Winter And Happiness?

This is the long stretch of winter where friend and family all seem to be grousing about the darkness, the cold,  the snow, and all the elements of winter that most people seem to detest.  The local and national news outlets don’t help by reporting the worst storms and disasters locally and nationally.  Weatherpeople scare us with dire predictions of snow up to our asses and wind chills low enough to freeze the balls off a bull in a barn.

Many of you have already seen the video I’m providing a link to.  It’s from 2012 and from Spain.  A hundred people participated in the presentation of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy.  The sponsor was the Bank of the Spanish town, Sabadell.  It was called Som Sabadell, We are Sabadell.  We are Americans from the United States of America and we can rise up to be what would give us joy.  The bank, Banco Sabadell, wanted to honor the town on the 130th anniversary of the bank’s founding.  The chose a flash mob and presented a few minutes of joy to the people out that day to appreciate the sentiment.

This video has had 4.1 million views.  I’ve watched it several times and it has always lifted my spirits even when my spirits didn’t need to be lifted.  In Saturday’s Women’s March, here in Chicago, 300,000 women and men gathered and said with their presence #MeToo and a resounding no to Republican’s anti-immigrant stance and their implied racism and bigotry.  It’s not so much what they say but what they are doing.  Trump has forgotten the forgotten people he said he was going to represent.  Actually, he never had any intention of doing anything for them. Still…

Click on this youtube.com link and enjoy Ode To Joy.  And try to find some joy in winter and life in general.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBaHPND2QJg

 

Vietnam Veteran Commemoration Ceremony.

On This cold, sunny, and blustery winter’s day, I went to a Vietnam Veteran Commemoration at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center here in Chicago.  It’s across the street from the county hospital.  I allowed an hour and fifteen minutes travel time but still ended up arriving twenty minutes late and missed the first part of the ceremony.

Looking at GoogleEarthPro I didn’t see any parking lots but I did notice that there was a CTA Blue Line stop at Damen.  The Medical Center is on Damen.  I drove up to the Cumberland CTA parking garage and parked and walked over to the Blue Line stop.  This is a lot I’m familiar with.  You get a ticket when you drive in and when you return you pay for parking at one of three machines in a stairwell lobby.

I got on the next train.  Standing on the platform was a cold process.  But the train came before my fingers frozen inside of two-layered gloves.  I think I’ve gotten frostbite in those fingers at some point and they get cold very quickly.

At some point in the journey, I heard the intercom state that the train’s destination was only to Halsted and the Damen stop was further west.  I got off at the Monroe Street stop and waited for the next train going all the way to the end of the line.

The Damen Avenue stop is called the Illinois Medical District stop for all the medical institution located there.  From the stop to Damen is over a quarter mile.  And the Brown Medical Center is another two long blocks further south.

I made it in any event and being late didn’t really matter.  The keynote speaker, the Director of Illinois’ Department of Veteran Affairs gave a short address  Erica Jeffries was a helicopter pilot and graduated from West Point.  She announced that the governor of Illinois declared today, January 18, 2018, as Vietnam Veterans Day.

The Kizer Conference Center was packed with old guys wearing jackets announcing the branch of service they served in and also that they were Vietnam Veterans.  I had a ball cap that states Phu Bai Vietnam.  Next, to it, I have a Marine Corps emblem, the eagle, globe and Anchor symbol.   Phu Bai was where I was stationed in Vietnam.

After the singing of God Bless America led and sung by Dorothy Roberson there was a presentation of the commemoration pins to all who served in Vietnam.  I got in line with all of the old guys and received a handshake, a welcome home, and the pin in a little plastic box.

Looking at it later I realized that I had already picked one up when I visited the traveling Vietnam Wall back in the summer.  Ah well, I guess you can’t have too many commemorative pins.  I was served one cookie, that’s all I wanted, and a bottle of water.

It was a nice ceremony honoring veterans who served in Vietnam.  I was glad I attended.  While standing the line with several hundred veterans I saw that the overwhelming majority of them were African-American.  There was one, Asian, me.  Another man may have been Native American or Asian.  I couldn’t get a good look to determine which.

There were a handful of whites but not very many.  Strange I thought.

Garmin GPS Dash Cam Video Of Snow At Loveland Pass

Loveland Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 11,990 feet (3.655 m) above the sea level located in the Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado, USA. It’s said to be the highest mountain pass in the world that regularly stays open during a snowy winter season, but avalanches and heavy snowfalls can sometimes block some sections of the road. It’s one of the highest mountain roads of Colorado.

Located in Summit County, the road to the summit is called U.S. Highway 6 (Loveland Pass Road). Loveland Pass in the winter can be downright terrifying at times. A steep, steady 6.7% grade, along with numerous hairpin turns on either side, make it difficult to snowplow the road regularly. The pass is well known for its treacherous winter conditions, and the weather only gets worse as you climb higher in elevation. This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies.

The above was copied from a website called “dangerousroads.org”

I’ve just gotten the only video that I could find and upload to youtube.com of my trip through Loveland Pass back at the end of April on my way to California for the Manzanar reunion in California.  The link to the one minute video, without sound, is as follows:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8riN5Wd-Eo

 

 

A Few Words About Jay’s Chicago

The first thing that the name Jays might suggest is potato chips.  But Chicago’s Jays Food went bankrupt after going through changes in ownership from the family who founded the company, Japp.  After Japan’s attack on America’s naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii the company changed its name from Mrs Japp’s Potato Chips to Jays Food.  In 2007 it closed and its assets were sold to Snyder’s-Lance, Inc.  But we’ve come a long way from my subject which is another Jays Chicago.  This one is from producer Jay Shefsky who is a long time employee of WTTW-Channel 11, a PBS affiliate.

This morning I watched an episode of Jay’s Chicago.  It featured stories about Chicagoans and how they came to do their life’s work.  I’ve not watched Jay’s show religiously but the times I have caught it I have enjoyed it very much.  Its format is a video magazine.  And as his website proclaims:

“This series shines a spotlight on ordinary people who do extraordinary things from pursuing unusual passions, to finding innovative ways to meet daunting challenges, to practicing unique art forms these individuals make Chicago a lively, interesting, and fun place to live. “

This show reminds me of another show WTTW has aired and still airs produced by Mike Leonard.  Leonard worked for NBC in New York and interviewed many people in his career who were very interesting.  Like Jay’s show, it wasn’t flashy but it presented a sound, interesting package that highlighted people you wouldn’t mind having a cup of coffee with or sharing life stories with for a few minutes.

Jay Shefsky is tall, affable, and has an enviable shaped head that is hair challenged.  I say enviable because it’s nicely shaped and looks good bald.  He has a winning smile too.  Look at his picture on the website with the link below.

If I were to lose more hair than I already have, I’d have to design a hairstyle that would outdo Trump’s comb forward and backward style.  Why is that you might very well ask?  It’s because I have the forehead of a Klingon on the back of my head.  It has valleys and bumps as if I spent too many hours in the sun that shrunk parts of my skull into a landscape that would be a natural in Death Valley.

Still, I can highly recommend Jay’s program.  You can catch episodes on his website whose link follows.

https://schedule.wttw.com/series/17787/Jays-Chicago/

Jay if you read this review you can buy me a cup of coffee.   That is unless you didn’t like it.

Thoughts About The VA

For years I’ve heard nothing but horror stories about Hines Hospital and the VA health care system in general.  Since my doctor retired I’ve been going to Hines Hospital for medical care.  It isn’t convenient but neither is it hours away and impossible to get to by any means of transportation.   Every visit I’ve had I have been pleased with the operation and care I’ve received.

This past Thursday I was scheduled for an eye exam.  I just had an eye examination at another eye doctor just a few months ago.  I was told by my primary care doctor at the VA that I could get eyeglasses through the VA.  When I called to say I just wanted glasses I was informed that I would need an examination by the eye clinic at Hines in order to get glasses.

My present glasses are about four and possibly five years old.  I’ve had two eye exams since I got those glasses but my prescription hasn’t changed.  The ophthalmologist said I had the beginnings of cataracts but I needn’t have them removed now.  When I had my exams at Hines I saw two technicians, an eye doctor, and an optician.

I’ve always recently thought that the eye exam where the technician flips a number of lenses in a machine and asks you to read a line of letters was useless since I couldn’t see any better in any of the lenses they drop in front of my eye.  It all looked blurry and unreadable.

Thursday I found the reason was cataracts.  I’ve reached a point in my eyesight where a prescription change won’t help me to see any better than I can already.  For the past several years I’ve wondered why I haven’t gotten a new prescription.  I was simply told that my current prescription was still good.

I guess in the near future I will get the surgery but for now, I can see adequately with my glasses.  I’ve always been far-sighted but I wonder if that has degraded as much as my nearsightedness?  That’s a question I should ask the next time I see an eye doctor.  I wonder if the eye doctor is an optometrist or an ophthalmologist?  I’ll have to ask.  I suppose I should have asked when I was there.

The glasses cost me $120.00 since I opted for the upgraded frames.  My Uncle Sam is paying for the lenses, bifocal at that.  Glasses at my eye doctor usually cost me at least $500.  I could have gotten the glasses for free if I had chosen the cheaper Asian frames but I’d rather have something that won’t break while I’m wearing them in the first few years.

I’ve also had a CT scan, the result of an Agent Orange screening.  A chest x-ray showed a nodule of 5mm in my lung.  A CT scan was ordered.  Now I have to take a stress test because they also saw pulmonary and aortic restrictions.  If I hadn’t had the screenings I would not have know any of these things.  The nodule was probably caused by smoking which I quit many years ago.  No further action is required on that.  But the restrictions are troubling.

I could have waited until my April checkup with my primary care doctor at Hines but she thought for peace of mind I should have the stress test.  Doctor Mike, a friend, said I should exercise and I have been.  That shows how fear can drive a person to do things he or she may not want to do.

But the main thought that I have is that I’ve gotten excellent care and results at Hines Hospital.  It’s a reoccurring thought with many veterans I’ve talked to there.  I overheard one veteran say he loves the care he has received there and he’s been going to Hines since 1970.  And he’s had five brain surgeries there.

All I can say is Hoorah for the VA Health Care.

Alex Azar Spitted And Grilled By Elizabeth Warren

Alex Azar.  Who one might rightly ask.  Azar is in confirmation hearings before the Senate to see if he will be the next chairman of the Health and Human Services Administration. During questioning by Elizabeth “Pocahontas*” Warren.  She said:

“You want to smile and pretend otherwise until you get the job,”

The pretending she was alluding to was that Azar would not gut Medicare and turn it into a block grant program.

Azar comes from the pharmaceutical industry where most of the CEOs are bandit bastards.  Getting rid of Medicare would help the health insurance industry to make huge profits.  It wouldn’t benefit most retired working-class Americans.

There seems to be a never-ending number of these middle-aged white men.  Although his last name suggests a middle-eastern or eastern European ancestry his picture and credentials are pure white.  He was an official of the Healthcare Leadership Council, among other organizations.  And he’s a lawyer.  He was a clerk for A. Scalia.  We can assume he is part of the swamp that Trump is draining into his administration.  I’m sure he is a millionaire.  Not that it makes him bad but in this case, I think it does.

*, In this case, this is a term of endearment.  

Nuclear Thoughts In Days Of Fear

I’ve had thoughts of nuclear attacks and the current threat of a nuclear exchange.  We have two leaders of nuclear nations that might use them against each other.  That is North Korea and the United States.

Both of the leaders of these two countries have never served in the military let alone in a combat situation.  It is easy for them to see these weapons as just another piece of armament in their respective arsenal.

I believe most veterans who have served in a war zone would think that war is wastefully stupid.  I’ve known some that relished the idea of combat as a test of their machismo, their strength as a man.

I would think that most Americans fear any nuclear attack.  And rightly so, in my opinion.  My opinion, in my opinion, comes with my knowledge of what a nuclear, chemical or biological attack would involve.  During my several months in Camp Pendleton, I attended NBC warfare school.  That’s Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare.

I learned the dangers of radioactivity, of different biological and chemical agents stocked by allied and enemy countries.  It wasn’t pleasant.  But as awful as these weapons are and as most fall into the category of weapons of mass destruction, if you are a victim of them or a single round from a rifle or handgun you can still be dead.

Of the three classes, nuclear is by far the most destructive and fear-inspiring.  Still, progress in the science of dealing death has made mass killing possible.  Given man’s destructive nature, perhaps inevitable that we use them.

We have used them during the end of World War II.  Two atomic bombs were dropped on two Japanese cities killing 129,000 civilians in Hiroshima.  The yield of that bomb was around equivalent to 16,000 tons of TNT.  The subsequent radio-activity killed a further 90,000 to 146,000 more people.  One bomb killed a minimum of 210,000 people.  Very efficient.

Today’s yield of hydrogen weapons are categorized in the millions of tons.  Oh, the advance of science.  We are. of course, very interested in more and better machines of death.

As a society though we choose to appear civilized and humane.  We pretend to care about civilians casualties.  We abhor excessive violence.  We pretend to care about of military and veterans but only if they aren’t causing any problems or don’t cost us an exorbitant amount of money.

People die in wars.  Many die horribly.  Many more a terribly wounded.  Wounds that would have killed soldiers in my day are now saved through modern measures and medical advances.  However, war is terrible.  It is a tragic waste of resources.  And even if you win you’ve already lost in humanity.

I say in case of an escalation of tension we send Trump and call for Kim to meet him in Hawaii and battle naked and without weapons to the death.  No proxies either.  I think that would be fair: size gives its advantage to old age.  Yes!  I think that’s fair.

Happy Orthodox Christmas

Today is the Orthodox Christmas or 3 Kings Day.  Yesterday was Ephipany that is thought to be the day the three kings followed a star that took them to Bethlehem and newly born Jesus.  January 14th will be the Orthodox New Year.  Do you need another excuse to celebrate something?  There you are then.

In Chicago, the temperature got to freezing 32 degrees F.  Due to the thawing of snow and the subsequent drop in temperature in the evening walking was treacherous.  I walked to the local produce market called, oddly enough, the Produce Center.

I bought a few things and carried them back home.  I walked on the other side of the street from the route I took to the store.  I didn’t fall but I did slip several times.  I haven’t been walking much.  The weather has been cold for weeks and not conducive to walks.

The pace of my life has slowed considerably this week.  At least, since Thursday when a great nephew and great niece along with their mother came to visit.  The whole of Barbara’s relatives were here for my favorite food, pizza.

Now the holidays are over until January 15th, a Federal Holiday.  Martin Luther King’s birthday.  I wonder how they got that one past Congress?  What’s more amazing, at least to me, is that there is a state holiday in Arkansas for Daisy Gatson Bates.  You might well ask who?  She was a civil rights activist who was instrumental in integrating Little Rock’s Central High School.  It wasn’t until 2001 that the state proclaimed that along with president’s day it would also be Daisy Gatson Bates day.

Civil Rights is in trouble in today’s America.  With the current president, Congress and Supreme Court chipping away at civil rights it may look like pre-1965 America soon.  Let’s hope not.  Let us be positive.  Hoorah!  America is as great as it was anytime in its past history.  There’s a lot we can’t be proud of in our past.

Wrapping Up 2017

“The Committee to Protect Journalists has published its 25th annual survey of journalists killed and jailed around the world. This year, the list of those killed included 42 journalists and four media workers. A record 262 journalists were imprisoned around the world, with Turkey, China and Egypt topping the list for the second year in a row. Mexico reached an historic high in journalists killed this year, and the country leads the world in journalists killed in a non-conflict zone. This comes as President Donald Trump has waged a relentless campaign to discredit journalists in the United States, often with rhetoric that could potentially incite his followers to violence. We speak with María Salazar-Ferro, the director of the Emergencies Department of the Committee to Protect Journalists.”

This comes from a broadcast of Democracy Now aired on December 29, 2017.  In a profession where 46 people working to bring news to the world have been killed for the simple reason that someone did not like the light that was directed on the actions of despots.

More and more examples of Trump’s effects on totalitarian regimes of this world, notably Turkey, China, and Egypt have been using the simple-minded rant of Trump which is “fake news,” to justify the incarceration of journalists.

It’s impossible to comprehend our 32-33% of ignorant people not understanding that their favorite source of news, FOX National News, is the worst purveyors of “fake news.”  They aren’t capable of rational and logical thought.  As long as these Americans support Trump we are in for a bumpy ride.

I just backspaced a line of words that spotlighted the stupidy of people who blindly follow dogma that most thoughtful people would find unacceptable.  There are so many people who think America is only meant for people that look, act and think as they do—that the United States Constitution consists of only the second and fifth amendments.  They would be glad to go back to the antebellum United States where they think family values meant something.  How does one explain all of the light-skinned blacks in America?  Is that cause part of American values?

It’s time to wake up to the reality of America.  It’s a land of immigrants with different cultures and religions.  It’s a land of such diversity that exclusion of anyone for any reason can’t be allowed.  It’s a land of laws that protect every citizen.  It’s become a land where the rich are much more equal than the rest of the 99% of the remainder.  It can’t last like that.  It shouldn’t last like that.  What makes America great is its diversity.  America has never been great.  It has always trod on someone for some reason.  Now it is stepping on most of us for the simple reason of greed and the attraction of power.

2017 Almost Over

Merry Christmas, belated but still given sincerely.  This is a celebration of salvation. But I think rather we all need comforting.  A salve to apply to our wounds, physical or psychological.

It’s time to make resolutions.  Resolutions that are soon broken or kept as the case may be.  Mostly broken and forgotten I think.  I wish, however, that all of our resolutions are kept and that by doing so it will make us flourish.

This whole month was, for me, taken up by cleaning.  I’ve had a cold for the last two weeks and a few days.  It wasn’t a bad laying in bed, coughing, sneezing, and producing gallons of mucous, kind of cold but the kind that makes one not feel quite up to snuff.

I managed to clean most of the house, which hasn’t been this clean since the previous owners, two sisters, moved out and we moved in.  The relatives were fed, twice.  Once on Christmas Day and two days, later they were given leftovers.  For my nephew, Trevor, he has only known Christmas Day at our house.  Although this year for the first time in his life he had dinner with his in-laws.

Chicago has been in a deep freeze.  A 2-liter bottle of Diet Rite exploded on the back porch leaving frozen Diet Rite all over 1/3 of the back porch.  The only good thing was I could just sweep it up into a bucket.  That will teach me, I can only hope, to remember to bring in bottles of liquids that can freeze and spew its contents all over.

If you are in Erie, PA I’m sorry.  For all others, I hope this New Year brings good fortune and good health.  For those suffering from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, I hope your shield withstands the onslaught.  Take up arms against the sea of troubles thereby ending them.  (Sorry William Shakespeare!)  And as Dylan Thomas writes:

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Happy New Year 2018.  May it be so much better than this last.

 

My Recent Towing Incident: Update

Last Wednesday I sent an e-mail to Deb Mel, the Alderman of the 33rd Ward here in Chicago.  The parking lot from where I was towed and subsequently had to pay $200.00 is in her district.  Since writing to her and sending a copy to my Alderman, John Arena of the 45th Ward, it occurred to me that the reason the stall number are separated is that new fences have been installed.

In order for the numbers to be adjacent to one another, a different type of fence had to be there.  I don’t think that I’ll get any satisfaction from my complaint.  Besides I tried to put Deb Mells’s brother-in-law, Rod Blagojevich in jail.

I will still post a copy of the e-mail I sent though just as an update on my towing incident.

______________________________________________________________________

Dear Alderman Deb Mel;

Re: CTA parking lot at Kimball and Lawrence Avenues

I’ve just reviewed, online, a bill from my MasterCard issuer, Sears.  It for a towing charge of $200.00 and on the same bill there is a parking fee of $5.00.  Both charges occurred on the same day, October 28, 2017.

I’ve delayed writing about this to anyone with authority for a number of reasons.  I misplaced the receipts, which I’ve found, and my anger subsided after writing a blog about the incident a few days after it happened.

I parked in the lot at the terminus of the CTA’s Brown Line at 11:23 A.M.  I used one of the two machines at the entrance of the lot.  Although it was an overcast day the small screen for the parking lot was a little difficult to read.  I saw a sign hung on a fence that I interpreted as being space 1415.  I put my credit card in the machine and was waiting for instructions when to input the space number.  I was trying to read the screen by shielding the screen from the ambient light with little success.

The next thing I see on the screen is “Printing Receipt.”  I waited and retrieved the receipt.  On it was printed “Stall # 5.”  I had not entered any stall number.  But since I had paid for the day– until 11:23 P.M. the 28th of October I thought by having a paid receipt was enough to show that I had paid for parking.

I returned to my car and thought perhaps I should move it into spot 1516.  At least there was a “5” in the number.

Returning I found my car was missing.  I was about to call the police when I thought about the “5” in the receipt and call the number of A-1 Towing that was on a sign in the lot.

I won’t go into details about the conversation but about midway through our conversation it all struck me as funny that I was being scammed and ripped off for $205.00.  I laughingly asked the person if they wore masks when they did their work.  The person told me that I had parked in the wrong spot.  That I had #5 on the receipt and that it should have been #15.   I thought I had parked in stall 1516 as the sign showed.  I asked what about the paid receipt and was told it didn’t matter because I was in the wrong spot and did not matter if I had paid or not.

In returning to the lot to take pictures of the sign I found the signs had been separated and showed #15 and #16. (see attachments).  I know what I saw when I parked at 11:23 A.M.  And I saw what was the way it turned out to be when I returned.  Did someone search on A-1 towing and find my blog?  Is that why the number signs were changed?

I feel that the lot administrators, in collusion with A-1 Towing, makes it difficult not to make mistakes and consequently have to pay a towing charge of $200.  Why is the default of not putting in a stall number, a number 5.? Why were the signs together as 1415 and 1516 and then changed to #15 and #16?

In other city parking lots and on city streets you pay after you park then put the receipt on the dashboard.  On Cumberland and the Kennedy Expressway, you get a ticket and pay by putting your ticket in a machine that calculates the charge which you pay and then validates the ticket that it has been paid.

I don’t know what good will come of this but I have to try since I hope this doesn’t  happen to others.

Sincerely,
James Matsumoto

cc: John Arena my Alderman

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Tire Pressure/Snow Blowers

Twice this week I’ve driven to Glencoe to the CarMax dealer to have my TPMS warning light looked at.  Monday was the first time.  I changed tires recently and the snow tires had trouble last year when the sleek, but daft, blue beauty wouldn’t recognize the tire pressure sensors that Tire Rack of South Bend, Indiana installed on my steel rimmed Bridgestone, Bizzak snow tires.  I took it in then and CarMax was able to get the sensors set.

This year, again, the same thing happened.  However, after two days, the computer control module refused to look at these immigrant sensors.  Carmax went through their magic incantations again.  We’ll see how long this will last.

The TPMS, or tire pressure maintenance system, is almost worthless.  When the warning light comes on it doesn’t tell which tire is low.  It could be anyone, or more, of five tires—that includes the mini spare.   I’d be happy without it—or one like Barbara’s Camry where it shows the tire pressure of four tires.  Except the display shows four tires in a row without indication of which tire is on which location.  I know some manufacturers show the location as well as the pressure.

Seems to me there was a lack of customer input in the design of my TPMs as well as the year newer Camry.  I think with all the sensors and information given on new cars it will be totally automated in the near future.  Cars that drive themselves are already here.  Still, it’s not very widespread yet.

In the near future over half of existing jobs will be lost to robots.  Even doctors will be made virtually obsolete.  A brave new world is coming and I’m not sure I’ll like it any more than I like the one I find myself in at the present time.

Having grown up in a car culture society I shall miss the excitement of driving and going fast.  This spring, on my California trip I bought a T-shirt at the Peterson Auto Museum that has a stick shift six-speed with reverse printed on the front.  In this respect, I am an atavist.  I like shifting.  I don’t like clutching during rush hour though.  I guess I do want it all.

Last winter I did without a snow blower.  Today, after CarMax I went to Home Depot and bought a new Toro, electric start snow blower.  I’m ready for winter and the heavier than normal snowfall that is predicted for this winter.  The only drawback is the feeling I have that since I’ve started the machine I should blow the snow for half the block.  There are some seniors that need help.  Some neighbors that are nice and I don’t mind doing a favor for them.  When I shoveled I just did my walks without feeling guilty.  Ah well.  It is the neighborly thing to do.

Trash, Garbage, Waste And Human Folly

Not all of Chicago’s garbage is collected by the city’s Department of Street and Sanitation.  After a set limit, apartment building owners must contract with private waste contractors to haul their buildings wastes and recyclables.
Chicago’s 600,000 residential houses and apartments produce about 1.1 million tons of garbage and recyclables each year.  Getting information about where Chicago’s garbage is taken is difficult.  Searches with different search engines rarely produce concrete answers.  It’s as if no one either wants to know or doesn’t want you to know.  I did find one site that showed landfills in two different places in Michigan.
Years ago there was a controversy with a barge load of garbage traveling down the Chicago River to the Cal-Sag Canal on its way down the Mississippi only to bet turned back and returned to Chicago.  It was a game of hot-potato garbage style.
Check out this link I found on commondreams.org.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/world/global-waste/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.dab35f601161 

And read the following article that accompanied the video.

“The world produces more than 3.5 million tons of garbage a day — and that figure is growing.”

With a sharp increase in the world population and many economies growing, we are producing more waste than ever. In Europe and the United States our trash is largely invisible once it’s tossed; in other parts of the world it is more obvious, in the form of waste dumps, sometimes in the middle of cities.

Dumps are a problem because they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Burning trash outdoors is also harmful, to the environment and people’s health.

“Landfills and waste dumps are quickly filling up — with many of the largest receiving on average 10,000 tons of waste per day.

As a country becomes richer, the composition of its waste changes — more packaging, electronic components, broken toys and appliances, and relatively less organic material.

New York and San Francisco now have a goal of “zero waste” to be achieved by a reduction in trash and more recycling, but they still have a long way to go. In New York, plastic shopping bags are still provided in almost every store. The world produces over 300 million tons of plastic each year, of which only a small fraction is recycled.

By 2050, there will be so much plastic floating in the ocean it will outweigh the fish, according to a study issued by the World Economic Forum. Scientists estimate that there are at least 5.25 trillion plastic particles — weighing nearly 270,000 tons — floating in the oceans right now.”

Scavengers dig through the trash at Jakarta’s Bantar Gebang.

 

“On average, a person in the United States or Western Europe uses about 220 pounds of plastic per year, according to the Worldwatch Institute, a research organization. The packaging industry, growing thanks to the rise of online stores and other factors, poses a huge challenge.

“About one-third of the food produced in the world gets thrown away or otherwise wasted, according to U.N. data. The Dutch toss out the equivalent of over 400,000 loaves of bread per day, on average. The United States wastes by far the most food, due in part to fast-food restaurants at which employees and consumers dump unsold items or leftovers.

Most waste in Africa, the United States and Asia ends up in dumps, many of which are already at capacity. Europe sends less of its waste to dumps or landfillsand more to incinerators. While some of them are relatively clean, many are a threat to the environment and public health. Tokyo has more than 20 garbage incinerators in the metropolitan area. The city says they are not hazardous to public health, because they burn mostly organic material and use an advanced system to filter out damaging gases.

“But if the world is not prepared to think about waste reduction and actually treat garbage as a resource, future generations will drown in their own waste.”

Garbage and its attendant problems are problems now.  Like global warming the world goes blindly oblivious to the cliff, we are approaching and in imminent danger of falling into an abyss of no return.

Tax Reform? I Don’t Think So

Every day is chaos.   That’s how Trump likes it.  He attacks people in Tweets early in the morning.  This morning he made a mistake and his lawyer had to fall on the sword and tell the world he wrote the Tweet and not Trump—as if Trump would let anyone else write his Tweets.

Trump’s Tweet said he fired Flynn because he lied to Pence and the FBI.  Knowing that Flynn committed a crime wasn’t very smart but then this is Trump.  I still hear people say that Trump is not stupid.  I don’t know if they say that as a measure of their own intelligence or not but the most you can say is that Trump is cruel and wiley like a rabid dog.

The Republican Senate has a lot to answer for in passing a tax cut for the wealthy in the middle of the night with a bill that had unintelligible handwritten pages in it.  Not one Democrat voted for the abortion that Trump still thinks is a massive tax cut for the rich.  Only one Republican Senator did not vote for it, Bob Corker.  And he voted no because of the $1.44 trillion dollar increase the bill will create in the national debt.

Conventional wisdom says that that is just a ploy.  When the economy does not decrease the public debt the Republicans will say that it is necessary to cut spending.  That will be of the triumvirate that Republicans hate: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

I’ve heard progressives say they wish the Republican’s draconian measure take effect and really hurt the Trump supporters that have no idea what Trump and the Republicans are trying to do to the working class.  It will hurt them but it will hurt others who aren’t supporting the Right.  Still, they aren’t doing much to change the political balance of power to swing back to the left.

Puerto Rico is a grand example of a large government that has no will to help those in need.  We need a strong Federal Government because we have disasters, wars, and problems that local and state government cannot handle.  Who’s left?  The Heritage Foundation?  Can they take the place of government?  Only if you want rolls of paper towels tossed at you.

I watched a Republican Congressman lie when asked about the Flynn situation.  He turned it around and said it was proven that Hillary and the Democrats were guilty of collusion with the Russians when they paid the Russians for the Steele Dossier that purports to tell of Trump’s taste in sex.

It, the dossier, was begun by a radical right-wing rich man during the Republican Primary but who saw the Trump light after he won the nomination and got on board with Trump train.  The Democrats looking for dirt picked up the funding of the dossier.  It wasn’t the Russians.  It was collusion.  The collusion has all been on the Trump side.  But Fox and Trump say there was no collusion and around 33% of the stupid people believe what they hear.

Now the Republican Supreme Court has sided with Trump on parts of his immigration ban.  It’s no longer law but politics there.  It’s a sad period for America.  I would wish that there were people around that could make America Great Again.  It has surely fallen into the shitty end of the sewer.

Flynn Drags Trump Onto the Hot Seat With Him/White House Christmas

The other day Michael Flynn who, during the campaign, led the Trump crowd with chants of “lock her up” was greeted with his own “lock him up” from anti-Trump protestors.  Today Trump received his own share of the chant along with chants of “shame.”

I don’t think shame or guilt is part of Republican’s psychological makeup.  Otherwise, how does one square what they say with what they do?  If you think all life is sacred, as does Pope Francis, who does one reconcile the fact that they, mostly, do not care for “Black Lives Matter” and the people suffering throughout the world many of them children.

How can they pass along lies without first checking to see if what they re-post or re-Tweet is factual?  I’ve been told about Facebook post and e-mail about how Trump has brought back Christmas to the White House.  I have a Facebook account but I seldom look at it.  Barbara does by proxy.  I don’t get the hate e-mails either about how hateful minorities and Democrats are.  I think by now most people are aware of which side I land on in matters political and ethical.

Here’s a link to the Washington Post by Patricia Dvorak, a columnist, written on November 30, 2017.  This is opinion and not news but it is a fact check to the lie that Trump has brought back Christmas to the White House.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trump-brought-merry-christmas-back-to-the-white-house-fact-check-wrong/2017/11/30/705b7e82-d5ec-11e7-a986-d0a9770d9a3e_story.html?utm_term=.638836e8194e

The “Truth Is Out There.”   X-Files returns January 3, 2018, at 7:00 P.M. Central Standard time.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The coverage of the real damage done by Trump and his administration is dismal.  The coverage of the stupid things Trump says almost daily gets the most coverage.  Take for example Trump’s mention of Pocahontas yesterday.  Telling three Navajo “code talkers” that some call her, Elizabeth Warren, Pocahontas.

Trump named and called her that.  Warren has been an outspoken critic of Trump and I’m sure he hates her specifically instead of just in general for being a strong woman with more brains than Trump and the rest of his family has put together.

Warren was instrumental in putting together the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which has just lost its director, Richard Cordray.  Cordray resigned anticipating a run for Ohio Governor’s seat.  He appointed his second in charge, Leandra English as interim director.

Trump appointed his budget director, another Trump clone prone to telling lies.  He has been an outspoken critic of the CFPB.  Most American’s probably have never heard of this Bureau and what it does.  The Republicans have said that it has crippled the economy.  But if you were to search on the lawsuits it has filed you would find that it has worked for consumers just as it says in the title of the Bureau.  They have been keeping an eye on bankers and student loans.

Mulvaney, Trump’s creature, and English showed up on the same day with both saying in essence, “I’m in charge.”  Here’s a short article from Common Dreams.  Read how a Trump appointed judge ruled on a request for a restraining order.

“A Trump-appointed federal judge delivered a “blow to American consumers” on Tuesday by denying Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) deputy director Leandra English’s request for a temporary restraining order, which would have prevented Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney from becoming the CFPB’s acting director.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly’s ruling effectively gives Mulvaney the authority to lead the CFPB, despite arguments from the agency’s architects insisting that the law is “clearly” not on his side. English is reportedly weighing several options in response to Kelly’s ruling, including an immediate appeal.

As Common Dreamsreported, English filed suit on Sunday claiming that President Donald Trump’s appointment of Mulvaney was ‘unlawful’ and arguing that she is the “rightful acting director.”

‘Dodd-Frank is quite specific: It provides its own succession planning, ‘ Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) argued shortly following Mulvaney’s appointment. ‘There is no vacancy for President Trump to fill.’

The judge’s ruling sparked immediate outrage on social media, as consumer advocates and analysts highlighted Mulvaney’s expressed desire to do away with the agency he will (for now, at least) be tasked with running.”

Now Republicans are probably cheering that a Federal Judge ruled that Trump’s creature would remain as interim director most likely according to his politics instead of law just so Trump would benefit by further dismantling Obama’s legacy.  You may wonder where, those that are cheering, their patriotism was lost when un-American politics may ultimately win in a court of law and they think that is good for American consumers.

Elizabeth Warren said: “For six years, this agency has fought to give consumers a chance. For six years, this agency has fought for working people,” Warren declared as CFPB employees looked on from their office windows. “And now it’s time for us to fight for the agency.”

 

 

 

Post Thanksgiving Thoughts

Today, two whole days after Thanksgiving Day, I watched something on poverty on television.  After that, I searched the internet for the number of Americans living below the Federal Poverty Line.  The “Line.”   In 2016 that “Line” was $24,339 of income for a family of four: two adults and two children.

In the documentary, I was watching, filmed this year, the family had one adult, the mother, and two children, young teenagers.  The mother’s annual income was $16,800.  The son mowed grass and made $10 that day.  Six dollars went for gas for the car and some for the lawnmower.  The remaining four dollars he gave to his mother for food.

The Census Bureau’s statistics say that the number of people at or below the poverty line fell in 2016 by 8% to 12.7% of the population.  Figuring that our population is 320,000,000 that means that 40,640,000 are living at or below the “Line.”

I know that there are many Americans who believe it’s not their responsibility or that of government to give needy people any type of aid but just thinking as a human being shouldn’t we have some compassion for those in need?  If you’re a Christian, isn’t that one of the tenents of  Christianity?  If anyone can answer no to each question they are most likely a right-wing Republican.

In this land of plenty, at least for those fortunate enough not to be in jeopardy monetarily, there is so much to be thankful for regardless of the 10% on top who require more and more of a finite amount of wealth in the world.

I’m not rich but I don’t want either.  I am fortunate.  I don’t wonder if my utilities will be shut off because I can’t pay the current bills.  I don’t worry about the bank foreclosing on my mortgage for non-payment.  I am fortunate.  I am retired.  I don’t worry about being fired, or laid off.  I have an adequate amount of money to pay bills, buy food and the other necessary things of life and also the things that give us pleasure.

I am very fortunate.  Do I do enough for those who aren’t so fortunate?  I’m ashamed to say, “not enough.”  I pledge to do better.  I wish to become a human being with empathetic understanding of those different than I am.

 

 

 

Senate Tax Cut Plan And House Plan; Bad for Working Class

—Another lazy day for me.  I repost something from the “Americans For Tax Fairness.”  They cite their sources so it isn’t “fake news.”

13 Terrible Things About the Senate Republican Tax Plan

 

  1. Gives most of the tax cuts to the richest 1%. The share of tax cuts going to the richest 1% is 62% in 2027, up from 18% in 2019. Their tax cut will be $33,000 in 2027, on average. [Tax Policy Center (TPC)]
  2. Gives 53% of the tax cutsto corporations and businesses. These tax cuts mostly benefit the wealthy. [Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT)]
  3. Makes 82 million middle-class families pay more in taxes. Half of all households—94 million—would pay more in taxes in 10 years. Of those, 82 million are of low- or middle-income. Two-thirds of families earning $55,000 to $93,000 will see a tax increase. [TPC]
  4. Pays for corporate tax cuts by taking healthcare away from working families and seniors.
  • To raise revenue to pay for permanent corporate tax cuts, the plan repeals the requirement under the Affordable Care Act for individuals to have health coverage. This will lead to 13 million more people being uninsured and cause a 10% increase in health insurance premiums. [Congressional Budget Office (CBO)]
  • The corporate tax rate is slashed from 35% to 20%, losing $1.3 trillion over 10 years That’s almost the $1.5 trillion cut the Republican budget proposes for Medicare ($473 billion) and Medicaid ($1 trillion). [JCT, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)]
  • The tax bill would trigger immediate Medicare cuts of at least $25 billion a year, and more than $100 billion in other cuts to agriculture subsidies, student loans, military retirement and more, because it adds $1.4 trillion to the debt.  [(CBO)]
  1. Makes corporate tax cuts permanent, but makes tax cuts for individuals and families temporary. All the tax cuts that benefit the middle-class will expire after 2025, while the corporate tax cuts are permanent. The plan makes permanent changes to the way tax brackets are adjusted for inflation, resulting in a growing tax increase over time. [CBPP]
  2. Adds $1.4 trillion to the national debt jeopardizing critical services. The plan includes at least $1.4 trillion in tax cuts—and possibly as much as $1.9 trillion—that are not paid for by closing loopholes used by the wealthy and corporations. This will balloon the deficit and further endanger funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education and more. [CBPP]
  3. Puts wealthy business owners over seniors. Wealthy business owners and investors—including real estate developers like Donald Trump—get a $225 billion tax cut from the effective drop in the top tax rate for “pass-through” business income from 39.6% to 32%, along with other tax changes on pass-through income. (Pass-throughs include partnerships, S corporations and sole proprietorships, and their owners pay taxes at the individual rate.) By comparison, the Republican budget cuts Medicare by $473 billion. [JCT, TPC and CBPP]
  4. Kills American jobs by encouraging outsourcing and profit shifting. The plan creates a territorial tax system, which exempts foreign profits from U.S. taxes. While the plan will tax some of those offshore profits, the effective tax rate will be far below the U.S. rate. U.S. multinationals will have even more tax incentives to outsource more jobs and shift more profits offshore.
  5. Hands a $565 billion tax cut to offshore tax dodgers. American corporations have $2.6 trillion in profits stashed offshore on which they owe $750 billion in U.S. taxes. Rather than make them pay what they owe, like all the rest of us do, the tax plan will charge them only $185 billion—over a half-trillion-dollar discount. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and JCT]
  6. Repeals the federal deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) hurting the middle class.One-third of taxpayers making $50-75,000 take this deduction for state and local income and property taxes, as do half of those making $75-100,000. Eliminating SALT will put pressure on state and local budgets, likely forcing cuts to education, health care, and infrastructure. [Government Finance Officers Assoc. and CBPP]
  7. Helps Donald Trump pay much less in taxes. The plan repeals the alternative minimum tax (AMT), losing $770 billion. Without the AMT, Trump would have paid just a 4% tax rate on $153 million in income one year. But thanks to the AMT, he paid $38 million for a tax rate of 25%. [JCT and New York Times]
  8. Lets many wealthy heirs avoid paying the estate tax. The estate tax is substantially weakened, losing $83 billion and allowing more rich families to inherit wealth tax-free. The tax now only applies to estates worth over $5.5 million per person—about 5,500 estates. Under the bill, only estates worth at least $11 million per person (about 1,800 estates) would pay the tax. [JCT, TPC, CBPP]

It’s fortunate for Illinois residents to have two Democratic senators.  I’m sure Illinois Republicans lament that fact with wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Heh, heh!

For a more concise look at the GOP House Tax Cut Plan, click on the link below.

http://ATF-Comparison-of-House-GOP-Tax-Plan-Congressional-Budget-FINAL-11.19.17.pdf

London’s Fatberg Is Removed

I have good news tonight.  At least I found out tonight when I searched for the outcome of London’s largest fatberg found in September of this year.  Here’s the story from the UK’s Evening Standard.

London’s monster fatberg has finally been defeated after more than two months of “gut-wrenching work”.

The massive 250-metre long lump of wet wipes, nappies, fat and oil blocking an underground sewer in Whitechapel was thought to be one of the biggest fatbergs ever discovered in the capital.

Thames Water today announced that engineers had finally finished removing the berg, which weighed the same as 11 double-decker buses and measured longer than two Wembley football pitches.

The 130-tonne fatberg was so large it had damaged the one-metre high Victorian sewer, engineers said.

Clean: The newly unblocked sewer in Whitechapel. (Thames Water)

Workers were forced to remove the last stretch manually, scooping the disgusting mass away with shovels and “brute force”.

“Our work is finished, and the beast finally defeated after a mammoth effort from the team,” Alex Saunders, the waste network manager said.

The monster fatberg found in east London blocked a sewer. (PA)

“It was some of the most gut-wrenching work many would have seen on national television, and one of the reasons why the man-made Whitechapel fatberg captured the world’s imagination.”

The fatberg itself is not going to go to waste and will be converted into 10,000 litres of biodiesel. It will harvest enough fuel to power a Routemaster bus for an entire year.

But Mr Saunders said the pain-staking work to remove the fatberg comes with a warning message.

Fatberg fighters: Workers had to use shovels to clear the last bit of fatberg. (Thames Water)

“The good news is it has helped Thames Water and other water companies around the world get the message across that cooking fat, oils and grease should never go down the plughole,” he said.

“As you have seen, when combined with wet wipes, sanitary products, underwear, nappies, and anything else that shouldn’t be flushed, we’re faced with having to clear out these giant, rock-hard fatbergs.”

130-tonne ‘fatberg‘ blocks sewer under London street

Thames Water said it spends around £1m a month clearing blockages from its 68,000 mile sewer network. Eight times every hour a customer suffers a blockage caused by items being flushed away or put down the drain which shouldn’t be.

The company’s “Bin it – don’t block it” campaign urges Londoners to only put human waste and toilet paper down the toilet.

The scale of the fatberg: Two football pitches.

Last month, the Standard reported the Museum of London had launched a bid to exhibit part of the mammoth fatberg.

The museum’s director Sharon Ament said part of the berg could become “one of the most extraordinary objects” in any museum in the capital.

After discovering the sewer surprise, Matt Rimmer from Thames Water said it is “up there with the biggest we’ve ever seen”, adding: “It’s a total monster and taking a lot of manpower and machinery to remove as it’s set hard.”

“It’s basically like trying to break up concrete.”

Just a few weeks after the Whitechapel fatberg was discovered, a 50-metre long lump weighing 26 tonnes was found beneath Chinatown.