In Trump’s America

Make America Suck Again

After my day had a bad beginning, I was not surprised to read my horoscope in the L.A. Times: “Knowing you’re not in control can be frightening or frustrating, especially when the situation is one you would normally handle without a problem.”

I am continuing to have problems obtaining my prescriptions from Anthem Blue Cross. After being requested to call Anthem on a Saturday morning to check on the status of my order, I found that the phone number they gave me is open on weekdays only. When I called Anthem Customer Service, I was told that my prescriptions would not be ready on Monday—despite having been assured they would be. Every person seemed to have a different story.

Net result: I will be playing by Mexican Rules. I will attempt to get the drugs I need in Yucatán over the counter at a large pharmacy. Some drugs I will run out midway through the trip.

Once again, corporations rule. While we are being assured that everything will be jake with us, our benefits, our rights, and our protections are being whittled away to nothing. All this while Trump’s phony triumphalism continues unabated, and while ignorant hicks wear red hats to celebrate their loss of status. One can’t even talk to corporations any more:

AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: Please tell us what you are calling about.
ME: I need to speak to a human being.
AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please try again.
ME: I NEED TO SPEAK TO A HUMAN BEING.
AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please try again.
ME: I NEED TO SPEAK TO A HUMAN BEING!!!
AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please try again.
*** And so on ***

Eventually I got through to a representative who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about my problems and who provided yet another face-saving lie.  (Incidentally, hitting the O for Operator didn’t work.)

 

 

Financialism

Some Wealth Is Real—Based on Actual Products and Services That Fill a Need—Then There Is Financialism

One of the things that really bothers me about this economy is that, increasingly, it is based not on satisfying real needs, but on playing games with finance. According to an essay by Ezra Wasserman Mitchell:

Financialism is a system in which the real economy plays a secondary role to the financial economy, in the process stripping future real economic profits for present consumption. While it bears similarities to the process often identified in the economic literature as “financialization,” it differs both in historical scope and in its suggestion that financialism differs fundamentally from capitalism.

Let me give you several examples:

  • Executives in such “gamed” industries as pharmaceuticals, insurance, or rental real estate get together and decide what level of profit they want for the coming year. In order to achieve their goals, they raise prices to achieve goals that are based on how much money they want—not how much money they can reasonably be expected to earn in the course of business.
  • Crypto-currencies like Bitcoin represent financial speculations divorced from providing products and services. It’s not so much the finger pointing at the moon so much as it is a finger pointing at a finger pointing at the moon.
  • Bank charges and airline nickel-and-dime fees can cause real economic pain that is far removed from the actual value of the services being accounted for.

This came home to me today when I discovered that the forms of insulin I must take for my Type 2 Diabetes have been removed from Anthem Blue Cross’s drug formulary. Outraged, I called Blue Cross and suggested they accompany their “drug not in formulary” notices with ads for cemetery plots and mortuaries. That didn’t go over well with them, but I was pissed. Evidently, if Anthem Blue Cross saw their projected profit as more important than they basic services they provided.

 

Poles Apart

Chanel High School R.I.P.

A strange memory from the past popped into my mind this afternoon as I was heading for the exit of the Century City parking garage. I thought back to our old high school cheer, which was openly contemptuous of Poles. Chanel High (later renamed St. Peter Chanel High) belonged to the North Central Athletic Conference, which consisted of a handful of Catholic high schools, including St. Edward, Elyria Catholic, and—most particularly—St. Stanislaus. I say “most particularly” because we had chosen St. Stan’s to be our official enemy. It was only a few miles away and located in a largely Polish Catholic neighborhood.

When our cheerleaders revealed the following chant, there were a few hard feelings:

OOH sah sah sah!
OOH sah sah sah!
Hit ’em in the head with a BIG KIELBASA!
Put ’em in a barrel
Roll ’em down the street
FIREBIRDS, FIREBIRDS
Can’t be beat!

We, of course, were the Firebirds. Fortunately, during my years at Chanel (1958-1962), we mostly prevailed over St. Stan’s. And it didn’t keep us Hungarians, Slavs, and Italians from enjoying Kielbasa sausages.

Back Then, All Our Cheerleaders Were Male

Once I graduated from Chanel, big changes happened. The biggest of them was the admission of girls. Then, there were a number of black students. Finally, the school was ceded to the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland and was no longer controlled by the Marist order of priests. Around the same time, the name was changed from Chanel to St. Peter Chanel.

Unfortunately, it’s all moot now, as Chanel closed its doors a few years ago and has, I believe, been subjected to the wrecking ball. Sic transit gloria mundi!

 

I Give Thanks

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Branch in Torrance, CA

One day last month, I took a closer look at my driver’s license and was surprised to find that it expires on my birthday in January 2020, just two years after it was issued. It seems that my advanced age requires another official look at my driving ability. Now the Department of Motor Vehicles is under siege at this time by drivers who are trying to get the so-called Real ID which will be required for all domestic flights beginning October 1, 2020. (You will be able to use your passport instead, but a diminishing number of Americans have one of those.)

In order to qualify for a California driver’s license with Real ID privileges, applicants must provide a bewildering array of documents proving their identity, their address, and their Social Security Number. If I didn’t have easy access to the Internet, it would probably take me several trips to the DMV before I got approved.

So I immediately tried to get an appointment at the DMV at my local office in Santa Monica. No go: The first appointment was over a month after the current license expired. The same problem occurred with the Culver City office. I kept checking other branches and found that the Torrance office could handle me at 3 pm this afternoon. I expected a major disaster.

What I found was a pleasant surprise. I showed up an hour early for my appointment and was out the door in about an hour. Contrary to past experiences, the DMV employees were pleasant and helpful. My choice of documents for the Real ID application was approved. The employee taking my photograph actually tried to get a good picture of me (that didn’t make me look like a walrus). And the written exam went quickly and smoothly. Fortunately, an actual driving test was not required.

A day or two before Thanksgiving, I am already starting to be thankful.

 

Holy Sidewalks

Is This Hole an Illusion? Or an Allusion?

Today being Thursday, I rode the Metro downtown, went to the Central Library, and attended the weekly half-hour mindful meditation session held there. Group leader John Kneedler quoted the following poem by Portia Nelson:

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

I know this poem is all over the Internet, but it’s the first time I encountered it; and I love the way it summarizes so many people. Including myself.

Back of the Knee

Two Possible Culprits

About three weeks ago, on the same day that the night temperatures in L.A. went down into the fifties, I quite suddenly discovered that I had excruciating pain emanating from the crook of my left knee. It was particularly painful when I was going down a flight of stairs or raising myself from a seated position. I was concerned that, if things got any worse, my trip to Yucatán was at risk.

So today I explained the situation to my endocrinologist, who serves as my primary care physician. She recommended that I see an orthopedic specialist. When I returned home, I made an appointment to see the surgeon who replaced my left hip in 2002 with a titanium implant.

As of now, I have made no reservations for my trip: I expect I might have to delay it for a month or two. The good news was that my endocrinologist said the condition was probably not the beginning of a steady deterioration in my ability to walk or use stairs. My fingers are crossed that, either the condition will heal by itself, or some procedure could effect healing of the knee.

 

Incorrigible Bookworm

Picture of Me at the Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles

Sometimes, I just have to sit up and take a good look at myself. Where in Blue Blazes did this Bookworm come from? There was no one like me in the family. I was looked at by my family with a combination of contempt and admiration. When I was doing well in high school (I was the valedictorian of my class), I was referred to as “the walking dictionary.” I was a person of whom prodigies were expected … in the normal course of events. People expected my help with their homework—even if I knew zilch about the subject.

In fact, books were for me an escape. I was a sickly child, stricken by numerous allergies and frequent and debilitating headaches. The latter turned out to be a brain tumor in my pituitary gland. When I came out of surgery in the fall of 1966, I kept asking myself, “Why me?” I went almost overnight from a devout Catholic to a lapsed Catholic. I continued to suffer various physical and mental after-effects because of the lifelong steroid therapy that ensued.

I was never any good at athletics. For exercise, I liked to walk a lot. I couldn’t even drive a car until I reached the age of forty, and I no longer had to take a blood pressure medication (Catapres) that caused me to fall asleep in moving vehicles.

And so, at an early age, I turned to books. Was it because my mother used to tell me fantastic stories about fairy princesses in the dark forest that she told me in Hungarian? I couldn’t really read English with any proficiency until the third or fourth grade.

I started to accumulate books at home, causing some friction with my parents. They didn’t like to see me spending money for books at Scroeder’s Bookstore on Cleveland’s Public Square. Once, when my cousin Emil saw me reading Tom Sawyer in the living room, he grabbed the book out of my hands and hurled it at the floor, causing it to bounce. “This is what I think of books!” he said while I wondered what was coming next.

Of course, I love books. Even though I have donated over a thousand books from my collection to the Mar Vista Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, I still read as much as ever, if not more so.