Friday, May 27, 2016

New York Mayor Bill deBlasio’s bum rap. And also some not-so-bum raps.

The phoniest plumber since John McCain's "Joe The Plumber"is
part of a fictional team of "victims" attacking Mayor Bill DeBlasio

In a way, I feel kind of sorry for Bill DeBlasio, the current mayor of New York.

Not that I’ve ever been a huge fan of his. He has all the personal magnetism of a third-ranked accounting professor at a second-rate cow college. I agree with a good many of his political positions, but if he offered to have a beer with me, an image of library paste would flash in my head, and I’d suddenly remember a prior engagement.

On top of the pasty je ne sais quoi of his personality, DeBlasio has made some political appointments that make you wonder what the hell the man is thinking. One such is his transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg. 

Commissioner Trottenberg  brings to mind, in her physical froideur and distinct lack of empathy for afflicted New Yorkers,the meanest teacher you ever had in elementary school. If you had a Roman Catholic education during certain decades of the 20th Century, I suppose that, based on what some of my Catholic friends tell me, you could make that the second-meanest nun.

Her primary interest seems to be in pleasing and absolving motorists of any chaos and tragedy they cause in New York. She also appears to be unraveling the progress New York had made in helping to make the city more habitable for pedestrians, cyclists, and even tho those apartment-dwellers who are subject to incessant honking during midnight traffic jams. She seems almost equally interested in punishing those who complain.

Last November, for example, after eight people were hit, broken, crushed, and killed in a single week by various motor vehicles, (two city busses were among those vehicles), Trottenberg announced that pedestrians ought to watch where they’re going. 

What next? A statement complaining it’s a shame the busses got dented?

All this while bike routes deteriorate, some bike paths become rutted, pitted, potholed, tire-trapping death traps, and the traffic Trottenberg works so hard to encourage grows more constipated than ever. 

For example, there’s  another currently-brewing controversy involving Trottenberg. Residents of a beleagured building in Midtown have been tortured for months by a loud cacaphony of blaring automobile horns, sounded  by frustrated motorists in the middle of the night on Trottenberg’s jammed streets approaching the Queens Midtown Tunnel.  The residents have pleaded that Trottenberg’s department place signs on their block asking the gridlocked and furious drivers not to honk. 

Trottenberg’s kiss-off reply, completely ignoring the specific request, was in a letter to a City Councilman. She said that somebody else’s agency had put up some signs somewhere else, and besides, there were cops directing traffic. In other words, she didn’t give a flying flamingo. Or perhaps she was flipping the residents some other kind of bird. I suppose she thinks that if residents don’t like it, they can just go move to the suburbs.

Despite the Trottenbergian shortcomings of the DeBlasio administration, I give less than full enthusaism to the current investigation into possibly shady dealings (or possibly not) involving Mayor DeBlasio’s fund raising efforts.

Seems to me that at best, DeBlasio is small potatoes. The bigger and likelier rotten spud is New York State’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who literally shut down a statewide corruption investigation when it got a little too close to home.

And yet I still feel badly for DeBlasio, whose numbers lately have been sinking like the Titanic. At least part of his loss of popularity is due not to his charmless personality, or to the corruption investigation centered around his campaign, or even to Commissioner Trottenberg’s“Screw You” style of public service.

The cause is more insidious than that. You see, one of the good things DeBlasio has done has been to try keeping rents affordable for New York’s middle class and working poor. The alternative would be even more of the homelessness  that is now evident in many parts of the city.

Of course, the landlord hate this. It means they can’t gouge their tenants. This has left them feeling terribly sorry for themselves. But advertising, “Boo hoo, we can’t get rich by raising your rent" is such a self-evidently losing proposition that they’ve come up with something far more insidious.

They’re running, at considerable media weight, a television campaign in New York in which various actors posing as hispanic small businessmen — a guy who seems to own a plumbing store and a guy who seems to be a painter, for example — complain that DeBlasio is starving them out of business.

How? By viciously strangling greedy landlords’ excess profits, thereby making it "impossible" for the landlords to keep up their buildings, thereby killing the incomes of small tradesmen who service the buildings, thereby hurting "everyone." The ads are paid for by something called the "Rent Stabilization Association," which is actually a bunch of landlords who want to de-stabilize rents. 

The implications of the ads: If you favor rent control and affordable housing, you favor throwing Hispanic small business owners out of work, loading up the unemployment roles with ruined plumbers and painters, and wrecking the city’s economy. 

The logic  of this argument, if you can follow it, leads straight to the garbage pit.  Moreover, casting Hispanic types as the victims, when in fact a significant number of the city’s newly arrived Hispanics are really landlords’ victims, is the height of hypocrisy. And nowhere do the commercials say that what the "rent stabilizers" really want is for  the rent  to be raised. That's for DeBlasio himself to read between the lines, while it passes right through the uncomprehending  skulls of dullards like ourselves. What we're expected to remember is, DeBlasio is a no good bum who's killing poor Hispanics plumbers.

So the landlords are spreading their venom. The corruption investigators are sniffing around in all the wrong places, perhaps to avoid Governor Cuomo’s displeasure. (DeBlasio and Cuomo are anything but close buddies.)

Meanwhile, well-intentioned poor schnook DeBlasio keeps taking it on the chin, while his traffic commissioner must fall asleep every night cheerfully dreaming of occupied baby carriages getting squashed by eighteen-wheelers.

Hey, fella, welcome to Noo Yawk. We got the best of everything heah, including a multiplicity of political operatives with very sharp shivs up their sleeves.

Cross-Posted at No More Mister Nice Blog

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Chest belts, sausage feet, oxycodone, and other cranky complaints about medicine

I suspect that the witch doctors who treated
me today learned their craft from this guy.
About eight weeks ago I crashed my bicycle. I seemed all right at first, but after the shock wore off I noticed something was hurting. I wondered if I had cracked a rib.

So I went to the doctor, who sent me to another doctor, an orthopedist, whose assistant took an X-ray. Sure enough, I had busted a rib.

So the orthopedist gave me an elastic belt to wear around my chest. And he insisted — even though I clearly said I didn't want a painkiller and that my pain was only minor —  a prescription for Oxycodone. The pills are still sitting, never opened, in my medicine cabinet, waiting for a rogue house guest to steal them.

I was also instructed not to lie down until I was healed. Which meant I had to sleep sitting up. I did that for a few days and suddenly my feet started swelling until they resembled huge salamis with tiny toes. I figured that was due to either the sitting while trying to sleep, or the chest belt, and I ignored the swelling.

Today I went back to the doctor for a mandatory visit. I mentioned that my feet were swelling and that one of them hurt. The doc's PA sent me across the hall for an X-ray that unmasked a bone spur. And the doctor himself was horrified by the swelling feet.

"You could have a blood clot in one of yours legs," he said. "A deep vein thrombosis. Very serious."

So he sent me two blocks away to a medical imaging lab for a sonogram of both of my legs. Then I went home.

An hour later the doctor called. "The good news is it's not a deep vein thrombosis, although I will inform your personal physician so that he can do further investigation," the doctor told me. "Also, about that bone spur. You need lifts in your shoes, but there aren't lifts big enough, so you need  very high heeled shoes. If you don't have any, maybe you could buy cowboy boots."

I'd rather be caught putting mustard on my swollen feet while eating oxycodone than be seen walking around New York in cowboys boots.

"Oh by the way, what about the belt?" I asked the doctor.

"What belt?" he asked.

"The one you told me to wear around my chest for my broken rib."

"Oh, you don't need that any more."

I'm not certain how he knows since the one thing nobody x-rayed or scanned  today was my rib cage, but to hell with it.

"And do I have to sleep sitting up any more?"

"For what?"

"For my cracked rib."

"No. But wear cowboys boots."

I went all the way uptown to see the doctor so he could examine my rib, and that's the one thing he didn't do. But foot X-rays? Leg sonograms? Cowboy boots? Oxycodone? And you wonder why Medicare cost are going through the roof and drug heads are causing financial meltdowns?

The Crank's late beautiful girlfriend, herself a physician, used to say that "Hospitals kill people." I'm beginning to suspect that it's really the doctors in the hospitals.

Oh well, if Medicare ever goes belly up, I can probably get together the scratch for my next medical visit by going out in the street and selling my little stash of Oxycodone.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How you can tell that Donald Trump knows his own presidential campaign is a loser

Will this be the New Trump campaign slogan?
The New York Times reported on May 9th that Donald Trump has turned to the Republican Party for help raising funds.

For anyone who’s paying attention to the lady behind the curtain, that’s a surefire sign that Trump knows his campaign is in trouble.

Trump’s financial MO has always been the same. When he has a loser of a project, he finances it by borrowing money from others and declaring bankruptcy when it crashes.

That’s what happened with the Trump Taj Mahal bankruptcy in 1991, when holders of his junk bonds found out just how junky they were.

It happened again when he bought the Plaza Hotel in New York and didn’t make his debt payments.

It happened yet again when Trump bondholders got shafted over the bankruptcy of Trump’s holding company, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts.

Trump Hotels and Resorts got reorganized as Trump Entertainment Resorts and guess what? Right, they went belly up, too. So what's this got to do with the trump Presidential campaign?

Trump originally told us we could trust him because he was financing his own campaign and not relying on the kindness of people who want a favor in exchange. But now Trump wants a favor — campaign funds.

His argument is that he needs $1.5 billion. But we have it from The Donald’s own quacking beak that he’s worth $10 billion, so $1.5 billion in election funds is only a drop in his bloated bucket.

So why is he now asking a $1.5 billion favor from Republicans?

Probably for the same reason he issued junk bonds for his casinos. 

He knows his election campaign is a losing proposition.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Donald, The Hillary and the Dada of American politics

This is either a work of art or
 an American presidential election

And so, it has finally come down to this: 

A century after Dadism gave up on real painting and sculpture (because what was the point now that nearly everyone in the western world had a camera?) Americans have given up on real hope that politics can improve their lives, or right the nation’s wrongs instead of perpetuating and extending them. 

Because what's the point of hoping any more?

The great Dadaist Marcel Duchamp in 1917 signed a urinal with a fake name and declares that it was art because he said it was art. It was, of course, a parody of art.

Ninety-nine years later we have a looming parody of a presidential election.

On one side, there's Donald Trump, who says we’ll make America great again because he says we’ll make America great again, just as Duchamp said it was art because he said it was art. 

And you can bet your bottom dollar (if you still have a dollar by then) that America will be great again primarily, or perhaps only, because the Donald will not only declare its greatness but also have you beaten by goons with rubber hoses if you disagree.

By then we might also be in a nuclear war with oh, say, North Korea. Or China. Or Iran. Or why not Pakistan? The war will be  conducted to demonstrate The Donald’s pride in his own unpredictability. 

Or Trump may have crashed the economy by then. Or he’ll have replaced Obamacare (and perhaps Medicare, too) with nothing, nothing, nothing.

The only thing that's nearly for sure is that we won't have a wall on the Mexican border — unless Trump makes you and me pay for it.

But that will be great, because the Donald will tell you it’s great.

On the other hand we have Hillary, she of the secret speeches to the enemy, whom she now appears to be assiduously courting in the wake of her own perceived inevitability. 

Nevermind that without Bernie’s backers it’s even money whether she'll win the election. It’s more important to her to make nice to a handful of neocons — only a handful of them since the vast majority of the so-called Conservative right would sooner pluck out their own eyeballs and eat them than vote for her.

One must assume that Hillary assumes…that the  young and vital left wing of the Democratic party will get swept up in her wake, like so many putrifrying half eaten hotdogs, and cigarette butts, and chewing gum wrappers sucked into the wake of a departing ferry. 

One must assume she believes that the left fears of a right wing Supreme Court nomination or three will cause a disaffected 45 percent or so of the Democratic party to vote for her regardless of anything else.

Pray that, horrid as Hillary is, she is right. We are already on the verge of a court fiat that will completely legitimize corruption. If we don’t get a Democratic appointee to replace Justice Scalia, and other aging justices as they depart, the next thing we’ll have is a restoration of the divine right of kings, with kingship and other titles and entitlements of medieval nobility bestowed on those who can bid the highest.

Get ready for King Charles and King David (Koch). 

This nation has already demonstrated that deliberate nonsense — nonsense more nonsensical than the Dadist art of the early 20th Century — works as brilliantly in politics as it works on museum walls.

Life in these United States is now a nonsense poem. Sanity and progress are dead. Long live insanity and wet rot! Or to quote a Dartmouth College freshman (not me) named Lawrence L. Kramer more than half a century ago:

Tara and sis boom bah, boys
Go play your fife and drum
The Captain isn’t here, boys
He never said he’d come
He won’t be here tomorrow
He wasn’t here today
So play your fife and drum, boys
And waste your lives away

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Ted & Donald & Bernie & Hillary & Very Cranky Me

Sheer laziness aside, one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging much lately has to do with the recent slew of primaries. There are just too many of them. And there are too many news reports about them. Simply glancing at the news is exhausting.

I prefer the days when  “too many” referred not to primaries, but to the list of Republican presidential wannabes. 

...the biggest boor to run for the White House since America was founded.

And now look what we’re left with. On the Republican side it’s Trump or Cruz. Either should be easy for the Democratic nominee to beat. If not, Hillary’s going to have some explaining to do. I’ll get to her a bit further on, but first this about the leading Republican candidates.

On the one hand, we have the biggest boor to run for the White House since America was founded. Some make comparisons between Trump and Andrew Jackson, also a populist. But that comparison is fallacious. 

Jackson was born poor, not with a silver spoon in his mouth. Unlike Trump, who sat out Vietnam because he managed to find a doctor who found a bone spur somewhere, Jackson was a war hero. And Jackson served in the U.S. Senate while Trump served as Grand High Poobah of the Miss Something-Or-Other beauty contest.

...after three minutes of listening to Cruz I feel the need to take a shower.

On the other Republican hand we have Ted Cruz, who just may be the most oleaginous personality to appear in American politics since most people gave up vying to catch greased pigs. I have no personal experience with the man, but I take the Republican law makers whom he disgusts and repulses at their word.

I don’t know what it is — perhaps it’s  his self-righteous lectures, or his self-satisfied smirk, or his faux choirboy look, or his willingness to smear his opponents and New York with equal impunity, or the disgusting causes he backs — but after three minutes of listening to Cruz I feel the need to take a shower.

Bernie Sanders? I love him. I still support him, at least in spirit. I agree with the New York Times assessment that his candidacy has been a gift to Democrats, forcing us to raise our ambitions for America’s future.

Alas, Bernie is most probably a lost cause. And that brings us to Hillary.

A friend recently described Hillary as “not really a Democrat; she’s a moderate Republican.” She certainly is, or perhaps even a bit to the right of moderate Republicans in the context of the 1950s, when Republican Dwight David Eisenhower ’s campaign platform included this:
We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.
As I keep reminding people, I’m a 1960s middle-of-the-road Democrat whose political opinions have not changed one iota, but who now finds that his centerist 1960 opinions mark him as a flaming left wing radical. 

That said, one thought of what just one arm of government — the Supreme Court — could become if any Republican gains the White House is enough to make me hold my nose and make sure I vote for Hillary in the general elections.

 I ... cringe at the thought that some Republican operative has a copy of one of [Hillary's] speeches and will release it after her nomination is set in stone

But I must admit to a nervous twinge. And that relates to Ms. Clinton’s refusal to release the content of her speeches before the likes of Goldman Sachs. Somewhere in the back of my mind lurks the thought that the speeches do contain something that would incriminate her, not as a felon, but as a willing and perhaps even eager maidservant of Wall Street interests.

And I further cringe at the thought that some Republican operative has a copy of one of those speeches and will release it after her nomination is set in stone — thereby turning vast sectors of the electorate against her and throwing the election back into the arms of the Republican Party.

If she has hidden her speeches because they incriminate her and nullify her connection to the American working folks that she says she wants to represent, she had better beware. Once the content of those speeches get out, there may be mobs with torches and pitchforks at her door in Chappaqua, ready to drive a wooden stake through her heart at a crossroads before she ever gets to Washington. 

And if the content of those speeches are part of the reason she doesn’t get to the White House, I’m coming to Chappaqua with my own torch and pitchfork.