Sunday, September 27, 2020

Please don’t try to sock* me. I’m only making a couple of suggestions.


1. How to make the Presidential debate more civilized: I know I should have mentioned this earlier, but it only just occurred to me. On Tuesday night. Sept. 29th, Biden and Trump will debate. I want to hear what each of them has to say, with the emphasis on each. Unfortunately, Trump has a habit of shouting loudly while other people are talking, so that nobody will hear them. So, here’s what I propose:

The debate moderator should have two kill switches in front of him, each attached to one of the debaters’ microphones. The debaters should be told how much time is allotted to each answer they give, or rebuttal they make. They should also get a 30-second warning signal.

 

The second their time is up, the announcer should hit their microphone kill switches. No ifs, ands, or buts. That way, the debates could really be debates and not shouting matches.

 

2. How to solve the homeless problem: I read that huge amounts of office space are empty in our big cities, and some of that space may never fill up again. Home is the new office. People who used to be office workers like it, because they don’t have to commute, can stay home with their kids, work in their underwear, and unselfconsciously scratch their you-know-what. What the boss doesn’t see, the boss can’t punish you for.

Here in New York for example, according to the New York Times:

Fewer than 10 percent of New York’s office workers had returned as of last month and just a quarter of major employers expect to bring their people back by the end of the year, according to a new survey. Only 54 percent of these companies say they will return by July 2021."

And furthermore, the Times says:

Demand for office space has slumped. Lease signings in the first eight months of the year were about half of what they were a year earlier. That is putting the office market on track for a 20-year low for the full year. When companies do sign, many are opting for short-term contracts that most landlords would have rejected in February.

Meanwhile, New York, like San Francisco, Santa Monica, San Diego, and every other damn place has a homeless problem. Here in New York, Mayor Bill De Blah-sio has been shuttling homeless people in and out of hotels like a third rate tour operator on a bus trip through Belgium. 

One of the reasons is New Yorkers suffer from a terrible NIMBY complex. They adore the idea of housing the homeless, but Not In My Back Yard! NIMBY!

So why not take all those empty and near-empty office buildings, particularly in midtown and in the financial district, where the skyscrapers are blocks and blocks from where most people live, and convert them into apartments — efficiencies for the single homeless folks, one two and three-bedroom apartments for the homeless families? 

I even have some good ideas about where the city could start. For openers, there’s 666 Fifth Avenue, for which Jared Kushner paid $1.8 billion when it wasn’t worth nearly that price. To complete the transaction he borrowed $1.75 billion, far below what the rentals in the building’s office space generated, thus demonstrating his IQ was low enough, and his lemming instinct for bankruptcy strong enough, to be a member of the Trump family. Wikipedia has a wonderful piece on the fiasco. 

Then of course, there’s the Fifth Avenue Trump Tower. While Donald lives there, and some of the floors are condo, I believe that most of them are commercial. I’m certain Donald, populist that he is, wouldn’t mind having some earthy “real people” for neighbors. He could make small talk with them in the elevator.

Just sayin’.

*Footnote: That asterisk in the headline is no typo. It's there to call your attention to the fact that while I used to be able to caption my photographs, the new, improved version of this program, that nearly every blogger on this planet hates, doesn't seem to allow for the insertion of captions. Maybe it never occurred to those yo-yos that somebody might want to caption photograph, for some odd reason. Hah! If they were smart enough to be rocket scientists, they'd be working at NASA, not screwing up what was once a perfectly wonderful blogging system.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Seven Nursery Rhymes for Grownups in the Terrible Times of Trump


There was a crooked man

And he dug a crooked well

And he took a crooked farthing

When they stayed at his hotel

And he screwed a crooked hooker

Before she could take off her blouse

And it all happened inside

The crooked White House


Putin, Putin

Mean and crass

Had his hand and forearm

Up Moscow Mitch’s ass

When Putin pulled the strings

Moscow Mitch did awful things

And the nation fell apart

In a political morass.


He was not a little girl

But he had a little curl

Right in the middle of his forehead

And when it was good 

He felt very very good

But when it got rained on he was horrid.


Mistress Melania

I don’t wanna rag onya

But how does your

Rose Garden Grow?

You pulled out the trees

And replaced it with sleaze

And you did it all just for show.


Lewis deJoy, was an odious boy

Who destroyed the mail boxes and sorters

He put in his thumb

And pulled out the plug

Thusly pleasing the postal aborters.


Donald Trump said he’d put up a wall

Turns out he was lying and that was all

All of Trump’s ramblings

And all his henchmen

Could not get that wall built 

Ever again.


Hi diddle diddle 

There are voters to diddle!

Miss Lindsey jumped over the moon

Swearing she’d never

Go back on her word — oh sure,

And the dish ran away with the spoon.


Feel free to contribute your own. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Blatant Republican corruption, the rodent that ate the Internet, Tom Friedman gets tangled in his plot line, and nude cycling in the time of the plague

 

Je m'appelle Big Trouble

How corrupt is Republican politics? Well, let’s just say that how far you get in Congress all depends on what you pay. Or what you can get others to pay on your behalf. The following is  verbatim from Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, a proudly corrupt Trumpista from Florida:

“Donations to the party do not officially determine which committees you’ll sit on or how prestigious your spot will be, but unofficially money sure seems to make a difference. I won’t pretend I walked away from the game. On the contrary, I was playing to win, and I did. I was eager to meet with Leader McCarthy in hopes of getting a spot on the Armed Services Committee, which is very important to decisions that affect the lives of many military personnel and veterans in Florida’s First District. I expected that when I did meet with him, I’d have to explain the potential impact on my constituents, my relevant experience with military issues, and the ways in which I was (or was not) in sync with the rest of the party on military and foreign policy issues,” Gaetz writes of an exchange he had with McCarthy as a freshman congressman. “To my shock, he looked me straight in the eye and said it would be helpful if in the next ten days I could direct $75,000 ‘across the street,’ which meant into the coffers of the National Republican Congressional Committee. I frankly told my supporters back home about how things apparently work in D.C., and they agreed I should try rolling the dice. I quickly ponied up $150,000, twice the ask, and ended up not only on Armed Services but the Judiciary Committee as well.” 

And if all that sounds either unbearably depressing or so infuriating you fear your head may explode, let me soothe your nerves with a mischievous rodent.

 

“Je m’appelle Coypu and what I do is chew.” A coypu is a rather large, impossibly cute rodent that looks like a cross between a beaver and Punxsutawney Phil, the woodchuck who brings you six more weeks of winter if he sees his shadow on Groundhog Day. A coypu recently had some uncounted number of citoyens tearing their hair out in and around Marsan in southwestern France.

 

They lost their e-mail. They lost their Google. They lost their entire Internet. Complaints from disgruntled customers of Orange, which is sort of the French G-mail, were flooding the switchboards. 

 

Connexion France, my go-to source for silly stuff about France reports:

Telephone engineers turned detective to track down the culprit who cut the internet to several communes in southwest France for several days last week.


[snip]

 

Two days searching along a remote and hard-to-access 14km stretch of cable, uncovered the scene of the 'crime' - and revealed that service had been cut in nine communes around the small town of Nogaro by a coypu chewing through underground cables.

The article goes on to say that the coypu is native to South America, but was, umm, “introduced” to France. Evidently, it not only chews up the Internet, but also “Its tunnelling can cause riverbanks to collapse.”


Coypus are now classified as pests.

 

Ya think?

 

How’s that again, Tom Friedman

of the NY Times? Oh, nevermind!

 

Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist who for a very long time promoted his book “The World is Flat” by using that phrase in column after self-serving column, has now taken to explaining the results of Jared Kushner’s “peace initiative” in what Friedman calls “a soap opera analogy.”

It is as if Jared Kushner was a lawyer who set out to arrange a divorce between a couple, “Mrs. Israel” and “Mr. Palestine.” In the process, though, Mr. Kushner discovered that Mrs. Israel and Mr. Palestine were so incompatible that they couldn’t even sit in a room together, let alone agree on his plan for separation. 

But along the way, Mr. Kushner discovered something intriguing: Mrs. Israel was having an affair with Mr. Emirates, who was fleeing an abusive relationship with Ms. Iran. 

So, Mr. Kushner stopped trying to arrange a divorce between Mr. Palestine and Mrs. Israel and seized instead on the mutual interest of Mrs. Israel and Mr. Emirates to marry — not to mention the self-interest of President Trump to serve as the “justice of the peace” who would officiate on the White House lawn in the midst of a presidential campaign  

Cut to commercial. 

I’ve got a better cut. Cut out reading Tom Friedman.

 

Virus shmirus! I’m wearing a mask, right?

 

What, you weren’t in Rennes, France, last weekend? Too bad! You missed “the first cycling and nudist gathering in France.” 

 

This raised some concerns, because of the very recent growth of Covid-19 cases in town. So the city center was off-limits to the cyclists, there in the nude “to raise awareness for the vulnerability of cyclists in urban areas, and also to promote naturism.”

 

Faceless naturism, as it turns out, because the riders were required to wear face masks, whatever other parts of them were uncovered. 

 

Meanwhile, the number of cyclists in the city has increased by “around 15 – 20% according to Connexion, France.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Miscellany from all over (guaranteed almost Trump-free — at least until close to the end)

The cause of la grande explosion in France. Yicch! (Photo swiped from Wikipedia.)
There’s just so much Donald Trump I can stand before I stick my fingers in my ears, close my eyes, and run screaming from the room.

So today, a few random departures from the subject. Consider these the equivalent of sitting at the computer watching cute cat videos while a forest fire rages outside your window. (If you’re in California or Oregon there probably is one, come to think of it.) You want to get in a couple of smiles before the Internet goes down and the house burns to the ground. So there’s the following.

There once was an old man who zapped a fly
I wouldn’t know why he zapped that fly… 

In France, an 82-year-old pensioner blew up his house while trying to kill a fly. The old guy was sitting down to dinner. The fly was buzzing his….I dunno what he was eating, and it really doesn’t matter. But since this happened in the Dordogne, let’s just suppose it was a plate with some of the local cheeses, like a nice, soft Margotin, and a semi-soft mild Trappe d'Echourgnac. Mmm! No wonder the fly wouldn’t leave!

At any rate, La Technologie’s ubiquitous fingers have reached all the way to the Dordogne village of Parcoul-Chaud, where the irritated old guy reached for his fly swatter — an electronic fly swatter. 

“Unfortunately,” reports ConnexionFrance.com “there was a gas canister leaking in his home and this reacted with the device, causing an explosion that destroyed the kitchen and a part of the roof. 

“The man sustained only minor injuries.” 

I could not find any reports on the condition of the fly.


To pimp out a course, pump up the pomp

More than fifty years ago, the great advertising genius David Ogilvy advised his then-young copywriters, me among them, that if they wanted to write ads that sell, they should avoid using pompous language and onerous jargon.

Tell that to the folks who run “Brand United University,” which, as you might have guessed even as you read its name, is not a university at all. It’s an activity of a marketing and advertising trade magazine called Brand United. You’d think that after the debacle that was “Trump University,” people would stop adding the descriptor University to the names of things that aren’t universities. (In this case it’s a two-hour “webinar.”) But no.

Not satisfied with the grandiosity of equating a two hour course on the Internet about print ad marketing techniques with an institution of higher learning, the people behind all this added the following descriptor, which I think is supposed to impress you:
Print marketing offers a blend of many offline marketing touchpoints in the customer journey that multiplies marketing performance when incorporated into a comprehensive optichannel strategy.
Got that? Me neither. But I think it means something like, “There are lots of things you can do with different kinds of print advertising at different times to sell stuff.”

That I get. But it doesn’t sound nearly as important. Or perhaps as self-important. 

Somebody please drop these clowns in the dumpster with full military honors while the band plays Pomp and Circumstance.

It all depends on what you squat

Back to France, where there was a retiree in a “care home.” (Is that something like a nursing home? I dunno.) Anyway, the retiree discovered that squatters had invaded and taken over a property he owned. 

A report, again in ConnexionFrance.com, my go-to source for all things that are both French and frivolous, tells me:
[The squatters] claimed, wrongly, that because it was an empty second home they had the right to take it on to house homeless people. 
In cases of squatters moving into a main home, the owners can have them evicted by police at any time if they can prove the occupiers broke in to the property and are thus using it as a residence illegally. 
But owners must go through the legal channels and not try to evict the squatters themselves – they risk a €30,000 fine and up to three years in jail if they do so. 
In the case of second homes, the law is stricter.Police can arrest squatters within 48 hours of them occupying the property if they have caused serious damage during or after the break-in. 
After this initial 48-hour period, the legal owners must obtain an eviction order from a court before bailiffs can move in. The process can take weeks. 
And if the application is ruled on during France’s winter truce – the period between November 1 and March 31 when evictions are banned – a judge may rule that the squatters cannot be evicted until the spring.”
And that was where a gear tooth snapped, a cog slipped, and my blogging machinery started spitting out Donald Trump again.

I mean, speaking of squatters, what are we to do if he loses the election but refuses to leave the White House?

Who can issue a legal eviction notice? Must the process move through the Federal courts, with Bill Barr again acting as Trump’s personal attorney at taxpayer expense (because of course if Trump refuses to move out of the White House, why should Barr move out of the Department of Justice?) 

Will a Court of Appeals rule that Trump cannot be evicted until Spring? Will the White House eventually be referred to as “The Executive Squat?” If Trump finally does leave, will he begin referring to himself as "homeless?"

Stay tuned.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Heading for a violent street demonstration? Don’t leave home without your bag of soup. Here’s a surefire recipe for The Crank’s Not-Quite-Beef-Bourguignon Soup + Yummy Stew dinner.

A soldier gravely wounded by cream of asparagus soup 
during WWI gets treated by medics.
By now probably everybody is aware of this, because Donald Trump has told us about it. Large groups of Antifa troublemakers, clad completely in black uniforms so that nobody will notice them, at least not in the dark shadows, are boarding airplanes and heading for big cities to burn them down and riot.

Not only that, but they’re hurling soup! The bastards! So you know what comes next. Pretty soon  Homeland Security agents will be searching your baggage at the airport not for weapons, not for explosives, but for soup cans. Or maybe, as Trump tells us, even bags of soup.

Fortunately, you can make your own soup, without ever coming near a can. Here’s a recipe for my very own Not-Quite-Beef-Bourguignon Soup. And as an added bonus, a useful and very tasty byproduct of this weapon of street warfare is my cranky Not-Quite-Beef-Bourguignon beef stew for six.

What you’ll need to perpetrate
Beef Bourguignon-based violence:

1 teabag (any flavor tea)
1 nail file
1 12-to-25-inch length of unwaxed, unflavored dental floss
1 heavy steel-headed hammer with at least one flat side on its head
1 small plastic bag
1 large covered pot or Dutch Oven
Thyme
Parsley flakes
Bay leaves
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 large white onions
1 bag (roughly the size of the two onions or slightly larger) of peeled baby carrots
1 ½ to 2 lbs. of beef chuck, stewing beef or brisket, cut into roughly 1-inch squares
8 ounces or so of tomato basil sauce
2 cloves of garlic
6 beef bullion cubes
3 cups of water
2/3rds bottle of red table wine, preferably Burgundy

Instructions

1.  Using the nail file, very, very carefully pry open the staple that holds the tea bag closed. Discard the staple before the cat or some human idiot accidently swallows it. Also discard the tea leaves. All you want is the bag.

2. Very gently, being careful not to tear the bag, fill it with ¼ teaspoonful of thyme, ¼ teaspoonful of parsley flakes and two  bay leaves. If the bay leaves are too big to fit, it’s okay to break them into smaller pieces. 

3. Tie the tea bag tightly closed with the dental floss and set aside.

4. Slice the garlic cloves and set the slices aside.

5. Slice onions into quarters or eighths and set aside.

6. Put the  bullion cubes into the plastic bag. Seal the bag. Then whack the cubes with the hammer until they’re pulverized into small pieces or into a powder. If it’ll make you feel better, you can imagine you’re whacking Boogaloo Boyz heads. You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking in this country. Not yet, anyway.

7. Put the olive oil at the bottom of the pot, set pot on a medium flame, and brown the beef on all sides. Remove the browned beef from the pot and discard the olive oil and the fat rendered from the beef.

8. Add to the pot: The water. The wine. The pulverized bullion cubes. The sliced garlic cloves. The tomato basil sauce. The browned beef. The onions. The baby carrots. Finally, add the spice-filled tea bag, but leave a good length of dental floss hanging outside the pot. 

9. Cover the pot and bring  to a boil over a high flame, then lower the flame and allow the contents of the pot to simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. After the first 40 minutes, yank out the teabag (that’s why you left the string hanging over the side) and discard before the beef bougignon gets too spicy or bitter.

This makes a Not-Quite-Beef-Bourguignon stew that serves four to six violent Antifa revolutionaries, with approximately a pint of soup left over.  (When it’s served on the meat it’s sauce. When it’s served separately, it’s soup.) 

Serve the stew over flat noodles or boiled potatoes with a little bit of sauce. You can freeze the remaining soup into bricks and bring them to your next demonstration. Or just leave them unfrozen to fling at Q-Anons and Boogaloo Boyz and see if they’ll start licking each others' faces.

See you at the revolution. Or as Julia Child used to say, Bon Ap├ętit! And be sure to wear your black uniform.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Donald Trump has successfully built a wall. But not the one he promised. His wall imprisons us, like the Berlin Wall that imprisoned East Berliners under Communism.

One of the last foreign places on Earth where Americans can vacation 
is beautiful downtown Minsk. Don't forget to bring your galoshes.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy gave his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, decrying the Berlin Wall. The news was full of images of that forbidding gray concrete block barrier, separating East from West Berlin, keeping the East Berliners from escaping to freedom. 

East Germany needed to imprison its people. It needed the workers, who were forced to live under grim, police state conditions.

Fatal escape attempts

From time to time, East Berliners would make an escape attempt. It seemed more often than not, they were machine-gunned to death while trying to climb over the top.

That is the kind of wall Donald Trump has built. A wall that imprisons us. He didn’t intend to build it. His intention, a formidably incompetent one, was to keep the economy going while a pandemic was taking hold. He hoped Covid-19 would “miraculously go away” before it loused up the prosperity, launched by Barack Obama, that Trump was now crediting solely to himself.

But like a spark, leading to a fuse, leading to an incendiary device, leading to a dry forest, Trump’s virus sparked, smoldered, and then exploded — all while he was denying it was a serious matter, and while nearly all of the rest of the world tamped its own fires down.

A medieval horror of a plague
—sixty-two 9/11s and counting

So now, while life in most of Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and South America moves steadily back toward normal, the United States has a pandemic of medieval proportions, eclipsed only by The Black Death of 1346 to 1353. Or to look at it another way, the roughly 185,000 Americans who’ve died of Trump’s virus so far is the equivalent of nearly sixty-two 9/11 events. We quite justifiably  went crazy after one 9/11. I can’t understand the relative calm after another sixty-two.

But here’s the thing. Other nations have noticed. And they’ve decided not to let Americans in to spread our pestilence to their own people. These days, you can’t casually get on a plane and go to France. You can’t go to Germany. You can’t go to Italy. You can’t go to Scotland. You can’t go to Belgium. You can’t go to Holland. You can’t go to Spain. You can’t go to Portugal. You can’t…but I’m sure you’ve got the idea by now. We’re pretty much trapped in our own country, as trapped as if there were literally a high wall around it.

Yes, there are exceptions. A handful of tiny Caribbean island nations, like Anguilla and Bermuda and Barbados, whose entire economies are based on U.S. tourism dollars, will risk their lives to let us in. Although even in some of those, you may have to present  the results of a recent virus test, or quarantine for two weeks, before they welcome you. 

And there are still other cheerful place you can visit. For example, there’s Ukraine. And Belarus, where you can soon experience walking through the winter slush of beautiful downtown Minsk’s brutalist architecture. Or Zimbabwe.

But hey, East Germans were free to visit Russia and Poland.

The American Iron Curtain

Trump promised a physical wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Instead, we have a currently-impenetrable iron curtain between ourselves and Canada, ourselves and most of Europe, ourselves and most of Asia, ourselves and most of South America.

Did you vote for Trump because he promised to build a wall? 

Be careful what you wish for. Or vote for.