Monthly Archives: September 2017

A Little Touch of Whimsy

The sign to the right adorns the front door of a  store that’s practically around the corner from The Curmudgeon’s home.

A toy store. What a nice, light-hearted touch.

Terrorists Targeting Tabernacle?

Or Shamong?

Or Medford or Mount Laurel or Runnemede or Stratford or Voorhees or Bellmawr or Atco or Turnersville or Riverside or Riverton or Cinnaminson or Burlington or Willingboro or Winslow or Sicklerville or Sewell or Williamstown or Delran?

Unless you live in the Philadelphia area you’ve probably never heard of any of these towns, and that’s with good reason:  there’s absolutely no reason for you ever to have heard of any of them.  They’re all reasonably nice places in the southern half of New Jersey, some of them nicer than others, but there’s absolutely nothing remarkable or even noteworthy about any of them, and unless something unusual happens in one of them – such as in Cherry Hill, just down the road from where The Curmudgeon lives, where 23 years ago the popular rabbi hired a hitman to kill his wife so he could run off with his girlfriend, the popular radio announcer – you can find similar towns like them all over the country.

So when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security distributed federal money to localities to help them prepare for the possibility of some kind of terrorist activity, the towns listed above, and a lot of others just like them, were left off the list.

And they were none too happy about it.

And they complained.

Philadelphia gets a lot of homeland money.  Why?  Well, there’s an enormous shipyard full of retired warships that could be reactivated in the event of a war.  There’s also a world-class university.  And a dense population that includes underground subways and large sports arenas that offer potentially tempting targets to terrorists looking to make a splash and kill a lot of people with one well-placed blast or a little poison.

But Barrington?  Lumberton?  Mount Holly?  Collingswood?  No reasonably informed terrorist is going to target places like these when they’re looking for big scores rather than little splashes.

Public officials in New Jersey, though, are furious.

A local radio station reported that

“Per federal guidelines, nine New Jersey towns are currently ineligible to apply because they do not fall within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s designated region most at risk for terrorism,” Rodriguez told KYW Newsradio. “This is simply unacceptable.”

Think about this statement for a moment:  the complaint is that it’s unacceptable that areas that are not considered at risk of a terrorist attack are not eligible for government money to fight and respond to acts of terrorism.

How utterly ridiculous is that?

And how utterly ridiculous are the public officials protesting it?

“Lock HIM Up, Lock HIM Up!”

Now that we know that Jared Kushner, that much-valued, highly qualified White House senior advisor, has used a private email account to conduct government business, one can only wonder whether the president – you know, Jared’s father in-law – will be as eager to brand Kushner a criminal and call for his incarceration as he was when Hillary Clinton engaged in the same practice while in the employ of the federal government.

Jared is awfully pretty. He probably would not do well in prison.

And seriously: considering all the fuss surrounding Hillary Clinton’s foolish use of private email and all the noise his father in-law made about it, how colossally stupid must Jared Kushner be to have done the very same thing?

Also engaging in the same stupidity:

Darling daughter Ivanka.

Economic advisor Gary Cohn.

Reince Priebus.

Steve “Beelzebub” Bannon.

Lock them up! Lock them up!

Football Players and the National Anthem

One view: Football players should absolutely stand for the playing of the national anthem before their games.

Another perspective: Football players have a right to do whatever they want during the national anthem, including getting down on one knee or standing and raising their fist.

A compromise: A subject on which reasonable people may differ (although The Curmudgeon suspects you know where he stands on the issue).

But here’s an even bigger question:

Why on earth do they play the national anthem before a football game – or a baseball game or a basketball game or any other type of game? What does the national anthem – a song glorifying war, you will recall (“and the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air”) – have to do with playing a game? The rest of us don’t start our work day with the national anthem, so why must professional or college or even high school athletes do so?

And while we’re at it, who decided that failure to treat the national anthem in the customary manner reflects a lack of respect for veterans? In fact, what do veterans have to do with this matter at all?

And to take it a step further, for those who for some reason insist that this is all about veterans, if people aren’t free to express their displeasure about some aspect of their society in a non-violent, non-disruptive manner without the harassment of their neighbors and their president, then don’t you have to wonder what those veterans think they were fighting for?

Strange Doings in Alabama

The race for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat vacated by current Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions features two candidates: former judge Roy Moore and current senator Luther Strange.

Neither is much of a prize. Moore has twice been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for misconduct in office. The first time was in 2003, when he was suspended when he refused to obey a federal order to remove a ten commandments monument from the state’s judicial building. The second time was just last year after he told state probate judges to defy federal orders governing gay marriage.

A law-abiding citizen he is not.

Luther Strange lives up – or down – to his name. He was the state’s attorney general when he was appointed to fill the vacancy left when Sessions was appointed to become the law enforcement official whose job was to return the country to the 1950s. Not-so-coincidentally, some people believe, Strange ended his investigation of his state’s governor in return for the appointment (that governor has since resigned in disgrace). As Alabama attorney general, Strange sued the Obama administration over its birth control mandate and its transgender bathroom order. Finally, he bears the burden of Agent Orange’s endorsement.

Again, not exactly a pillar of the community.

It’s a real lose-lose for America even if it is only par for the course for Alabama, where the people will make this decision tomorrow.

It’s a close race, Moore appears to be in the lead, but both candidates are pulling out all the stops. To that end, Judge Moore, whose disinterest in truth and law apparently knows no bounds, recently announced a major endorsement: that of conservative leader and anti-ERA advocate Phyllis Schlafly.

That’s a real coup for Moore, with only one slight problem:

Ms. Schlafly, it seems, passed away more than a year ago.

It’s a Sad Day Indeed When…

…third-rate late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel can spot a wretched and unacceptable health care proposal more readily and more accurately than more than half of the United States Congress.

Doctors and Generic Drugs

A study published in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, found that doctors who work in hospitals prescribe fewer prescription drugs and more generic drugs when the hospital in which they work limits the ability of pharmaceutical sales representatives to wander the halls.

In other words, the more access drug company reps have to these doctors, the more the doctors prescribe brand-name, more expensive drugs.

Let us put aside the brand name versus generic drug argument for now and look at another issue:

What does this tell us about doctors?

Consider how much money doctors make.

The average orthopedist makes $443,000 a year.

The average cardiologist $410,000.

The average general surgeon $322,000.

The average ob/gyn $277,000.

What does it say about these doctors, all making six figures and many of them among the one percent, that they can be bought off with a few complimentary pens, a box lunch, or a pair of tickets to a ball game or play from a drug company sales rep?

What it says…isn’t good.  Isn’t good at all.

 

 

Texas: Where They Really Have Their Priorities Straight

High school football season is now in high gear, and nowhere is high school football more important than it is in the Lone Dope state of Texas.

High school football?  VERY important.  High school education?  Not as.

According to the publication Education Week, Texas ranks 43rd in the country in education quality.

One possible reason for this is that Texas doesn’t spend a whole lot on public education, at least compared to other places.  According to an article in the El Paso Times,

In school finance, Texas ranked 45th in the nation, earning a D grade based on per pupil spending, state spending as a percent of taxable resources, and other factors.

 Texas ranked 49th in the country in per pupil spending, taking into account regional cost differences, according to the report,  Texas spent $7957 per student, well below the national average of $11,667 per student, according to the report.

The states that rank behind Texas?  Louisiana, Arizona, Oklahoma, Alabama, Idaho, New Mexico, Mississippi and Nevada.  That’s understandable:  places like Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi are dirt poor.  But Texas?

Not so poor.  Texas is right in the middle of the pack in average annual income:  25th in the country,  As you might imagine, Texas has a lot of very rich people:  35 of the Forbes 400, all of them billionaires.  In fact, a bunch of Texas billionaires don’t even make the Forbes 400 list.

So it’s not like Texas doesn’t have a solid tax base.  And of course there’s all that oil and all that oil money.

You know:  oil money.  Black gold.  Texas tea.

So if Texans are doing okay in the pay department and okay in the rich folks department, why isn’t it doing better in the investing in public education department?

More specifically, if it’s not spending money on public education, what is it spending public money on?

Well, as it turns out, it’s spending big on one aspect of public education:

Football stadiums for public high schools.

As reported by the online publication citylab.com, Texas’s McKinney Independent School District is currently building an $87 million football stadium for its team.

That’s $87 million.

$87,000,000.

A dollar sign, 87, and six zeroes.

Among the amenities $87 million buys:  a 55-foot-wide high definition scoreboard.

This stadium, by the way, will replace a stadium that was renovated just ten years ago at a cost of $10 million.  The new stadium will seat 12,000 – an interesting decision considering that during the 2015 football season the current stadium, with only 10,000 seats, was never even half full for a single game.

But McKinney didn’t blaze this trail; it’s only following in the footsteps of others – but going bigger.

Because going bigger is the Texas way.

In 2004 the school district in Plano opened a $20 million football stadium with 9800 seats.

Four years ago, the Allen independent school district opened an 18,000 seat stadium.  The price tag:  $72 million.

The Curmudgeon understands that high school football is a very big deal in Texas.  Yes, a lot of people saw the movie Friday Night Lights and watched the television show of the same name.  The Curmudgeon, of course, took a different path:  he read the book before there even was a movie or a television show.

The purpose of high school, though, is to teach kids who are soon going to be called upon to vote, to work, and to raise children.  It’s more important to teach these kids than it is to build palaces for the fun and games that come after school and are incidental to their education.  Spending tens of millions of dollars on football stadiums for teenagers is foolish, and it suggests yet another way that too many Texans have warped priorities.

But then, warped thinking and warped priorities often come to mind when we think of Texas, don’t they?

 

 

Who Needs Equifax?

A data breach at the health insurer Anthem compromised the personal data of 80 million of the people Anthem insures.  Anthem is a health insurance company, though, not a data company, but it clearly needs to learn how to protect its data better.  Something like this should never happen again.

A data breach at the web site Ashley Madison compromised the personal data of 33 million who have interacted with the web site in one form or another.  Ashley Madison is a web site that helps married men cheat on their wives, though, not a data company, but it clearly needs to learn how to protect its data better.  Something like this should never happen again.

A data breach of Home Depot compromised the personal data of 56 million people who have done business with Home Depot.  Home Depot is a retailer, though, not a data company, but it clearly needs to learn how to protect its data better.  Something like this should never happen again.

A data breach of the company Equifax compromised the personal data of 143 million – 143 million! – people.  Equifax is a data company:  all it does it collect data and sell access to that data to others.

Equifax does one thing one thing only:  data.  And it proved incompetent with its data.

Something like this should never happen again.

But for a different reason.

Is there any reason that anyone should ever do business with Equifax again?  Data is the only thing Equifax does and it couldn’t even do that right.  Under those circumstances, is there any reason the liquidation of Equifax hasn’t already begun so the company can close its doors forever?

An Unlikely Headline

From an editorial in last Friday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

UPMC genital photos: Unprofessional & outrageous

 If you’re not familiar with the story, go here to see what the paper is editorializing about.

And while you’re at it, consider whether the headline itself isn’t every bit as unprofessional as the deed it deplores.