Monthly Archives: December 2017

Greetings of the Season

The Curmudgeon would like to wish his readers the best of the holiday season. Because this is not a time for curmudgeonliness he gives you as a gift a break from all the doom and gloom, shall take some time to go silent and recharge his batteries, and will return in about a week.

Scratch This One Off Your Christmas Gift List

Courtesy of Mrs. Curmudgeon, who’s starting to recognize the kind of subject her highly idiosyncratic yet lovable husband can’t resist, The Curmudgeon was recently introduced to a product that should be on absolutely no one’s gift list this Christmas:

Just when you think there’s nothing new under the sun someone introduces a $129.99 dog collar

A fitbit-style collar for dogs. In addition to being a tracking device – itself a worthy feature, although for a monthly subscription fee of $9.95, perhaps a bit on the outrageously pricey side – the “Link AKC,” according to the folks who manufacture it,

… helps you manage your dog’s wellness so you can have peace of mind knowing you are doing what’s best for your dog.

Because you know the subject of your pooch’s wellness has been keeping you up nights.

So what do you get for your $129.99 device (more than twice the price of some fitbits)? The collar and an app for your smartphone – oh, The Curmudgeon didn’t mention that? If you don’t already have one, you need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars to buy a smartphone that, despite your best intentions, will absolutely take over your life.

Sorry, The Curmudgeon digresses. Smartphones are still a sore subject with him.

Anyhow, this app offers, among other things, the following features:

Precise activity tracker – 3-axis accelerometer to accurately identify moderate vs intense movement throughout your dog’s day

Two observations here: first – 3-axis accelerometer? How utterly cool is that?

Um, what utterly IS 3-axis accelerometer?

Meet Sable, The Curmudgeon’s step-dog. She taught him about the 19 hours sleeping and one hour licking and she is way, waaay cuter than your dog but has never, ever heard a command she was willing to obey

Second: do you really need a gizmo to tell you that Fido sleeps approximately 19 hours a day and spends another hour licking himself/herself?

Artificial Intelligence – Patent-pending algorithm that learns what constitutes intense activity for your dog so you can make sure your dog gets enough active minutes each day.

An algorithm! You can’t get better than an algorithm, can you? Google INVENTED algorithms, you know! Of course, when you discover that getting your precious Fifi “enough active minutes each day” involves YOU getting more active minutes each day, too, you might want to suggest that this product’s creators stick their algorithms where the sun don’t shine.

Personalized & Insightful – Provides activity level recommendations based on your dog’s age, breed or mixed breed, behavior, and size

Again, a nice idea in theory, but surely you realize that any resulting attempt to increase Rover’s “activity level” will mean increasing your activity level as well.

Is that something you REALLY want?

Besides, don’t dogs run when they want to run? And stop when they’ve had quite enough, thank you? It’s not like there are dogs out there jogging along and saying to themselves, “I made two miles yesterday and need to go three today if I want to work my way up to five. Feel the burn, baby!”

Temperature Alerts – Be alerted when your dog is in an environment that may be too hot or too cold for them

Even The Curmudgeon, who knows precious little about dogs, understands that when a dog is too cold it will shiver and when it’s too hot it will stick out its tongue and pant and search for water and then just refuse to move. Let’s see them thar nerds develop an algorithmic response to “Say whatever you want, offer me a treat, try to play go fetch, knock yourself out, but I ain’t movin’, buster.”

Forget the Link AKC. If you must get your dog something for Christmas – assuming your dog celebrates Christmas or is even aware that it’s Christmas and isn’t one of those fussy pets that prefers Chanukah or Kwanzaa or even Festivus – get it a nice rawhide bone. Or a squeaky toy to chase.

Or a nice, new, soft, well-padded bed. Now THAT your dog surely will appreciate.



It Should Hardly Come as a Surprise…

…that the first real “accomplishment” of a Republican president working with a Republican Congress is a great big wet kiss in the form of massive tax breaks for rich people and big businesses.

And a defiant middle finger for working people.

Anyone who expected anything less is delusional.

The Republican Congress

Especially those millions of working people who voted them into office expecting that things would somehow be different with this particular crew of steal-from-the-poor, give-to-the-rich politicians whose first priority is always – always – themselves and their campaign contributors and not the people they represent and who voted them into office.

The Trump Watch: Mid-December

The Season of Thanks

Most people, including most elected officials, treat holidays as a time to make nice with others. Donald Trump, though, is not “most people” and chose Thanksgiving as a time to vent his spleen over slights and oversights real and, mostly, imagined.

He cast doubt on the women who accused Roy Moore of inappropriate behavior.

Trump, of course, is the ultimate authority on all things inappropriate.

Quick: which one’s the turkey?

By now we’ve grown accustomed to his predilection for self-congratulation, but he took that further than usual even for him when, upon participating in the traditional Thanksgiving pardoning of a turkey, he declared that

I feel so good about myself doing this.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

On the campaign trail Trump repeatedly belittled references to the unemployment rate, saying it was inaccurate and insisting that many, many more people were unemployed and the rate was much higher than advertised.

Now that he’s president?

Under President Trump unemployment rate will drop below 4%.

So Much for Getting Tough on the Pharmaceutical Industry

First on the campaign trail and then throughout his first year as president, Trump has repeatedly criticized the pharmaceutical industry for the high and ever-climbing cost of prescription drugs.

If he’s so unhappy with that industry, though why does he keep appointing its executives and lobbyists to high-ranking positions in his administration?

The web site Statnews explains:

His Food and Drug Administration chief, Scott Gottlieb, was a longtime industry investor and adviser to major players like GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb. A senior adviser at the Health and Human Services Department, Keagan Lenihan, joined the administration after running the lobby shop for the drug and distribution giant McKesson. And Trump has a former Gilead lobbyist, Joe Grogan, reviewing health care regulations at the Office of Management and Budget. The chief of staff at HHS, Lance Leggitt, lobbied for a whole host of drug clients, even last year.

And to top it off, his nominee to serve as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services spent more than a decade at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly – exactly what we need to lead the charge against high prescription drug prices.

“Pocahontas” Returns

Most people would never talk that way right in front of them. But then Trump’s not “most people”

Yes, that really was Agent Orange speaking at an event honoring Native American Code Talkers who served in World War II and turning to the men he was honoring and explaining that

You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.

No, THEY don’t call her Pocahontas. Only Trump does – and only Trump would have the audacity to do so directly to Native Americans while pretending to honor them.

Billy Bush Revisited

Surely you’ve heard about this but it bears retelling: Trump is now suggesting that the voice on the Access Hollywood tape in which he declares that he grabs women by the you-know-what may not be his.

Of course it is – and he even apologized for the remarks.

The lying comes so naturally to him that he can’t stop himself.

There Ain’t No Way to Hide Your Lyin’ Eyes

Bella DePaulo is a social scientist who has written extensively on the psychology of lying. Recently she wrote an op-ed piece that was published in the Washington Post. The title of her column:

I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump.

Among her observations:

I spent the first two decades of my career as a social scientist studying liars and their lies. I thought I had developed a sense of what to expect from them. Then along came President Trump. His lies are both more frequent and more malicious than ordinary people’s. 


The college students in our research told an average of two lies a day, and the community members told one. A more recent study of the lies 1,000 U. S. adults told in the previous 24 hours found that people told an average of 1.65 lies per day; the authors noted that 60 percent of the participants said they told no lies at all, while the top 5 percent of liars told nearly half of all the falsehoods in the study.

In Trump’s first 298 days in office, however, he made 1,628 false or misleading claims or flip-flops, by The Post’s tally. That’s about six per day, far higher than the average rate in our studies. And of course, reporters have access to only a subset of Trump’s false statements — the ones he makes publicly — so unless he never stretches the truth in private, his actual rate of lying is almost certainly higher.


Nearly two-thirds of Trump’s lies (65 percent) were self-serving. Examples included: “They’re big tax cuts — the biggest cuts in the history of our country, actually” and, about the people who came to see him on a presidential visit to Vietnam  last month: “They were really lined up in the streets by the tens of thousands.” 


Trump told 6.6 times as many self-serving lies as kind ones. That’s a much higher ratio than we found for our study participants, who told about double the number of self-centered lies compared with kind ones. 

And then there’s this:

The most stunning way Trump’s lies differed from our participants’, though, was in their cruelty. An astonishing 50 percent of Trump’s lies were hurtful or disparaging.

What, me lie?

Finally, her conclusion on the impact of all of this lying:

By telling so many lies, and so many that are mean-spirited, Trump is violating some of the most fundamental norms of human social interaction and human decency. Many of the rest of us, in turn, have abandoned a norm of our own — we no longer give Trump the benefit of the doubt that we usually give so readily.

It’s sad when so many people don’t trust – or even believe – their president. It’s even sadder when that disbelief is grounded not in disagreement over the policies he’s pursuing but in his long, strong, and unmistakable track record as an out-and-out liar.


Trump recently declared that no president has accomplished as much at the start of a term since Harry Truman.

You have to wonder: what exactly does he think he’s accomplished?

(And no, a president getting a nominee onto the Supreme Court when his own party is in the majority in the Senate isn’t an accomplishment: it’s a fait accompli.)

Murder, He Wrote

A murder mystery requires a real detective

Quick, somebody call Jessica Fletcher.

Sixteen years ago a woman who was an intern in the office of then-Congressman (and now annoying and uninteresting MSNBC morning host) Joe Scarborough fell, hit her head, and died. Who said so? The coroner.

But Quincy, M.E., the current occupant of the White House, has a different idea:

And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the ‘unsolved mystery’ that took place in Florida years ago? Investigate!

(sing along – you know the melody) “Are you staring at Scarborough’s hair?…”

Translation: Trump wants us to wonder whether Joe Scarborough was somehow responsible for this woman’s death – despite anything even approaching evidence.

And he also wants to distract Scarborough from his frequent criticisms of the current occupant of the White House.

That doesn’t seem likely. The only thing that would probably distract Scarborough is high winds, considering that his hair rivals only Trump’s for sheer ridiculousness.

Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Country

Ask only what your country can do for you.

A government shutdown is truly a terrible idea; even most Republicans believe that. The last time Republicans inspired a real government shutdown was the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich forced it on the Clinton administration, and it led to a backlash that led to Democrats regaining control of Congress and Gingrich being shown the door.

Even today’s Republicans, not including the lunatic fringe on the far, far, far edges of the far, far, far right, understand this and have made it clear that they do not – do not – do not – want to force a government shutdown.

If only they could convince the man in the White House.

As the Washington Post reported,

President Trump has told confidants that a government shutdown could be good for him politically and is focusing on his hard-line immigration stance as a way to win back supporters unhappy with his outreach to Democrats this fall, according to people who have spoken with him recently.

So on one hand he has what’s good for the country. On the other, what’s good for him.

So of course what he’s talking about is what’s best for him.

Yet again.

Behind the Scenes

Four to eight hours a day

The New York Times recently published an article titled “Inside Trump’s Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation.” It’s an extensive look at a day in the life of the president. It’s clear that the Times reporters had sources inside the White House, and when they finished their reporting they ran 51 individual facts past White House officials, seeking their agreement or denial. The only one to which the White House appears to have objected was the assertion that Trump watches four to eight hours of television a day.

Which suggests that the White House is on board with everything else the article says.

If you’ve heard only two things from the article, it’s probably that television assertion and the news that Trump drinks a dozen diet Cokes a day.

Which may explain all that odd-hours tweeting: when he can’t sleep and there’s nothing to watch on television he’s picking up his phone for some caffeine-fueled mad tweeting.

Why is Trump so combative – and often, so unnecessarily so? The article explains:

Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals.

The eventual fate of pretty much everyone who works for him

Is it any wonder that he almost always refuses to cooperate with Democrats in any way, lashes out so harshly at Republicans who don’t agree with him 100 percent of the time, and is even willing, at the blink of an eye, to throw his own aides and cabinet members under the bus?

Then there’s his apparent obsession with seeing his name in the news – and seeing it constantly:

To an extent that would stun outsiders, Mr. Trump, the most talked-about human on the planet, is still delighted when he sees his name in the headlines. And he is on a perpetual quest to see it there. One former top adviser said Mr. Trump grew uncomfortable after two or three days of peace and could not handle watching the news without seeing himself on it.

During the morning, aides monitor “Fox & Friends” live or through a transcription service in much the way commodities traders might keep tabs on market futures to predict the direction of their day.

If someone on the show says something memorable and Mr. Trump does not immediately tweet about it, the president’s staff knows he may be saving Fox News for later viewing on his recorder and instead watching MSNBC or CNN live — meaning he is likely to be in a foul mood to start the day.

One of the real challenges of a Trump presidency is a man whose entire and brief political career has focused on becoming president but who never gave any meaningful thought to actually being president, as House majority leader Nancy Pelosi explained.

“At first, there was a thread of being an impostor that may have been in his mind,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, who has tried to forge a working relationship with the president.

“He’s overcome that by now,” she said. “The bigger problem, the thing people need to understand, is that he was utterly unprepared for this. It would be like you or me going into a room and being asked to perform brain surgery. When you have a lack of knowledge as great as his, it can be bewildering.”

 Republicans often share this view. According to Senator Lindsey Graham,

“You can expect every president to change because the job requires you to change,” he said. “He’s learning the rhythm of the town.” But Mr. Graham added that Mr. Trump’s presidency was still “a work in progress.” At this point, he said, “everything’s possible, from complete disaster to a home run.”

That lack of readiness is reflected in his inability (and his unwillingness) to sift through information in search of what is true and useful.

In almost all the interviews, Mr. Trump’s associates raised questions about his capacity and willingness to differentiate bad information from something that is true.

Monitoring his information consumption — and countering what Mr. Kelly calls “garbage” peddled to him by outsiders — remains a priority for the chief of staff and the team he has made his own. Even after a year of official briefings and access to the best minds of the federal government, Mr. Trump is skeptical of anything that does not come from inside his bubble.


Other aides bemoan his tenuous grasp of facts, jack-rabbit attention span and propensity for conspiracy theories.

And often, he just gets it wrong – sometimes because he’s apparently not looking to get it right.

Mr. Trump is an avid newspaper reader who still marks up a half-dozen papers with comments in black Sharpie pen, but Mr. Bannon has told allies that Mr. Trump only “reads to reinforce.” Mr. Trump’s insistence on defining his own reality — his repeated claims, for example, that he actually won the popular vote — is immutable and has had a “numbing effect” on people who work with him, said Tony Schwartz, his ghostwriter on “The Art of the Deal.”

Scary stuff.







George Carlin and the Centers for Disease Control

The late comedian George Carlin had a routine about oxymorons or words that didn’t go together: things like “jumbo shrimp” and “military intelligence,” and “ non-dairy creamer.” Find a few more here, and there are more elsewhere as well.

Until last week, “George Carlin and the Centers for Disease Control” would have been one of those oxymorons. They just don’t go together.

But now, thanks to the Trump administration, they do.

Carlin was famous for his seven words you can’t say on television – words The Curmudgeon won’t reproduce here because this isn’t that kind of site. But if you’ve heard of Carlin you’ve probably heard the routine. If you’d like to refresh your memory or just want to laugh, you can find it here.

But now Carlin’s not the only one laboring under limits on what he can say. Last week the Trump administration reportedly delivered unto the folks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a list of seven words they can’t use in documents that are part of the budget they’re submitting to the administration for the 2019 federal fiscal year.

Those words:

  • vulnerable
  • entitlement
  • diversity
  • transgender
  • fetus
  • evidence-based
  • science-based

The Washington Post elaborated:

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

Now that the (one of Carlin’s banned words) has hit the fan, CDC officials are denying the ban (“It ain’t so, I tell ya, it just ain’t so”).

But it’s apparently…so very so.

And apparently not the first time, either. Other agencies within the federal Department of Health and Human Services reportedly have had their typewriters washed out with white-out, too, and been told to watch their language, because this administration is now apparently intent on turning around its belief that if you keep saying something often and loudly enough people will eventually believe it to suggest that if you pretend a problem or condition or situation doesn’t exist eventually people will stop caring or even thinking about it and conclude that it, too, doesn’t exist.

That strategy hasn’t worked yet and that’s not going to change.


A Really Bad Idea

We learned last week that CVS, which sells prescription drugs but is far more interested in selling you mixed nuts (Gold Emblem Deluxe Mixed Nuts, Lightly Salted, 18 ounces, now on sale for $8.99), cheap perfume (Charlie White by Revlon Eau, De Toilette Spray, 3.4 ounces, now $9.99), laundry detergent (Tide Pods Detergent, Spring Meadow, $6.99), and toilet paper (Charmin Ultra Strong Toilet Paper, four rolls for $4.99), has decided to get into the health insurance biz by purchasing Aetna, one of the biggest health insurers in the country.

The Curmudgeon thinks this is a really bad idea.

The people who can’t even figure out how to have in stock everything in their weekly sales circulars think they’re smart enough to run a health insurance company?

The folks who staff their “Minute Clinics” with nurse practitioners instead of doctors, like most other urgent care centers, think they have any insight at all on how to care for sick people?

The folks who send you texts reminding you to pick up refills of prescriptions you haven’t needed in more than a year think they can keep track of anything more complicated than their inventory of razor blades, deodorant, and toothpaste?

The people who hang signs that say “Free flu shots today” when those shots are in no way free for many customers because they understand so very little about health insurance?

The folks who will record your purchase of a 25-cent pack of gum on a cash register receipt longer than your arm?

The people who tell you they’re out of the medicine you’ve just been prescribed when you’re sick and can have it for you in three days and then, when you ask them if it might be available at one of their other stores, just a three-minute drive away, look at you like you’re the smartest person they’ve ever met in their lives?

No, this is not a good idea. There is no one at CVS smart enough to run a health insurance company. Shoot, they can’t even keep in stock those little cards telling you that you have to go to the pharmacy counter to buy a small package of Sudafed (as The Curmudgeon discovered himself two Saturdays ago, around midnight).

CVS ought to stick to doing what it does best – okay, what it does with a modicum of effectiveness: selling tampons and condoms. It should leave real health care to the grown-ups.

P.S. After The Curmudgeon wrote everything above and posted it to appear today he received a phone call from CVS informing him that his prescription needed to be ordered and would not be available for several days (and by the way, how many days are there in “several”?). He visited the store and spoke to a clerk, who confirmed that the medicine was not in stock and, after some prodding, asked him whether he wanted the brand name or generic and agreed to call another store to check on its availability. She returned after several minutes and asked him the brand name/generic question again and then placed a second call to that same other store. After 30 exasperating minutes another clerk who had been eavesdropping on the conversation disappeared into the shelves and came back seconds later with the medicine in question in her outstretched. It had been there all along.

The Curmudgeon rests his case.

A Day After Roy Moore, See Joe Biden

Today The Curmudgeon offers a stark contrast to yesterday’s post on Roy Moore in the form of Joe Biden, who appeared on The View a few days ago with Meghan McCain, whose father John is now suffering from the same brain cancer that killed Biden’s son Beau.

Watch Biden here.

The Curmudgeon’s people have a term for people like Joe Biden. He is a mensch.

The Last Word on Roy Moore

Moore, pictured here shaking hands with Satan

Actually, The Curmudgeon will give Roy Moore the last word on Roy Moore: remarks he made after his election loss on Tuesday. They paint a clear picture of a man who is thoroughly unfit for public office – or for much of anything, for that matter.

See it for yourself here.

Salting – and Seasoning – Snowy Roads

Last weekend gave the area where The Curmudgeon lives its first taste of snow of the season – barely more than a dusting in some places but still, it was white, it was wet, and it was a little slippery. The same thing happened yesterday.

Those of us who live in areas where it snows are accustomed to seeing their roads salted. That salt, the people who pay attention to such things tell us, soaks into the ground and into groundwater and into rivers, raising chloride levels and sometimes making our drinking water both unpalatable and unhealthy while also threatening aquatic life, fisheries, irrigation, and recreation.

Over the past decade or two many places have taken to “brining” their roads – an unfortunately verbification that refers to a process of applying a brine solution of 23 percent salt and 77 percent water to roads when the forecast calls for snow. The purpose of the brine is to help the salt adhere better to the road, enabling towns to use less salt – generally, about 30 percent less than what they would have needed without the brine. It saves money, it’s good for the environment, and it’s good for the health of the locals whose drinking water can be affected by the introduction of too much salt into their water source. Last weekend The Curmudgeon didn’t even realize anyone was taking seriously the minor snowfall that was in the forecast until he saw the tell-tale sign of brine lines on the roads while running his Saturday morning errands.

Not needed this time, but eventually…

While brine is an improvement over rock salt it still has salt in it, so towns are continually experimenting with other ways to make salt adhere better to their roads and enable them to treat the roads with less salt. You may remember towns using sand, but they stopped doing that when they found that it clogged storm pipes. According to the Stateline web site, some towns have been mixing other substances into their brine.

Like cheese residue (a Wisconsin specialty, not surprisingly).

Sugar cane molasses. (“It’s like putting Coca-Cola down. It’s sugar and it’s sticky,” one city’s public services director explains.)

Dregs from beer-making. (“Bingo!” many will no doubt declare.)

The Curmudgeon doesn’t know if these alternative materials will work, but on the other hand, if you find yourself stranded in a snowstorm with nothing to eat or drink…

Methinks He Doth Protest Too Much

At a hearing of the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee last week, a member of that committee laid his hand on the arm of one of his colleagues to reinforce the point he was trying to make.

Daryl Metcalfe, chairman of the committee and the man whose arm was touched (heretofore “the touchee”), was having none of it and made no bones about it.

Look, I’m a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife, I don’t like men — as you might. But stop touching me all the time.

When the audience stopped laughing uncomfortably at Metcalfe’s outburst, Metcalfe made it clear that he wasn’t joking – and wasn’t finished speaking his mind.

Keep your hands to yourself. If you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle who might like it. I don’t.

See it for yourself here.

That’s a pretty heapin’ helpin’ of homophobia, don’t you think?

The touchy touchee

Metcalfe has become known, though, for his bizarre behavior. In fact, The Curmudgeon has written about him before: first when he declared public transportation to be a form of welfare and then when he shouted down a House colleague who was attempting to speak in favor of gay rights, later explaining that

I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God’s law.

 Two observations here.

First, let us pause to reflect for a moment that this man has been elected and then re-elected to office every two years since 1999, which tells you that the residents of Butler County who keep returning him to office are…working with an antenna that doesn’t pick up all the channels.

And second, that a guy who feels a need to lash out in such a virulent way over such a minor matter may have…issues.

Maybe the problem is that as the touchee he’s actually uncomfortable with how much he LIKES all that touching.