Pogo: We Have Met the Enemy

trump_annoyingorange

It’s day 24 of the Apocalypse wrought by the invasion from Trumpistan, led by the red-capped orangutan and the salon-coiffed vicar of Indiana intent on making America straight again. The only thing sober about the ongoing reality show known as The Transition is the cocktail-free dinner with toady-in-chief Reince Priebus, and Mitt Romney, who’s quest to have Trumpsky close escrow on Mitten’s integrity continued unabated. The vital question on America’s anxious mind: Who picked up the $600 check?

Meanwhile, The Apprentice decided to channel Andrew Jackson by using the spoils system to  make America great again. Or was it Tammany Hall? One of those.  Steven Mnuchin, a billionaire more in need of an extra vowel than a job, gets Treasury, while billionaire Wilbur Ross (oh wow, look at him now, Zuckerman’s famous pig) snags Commerce.  Next is billionaire donor Betsy Devos, whose only experience with matters education has been ensuring no white child is left behind and gets, well, the Department of Education.

The Angry Carrot once said we could never fix a rigged system by counting on those who rigged it in the first place. Goldman Sachs owned Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton, he raged. Maybe they only rented Mnuchin.

The rest of the Legion of Doom Trump brought on to drain the Washington D.C. swamp turned out to be swamp foxes all, less hell bent on draining the place than making it a Muslim-free Mar-a-Lago north. It’s a gold-plated geyser erupting tweets to the adoring laity about lying media, illegal votes, soon-to-re-open coal mines and steel mills, and otherwise telling it like it isn’t in 140 characters, the non-coastal swath of The Faithful confusing being rich with being smart.

You can’t cheat an honest person, any con man will tell you, which says more about the throng of rubes from sea to shining sea than it does the jack-o-lantern face smiling down from his Boeing 757.

 

 

Trump

The gilded python known as Donald J. Trump slithered into the  Washington. D.C. swamp he promised to drain but instead held court with the assorted nutria, copperheads, and alligators who’d gathered to kiss his ring. Or his whatever. The punditry, meanwhile, helped make America great again by normalizing sexual predation, bigotry, xenophobia, and fraud. What’s not to like about a trending keyword, after all? They only last a day and a half or so and the bills have to be paid.

Abraham Lincoln said you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. That Abe could turn a phrase, no? But so could the con man who said there’s a sucker born every minute.  An awful lot of minutes means an awful lot of suckers out there dancing in lockstep to the Pied Trumpster’s refrains amply suffixed with -isms and -phobics.  Kind of catchy, that tune.

For Trumpolytes, the Duke of Orange is the cat’s meow when it comes to making America great again.  For them, it doesn’t matter what you say so much as how you say it, whatever “it” is.  Facts are fungible, and never mind that since 2011, Politifact has checked Trump’s statements 300 times and found his assertions to be False, Mostly False, or Pants on Fire lies 70 percent of the time.  So what? It’s just a George Soros plot meant to further the cause of libtards everywhere.

And one more verse in Trump’s requiem ballad followed by the chorus of pundits and politicians making outrage the new normal.

Democrats, of course, were dismayed to learn their Anointed One didn’t get anointed after all, thanks to those pesky Rust Belters, suburbanites, and ruralites who weren’t With Her. College-educated white women weren’t With Her either. Nor  was a swathe of the faithful who didn’t vote. Not just dismayed, but stunned, those crafty old Dem’s, which is surprising given their’ stunning loss of the House, Senate, state houses and governorships since 2008. Things were bad before tapering off, but the data missed it. Or someone missed the data. One of those. It’s got to be the FBI’s fault that the paint-by-numbers-and-got-the-best-grades candidate lost.

But joy looms large in Trumpistan, where denizens who thought jobs resulted from some deus ex machina are convinced those jobs will come back because the holy white-eyed Annoying Orange said so. Those three-day work weeks churning out crap at the Ford factory in return for a full week’s pay and defined benefits forever are right around the corner. Well, maybe in Mexico, actually, but when we send 11 million Mexicans back, they’ll be happy to return those factories to pay for the wall we’re gonna build along the border.

“Critics say building the wall may be problematic,” goes the chorus as the punditry sings, as the absurd become just another option. Mr. Beckett and Mr. Ionesco, are you listening? Oh, wait.

Welcome to Day Seven of the Apocalypse. More to follow. Please watch this space.

#30

 

 

 

 

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Istanbul (Pt. 2)

I already wrote about the first three here.  One definition of failure is intending to write all ten things in one 400-500 word post, and ending up seven things short in a 600-word post. All of which may be the eleventh thing about Istanbul/Turkey: It’s so complex and nuanced that you can never sum it up nicely. More on that later–maybe even another time.

Anyway, item four: The three  most popular tourist sites–Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque–are all in walking distance of one another. And I mean like a few blocks.

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Hagia Sophia
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Blue Mosque
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Hagia Sophia from the Blue Mosque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cisterns are across the street from Hagia Sophia. Topkapi Palace is about two blocks away. The Grand Bazaar is two tram stops but you can walk it in 10-15 minutes.

OrExpressTrnSta
Ghost of Hercule Poirot inside, maybe

Which brings us to item five: You can visit the terminus train station of the Orient Express. And yep, it’s walking distance from Hagia Sophia. Or three tram stops. It’s across the street (almost) from Eminonu Piers, where the ferries are.  And the Spice Bazaar is across the street from that. And the Galata Bridge crossing the Golden Horn is a few steps away.

Item six: A lot of what we think of as Greek food is really Turkish food. Stuffed grape leaves (dolmas). Shish kebob. Baklava.  Minced meat, cheese, or whatever wrapped in phyllo-type dough and baked. As an aside–in an entire month’s stay, I can count on one hand the number of fat Turks.

Item seven: Nearly all the young people are attractive and hot. The women’s hair erupts like an obsidian waterfall to wrap angular faces with huge, deep eyes, and a sultry expression. Believe me, no one dies sultry like a young Turkish woman. They make Lauren Bacall seem amateur. The men tend to have a day’s beard growth, dark eyes, and are truly handsome in ways that remind you of Paul Newman or Johnny Depp or James Dean.

Number eight: Turks are whimsical in ways you’d never imagine. Look what the parArtsyTreek staff did to this dead tree in a park. In fact, they did this to nearly all the dead trees. How cool is that?

Number nine: Since what is now Istanbul was originally founded in the seventh century BCE, it’s layers of history are unquantifiable. Sit in an outdoor cafe in Sultanahmet, the neighborhood where the above attractions are located, and you could well be seated next to the remains of a brick wall the Byzantines constructed 1,300 years ago.

Number ten: Segueing, the fault lines running through Istanbul aren’t just geological. They’re social, political, historical, and every other kind of -ical you can imagine. Half the city’s in Europe and half is in Asia. It’s in a Muslim country, but most of the events in the New Testament occurred in Turkey.  Byzantines, Ottomans, Italians, and whoever else fought over this castle on the Bosphorus.

In fact, Istanbul may be the location where the Old Testament flood occurred, as discussed in this National Geographic News article, where submarine explorer James Ballard discovered evidence of cities well below the surface of the Black Sea with relatively advanced architecture and construction. Civilizations have been fighting for it for thousands of years–and still are. But nature bats last, right?

And there you have it. Go see it before it’s too late.

 

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Istanbul (Pt. 1)

Some moron trolled me on some site or other talking about Syrian refugees. He said Turkey needs to be the one to take them all in, since Turkey is a Muslim state, and then, by the way, kick them out of NATO.

Ok, so this guy could be just another wingnut, you’re thinking, right? Except he used really good grammar and wasn’t really all that mean. A little bit, maybe, but clearly more ignorant than ornery. His political convictions aside, the real issue I had was his complete and total misconception of Turkey and Turks.

Unless you spend time in Istanbul and Turkey, you will likely have a wrong impression of this city, this country, and its people. No criticism there. I sure did when we came here for the first time in 2004. But it mattered less, then, because war didn’t rage, Syria was calm, and all was right with the world, at least in the U.S., where people were free to go shopping, ignore wars, and form worldviews from cable TV.

Hence, this post.

CoolStairway
A Way Cool Side Street

Here’s #1. We were exploring an Istanbul neighborhood by taking side streets, and saw this stairway. How could anyone not want to see where it went? And who would ever imagine a path like this off a side street would be in Istanbul, of all places?

I’m a nut for two things–doors and side streets. I’d never imagined a sidestreet would beckon like this one does.

Which segues to #2: Turkey is an Islamic country in the same way that the USA is a Christian country. To which you’ll say, “It (USA) is not,” followed by, “Well, sort of.” I had no idea what to expect with Islam-y stuff when we first came here, especially on getting awakened at 5 a.m. or so with the Call to Prayer. While there’s not exactly a mosque on every corner, there’re a lot of them, and the Call to Prayer seemed to start at the one across the street from our hotel and get picked up by every one across the city, like an echo in the Grand Canyon.

We heard it gain a few hours later, and guess what? Hardly anyone prayed. Few showed up at the ubiquitous water stations before unrolling the prayer rug and prostrating himself (note the missing herself). More people do it in religious neighborhoods, but by and large, praying five times daily was a collective “meh.”

And now, in 2015, even fewer pray. In fact, I’ve seen none, as in zip. But an anomaly, maybe: I see more covered women than we saw in our earlier trips.

Which segues right into #3: Don’t assume that covered women are repressed or super-religious. A few wear a niqab (full covering with eyes peeking out). Quite a few wear a jiibab, kind of a twill boxy raincoat, and head scarf. Some just wear head scarves. Half or more don’t wear any covering at all. But what they wear (or don’t wear), while maybe expressing a degree of piety, is more likely to reflect a family tradition. Coverings can even be an expression of personal rebellion.

Until 2004 or thereabouts, women wearing a head scarf could not attend university or get government jobs, which made the law just another way of keeping women from education or professional advancement. Relaxing the stricture has resulted in far more women in the workforce and in universities, women for whom going out without a head scarf or other cover felt like going out with one teal shoe and one chartreuse one. It was just weird.

DSC_0117So, now we’ve hit 600 words of a 400-word post, so it has to be a to-be-continued. Four through ten will come soon. Meanwhile, here’s another sidestreet.

Dogs of Istanbul

Those who are into such things probably know about the prolific number of sites dedicated to the cats of Istanbul, such as this one. I may do something about Istanbul’s cats at some point, but not right now. I find them overly feline, and besides, it’s hard to get them to act ridiculous, unlike dogs, who really have no problem getting into character. Thus a post on Istanbul’s dogs, or, more particularly, dogs in the Sariyer neighborhood.

The U.S. pretty much doesn’t have street dogs. They tend to get picked up either by a public animal control department or or some dog rescue NGO. In this they contrast with street humans.

In Istanbul, the public at large takes care of the street dogs, such as it is. Someone feeds them, although you can’t say they’re healthy-looking compared to American dogs. Some local agency gives them rabies vaccinations. No neutering, which I suspect is because of some Turkish sex hangup. But the government, for the most part, doesn’t seem to care about the dogs, probably because they don’t vote in large numbers. That could change with the upcoming election, which appears to be tight.

DogsOnStreetHere are some typical layabouts. It’s a warm day, and someone has fed them.

Sarah lives on a third-story walkup flat and leaves dog food on her doormat for the one dog who’s allowed into the building. Why it’s one particular dog and not another has never been made clear to me, but stuff like that happens all the time in Turkey.

The dogs are not at all vicious or mean. They tend to shy away from men, who seem to be the ones who kick the dogs. They seem to “own” territories of, maybe, a block, and will protect it to varying degrees when it suits them. In this, they imitate politicians.

The females get pregnant and have litters of, maybe, three. I don’t know where they nest. Sariyer still has patches of rainforest-like lots with thickets (it’s climate isn’t unlike Seattle’s or Portland’s, except it gets hotter in the summer). Life expectancy is probably seven or so. In this, they do not imitate politicians.

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Happy Dog

They have names. This, for example, is Happy Dog, so named because he comes bounding up and acts thrilled to see you.

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Old Dog

This is Old Dog, who appears to be impregnator-in-chief as best as anyone can tell.

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The Professor

This is The Professor.

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We don’t know this one’s name. She leaped off the porch and greeted us through the fence because, well, that’s what Golden Retrievers do. She’s also the only dog who wasn’t the least bit camera shy.

The first time we heard Muslim Call to Prayer was in 2004 in the Sultanhamet neighborhood, the one where nearly every Istanbul Famous Thing is–the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and like that. We could see out over a large swath of the city from our hotel room, and when the Call happened, it seemed as though it had been synchronized in such a way that The Call moved like a wave from mosque to mosque across the city.

The dogs seem to be occasionally moved by The Call. Still jet lagged a few days ago, I was awake before dawn when The Call occurred. A cacophony of neighborhood dogs chimed in and howled right along with it, I guess to express their gratitude.

They’re also bilingual. That doesn’t explain anything, but it’s interesting.

Not Constantinople

When wOldCastlee were in Istanbul a couple of years ago, I noticed this old fort or castle or whatever on the other side of the Bosphorus from Sariyer, where Sarah and Ender (daughter and grandson) live. Maybe the biggest thing you can’t get over not just in Istanbul, but in all of Turkey, are the uncatalogued antiquities from cultures running back 5,000 or so years and maybe even twice that.

No one could tell me if this castle was Ottoman or Byzantine. The Turks expressing an opinion naturally said Ottoman, because they kind of think everything is, but truth be told, everyone was kind of meh on this one.

I determined I had to cross the Bosphorus, climb the hill, and see for myself. No one else was much interested, but I stared at this place every time we went down to the quay, adding it to my bucket list. It didn’t happen until a few days ago.

We took a ferry to Anadolu Kavağı, the fishing village on the Asia side. It’s really a cool little place (you can see theAnadolu Kavağı mystery castle at the top of the photo and if you click on the photos, they get bigger). It turned out to be, maybe, 67% percent Byzantine, but really, this situs has been occupied by various cultures for thousands of years, even BCE ones. In fact, archaeologists still don’t know them all. The Greeks and Phoenicians were there. “Yoros” is the Turkish name, but it’s also known as the Genoese Castle since the Genovese held it for a time in the mid- Fifteenth Century.  Go figure. The Byzantines, which was the Eastern Roman Empire from the 5th eentury A.D. until the Ottoman conquest in 1453, occupied it continuously until the fall of Constantinople.

It’s located at the narrowest stretch of the Bosphorus and overlooks the Black Sea. A similar installation used be across the water, on the European side, so that defenders could stretch a chain across the straits and block invading ships. It’s a fairly steep hike and takes about 30 minutes, but it was kind of worth it after waiting for two years. If you’re lazy, you can take a taxi. It’s in ruins and little restoration work is underway, but the views of the Black Sea are phenomenal. And the castle really is pretty cool.

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UnderConstBosBridgeAnd so are the views from the ferry. This bridge is under construction, but you can see the Black Sea beyond. If Sarah Palin were on the ferry, she could probably see the Russians scampering around Crimea on the other side. I couldn’t, though.

And Sarah’s village of Sariyer is really charming, too. She lives, maybe, six blocks off the waterfront.

Sariyer

It’s not Constantinople, but it’s pretty cool.

Why Fly on an American Airline?

What if you went to, say, Macy’s, to buy a pair of trousers, and the clerk told you, “Sorry, the $49.95 price tag is for the 29-inch waist, and if want something larger, that’s cost you another ten dollars. Choice of color adds another five. And the bag will cost you another five bucks, and, by the way, the whole pricing structure is good only if you make your purchase on Saturdays before 9 a.m.” If any other business treated its customers like U.S. airliairlines_sucknes treat theirs, they wouldn’t be in business.

Last June, I reserved a flight costing about $775 on United Airlines for travel in September, then cancelled it two days later, thinking I’d get a full refund. Nope. I received a travel voucher for use within one year and a $200 flight change fee.  Call customer service and you get the equivalent of the finger. Don’t like that $100 baggage fee? We don’t give a shit. Don’t like paying ten bucks for a meal Subway or another chain would throw away? We don’t give a shit. Don’t like it when we revise downwards the acceptable carryon right after you bought one? We don’t give a shit. Take your business elsewhere? We don’t give a shit. They’re just as bad and we’ll probably be merging with them anyway.

It’s bad enough that you have to fly on planes built when Nixon was president, where you’re so cramped your knees are under your chin. You can hear the rivets buzz outside and hope you didn’t catch hantavirus from breathing the recirculated air. And that’s after the interminable slog of the security lines where even old people who look like your grandparents are subject to pat down.

This article in the New Yorker discusses the why’s of crappy airline service. It kind of has to do with all the mergers and the end of regulations. I guess I get all that, but what I don’t get is why the airlines don’t change. I’ve concluded that they won’t change because they don’t have to, and since they don’t have to, not wanting to doesn’t matter.

Despite a couple of mishaps lately, I love flying Southwest pretty much. They’re nearly always on time, and sometimes early. Their flights board quickly. The pricing is transparent. They don’t nickel and dime you with junk fees and gotchas. But they don’t fly to a lot of places I want to go.

What to do about it? I don’t know. Pull for the feds to regulate them, I guess. Or hope Apple or Tesla or some other company who cares about customers gets into the business.

America–Do You Hear the People Sing?

First, there was this: DrwnedSyrBoy_football

Then, here he is again!DrownedSyrianBoy

Where were you when you first saw this dead boy? What did you think? What did you think about it the next day, after it had gone viral for a while?

And now, more than a week later, what do you think about it? Or, really, do you think about it at all anymore?

I do. I do because I believe we all have collective responsibility for nearly everything that goes on in the world. Sometimes, it’s responsibility by commission, by doing something to directly cause something else. Sometimes, it’s responsibility by omission, by not doing anything to prevent a situation or mitigate it. For example: As a school board member, I voted to modify the curriculum (commission). As a citizen who neglected to vote, I passively let it all go (omission).

I was 11 years old the first time I was in Europe. It was 15 years after the end of World War II, and while the postwar’s destructive dystopia was over, even I could feel an edginess in the air. But there was a cool part, really cool, if you were 11 years old.

I remember a German woman mentioning that the Americans saved her city from the Russians. I remember an English man on a train remarking how wonderful it was that he could talk to Germans only 15 years after being at each others’ throats, and he had the Americans to thank for it. In a patisserie in Paris, I remember a customer saluting, smiling, and saying how grateful he was for the Americans. Something similar happened in every country I visited.

In grade school, students used to get The Weekly Reader, a kid newspaper that talked about events all over the world. It was pretty saccharine, but it was also a window to the rest of humanity. I remember one article–I forget the person and the country–but he said how grateful he was for America. If there was a flood, earthquake, or other disaster, supplies stamped “USA” were the first to arrive.

And now?

You tell me. In a country whose strength has made it safe for decent shopping and free gifts, pictures like those above are little more than pornography of sorts, and all too many of us are little more than voyeurs taking a thrilling peek before moving on to the next one. It’s as though misery is always over there on some island where some other poor bastards got voted off. Too bad, so sad, so glad it’s not us.

Then, this:

These photos and videos have moved me more than I can recall, and I wanted to help. I still harbor the myth that Americans care and that our country needs to be the world’s beacon of hope. That’s why I set up a fundraising page with Mercy Corps, and it’s an opportunity for everyone to help a little or help a lot (or, even, not at all, I suppose).

Click here, and donate what you can. In your heart, you will hear the people sing.