Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trump shafts New York, local merchants, and the people who work for them

Donald Trump admires his favorite person.
Photograph via Creative commons


Donald Trump and family have greedily reached into the U.S. Treasury's bin of money armpit-deep. They’ve scooped up, or are planning to scoop up, large wads of cash for their personal enrichment. And the complaints from Congress? Barely a squeak

Just one example of the president's use of his office for self-enrichment: Trump is currently negotiating with both the Secret Service and the Department of Defense to rent office space in his super-luxurious, super-expensive office building, putting about $1,500,000 into his own corporate pockets so that he can hang out in New York instead of working in Washington. Both government agencies could find cheaper space a short distance away, but that discussion evidently hasn't come up. 

Bottom line:  Trump makes money off the taxpayers so he can feel more comfortable. That’s the very definition of corruption, but it doesn’t stop there.

As I wrote recently, Trump’s personal security at Trump Tower is costing just the city’s taxpayers about a million dollars a day. The city has been offered $7 million by the Federal Government, , leaving us in a triple-digit-millions hole. And we've heard not a peep out of Trump about this. But it gets even worse.

In a newsletter, snail-mailed to his constituents, my local New York City Councilman, Dan Garodnik, reports on the cost to any business trying to survive in the neighborhood of Trump Tower thanks to Trump's security arrangements.

Garodnik says:
“The impact on small businesses near Trump Tower has been severe. In particular the block of 56th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues was a disaster — a mess of barricades, security checkpoints, and giant press vans lining the sidewalks.

Pedestrians, during peak tourist season, had no interest in patronizing the businesses there. To make matters worse, business could not get important deliveries or regular garbage pickups. Surveys found profits by plummeting by 30-70 percent.
When a business loses income and profits, who’s the first to suffer? Right, the employees who get thrown out of work because there’s no money coming in to support them.


Thanks, Donald. Glad to know it’s still all about you and your self-enrichment at taxpayer expense.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Donald Trump creates a new definition of the term, "Political Science"

"We don't need no stinking science"

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, it means just what what I choose it to mean— neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master — that's all."

Master Trump's administration appears to be cribbing from Alice In Wonderland. He's not only conflating science with creative writing, and vice-versa, he's also banning anything it uncovers that he doesnt like. According to The Guardian:
The Trump administration is mandating that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public. 
The communications director for Donald Trump’s transition team at the EPA, Doug Ericksen, said on Wednesday the review also extends to content on the federal agency’s website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth’s climate is warming and manmade carbon emissions are to blame.
[snip]
Ericksen said no orders have been given to strip mention of climate change from www.epa.gov, adding no decisions have yet been made. 
“We’re taking a look at everything on a case-by-case basis, including the web page and whether climate stuff will be taken down,” Erickson said in an interview with the Associated Press. “Obviously with a new administration coming in, the transition time, we’ll be taking a look at the web pages and the Facebook pages and everything else involved here at EPA.”

So may the voters infer from this that two and two may no longer equal four, if the Trump Administration says so?

"Sorry, that information is classified."

Monday, February 06, 2017

Rats, cockroaches, shoe poo, Crank’s Law, and New York’s Mayor Bill De Blasio

By solving the problem of the fly ash caused by Incinerated
garbage, New York City got cursed with this. But we haven't 
finished wrecking our quality of life just yet.
Up until the end of the 1980s, we New Yorkers incinerated a large part of our garbage. We often didn’t carry it off to some distant place for incineration, either. We cremated it right where we lived.

Back then, most modern apartment buildings had a tiny room on every floor. Inside those rooms there was a garbage chute.

The simple seductiveness
of the garbage chute

Garbage chute
lid
You’d drop your garbage down the chute. Often, its descent would be met by the flicker of flames, powered by gas. Sometimes, the flames would shoot upward as high as four stories. Often, you’d hear a satisfying crash as glass shattered and tin cans clanged onto  the flaming iron grate below.

Great supermarket sacks of garbage, unsorted and brimming with everything from soggy uneaten spaghetti to tin cans, glass jars, last night’s broken wine glass, the pet turtle that died two weeks after you brought it home from the pet store, fish bones, bread crusts, pineapple tops, soiled cat litter, old newspapers and more would fall down the chute into the roaring flames.

At the end of the day, the building’s janitor would shovel the ashes and charred tin cans and shards of glass from the bottom of the incinerator into barrels. A few barrels of gray, inorganic, inert debris, all that remained of the garbage, would then be placed outside the building for pickup.

Alas, the ash

There was a problem with this system. It was air pollution. It was bad for our lungs and it filled the air with fly ash. If you left your window slightly ajar, you’d be able to trace your name in fly ash on the window sill in about 24 hours. The city fathers fretted. Something had to be done.

So the administration of then-mayor Edward I. Koch solved the problem by banning incinerators. These days, those garbage chutes, as tall as residential buildings that can in many cases be more than 35 stories high , lead to a trash compactor. These days, New Yorkers first sort out their newspapers, tin cans and glass and plastic bottles for recycling .Only more-or-less organic stuff goes down chute.

So the air pollution problem, or at least the part pertaining to burning garbage, was solved. But the Koch Administration forgot The Crank’s Law: Every solution to a problem creates a brand new problem. (A corollary to that law states that inside every silver lining there’s another cloud. But I digress.)

Conforming to The Crank’s Law, in the case of New York City’s anti-incineration regulation, two new problems were created. The first is unsightly mountains of garbage in giant plastic bags that are stashed twice a week on the sidewalks to await pickup. It averages 2,000 tons of filth and public eyesore a day. 

At great expense, this festering gunk is then transported out-of-state, where becomes landfill in somebody else's backyard.

The second problem is that hungry rats that are attracted to the garbage. Thanks to New York’s sanitation laws, New Yorkers no longer merely co-exist with the rats. We now are their benefactors.

Rat populations as big
as the city of Cincinnati

Current estimates are that there is a rat thriving in New York for every four people living here. New York currently has about 8.5 million inhabitants. So we therefore have 2,125,000 rodents — about as many rats as Cincinnati has people — doing their damnedest to spread at least as much death and illness among New Yorkers as burning garbage and fly ash once did inorganically. Some of the scarifying details:
“New York City rats carry pathogens that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and fever in humans, especially in children. The pathogens they carry include bacteria such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff), Salmonella, E. coli, and Leptospira. Bartonella bacteria cause cat scratch disease, trench fever, and Carron disease. These bacteria may be spread through contact with rat feces, saliva, or urine. Rats can carry disease-causing viruses such as sapoviruses, cardioviruses, kobuviruses, parechoviruses, rotaviruses, hepaciviruses, and Seoul virus. Rats carry fleas that are vectors of diseases such as bubonic plague, typhus, and spotted fever. In addition, some people have an allergic reaction to the presence of rodent feces, hair, or urine.”
So your odds of dying of air-induced lung cancer in New York have gone down, even as your odds of contracting anything from diarrhea to typhus and bubonic plague have gone up. That’s Crank’s Law at work.

Meanwhile, ripe organic garbage can’t just be dropped 10, or 15, or 25 stories down a chute. In short order it would smear the chute walls with festering matter that would begin to decay and stink, even as it attracted cockroaches and helped to attract and feed more rats. So many New Yorkers collect our household garbage in plastic grocery bags, tie them up tightly, and drop the sealed bags down the chutes, into the compactors.

Plastic: also the solution
to festering shoo poo

The dog owners among us have also been trained to pick up the dog poo that once got left on the streets for inattentive strollers to step in. What do New Yorkers use to get the stuff off the sidewalk? Well, if you try to pick up some moist poo with a tissue or paper towel, it’s likely to soak through, leaving human hands covered with canine fecal matter. So instead New Yorkers use plastic bags.

Again, a substantial portion of New Yorkers get those bags for free, simply by saving the bags in which we lug home groceries. The result is a recycling program in which bags get used twice in this town — once for lugging home groceries, the second time for disposing of noxious materials, whether dog feces or that tuna sandwich that turned bad when you left it on the kitchen counter while you took off for a weekend in the Hamptons.

But now we have Mayor Bill De Blasio on the war path over plastic bags. They’re ending up in landfills, he complains. And somehow, he infers, they’re helping to overheat the planet. “If we continue to use petroleum-based products when we don’t need them we are only exacerbating climate change,” De Blasio said not long ago.

If not plastic, what?

The problem is, we do need plastic bags, if not for carrying home groceries, than at least for disposing of our refuse. But if supermarkets stop giving away plastic bags, New Yorkers will simply buy boxes or rolls of them for disposing of our garbage. So the same amount of plastic will still go into landfills, and the only thing that may improve is the bottom line at plastic bag companies.

The long range solution is to develop a moisture-proof plastic bag that will biodegrade quickly. But I guess conjuring with that matter is above Bill De Blasio’s pay grade.

The New York State Legislature has several times postponed the start date of De Blasio’s order that supermarkets charge a nickel for every plastic bag. That’s good for the supermarkets’ bottom line, too. But it makes you wonder if De Blasio isn’t getting paid off by the supermarket lobby.

Bill, if you’re really sincere, here’s what you can do: find a moisture-proof, tough, biodegradable material from which bags can be made and then let’s use them to dispose of our garbage. Either that, or go back to incinerators and enjoy a lungful of fly ash.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Listen, Mayor de Blasio. In addition to standing up to President Trump, why not stand down from his security?

Donald Trumps's personal security involves littering New York most
fashionable avenue with dump trucks, blocking traffic, creating congestion,
murdering retail businesses and then sticking New York's taxpayers with the
bill. (Photograph: NBC News)
New York was once the only American city that had its own foreign policy, distinct from, and in fact in direct contradiction to, the foreign policy of the United States.

That was under the administration of one of Donald Trump’s political cronies, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who didn’t give a flying fiddlestick what the State Department or the President  of the United States wanted because Giuliani was…well, Giuliani.

Yasser gets the heave-ho
 —a case in point:
On Monday October 23, 1995, Mayor Rudy Giuliani noisily ejected PLO leader Yasser Arafat from a concert at Lincoln Center that had been scheduled to entertain world leaders in town for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. President Clinton condemned Mr. Giuliani’s “embarrassing breach of international diplomacy” and former Mayors Dinkins and Koch joined the chorus of those embarrassed that the mayor, who had personally selected Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, had injected politics into the celebration.
By the way, this account was reported, with another paragraph gushing approval of the ejection, by the New York Observer, a weekly newspaper owned by Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

But that wasn’t the only embarrassment perpetrated by the out-of-control mayor. That same year, Imprudent Rudy declared Fidel Castro  persona non grata during a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

Relics of Giuliani’s Independent Republic of New York persist to this day. The corner of Lexington Avenue at East 37th Street, was renamed “Hermanos al Rescate,” or “Brothers to the Rescue,” under the Giuliani administration. Last I looked, decades after Giuliani crawled back under his rock, the street signs were still up.

The Hermanos al Rescate corner commemorates the badly planned and disastrously executed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by some Cuban exiles, a rescue that never rescued anybody. Nothing wrong with commemorating it anyway, I suppose — except that the Cuban mission to the United Nations is right on that street corner.

Imagine if, in a foreign country, right in front of an American embassy, some municipal government renamed a block “U.S.A. Sucks Street.” Get the idea? Now let's shift the subject slightly 

The war of the mayors

Presently, there's an incipient war brewing between the Trump administration and the mayors of several important American cities, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, New Haven, Syracuse, and Austin, among them. 

These are considered “sanctuary cities,” which essentially means that to the extent possible, the cities will not assist in the rounding up and deportation of undocumented aliens, including those who grew up here and for all intents and purposes are at least as American as Melania Trump.

Rudy Giuliani established the precedent for this kind of defiance, but it now has Donald Trump foaming at the mouth. He declared that if you dare — dare! — not spend your city’s precious resources busting down doors and arresting hard-working immigrants and their essentially-American kids, you “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.”

In other words, go along with Trump or he’ll grab you by the p-p-p-purse strings and twist so painfully, your city will fall apart.

New York, at least, has an antidote to that. Trump lives here, almost smack dab in the center of town, in a multi-multi-million dollar skyscraper. He has been coming back to New York — and evidently plans to keep coming back — just about every weekend.

This is a busy street corner in a shopping and business area that is also attractive to tourists, tens of thousands of pedestrians, and many thousands of motor vehicles of all sorts. Consequently, the Secret Service alone can’t possibly provide the President with presidential security. 

Garbage trucks, killed retailers,
and other signs of Donald Trump

The Secret Service has turned to the New York Police Department, which blocks off streets with sand-laden garbage trucks, floods the area with patrolmen and paramilitary equipment, stops pedestrians to inspect their baggage, and constantly disrupts the city, and which by the way is also killing walk-in customer traffic at Tiffany’s and other high-end merchant shops.

All those costs the taxpayers — of New York and not of the rest of the United States — about a million bucks a day in out-of-pocket costs for police salaries, overtime and other charges. So far, the Republican Congress in Washington  has generously offered to compensate the city to the extent of $7 million, or about a week’s worth of security. After that, Congress seems to be saying, the other 51 weeks are on us.

Well, hell no! If the Trump administration is going to shaft us for not letting our cops waste their time running around trying to sort out who’s an undocumented immigrant from who merely has a dark skin, and then busting waiters and nannies instead of hard core thugs — and then Congress shafts us with miserly compensation for presidential security — let’s not provide any presidential security.

The old Giuliani
defiance trick

It’s time for Mayor Bill de Blasio to pull a Giuliani, by pulling every cop in New York off the Trump security detail. If Trump wants to keep coming to New York and upsetting everybody’s life for his own convenience and pleasure, let him pay for it himself. Or let the U.S. Government pay for it.

But with caveats: No blocking off the streets any more. No barricades against pedestrians. Donald Trump can pack his own lobby with all the Secret Service and private gumshoes he wants,  but the police state stops outside the front door of 725 Fifth Avenue. Further, any government vehicles of any kind illegally parked or otherwise impeding traffic at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street will be subject to ticketing and towing.

What can Trump do? Cut off funds that he and Congress have already cut off?


Oh, and one more modest proposal, Mayor de Blasio. Let’s rename the street corner. Instead of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, it should be called Short Fingers Avenue and Really Low Ratings Street. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Signs of the times

I'm late with this, I know. But I need to say how delighted I was with the massive outpouring of outraged women in New York yesterday.

At about 5 p.m. on Park Avenue in the East 30s, women were streaming home from the demonstration site about a half mile to the north. Most of the ones I saw were twenty-somethings, enthusiastic, energized, and evidently raring for more.

There were so many of them that they jam packed the subway, not only at my stop- but at several further uptown and closer to the demonstration, causing delays and crowding that required the New York Transit Authority to take special measures. It was the first time I have ever been delighted about being delayed in the subway.

I boarded a downtown-bound train at East 33rd Street. Many of the young women were entering the subway at the same time. Some were evidently strangers brought together by the event. They were exchanging contact information, always a good sign. I suspect it means that they're not done yet. It means, perhaps, that they're barely getting started.

So I am not quite as wary as others that this will be another flash-in-the-pan demonstration with no followup. My feeling is, they're in it for the long term.

Watch for young people, particularly women, to start getting actively involved in politics. These will not be Hillary Clinton followers. Instead, they will be Democratic Party leaders in the not-too-distant-future. Yesterday was not a day of demonstrations. It was the birthing of a revolution that will drive out the reprobate old guard of both parties and bring us, in time, a more just society.

What I found especially heartening was the young demonstrators' sense of humor — terse combinations of irony and mockery, in the placards they waved. It's always a good sign when demonstrators are laughing. It means they sense their own superior power. And that they know they shall overcome.

A few signs were abandoned in various place after the massive demonstration. Let me share a couple:
:

And this one via Connie Schwartz Harris:




Saturday, January 21, 2017

Donald, Melania, Jabba the Hutt, and the secret messages of body language

Uh oh! 
Am I the only one who noticed the body language when Donald and Melania danced to "I did it my way" at the inaugural ball?

By the time I thought to grab my iPhone and punch in my access code, I had missed some of the best shots, but the one above will do. Study it carefully.

Notice that Donald's long right arm is wrapped sinuously around Melania, and that he appears to be tugging her toward him. He also appears to be pressing his hips against hers.

She, on the other hand, is leaning away slightly, even as he tries to lean in. Her arms are not wrapped around his. She is merely touching his shoulder.

The expression on her face is difficult to read. But she hardly appears happy and bubbly in this shot. And although she did occasionally smile while they danced, she didn't smile often. If anything, as in this picture, she was a bit grim.

Now don't get me wrong. Melania is getting a lot from this marriage, including several places more spectacular to live in than the White House, where she can also live. Further, money and power are sexy, and now President Trump is endowed with formidable amounts of both.


*
On the other hand, I refer you to Jabba the Hutt,* another man with a not-skin-color complexion, Now there was a dude with money and power if there ever was one, but honestly, how many women would want to share a bed with him? Fortunately for American womanhood, Jabba was as fictional as half the stuff Donald Trump states as fact.

So I ask several questions: 

•While she claims to be staying in New York for the sake of her son who is attending private school here, how often will Melania visit Washington on weekends? 

•Will Melania and Barron move to the White House next year, when Barron can attend school in Washington, D.C. (Perhaps even one of Betsy DeVos' soon-to-be-funded-with-taxpayers'-money private schools?)

•Or will Melania find yet another reason to hang in New York?  

•And if Melania stays in New York, will the President find solace by wrapping his arms around some other age-inappropriate lovely?

•What's in the Trump prenup? If Melania ever chooses to fully escape the marriage, will it be financially worth her while? Or is she only a bird in a gilded cage

And will the marriage last forever, or just until Donald Trump's last day in office?

Stay tuned.

But wait before you go. Because I've also just discovered this priceless performance. (I'm definitely not talking about a TV spot that you may have to sit through before the performance begins):


          




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Well, if Donald Trump is furious with fake news, what does he read?

This cranky blog recommends the Weekly World News to the
President Elect. It has cool photographs that document everything,
and I frankly believe every word in it. Like the article above.
I suspect President Elect Trump may already be reading the Weekly World News. I mean, it's his kind of newspaper. Consider:

•No word contains more than three syllables.

•Every photograph documents something. Or other.

•There are no long, boring details that were probably planted by the U.S. intelligence community. Instead. Weekly World News keeps its stories short, so you don't have to read too long.

•None of the news in Weekly World News is "fake news." It's all as real as the hair on Donald's head.

Esquire magazine recently broke a story saying that the Trump administration may do away with the  White House press room. Well, can you blame him? All the press does is break bad news, like stuff that he tweets or he says. So it must be fake news.

On the other hand, I suspect that although he may get the press out from under his roof,  President Trump may give Weekly World News a desk right next to his in the Oval Office. That way they can cover all the true stuff that they will be able to see and Photoshop sit comes straight out of the new President's brain.

Aliens and newspaper reporters, you'd better watch out!


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Can you diagnose this "problem child?"

Unfortunately, he's too old to be sent up to his room 
for a time out.


Here's the official list of symptoms: 
   ▪       Often loses temper
    ▪       Argues with adults and authority figures
    ▪       Refuses to comply with adult requests
    ▪       Blames others for his mistakes
    ▪       Deliberately annoys people
    ▪       Is easily annoyed by others
    ▪       Is angry/resentful and spiteful/vindictive.

These are the symptoms of a personality disorder in six year olds called Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD.

PsychoCentral.com reports that “If a child exhibits four or more of these behaviors for six months or longer he would likely be diagnosed with ODD…”

PsychoCentral also reports that “A common trait of kids with oppositional Defiant Disorder is that they often see themselves as victims and feel justified in acting out.”

So there you have it, folks. Or rather we have it. And what we have is a six-year-old with a severe personality disorder about to take charge of the economy, court appointments, healthcare, education, the military, and launch control of the nuclear bomb.

What could possibly go wrong?