Monthly Archives: June 2017

Surely He Didn’t

But surely, it turns out, he did.

The “he” is Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and what he did was ask the federal government for disaster aid after…

…it snowed in Pennsylvania…

…in March.

Yes, Governor Wolf, it snowed in March.  You know why?

Because it snows in March.

Happens every year in Pennsylvania.

And it did this March, too, in the northeastern part of the state – a place where, well, it often snows in March.  In fact, there are even ski resorts in this area.  They kinda like snow, want snow, even need snow.

But with a rare show of sound judgment the Trump administration rejected Wolf’s request for federal disaster aid, prompting Wolf to kvetch that

It’s unfortunate that the President didn’t grant our request for a declaration, and the citizens of northeast Pennsylvania will be the ones to suffer the financial impact of this decision.

Is he suggesting that the state and the nine counties for which he sought aid have no snow removal capabilities?  That their budgets don’t include money for snow removal?

Or that to cut corners the state and those counties skimped on snow removal money in their budgets?

Or is it just a matter of Pennsylvania’s governor and the heads of nine counties trying to con the federal government into paying for something that everyone in the state expects to happen many times every year?

Nice try, governor.  Now try growing yourself a pair.

In High Places, a New Enemy of Working People

On the high court, to be precise.

Catching up on his backlog of New Yorkers – he’s up to mid-April! – The Curmudgeon uncovered this unpleasant anecdote about then-Supreme Court nominee and now Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

His predilection for employers over employees is such that it yielded a circuit court opinion of almost Gothic cruelty.  When subzero temperatures caused a truck driver’s trailer brakes to freeze, he pulled over to the side of the road.  After waiting three hours for help to arrive, he began to lose feeling in his extremities, so he unhitched the cab from the trailer and drove to safety.  His employer fired him for abandoning company property.  The majority in the case called the dismissal unjustified, but Gorsuch said that the driver was in the wrong.

Working people who land in front of this guy are in deep s—

And this is the guy who, for the next thirty years or so, will be meting out justice through the highest court in the land.

Or injustice, it seems more likely.

He is certainly no friend to working people:  he quite literally expects us to risk life and limb(s) for our employers…or else.

Another Enemy of Working People: Chambers of Commerce

A lot of people look at chambers of commerce as the good guys.

They’re not.

Yes, they promote local businesses, they help small businesses operate more effectively and network with other small businesses, and they provide some services to small businesses that might otherwise be out of their reach.

But they’re not good guys.

At the local level, most chamber of commerce members are small businesses.  Small businesses don’t much like working people.  They don’t like them because from the perspective of small business owners, every dime they have to pay their employees in salaries and benefits is one less dime in their own pockets.

So many of them begrudge their workers these dimes.

EVERY dime.

At the national level, the companies that call the shots are the biggest companies – you know, the ones that are always looking for ways to export the jobs of working people in the name of “shareholder value,” as if that’s a valid reason for tossing employees out onto the street.  They’re obviously no friend of working people, either.

The chamber is the largest lobbying organization in the country and it lobbies on behalf of the businesses that belong to it, not for the people who work for those businesses.

It lobbies against things like the minimum wage.  And for laws that make it harder for workers to unionize and easier for big companies to make their biggest exports American jobs rather than the products they sell.

It makes most of its political contributions to people who believe climate change is a hoax.  It wants to weaken regulations that prevent manufacturers from polluting the air and water.

It wants to weaken federal consumer protections that emerged from the abuses by the financial and banking industries that led to the recent recession.  It wants to eliminate regulations that require the people who help you with your retirement accounts to have as their first priority your financial interests rather than their own – and laws that hold them legally accountable if they don’t.

And this week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce came out in support of the bill in the U.S. Senate that would change a lot of what is known as Obamacare.

Change it by throwing 22 million people who currently have health insurance off the insured rolls over the next ten years.

Change it by letting insurance companies sell policies that won’t cover common medical problems.

And sell policies with much higher deductibles.

Change it by letting insurers charge much, much higher premiums to people who are older, regardless of how healthy they are.

Change it in a way that threatens the Medicaid benefits of children and pregnant women.

And that could throw middle-class seniors out of nursing homes.

And take Medicaid benefits away from people who make so little money that they couldn’t scrape together the money to pay for health insurance if their lives depended on it.

Chambers of commerce aren’t alone in their hostility to working people, either.  When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced the other day that it supported the health care bill in the Senate, it did so in a public letter that was signed by a bunch of other groups as well.

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America
  • America’s Business Benefit Association
  • American Staffing Association
  • American Supply Association
  • Associated Builders and Contractors
  • Associated General Contractors
  • Auto Care Association
  • Communicating for America, Inc.
  • The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers
  • Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC)
  • The ERISA Industry Committee
  • Food Marketing Institute
  • HR Policy Association
  • Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America
  • International Foodservice Distributors Association
  • International Franchise Association
  • National Association for the Self-Employed
  • National Association of Home Builders
  • National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors
  • National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
  • National Club Association
  • National Restaurant Association
  • National Retail Federation
  • Self-Insurance Institute of America, Inc.
  • Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
  • Society for Human Resource Management
  • Society of Professional Benefit Administrators

When people on the left offer such criticisms, people on the right often accuse them of seeking to incite class warfare, of attempting to pit working people against the wealthy.

To which The Curmudgeon replies “Damn right.  It’s about time – and long overdue.”

 

 

 

Those Sneaky Russians

A little while back The New Yorker published an excellent article describing the hows and the whys of Russian efforts to electronically infiltrate and disrupt American life and government.  The Curmudgeon highly recommends it, and you can find it here.

Among the many things that were eye-opening and jaw-dropping was this one anecdote that really struck The Curmudgeon:

In 2008, according to “Dark Territory,” a history of cyberwar by Fred Kaplan, Russian hackers accomplished a feat that Pentagon officials considered almost impossible: breaching a classified network that wasn’t even connected to the public Internet. Apparently, Russian spies had supplied cheap thumb drives, stocked with viruses, to retail kiosks near NATO headquarters in Kabul, betting, correctly, that a U.S. serviceman or woman would buy one and insert it into a secure computer.

Very clever, and truly worthy of Boris Badenov.

Missed it by THAT Much

There’s a growing belief, arguably evolving and still incomplete, that police officers should have some kind of higher education before they’re given guns and tasers and cars and sent out on the streets to keep us safe.  With that growing view, growing numbers of police departments are imposing such requirements on those who aspire to be police officers.

The city of Philadelphia implemented such a requirement in 2013 after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the city’s police department, requested by the city’s own police commissioner, questioned the caliber of the people to whom the city was issuing badges and batons.  The requirement:  60 hours of college credit, based on research that found that police officers who attended college perform better on the job, are more creative, are better problem-solvers, pose fewer disciplinary problems, are less likely to view force as their first option, generate fewer citizen complaints, and even use less sick time.

Which are some pretty compelling reasons to require more education, when you think about it.

But after less than three years with this requirement in place the city panicked when it didn’t have enough applicants to fill its latest class at the police academy and dropped the still-new requirement.  The argument was that too many otherwise-qualified applicants didn’t qualify because they lacked the 60 credits.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the reasoning offered by the city’s mayor:  that police recruits can’t afford to go into $100,000 in debt to get those 60 credits.

Which sounds almost reasonable, doesn’t it?  After all, while many people invest a great deal of money in the education they need to pursue their career of choice, more and more people are questioning the value of such large investments.

But there’s a flaw in the mayor’s rationale, the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out:  people who want to be police officers don’t need to spend $100,000 to get the amount of education the city had been seeking.  Actually, it turns out it would cost only about $10,000 to get the needed 60 credits at the city’s community college.

So the mayor was only off by $90,000.

Because no one’s asking anyone to go to Harvard.

And a reasonable argument can be made that someone who’s not willing to invest that relatively modest amount of money and a little time in a classroom to get such a minor credential for what’s really a pretty good (albeit sometimes dangerous) job must not be terribly interested in being a police officer.

And that those “otherwise qualified applicants” aren’t really that qualified in the first place – and not terribly interested in becoming qualified, either.

Finally, something not to be overlooked:  Philadelphia’s mayor is clueless.

Who Knew Such a Place Even Existed?

The Curmudgeon stumbled upon this store just five minutes from his house and was just astonished.

Who knew such a place even existed?

And more important, who owns it – Wile E. Coyote?

When it Absolutely Does NOT Have to be There Overnight

Because it’s a captive audience:  a storefront the curmudgeonly sister spotted along North Broad Street in Philadelphia.

 

Another Thought About Whole Foods

The Curmudgeon has written about the almost-supermarket chain Whole Foods in the past.

He’s not a fan.

Everything about the place screams arrogance, from the outrageous prices to bizarre products (goat dung soap, anyone?) to the minimum wage cashiers who sneer at you if you don’t bring your own biodegradable, fair trade bags to the smug self-righteousness of so many of its customers to the CEO of a crunchy granola, left wing-type business who is himself a conservative – a libertarian, actually – who opposed health care reform, doesn’t believe health care is a right, compared unions to herpes, doesn’t think climate change is necessarily bad and doesn’t believe there’s a consensus that it’s even happening, and was once caught by the Security and Exchanges Commission going to online forums under a pseudonym to talk trash about a company he was trying to buy in the hope that the lies he was spreading would lower that company’s value.

But here’s a new one:  to the right is a photo of a trash can outside a Whole Foods near The Curmudgeon’s home.  The company, in its arrogance, is trying to shame people for not recycling every single bit of waste or trash they generate.

As if there’s never a dumpster behind a Whole Foods store.

Seriously, seriously obnoxious and arrogant.

The Vice President Provides a Much-Needed Answer

Is The Curmudgeon a natural curmudgeon?  Was he born that way or did he become that way somewhere along the line?  Was it nature or nurture?

Sigmund Pence

The Curmudgeon has long wondered about this and now, he may have an answer.  In 1997, vice president Mike Pence said that children with two working parents suffer “…stunted emotional growth.”

So that explains it:  The Curmudgeon is a curmudgeon because he had two working parents and that stunted his emotional growth.

Thanks, Mike, for clearing that up for us.

A real piece of work, he is.

They Walked Five Miles to School Every Day…

…with shoes that had holes in them.

Even in the snow.

Wearing thin, hand-me-down coats.

And no umbrellas when it rained.

And they walked home for lunch every day and their mothers always – always – had a hot meal on the table for them.

And they used fountain pens because who could afford a ballpoint pen?

And they had to cut down trees and strip the bark to make paper for their notebooks.

Okay, maybe The Curmudgeon exaggerated a little on that last one, but really, don’t we get tired of people of a certain age complaining about how kids today have it too easy?  Most of those complainers would be reduced to tears if they’d had to learn in tenth grade the things kids today learn in fifth, but no, they were rougher and tougher in the olden days and they went to school when men were men and even the women were men and today’s kids are soft and we baby them too much and we’ve got a nanny society today and that’s why the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

To which The Curmudgeon declares “Poppycock!”

But that’s exactly what you find when you check out reader comments in response to a Philadelphia Inquirer article explaining that because the forecast for last Tuesday called for temperatures in the mid-nineties, public schools in Philadelphia and some surrounding suburbs would be closing at noon, or shortly thereafter, that day.

Among some of the gems from Inquirer readers:

When it got this hot, St. Agnes would only let us take our ties off.

*      *     *

They sucked it up back in the 1950s. You probably didn’t have no AC at home back then either.

*      *     *

It was 95 degrees every day through the Summer of 1776, but somehow they came up with a Declaration of Independence.

*      *     *

Getting out early because it is too hot?  Why, it’s still going to be hot on the bus, the subway, the train, walking home, when you get home if you do not have AC…

*      *     *

Whaaaaaahhhhhhh………..it’s hot in here.

*      *     *

Bunch of sissies !

*      *     *

We cracked the windows and could take our tie off when it was 95F. And the swinging of sister’s steel ruler still created plenty of breeze about the classroom.

*      *     *

Didn’t have AC when I was in school either. Never got out early for high temps. Even when it was in the 90s!!

*      *     *

YOU HAVE TO KIDDING ME… No wondering our kids are cupcakes are feel like they are owed something. We treat them like gods.

Sometimes it seems as if people never fail to live down to your expectations.