Monthly Archives: May 2017

Nitwit Politicians (Part 1 of 8)

Meet Jeff Denham.  Denham is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represents California’s tenth congressional district.

While holding a town hall meeting in his district recently he told constituents that the health care bill passed by the House a few weeks ago was the product of a bipartisan effort.

Even though not one Democrat voted for it.

Even though Democrats were not involved in writing the bill at all.

Which means the bill was in no way bipartisan.

Jeff Denham is a nitwit.

The Day the Streets Ran…

…yellow.

It rained a little early yesterday morning, and right around the time it stopped The Curmudgeon decided to go out and run a few errands.  It wasn’t even nine o’clock; his days of sleeping much past seven-thirty appear to be behind him.

When he stepped out the front door there was a wet, yellow mixture at the bottom of the downspout that carries water off the roof.  He stepped into the driveway and there was a yellow-tinged puddle outside Mrs. Curmudgeon’s car.  As he crossed the street to get to his own car there were several thin ribbons of yellow running down the street.

What were they?  What was this…ooze?

Upon closer inspection he realized they were rivers of pollen:  pollen rinsed off leaves and trees and cars by the early morning rain that left the asphalt-black street covered by a pale yellow brine.  When he returned home a little more than an hour later the water had evaporated but the pollen remain, leaving the  asphalt now covered by a fine yellow powder.

Why is It…

…that any time you find yourself waiting at a traffic light and you hear someone blaring their car radio at an ungodly volume you turn around and it’s…

 …always a guy?

 Always.

 Absolutely always.

Penn State: Those Who Do Not Learn From Their Mistakes

For a school that once had a pretty great reputation, Penn State University is reeling these days.  It’s been in the news lately because during a fraternity hazing, during that yaba-daba-doo-time for everyone but the hazees, a frat member wannabe semi-voluntarily drank an ungodly amount of alcohol (later tests would put his blood alcohol content somewhere between 0.28 and 0.36 percent), fell down a flight of stairs, was carried back up those stairs, had water poured over his head several times in an attempt to revive him, had his face slapped by someone attempting to revive him, was punched in the stomach by someone attempting to revive him, tried to stand but fell face first onto a wooden floor, got up and fell down three more steps, was fallen on and struck several times, bled a lot, and eventually died.  Until the very end, when his “brothers” finally called for help, there was just one – only one – fraternity brother who wanted to call for help but he was thrown against a wall by one of his “brothers” and told to leave because he was a spoilsport and a nancy boy and apparently didn’t know how to party with the big boys.  The courts are sorting this out now:  eight of the revelers are on trial for manslaughter and ten others face charges.

It’s not pretty.

Penn State, of course, is where, just a few years ago, university officials permitted one of their football coaches, and after his coaching career ended just a guy who had free run of the campus, to molest young boys whenever he wished.  University officials knew about it, the university’s president knew about, and the university’s legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, knew about it.  Did any of them do anything about it?  No, they chose to look the other way because acting on what they knew might’ve jeopardized the success of the school’s extremely lucrative football program and at Penn State, apparently nothing is more important than the lucrative football program.  To date, Penn State has spent more than $200 million on fines and financial settlements with those whose trust it abused during this nightmare.

Among the university’s biggest defenders during this crisis, and certainly coach Paterno’s biggest defender, has been his son, Jay Paterno.  He has been outspoken in his father’s defense, as any good son might be, outspoken in the university’s defense, outspoken in his defense of the indefensible.

Penn State has this interesting practice of permitting its alumni to elect some members of the school’s board of trustees.  Recently, those alumni did something of epic stupidity:  they elected Jay Paterno to their alma mater’s board of trustees, to serve on the same body that fired his father.  The same body he has been railing against ever since it did that, as if his father’s legacy was more important than the at least ten boys his father’s assistant coach molested over the years.

Jay Paterno, it’s only fair to note, is far from alone in believing that his father, and the university, were innocent bystanders in this mess as a member of their community in good standing had his way with defenseless little boys.  Significant numbers of Penn State alumni vociferously insist that the university is as innocent a victim as the little boys and unfairly maligned.  One trustee, as The Curmudgeon wrote a little while back, told a newspaper he was tired of hearing about those victims.  (Note:  he’s now a former trustee.)

Is inviting this fox into the hen house stupidity on a grand scale or what?

Another Battle in the War Against Working People

The way the U.S. Census Bureau measures such things, New Jersey is the most urban state in the country.  Get in your car and drive through the state, though, and you’ll see that while the state may be pretty urban it also has plenty of farms.  The Curmudgeon lives in a pretty urban/suburban part of the state but it takes only ten minutes for him to drive to several farms and only about twenty to put him squarely in farm country.  New Jersey farms grow tomatoes, corn, grapes (for wine!  the state, believe it or not, has a thriving wine industry), melons, apples, peaches, strawberries, and more.

But the state’s two leading crops are blueberries and cranberries.

And the people who grow those blueberries are worried these days:  worried because they’re accustomed to hiring migrant workers, people legally in the country, they insist, to pick their crops.  Those people who are legally in the country, they fear, will be afraid to return to their farms this year for fear that immigration officials will come to those farms and arrest and deport them even though they’re in the country legally.

Or so the farmers insist.

And before continuing The Curmudgeon would like to note, just parenthetically, that while New Jersey went solidly for Hillary Clinton in 2016, many of these farmers, who incidentally live in the very town that gave the world alternative fact queen Kellyanne Conway and honored her in a post-election parade, voted for Agent Orange and are now reaping what they have sown:  their boy is the guy behind all of the fear of deportation.

But back to the farmers. They’re worried that their regular berry-pickers won’t return this year for fear of encountering immigration officials and note that they’re already having trouble reaching some of those workers to confirm that they’ll be returning to pick this year’s crop.  The farmers worry that they’ll lose their experienced berry-pickers and note that these people have skills that others may not.

Fortunately for those farmers, The Curmudgeon has a two-part solution for their problem.

Part one:  PAY YOUR DAMN WORKERS A DECENT WAGE!  Berries get picked in the summer and there are plenty of teenagers and young adults living within reasonable distance of your farms.  Yes, it’s hard work and yes, it’s work that some kids just won’t want to do, but pay a decent wage and you’ll be surprised at how many people looking for work will come crawling out of the woodwork.  In recent weeks one of the community newspapers The Curmudgeon reads has featured two columns of ads for farms in New York state looking for people to pick crops and they’re all offering pretty much the same thing:  a choice of $12.38 an hour (a rate that yields an annual salary of a hair under $26,000, which would leave such workers seriously, seriously poor) or a rate based on how much fruit you pick (and tools provided free of charge, isn’t that swell of them?).  So if farmers can’t get the help they want for $12.38 an hour then they need to pay more.  It’s the law of supply and demand, the same law that determines what they get for their crops, and they can’t insist on playing the supply and demand game when they take their crops to market but then refuse to play the same game when it comes to paying for the people who pick the crops that make them their money.

Part two:  train people how to pick berries.  When did American businesses decide that it was government’s responsibility to train their workers?  Except for vocational training in the major trades, public education hasn’t worked that way in this country for about a century, yet employers are constantly complaining that there aren’t enough qualified people to fill their jobs – something truly ironic, moreover, when you consider that it’s people like those who own businesses who are constantly leading the charge to lower taxes in a way that drains public school systems of resources and even further reduces their already-limited capacity to prepare young people for adult life and work.  Can’t find workers with the skills you need to fill your jobs?  Stop blaming the government for something it was never supposed to do in the first place and train your own damn workers.

It’s hard to feel sympathy for business owners who function in a market and vote for people who demand that government step aside and let this ridiculous concept of “market” decide all things and then complain when that market denies them the workers they need because they aren’t willing to pay wages that the market demands.

They should.  Then, they can grow all the berries they want and people will pick them and get paid wages that will actually enable them to put food on the table and a roof over their heads and clothes on their kids’ backs and the rest of us will buy them and we can all enjoy the literal and figurative fruits of their labors.

Or they can always pick their own damn blueberries.

A Shout Out…

…to Mrs. Curmudgeon, Esq., who yesterday won a favorable action from the U.S. Supreme Court – for the second time this year.

 Congratulations, C!

The Trump Watch: Mid-May

Say What?

The Washington Post asked Agent Orange if he had any idea why Abraham Lincoln was a successful president.  The Donald’s reply:

Well, I think Lincoln succeeded for numerous reasons. He was a man who was of great intelligence, which most presidents would be. But he was a man of great intelligence, but he was also a man who did something that was a very vital thing to do at that time. Ten years before or 20 years before, what he was doing would never have even been thought possible. So he did something that was a very important thing to do, and especially at that time.

While The Curmudgeon awaits a translation of this statement into something bearing at least a passing resemblance to English he fondly recalls a similarly troubling attempt to communicate on the beloved The West Wing.

The View From Under the Bus

That’s the view being enjoyed, or more likely not enjoyed, by every person in the Trump administration who tried to explain why the president fired FBI director James Comey and why he fired him when he fired him.  They all talked to reporters and went on television and explained their little hearts out and then the president himself spoke to one reporter and contradicted every single one of them.

Way to be loyal to your people, Mr. President.

And Speaking of Loyalty

The Curmudgeon really doesn’t want to get into the FBI/Comey firing in any detail because we’re being inundated with information and commentary about this whole kerfuffle (The Curmudgeon never misses an opportunity to use “kerfuffle”), but another thing he found curious is the suggestion that Agent Orange fired Comey because he wasn’t convinced Comey was sufficiently loyal to him.

That’s ridiculous:  the director of the FBI isn’t supposed to be loyal to the president.  In fact, the FBI director is appointed to a ten-year term specifically because that job is supposed to transcend electoral politics and the person who holds it is supposed to act with a reasonable degree of independence.  The director of the FBI’s loyalty is supposed to be to the enforcement of the law and to the American people, and in this case that meant following an apparent trail of evidence that the president didn’t want him to follow.

The Curmudgeon isn’t a Comey fan even though he seems like a decent guy, but if he was going to get fired anyway – which he probably was – it was probably better to get fired for insisting on doing his job the right way rather than for failing to do the job the way a president who doesn’t even understand the role of the FBI wanted him to do it.

 It’s the Presidency, Not Vitamin C

It’s not supposed to raise your immunity.

Agent Orange, though, believes being president gives him immunity from being sued.

It doesn’t.

Several parties are seeking to sue The Donald for inciting violence at political rallies during the 2016 campaign.  Whether he bears guilt for such actions will be up to a court to decide even though his lawyers claim that as president he has immunity from such suits.  A federal judge rejected that argument, and we need look no further back for the relevant precedent than 1997, when the Supreme Court ruled that another president who had a problem keeping his hands to himself absolutely could be sued for actions that took place before he was president.

See you in court, Donnie.

Forget About Having His Finger on the Nuclear Button

 This president’s finger is too busy operating the tv remote control.

We’ve already seen how this president equates popularity with quality, such as when he rejects the reporting of news programs that don’t get good ratings.  If people aren’t watching, Agent Orange reasons, the program must not be any good and the reporting must therefore be defective in some way.

So is it any surprise that when asked if Sean Spicer’s job was in danger because his performances before the White House press corps are so thoroughly hopeless, Agent Orange begged to differ?

I’m not firing Sean Spicer.  That guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.

Because that’s what’s important, right?

The following excerpts come from a Washington Post story about The Donald’s TV-watching habits.

For Trump — a reality TV star who parlayed his blustery-yet-knowing on-air persona into a winning political brand — television is often the guiding force of his day, both weapon and scalpel, megaphone and news feed. And the president’s obsession with the tube — as a governing tool, a metric for staff evaluation, and a two-way conduit with lawmakers and aides — has upended the traditional rhythms of the White House, influencing many spheres, including policy, his burgeoning relationship with Congress, and whether he taps out a late-night or early-morning tweet. 

One White House insider who wouldn’t know the truth if it hit her upside the head says it’s sheer brilliance:

“President Trump is someone who comes to the White House with a sophisticated understanding of how to communicate, the power of television, the power of imagery, the power of message, and how message, messenger and delivery all work together,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president.  

 The Post offers a glimpse into some of his viewing habits:

On his campaign plane, Trump watched television on full volume — usually Fox News, sometimes CNN — almost constantly, said someone who flew with him, shushing his aides whenever he himself came on the screen and listening with rapt attention.

And there’s this:

Trump turns on the television almost as soon as he wakes, then checks in periodically throughout the day in the small dining room off the Oval Office, and continues late into the evening when he’s back in his private residence.

The president reportedly was unhappy about how he dresses.

And for a guy who doesn’t seem to know how to wear a necktie, Agent Orange is apparently very appearance-conscious:

When Spicer did his first briefing-room appearance in an ill-fitting gray pinstripe suit, the president made his displeasure known, and Spicer returned the next week more crisply attired.

 And this:

 Another time, Trump took particular issue with the aesthetics of a male commentator who appeared sometimes as a guest on “Morning Joe,” and began pestering the hosts, imploring them to dump the analyst who so offended his visual sensibilities, said someone with knowledge of the episode. 

We’ve actually heard this before:  that the leader of the free world routinely judges people on their appearance.  Strange, isn’t it, coming from a guy who wears a Davy Crockett hat on his head and neckties long enough to cover his schmeckle?

Who Knew?

Who knew that “Who Knew?” would be a regular feature of our little Trump watch?

Our “who knew” additions this time:

Agent Orange expressed surprise that being president was a difficult job – more difficult than he imagined and more difficult than his last job.  As he explained to Reuters:

This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.

So being president is hard work.  Who knew?

And then there’s this whole Civil War business:  who knew that nobody ever really asked why the Civil War was fought?

Here’s a clue:  ask any fourth-grader, Donnie.  Ask your own ten-year-old.

And who knew that Andrew Jackson might’ve done something to prevent that war – even though he’d been dead for nearly sixteen years before that first barrage of gunfire aimed at Fort Sumter.

And One “Who Knew?” That’s Been Resolved

Remember when Agent Orange said that he had no idea health care was so complicated – that no one new it was so complicated?  Rest easy, Americans:  he’s solved that problem, telling Time magazine that

… in a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care.

Everything.  He now understands EVERYTHING.

What an amazing guy.

On Second Thought…

Maybe he still needs to learn a few lessons about health insurance because this is what he told the magazine The Economist about health insurance:

Insurance is, you’re 20 years old, you just graduated from college, and you start paying $15 a month for the rest of your life and by the time you’re 70, and you really need it, you’re still paying the same amount and that’s really insurance.

$15 a month.  In what alternative universe is this guy living?

“Well I Don’t Claim to be an ‘A’ Student..”

Well, actually, he does, telling Time that

I’m getting very good marks in foreign policy. People would not think of me in that light. I’m just saying, and you read the same things I read. I’m getting As and A+s on foreign policy.

Responding to Critics

Agent Orange has a lot of critics and it’s certainly his right to respond to them.  Doing so does not always reflect very good judgment, but it’s certainly his right.

And it’s a right he always – always – chooses to exercise, because in the world of Donald Trump, every single slight, no matter how trivial, merits a response – with both barrels a-blazin’.

One of those critics has been Stephen Colbert, and Trump, like Popeye, decided that “enoughs is enoughs” and fired back:

You see a no-talent guy like Colbert. There’s nothing funny about what he says. And what he says is filthy.  And you have kids watching. And it only builds up my base.

Fair enough, although he may not realize that Colbert’s program airs at 11:30, when, at least in theory, not too many kids are watching.

But he can’t stop there; no, he needs to throw in a little bragging while he’s at it.

Then he started attacking me and he started doing better. But his show was dying. I’ve done his show. … But when I did his show, which by the way was very highly rated. It was high — highest rating. The highest rating he’s ever had.

The guy’s amazing – relentless in his egotism and self-promotion.

Speaking of His Ego…

 In the aforementioned interview with The Economist, Agent Orange, describing what the U.S. economy needs, said that

 We have to prime the pump

Then he felt a need to explain himself:

Have you heard that expression used before?  Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just … I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.

He really thinks he created that expression himself – or at least he thinks if he says he did often enough that people will eventually believe him.  The Curmudgeon has certainly heard the term before and you almost certainly have, too, and it’s creation is generally attributed to economist John Maynard Keynes, who passed away in 1946, although one dictionary traces the expression back to Sir Walter Scott in 1819.

In the coming months, we can expect Agent Orange to claim ownership of a few other terms as well, including:

The president is suing, claiming that he, not the lads, wrote the lyric “I am the egg man
They are the egg men
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’joob”

Go ahead, make my day

Best thing since sliced bread

One-term president

Can’t judge a book by its cover

While Nero fiddled, Rome burned

Elvis has left the building

Everybody have fun tonight, everybody wang chung tonight

 The man knows no shame.

 You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

And maybe it’s time for a few years with little or no progress.

And maybe even a little backsliding.

What else to think after this overlooked gem from a December issue of the New Yorker:

 A recent piece in the Times reported that, when Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, spoke to Trump by phone shortly after the election and raised the subject of women’s issues, he handed the phone to Ivanka.

Looks like he’s still grabbing women by the privates, at least metaphorically speaking.

 Oh No He Didn’t

Oh yes he did.

Oh yes he did imply that there are…

Tapes.

Here we go again.

“This Trump is my kind of president.”

That’s right:  there may be tapes, as Agent Orange suggested in the face of anticipated, as opposed to actual, criticism from recently deposed FBI director James Comey.  Last Friday he tweeted that

James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

Paging Rose Mary Woods!

Freedom From the Press

Not a typo:  that’s what Agent Orange said, via tweet, that he’s considering:

…Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings” and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???

“B-b-b-but…our beautiful constitution…”

Because in a democracy like ours, who needs a free press?  Apparently we’re now supposed to elect a president and then step aside and let him do his thing without asking any questions or inquiring exactly what that thing is.

We know this isn’t going to happen:  written responses would introduce a level of accountability that this administration has consistently rejected by reserving the right to change its story as often as it needs to until it comes up with something that people won’t necessarily accept but at least won’t laugh at.

The Curmudgeon, for one, is not laughing at any of this.  He’s mostly just getting scared.

 

R.I.P.

Jane Norman, 1934-2017

Unless you’re from the Philadelphia area you won’t know who this person is and even if you are you may not know the name, but those of us of a certain age almost certainly will remember the TV show Pixanne.  For almost all of the 1960s Pixanne – Ms. Norman – educated and entertained children with her local morning television program.  A Peter Pan-like character, she wore a green pixie costume and lived in an enchanted forest with a bunch of furry puppet friends – and she flew!  The songs she sang were her own compositions and she delighted children – including The Curmudgeon – and their parents alike.  The Curmudgeon imagines that anyone who recognizes the name or the face is smiling now, and if her passing chokes you up a little, too, that’s okay.

 

A Side Note on the Comey Firing

As you might imagine, The Curmudgeon is pretty appalled by the firing of FBI director James Comey:  great idea but unacceptable in both its timing and the daily and ever-changing rationale.

All that aside, he was even more appalled when Sean Spicer understudy Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained that the president fired Comey for, among other reasons, committing “…basic atrocities.”

Atrocities.

Atrocities?

ATROCITIES?

Reasonable people may disagree about what the president did and why and how he did it and whether Comey did or didn’t deserve to be fired now, in the past, or in the future, but explaining that he was fired for committing “… basic atrocities” is beyond the pale.  Until and unless Sarah Huckabee Sanders can point to the piles of human bodies lying dead in a ditch somewhere, she really needs to apologize for her grotesque characterization of someone even his opponents describe as a decent man and dial down the inflammatory and inappropriate rhetoric.

Credential Inflation

A lot of people apparently think it’s important to suggest to the world that they’re something they’re not.  Sometimes they get away with such things but usually, someone figures out the lie and the jig is up.

Plenty of people, for example, lie on their resume:  they boast of degrees they never earned, graduate studies they never undertook, job titles they never held, work responsibilities they never exercised, and more.

In the world of internet dating in which The Curmudgeon once dwelled, women would regale him with tales of such credential inflation.  The one that always seemed strangest was men claiming to be taller than they actually are.  That’s a pretty tough one to pull off because if you tell a woman you’re six feet tall and when you meet she sees you’re not a hair above five-nine, then the very first thing she’s going to think upon meeting you is “Oh, this guy’s a liar.”

Which is probably not the best way to start a relationship.

In Philadelphia, a man running for city council claimed he was once a member of the Green Berets.  He wasn’t.  He was elected anyway:  Philadelphians are nothing if not accepting of mediocrity and dishonesty.

Military experience appears to be a popular form of credential inflation.  For some reason, men like to claim they experienced the thrill of the fight even when the closest they ever got to battle was feeling emotional exhaustion at the end of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.

And remember what claiming proximity to battle did to the career of NBC anchorman Brian Williams?  Williams can now be seen on his own 11 p.m. MSNBC program, which puts him about three steps away from reading the farm price reports on a local cable access program in Kansas.

And into the great tales of credential inflation files now goes Mark Chelgren, a member of the Iowa state senate whose official biography – well, to be more precise, what was once his official biography – asserted that he held a business degree.

Which is not overwhelmingly impressive but it still an achievement of sorts.

But it turns out that Chelgren doesn’t have a business degree.

He has a business certificate.

A business certificate from the company that owns the Sizzler restaurant chain.

It seems that when Chelgren was nineteen he got the kind of job a lot of nineteen-year-olds get, working at his neighborhood Sizzler.  The people who ran the restaurant liked what they saw, wanted to get him into management, and put him into a Sizzler management training program from which he eventually earned a certificate.

Which is not nothing.  There is absolutely nothing wrong, and nothing to be looked down upon, about getting a certificate in restaurant management from a restaurant chain training program.  Plenty of good, bright people earn a living running restaurants.  It’s an honorable profession.

But it’s not a business degree.

Which Chelgren didn’t entirely understand.

He told the Associated Press that he’s learned that “…apparently a degree and a certificate are different.”

This wasn’t, moreover, an instance in which the assertion about someone’s education was made without that someone’s knowledge.  A clerk in the Republican office of Iowa’s state senate gave a draft of his biography, complete with the assertion about the business degree, to Chelgren for his review.

“It was given to me to approve and I thought it was adequate.”

Which raises the question of which is worse:  someone who lies about having a degree or someone who doesn’t understand the difference between a company training program and a four-year college degree.

Circumstances suggest in this particular case it’s the latter because there’s further evidence:  Chelgren has proposed a bill in the Iowa legislature that would require “partisan balance” among faculty members who teach at state colleges in Iowa.

Huh?

As reported by the Washington Post,

…a job candidate who is seeking a position as a professor or instructor would not be hired if his or her political party affiliation as of their hire date would ‘cause the percentage of the faculty belonging to one political party to exceed by ten percent the percentage of the faculty belonging to the other political party.’

Because Chelgren, a Republican, apparently doesn’t want too many people at public colleges in Iowa teaching Democratic math.

Or left-wing physics.

Or secular humanism geology.

Based on the man’s reaction to the discovery of his inflated credentials and his subsequent legislative activity, it seems we’re on fairly solid grounds in concluding that Chelgren isn’t a liar.

Just an idiot.