Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In a moment of enlightenment, Donald Trump’s IQ catches up to a 1992 Barbie doll

Back in 1992 Mattel put out a Barbie Doll  called Teen Talk Barbie. Pull the string in her back and Barbie would utter any of 270 phrases. Most of them were fairly innocuous, such as “I’ll always be here to help you,” and “Do you have a crush on anyone?”

But one line rightfully sent The American Association of University Women and feminists everywhere into paroxysms of outrage. Frequently misquoted these days as “Math is hard,” what Barbie actually said was, “Math class is tough.” The misquote doesn’t matter. It’s the stereotype behind the statement that created the brouhaha.

Women were fighting the image of the shallow, airhead role model who was befuddled trying to work out a solution to two plus two. So righteous was the feminist fury at Mattel for reinforcing this stereotype, that someone in Mattel’s corporate suite in El Segundo, California, flinched. 

No, Mattel didn’t order a recall — perhaps because that would have only made more women aware of the problem — but they offered to swap the loose-lipped Barbie for one who had her microchip partially clipped. It would only speak 269 phrases instead of 270. The one that Mattel aborted was, “Math class is tough.”

Jill Barad, the president of Mattel, fessed up that — shall we call her Math-Challenged Barbie? — was a great big blooper. “We didn’t fully consider the potentially negative implications of this phrase…” Barad wrote to the President of the AAUW.

A quarter of a century later, Donald Trump has caught up to Mattel’s mistake.

His Orangeness declared this week that “nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” 

That was the best confession of air-headedness since “Math class is tough.”

“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” he said of health insurance.

Well shucks Donald, anyone who had anything to do with passing the Affordable Care Act could have told you that way before the election. All you had to be able to do is read  a newspaper. How could you not know unless you’re continuously drugged and unconscious? Or functionally illiterate.

Perhaps Steve Bannon could do a recall and clip your, uh, whatever. That way, when he pulls the string in your back, you won’t sound like the failed airhead version of a 1992 doll.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Donald Trump got your goat? Keep calm and ridicule on.

Sometimes the best defense against the menace of Donald Trump is not protest, but ridicule. At least that seems to be what thousands have decided in western Europe.

While we Americans, with the exception of most of the late night comedians, fume and rage at this blithering idiot, Europe seems to have developed a sense of humor about it all.

Take the case of the “attack” — an attack that in fact never happened — by “terrorist” immigrants who didn’t exist, in Sweden.

Said Trump recently, “You look what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden! They took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

This left the Swedes scratching their heads. Nothing had happened in Sweden on the night Trump referred to. How Donald Trump turned on his TV to Fox and Friends and arrived at this conclusion is a job for the men with the white coats when he finally arrives in a straight jacket at the National Home for Daft and Bewildered Ex-Presidents.  I won’t go into that just now.  

But what is interesting is, how after a few moments of bewilderment in Sweden,  Northern Europe reacted to this nonsense. One word describes it. Ridicule. And it wasn’t just limited to the Swedes.

In neighboring Denmark, the Danes jammed their tongues firmly into their cheeks and organized an event called, “Pray for Sweden.” 

The Danes announced on Facebook:
“After the terrible attack on Sweden, to which attention was correctly drawn by President Trump, the Nordic countries now stand together.” “We invite all citizens to walk past the Swedish Embassy on Friday 17.00, in honour of our Swedish brothers and sisters.” 
The announcement was viewed by more than 250,000 people and 3,000 of them expressed an interest in coming. They were encouraged to bring fake flowers and then post about it afterwards on social media, thus spreading the ridicule of Trump.

The ridicule quickly spread to Germany where The Postillon, the German equivalent of The Onion, published a report about Ikea, the Scandinavian furniture manufacturer. Donald, if you’re reading this (fat chance!) pay attention. Here’s a way to wall out Mexico economically: 

The Scandinavian furniture maker has offered the USA a practical, ready-made solution with “Börder Wåll”. All they need to do is pick it up in a van from the nearest IKEA branch and put it up where they want it to go. 
Totalling US $9,999,999,999.99, “Börder Wåll” is significantly cheaper than a conventional wall. Estimates suggest that a conventional wall would cost between US $15 and $25 billion. 
However, assembly requires two people: one person can hold the wall while the second screws it together”, it states in IKEA’s offer. 
The basic model of the wall is 33ft (10 m) tall and 1,954 miles (3,144 km) long, although the height and length can be extended as desired.  
IKEA has already announced that it will design other products in the next few weeks that will be compatible with “Börder Wåll”.  
According to inside sources, this includes products such as the “Gåwk” watchtower and the “Råtåtåtåtåtå” spring-gun.
Not quite willing to let it go with that The Postillon also has run a headlined story that “Trump wants to deport American Indians to India.” And somebody caught The Donald’s ignorant voice perfectly with this tweet:

You gotta love Northern Europe for bringing Trump down by laughing him up. Alas, if Trump goes on as he has for too much longer, he will also makes the United States the laughing stock of the planet.

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.
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
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.