“Michelle Obama eats caviar like it’s kasha”

Argh, where have I been?? I fell off the blog beam a bit . . .

I mean, I did give a speech on my favorite topic (waste!) at a high school event in Westchester . . . and finished my Enviro Policy class . . . and then I learned how to forage for edibles in the woods of the Berkshires with my friend Karina (just in case) . . . and then I went down to D.C. — not for the Climate March (although I did make a fun sign that referenced the hot, sticky weather they were having that day, before I flaked out due to the hot, sticky weather they were having that day) . . . but rather to ride bikes along the Capital Crescent Trail with my friends Clare and Rebecca and Lorna, and pop into pubs when it rained, and play our ukuleles at a bluegrass jam on the roof terrace of the Kennedy Center, and to be generally goofy. 

(That’s right — I’ve now performed at the Kennedy Center! Haha.)

Circus PeanutsMeanwhile, Trump fired Comey (dummy); I watched Sally Yates and General James Clapper (badasses) testify about Mike Flynn; I went to my House Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s Town Hall, where he explained how Trump actually IS a facist (sooo good); and our Prez pulled out the Paris Climate Agreement. (Sigh.) But what do we expect from a man with the brains (and coloring) of a circus peanut? 

Comey’s open Senate hearing was yesterday, and we’re still in mid-kerfuffle about that. I do have some good news, though: my Dad’s chemo worked!! The immunotherapy a few months ago failed, but since finishing chemo, the bladder cancer appears to be gone, and my Mom just texted that the culture came back negative for any cancer cells!!! WHOOP!!!!

I also had another interesting conversation with a cab driver on my way to work recently. (Remind me to expense these trips next April.) It fits the topic at hand . . .

And it goes like this. It’s morning, and I’m determined to get to work on time, so I grab a cab. My driver is wearing a baseball cap with a yarmulke peeking out from the ponytail-holding area of the hat — not that he has a ponytail, but you know the part I’m talking about, right? Where the adjustable thingie is? Anyway, there is some large-ish machine-stitched Hebrew lettering on the yarmulke.

Radio DanuTalk radio is playing in a foreign language, but I don’t think it’s Hebrew. So I ask the driver, “Is that . . . Russian?” He answers yes in a Russian accent. Oh, goodie, I think to myself.

He’s from a town “6,000 miles farther than Moscow,” he tells me. The radio station is from Paramus, New Jersey.

It’s called Radio DaNu, and according to (the translated version of) its website, it’s the only FM you can hear the latest hits, hot Russian and American news program about music, showbiz, politics and all that interesting every modern man. And most importantly, DaNu Radio — it is always the most positive emotions and good mood!”

From what I figure out later by playing around with Google Translate and so forth, “Da nu” means something like “Yeah, right.”

I ask my driver what they’re talking about: “Politics, soccer . . . ?”

He says it’s the news, and then mentions the French election. Now, this is the morning after France’s Presidential race has turned into a run-off situation between the centrist Emmanuel Macron and the uber-uber-right-wing Marine Le Pen — before Macron’s victory (I told you a lot has happened). My driver tells me he lived in France for a while.

“Oh, yeah? So who are you for?” I ask him.
“Marine Le Pen,” he answers.
“Really.” I respond. “So do you like Trump, then?”
“Oh, yes, I love Trump.”
“What do you like about him?” I ask.

In brief, his answer includes ideas like these:

“He’s going to take care of us.”
“Nobody else! Nobody else talk about taking care of us like Trump.”
“Trump does what he say. He is a man.”

My driver tells me he’s a pharmacist with a master’s degree — or at least he was; he’s now retired and drives a cab about once a week. He says he moved here 30 years ago when “everything was great — and then it fell apart.”

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 1.26.45 PMI wonder about that; 30 years ago (say, 1987), he would’ve been emigrating from the soon-to-crumble Soviet Union, so maybe 1980s’ New York City didn’t look so bad in comparison? Here in the U.S., it was the Reagan-into-Bush-Sr. era: 1981-1993. (I didn’t just pull that out of my noggin; for a good time, I recommend Googling “presidents in order” and comparing the photo they used for Trump with the other photos — hilarious.)

Unemployment did start to rise in 1989 — from about 5% to 8% — but then it dropped down to below 4% under Bill Clinton. Still, at some point the pharmaceutical company that my driver (Boris) worked for (did I mention he’s a pharmacist with a master’s degree?) moved to South Carolina, and Boris couldn’t find a new job here. He interviewed and interviewed, and no job. “Obama made it bad,” he says.

Okay just for the heck of it, here’s a screenshot of an unemployment rate graph I found. You don’t have to study it; I just enjoyed the irony of the accompanying banner ad — I guess rich folks are the ones looking at unemployment data:

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 3.35.41 PM

You can see how unemployment spiked in 2008 with the banking crisis (while W. was in office), and then steadily went down in the Obama years. (If I was really clever, I’d add the Presidents’ terms at the bottom, but alas.)

I tell my driver, “Actually, unemployment went steadily down under Obama. It went WAY UP while Bush was in office and the big banking crisis happened — ”

He won’t hear of it. “Trump going to take care of us. Obama not take care of us — Obamas are just about being rich. Michelle Obama eats caviar like it’s kasha!” This he says with great conviction.

And this is when I pull out my iPhone to record our conversation as a voice memo, so I can remember it better. Unfortunately, I must not make proper contact with the “record” button . . . which I don’t realize until I get out of the cab later. Clearly I’m a rookie-level reporter.

I try to respond to his caviar comment gently: “I don’t know about that. I think you might have the Trumps and the Obamas mixed up . . . ”

He gives me a dismissive hand wave from the front seat, and a “Baah!”

After a few minutes I ask him, “So, what do you think about the Russian influence on the election?” I get another hand wave.

Let’s put this conversation on pause for a moment, and talk about Russia. Why not, everyone else is. But there’s a lot to say about Russia that people aren’t saying. Or at least not in a way that Trump supporters can hear. Most of what I’ve read in the social posts of our huddled masses is along the lines of “Who cares if Russia intervened?? Y’all are sore losers.” Oh, how times have changed since schoolchildren of the 1950s had regular drills in case of nuclear attack by the “commies.” (Not to be confused with the Comey, who reminds me a little bit of Mr. Rogers.)

traffic coneIf I put the Russian Problem into the language used by President Trump — a man with the subtlety (and coloring) of a traffic cone — the Russians are bad guys. Granted, Putin’s not a communist, but his idea of democracy includes throwing bags over the heads of and “disappearing” anyone suspected of telling his secrets; and surrounding himself with a posse of 110 friends and loved ones who own 35% of Russia’s money.

Did you guys see the awesome drone video taken of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s massive estate? The “duck house” on the manmade pond got quite a bit of play by its millions of Russian viewers. The video was published by the biggest thorn in Putin’s side, objector and hopeful Presidential opponent Alexei Navalny. (If you forward to the end, you’ll see Navalny; he’s pretty crush-worthy 😉

Navalny

Alexei Navalny (note the eye color matches the shirt — dreamy, right?)

P.M. Medvedev is known for his lack of couth, telling crowds wanting their pensions that “There’s no money, but hang in there,” and then answering a question on Instagram about how his day went with “Not bad, I went skiing!”

(Substitute golf for skiing and you’d have our prez — but then again, our prez also has the sensitivity [and coloring] of a hazmat suit.)

Hazmat largerAnd for generations before that, Russia / the Soviets invaded nations to their west in hopes of enlarging what’s already the biggest country on the planet, land-wise. Poor Hungary has been the hapless victim time and again of all sorts of eastern powers trying to expand west. Strangely, given that Russia has the biggest landmass of anyone — almost double that of China to the south, and that’s even after they sold us Alaska in 1867 — you’d think they’d put their money toward making something of what they already have, rather than building luxury duck houses for politicians and sending their tax income to East African islands for laundering.

And p.s., this is what “war” looks like now. You don’t need nukes when you’ve got I.T. (Although nukes help.) But how do you think ISIS recruits all these lonely, disenfranchised Muslim guys to blow themselves up at Ariana Grande concerts? Via the Interweb.

So yeah, this is why the FBI is investigating this whole thing now, and trying to find out if Trump was in collusion with the Russians to hack the election process (as well as Kushner, Manafort, Page, Flynn, and Sessions) (am I forgetting anyone? Tillerson?), or if Trump’s so stupid that he just thinks they’re all “great guys,” and not barbarians at the gate. (The kleptocrats, I mean, not the 143 million everyday Russians just trying to get by, like you and me.)

In the Senate hearing of the fired acting–Attorney General Sally Yates and Lt. General Clapper last month, Clapper, the former National Director of Intelligence, made a few wise suggestions. He said:

THE most important thing that needs to be done here is to educate the electorate as to what the Russians’ objective is, and the tactics, techniques and procedures that they have employed, and will continue to employ.”

Amen to that, General. And when Sally Yates was posed the same question by Iowa Senator Grassley on how to stop these “shenanigans” by the Russians, she replied, “I think they’re coming back, sir.” 

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 4.11.14 PM

Trump’s Oval Office meeting with top Russians last month; photo by some Russian dude — the only media person allowed in the room. (Hey, let’s put something in those books to see if Trump opens any of them while he’s there. Exploding green ink, maybe? Navalny would like that.)

Let’s put this to rest for now, but there’s no end to coverage if you want it — especially comedy. Colbert is crushing it, so I gotta fire up YouTube every morning. So is Seth Meyers, and how sad are we that SNL is over for the season? (Cecily Strong’s “Cathy Anne” kills me.)

I’ll wrap up this post by wrapping up my taxi ride. I hear what my driver is saying, and I tell him, “I totally understand that you couldn’t find a job, and you’ve got a master’s degree — wow. I meet a lot of very educated cab drivers. Do you have a family? Kids?”
“Of course,” he says. “Four.”
I let his “of course” go by, and I say to him, “But Trump is kinda like Putin, with his kleptocracy of rich people in his cabinet — ”
He gives me another hand-wave. “No, no, is not like that. Obama was all about money.”

I decide to just listen to him for a bit — I think that’s what a real reporter would do, instead of trying to dissuade him from his reality, which is the polar-opposite of “real” reality. But I figure I can have a larger impact if I learn about what he’s responding to instead of trying to convince this one random guy to believe something that he’s totally not gonna believe.

Like most of us, he likes being listened to, and his mood improves.
We pull up to my stop — he asks me if it’s possible for me to pay cash — he could use the cash.
“No problem,” I tell him, fishing money out of my wallet.
“Very nice to talk to you,” he says.
“You too! I’ll take the receipt, please . . .”
“I give you one extra receipt.”
“That’s okay, I don’t need an extra one –”
Like a Jewish father, he says, “Why not! It might help.”

As my receipt is printing, I say, “Your name is Boris?”
“Yes. Boris Cohen. What’s your name?”
“I’m Debra.”
“Debra who?”
“Castellano.”
He turns to look at me in surprise. “You’re Italian?”
“A quarter. I have a grandfather from Italy,” I say.
“Oh, I live in Italy for couple years!” he tells me.
“Oh, nice!” I say as I take the receipts from him.
He’s in a good mood. “Nice to talk to you,” he says again. “Maybe I see you later. Have a good day!”
“You, too, Boris!” say I, and I step out of the cab.

By the way, when I got upstairs and told my colleagues about this, my boss informed me that he used to go to a Russian barbershop to get his shoes shined — located on the stairs of the downtown 50th Street subway station for the 1 train, on your way down to the platform. Next to the Dunkin’ Donuts that used to be the old dive bar Siberia. He said the Russian barbershop was always playing Fox News.

 

TV zoom

I hunted down the Russian barbershop. Look! Fox News!! Trump!!

goldfish-crackers
And IF Russia had an agenda to put into power a man with the brains (and coloring) of a Goldfish snack cracker by meddling with our media (which we apparently have proof that they did, despite Boris’s denial), do you think they might do it on a syndicated Russian-language radio station broadcasting to the русскоамериканской (Russko-Americanskoy) community? Why not! They wouldn’t even have to translate it into English.

So what does this have to do with waste, or the environment?

More on that later, but for now: Industry (and its waste) creates climate change. Climate change affects people. People look to their elected leaders to help them in their “pursuit of happiness” (to quote the Preamble of the Constitution). And economics — i.e., money — is rolled up into the whole thing. Which is why General Clapper also suggested we get tougher with sanctions against Moscow.

On the other hand, in the words of our brilliant Secretary of State and former Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?” Da nu! Shall I compare thee, Mr. Tillerson, to an L.A. sunset from the 1970s? Thou art as deleterious, if not as orange . . .

Talk to you guys later. Scroll down and follow this blog below the gratuitous shot of my dad and nephew (I think it bumps me up in Google), and tell me how you might help Trump supporters understand the Russian Problem in the comments.

xo,
Deb

Dad & Kai

How cute is this?? See my Italian roots now?

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I need lithium for my political mood swings

I’m really eff’ing cranky right now.

Every six months I go see my psychiatrist, who asks me if I want more antidepressants, and every six months I tell her no. When I was there a few weeks ago, my answer was the same. I don’t believe my bad mood is a biological issue, but rather circumstantial. Not that I’m denying being one of those cursed artistic personalities, with a brain as sensitive as it is curious, acting like a seismograph strapped onto the head of a woodpecker. No, that’s not right. A sea sponge covered with taste buds? No . . .

“Lemme just get more exercise,” I tell her, winding down our appointment. She asks me if there’s anything else.

kleenex-boxAlmost as an afterthought I say, “It’s been really hard since the election.” And then out of nowhere, tears well up in my eyes. I struggle to elaborate, but she remains quiet. “Wow, I didn’t expect this,” I say, reaching for a Kleenex.

“You’re not alone,” she tells me. “Everyone’s affected. All of my patients. I’m affected, too.”

Not that she’s suggesting lithium. That would imply that I get the manic highs of bipolar people. Instead it’s just a rotten mood interjected with the occasional sigh of relief when one of Trump’s stupid bills or Executive Orders is shot down. It looks a little like this:

  • Trump announces his Muslim Travel Ban. It’s discriminatory, and doesn’t address the problem. In fact, it will probably make terrorism worse. Sh*t. This is our new President. 

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