a willing accountant or a banker but still can't catch a waiter's eye.

And that last task is about to get harder. The United States is reopening its doors to international travelers as of Nov. 8. (So long as they're vaccinated. Wait until Sen. Cruz gets wind of this!) Tourists have been shut out of the US for the last 20 months. And they'll all be looking to eat in restaurants! The best hope is that some of them will overstay their travel visas and take jobs here as waiters. It could happen.

 10/30/21 -- Trick or Treat 

Happy Halloween! Click here for Sammy's annual Halloween message to his grown children. The beat goes on. Same old story. All new problems. Is anyone listening yet?

 9/21/21 -- The Summer of Freedom: Slow Fade to Black

The autumnal equinox, at 2:20 pm Central Time, Wednesday, September 22, marks one of two moments in the year when the sun is exactly above the equator making day and night of equal length. It also marks the last day of the summer of 2021. The summer in which our lives were to return, finally, to something at least approximating what we look back on as normal.

And so it seemed it might for a brief moment, but now we can see that was just another dream turned to dust. The clouds of discontent that were gathered threateningly above our heads at the time of last spring's vernal equinox are still there. Discontent and enmity still abound, one half of the populace, or else the other, is wedded to insidious lies, the heart of our democracy itself is imperiled, and once again we're back to wearing these stupid masks every time we step out the front door.

Our world seems divided between those who are just dying to get vaccinated and those willing to die for their disbeliefs, and yet wise men, doctors and scientists are publicly repudiated and the public turns for truth to social media outlets and the posts of authors we surely know we're smarter than.

What to do?

The rock group Boston gave us the answer many years ago. "I woke up this morning and the sun was gone / Turned on some music to start my day / I lost myself in a familiar song / Closed my eyes and I slipped away…. "

It was for such times as this that the "Summer Song Jukebox" was conceived. For us to lose ourselves in, exchanging brief moments of bitter sadness for ones of sweet melancholy. Not much of an exchange but the memories are good: idyllic recollections of summers past triggered by old familiar songs that were the bookends of the years of our youth.

To help you get started, this listening guide was retrieved from a 2016 Labor Day post.

Suggested Six Sad-Song Starter Set:

The Lonely Surfer, Jack Nitzsche (1963)
Summer Song, Chad and Jeremy (1964)
The Things We Did Last Summer, Jo Stafford (1946)
The Girls in Their Summer Dresses, Harry Belafonte (1966)
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Bruce Springsteen (1973)
Summer Of '69, Bryan Adams (1984)

Suggested Six Happy-Song Antidote Set:

Here Comes Summer, Jerry Keller (1959)
Palisades Park, Freddy Cannon (1962)
Hot Fun in the Summertime, Sly & the Family Stone (1969)
Under the Boardwalk, The Drifters (1964)
Summer, War (1976)
All Summer Long, Kid Rock (2008)

But by all means, do what you feel. (Summer Song Jukebox link.)

The Summer Song Jukebox made its debut 21 years ago, if memory serves. Like everything else, it'a growing old. I can barely remember making it now. I don't even think about it much anymore, just as we don't revisit the memories of our past summers as readily, Florida Gulf Coast Sunset (78631675)and the lives and loves from those callow years grow steadily smaller and dimmer as the time passes.

But the songs and the sentiments are still there. Just waiting for you.

When I'm tired and thinking cold,
I hide in my music and forget the day,
And dream of a girl that I used to know.
I closed my eyes and she slipped away.

Boston: "More Than of Feeling" (1976)
Villy Fink Isaksen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 9/16/21 -- Should I Stay or Should I Go Inside?

The professional journalists who report on the employment statistics each month, breathlessly updating us on jobs gained and lost as though our future depends on it, get paid, by and large, a pretty good buck. You'd think they could work a little harder at putting nuance into their news. Kind of reminds you of Ollie the Weatherman for "Channel 5 Action News" on Family Guy: "It's goin' rain!"

Below: typical jobs report news leads from the last five months of the year.

April’s expected hiring boom goes bust: nonfarm payroll gain well short of estimates (CNBC)

In May employers added 559,000 jobs. In ordinary times, a blockbuster hiring burst for one month (ABC)

The U.S. added 850,000 jobs in June, vs 706,000 estimate: businesses looking to keep up with a rapidly recovering U.S. economy (CNBC)

Employers added 943,000 jobs in July, with restaurants and bars leading the way: Bbest performance in nearly a year (NY Times)

August jobs report: America added only 235,000 jobs in month: far fewer jobs than expected (CNN)

A more nuanced telling, with a longer-lens/time perspective, might simply be, "Slow but steady recovery following sharp pandemic contraction." Who cares about how we did against the estimates? Maybe the guys making the estimates are no good at their jobs either.

Besides, the whole month-to-month reporting mindset ignores the fact that after the first-month collapse, monthly numbers were almost all positive. Only a rare down-month or two for the overall job market even if it wasn't what optimists kept referring to as the "V-shaped" recovery.

Hardly a big surprise. What would you expect with a pandemic we obviously were totally unprepared to deal with. Smooth sailing? At the risk of crashing metaphors, it was a good bit more than a bad dream that fades with opening day. Not back on top in a month or two? That was the real dream. With the way we report job numbers, we make the monthly rate of job increases the enemy of the job growth itself.

But even that bit of nuance is not nearly nuanced enough. Most job sectors were not that severely affected by the COVID meltdown. The impact was pretty steep and choppy in leisure and entertainment, but other sectors? They took an initial hit but recovered rather smoothly and steadily if not spectacularly swiftly.

The drama in jobs was contained mainly in leisure and entertainment because people couldn't travel, for business or pleasure. Vegas was very unhappy. And restaurants couldn't seat patrons, and when they could, they couldn't find kitchen or dining room help to serve them. The airlines and the subways took a beating. (Hospital workers entered into hell.) The financial services industry had no such problems, as the numbers bear out. Sales might have slipped, but jobs and working conditions were not the issue.

Jobs Lost and Recovered, Jan. 20-Aug. 21
Selected Sectors
Sector Jobs Lost Recovered to Date
Services-Providing -14.91% 96.6%
Prof/Business Svs -10.99% 98.0%
Goods-Producing -11.97% 97.1%
Leisure/Hospitality -48.45% 90.3%
Manufacturing -10.77% 97.1%
Financial activities -2.86% 100.0%

From a distance, job performance graphs look pretty similar from sector to sector. All pretty much just like the "All Employees" graph above. But appearance is belied by differences in raw numbers and month-to-month growth rates from one sector and another. Most particularly, the leisure and entertainment scene has gotten a visibly rougher ride for the reasons noted above. It really all boils down to this. It's the sector where the most people are most likely to come together, en masse, breathing heavy. And when, and where, that happens, people get sick and disease metrics spike.

But the big number is the big news, so that's what gets reported each month. And always against expectations. Can't blame them, just doing their jobs. Scares the bejesus out of the horses and cattle though. And roller coaster headlines really don't paint a clear picture of how well or poorly the jobs scene is remediating itself. An incautions person could be drawn to erroneous conclusions.

What's a body to do? Probably not pay undue homage to aggregated monthly jobs reporting. It is what it is, as the mob is fond of saying. Keep an eye on the restaurants and hospital utilization rates. When those figures turn, up, down or sidewise, that will tell you where we're really headed. Those headlines? They're just for fun. Oh, and get vaccinated. What are you thinking?

 7/27/21 -- A Thousand Words

This new COVID surge got you a little shook up? You were hoping we'd finally put this nightmare behind us? Well, grow up.

As Jim Jeffries says, we can only advance as a country as fast as our slowest people, and in this country, that turns out to be pretty slow.

However, the graphic above should perhaps cheer you up a little. Hopeful signs emanating from the Motherland.

This surge may prove to have short legs. The Motherland would be England, which went into this new surge a little earlier than we, and for them it may be showing signs of a downturn.

Now, they being an older and wiser country—their vaccination rate is a bit higher than ours—we may not fare as well. Or as soon. Keep in mind we never did win a war from these people, all our history books notwithstanding.

You might even say they beat us in World War II, although we did wind up getting much richer. (Read Joseph Heller's Catch 22 and the part about Nately's whore to find out how we lost World War II to the Italians as well.)


During the first two weeks of July, average daily cases in England jumped 80%, with the single-day total peaking at nearly 55,000, close to what was being recorded last winter, before vaccines were available.

But case growth has since dropped dramatically. Experts point to several possible reasons including warm weather, fewer public gatherings and even, less comforting, less testing (people aren't getting as sick).

Nigeria, which is less vaccinated than the U.S., and also further along in this surge cycle, is also reporting a decline in new cases over the last two weeks, which could also augur well for the U.S.

Or not. Certainly there's not much in the tea leases to suggest a turnaround here just yet. But one lives in hope, especially if one doesn't believe in vaccination and is uncomfortable wearing a mask.

And maybe there's something to that strategy. Florida and Texas in the last couple of days are both showing numbers that could maybe suggest that new case growth just might be flattening.


 5/1/21 -- Just Before "the Last Syllable of Recorded Time."

Most of us don't really get to stay, in the great scheme of things, all that long on this mortal coil, and many get ushered off well before they're ready. Now this may just be age-driven sensitivity, but it feels like our daily reportage is obsessed with rubbing that fact in, with a steady bombardment of all the ways we can meet that moment when our number is irretrievably up. It seems like it's thrust in our faces all day long, on cable and network news, in advertising, the daily paper, monthly magazines and crammed into the nooks and crannies of our online diversions. Every day, for those who are listening, is like its own Día de los Muertos. Maybe this is why so many news enterprises are steadily losing audience (and income).

This viewer tried shaking off the monkey of cable news, for a time, through immersion in the parallel fantasy world of televised '50s-era horse operas (whose program minutes do seem to be swelling). But the prized media fare of youth turned out to be not much better, upon revisitation. More entertaining and better written but basically, just endless streams of miniature morality plays, writ small, offering up some poor devils' whose tragic flaws invariably lead to dusty and violent deaths. Not infrequently snaring up an innocent bystander or two on their way. A young woman, say, or a child. Or a dog. Or a horse. Daytime TV programming is such a large hole to fill, and dying is so pathos-worthy.

Some 3,358,814 unfortunate souls crossed over in 2020, the overwhelming majority of them (75%) from disease. Heart disease, cancer, stroke respiratory diseases, diabetes and kidney disease are the most cited. Alzheimer's is its own category now. And the newcomer in 2020, COVOD-19, which vaulted all the way up to #3 on the list (with a bullet). Influenza and pneumonia are also a separate category. Unintentional injuries accounted for 192,176 deaths in 2020. Less than coronavirus and right above strokes.

Leading Causes of Death in U.S, 2015 - 2020
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

• More than 38,000 people die every year in crashes on U.S. roadways. The U.S. traffic fatality rate is 12.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. An additional 4.4 million are injured seriously enough to require medical attention. (Association for Safe International Road Travel, 2021). More than a quarter of all traffic-related deaths are the direct result of alcohol impairment according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

• There were 19,379 deaths due to gun violence in the US in 2020, according to data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. (Highest figure in more than 20 years.) An additional 24,000 people died by suicide with a gun. There were 611 mass shootings in 2020 (defined as four or more people shot or killed in a single incident excluding the shooter), up from 417 in 2019.

• Over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to recent provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Synthetic opioids (primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl) appear to be the primary driver of the increases in overdose deaths, rising 38.4 percent from the 12-month period leading up to June 2019 compared with the 12-month period leading up to May 2020.

• In 2020, 1,127 people were killed by police. There were only 18 days in 2020 when the police did not kill someone. Black people (who make up 13% of the country’s population) accounted for 28% of this group. Only Rhode Island and Vermont reported no police killings in 2020.

Fibonacci Blue, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

• At least 11 Americans were killed while participating in political demonstrations last year, and another 14 died in other incidents linked to political unrest. Nine of the people killed during protests were demonstrators taking part in Black Lives Matter protests. Two were conservatives killed after pro-Trump “patriot rallies.” All but one were killed by fellow citizens. (Data compiled by The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED), a non-profit, working in collaboration with a group of researchers at Princeton.)

TapTheForwardAssist, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

• A total of seventeen death-row inmates, all men, were executed in the United States in 2020, sixteen by lethal injection and one by electrocution (Tennessee).

executed name birth date age at execution age at offense ethnicity state
15-Jan-20 John Steven Gardner 3-Jan-56 64 49 White Texas
29-Jan-20 Donnie Cleveland Lance 23-Dec-53 66 43 White Georgia
6-Feb-20 Abel Revill Ochoa 23-Jan-73 47 29 Hispanic Texas
20-Feb-20 Nicholas Todd Sutton 15-Jul-61 58 23 White Tennessee
5-Mar-20 Nathaniel Woods 24-Oct-76 43 27 Black Alabama
19-May-20 Walter Barton 24-Jan-56 64 35 White Missouri
8-Jul-20 Billy Joe Wardlow 25-Nov-74 45 18 White Texas
14-Jul-20 Daniel Lewis Lee 31-Jan-73 47 22 White Fed. Gov.
16-Jul-20 Wesley Ira Purkey 6-Jan-52 68 46 White Fed. Gov.
17-Jul-20 Dustin Lee Honken 22-Mar-68 52 25 White Fed. Gov.
26-Aug-20 Lezmond Charles Mitchell 17-Sep-81 38 20 Nat. Amer. Fed. Gov.
28-Aug-20 Keith Dwayne Nelson 23-Nov-74 45 24 White Fed. Gov.
22-Sep-20 William Emmett LeCroy, Jr. 12-Apr-70 50 31 White Fed. Gov.
24-Sep-20 Christopher Andre Vialva 10-May-80 40 19 Black Fed. Gov.
19-Nov-20 Orlando Cordia Hall 24-Apr-71 49 23 Black Fed. Gov.
10-Dec-20 Brandon Bernard 3-Jul-80 40 18 Black Fed. Gov.
11-Dec-20 Alfred Bourgeois 20-Jun-64 56 38 Black Fed. Gov.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of executions that had been planned for 2020 were postponed and/or rescheduled. Texas postponed the executions of seven inmates who were due to be executed between March and September, beginning with Carlos Trevino, whose execution was postponed three times. Tennessee also postponed the executions of four inmates who were due to be executed between June and December. In addition, the December 8 execution of Lisa Montgomery by the federal government was postponed by the DC District Court after both of her defense attorneys caught COVID-19. She was executed this year, on January 13.

• There were 264 federal, state, military, tribal and local law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2020— the highest since 1974, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reports. The COVID-19 virus accounted for 145 of those deaths. Forty-eight officers were shot and killed: 30 by a handgun, one with his own weapon, and 13 by rifle fire. Forty-four officers were killed in traffic incidents. City law enforcement officers were hardest hit, with 122 line-of-duty deaths. Sheriffs accounted for 68 deaths, followed by 31 state and highway patrol deaths.

• In 2018 there were more than two and a half times as many suicides in the United States as there were homicides, based on a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The states with the highest suicide rates were West Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico. Between 1999 and 2018, Suicide rates for males were 3.5 to 4.5 times the rate for females. Among females, suicide rates, based on prior years' data, were highest in the 45–64 age group. Among males, rates were highest for those aged 75 and over. Most common methods employed were firearms, suffocation and poisoning.

On the brighter side, BuzzFeed reported last January on the personal stories of 17 people who looked death in the eye, and saw death look back, and returned to tell about what it was like to be clinically deceased. Make of it what you will, if you're brave enough to click on the link above to study their reflections.

Ah well, getting late. Time for bed. To sleep, perchance to dream. Hopefully about something else. Maybe the tail end of an old '50s Western before nodding off.

 2/28/21 -- CPAC Straw Poll
Same Old Song; Different Meaning Since You Came Along

Conservative Political Action Conference, Wash DC, Feb. 25-27
GOP Presidential Straw Poll
candidate vote
Gov. Greg Abbott (TX)
Gov. Charlie Baker (MA)
Tucker Carlson (pol. commentator)
fmr. Gov Chris Christie (NJ)
Sen. Tom Cotton (AR)
Sen. Ted Cruz (TX)
Gov. Ron DeSantis (FL)
fmr. Gov. Nikki Haley (SC)
Sen. Josh Hawley (MO)
Gov. Larry Hogan (MD)
fmr. Gov. John Kasich (OH)
Gov. Kristi Noem (SD)
Sen. Rand Paul (KY)
fmr. Vice Pres. Mike Pence
fmr. Sec.of State Mike Pompeo
Sen. Mitt Romney (UT)
Sen. Marco Rubio (FL)
Sen. Tim Scott (SC)
Sen. Rick Scott (FL)
fmr. Pres Donald Trump
Write-ins allowed.
Bonus Chart
CPAC Straw Poll Ballot without Fmr. President Trump
candidate vote
Gov. Greg Abbott (TX)
Gov. Charlie Baker (MA)
Tucker Carlson (pol. commentator)
fmr. Gov Chris Christie (NJ)
Sen. Tom Cotton (AR)
Sen. Ted Cruz (TX)
Gov. Ron DeSantis (FL)
fmr. Gov. Nikki Haley (SC)
Sen. Josh Hawley (MO)
Gov. Larry Hogan (MD)
fmr. Gov. John Kasich (OH)
Gov. Kristi Noem (SD)
Sen. Rand Paul (KY)
fmr. Vice Pres. Mike Pence
fmr. Sec.of State Mike Pompeo
Sen. Mitt Romney (UT)
Sen. Marco Rubio (FL)
Sen. Tim Scott (SC)
Sen. Rick Scott (FL)
Donald Trump Jr. (bus. exec.)
Ivanka Trump (bus. exec.)