NYC designated Anti-Christ Jurisdiction…

Just three quick things about this autocratic, in-your-fucking-face, unconstitutional, symbolic power play by Trump and ever-creative extreme right-wing religious fanatic Bagpiper Bill Barr, designating my home town (and two other Democrat [1] cities) an “anarchist jurisdiction” not entitled to federal funds lawfully provided by Congress. Talk about “triggering the libtard cucks!” (in places that clearly dislike Mr. Trump and his lurch toward autocracy).

First: what a great picture of di Blasio and the Bagpiper! (from a youTube come-on)

Second: this vilification of cities (and the illegal attempt to impose the president’s policies– and fiscal pain– on a city in an independent, sovereign state, during a pandemic) is an old chestnut from the modern totalitarian playbook (see, for example, the chapter on Vienna from Mein Kampf, a book a few years from its hundredth birthday).

A stock part of fascist propaganda is based on the myth of a pure folk, who live primarily in the unspoiled rural areas, constantly in danger from lazy degenerate mongrels who live in decadent cities. From Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.

(me, summarizing his chapter SODOM AND GOMORRAH):

 Cities, which tend to be places where diverse populations live and work, and differences are tolerated, even embraced, are seen in fascist politics in stark contrast to the countryside, where the mythic national purity they extoll still prevails.   Stanley cites a few counter-factual lines from one of Donald Trump’s campaign speeches:

“Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever.   You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street.”  And yet during this time, cities in the United States were enjoying their lowest rates of crime in generations and record low unemployment.  Trump’s rhetoric about cities makes sense in the context of a more general fascist politics, in which cities are seen as centers of disease and pestilence, containing squalid ghettos filled with despised minority groups living off the work of others.

Third: According to men like Bagpiper Bill Barr, and America’s Greatest Dealmaker and Winner — and the least racist, most stable genius ever to lead our great nation — these despised, parasitic minorities are enraged because they are inferior. Simple as that, their sorry genetic stock comes from shit hole countries, the poor bastards.

These people, in the reflexive racist mind, are born losers who are irrationally angry, people whose rage makes them self-destructively turn on the very people who risk their lives to protect them, authority-keepers who almost never kill them while they are not resisting — hardly ever even cripple them, though Christ knows they richly deserve it for being such vicious, stupid ingrates who constantly act against their own best interests and blame everyone else for their own problems.

Remind you of anyone?

Here is a more nuanced and detailed look at this desperate campaign stunt by the fervent Attorney General:

Today started off with Attorney General William Barr designating New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, as “Jurisdictions Permitting Violence and Destruction of Property.” His statement responded to Trump’s September 2 memorandum calling for a review of funding to “state and local governments that are permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction in American cities.”

The idea of defunding cities is vague and it is also odd, considering how many Americans actually live in cities. The U.S. Conference of Mayors wrote to Trump on September 7 to ask him to rescind his memorandum, noting that “attacks on America’s cities are attacks on America itself. America’s cities represent 86 percent of the Nation’s population and 91 percent of real gross domestic product (GDP)…. Cities are the Nation’s incubators of talent: people flock to cities to take advantage of their accessibility, diversity, inclusiveness, vibrancy, infrastructure and innovation,” they wrote. They warned that if he tried to enforce a restriction on funding, they would sue, and would almost certainly win. They reminded him: “This is a time our Nation needs unity, not division, among all levels of government.”

This new declaration is little more than a distraction, meant to try to resurrect the old “law and order” ploy and take our eyes off… what?

source

[1]

Let us make no mistake about this pejorative (and increasingly widely accepted) reference to the “Democrat Party” and “Democrat” citiesthese are cities run by democratically elected Democratic mayors.

These mayors are Democrats, but their party is called the Democratic party and if you call their city by the name of their political party they, New York, Portland, Seattle, Washington D.C., are actually Democratic cities. HEY, WAIT!

Well, you see, that’s another reason we call them ‘Democrat’ cities (pause to hit the spittoon square in the middle), run by the, heh ‘Democrat party’… whell, hell, you can’t really dog whistle any clearer than that, now can you? We all know what ‘Democrat mayor’ refers to, you can picture her, and it don’t take a damned oversensitive damn n-word to tell you what tune this dog whistle is whistling. We ain’t just whistling Dixie, son.”

New York City Subway Car

I’ve been lucky enough, during this pandemic, to be locked down with Sekhnet at her little farm, in a neighborhood of lower density than my place in Manhattan. It’s actually a short walk from here to where Fred Trump’s mansion was, where little Donald grew up to be the great man he is today.

Here, unlike in the more urban parts of New York City, you can walk on tree-lined streets and easily avoid contact with the few others also out walking. It seems a bit safer here, in this much lower density area, taking precautions and waiting for the Second Wave the experts predict for flu season. We’re taking all reasonable precautions — isolation, N95 masks when out in public, frequent hand washing — even though several speakers at the RNC made it clear– to their base, at least — that the Leader has eradicated the pandemic in the USA in an amazing and praiseworthy fashion that only the deranged can’t see.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I took the subway for the first time in months, to meet Sekhnet and a friend at one of our favorite vegetarian restaurants in Manhattan. We ate under a tent on lower First Avenue. The condition of the subway car (which I caught at the first stop) was amazing. It was actually gleaming.

Things Are Looking Good for the Feral Five

Sad as we felt the last few days, knowing we’d have to part with these beautiful, trusting, affectionate little souls, that sorrow is fading as we know they’re in good hands.    We brought them to a great cat shelter in Freeport yesterday, spent a sad night missing them, but today was much better.

A reminder that doing the right thing might sometimes hurt for a while, but it passes, the thing was worth doing and what remains is having done a good thing.  This case was the literal living out of the old saying  — if you love somebody set them free.  

The sudden withdrawal from that unlimited tender playfulness on demand that these little cats gave us whenever we spent time with them (when they weren’t napping) was painful, true, but our plan all along was to give them long lives of affection and safety we couldn’t provide them, much as we may have wanted to.

They are all being well cared for at an excellent shelter (where they’re all currently sleeping together and being treated for roundworm — they’ll be roaming the rooms with the others in a few days).   They will shortly become pets, sharing tenderness with humans who will fall for them quickly.

As they deserve.

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The heartbreak of trying to save a tiny life

Yesterday I chased a rogue male cat who’d been aggressive toward the little feral colony we feed.  This cat, who we call Grey Guy, is usually quick to leave the garden when threatened, but yesterday, though I sprayed him with the garden hose, he hardly moved.   He didn’t move away very far, got a bit wet, looked back at me, reproachfully.   When Sekhnet encountered him a few minutes later, he was determined to make contact with her, though she at first sprayed him too.   

“He’s dying,” she told me afterwards, with tears, “he figured he had nothing to lose.”   She brought him a meal, and as she led him to it I saw for the first time how sick he looked, skinny, mangey, sad, with a distended stomach hanging to one side.  His eyes were barely open, he moved with difficulty.  He seemed clearly close to death.  He ate a bit of his last meal, before an opportunistic intruder named Giovanni made off with the last of it.   He was too weak to fight off the much younger challenger and Sekhnet was not guarding him at the moment.  We’ve taken to pegging the aggressive Giovanni with small stones when he hops the fence looking for food.

The cats we feed are Mama Kitten (so named because she gave birth to at least 20 kittens over the course of about three years, from a very young age) her three surviving daughters, Paint Job, White Back and Little Girl, and their probable father, Spot.   We watched almost every one of Mama Kitten’s offspring die or disappear.   We learned not to get too attached to the kittens, who tended to have very short lives in the wild.  Recently we trapped Mama, Spot and the three surviving daughters (who were old enough to get pregnant) and took them to a vet to be “fixed.”   Here is Mama with her first litter, back in September 2015.

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That big kitten toward her back legs we named Grey Guy.  He also disappeared after a few months, we assumed a hawk got him.  Hawks circle overhead here during kitten season.  They are circling today.

This stable little group protects their turf from intruders and we help them enforce their claim whenever we see another cat trying to get in on their action.  Giovanni (likely another of Spot’s offspring) has been a particularly insistent interloping pain in the ass, he bullies White Back and Paint Job and I’ve changed my attitude toward him.  It’s true he’s only trying to survive, but still, chasing our cats across the speeding traffic in the service road is a one way ticket to somewhere else.

About a year ago a haggard looking grey cat stood watching me on a street a couple of blocks from the house.   He didn’t run, or even back away, when I approached him.  He seemed to know me, and he was clearly hungry.   He appeared to be the grey kitten from Mama’s first litter, Grey Guy, a cat we assumed had died along with the others who all disappeared within a few months.   I called Sekhnet, and Grey Guy stood by, waiting with me until she brought a can of food and he ate it from a spoon, like he did as a wee pup.

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It was, in fact, Grey Guy.   He’d been living a rough life on his own and the years had not been kind.   After feeding him a couple of times we saw he was often savage with the other cats and we eventually drove him away.   He apparently came back the other day for one last visit before he died.

His presence reminded us how hard life is for a feral cat living on the street.  “He came as a harbinger,” Sekhnet said.  His poignant farewell came as we are completing the process of domesticating five feral kittens another mother cat dropped off in the garden, introducing them to big-hearted Sekhnet and the greatest cat buffet in the area.  Grey Guy’s appearance was a reminder of the short, brutal lives these affectionate little animals face in the wild. At five years-old he was ancient.  A house cat typically lives two or three times that long.

We became determined to find homes for these kittens, to give them full lives as beloved pets.   The boldest of them (and the runt of the litter) we named Alpha Mouse.  He was ready to be a pet right away.   His brother Beta was not far behind.  Both liked being petted from the start.  The other three were wary, as stray cats tend to be.   Here’s two shots of Alpha, then Beta:

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We found a shelter twenty miles from here that would take them, we caught them and brought them inside, into a large cage Sekhnet bought online.  We couldn’t bring them to the shelter for adoption until they are calm and happy being handled by humans.  A volunteer at the shelter gave us some good tips, the rest was just time spent with them, petting them in the cage, feeding them by hand, gaining their trust.

The patience and tenderness you need to show to get a feral kitten to trust you is repaid with a tender affection that can’t be explained.  The little creature who was afraid to be touched now solicits your caress, cranes her neck to be stroked just right, pushes her little face into the palm of your hand, purring in contentment.   They all sit on our laps now, after only a few days of adjustment.   

We are doing the right thing trying to find them homes, as hawks continue to circle outside looking for their little tidbits of delicious prey, as all of the hardships that oppose any animal’s existence rage out there at a moment when we humans are also hunted during this pandemic.   The right thing, the kind thing, turns out to not be easy sometimes.

I’m waiting for a call back from the small shelter that they have room at the inn for these five (they do).  A friend is on hold to do us a tremendous favor, renting a cargo van so we can drive them out to the shelter in their cage tomorrow, rather than stuffing them into the single cat carrier we have for a fairly long trip, their first in a car.

Meanwhile, Alpha sometimes cries and is only consoled by being petted a bit.  Sekhnet and I are crying all the time.   They are so affectionate with each other, it makes Sekhnet cry every time she thinks of them being separated.   

Every moment with them is a reminder of the relentless inevitability of separation, the pain of eternal leave-taking.    Having this constant reminder is hard work, particularly during this depressing pandemic, I can tell you for sure.  Operation Poignant, I told my friend’s voicemail yesterday, my voice cracking.

Here’s one of the last feral hold-outs, Devilhead, who now likes nothing more than the feeling of human fingers brushing lightly along the underside of her jaws.

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American Exceptionalism (pandemic version)

When it comes to glittering generalities pulled out of a wordsmith’s talented ass, grand-sounding but largely meaningless, American Exceptionalism is no exception. What it actually means … well, it’s similar to The Free Market, Manifest Destiny or Making the World Safe for Democracy.   I offer a humble example here, of how profit-driven private industry is the most exceptional possible answer to American health care needs [1].  

I went to a lab for a blood test today, in preparation for next week’s telephone appointment with a nephrologist to find out if my rare kidney disease is still in remission, as it was seven or eight months ago, when we last checked.   I was supposed to have checked in with the doctor last month, but as I found out on the eve of the visit, I had no health insurance, though I’d paid my premiums through June.  Nobody had bothered to inform me that my health coverage had been summarily cancelled a few weeks earlier.  Oh, well.  Apparently no law requires it.

No worries, problem fixed, a few short weeks later I have my affordable health insurance back.  I call the lab yesterday to make sure they have the digital paperwork, but because of COVID-19 nobody at the lab can pick up the phone to confirm this.   No appointment needed, come on in, short waiting times, says the recording.   So I take a ride over today.   Pleasant place, everyone very nice, short wait, plenty of hand sanitizer available, they call me in and ask for my paperwork.  

I explain that it was digitally transmitted, on April 10, according to a note on my phone.  The lab has no paperwork on the computer for me.   Perhaps there was a paper file faxed over?  I am asked.    They open the file cabinet, check the hanging folders of paper files.  Nada.   Can I have them fax over the paperwork?   I call the hospital where the nephrologist’s office is, navigate the phone tree, get connected to the person I need to speak with.

Carmen at the nephrologist’s assures me they uploaded the document on April 10, it’s in the lab’s database, she’s looking right at it on her computer.   I give her the fax number and she tells me she’ll fax it right away.    No fax arrives.  I call Carmen again and she informs me the lab’s fax machine is not receiving faxes.  She reads me a requisition number 0062216, this should allow them to pull it right up on the network.  Only it doesn’t, as I find out a few moments later.  

Crystal, a lovely phlebotomist with whom I am starting to become friendly by now, asks me to spell my name.  I do.  She is surprised.   Somehow they had my name as a long, hard to pronounce one, starting with a P, not a W, something like Pidelszkfflmm.  Crystal asks if I could have typed it in wrong when I signed in on the iPad.

I look at the keyboard on my phone and notice that P is all the way on the other side of the keyboard from W, the first letter of my last name.   Not likely I typed in my own name as Pidelszkfflmm, I’ve typed my name many times, never anything like that.  Never mind.   There must be some work-around.   Yes, Crystal says brightly, I can ask them to email it to me, go home, print it out, bring back the paper copy. When I explain the many extra steps involved for me, and how I want to leave time for the results to come back, and remind her I’m still fasting and ready to have my blood drawn, Crystal gives me her email address.  I call Carmen a third time, we repeat the email address to each other a few times, she tells me she’s emailing it, she waits with me on the line until the email arrives.

“You got any jokes?” I ask Carmen after a while.  She finds this funny, but can’t think of one.  

“I watch the news conferences every evening,” she says, and we do a kind of sickly pseudo-laugh together.  

Crystal gets the email from Carmen,  she does the blood test, all very pleasant, all within an hour or so of walking in to the place.   I am ready to leave, take off my N95 mask, find some food, break my fast.

“I hope you didn’t just use the bathroom,” Crystal says to me after my blood is drawn.  I’m thinking of COVID, but it’s not that, she also needs some urine to send to the lab.  I shake my head, three minutes ago I could have filled up two of those little cups, but…

While I’m waiting for a tall cup of cold water to do its thing, thinking about Crystal’s warning to me that the PSA test (prostate-specific antigen — a screen for prostate cancer)  included in the kidney doctor’s blood test might not be covered and I may be billed separately (I assure her I throw such bills in the recycling bin) I ask her if she knew that in Iraq, under the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraqis had universal health care.    She is non-committal.  I continue: after the US liberated Iraq from the dictator and brought democracy, after destroying hospitals and so on, they instituted American-style health care, with the result that today many Iraqis no longer have health care at all.  

Crystal nods. “Of course, of course we did that, ” she says, her eyes smiling savagely over her mask, “American Exceptionalism.”  I give a little chuckle, have to hand it to her.  Great girl, and the way she slipped the needle in, with barely a prick, also most exceptional.   We talk about how it is exceptionally American that teeth, vision and care in our old age are not considered part of basic health care, not covered by most American health insurance.  I nip off to the bathroom for a moment with the little plastic cup.   She calls me Mr. Eliot again as I hand her the little cup of warm urine.   As I’m leaving, her last customer of the day, she fondly calls me Mr. Eliot again.   Very likable young woman, Crystal.

If you have a “Free Market” where the fittest bring the best product to market for the cheapest price for the invisible hand of the marketplace to place in front of wise consumers, why wouldn’t you commoditize every aspect of human life?   Health, you understand, is just a commodity like everything else.  Life itself, you can actually put a price to it, make a pretty exact valuation based on net-worth and earning potential, easily calculated by actuaries.   There’s actually no guesswork involved, it’s practically science, fixed and elemental as the stones themselves; that’s the exceptional thing about American Exceptionalism!

 

 

[1]  I think of the Grey Lady, America’s second finest news source (The Onion is America’s finest news source), whose distinctive, objective style of reporting harkens back to an earlier time, when the status quo was not questioned in any fundamental way by decent people.   She fittingly got her nickname in a more proper era when we still had firm notions about what was ladylike and what was gentlemanly, when an unruly girl was admonished to act like a lady.   The Grey Lady, now a stately, dignified, respected old matriarch, was, in her earlier days, a hard-working, discreet and strictly upper-class sex worker.    You can look it up.

 

 

 

I’m Lovin’ It! (pandemic edition)

There’s a plague raging in New York City.   We try to stay indoors as much as we can, those of us who have the option.  We avoid being near people when we go out (again, those of us who don’t live outdoors).  We wear masks and wash our hands frequently.     Stores are doing their best to keep people safe, marking the sidewalk outside to let people line up at least six feet apart.   Some places, the smart ones, require customers to come in a very few at a time, wearing masks, touching only what they purchase, or having people with gloves select the items they point out.  

This is a highly contagious, sometimes deadly disease without a cure at this time. The death caused by this virus is a terrible one.     The best course, though not without its obvious problems and frustrations, is keeping this deadly pathogen off your hands, your face, out of your lungs and not spreading it to others if you are an asymptomatic carrier.

Since New Yorkers can’t get to fast food, and cravings don’t stop just because there’s a pandemic, fast food will come to you.   Underpaid workers who need the cash (now deemed essential workers by our mad King who uses the War Powers Act to order low-paid meat processing plant workers to go to work) deliver things like fast food hamburgers and fruit punch, on demand.     This bag was on our stoop a few nights ago, two cheeseburgers and a fruit punch, an order we didn’t order.  

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For many years I loved McDonald’s hamburgers, though I tried not to eat them very often.  They were not designed for healthy eating, they were simply delicious.   They were engineered to have the perfect balance of the addictive: salt, fat, sweet.  I haven’t eaten meat in many years (though a few shrimps I encountered recently would probably contest that) but I still clearly remember the taste of a McDonald’s cheeseburger.  I recall all the flavors combined into a Big Mac too.   As they say, just because you become a vegetarian doesn’t mean bacon suddenly stops smelling delicious.

There was no address on the receipt stapled to the bag, where it listed the two burgers and the fruit punch.   (At least I was relieved of the thought of McDonald’s fries being in the bag).  The house next door is rented to college students, and as there was a light on upstairs, I brought the bag of food over to their stoop and left it there.  

The light stayed on in the student house day after day, I guess the last one out just forgot to turn it off.  Two or three days later I gripped the bag’s handle with two fingers I later disinfected (I had no ultraviolet light source to introduce under the skin) and walked the bag over to a garbage bin down the street.

Here is the part I am lovin’ —

We have hungry raccoons who patrol the area regularly, as well as the occasional large possum and a couple of colonies of constantly prowling feral cats.   All of them hungry, all constantly on the hunt, all meat eaters.    Not one of them touched the bag of fast food.  

I’m lovin’ it!