Monthly Archives: March 2017

Serves Her Right

The headline of the article in last Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer read

She thought Trump would deport ‘bad hombres.’ Instead, he’s deporting her law-abiding husband

It’s the story of an American-born woman who met a Mexican man who was living in the country illegally, married him, and raised a family with him.  He is by all accounts a good man:  a good father, a law-abiding citizen, a taxpayer, a man who launched a successful business.

And now he’s in a federal detention center awaiting deportation to Mexico.

His wife voted for Trump.  He warned her not to, but she said “I did it for the economy.  We needed a change.”

And now she’s getting her change.  Her husband’s going back to Mexico.  If she cares about her family, she and her three kids – ages fifteen, fourteen, and eight – will join him.

The Curmudgeon feels bad for her kids but not for the woman.  He knows this is hard-hearted, but she is now reaping what she has sown.

So her belief that Trump would only deport “bad hombres?”

She didn’t get it and still probably doesn’t:  to Trump and his supporters, anyone who can be described as an “hombre” based purely on ethnicity is automatically bad and automatically a candidate for deportation.

Just like Muslims.

When are people going to start understanding this?

 

A Little Self-Promotion/Self-Congratulations

Thanks for joining us, Time.

To the right you see the cover of this week’s Time magazine.

The issue includes an interview of President Trump that, among other things, looks at the president’s estrangement from the truth, the manner in which he defines “truth,” and his inability to discern the truth from what he’s told himself is the truth.

The Curmudgeon would like to point out that he beat Time to the punch by two months when he raised the same question of the seemingly new challenge of discerning truth from fabrication in a five-part feature in mid-January (that did not specifically focus on the then-president-elect) that he called “The Blurring of Fact and Opinion, 2016-Style.”

If you missed it the first time around, he invites you to take a peek now:

And if you already read it, why not take another look?  It’s as timely as ever.

 

A Good Guy

At the risk of jeopardizing his reputation as a curmudgeon, The Curmudgeon would like to tip his hat to a really good guy:  actor Tony Danza.

Seriously.

Eight years ago Danza came to Philadelphia to film a reality television series in which he taught high school English.  Danza, who said he aspired to be a teacher until the acting bug bit, taught just one class a day and found even that to be a humbling experience.  He learned first-hand how really, really hard it is to teach high school English in an urban high school that was by no means what one would call a “hardcore” urban high school.  Danza taught at Philadelphia’s Northeast High School, which is within walking distance of The Curmudgeon’s last home in Philadelphia and also is the archrival of The Curmudgeon’s alma mater, Lincoln High.

Danza’s efforts were chronicled in the A&E series Teach: Tony Danza, and he later wrote about his experiences in a book he self-effacingly called I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I’ve Ever Had: My Year as a Teacher at Northeast High.).  The book is currently on The Curmudgeon’s Kindle, awaiting its turn.

But that’s not why The Curmudgeon is writing about Danza today.  He’s writing because when Danza spent his time in Philadelphia he rented an apartment in the city rather than live in a hotel.  Because the cameras caught him agonizing over the challenge of teaching his class, really caring about what he was doing, and expressing real doubt about his ability to succeed as a teacher and genuine concern about the implications if he failed.  Because when the production company had enough material for the show and the cameras went away Danza insisted on staying with his kids for the rest of the school year.  And because ever since the show ended Danza has returned to Philadelphia at least once a year to host a talent show to help raise money for the school.  Typically those shows raise $20-30,000, which can do a lot of good for a school in a cash-strapped school district, and you know there are people who come just to see the celebrity.  Danza doesn’t just pop into town an hour before the show and leave right after it’s over, either:  this year’s show was last Friday but he arrived in town on Tuesday to catch up with his kids and his friends on the school’s faculty.

All of which suggests that Tony Danza is a really good guy.

 

A Message to Readers

You may not be aware of it, but anyone can create a blog like this without spending a penny.  This blog is hosted by a company called WordPress, but there are other free blog hosting companies as well.  You get to post your stuff at no cost to you and they reserve the right to put advertising in your space if they wish.  As the “owner” of the space you don’t even see the ads; all you see is a note saying there may be ads on your site.

Ads, by the way, for which the person who writes the blog receives not a dime.

Which means that no, The Curmudgeon is not getting rich writing for you.

Recently The Curmudgeon had occasion to view his blog from a different computer and he wasn’t happy with what he saw:  the ads were a little too annoying and sometimes even too garish for his taste – and something has to be pretty damn garish to be too garish for The Curmudgeon, who’s never met a bright, bright color he wasn’t willing to build a room around in his own home.

So last night he took the plunge and paid a modest fee to remove the ads that were already on the site and to keep the site ad-free for another year.

Paying to remove ads comes in a package with a fancy-schmancy web address, so if you’re not a subscriber or email follower (you should be!) and just come here via bookmark, please note that the blog’s new web address is https://foureyedcurmudgeon.com/.

Finally, he – okay, I – can’t say this enough:  thank you thank you THANK YOU for reading.  I appreciate it more than you can imagine.

 

The Biggest Loser?

No, The Curmudgeon isn’t writing about a silly reality weight-loss show.

He’s asking a question:  based on the events of the past week, who’s the biggest loser – President Trump or House Speaker Paul Ryan?

Let’s meet at our contestants.

Paul Ryan is the most important person in Congress.  The health care bill that failed so miserably last week was his baby:  he wrote it, he promoted it, he negotiated with those who were unhappy with it.  It turned out that, like his congressional colleagues, Ryan had spent seven years kvetching about Obamacare and insisting it had to be repealed without giving any meaningful thought to how to replace it.  When he finally had his first legitimate chance to lead the charge toward its repeal he choked like Mama Cass on that ham sandwich:  his proposal was ridiculous and reflected deeply flawed thinking.  Even his fellow Republicans hated it.

Ryan reached a point where he knew his bill could never win a vote in the House and he wanted to withdraw it, at least until he could do some things to improve it, but when President Trump channeled his inner three-year-old, threw a temper tantrum, and demanded that a vote be held on the bill last Friday, Ryan folded like a kindergartner’s origami and agreed to give the president the vote he demanded.

“Here are my testicles, Mr. President,” Ryan effectively declared.  “They’re yours to do with as you please.”

And then Ryan agreed that he would go along with the president and leave health care behind if the bill lost in the House and move on to other things, even though it’s certainly his prerogative to continue pursuing a replacement for Obamacare.  After all, as we all learned in elementary school, we have three equal branches of government and Ryan leads one of them.  He doesn’t need the president’s permission to pursue legislation, and as he learned through this situation, he doesn’t really need the president’s help, either.  Congress gets to decide for itself when it wants to pass laws and when it wants to pass on making laws and doesn’t need the president’s help, support, or even cooperation to do so.

But stripped of his testicles, Ryan meekly acceded to the president’s wishes.

Now THAT’S leadership.

Only his hairdresser knows for sure

Contestant number two is the president, Agent Orange, who probably pulled a muscle or six dodging blame for failing to fulfill one of his biggest campaign promises.

The president wanted to repeal and replace Obamacare.  He ran for office promising to repeal and replace Obamacare with something that would provide insurance for everyone and insurance that was less expensive and offered even better health care (as if a politician could suddenly make doctors and nurses better at their jobs).  Let us put aside, for a moment, that the Ryan proposal he endorsed so enthusiastically would have taken insurance away from twenty-four million Americans over the next ten years and pretty much doubled or even tripled insurance premiums for older people.  But let’s forget all that for now.

Just last Friday The Curmudgeon noted in his Trump Watch that on more than one occasion, Agent Orange suggested not repealing Obamacare and instead letting it die on its own and blaming Democrats for that because they passed it (with Republican help, an inconvenient truth The Donald routinely overlooks), implicitly accepting the harm his inaction would cause to millions of people as a reasonable price to pay so he could hurt public officials who dare to disagree with him.

“The best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode,” he said on Friday.

“Politically.”  He thinks it would be good politics for him and his fellow Republicans.

And the hell with the people who would get hurt along the way – including, not insignificantly, a much higher proportion of people who voted for him than who voted for Hillary Clinton.

Like a child, Trump demanded a vote on Friday – a vote he couldn’t win – and metaphorically insisted that he would take his ball and bat and go home if he didn’t get his way, saying that if the vote failed, he would forget about health care and move on to other things (in this case, he has his eye on about $1 trillion worth of tax breaks for rich family and friends).

He gave up after sixty-four days – at least, that’s what pundits like to say.  But really, he gave up after just eighteen days:  eighteen days after the health care bill was introduced he declared it dead.  After just eighteen days.

Less than three weeks – or time for only two weekend jaunts to Mar-a-Lago.

And just one scheduled vote on the bill – a vote that was scrapped.

Quit.  Threw in the towel.  Declared “No mas.”

Because he didn’t get exactly what he wanted exactly the way he wanted it exactly when he wanted it.

Even this guy made better deals

And because the negotiating and deal-making skills he told us would solve all our problems failed him the very first time he needed summon those skills.

And because in an environment in which he needed not a single Democratic vote to get his way he couldn’t even get his own fellow Republicans to support him and then had the audacity, the chutzpah, the balls – maybe the extra pair Paul Ryan surrendered to him? – to blame Democrats for not giving him even one Democratic vote he never should have needed in the first place.  Of course, he never made any serious attempt to get even a single Democratic vote, but why should he?  He’s the president, his party controlled Congress, so when he realized his own party had abandoned a proposal that even he didn’t really believe in, mostly because he didn’t even know what it said, he quit.

Surrendered.

Now THAT’s leadership.

While he says he worked great with Ryan and his fellow Republicans, we all know that’s not going to last.  He’s going to blame Ryan for a bad bill – even though he’s on the record saying it was a great bill; he’s going to blame Ryan for his failure to twist arms that he himself failed to twist; he’s going to blame his staff for not telling him it was a bad bill and had little chance of passing; and he’s going to blame Republicans in the House for failing to shut their eyes and bend over and take whatever he wanted to… do to them.

The truth is, Trump never read the bill and only asked his aides whether it was a good or bad bill; he didn’t do anything to try to figure that out for himself.  When he spoke about it publicly, he never talked about what the bill proposed – because he had no idea what it proposed.  If he had, he would have known that it would have profoundly hurt the very people who put him in the White House.  He also would have known that it was DOA with both the moderate and conservative wings of his own party.

Is this the kind of president he’s going to be?  A guy who tries once, for just a few weeks, to address a problem, and if it proves difficult, or if it doesn’t work the first time, he’s going to shrug his shoulders and just move on and pretend the problem no longer exists?

So who’s the biggest loser:  Trump or Ryan?

It’s a tough call, but The Curmudgeon thinks he knows the answer:  the biggest loser is not Trump and not Ryan but the American people.

 

An Unfortunate Sign of the Times

Philadelphia’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration is a late April or early May parade and celebration called El Carnaval de Puebla.  As many as 15,000 people attend every year.

But not this year.  Parade organizers, fearing raids or harassment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, decided to play it safe and cancel the event rather than risk harm to the revelers, including many people who travel to Philadelphia to join the festivities.  They are afraid of their own government.

That’s Some Interesting Packing

The Curmudgeon’s EZ Pass transponder fell off his windshield a few months ago, and after a number of tries at jerry-rigging a new way to reattach it – The Curmudgeon is NOT a handy guy – he finally gave in, went to Amazon.com, and purchased an appropriate adhesive tape.

Pictured below is the package with the adhesive tape and the box in which it arrived.

A little overkill, no?

The Trump Watch: Late March 2017

The Curmudgeon continues his periodic look at life under the big top of the Trump administration, with an emphasis on appalling aspects of it that in some cases may be flying a little under the radar.

The Crux of a Presidency

Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject.  Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.

Actually, Mr. President, they did.  In fact, damn near EVERYONE knew it was so complicated.  That you didn’t, that you express such surprise that it is, may say more about your fitness for the office than anything you’ve ever said.

Even the Billy Bush stuff.

What’s Sauce for the Goose…

What do kids and Congress have in common? Recess!

When Congress took a brief recess recently – and The Curmudgeon has always been amused that the legislative branch of government uses the same term as third-graders to describe a brief respite from the regular routine – many returned home to face (or, in many cases, to dodge) constituents who suddenly realized that Obamacare was the only thing standing between them and death and no longer want it repealed.  Comrade Trump tweeted that the angry town hall gatherings were, well, trumped up.

The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists.  Sad!

Hmmm:  angry crowds inspired by activists:  sounds an awful lot like the tea party crowds that greeted Democratic members of Congress during the first few months of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Obama’s shadow government

The Shadow Knows

But the conspiracy theorist in Comrade Trump has other ideas about those protesters – because, well, if at first your conspiracy theory doesn’t capture the public’s imagination, try, try again.

So who else might be behind those angry protests?

I think that President Obama is behind it because his people certainly are behind it.  In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics.  It will probably continue.

The (conspiracy) theory is that former President Obama is running a shadow government trying to undermine The Donald.  The Curmudgeon recently shared a video of a member of Congress trying to tell this to an audience the congressman clearly thought was full of idiots, because no one else would swallow such nonsense.

Hey – Nobody Said There’d Be Math!

Not Exactly a Rounding Error

While ignoring those interested in preserving the increase in how many Americans have health insurance, Comrade Trump found time to meet with executives of health insurance companies:  you know, leaders of an entire industry that, if it disappeared tomorrow, would leave the country a better place and health care costs far, far lower.  Bemoaning Obamacare’s failure, he lamented all those people who decided to pay the financial penalty for failure to purchase insurance instead of buying insurance.

How many such people?  Nearly 20 million, the president said.

Not quite:  the actual figure:  6.5 million in 2015.

As Maxwell Smart so often said, “Missed it by THAT much.”

The Math is a Little Off

“Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force,” Comrade Trump tells us, implying that there are ninety-four million people out there looking for work who can’t find any.

Ninety-four million?  Not even close.

“I wanna work construction.” I”ve got my eye on the fryer at McDonald’s.” “How about you?”

That number includes college students.

And people who are retired – like The Curmudgeon’s eighty-two-year-old mother.

And the disabled.

And somewhere between seven and eight million people who are actually out of work and looking for jobs.

But why would the president let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a good story?

More Bad Math

The president likes to say the U.S. has spent $6 trillion on the recent wars in the middle east.

The actual number is $1.6 trillion.

Which is just a tad less.

The man’s capacity for making up stuff – okay, for lying – is amazing.  There’s no shame, not even a hint of it.

5-4-3-2-1…

Republicans and their leader, Comrade Trump, don’t like Obamacare.  Well, that’s their right:  they’re entitled to their opinion.

One of the challenges with Obamacare has been that it’s been so hard to predict how many people would get insurance through Obamacare, whether premiums would rise or fall, whether all the states would expand their Medicaid programs, and more.  So Comrade Trump left a lot of people shaking their heads when, noting that Obamacare was getting worse rather than better, he explained that

[20]’17 would be a disaster for Obamacare.  That’s the year it was meant to explode because Obama won’t be there.  That was when it was supposed to be even worse.

“Meant to explode,” he said, doing so with a straight face and without his head exploding.

“I see an implosion in 2017. No, 2018. No, seriously, 2017, I’m certain, I think.”

Think about that:  Comrade Trump is suggesting that the same people who couldn’t figure out how Obamacare would unfold, who got so many projections wrong, who weren’t very smart people anyway, somehow had the knowledge and expertise to time Obamacare’s growing problems to coincide with their president’s departure from office.

Unbelievable.

Time for a Pause

Vacation’s all I ever wanted…

Oops, it’s the weekend as The Curmudgeon writes this part of this blog entry and The Curmudgeon doesn’t work on weekends.  Time to get in his plane and fly off to his Florida weekend home.

What Comes Around Goes Around

Candidate Donald Trump loved leaks:  loved the leaks that cost Debbie Wasserman Schultz her gig as chair of the Democratic National Committee, loved the leaks that contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss of voter support, loved all the leaks that helped his candidacy.

Now?  Not such a big fan.

The Washington Post recently reported that Trump is “…mad – steaming, raging mad” – about all of the leaks coming out of his administration.

In fact, those leakers are people very close to him.  After all, how many people do you think were in the room when he had his obnoxious telephone conversations with the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Australia?  Not only are the people around him leaking, but the leakers almost certainly are some of the people who are closest to him and whom he trusts the most.

Who’s leaking?

Who could the leakers be?  It’s hard to say, but those who are closest to him appear to be Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, and Reince Priebus.  Conway’s probably not in the room when a lot of those conversations are being held, so it’s probably one of the others.  Surely Comrade Trump knows this, and it must be devastating to realize that someone you trust so completely has betrayed you so thoroughly.  (For what it’s worth, The Curmudgeon’s money is on Bannon.)

Does He or Doesn’t He…

…want to repeal Obamacare?  He said so when he ran for president – said it again and again and again – and has said so countless times since he took office.  In fact, he said it yesterday – and then kind of unsaid it.

How do we explain him publicly declaring that “The Republicans, frankly, are putting themselves in a very bad position – I tell this to Tom Price all the time – by repealing Obamacare.”

Say what?

Because people aren’t gonna see the truly devastating effects of Obamacare.  They’re not gonna see the devastation.  In ’17 and ’18 and ’19, it’ll be gone by then.  Whether we do it or not, it’ll be imploded off the map.

He’s also suggested that Republicans just abandon their repeal efforts, let the current situation deteriorate, and then blame Democrats for the problems.

What to make of this?  On one hand he says it’s going to implode, or just deteriorate, on the other, that Republicans shouldn’t want to repeal it or shouldn’t do anything about it.

So what does he want to do – let it implode and hurt millions of people?  Is THAT what the president of the United States wants to do?

“Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the best, most fantastic, absolutely most terrific person of them all?”

The Narcissist Grades His Performance

In terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or a C plus…

the president told Fox & Friends.

Take note, Kellyanne and Melissa McCarthy:  your boss just put you on the hot seat.

But then…

 In terms of achievement, I think I’d give myself an A.  Because I think I’ve done great things, but I don’t think I have – I and my people, I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American people.

So this raises a natural question: what on earth does the man thing he’s accomplished?

The Income Tax Leak

You may be surprised to learn that The Curmudgeon isn’t a fan of Rachel Maddow, mostly because he’s not a fan of being talked down to.  She can be very, very good, but she also can pick some strange things to obsess about – endlessly.

But Maddow was on television in the background last week and when The Curmudgeon heard her tease a special report about Trump’s tax returns he dismissed it as probably just another report in which there was no new information, just a few minutes for Maddow to complain about the lack of tax returns.  But when he heard Maddow refer to David Cay Johnston as the source of the information he put down his book (Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live) and gave the television his full attention because he knows that Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who once worked for the New York Times and is actually a very credible reporter.

Of course Comrade Trump did not agree, so he tweeted,

Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, “went to his mailbox” and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!

Well, Donnie, a lot of people know who Johnston is, a lot of people have heard of him, and your own staff immediately confirmed the authenticity of the tax return he shared with the public.

In other words, Mr. President, your own people confirmed that the report was REAL NEWS!

So The Curmudgeon’s verdict is “FAKE OBJECTION, NUMNUTS!”

The Wiretap

 The Allegation

Bwaaaaaahaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaahaaaaaaa!

But That’s Not What He Meant

Who wired Trump Tower? The Curmudgeon’s money is on McNulty

It took the White House about four days to get around to attempting to walk back the president’s allegation that the Obama administration, and perhaps President Obama himself, tapped the phones at Trump Tower.  (And can’t you just break out in giggles at the thought of Barack Obama himself sneaking into Trump Tower at two in the morning and placing a bug in a vase or under the table or maybe behind a toilet and then quickly checking out Trump’s computer for porn before sneaking out?)  When they did, the White House based its defense of the president on punctuation, of all things, noting that the president had referred to wiretaps – or wiretapps, if you will – in quotation marks, suggesting that he didn’t mean literal wiretapps.  And the truth is that two of Trump’s wiretapp tweets did refer to wiretapps in quotation marks.  They are:

Mar 4, 2017 06:35:20 AM Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

and…

Mar 4, 2017 06:49:00 AM Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

In pursuing this approach to the considerable challenge of defending the indefensible, White House court jester and fashion icon Sean Spicer conveniently overlooked two tweets that made the allegation more directly – and without the quotation marks:

Mar 4, 2017 06:52:54 AM I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

and…

 Mar 4, 2017 07:02:48 AM How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

The British are Coming, the British are Coming!

The only Brit up to the task…

Coming to tapp, the president claims.  That’s right:  he’s now saying the Obama administration prevailed on the British to do its dirty work for it and wiretapp the Trump Tower phones during the campaign.

Sounds like a job for Austin Powers, international man of mystery.

And One More Thing About Spying

If the Trump administration seems a little sensitive on the subject of wiretapping, maybe it’s because it’s not above a little spying of its own.  As last Sunday’s Washington Post reported:

Most members of President Trump’s Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for top deputies. But they do have an influential coterie of senior aides installed by the White House who are charged — above all — with monitoring the secretaries’ loyalty, according to eight officials in and outside the administration.

 This shadow government of political appointees with the title of senior White House adviser is embedded at every Cabinet agency, with offices in or just outside the secretary’s suite. The White House has installed at least 16 of the advisers at departments including Energy and Health and Human Services and at some smaller agencies such as NASA, according to records first obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act request.

 These aides report not to the secretary, but to the Office of Cabinet Affairs, which is overseen by Rick Dearborn, a White House deputy chief of staff, according to administration officials. A top Dearborn aide, John Mashburn, leads a weekly conference call with the advisers, who are in constant contact with the White House.

In other words, the Trump administration is spying on itself and is routinely saddling its cabinet secretaries with high-ranking tattletales they can’t trust.

A Thought About the Controversial Travel Bans

The U.S. needs a crack investigator to check out all these immigrants

When the Trump administration issued its first anti-Muslim travel ban – the one the courts overturned – it said it was only a temporary ban because it needed three months to figure out how to do a better job investigating people before admitting them to this country.

Well, tic toc, tic toc…

That first travel ban was issued on January 27.  That was two months ago.

So why did the second travel ban, issued March 6, seek the same three months’ ban?  Haven’t they even started yet?  Shouldn’t six more weeks have been enough to complete the work needed to decide how to review entry applications more thoroughly?

And now that the second travel ban has temporarily been overturned and the Trump legal elves are no doubt furiously drafting a third, what possible rationale can there be for again seeking a three-month travel ban when, very soon, the entire three months they originally sought will have passed?

Or can’t these people do more than one thing at a time?

Tic toc, tic toc…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Latest in Sales Tax Policy

Well, not quite the latest, but pretty strange nonetheless.

Can I get one today mom? There's no sales tax!

Can I get one today mom? There’s no sales tax!

That’s the news out of Tennessee recently, where a bill now before the state legislature would create a sales tax holiday for…

…guns and ammunition.

This is not a misprint.

Or as the bill’s brain surgeon of a sponsor calls it, a “second amendment sales tax holiday.”

As appalling as this idea is, it is not, believe it or not, the first of its kind:  last year Louisiana and Mississippi both held weekend sales tax holidays for guns.

Because like some other nitwits we have to suffer, these folks think the key to reducing gun violence is to put guns in the hands of even more people than already have them.

And further evidence that when you pick up the United States by its ankles and shake it really, really hard, all the loose marbles fall to places like Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi (and of course, Texas).

 

Which Jared is More Qualified to Advise the President of the United States?

Also known as Mr. Ivanka Trump

Also known as number 2730-9921