Monday, October 28, 2019

Sperm bikes. Un-sexy Millennials. The Circleville Pumpkin Show. Plus other stuff the cat dragged in.

This is either a weird solution for low sperm motility or a really
stupid bicycle. I have nothing more to say about this.

Is it possible that Republicans have ruined everybody’s sex life? Or at least the sex life of millennials? Turns out that America is suffering from a sexual recession.  Millennials, who by virtue of their age ought to be the most randy among us, just don’t feel like it tonight, honey. And if you trace the problem to its root cause, it’s economic insecurity, brought about by numerous factors.

These might include the mortgage meltdown of 2009, which was the offspring of Republican-cheered deregulation. Or it might be because of student loans that will never get paid off, and that Republicans oppose letting the government pay off because, you know, socialism. Or, who knows, maybe, the story continues, it’s social media.

In any case, a lower birth rate portends bad news for businesses ranging from the real estate business, to the clothing business, to the condom business. But understanding that would force Republicans, who support Donald Trump, to equate two conceptually different things — sex and the impact of its absence on the economy. So forget about it.

And speaking of birth rates….

Murdered by Mickey Mouse
Lemmings, say it ain’t so! I grew up believing that lemmings committed mass suicide, as part of that species’ compulsion to prevent overpopulation. Somebody just had to go and ruin that for me. Worse, it turns out that the image we all have of lemmings jumping by the thousands off a cliff into the ocean is a Disney concoction. The little rodents suffered a horrible death for the sake of a movie, but hey, that’s show biz. I’ve never seen the movie, which dates back to the 1950s, but I’m pretty sure that it didn’t contain a disclaimer saying, “No rodents were harmed during the making of this film.” 

My Cranky Vlad the Impaler Award, given at irregular intervals, starting now, to the person who makes the most money doing the most damage goes to…Adam Neumann, who tanked his company, WeWork, and got paid $1.7 billion — that’s billion — dollars for the effort. Why could I never get fired like that?

When I became too old to be employable (in the ad biz, that's 50-something) I rented a cubicle for my one-person free lance writing operation in New York’s garment district. My rent included the cubicle space, occasional use of a conference room, a phone number, a lockable file cabinet, a receptionist, a business mailing address, and a high speed Internet connection for $350 a month. When they raised my rent, without warning, to $475, I went snooping around for new space and stumbled into a WeWork suite. But I stumbled out of it again very quickly.

At the time, if I remember correctly, WeWork accommodations started at $500. For that you got no phone (“Just use your cell phone, Crank”) no file cabinet ("Paper is so yesterday") not even a cubicle. Instead, for five hundred bucks every month, you could sit at a kind of refectory table where other renters of table space could look over your shoulder, watch what you were typing on your laptop, overhear your cell phone conversations, and create all manner of distractions. 

“There’s no privacy here,” I complained.

“But it’s so collaborative!” the manager parried. “You don’t want to be a lone wolf, do you?”

Yes I do.  I’m a free lance writer. Like the guys on Wall Street, I only get to eat what I kill, and have no intention of sharing it with a pack of strange predators who might have an unnatural thirst either for plagiarism or client poaching.

Meanwhile Adam Neumann reportedly also hopes to live “forever” and to become the world’s first trillionaire. Because what’s the point of having more money than you can ever spend, if somebody else has even more than that?

Pumpkins, pumpkins, Tumpkins, Trumpkins! For the 62nd consecutive year I missed the Circleville (Ohio) Pumpkin Show, which I visited only one time in my life, when I was a college student, back in 1957. Once again this year, there were two beauty contests. One was for high school students, with the winner getting declared Miss Pumpkin Show. The other was for, I suspect, kindergarteners, vying for the title of Little Miss Pumpkin. (It gives me the chills to think that Little Miss Pumpkin of 1957 is likely somebody’s grandmother today. ) 
This year's winning 1,421-lb. pumpkin

Every year there’s also a prize for the biggest pumpkin, which this year weighed in at 1,421 pounds. Do you think Donald Trump could be entered as a pumpkin next year? His skin tone is more orange than this year’s winner. And I suspect he already weighs enough.

Elizabeth, Bernie, even more lemmings. As of when I’m writing this (Monday night) Elizabeth Warren has still not released her promised Medicare for All Plan. Hey, I am, or was, a Warren booster. I even sent her a campaign contribution. But having a plan for everything, and then not releasing a plan for Medicare, is more suicidal than a Disney portrayal of a legendary lemming population control campaign. 

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders has released a legalize marijuana plan. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s crazy to imprison people for 30 years, or even 30 days, for smoking, or maybe even for selling a little boo. On the other hand, Bernie may be handing the right-wing crazies even more ammo to discourage conservative-but-wavering swing voters. 

It’s one thing to say, “My plan will help to keep you healthy.” It’s another to run for president singing One Toke Over The Line. 

Pumpkin-cannabis pie, anyone?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Winners of the October 2019 Crank Awards: given on highly sporadic occasions, during perilous times, to people who do or say something that’s either good, or bad, for whatever messes we’re all in at the moment

Best retro photograph of some advertising  guys pretending to rob a
Seattle bank (circa 1966)

Best putdown of Rudolph Giuliani by a newspaper columnist goes to Carl Hiaasen of the Miami Herald for this: “By his own actions, Giuliani has made himself the most visible stooge in the Donald Trump impeachment comedy. Rudy’s worse than a loose cannon. He’s a meandering cluster bomb.”

The Sneaky-Creepy Political Thuggery Award given only to the incredibly rich guy who most ham-handedly tries to interfere in an election: This time it goes to Mark Zuckerberg. The Zuck evidently managed to get his lips close enough to Pete Buttigieg’s ear, via an intermediary, to whisper sweet nothings about potential campaign hires. This act helped insert into the Buttigieg power structure two people likely to help prevent any harm to the Facebook Misinformation Empire, should Buttigieg somehow manage to become president.

The Cheap Piker Guhzillionaire Award. I almost surprised myself by not giving it to Donald Trump, despite his now-abandoned attempt to locate the G7 conference at one of his own failing resorts “at cost.” "At cost" means whatever you want it to mean. In a failing resort, it means, at the very least, some cash flow instead of no cash flow. The offer later got revised to “free” after it became clear to Trump he couldn’t get away with it. I'm guessing Trump figured that if he couldn't win the game he'd at least inflate the lie.
     However, after lengthy and agonized consideration, the Cheap Piker Guhzillionaire Award Committee, which consists of myself, has given the prize to Jeff Bezos. Bezos gets the award for offering Amazon users a $10 coupon to allow him to track those customers all around the web and sell the information for millions to the likes of McDonald’s GM, Danone, and Staples. And if you'll sell your tracking rights to Bezos for a $10 coupon, I'll give you three bucks for your house.

The WTF?! Award to Hillary Clinton, for claiming to be outing Tulsi Gabbard as a “Russian Asset.” Gimme a break! What Gabbard is, quite clearly, is a second-string presidential wannabe, who served honorably in the military but who had zero chance of winning the nomination. She still has no chance, but thanks to Hillary, she now might prove to be the kind of wedge issue that will help to divide Democrats and grease the skids for a second Trump term. And Hillary herself isn’t quite denying that she might — well, maybe, sorta, perhaps — throw her own hat back into the ring. Because she hasn’t done enough damage to the Democratic party. Yet.

The award for best and most grisly human self-immolation in front of the press and news cameras so far this year:

That’s all for today, folks. Come back for more in the near future — assuming there is a near future.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

News about dogs, Donald Trump, more dogs, and some other stuff

Dogs: So there was this guy in Oregon, Jeremy Taylor, and his dog Ally  a few Sundays ago. Alas, his SUV gets stuck in the snow on a woodsy road somewhere in the vicinity of Wake Butte, wherever the hell that is. 

He stays stuck there for five days.

Finally along comes a snowmobiler who saves poor Taylor, who’d been living on five — count ‘em five — packages of taco sauce.

I’ve got a good mind to fire my source, Time Magazine, for doing a fifth-rate job of reporting. Among the questions that, back in the day, any city editor worth his salt would have told a young reporter to "go the hell back there and ask" are:
  • Did he share the taco sauce with Ally the dog?
  • If not, did the dog eat any thing out there in the woods? Maybe he caught a squirrel or something?
  • What kind of a dog is Ally? Big? Little? Poodle? Retriever? Another damn Labradoodle or Cockerpoo? There's a picture in the Time web story that shows a dog from the rear that might (or might not) be a collie. Is that Ally?
  • Wasn’t Jeremy carrying a cell phone?
  • What's with his SUV? Don't most of those things have four-wheel drive that's supposed to drive you out of snowbanks? If so, how come it was stuck?
  • If Jeremy had all those packets of taco sauce in his car, what happened to the tacos? Or did he live on the tacos and forget to talk about that because he’d sound less heroic? 
I can keep going, but why bother?

Donald Trump: Remember the mortgage meltdown of 2009? Remember when the Senate and House slapped regulations on the banking industry so it wouldn’t happen again? Remember when Donald Trump's administration relaxed the banking regulations because, umm, Barak Obama?

Well, here we go again.

Reuters is now reporting that the trading of U.S. Government-backed mortgage securities increased five fold in the first half of 2019, making it, according to “industry sources,” “the fastest growing revenue source in investment banking.”

Reuters goes on
The shift this year to a more dovish interest rate policy by the U.S. Federal Reserve has sparked a surge in investor demand for packaged-up home loans issued by mortgage agencies Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae and Freddie Mac. 
Banks that trade these securities, known as agency residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), have profited both from increased commissions on trading them as well as holding them on their books as they appreciated in value. 
The boom in trading comes just over a decade after the global financial crisis, caused in part by the collapse in value of much riskier bonds linked to U.S. home loans that banks packaged up and sold to unwitting investors.
How long do you want to give it before those “much riskier bonds linked to U.S. home loans” start getting packaged again, too? And after that, before the entire economy turns into a hot liquid slurry of molten wealth that dribbles out into Donald Trump's toilet? After which, Trump will fire Larry Kudlow but blame the economic crash on the Fed?

Personally, I give it another six minutes. Wall Streeters, don your crash helmets! (Just sayin’.)

More dogs (Kink department.) So here’s some West Hollywood dude who has shed his real name in favor of the handle “Sexy Vegan.”  He’s had his new name tattooed on his forehead and chest (a handy means of identification in case he ever gets decapitated without his wallet in his pants pocket). 

Does eating Vegan mess with your mind? 

I ask this question because, Sexy Vegan was recently reported by News of the Weird to be living rent free in an LA hoosegow after he was arrested for….here comes the dog….sexual abuse of his dog. How did the cops find out about it? Why, quite naturally, because Sexy posted it on social media. 

Evidently, he’s also been on Dr. Phil, where he revealed that “I do get judged a lot for being different.” Maybe The Trumpster can use that line if Russia ever releases the alleged pee tapes.

Other Stuff: I have nothing against Carly Simon, but I’m not a huge fan of hers, either, largely because I can only think of one really catchy song that I know for sure she wrote. And I don’t even know the title of that one, although I do remember the opening stanza, largely because it’s a near-tautology:

You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.

Which of course it is, because she directly addresses him (or her) in the song, and it's all about what he or she (probably) thinks. 

I also know that Carly is the daughter of a book publisher (as in Simon & Schuster)  and that she is one of three sisters, another of whom was a gorgeous opera star who once had a thing going with a TV newscaster of considerable fame, the third a Broadway show song writer. I felt pretty smug knowing that much. Hey, you know, inside New York  stuff.

Now Carly is evidently working on memoir articles instead of, or in addition to music. The current New Yorker has a memoir article revealing that she was a movie buddy of Jackie Kennedy's,                and that to avoid notice in movie theaters, Jackie would hide in the ladies room until it was time for the movies to start.

Makes sense to me. Who could blame her? On a trip to a racy X-rated movie with half-sister Lee Radzivil back in 1960-something (I’ll take a wild stab at ’67), Jackie and Lee were confronted by a paparazzo, one Ron Galella. The film, by the way, was a pornographic Scandinavian import named “I am curious (Yellow)” Legal porn was still a novelty in those days.

Anyway, Jackie decked Galella, which not only made the gossip pages, but also prompted the following entry in a New York Magazine jingle-writing contest in which the first line always had to be "Higgledy Piggledy." (I remember the jingle by heart because I wrote it, and because the bastards only gave me an honorable mention for it. I shoulda won first prize):

Hiddledy Piggledy
Jacqueline Kennedy
Flipped a photographer
Over her head
Changing his countenance
Curious (Yellow)
To furious (Red).

That’s it until Donald Trump, or some dog, or paparazzo, or exceptional lunatic, inspires me to get off my duff and post again.

Friday, October 11, 2019

More raving, howling nightmares for the age of Trump

This photograph has nothing to do with anything. I just
put it here for the hell of it. Got a problem with that?
It’s getting to me. I can tell from the quality of the surreal disturbances that are waking me up at night. Like these:

Trump at the swimming pool

I am all alone in a swimming pool at somebody’s house in fashionable  Bridgehampton, Long Island. Everyone else in the house has gone off to watch the Hampton Classic, a horse show, but I have decided to go swimming instead. However, for some reason I have forgotten how to swim. 

I’m in water over my head, desperately splashing around, when suddenly Donald Trump shows up, wearing a long wool overcoat even though it’s July and 92 degrees in the shade. His overcoat is open, and I notice that he is wearing a red necktie that comes down to his knees.

“Help, help!” I yell.

“I’d love to help,” says Trump. “I’m the greatest help in the history of the world.”

I think he is going to get down on his knees and bend over the pool so that I can grab on to his necktie, but instead he asks, “But first, I have to ask a favor. Have you got any dirt on Joe Biden and his son? The one in the Ukraine? Whatzisname? Hunter?”

Of course I don’t have any informatiion. How can I? I’m just a drowning guy in a swimming pool.

“No, please help me!” I gasp.

“The hell I will!” says Trump. “I’m not giving you any quid pro quo for free.”

Just then a grammarian and a Latin scholar jump out of the bushes and begin explaining to Trump  in elaborate detail why quid quo pro can never be free, but it’s too late. I drown.

The middle of Fifth Avenue 
shooting fantasy comes true

I am strolling along Fifth Avenue in New York City when suddenly a crazed Donald Trump charges out of the lobby door of the Trump Tower, an AK-47 blazing. To the left and right of me, people are falling down, bleeding, broken and dead. I run up to a policeman.

“Donald Trump is on a wild shooting spree! You’ve got to stop him!” I tell the cop.

“Sorry,” the cops says, “I can’t help. According to the Justice Department’s latest interpretation of the Constitution, the President of the United States cannot be charged with a crime. If I try to stop him, I’ll be charged with illegal interference with a government official.”

I start to scream in frustration when suddenly I wake up in front of my TV set. On the screen, Donald Trump is walking down Fifth Avenue, his AK-47 blazing. I scream again and wake up again. This time I’m sitting in front of my television set and on the screen, Donald Trump is walking down Fifth Avenue, his AK-47 blazing. 

Finally I pinch myself and wake up. I’m sitting in front my my television set and on the screen, Donald Trump is walking down FifthAvenue, his AK-47 blazing.

Stop it, Melania! Just stop it!

I’m home watching Donald Trump shoot people on Fifth Avenue during the evening news, when suddenly the doorbell rings. I get up from the couch and open the door. Melania Trump is standing there in a double breasted trench coat.

I ask her what she wants.

“I vant you to be best,” she says.”

“Be best at what?” I ask her.

“Here, let them explain,” she tells me. She reaches into her right trench coat pocket and pulls out a Donald Trump sock puppet. Then she reaches into her left trench coat pocket and pulls out a Rudy Giuliani sock puppet.

The two puppets begin a brisk argument in Slovenian that seems to be growing angrier and angrier. However, I cannot understand a word of it.

I am growing increasingly frustrated trying to figure out what’s going on when suddenly a Stephen Miller sock puppet jumps out from under Melania’s dress and bites me in the leg.

Next thing I know, I end up in a hospital emergency room where they are giving me a rabies shot.

 Say it ain’t so Joe!

It is the night of the first real Presidential debate. Donald Trump is of course the Republican nominee. The Democratic nominee is Joe Biden. 

By now the United States has withdrawn from all trade and defense treaties, including NATO. Russia has invaded Germany and France. Trump has sent the 82nd Airborne Division in to assist Russia. A panhandler on the street has just asked me for eighteen dollars and sixty-seven cents so he can buy a cup of coffee. American school kids are getting rounded up every day and put in cages, to replace the foreign kids, all of whom have been executed. There have been torchlight parades in the streets, with bands of neo-Nazis breaking the store windows of Jewish merchants. Lynching of Afro-Americans are rampant. Congress has been suspended by Presidential fiat. An unsmiling Attorney General Barr has been seen riding around various cities, standing in a tank, wearing a helmet and a flak jacket, chewing a cigar.

The debate moderator, a well-known news broadcaster who looks very familiar to me but whose name I cannot remember, even in the nightmare, poses the first question to Joe Biden.

“Mr. Biden,” he asks, “where do you stand on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails?”

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Crocodile Don and his Fleurs du Mal

One of Donald Trump's genius ideas
Excerpted from a recent article in The New York Times:
Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down.
I’m not sure whether this will surprise you, or not surprise you in the least — but Trump has denied all of this. Of course, he denies things all the time, even if we’ve seen and heard him say them on national TV. The man is a virtual gold mine of outrage. Locking little children up in cages, separating them from their families, telling people off-camera to “knock the crap” out of protestors, and threatening whistle blowers and Congressmen with death are a few of the other horrors that come to mind.

Nevertheless, walling off the entire southern border with a moat filled with lethal reptiles marks a new something-or-other in the bizarre behavior of the Trump Administration.  And according to Rolling Stone and sundry publications, aides took the, umm, suggestion seriously enough to begin seeking cost estimates for such a moat. 

Not reported was whether the estimate that the White House folks sought included the annual cost of feeding the snakes and alligators. Or perhaps they figured there would be no feeding costs if we just keep pitching enough hapless immigrants into the moat as reptile fodder.

The Ventriloquist. Oddly back in the 1940s
he said almost exactlywhat we've heard
The Trumpster say.
Now I know why, for a quite some time, I’ve been referring to our President as “The Trumpster.” He resembles, to a curiously strong degree, one of the supervillians out of the early Batman comic strips and movies, along with The Joker, The Penguin, The Scarecrow, and The Ventriloquist.

Like all the comic book villains, The Trumpster, who now, thanks to the Reptile Moat, we can also call Crocodile Don, is surrounded by a group of equally evil henchmen. I offer you, as exhibits A, B, and C, his prized fleurs du mal, Stephen Miller, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Pompeo. All three of them look more like cartoons of themselves than they do like real people. And they look even more like comic book cartoons of evil geniuses.

Stephen Miller. I shudder to guess what
his spare time hobbies might be.
Perhaps that’s why, every time I watch Stephen Miller on television, I imagine that his hobby must be pulling the wings off live flies. And perhaps eating them afterward.
Is this Dr. Sivana, or is this Rudy?

Giuliani, on the other hand, brings to mind Dr. Sivana, the evil genius who populated Captain Marvel Comics back in the day. Shazam!

The Penguin. Or perhaps
Pompeo in mufti.
And Pompeo? If you look at him from just the right angle, he does indeed bear a resemblance to The Penguin.

It seems to me that some enterprising college or university — it could even be one of those artsy-leftsy liberal arts outfits like Antioch or Oberlin or Bard — might forever solve its financial problems and score a handsome federal endowment — if only one of them would confer an honorary degree on Crocodile Don. Nothing inappropriate, mind you. It could be an honorary Ph.D in Malevolence Studies. 

Do you think for a millisecond that The Trumpster wouldn’t show up to wear an academic robe and scarf, accept his degree, and make a commencement speech about himself? 

Forever after, he could point to his doctorate as clear evidence of his own brilliance. “Not only am I a very stable genius, I have a Ph.D to prove it.” And furthermore, “The audience at the graduation ceremony where I was honored for my intelligence was the largest commencement audience in history.”

Small and struggling colleges, get cracking on this! Donald Trump isn’t going to be president forever.

I hope.

P.S. And now this: I've just come across a New York Magazine report that The Trumpster once wanted to build a castle-like building with an alligator-filled moat in Manhattan. No explanation of how the cold-blooded alligators would survive the first New York blizzard, although the the author floats a theory. My own theory has to do with packaged frozen alligator meat.

P.P.S. And long as we're talking about menacing lizards and villainous cartoon characters, you might as well see this to help you have a happy weekend: 

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Donald Trump not only flunks civics and ethics, he also flunks Economics 101

“Trade wars are good, and easy to win.” — Donald Trump, on March 2, 2018
New York, Oct. 2, 2019 (Reuters): Wall Street's main indexes hit fresh one-month lows at the open on Wednesday, extending losses from the previous session, as a contraction in domestic factory activity pointed to impact from a prolonged U.S.-China trade war.
Of course, as J.P. Morgan once solemnly declared when asked by reporters what the stock market will do, "The market will fluctuate."

All the same, despite ridiculously low interest rates that Desperate Donald wants to see lowered to nil, if not negative, in the vain hope that will turn things around, the market is fluctuating more or less in a downward direction. The people on Wall Street, who know what's what, say it's his tariff war that's making it happen. And remember, these are Wall Streeters,  not lefty ideologues.

I make mention of this just as a reminder to my Republican friends, that in addition to Donald Trumps' total disregard for law, rules, and ethics, which has prompted the current impeachment investigation, Americans have more than one reason why we'd all be better off if he were out of the White House.