Thursday, March 29, 2018

Is Donald Trump a "dry alcoholic?"

Put simply, a "dry alcoholic" is someone who doesn't drink, but who still acts like a drunk. Remember, Trump had a brother who died of alcoholism. And Trump steadfastly abstains from booze, we're told. 

The symptoms of a dry alcoholic? Well, consider this from the website of a rehab clinic called Northpoint Recovery.

Without these changes, a “white-knuckling” person who is still behaving in dysfunctional ways is jeopardizing their sobriety, and they are little more than a “ticking time bomb.”
  • Grandiosity/Superiority – A dry drunk is self-centered, in much the same way that they were self-centered when they were actively drinking and drug-seeking.
    • A constant need to be the center of attention
    • Acting better or smarter than everyone else around them
    • Playing the “victim”
    • Believing that they are so unique that no one could possibly ever relate to them
  • Impulsivity– Again, in much the same way as during active addiction, the dry drunk is unable to delay gratification. They want what they want when they want it, regardless of the consequences.
  • Judgmental –Believing that they are superior, dry drunks will see everything and everyone around them as polar opposites – “Black or White” or “good or bad”, with emphasis on negativity.
  • Intolerance –Related to superiority, dry drunks refuse to hear opinions or suggestions from anyone else. In their minds, they ALWAYS know best.
  • Isolation –Dry drunks look for and magnify differences between themselves and those around them. This “separation mentality” can leave the individual without a strong support system.
  • Boredom/Dissatisfaction – After the initial “rush” of newly-rediscovered sobriety, a person can get bored when they settle into a routine. When their sober life isn’t instantly perfect, they may even start to wonder why they got sober in the first place.
  • Nostalgia –A dry drunk starts reminiscing – inaccurately – about the “fun” that they used to have – freedom, drinking/drug buddies, lack of responsibilities, etc. 
Mood Swings– As all of these symptoms start to come together, the dry drunk can start to become emotionally listless and aloof – as if nothing matters to them or makes a difference. Alternately, they can overreact and blow up with very little provocation
  • Does that sound like, umm, anybody we know?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Revealed! Donald Trump’s (TOP SECRET!!!) next round of cabinet picks!

Let’s face it. The Trumpster’s cabinet picks don’t last for long. In favor one day, out on the street the next.

Perhaps that’s because that’s because Trump tends to pick people not only for how nutty they seem on Fox News, but also on how much like the Trumpster’s concept of the job they look and sound.

Rex Tillerson, for example, was silver haired, slightly portly, and dignified — but with a face full of sculpted character lines. If Trump had gone to Central Casting, he couldn’t have found a likelier candidate for the wise-but-tough Secretary of State. Whoops! Sorry about that — former secretary of state.

Former Marine General Jim Mattis not only looks the part of Secretary of  Defense, but also, as Trump pointed out when nominating Mattis, he was sometimes called “Mad Dog Mattis.” Hey, isn’t a mad dog exactly what you want to have in your Cabinet Room when you’re trying to scare the your adversaries into submission?

So okay, you get the idea. Crazy is good. Looking the part is even better. Experience and judgement? What the hell are they?

Now for the nominations. And please, no arguments that some of the nominees might be Democrats or Liberals, or even (gasp!) Progressives. Nobody in the cabinet lasts long enough to achieve anything significant anyway. So these folks, like the current and former cabinet officers in the Trump Administration, are just for show. Just like all the others who went before them.

For Secretary of Defense: Sylvester Stallone. Ultimately, current Secretary Mattis’s problem is not that he has a restraining influence on The Trumpster. It’s clear that our enfant terrible of a President cannot be restrained, despite Mattis’s “Mad Dog” monicker. We need a defense secretary who can also look scary. Somebody who looks like he'll put up with no crap. Not to mention, somebody who looks better than Putin with his shirt off. And who better than Sylvester ("Sly") Stallone, or Rambo to you, sucker, with his bandana wrapped around his head, tripod-less machine gun tucked under his pecs, blasting the living, streaming bibimbap out of any fat-bellied dictator who has the temerity to get in Sly's path?

For CIA Director, Glenn Close.  I know, I know, the betting would be on Gina Haspel, already in the CIA, who oversaw illegal black sites and evidently supervised waterboarding and then trashed the horrifying evidence. The problem is, Haspel, law-breaking sadist though she is, sort of looks like your favorite pre-school teacher, Miss Jennifer Bellebloomer, from the Wee Learners Day School. 

If you want someone who, as the Trumpster puts it, would engage in “waterboarding and a helluva lot worse,” you need somebody who looks mean enough to do it, and then to improvise some other tortures — say with burning matches under the fingernails, or electroshocks to the genitals. And who looked meaner than Glenn Close when she played Cruella DeVille in 1001 Dalmatians? I know, I know, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s wife also looks the part. But she’s only a former bit part actress with not nearly the kinds of reviews that Close earns. And that’s putting it mildly. By the way, speaking of Mnuchin, who’s been around too long for comfort…

For Treasury Secretary, Jim Cramer.  First of all, let’s face it, the man rolls up his sleeves. I mean, it's as if he only buys shirts that have the sleeves pre-rolled for him. With those sleeves, he looks like he means business. As if rolled-up sleeves weren’t qualification enough, he also yells, hollers, screams, sometimes even throws things. Better still, his bad investment calls and formidable lack of foresight match or exceed the Trumpster’s. Witness the especially atrocious advice below concerning a now-defunct financial institution. Cramer would definitely contribute to TCC (Trump Cabinet Chaos.)

For Secretary of Education, Carmen Diaz: Betsy DeVos is a nice looking woman…for her age. But that’s just it. Her age. When the Trumpster looks at women, twenty or so years his junior is better. Twenty-five or so years, better yet. And so on and so on, down to his daughters. 

That’s why I nominate Carmen Diaz, who isn’t a teacher but played one in in the movies. This makes her not only just as familiar with how to save our failing schools as Betsy DeVos but also — need I say it? — hot. (Diaz will of course need to sign a confidentiality agreement in advance of her appointment, just in case the Trumpster also has some other ideas.)

For Secretary of State, Jack Nicholson. Nuts to all that “diplomatic restraint” stuff. We need a State Department that can stop thinking in diplomatic cables and start thinking in dirty tricks and bombs. 

Jack Nicholson fits the bill on both counts whether he’s poking his head through the door he’s just smashed with an axe and announcing, “Heeeere’s Johnny!” or playing some diabolically evil trick as The Joker in a Batman movie. Nicholson has proven, time and again, that he can act as crazy as our president already is. So what are you waiting for, Mr. President? Sign him up.

For United States Attorney General, “Judge” Jeanine Pirro.  Ms. Pirro was a county court judge, in a suburban county, for two whole years. Prior to that, she made her anti-crime bones as an assistant DA, by (you can’t make this stuff up) arraigning a deranged woman in a hospital’s intensive care unit. It is not entirely clear to me whether the alleged perp, hooked to pipes, oxygen, and intravenous bottles, was even conscious at the time. 

All of this, and a late husband who was convicted on 34 counts of tax evasion and conspiracy, led to “Judge” Pirro’s true calling as a raving Fox News commentator. With Jefferson Beauregard Whatsisname heading for the wood shed for failing at what our President sees as the AG’s primary duty — to protect the president from getting arrested — Judge Jeanine ought to be a shoo-in, once she signs a confidentiality agreement. 

Bonus point: Sometimes “judge” Pirro looks more orange than His Orangeness. Oh, and look how neatly she tucks just under his chin. They fit together like a pair of orange Legos. What more could you want?

For our next National Security Advisor, John Malkovich. I know, I know, the National Security Advisor advisor is not a
cabinet post. But all you have to do is take one look at that rabbit picture — okay, stuffed toy rabbit picture — and you know Malkovich is Trumps’s kind of guy. I mean, if Malkovich could be that mean to a stuffed rabbit, just imagine what he could to do to the Ayaollah Khamenei. Especially in that sheriff's uniform.

   One day, possibly before he even knows where the nearest men’s room to his White House office is, John Bolton will stroll into a post-lunch Oval Office meeting with either chocolate crumbs stuck in his snowy white mustache or a few yucky drops of spaghetti sauce dripping from it. Trump will take one look, and that’ll be it for Bolton's White House career. Malkovich should start getting his security clearance papers ready now. I rest my case. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Third World USA Follies continued, or, the case of the misdirected cops

                      This is where the USA is headed in the Trump era

My last post dealt with the erosion of competence at the United States Postal Service. But other things are going down the toilet, too.

Even while Donald Trump continues throwing his shoes into the delicate machinery of American democracy, in the course of which he is crashing industrial, commercial, environmental, political, diplomatic, and defense systems that used to work, I’m sad to say that he and his administration don’t have sole claim to incompetence. 

Democrats also drive the government bus head-on into a brick wall from time to time, with lots of sideswipes and near misses along the way.

Consider the City of New York, where less and less public infrastructure seems to be working as it should. 

Our Democratic mayor and our state’s Democratic governor are barely on speaking terms. Or perhaps that’s putting lipstick on their pig of a relationship.The evident loathing each has for the other is helping to bust the whole system.

For example, while subway delays, subway overcrowding during rush hours, and total subway chaos are now routine in the city, the governor and mayor tend to deal with the problem by pointing fingers at each other. (City and state share responsibility for the New York Transit Authority, although more of the responsibility is the state's.)

The grumpy-looking mayor (who one suspects wants to run for President) gripes that the city hasn’t been given enough transit money by the state to help keep the subway operating smoothly. The governor (who one suspects also wants to run for President) grouses that the city hasn’t even spent the money he says he gave it. 

Meanwhile, the governor seems to direct some state monies to flashy new or renovated subway stations, largely for the resultant flashy photo ops. But it’s not the stations that are the big problem. Instead, it’s the overcrowding of an ancient and crumbling subway system, along with rotting switches and Toonerville Trolley subway tracks that seem to be creating most of the delays, along with track fires caused by accumulating garbage, mismanaged budgets, and occasional malicious assistance from Mother Nature. 

So everybody’s late to work, and people try to avoid the subways if possible, resulting in more surface traffic on our gridlocked streets. (The New York subway system now experiences more delays than any other subway system in the world, says the New York Times.) 

Most recently I’ve enjoyed — if I may put an ironic spin on the word “enjoyed” — the first indication that  the city’s emergency services, and especially the public’s means of calling the police, are beginning to slip down the rabbit hole of incompetence, too.

Late this past Saturday night, in a neighborhood in which I don’t live, I decided to use a cash machine so that I’d have taxi fare home and, while I was at it, some walking-around money for the following week. I was at the corner of First Avenue and East 15th Street in Manhattan, and lo, there was a branch of the Chase bank with its vestibule full of cash machines. I reached for my wallet, removed my bank card, and with a female companion in tow, marched toward the bank.

I was about to use my card to open the vestibule door, when the presumably always-locked door swung open without my card. No, it wasn’t another bank customer leaving the bank. It was a man who had posted himself just inside the door, opening it for me.

It pretty quickly became evident he was a homeless person, panhandling for tips. (The smallest bills that the cash machines dispense are $20.) There were several other people at the cash machines, so my companion and I took a chance at coming in. There’s safety in numbers, and all that. But by the time I had my cash, the other customers were gone.

We headed toward the door. The man held his baseball cap out, between us and the door waiting for a handout. We tried to squeeze past him. He didn’t actually attack or speak to us, but he was clearly blocking our way, forcing us to maneuver uncomfortably to get out of the bank.

When we finally got out the door, my slightly panicked companion insisted that we cross First Avenue immediately to get away from the bank. While I normally don’t bother if a homeless person is sleeping in a bank vestibule on a chilly evening, (and I’ve seen that occur several times) this kind of aggressive panhandling was a bit over the top, even for New York. I felt I ought to report the panhandler’s presence, so that the city’s cops could get him to move on.

The city has two numbers you can call if you’re in need of assistance. One is standard 911. But citizens have been advised not to call 911 unless it’s a real emergency, since other calls tie up 911 phone lines, and that could cost lives. A somewhat menacing panhandler harassing customers in a bank didn’t rise to a level of a murder in progress or a building burning down. So I called the city’s other number for people who need help, 311.

I had to sit through an annoying recorded lecture on alternate side street parking before I got to a live human being. I explained the problem.

“Oh, you should call 911 for that,” he said, “I’ll connect you.”

Before I could say, "But...." he switched me over. A 911 dispatcher picked up.

“911,” she said, “what’s your emergency?”

Instantly, I felt guilty. But I knew better than to say, “Well, it’s not really an emergency but…” So instead I said, “There’s an aggressive panhandler in the lobby of a Chase bank on the corner of First Avenue and East 15th Street.”

I was asked for my telephone number and a couple of other questions, and then the dispatcher said something to the effect of “We’ll take care of it.” So my companion and I continued on our way.

Roughly 15 minutes later, my cell phone began ringing. By now we were quite a few blocks  from the bank. I answered. It was 911 calling me back. I think it was the same woman. She asked:

“Exactly which subway entrance did you say the man was standing in? The police are in the subway now and can’t find him.”

Aiyee! It was a bank, I told her. A bank. A bank! Not the subway. A bank. The panhandler is in the lobby of the Chase bank on First Avenue and Fifteenth Street. “I never said anything about the subway.” 

And she said something like, “Oh, okay.” And that she would inform the police on the scene, who had been looking  for a panhandler in the nearby subway, presumably because I said he was in the bank, and you know..civilians! They wouldn't know a bank door from a flight of subway steps

What are they smoking at 911? Why is it that even when you call a cop, you could be killed before he gets the word to help? 

Do you have to ask?

“That’s okay,” the dispatcher said reassuringly. “You don’t have to stay until the cops get there.”

Y’know what? Wait until somebody calls in a raging fire and gets asked, “Do you have a pot of water, or do we have to bring our own?”  

I’m afraid that day is coming. Because the USA is a Third World country now. And yes, that gurgling sound you hear is our nation going down the toilet.

And an extremely cranky P.S. A few hours after this was posted, the New York Times came out confirming the story that actress Cynthia Nixon plans to run against Cumo in the coming Democratic primary for governor. Great. Just what we need. Another amateur stirring the pot. Forget whether she can win. Where the hell does she come off thinking that with zero experience in governing, she can handle the complexities of New York State government? Yikes! A female Donald Trump. Then I read the rest of the article. It's pretty clear that she's in cahoots with Mayor DeBlasio. As "archy," the reincarnated free verse poet said to "mehitabel," the slutty alleycat in a newspaper column written in the 1920s by the late Don Marquis, "both our businesses are being ruined by amateurs."

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Report on the postal system in a Third World country: The United States of America

We don't need no stinkin' post office. We can
dance our messages. (Art cribbed from the
Bodlian Library.)

An aunt of mine died a few years ago at the age of 92. During World War II she had been on, or close to, the front lines with the Red Cross, which followed the 88th Infantry Division as it battled its way up Italy's Po River. She sent many letters home vividly describing the war, and the people she met who fought it. I worried that the letters had been lost when my parents died.

But no. My brother came across the old letters and saved them when he cleared out out my late mother’s apartment. He lives on the West Coast now. I live in New York. Recently, he photocopied all the letters, a big stack of them, and sent them to me via Priority Mail.

That was almost two weeks ago. I still haven’t received them.

The long, slow, painful trek
via USPS "Priority Mail"

With "Priority Mail" shipping is promised in what the USPS website says will be “1, 2, or 3 business days based on where your package starts and where it’s being sent.” You’d think a package promised within three days would have gotten from California to New York within, say, oh, five or six days. Maybe even seven days. No such luck. I finally checked with my brother, who checked with USPS priority mail tracking. And yup, there was a problem.

The package evidently had gotten all the way to New York. However, my sibling had inadvertently reversed a couple of number in the zip code. You might guess that somebody in the New York Post Office would have a precise idea — okay, even a rough general idea —  where East 36th Street, New York, NY is, and tossed the envelope into the right basket.  But no, they sent it all the way  back to my brother in California to be correctly zip-coded.

This he did, when the package finally got all the way back to California. He even got on the phone with me to double-check, line by line, character by character, my street address, apartment number, and zip code. Then he priority mailed it to me again.

And still lost

Two days went by. I went down to the lobby and checked with my building's concierge to see if the package had arrived. It hadn’t. I checked my mail box to make certain the package with those precious documents hadn’t been scrunched into my mail box instead. It hadn’t.

I went back upstairs and called my brother, who checked with USPS tracking.

“It says they delivered it to the front desk at 10:30 a.m., today” he told me.

“The front desk of what?” I asked.

“I don’t know, all they say is 'the front desk,'” he told me.

So I went downstairs and checked again with the concierge .

“They don’t deliver to me directly,” said the concierge. "They drop off a few baskets of mail in the mail room at 10:30 in the morning. Then, around 6 in the evening, a post office delivery person comes back and sorts it into the mail boxes. If it doesn’t fit in your mail box, they’ll give it to me. I should have it by seven or eight p.m., if it’s actually here."

So maybe I'll get it this evening, before I go to bed. Or maybe not. But I can’t leave things at that. I have to tell you a story — it goes back over 59 years — about something that happened to me when Donald Trump was still a snot nosed brat in a military prep school, and America was still a First-World nation.

The true tale of the 
un-discardable notebook

In my third year of college, I studied abroad. During Christmas week I found myself in Paris, in a small, cheap, second-rate hotel across the street from the Sorbonne on Rue Victor Cousin. (The hotel is still there, by the way — still cheap, and still just as second-rate.) At any rate I had a few minutes of conversation with the woman who served as combination proprietor, concierge, desk clerk and maid of the hotel, during which she asked me what university I went to.

I said it was Antioch College. This took some more explaining, since in France, a “collège” is the equivalent of an American middle school, and my conversational French was not quite comme il faut. But I think she finally understood what Antioch College is.

A few days later it was very cold and raining hard, so I spent an afternoon indoors, killing time by trying to write dirty limericks in a notebook. Hey, I was only nineteen.

The following day I packed up to return to the University of Leeds in England. I didn’t want to take the notebook with me. What if some customs inspector found it in my baggage and read it? So I tossed my filthy limericks into the hotel room’s wastebasket, and then headed by rail to the English Channel ferryboat.

Evidently, after I checked out, the proprietor must have gone to clean the room and possibly even change the sheets and the one pathetic towel. She must have seen the notebook in the wastebasket and figured it might be something important that I needed for my studies. She couldn't read English. Perhaps she thought the hermit named Dave was some important literary figure.

So she put the notebook in a manilla envelope. She addressed the envelope as best she knew how: My name. And then, “Collège d’Antioch, USA.” Then she dropped it in a French mail box. Without a stamp.

"Neither rain, nor snow, nor lack
of a proper address or postage..."

Five days later, the package had wended its way from Paris, to some post office depot in the United States, to a postal clerk who took the trouble to figure out what “Collège d’Antioch” was, and to look up its address (1 Arthur Morgan Place, Yellow Springs, Ohio, 45387) and send it speeding on its way, postage due. The Yellow Springs Post Office next got the package and delivered it to the college mail room.

Then somebody in the Antioch College mail room paid the postage due and sent the package along to some college administrator, who looked me up and figured out I was in Europe, and who then — presumably because the envelope might contain something urgent — opened the package and found my notebook full of filthy, and not-necessarily-well-rhymed-or-well-scanned limericks. 

The administrator must have gotten quite a chuckle out of my failed attempts as a porno poet, because the notebook evidently made the rounds of the administration building, finally landing on the desk of the college public relations director. Her name was Marge Fried. She was a late-middle-aged former reporter for the Dayton, Ohio Daily News. She wrote a press release about the travels of my notebook, and sent it out to the newspapers.

Well, to be fair, Marge cleaned up my act a little bit. She wrote that I was studying with Antioch’s Education Abroad program, and rattled on a bit about what a great program it was. She then went on to explain that while I was in Paris, I filled a notebook with poems — because after all, it was Paris — about “l’amour.” Never mind sex and hermits named Dave. Just "L'amour."And then how the package found its way from a hotel waste basket to a college administration building in Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387, thanks to the intrepid detective and delivery work of two great national postal systems.

All this happened in less than a week! Before "Priority Mail" was even a thing.

The pain of embarrassment

The whole story embarrassed the hell out of me then, and still does today. I merely bring it up to illustrate the difference between what First World nations like France and the United States could do rather matter-of-factly when the USA was still a First World nation, and how badly things work today now that Donald Trump has turned us into a “shithole country” — a country in which a “Priority Mail” package for which you pay extra takes forever to get delivered, if it ever gets delivered at all.

There once was a cranky old bum
Who sent messages by jungle drum
Saying, “What use is mail
When deliveries fail
And ‘priority’ means it won’t come?”