Monthly Archives: October 2017

Making Environmental War on the American People

No one’s saying that global warming – “climate change” is now apparently the polite term for it – spawned the major hurricanes we’ve had this season. What they are suggesting, though, is that the waters of the Caribbean are now warmer than they were just a few years ago and that this feeds hurricanes and makes them more powerful and more dangerous.

The evidence of global warming is clear and irrefutable – clear and irrefutable, that is, to most thinking people. “Most thinking people,” alas, does not include the president of the United States and many Republican members of Congress, who continue to insist that this is a figment of someone’s imagination.

Like the Chinese. Seriously, that’s what some Republicans say: that climate change/global warming is a fantasy fabricated by the Chinese.

The New Yorker recently offered an interesting perspective on this administration’s and this Congress’s attitude toward global warming/climate change – and a description of some of the things they’ve done, and are doing, based on their sadly mistaken belief. (This comes directly from a longer New Yorker piece; find the entire piece here.   You should consider picking up a copy of the New Yorker sometime.)

As misguided as the Bush Administration was about climate change, Donald Trump has taken willful ignorance to a whole new level. The President has called climate change an “expensive hoax dreamed up by the Chinese. After much posturing, he announced in June that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. With less fanfare, he has rolled back Obama Administration regulations limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from both old and new power plants and from oil and gas wells. (Regarding the wells, a federal appeals court recently ruled against the White House, saying that it could not simply suspend the regulations.) Trump also revoked a 2013 executive order directing federal agencies to prepare for the impacts of warming and tossed out a plan, issued the same year, that outlined steps that the U.S. would take to combat climate change.

 Then, just ten days before Harvey hit, the President rescinded a 2015 executive order requiring public-infrastructure projects in flood-prone areas to be designed with sea-level rise in mind. This move is likely to have particularly unfortunate consequences for Houston, a city with no zoning code, where thousands of buildings constructed on floodplains but lacking flood insurance are now filled with soggy debris. Last Monday, as rainfall totals in Houston were topping forty inches, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress that he was planning to eliminate his department’s special envoy for climate change.

 Many members of Congress share Trump’s climate-change delusions, especially in the Texas delegation. Lamar Smith, a Republican who represents parts of San Antonio, chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Smith has spent the better part of his career harassing climate scientists, and in a recent op-ed for the Daily Signal, a Web site sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation, he celebrated the effects of global warming, arguing that they were producing “beneficial changes to the earth’s geography.” At a town-hall meeting in April, Joe Barton, a Republican who represents parts of Fort Worth and is the vice-chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, repeated the old denier canard that clouds are the cause of climate change. And, in June, House Republicans introduced a bill to prevent federal agencies such as the Department of Energy from considering the societal costs of carbon pollution when fashioning regulations. Among the co-sponsors were three Texas representatives.

 These are NOT people who should be permitted to play with sharp objects, let alone make the laws under which we live.

 

Republicans as the Party of Fiscal Responsibility and Family Values

Well, maybe in 49 of the states but certainly not in Pennsylvania.

Although the state has a Democratic governor, both chambers of its legislature have large Republican majorities, including a veto-proof majority in the senate.

Which means that in Pennsylvania, Republicans pretty much call the shots.

So Republicans passed a budget in late June. The state’s constitutional budget deadline is June 30.

So they did their job, right?

Well, not quite.

It turns out that they passed a spending plan but neglected to pass legislation to raise enough money to pay for the $32 billion worth of spending they approved.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

And then they dallied for four months over that spending plan.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

During which the state had to borrow money to pay its bills.

And to pay for things like health care for kids.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

Despite this, they took a six-week vacation during which the state still didn’t have a revenue plan and still wasn’t raising enough money to pay for the $32 billion in spending they approved.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

And then last week they finally – finally! – passed a revenue plan.

That didn’t cut any more state spending.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

And that didn’t call for any new or increased taxes.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

And that called for borrowing $1.5 billion to cover ordinary operating expenses.

Because Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.

Looking like an elephant but acting more like jackasses

And called for generating an estimated $200 million in new tax revenue by expanding legal gambling in the state.

Because Republicans are the party of family values and nothing says “family values” quite like making it in the state’s financial interest for working-class people to fritter away their paychecks at slot machines and video poker terminals.

Yes, Pennsylvania’s Republicans really embody everything that has made the Republican party great again.

At the expense of the people they were elected to serve.

Say What?

The Curmudgeon nearly ran his car off the road last weekend when he heard a radio ad for Beautyrest mattresses that declared that the product would give purchasers…

…are you ready for this?

It’s a mattress, not a piece of technology

High-performance sleep!

Seriously: they boasted that the Beautyrest would lead to…

High-performance sleep.

Geez:  talk about hyperbole.

An Alternative Theory

The headline of the article on the Pew Charitable Trust’s web site read

Some States Lag Behind on ADHD Therapy

Maybe that’s true.

Or maybe they just got distracted by other things.

An Airport With Little Interest in its Customers’ Satisfaction

JD Powers, the consumer survey people, recently reported that Philadelphia International Airport’s customer ratings for terminal facilities, food, retail, and other amenities improved slightly in the past year.

The Curmudgeon would like to know what the people who participated in that survey were smoking.

Philadelphia’s airport is a throwback (and yes, The Curmudgeon would like to throw it back): the people who run it do so as if 9/11 never happened.

Good luck making your flight

The Curmudgeon isn’t much of a flyer, but he’s found the TSA staff to be far surlier and the security set-up to be far worse in Philadelphia than at any of the other airports he’s visited.  Need to undergo a security check before you fly?  Your wait will be interminable.

Retail? Food? They’re only for passengers. If you’re at Philadelphia’s airport to pick up a passenger – something The Curmudgeon finds himself doing with some frequency these days because Mrs. Curmudgeon does some traveling for both work and family – the only food you can get is out of a vending machine. All of the food establishments are on the terminal side of the airport and off limits to those without a ticket.

Rest rooms? At some terminals, if nature calls while you’re waiting for a passenger, well, good luck. You may need to go to a lower level to find a rest room.

A place to sit while waiting for someone? In some areas there may be a few seats, but it’s strictly first come, first served. The Curmudgeon has learned from experience that if you’re picking up someone at their terminal, you need to be prepared to take a seat on the ground.

Parking at the terminal for less than an hour? You can do that on the ground level rather than driving up through the parking garage but you have to know how to do that because there are no signs. Nada one. And once you leave that garage you’ll find signs pointing you to the exit to be few and far between and poorly lit. You’ll also have to drive through several adjoining garages.

Looking to see which carousel will eventually spit out your luggage? Good luck with that: in some terminals there’s no directory and you have to walk by the luggage carousels until you find the one for your flight.

The road signs leaving the airport are awful – and poorly lit. If you need to take I-95, odds are about 50-50 that you’ll see whether the next exit is for heading north or south in time to pick the right one. The last time he dropped off Mrs. Curmudgeon at the airport The Curmudgeon took a magical mystery tour through southwest Philadelphia and may even have momentarily crossed into the next county.

The same survey rates Orlando’s airport as the most passenger-friendly “mega-airport” in the country. So what’s Orlando’s secret? The Philadelphia Inquirer explains.

Orlando, which handles 44 million air travelers, was rated best among “mega” airports, those with 32.5 million or more passengers. What sets Orlando apart? The airport uses sign technology to tell passengers how long TSA waits are. During TSA crush times  when lines are long, the airport administration, “the people in suits and ties, come down to help direct traffic through the TSA,” Taylor said.

 Orlando moved baggage drop-off from the curb to inside, so families with young children can drop off luggage and not carry it through security.  “It’s an application of new technology and old-fashioned ‘what do our passengers need?’ ” he said.

In the “large” airport category, among the top-rated facilities are the airports in Tampa and Orange County, California. For a guy who doesn’t fly much and avoids doing so whenever possible, The Curmudgeon knows those airports well: he’s flow into and out of Tampa probably 30 times and at least ten times into and out of John Wayne Airport, in Orange County. Both have the same problem as Philadelphia’s airport, with limited food and beverage access for those without tickets, but Tampa’s airport is a pleasure. In those and other airports through which The Curmudgeon has passed, the people who run them clearly aren’t holding their breath and waiting until security checks go away. They’ve updated their airports to the new reality with ample seating, rest rooms, access to refreshments, better signs, more customer-friendly security systems, and more. Philadelphia recently unveiled a renovated terminal and while the carpets may be fresh and the graffiti gone from the bathroom stalls, none of these improvements were introduced: it’s just the same old/same old airport, unfriendly to users and pretty much guaranteed to get your trip off to an unpleasant start or end it on a sour note.

The folks in Orlando get it right by asking their passengers what they want. They exhibit a service-oriented, customer-focused approach. Maybe someday the folks in Philadelphia will care enough about their passengers to do the same.

But The Curmudgeon isn’t holding his breath.

The Headline and Sub-heading Got it All Wrong

The headline on the Healthcare Finance News daily bulletin that The Curmudgeon receives read

What hospitals, insurers should take away from Tom Price’s resignation

Price, you will recall, is the former Secretary of Health and Human Services who resigned after it was reported that he took more than a million dollars worth of flights on private planes instead of flying commercial, like the rest of us mere mortals.

And the sub-heading, intended to provide the answer, declared

Lack of strategic healthcare policy direction was central to Trump essentially firing Price, health policy expert says.

The Curmudgeon, alas, has another theory.

So what should hospitals and insurers really take away from Tom Price’s resignation?

DON’T STEAL A MILLION DOLLARS FROM THE GOVERNMENT!

General Kelly

By all accounts, General John Kelly has practically been a savior as President Trump’s chief of staff. At the very least he has restored a modicum of order to a house in disarray. He appears disciplined, organized, rational, and effective, qualities he appears to have in common with… well, with damn near no one in the Trump administration.

It was in this context that The Curmudgeon found himself last weekend contemplating General Kelly’s future as White House chief of staff after his out-and-out lie about Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s comments at the dedication of a new FBI facility in Florida a few years ago.

It would have been easy to take General Kelly’s word for it, or to give him the benefit of the doubt, but videotape reveals all: Kelly lied about Congresswoman Wilson’s remarks that day. Now that he has been caught in that lie it seemed likely to The Curmudgeon that Kelly, ever the good and honorable soldier, would feel he had no choice but to fall on his sword and resign, having done his boss’s bidding at the expense of his own integrity, since the White House, as it always does, doubled down on the lie instead of saying “Whoops, we got it wrong, we’re sorry,” which is what us normal people do.

But would his resignation be a good thing? How do you weigh the seeming competence Kelly has brought to a place pockmarked with incompetence against his awful, willing, intentionally misleading impugning of the integrity of the congresswoman? And on top of that, there was his bullying, obnoxious insistence, during a press conference on the subject, that he would take questions only from reporters who were members of Gold Star families or who knew Gold Star families – as if such people were the only ones who had a right to question him. (And The Curmudgeon will ignore Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ not-so-thinly veiled threat against anyone who dares question a general. She’s just another willing tool, nothing more than Sean Spicer with an occasional flicker of personality that has mostly been doused under the pressure of the demand that she stand in front of the press daily and routinely lie through her teeth about important and even about unimportant things.)

While he was contemplating such matters The Curmudgeon found himself the other day reading a review of a new biography of Ulysses S. Grant. When Grant left office he decided to try to make some money for the first time in his life, got fleeced by a con man, and then, dying of cancer, sat down to write his autobiography – the first president to do so, and a book that is still considered remarkable by most standards.

And then a line in that book review – actually, just a clause within a longer sentence – really struck The Curmudgeon. Describing the life about which Grant wrote, the reviewer observed that

Grant’s world is, in certain respects, painfully familiar, people by such figures as the military man whose managerial skill is assumed to indicate integrity…

The real deal – or just the same old same old?

And there you have it: the very circumstance in which we find ourselves today. Absent some credible accounting for his inexplicable lie, this is Kelly: a guy whose managerial skill – a skill not to be underestimated in an environment in which such a skill is so completely missing in action – gives him a patina of integrity that it now appears he may not actually possess. In the end, his may just be a dime-a-dozen competence with a limited moral foundation and not necessarily a reflection of integrity of any kind.

Real integrity would mean explaining his remarks and why he continues to stand by them, apologizing, or doing the honorable thing and resigning.

The next move is Kelly’s, but The Curmudgeon no longer worries about the possibility that the White House may soon be deprived of Kelly’s services. Either his integrity is not sufficient to lead him to resign or what he’s bringing to the White House is just a pretty veneer that’s been slapped on what has quickly become an ugly, ugly facade. If this is the case, moreover, the president will no doubt quickly find someone to replace him who may or may not exhibit the same degree of surface competence – remember, Trump is a man who thought Anthony Scaramucci had something – anything – to offer his country, so the bar is not set terribly high – but who also will be willing, when the time comes, to do the president’s bidding, lie through his teeth, and then fall on his sword so Donald Trump can look into the camera with the eyes of the pathological liar he is and insist yet again that what happened was certainly no fault of his own.

 

 

Wonder Woman (part 2 of 2)

Wild horses couldn’t drag The Curmudgeon to see the recent Wonder Woman movie. It’s not a gender thing; it’s a life-is-too-short-to-spend-two-hours-watching-this-kind-of-crap thing.

Even so, he couldn’t help but be amused by a published report that some of the mental midgets whom Fox News trots out for viewers have expressed displeasure with… Wonder Woman’s attire, of all things.

Too much skin showing?

No.

Too much cleavage?

No again.

Too much leg or, um, hindquarters?

Nope.

Let’s learn about it in the words of Neil Cavuto, one of Fox News’s “personalities.”

Her outfit isn’t red, white, and blue, and in order to appeal to foreign audiences, very little reference to America at all.

THAT was his problem with Wonder Woman’s costume.

A guest named Dion Baia – The Curmudgeon has no idea who these people are – picked up on Cavuto’s train of thought.

Nowadays, sadly, money trumps patriotism. Especially, recently, I personally feel like we’re not really very patriotic, the country, in a certain sense.

Also a wonder: that they didn’t complain that the actress who played the woman wasn’t an American

Baia, as far as The Curmudgeon can tell, is an actor wannabe who puts microphones on Fox News guests. How he got on camera to share this enlightened view is anyone’s guess.

Next it was someone named Mike Gunzelman’s turn to show his ignorance:

I think the Hollywood aspect—we see this time and time again—it’s cool to hate America these days.

Because in the narrow little minds of people like Gunzelman – a New York media “personality” who has worked with Don Imus (which tells you a lot about the guy right there) – Cavuto, and Baia, a cartoon character not wearing red, white, and blue is a sign of hating America.

Something is seriously wrong with these people.

 

Wonder Woman (part 1 of 2)

The Curmudgeon wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t read it with his own two very, very, very near-sighted eyes:

The United Nations celebrated Wonder Woman’s 75th birthday on Friday by naming the comic book character as its new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Woman and Girls, despite frustration from both inside and outside the world organization that the spot should go to a real – and less sexualized – woman.

While finding it hard to imagine Wonder Woman as an ambassador without envisioning Lynda Carter’s impressive décolletage preceding her entry into any room, The Curmudgeon read on:

The carefully choreographed ceremony was marred by some 50 U.N. staffers protesting by the visitors’ entrance to the U.N., who then went inside the Economic and Social Council chamber and silently turned their back to the stage during the opening speech, some with their fists in the air.

U.N. staffer Cass DuRant, who held a sign saying “Real Women Deserve a Real Ambassador,” said the protesters “don’t think that a fictitious comic book characters wearing basically what looks like a Playboy-type bunny outfit is really the right message we need to send to girls or even boys for that matter.”

And this:

The super heroine’s image will be used by the U.N. on social media platforms to promote women’s empowerment, including on gender-based violence and the fuller participation of women in public life (using the hashtag WithWonderWoman). The push, hoping to reach young people, is backed by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros., which produce both comics and films featuring Wonder Woman.

So all the great brains from all the great countries got together in New York City and the best way they could think of to “promote women’s empowerment” was to make official use of a silly comic book character.

That’s sad.

Apparently It was Just a Job to Him

By all accounts, Pat Tiberi, a Republican from Ohio, was a good congressman: thoughtful, interested in public policy, not given to grandstanding or demagoguery. He was moderate, and his constituents appreciated him: he has served them in the House since 2001 and has been winning his re-election bids with growing ease, gaining 67 percent of the votes just last November.

Tiberi betrayed those constituents last week. Eleven months after he asked them to return him to Congress for two years and just 10 months after taking the oath of office, he announced that he’s retiring from the House to become a lobbyist for an Ohio business group.

One assumes the new job pays better, which is saying a lot, considering that House members are paid $174,000 a year and receive benefits and expense reimbursement out the wazoo.

But apparently being a member of the U.S. House of Representatives was just a job to Pat Tiberi and now he can take the training provided to him by taxpayers, and his constituents, and go out and make a whole lot of money.

So much for commitment. So much for his constituents. Apparently, being a member of Congress was just a job to him and it was time to move along, and his commitment and the constituents be damned.