Monday, May 27, 2019

The bad news for us is, humanity is doomed. The good news for planet Earth is, humanity is doomed.

Do you like cockroaches? In the future they may like you — in a salad.
Let’s face it, humanity is a pest species. 

Directly or indirectly, we destroy forests. We wreck and pillage the natural habitats of other animals and plants for what we perceive as our own benefit. We foul and clog rivers and streams. We pollute oceans. We poison the air. We gas the skies. We chop down mountains, to get the coal inside of them, to burn and add to both air and water pollution. We endanger other species. 

Wherever we go, anywhere on the planet, our modus operandi, intentionally or otherwise, is to upset nature’s setup.

Do other species find us disgusting?
You could probably make book on it.

In all probability other animals, with the possible exception of dogs and cats (and I’m not all that sure about cats) find us repulsive and loathsome. Yes, we leave behind a lot of rotting trash which is a useful source of food to rodents, raccoons, ants, maggots, and cockroaches. But to the millions of other life forms on the planet — or what is left of them — we are the equivalent of what those same cockroaches mean to us. Moreover, the vermin could, if need be, get along without us.

Fortunately for Planet Earth, Mother Nature has a nasty trick or two up her own sleeve to keep the damage we’re doing under control. 

When the dinosaurs became too plentiful, too massive, and too voracious for the planet, she whacked Earth with a giant meteorite that changed the weather and killed off the dinosaurs. In time the planet healed. It gave up on most lizards, leaving behind only enough snakes, crocodiles and other reptiles to limit the growth of some other varieties of living protein. 

Meanwhile, instead of dinosaurs, she gave monkeys a shot at being the dominant species, which with a few eons of evolution is how we came to be in charge of screwing things up.

Now most scientists are telling us that humanity has a dozen years, and maybe less, to fix the mess we’ve made, or most of us are goners.  Deserts and oceans will expand. Arable land will contract. Glaciers and polar ice caps will vanish. Vast populations of the ocean-going species we devour will become extinct, along with the coral reefs that nurture them. And the air will be rich with an aromatic blend of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane-rich cow farts.

Who will you be killed by
when the global famine arrives?

You know perfectly well where all that leads. It leads to famine. It leads to war. It leads to desperate people raiding each others’ nations for food. Which will lead to nuclear strikes. Which will lead to retaliation. Which will lead, inexorably, to the obliteration, or near-obliteration, of homo sapiens — along with a huge bunch of innocent bystander species.

In fact, self-extinction as a cure for over proliferation of humanity seems welded into our DNA. How else to explain Donald Trump and other nationalists around the world working so hard to dissolve the bonds of cooperation that could save us from our own offal — bonds ranging from the UN, to the Iranian nuclear treaty, to such basic stuff as civil discourse and human decency? 

It’s the baked-in drive to self-annihilate. Nursing mice, when disturbed, eat their own offspring. It’s in their genes. Humanity eventually kills itself off via war, or self-suffocation, or self-poisoning. It’s in our DNA. 

Nature gives lemmings a suicidal urge. It gives moths a deep yearning  for self-immolation on light bulbs. It gives rodents and guppies the notion that all will be well for a while if only they eat their own offspring. And it gives us the immutable urge or incompetence to hand control of the planet over to the likes of Donald Trump. Or to that thug of a prince in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, who Trump so adores. Or to Kim Jong Whatzisface. Or insert your own favorite political thug’s name here. Or his hive of enabling lackeys.

Humanity is dead!
Long live the bugs!

And what will take our place after humanity cooks its own goose? I can’t know for sure, of course, but if I were a betting man I’d put my money on the cockroaches. They can live almost anywhere. They can dine on almost anything. They are tolerant of heat, a useful trait in a warming planet. Some of them can swim. Others can fly. And while they’re doing fine just as is, my bet is that, over time, unhindered by hordes of humanity who now keep trying to poison them, they’ll flourish and develop bigger brains.

Write this down and preserve it for any of your progeny — although they will be the rare exceptions — who survive humanity’s near total disappearance: 

In time, ten-foot-tall cockroaches with IQs in excess of 250 will breed and herd human beings for food. In fact, that may be the only way our species will be able to continue, from the few of us left after the one-two punch of self-imposed nuclear and climate holocausts.

The gourmet cockroach

Some of us will of course try to hide under rocks, on in the empty spaces inside cockroach computer keyboards. But they will get us anyway, and trap us, and mate us. And when we are old enough and big enough, they will pick us up, masticate us and mix us with their saliva between their evolved mandibles, and swallow us alive and writhing. 

Perhaps there will even be cockroach gourmets, and cockroach master chefs who will figure out appetizing (for a cockroach) ways to prepare us and serve us. Like semi-dismembered human, writhing on a fine coulis of sun-warmed vulture turds.

Thank you, Mr. Trump, arrogant humans, and climate deniers everywhere. And bon apétit!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Gimicky back stories, a mean military school, the secret of Donald Trump’s character, and the stripper who blew a bugle

The Crank’s brother attended  the same military school as Donald Trump. 
When my brother tried to quit, the school made him an 11-years-old corporal, in an
attempt to change his mind and keep collecting his tuition money. They failed.
But first things first. Back in 1960, as a young reporter for a New York tabloid, I was sent off to interview Faith Dane, the stripper who created her own featured role in a hit Broadway show. 

Seems some producers were casting for strippers for a new Broadway production called Gypsy. (Yes, that Gypsy.) Dane showed up at an audition and took her clothes off while blowing a bugle. The show’s producers and director cracked up and created a whole show number around her act. It included a specially-written song, "You gotta have a gimmick, if you want to get ahead."

Metternick, von Clausewitz
and the stripping bugler’s father 

It also turned out when I interviewed her that Dane’s father was the strict little martinet who taught my European history class at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn. I remember to this day sitting in terror in his classroom while he barked eminently barkable names like Metternich and Von Clausewitz. I took to wondering if somehow his rigid humorlessness produced the rebellious spirit that led to his daughter becoming a bugling stripper. Accordingly, I wrote a ruminative feature story about it. 

To say that my city editor wasn’t interested is a gargantuan understatement. The story ended up, quite literally, on a brass spike on his desk, a mere six seconds after he began reading it.

If you’ve got five and a half minutes to spare, I commend the following video from the film version of Gypsy for your delectation. But then, pick up the story after the show.

The New Yorker magazine online recently published  an article on presidential candidates, each putting out some kind of back story in the effort to become a frontrunner. Essentially, in Presidential politics, as in stripping, you gotta have a gimmick. Here’s just a sample of the kind of self-revelatory gimmickry you have to tell on yourself to be a front-running Democratic candidate for President these days:

Back stories for 
future presidents
…When Julián Castro was in seventh grade, in San Antonio, he poured Elmer’s glue into a school aquarium to see what would happen to the fish, and his mother—a Chicano activist who once ran for city council—set him straight about the consequences of cruelty. Cory Booker’s parents fought against housing discrimination, braving the bared teeth of a real-estate agent’s Doberman pinscher, and when they moved with Cory and his little brother into an all-white neighborhood in New Jersey his father said that the Bookers were “four raisins in a tub of sweet vanilla ice cream.” Kids in Scranton, Pennsylvania, mocked Joe Biden because of his stutter; so did his seventh-grade teacher. “Mr. Bu-bu-bu-bu-Biden,” the nun taunted…
All this led me to wonder about Donald Trump’s back story. No, I’m not talking about The Art of Hiring a Ghost Writer. I mean the real Donald Trump.
As a boy, Trump attended New York Military Academy, same as my brother. At the time, that institution served primarily as three things:  1) a dumping ground for orphans who had both trust funds and distant uncles who didn’t care to see them much. 2) The sons and nephews of Latin American dictators and junta members who were training to go back home and continue the ancient and time-honored practice of making enemies disappear, sometimes from airplanes flying over the ocean And 3) as a reform school for rich American juvenile delinquents, so that they wouldn't have to end up in real reform schools. 
School for scandalous bullies
By chance, the Crank’s younger brother, who was none of those things, attended that same military academy for two years as a ten- and eleven-year-old, after our father played what might be described as an elaborate and expensive sadistic joke. (It’s a long story.)
Within days, the Crank’s little brother was calling home in tears. He was subject to daily bullying delivered by adolescent Torquemadas with higher rank. It was Lord of the Flies with adult encouragement. For example?
So-called “Upperclassmen,” themselves no older than fifteen or sixteen ,would walk past the refectory table where my little brother sat at rigid attention eating breakfast each morning, grab the pancake off his plate, and stuff it into his glass of milk. (“Hurry up and eat your breakfast,” they’d tell him.) They would force him to scrub latrines with his tooth brush. He was ten years old at the time and there was no appeal. 
There's nothing like beating up 
scared little kids
How The Donald must have thrived in this savage environment! Imagine being able to brutally push little kids around. And imagine being a terrified little kid, too afraid to speak a word of complaint.
Is it any wonder that these days Trump puts little kids in cages? Or gets upset when somebody in Congress calls him out, even though Trump ranks higher? 
When my little brother finally persuaded my father to let him come home and go back to public school, New York Military Academy balked. He was worth six more years of tuition to them. In attempt to change my brother’s and our parents’ minds, they promoted my brother to Corporal and gave him a great big certificate.
Today it hangs over his toilet, where it has been displayed with thinly-disguised contempt for military school culture for more than a half century.
And we have a bullying juvenile delinquent in the White House.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Is the dog starting to wag?

Prediction: Donald Trump will get us into a new shooting war.

If the hounds of justice in Congress, the Senate,  the New York Attorney General's office, and others get any closer to Donald Trump's many possible transgressions — or if, as is possible, Trump's tariff war with China plunges us into a recession and stock market crash — I predict he will try to throw everybody off the track by starting a shooting war somewhere in the world.

He will claim that the country must unite behind him because America is "under attack." Those who join him will be declared patriots. The rest will be called traitors. There are already signs that he's looking for a fight in Iran with which to wag the dog.

If he does this, tens of thousands of people will die, including thousands of Americans, so that Trump can have his distraction. (Another possibility for a create-your-own-war is North Korea. As is Venezuela.) If we get two wars at once, say Iran and Korea, don't be surprised if Trump reinstates the draft.

This is one of the shortest pieces I've ever posted here.

It's also the scariest.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

If the Trump economy is doing so great, how come you feel so poor?

This is how too many Americans fear they may end up.
(Photo by The New York Crank)
Ask Donald Trump how America is doing and he’ll break his own arm patting himself on the back.

“We’ve probably had the great first two years of any President in our history in terms of what we’ve accomplished with employment, with GDP, with every thing,” he said back in February.

In short, according to President Trump, you’re in great shape. You’re in fabulous shape. You’re in the best shape in history. You're wallowing in riches. You’ve never had it so good, and neither did your father and mother, or your grandfather and grandmother. 

Which raises a few  questions.

If the economy is doing so great, how come your kid has to go deep into debt to get a college education? This is a situation that didn't exist during most of the 20th Century.

If the economy is doing so great, how come so many people are cutting their pills in half, or even skipping doses, in order to be able to pay for some of their medications?

If the economy is doing so great, how come the Republican party is talking about a nine year plan to balance the budget — by  cutting your Medicare and Medicaid? And don’t be surprised if Social Security is next. That nine year plan ought to do wonders for the sale of cat food, to hungry senior citizens who don't own cats.

If the economy is doing so great, how come so many public schools are so lousy, and so bereft of Federal aid that underpaid teachers have to use their own hard-earned money to buy school supplies for their classes?

If the economy is doing so great, how come the so-called Trump tax cut had to eliminate your100 percent deduction on state and local property taxes and income taxes — a double whammy that took money out of one of your pockets, even as it pretended to put money in the other?

If the economy’s doing so great, how come our roads are pitted and potholed, our bridges creaky and rusting, our infant mortality rate higher than those of Canada, of Switzerland, of the UK, of the Netherlands, of France, of Australia, of Belgium, of Germany, of Sweden, of Japan?

Yes, we have full employment. But instead of the $40 and $60-per-hour jobs of yesteryear, millions of Americans instead are working at McJobs — minimum wage jobs, or slightly above. Many work two or even three jobs just to make ends meet. Even the so-called elite white collar folks are working longer hours than ever, harder than ever, for the privilege of paying more rent than ever or paying higher prices than ever for their homes. 

All Americans should be making the money they need to work decent hours at just one job, and to buy a home, put their kids through school, take a nice vacation every year, and go to sleep at night knowing that there’s money to pay the doctor and the hospital if they’re sick, and to retire in reasonable comfort in their old age. That's the way it used to be in the 1950s, the 1960s, even the 1970s. That's most definitely not the way it is in Donald Trump's America, where four out of ten Americans don't even have enough saved to cover a $400 emergency.

Donald Trump has made big, loud promises about making America great again. It hasn’t happened and it will never happen under his corrupt administration. He talks a good line. But the only people for whom America is really growing greater are the Trumps and their friends.

However, to concede a point, Donald Trump has achieved a kind of greatness.

He is turning out to be the greatest con man who ever lived.