Garbage to Go

Styrofoam Food Container: Can It Be Recycled?

Anyone who cares about the environment is likely to be interested in recycling. I count Martine and me in this category. Recent developments, however, have thrown a monkey-wrench into the recycling debate. We used to send huge bales of newsprint and plastic to China and other Southeast Asian countries to rework into other products. This they did—to some of the so-called “recyclables,” but only if they were profitable. The rest usually found their way into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch , a monument to the failure of recycling.

At the same time we carefully sort our garbage between the dumpster and the blue recycling bins, it seems that everything (except, possibly, aluminum cans and certain plastics codes type 1 and 2) winds up in landfills.

According to LA Sanitation, the following plastics are recyclable:

Plastics

All plastics numbers 1 through 7

Empty plastic containers, wiped out if possible, including:

    • Soda bottles
    • Juice bottles
    • Detergent containers
    • Bleach containers
    • Shampoo bottles
    • Lotion bottles
    • Mouthwash bottles
    • Dishwashing liquid bottles
    • Milk jugs
    • Tubs for margarine and yogurt
    • Plastic planters
    • Food and blister packaging
    • Rigid clamshell packaging
    • All clean plastic bags (grocery bags, dry cleaner bags, and film plastics)
    • All clean polystyrene products (plates, cups, containers, egg cartons, block packaging, and packing materials)
    • Plastic hangers
    • Non-electric plastic toys
    • Plastic swimming pools
    • Plastic laundry baskets
    • Car seats (cloth removed)

If you wonder what the plastic recycling codes mean, click here. The easiest to recycle are plastic types 1 (PETE: Polythylene Terephthalate, such as soda bottles) and 2 (HDPE: High-Density Polyethylene, used for detergents, milk, bleach, shampoos, and motor oil). As you can see, Los Angeles collects types 1 through 7, but most are handled in landfills with all the other trash.

The pity of it is that something can be done, but the economic will to do so is lacking. In the meantime, the plastic manufacturing companies continue to churn out their products and pay lobbyists to fight ordinances to regulate them.

Coming Apart Like a Cheap Suit

In the End, Will His Main Legacy Be Gold Plumbing Fixtures?

I fear that, in our country’s history, the Trump administration will in the end be like a persistent skid mark on one’s underwear. The disintegration seems to be accelerating, as our President is being assailed on all sides—except by his die-hard fans in flyover country. The incompetence almost seems to be spreading, like the Nothing in the movie The Neverending Story (1984). In that film, the Nothing is described as “a manifestation of the loss of hopes and dreams.” That is a very good description of the way I feel as the 2020 election approaches.

Since his inauguration in January 2017, Trump has become the anti-President, whose main goal was the dismantling of the apparatus of government—especially those benefits that seemed to benefit voters in any way. His rule has benefited only those multi-millionaires, who, like him, are against paying any taxes at all.

The political parties gearing up for 2020 are like, to use a witticism by Jorge Luis Borges, two bald men fighting over a comb.

 

Things We Take for Granted

We Can’t Make Assumptions That Health Care Will Be There for Us

We walk into the kitchen, pick up a glass, and turn the tap on. What if nothing comes out? Or, worse, what if what comes out is polluted like the water in Flint, Michigan? What if we flush the toilet, and it just won’t go down because the sewer line is all backed up? What if the traffic signals just stop working? Or the telephone lines? Or the electricity?

Every day of our lives, we make casual assumptions that what has worked in the past will continue to work. I have this odd inkling that perhaps we are living at the start of a period in which things we assume will work, just won’t work.

I recently read an article on Salon.Com about how some 20% of rural hospitals are on the point of collapse. Given the money-grubbing nature of our healthcare system—especially on the part of pharmaceutical corporations and health insurers—I can see why there aren’t enough dollars in rural areas to motivate hospitals to remain in business.

This comes at a bad time, when the political divide between the urban areas on the coasts and what has come to be called “flyover country” has led to hard feelings. Much of Trump’s support is, I feel, based more on this urban/rural divide than any particular love for the orange-headed horror. Things can only get worse if Aunt Tillie dies trying to get to a distant hospital, but doesn’t make it.

Government can rectify this situation, but only if voters are willing to let government do the things that government does best. The nihilistic conservatism and Tea Party anarchy of the times makes this difficult.

 

Dostoyevsky Describes Trump Voters

The Supporters of Trump: A Great Mystery?

I am re-reading the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkhonsky translation of Fyodor Dostoeyevsky’s Notes from the Underground. Suddenly, I saw the following passage, which predicted the emergence of Trump and his supporters:

Man really is stupid, phenomenally stupid. That is, he’s by no means stupid, but he’s so ungrateful that it would be hard to find the likes of him. I, for example, would not be the least bit surprised if suddenly, out of the blue, amid the universal future reasonableness, some gentleman of ignoble, or, better, of retrograde and jeering physiognomy, should emerge, set his arms akimbo, and say to us all: “Well, gentlemen, why don’t we reduce all this reasonableness to dust with one good kick, for the sole purpose of sending all these logarithms to the devil and living once more according to our own stupid will!” That would still be nothing, but what is offensive is that he’d be sure to find followers: that’s how man is arranged. And all this for the emptiest of reasons, which would seem not even worth mentioning: namely, that man, whoever he might be, has always and everywhere liked to act as he wants, and not at all as reason and profit dictate; and one sometimes even positively must (this is my [i.e. Dostoyevsky’s] idea now).

 

The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

American Flag Pin

Thanks to the current occupant of the White House, I am feeling less patriotic than ever. I have come to associate the ubiquitous flag pins that Republican politicians wear with the excesses of the Trump administration. As Dr. Samuel Johnson noted, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” I don’t believe that for members of the older generation who have fought for our country, but for younger people, especially politicians, who use it to identify themselves as racists, white nationalists, saboteurs, and looters—in a word, Republicans. It is a symbol the course of being degraded beyond all recognition.

I am feeling out of touch with American voters. Can I trust them to actually love their country and send the Trump administration down to ignominious defeat? Not entirely, especially in certain parts of the country where politics is a form of resentment and regional hatred, especially against voters who live in large cities. It is the politics of Hooterville versus the politics of New York and California. (Though even New York and California have isolated pockets of atavistic tendencies.)

It has gotten to the point that I feel alienated from American politics, both Republicans and Democrats. (I now vote No Party Preference.) I don’t even classify myself as being Caucasian any more. As a Hungarian-American, I am Finno-Ugric, or “Other Race.” (Most of my rage is directed at White voters.)

I hope that this is only a phase I am going through until the politics of the United States returns to normal—that is, if it ever does.

Of Ideological Purity

Nuclear Power Plant Cooling Tower

One of the reasons the Democrats have such a hard time winning the hearts and minds of voters for the presidency is that they hamstring themselves with an insistence on ideological purity—even where it doesn’t matter. Take the issue of nuclear power, for instance. We know from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima that nuclear power can be deadly. So instead of improving the safety of nuclear power, many U.S. politicians have decided that all nuclear power is potentially deadly.

In a rush to legitimize the LGBTQRSTUV &c &c population, we have created a minefield on the subject of gender identity. And even more, with the #MeToo movement, while attempting to eliminate sexual harassment from the social sphere and workplace, we have created another minefield—one that has ensnared such relative innocents as Joe Biden and Al Franken.

To What Extent Is This Serious Sexual Harassment?

Granted that Biden’s and Franken’s touchie-feelie incidents are in poor taste, to what extent have they they done anything more than remind us that sometimes people can behave inappropriately while not at the same time criminally. Do such acts merit political banishment for all time?

Now we are finding that—if ever one went around in blackface for any reason and irrespective of time period—they are racist. Again, I just think such persons were being merely inappropriate.

Consider that our current president is one of the most inappropriate human beings on the planet. And he has gleefully admitted to behaving boorishly on issues relating to sex, race, religion, and just about any other issue about which people are insensitive. So why are Democrats doing Trump’s work for him, by banishing politicians for venial sins while the major malefactor laughs up his sleeve?

 

Curse Tablets

The Ancients Had Some Interesting Practices

According to a Dutch scholar named H. S. Versnel, the ancient Greeks had a practice involving the creation of “curse tablets.” In Memphis in the fourth century BC, the following curse was left etched into a tablet at the Temple of Oserapis:

O Lord Oserapis and you gods who sit enthroned together with Oserapis, to you I direct a prayer, I, Artemisia … against the father of my daughter, who robbed her of her death gifts (?) and of her coffin … Exactly in the way that he did injustice to me and my children, in that way Oserapis and the gods should bring it about that he be not buried by his children and that he himself not be able to bury his parents. As long as my accusation against him lies here, may he perish miserably, on land or sea….

Now these curse tablets were typically made of lead with the curse scratched onto their surface. Although I cannot wish death to the man I most ardently hate (whose visage is caricatured below) there are certain things I can say without bringing the Secret Service to my doorstep.

The Object of My Own Curse Tablet

May his bucket of chicken contain gristle that rots his fundament. May his fingers that would fly over his cellphone in a Twitter fury come out as utterly incomprehensible covfefe—at all times. May his followers discard their red MAGA hats out of shame, and may he be buried with a large streamer of toilet paper adhering to his shoes. May his real estate investments come to naught and his billions all turn out to have been illusory. May he be laughingly turned down by women he does not regard as beautiful and forget what his original urge was all about.