Monthly Archives: May 2017

Nitwit Politicians: Bonus Edition

(When The Curmudgeon hit upon his “Nitwit Politicians” idea it was supposed to be a three-part feature, and then, while he was writing those three parts, he came upon a fourth, so it became a four-parter and then a five-parter and then a six-parter and then a seven-parter and finally an eight-parter, all of which he finished and posted, a new piece scheduled to appear on this site every day for eight days, more than a week ago.  Now, he has a ninth nitwit – and it’s not even that Montana candidate for Congress who body-slammed a reporter the night before his election:  that one’s too easy, plus, he’s not a nitwit:  he’s a violent idiot who belongs in the World Wrestling Association, not the U.S. Congress.  But congratulations anyway, Montana voters:  you showed what you think of such behavior by rewarding it with a two-year term in Congress.  For now, though, this is intended to be the last “Nitwit Politicians.”

 At least for now.)

Meet Trent Franks.  Franks is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Arizona’s eighth congressional district.

Last week, as noted above, a candidate for Congress physically assaulted a reporter who had the audacity to ask him a question about perhaps the most important issue Congress is addressing at the moment:  health care.  Representative Franks has a theory about who is responsible for that assault:

Liberals.

I have said and stand by the notion that the left has created a polarization and kind of a violent, confrontational attitude for several months now in any sort of political gathering of any kind.

Yes, the liberals made the Montana candidate pick up his opponent and slam him to the ground and punch him.

Because conservatives have never been confrontational.

Not when they launched their tea party, modeled after a violent event in colonial history, just because a black man was elected president and before he even had a chance to do something – anything – they didn’t like.

Not when they threatened Democratic members of Congress who wanted to do something about health care eight years ago.

Not when their standard-bearer in last year’s presidential race called his opponents vile names, repeatedly vilified anyone who opposed him, and urged his supporters to engage in acts of violence against those opponents – and who, as recently as last week, shoved aside the head of another country who was standing in his way rather than politely, like any civilized person might, saying “Excuse me.”

Not when their radio talk show hosts rave incoherently about non-existent conspiracy theories, things that never happened, things that people never said, proposals that were never offered, and crimes that were never committed.

And not when the voters of Montana made it clear that such acts of violence are absolutely fine with them by electing Hulk Hogan to represent them in Congress less than twenty-four hours after he executed a pile-driver on a reporter who just did what reporters are supposed to do and ask him a pretty simple question.

No, it’s the liberals who’ve created the atmosphere of confrontation and violence that permeates our culture these days.

Trent Franks is a nitwit.

Nitwit Politicians (Part 8 of 8)

Meet Tom MacArthur.  MacArthur’s a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represents New Jersey’s third congressional district, which includes The Curmudgeon’s home.

MacArthur is a member of what is known in the House of Representatives as the Tuesday Group.  It’s a group of about 50 “moderate” Republican House members, many of whom were so displeased with the Trumpcare bill in late March that the bill was withdrawn without a vote.  The Curmudgeon places “moderate” in quotation marks because by any reasonable standards MacArthur is in no way moderate; he is a serious, serious conservative, but the degrees of conservativism in the House are so fine and so many and so constantly changing these days that today he comes across as somewhere in the middle of the lunatic fringe and is slapped with a “moderate” label that in no way does him justice.

As co-chair of the Tuesday Group, MacArthur worked with another member of the House, Mark Meadows, who was acting in his capacity as leader of the House Freedom Caucus, the farthest of the far right of the lunatic fringe, to broker a deal to make enough changes in the failed bill to make it acceptable, if not exactly loved or even liked, for it to pass in the House, as it did a few weeks ago.  It’s the passage of this bill that has unleashed the current wave of protests that spilled over into recent town hall meetings members of the House have held in their districts.

MacArthur held such a town hall meeting a few weeks ago.

The Curmudgeon’s invitation must’ve gotten lost in the mail.

Before continuing, allow The Curmudgeon to say a few things.

First, he doesn’t care for the bill the House passed, both because it would throw about 24 million Americans who currently have health insurance into the ranks of the uninsured over the next nine years and because it would jeopardize access to care for those with so-called pre-existing conditions – surely you understand how that term makes The Curmudgeon cringe – and it just so happens that The Curmudgeon, who is one of the healthiest fifty-nine-year-olds you will ever encounter, is a member of that pre-existing condition group because of a medical problem he successfully overcame nearly a decade ago but that will remain on his permanent record until the day he dies (sort of like that class you cut in tenth grade).

Second, The Curmudgeon believes MacArthur has every right to take whatever position he chooses on this issue.  He does not expect his elected officials to mirror his own views on every single issue they confront.

Third, The Curmudgeon respects that unlike many of his peers, who didn’t hold town hall meetings at all or who conducted them by telephone, MacArthur stood on a stage and faced his angry constituents and attempted to engage them on this subject.  (And rest assured that it pains The Curmudgeon to give this guy credit for anything.)

And fourth, any human being, MacArthur included, deserves better than how his constituents treated him and spoke to him.  Do a web search:  it was appalling and disgusting.  The Curmudgeon is ashamed of his neighbors.

But…

In his defense of the changes in the health care law that the new bill proposes – a bill, it should be noted, that has zero chance of passing in its current form in the Senate – MacArthur declared that

I am watching an insurance industry collapsing.

Let us consider this statement for a moment by looking at the top five health insurers in the country.

United Healthcare has 133 million members “world-wide;” The Curmudgeon isn’t exactly sure what that means, but he thinks it means the company insures a lot of people.  Its 2016 revenue was $185 billion, an increase of 18 percent from the previous year, operating earnings rose 20 percent, and net earnings rose 24 percent.

Number two insurer Anthem had 2016 revenue of $85 billion from insuring 40 million people.  Its 2016 gross profit was $18 billion and its net income $2.5 billion.

Next comes Aetna, with 2016 revenue of $15.7 billion and net income of $139 million.  In its financial disclosures Aetna notes that this net income is down significantly but it attributes this decline to “restructuring costs” and not Obamacare losses.  Aetna has 23 million members.

After Aetna comes CIGNA and its $39.7 billion in revenue, up five percent from the previous year.  Aetna’s financial disclosures note that it expects to add between 300,000 and 500,000 new members in 2017 – not bad for a company that already boasts of “15 million global medical customers.”

And last but not least in the top five of health insurers is Humana, with 2016 revenue of $54 billion, pre-tax income of $1.7 billion, and after-tax income of $614 million.  As of the end of 2015, Humana had 14.2 million U.S. health insurance customers.

Doesn’t exactly sound like a “collapsing” industry, does it?  In fact, it sounds more like a license to print money.

MacArthur has special expertise in this area, and certainly a special interest in this industry:  he’s a former health insurance industry executive himself, serving for eleven years as president and CEO of a company that, as his own web site describes, “…provided insurance and managed care services, and operated mutual insurers and a reinsurer.”

MacArthur’s not a public official whom The Curmudgeon will ever like and that’s not going to change, and again, he gives him credit for his willingness to stand up for what he believes in the face of the kind of treatment from his constituents that no public official deserves.  But for standing in front of constituents who were sharing their deep-seated fears with him, who were pouring out their hearts to him, and who were asking for his help, and then choosing at such a time to move beyond those worries and instead show his concern for the insurance industry – for the insurance industry rather than the people that industry insures – MacArthur really, really distinguished himself.

Tom MacArthur is a nitwit.

 

Nitwit Politicians (Part 7 of 8)

“Hey, small world! I’m from Wasila, too!”

Meet David Eastman.  Eastman is member of the Alaska state House from the city of Wasila.

Earlier this month, in an interview with the Associated Press about the use of state and Medicaid funds for abortions, Eastman said that

We have folks who try to get pregnant in this state so they can get a free trip to the city, and we have folks who want to carry their baby past the point of being able to have an abortion in this state so that they can have a free trip to Seattle.

With this statement Eastman managed to offend not one but two major constituencies:  women and members of Native Alaska tribes who generally live in isolated rural areas and who, when they are on Medicaid and need certain health care services, must travel to larger cities for that care.

Eastman said that if he could go back and not make those remarks he would, but many of his colleagues felt that he never actually apologized for what he said.  Dissatisfied, the state House voted to censure Eastman by a hardly overwhelming vote of 25-14, with some members expressing concern about setting a precedent for formally rebuking officials for their words.  (For what it’s worth, The Curmudgeon agrees with them on this point:  we need to stop automatically going overboard on people who say or do things we don’t like; there are other, better ways to address such problems – such as, in situations like this one, not supporting the guy’s attempt to get re-elected.)

For now, though, let us leave it at this:

David Eastman is a nitwit.

Nitwit Politicians (Part 6 of 8)

Meet Scott Wagner.  Wagner is a member of the Pennsylvania state senate.  (Actually, you’ve already “met” him; The Curmudgeon wrote about him here and here.)

Recently Wagner was giving a speech at a private event at a country club and noticed someone videotaping his remarks.  He asked the young man to identify himself and the man said he was there on behalf of American Bridge 21st Century, an organization that claims it tapes politicians so it can hold them accountable for living up to their word.  (Not entirely true:  it’s a liberal organization that tapes conservative politicians so it can use their words against them.)

After a brief exchange in which Wagner noted that the young man had not been invited to the event and therefore was trespassing, Wagner, instead of asking his hosts to eject the fellow or calling the police, declared that “You’re about to see your senator in action” and took the camera away from the fellow – by force.  When the fellow continued recording Wagner with his cell phone, Wagner tried to take that away from him, too – again, by force.

See the confrontation here.

And when the camera operator eventually retrieved his camera, it was minus its memory card:  it had been stolen from him.

Wagner sees himself as a Trump-like, tell-it-like-it-is, the-more-obnoxiously-the-better kind of public official, and his willingness to engage in violence is more than a little reminiscent of Agent Orange’s many attempts, while on the campaign trail, to goad his supporters into roughing up his…non-supporters.

Scott Wagner, it should be noted, is running for governor of Pennsylvania.

Congratulations, residents of Pennsylvania!

Scott Wagner is a nitwit.

 

 

 

Nitwit Politicians (Part 5 of 8)

Meet Darrell Issa.  Issa is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represents California’s forty-ninth congressional district.

Issa has long been known for his inappropriate behavior.  Once, as chairman of a congressional committee, he turned off the microphone of a fellow committee member because he didn’t like what that member was saying.  He lied about President Obama’s role – or, more precisely, his non-role – in an IRS scandal.  He said the attacks on the World Trade Center were just airplane crashes and didn’t merit federal relief aid.  He attacked the families of people killed by Bush administration-hired mercenaries in Iraq.  When Congress sought emails about the Valerie Plame controversy from the Bush administration and millions of those emails “disappeared,” he blamed it on a software glitch.  He blamed brushes with the law when he was young on his brother.  There’s more, but you get the idea:  the guy’s a loon.

Two weeks ago a reporter tried to ask Issa what he thought about the controversy surrounding the firing of FBI director James Comey.

Issa could have said nothing.

He could have said “No comment.”

He could have said “I’m still reviewing the situation.”

He could have said “I’m on my way to a meeting (appointment, hearing, the floor), catch up to me later.”

He could have said “Call my office and make an appointment and we’ll talk.”

There may have been a hundred reasonable ways for Issa to avoid addressing that particular issue at that particular moment.  So which one did he choose?  What did he do?

He gave the reporter the finger.

Flipped her the bird.

Darrell Issa is a nitwit.

Nitwit Politicians (Part 4 of 8)

Meet Duncan Hunter.  Hunter is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represents California’s fiftieth congressional district.

Hunter apparently likes spending other people’s money – money that’s not supposed to be spent in the ways he’s been spending it.

We’re talking about the money he raises for his political campaigns, which is supposed to be spent on political campaigns.

But Hunter spent $353 of campaign fund money at a smoking lounge.

$1042 at a hotel in Las Vegas.

And $896 at one of that hotel’s bars.

He’s also spent campaign money on video games, oral surgery, private school tuition, a garage door, and a family trip to Italy.

And gasoline, groceries, fast food, and department store purchases.

Not to mention $9000 in campaign consulting fees – to his wife.

So far he’s been forced to reimburse his campaign treasury $60,000 for inappropriate spending since the Federal Election Commission got a whiff of what he was doing.  The House Ethics Committee had been investigating Hunter but it threw up its hands in a combination of disgust and confusion and decided to let federal prosecutors take it from there.

Spending campaign contributions for his own pleasure is bad enough, but Hunter apparently continued doing it even after he was caught, warned, and compelled to repay the money.

Duncan Hunter is a nitwit.

Nitwit Politicians (Part 3 of 8)

Meet Raul Labrador.  Labrador is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represents Idaho’s first congressional district.

While holding a town hall meeting in his district recently, Labrador told his constituents that

Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.

See it for yourself here.

The quality of Idaho’s congressional delegation is going to the dogs

Actually, Representative Labrador, a lot of people die because they don’t have access to health care.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative response to his assertion, just four days later Labrador announced that he’s running for governor of Idaho.

Congratulations, residents of Idaho!

Raul Labrador is a nitwit.

Nitwit Politicians (Part 2 of 8)

Meet Rodney Frelinghuysen.  Frelinghuysen is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represents New Jersey’s eleventh congressional district.

Frelinghuysen is in his twelfth term, so clearly, his constituents like him.  Any elected official will encounter opposition, though, and in Frelinghuysen’s district, some of that opposition comes from a group that calls itself “NJ 11th for Change.”  When Frelinghuysen sent a campaign fundraising letter to a banker who has been a donor in the past, he mentioned that one of the bank’s employees was on the board of the opposition group.  The bank turned around and gave the woman who is part of the opposition group such a hard time that she quit her job.

A complaint has been filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics although it is not yet known whether that office, or the House Ethics Committee, will investigate.

Frelinghuysen is a pretty popular guy.  In his twelve runs for office he’s never won less than fifty-eight percent of the votes.  Most of the time he wins about two-thirds of the vote.  But apparently that wasn’t enough for Frelinghuysen:  he wants all of the votes, and he wants them badly enough to attempt to stifle his opposition, doing so even though he just won re-election a few months ago.  Well, his message got through, someone did his dirty work for him, and now, Frelinghuysen faces possible investigation into behavior that many people would argue was unethical.

Rodney Frelinghuysen is a nitwit.

 

 

 

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.