Monthly Archives: February 2018

They Think the Rules Don’t Apply to Them

As he has written in the past, one of the problems The Curmudgeon has long had with the Clintons, both Bill and Hill, is that they seem to think that the rules that apply to the rest of us don’t apply to them. This quality is maddeningly common among public officials.

When they got involved in the Whitewater business Clinton was attorney general of Arkansas and looking to supplement his annual salary of $25,000. Did Clinton do anything against the law in that matter? Apparently not. But should he have been involved in a real estate development project while he was his state’s top law enforcement official? Of course he shouldn’t have.

Yeah, they knew better – and they did it anyway

Did he tell us that he didn’t have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky? Yes – and let us say, strictly for the sake of discussion, that he did not have sexual intercourse with her. But was there “sex”? Of course there was. Was what he did wrong? Of course it was.

Did Hillary do something illegal or even unethical when she took large speaking fees from Wall Street interests? Absolutely not. But was it the wrong thing to do in light of her continuing aspiration (at the time) to be president? Of course it was.

Did Hillary break any laws when she conducted State Department business through her own private server? Apparently not. But was it wrong? Of course it was. Should she have known better? Of course she should have.

The Curmudgeon dredges up this old news because two things have happened recently that remind him that there’s a difference between doing things that are against the law and things that are just plain wrong and that we see public officials doing those wrong things far too often.

Davidson

A few weeks ago the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Margo Davidson, a Pennsylvania state representative, has been charged twice already this year with driving with a suspended license – and doing so in a car leased for her by Pennsylvania’s state government and paid for by Pennsylvania taxpayers. Ever the good steward of the public’s trust, Davidson’s first citation came in January when she fled the scene of an accident and was found to lack a valid driver’s license; actually, she received three citations for this accident. Apparently not chastened by her experience, a few weeks later she was cited again when she crashed her state vehicle and the officers at the scene again learned that she didn’t have a valid driver’s license.

It turns out that Davidson got a speeding ticket in Virginia in 2016 and didn’t pay the fine. When that happens, Virginia notifies Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania suspends the perpetrator’s license until the matter is resolved. That’s the way this kind of thing apparently works.

So why didn’t Davidson pay the Virginia speeding ticket? The Inquirer explained:

Asked why it took so long to pay the Virginia ticket, Davidson said via text: “I paid and sent [it] as soon as I was in [the] position to do so. I am not sitting around twiddling my thumbs every day. … I am, in fact, serving 62,000 people.”

So there!

In other words, being a state representative is more important than following the rules or the law and the standards that apply to the rest of us shouldn’t apply to her – because she’s serving 62,000 people.

Wilson

Last week there was a similar situation in Washington, D.C., where public schools chancellor Antwan Wilson was forced to resign when it was discovered that he had arranged for his daughter to be admitted to a magnet school whose student body is chosen by lottery – an admission that jumped her ahead of 600 students on the school’s waiting list. Amazingly, the city’s mayor – who herself has faced some ethical challenges surrounding her campaign fund-raising activities – initially said she wouldn’t fire Wilson but the city’s council and the public rose in protest and the mayor eventually had to prevail upon Wilson to resign. His crime: not an actual crime, but like the Clintons, was thinking that the commonsense rules that we all understand shape our societal interactions don’t apply to them and that they’re free to circumvent those rules whenever it’s convenient for them to do so.

Like state representative Davidson.

Rizzo

Like former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price chartering private planes or current EPA administrator Scott Pruitt flying first class in violation of federal guidelines

Like 1970s Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo getting a developer to build him a huge house at cost or 1980s Philadelphia mayor Wilson Goode getting dozens of free suits from a local clothier.

Like all those Philadelphia politicians and Pennsylvania’s governor buying Super Bowl tickets from the Philadelphia Eagles for face value when tickets were going for ten to twenty times as much on the secondary ticket market.

Like Donald Trump Jr. flying to India to sell condos and an audience with him (only $38,000!) and the implicit access to his daddy while protected by Secret Service agents at taxpayer expense.

We all know what people think they’re getting when they pay $38,000 to meet with him

Are they breaking the law? Usually they’re not (although Margo Davidson clearly did). But are they breaking the rules we all generally agree to abide by? Every single day, or at least so it seems.

Yes, You Too Can Benefit From the Republican Tax Cut Bonanza!

It’s not too late to get in on the financial benefits of Donald Trump’s tax “reform” law.

Last weekend, super-investor Warren Buffett revealed that his company, Berkshire Hathaway, will benefit from the Republican tax cut to the tune of $29 billion.

Isn’t it great of Republicans to help a nice guy like Buffett get an additional $29 billion?

That’s BILLION, not million.

So how can ordinary folks get in on the action and benefit from this aspect of tax “reform”?

Simple: buy stock in Berkshire Hathaway.

And how do you do that?

Take out your checkbook and buy a single share of Berkshire Hathaway stock.

The price of which, as of the close of the market yesterday, was about $316,000.

For a single share.

But when the market opened it was only about $304,000. Think of how much money you would have made if you’d already owned it!

And that’s how ordinary folks can start benefiting from the latest tax “reform.” All you need to do is write a check for $316,000.

But don’t delay: who knows how high it will go in the next twenty-four hours?

And before you know it you’ll be on your way to benefiting from tax “reform” for ordinary people who can write a check for $316,000 to buy one share of stock!

“A Shameful Display of Political and Civic Cowardice”

Those were the words chosen by NRA mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre to describe companies that have chosen in recent days to sever their relationship with the NRA in the wake of that organization’s resolute, absolute, unwavering refusal even to consider cooperating with the development of a new process for verifying the suitability of individuals who want to purchase automatic weapons.

The list of such companies is growing: Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Hertz, First National Bank of Omaha (which issues a special NRA Visa card), Avis, Met Life, Symantec, Chubb, Alamo car rental, National car rental, Wyndham hotels, and Best Western hotels along with others The Curmudgeon probably missed and still others that may reach similar decisions in the coming days.

But “political and civic cowardice”? When you think about it, hasn’t instilling “political and civic cowardice” been the absolute key to the NRA’s own success over the years?

Hasn’t the NRA thrived by raising vast amounts of money with which to make political contributions and mobilize its membership on behalf of favored candidates and then coercing those officials into supporting the NRA’s positions even though the vast majority of those politicians’ constituents oppose the very positions the NRA espouses?
So then isn’t elected officials’ refusal to act on their constituents’ strong beliefs because the NRA is paying them not to do so the very personification of “political and civic cowardice”?

Congratulations, Wayne LaPierre and the NRA: you’re now on the receiving end of one of the very tactics you’ve employed so successfully so often for so many years to subvert the will of the American people.

May payback be a long, painful, debilitating, ever-lovin’ bitch.

 

 

J’accuse!

Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Caught red-handed!

Those sneaky Russians are at it again!

Not even remotely chastened after being banned from the winter Olympics for persistent and consistent cheating and with just a few of their athletes permitted to compete under the generic banner of “Olympic athlete from Russia,” whatever that means, they STILL couldn’t resist the urge to cheat and they STILL got caught because, well, because the world is now wise to their cheatin’ ways.

So who got caught?

An alpine skier looking for a little extra strength?

A cross-country skier hoping for a tad more endurance?

A speed skater seeking a boost of brute strength in his (or her) legs?

Nah.

This year’s poster child, both for cheating and for sheer stupidity, is Aleksandr Krushelnitcky, a Russian who competes in Olympic…

…curling.

Men’s Olympic curling

Seriously.

Aleksandr Krushelnitcky, a curler, of all things, was caught red-handed using meldonium, a banned performance-enhancing drug, and tossed out of the winter Olympics.

A cheater. A Russian. Goes together sort of like vodka and orange juice, don’t you think?

But you have to wonder: cheating at…curling?

What on earth did a curler think he had to gain from using a performance-enhancing drug? After all, strength isn’t a factor in curling. Endurance isn’t a factor in curling. Muscle isn’t a factor in curling. All you do in curling that involves any kind of physical exertion is…sweep your little broom. And then sweep and sweep some more.

Did Krushelnitcky think steroids would enable him to sweep faster and perhaps give him greater control of the “rock” they roll in Olympic curling?

Is he stupid?

(Stupid question.)

If they’ve got the broom, The Curmudgeon has the driveway

Oh, well, that’s the Russians and that’s the Olympics. But now that Krushelnitcky that extra energy and extra endurance as a result of using performance-enhancing drugs, he’s welcome to put it to good use at The Curmudgeon’s house, where he can sweep a driveway that bears a winter’s worth of rock salt, broken tree branches, dirt, and leaves left over from the fall.

Seriously: he used performance-enhancing drugs to enhance his performance in Olympic curling. Just when you thought you’d heard it all…

 

 

 

Selling Her Soul After Selling Her Ass

Last week we learned that there is yet another woman with whom then-still-newlywed Donald Trump had an affair and later paid for her silence. The woman is Karen McDougal, a former Playboy centerfold.

News of the affair and the payment became public through an article in the New Yorker, which explained that

McDougal, in her first on-the-record comments about A.M.I.’s handling of her story, declined to discuss the details of her relationship with Trump, for fear of violating the agreement she reached with the company. She did say, however, that she regretted signing the contract. “It took my rights away,” McDougal told me.

The Curmudgeon sees it a little differently.

No, Ms. McDougal, the agreement didn’t take your rights away. You sold those rights: you put a price on them and when someone met your price you agreed to sell your silence for a wad of cash.

But that’s something you’re accustomed to doing, Ms. McDougal, isn’t it? After all, you sold your ass to Hugh Hefner’s centerfold machine in 1997 and then sold it again and again and again, appearing there many times. Then, you had an affair with a man you knew was married and then when the affair was over you took money to keep quiet about it. The Curmudgeon doesn’t mean to minimize the distress you may feel today, nor does this mean he thinks Trump’s behavior is anything less than disgusting, but you’ve made a practice of selling bits and pieces of your body and your soul now for more than 20 years.

Live with yourself and don’t insult our intelligence by whining about anyone taking away your rights.

Travel Woes of the Rich and Appointed

We learned last week that Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, frequently flies first class even though federal regulations prohibit government employees from doing so without special permission. Pruitt’s defense is that the decision to fly first class was made by the security people who protect him.

So why does the head of the EPA need special protection, and to fly first class to ensure it?

Because apparently, fellow fliers are being mean to him.

At age 4 he told his pre-school teacher that “When I grow up I want to destroy the environment.”

Pruitt, you see, is doing his utmost to revoke as many clean air, clean water, and other environmental regulations as possible so the kind of people he likes – those who run big businesses – can make more money than ever. Pruitt has developed a pretty high profile, people recognize him – The Curmudgeon scored huge points with Mrs. Curmudgeon recently when the couple was watching a television program that was promoting an upcoming story about Broward County police chief Scott Israel and flashed up a photo, to which The Curmudgeon declared “That’s not Scott Israel, that’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt” – and while people have Pruitt all to themselves on an airplane, they’re giving him a piece of their mind.

Apparently in rather strong and colorful language.

Absolute meanies, that’s what they are!

So far, though, there have been no reports of violence or threats of violence; all there’s been is anger, on occasion expressed in rather…colorful ways.

But protecting Pruitt’s apparently tender sensibilities is costing taxpayers beaucoup bucks, as the Washington Post explained.

His many first-class flights include a $1,641.43 trip from Washington to New York last June and a $7,003.52 round-trip ticket to Italy last summer. Pruitt also has taken numerous first-class flights — typically ranging from $2,000 to $2,600 — to events in his home state of Oklahoma, where he often stays the weekend.

As ridiculous as The Curmudgeon thinks it is for Scott Pruitt to seek protection from accountability for his own actions as a public official, that’s not why he’s telling this tale today. No, his interest was spurred by a comment from the head of the EPA’s security team, who, when explaining to the Post why it’s easier to protect his boss in first class than in steerage, said, as the Post reported,

Seating Pruitt in first class offers security advantages for “a multitude of reasons,” including the chance to make a quick exit if a situation arises, Barnet said.

But…wait a minute.

Security guy Barnet is talking about the ability to make a “quick exit if a situation arises”?

From an airplane?

Which leaves one to wonder: what kind of “quick exit” could he have in mind if a situation arises at 30,000 feet?

Thanks, NRA

The Associated Press reported late last week that Nikolas Cruz, the teenager who killed 17 and wounded others last week at a Florida high school, was a “very good shot” with a rifle.

So how does a 19-year-old get to be a “very good shot?”

Nikolas Cruz, 19, was wearing a maroon shirt with the logo from the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when he was arrested Wednesday shortly after the shooting. Former JROTC cadets told The Associated Press that Cruz was a member of the small varsity marksmanship team that trained together after class and traveled to other area schools to compete…

“He was a very good shot,” said Aaron Diener, 20, who gave Cruz a ride to shooting competitions when they were part of the same four-member team in 2016. “He had an AR-15 he talked about, and pistols he had shot. … He would tell us, ‘Oh, it was so fun to shoot this rifle’ or ‘It was so fun to shoot that.’ It seemed almost therapeutic to him, the way he spoke about it.”

And how does a school district afford to offer such a program? It doesn’t – at least not without help.

Help from whom, you ask?

When are we going to stop letting these clowns call, you should pardon the pun, the shots?

So glad you asked.

Records show that the Stoneman Douglas JROTC program received $10,827 in non-cash assistance from the NRA’s fundraising and charitable arm in 2016, when Cruz was on the squad.

Naturally,

A spokeswoman for the NRA declined to comment on Friday.

Of course the NRA declined to comment.

That’s our good friends at the NRA: making American dead again, one high school at a time.

 

 

Former Olympic Figure Skater and Current Figure Skating Commentator Johnny Weir

WTF?

Compare and Contrast

In the fall the New Yorker ran a brief piece about Agent Orange’s irrational opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement (sorry, The Curmudgeon refuses to adopt Trump-speak and refer to things as “deals”). One of the issues the piece addressed is how the rest of the world might react to a major change of international agreements and U.S. policy just because a new administration takes office. The piece included the following observation:

A nation’s credibility is the type of asset that is easy to overlook, until an emergency makes it precious. During the Cuban missile crisis, in 1962, President John F. Kennedy dispatched former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Paris to inform President Charles de Gaulle that the Administration had decided to stage a naval blockade of Cuba. Acheson offered to show surveillance photographs of the island’s missile sites, but de Gaulle waved them away, saying, “The word of the President of the United States is enough for me.”

Do you think there are any world leaders today – even ONE – who would take Trump’s word about ANYTHING?

On the Intelligence of Dogs

Smart, but still just a dog

If you’ve ever seen the animated television series Family Guy you know that the smartest member of the Griffin family, by far, is Brian the Dog. Because this is television Brian talks, and he is intelligent, sensitive, articulate, and worldly. At bottom, though, Brian is still a dog, and if you toss a stick Brian has no choice but to chase it even as he protests “Please don’t do that.” So Brian’s intelligent but there are clear limits to his intelligence.

The Curmudgeon is not a dog person. Years ago he heard (the apparent myth) that dogs were not permitted at all in China and he declared himself a proponent of the Chinese way of life for something that had nothing to do with the search for a superior squid and beef congee. The Curmudgeon is so not a dog person that back in his bachelor days, when he frequented online dating sites (and no, to answer a question that’s been asked a few times recently, never, ever Tinder), he asked, in his profile, “Must I REALLY love dogs?” because he was amazed – okay, annoyed – over how many women wrote “Must love dogs” in their own profiles.

Ninnies.

Is that cute or is that cute?

Mrs. Curmudgeon came with a dog, though, and it was clear pretty much from the start that she – Mrs. Curmudgeon, that is, not the dog – was special enough that he wasn’t going to walk away because of a twenty-pound mutt. Sable is an absolute cutie, as you can see for yourself, and as The Curmudgeon has written in the past, her sweet and affectionate disposition usually compensate for her utter unwillingness to respond as desired to ANY command. Actually, The Curmudgeon is working on that and thinks the training is starting to take, if only a little.

Although there’s a reasonably good chance he’s only deluding himself.

But what really puzzles him is the question of canine intelligence: how smart are these pooches?

Sometimes they seem really smart. Sable, for example, can tell simply by Mrs. Curmudgeon’s movements sometime between the hours of eight and eleven in the evening when she’s about to be taken for a walk and goes, as The Curmudgeon’s late father like to say, “Hog ape-shit wild.” (Don’t ask.) She knows, when she sees you with a bag of trash or recycles that you’re about to take outside, that this means the side door is going to open, offering her an opportunity to run into the yard. And she gets melancholy when she sees a suitcase because she knows someone in the house is going away and she’s probably being shipped off to the dog-sitter. That’s even when Mrs. Curmudgeon is the only one leaving and even though Sable loves the dog-sitter, who refers to Sable as her god-dog. (The Curmudgeon does not take care of Sable by himself.)

But then you have…other times when they don’t seem nearly as smart. With Sable, if you point to something you want her to see she looks not in the direction in which you’re pointing but at the finger doing the pointing. Similarly, when two people are sitting beside one another and one of them passes gas, audibly, the non-gas passer will look at the other person, but a dog, and Sable, will look toward your tuchas, from whence the sound came. Sable plays “go fetch” – at times, she even makes it clear that she wants to play it – but only sort of actually plays it: if you pick up one of her toys that makes noise and toss it she will enthusiastically run after it and run back with it – but then run right past you with the toy in her mouth. She absolutely will not chase after a thrown ball, much to The Curmudgeon’s regret because The Curmudgeon is a thrower.

She eats funny, too. When The Curmudgeon first met her she ate her regular dog food out of a bowl but if you gave her a treat she would carry it off to another room to eat, apparently concerned that someone else in the house might covet her Milk-Bones. After two $400 teeth-cleanings, however, the vet recommended a change in dog food – to something you need a prescription for, for heaven’s sake. The new food is treat-sized, however, so even now, after two years of eating this “new” food, Sable still picks up one piece at a time from her bowl and spirits it off to another room for consumption.

Lassie she is not.

And then, of course, there’s the licking. The Curmudgeon understands that animals lick their fur because it’s a form of grooming, but Sable licks her dog bed – actually, she’s a bed-hopper who has beds in three different rooms in the house, which allows for a whole lotta lickin’ – and she also licks her… bottom.

How intelligent can an animal be if it licks its own..well, you know?

Yet there are still other signs of intelligence. Simply utter the word “walk,” for example, and she goes, well, hog ape-shit wild, running and jumping and spinning in circles. You can’t say that word under any circumstances because she zeroes in on it immediately and goes nuts. When she got wise to “walk” The Curmudgeon and Mrs. Curmudgeon adopted an alternative to “walk”: “stroll” – as in “Are we going to stroll tonight after The Blacklist?”

Well, after using “stroll” for a while Sable eventually figured out what that means, too – and you can tell because her ears perk up with excitement when you say it. She then gets out of her bed and heads excitedly toward the front door.

Striking a pose

So that seems like intelligence.

But if you say “cable,” “table,” “Mabel,” or “able” those ears also perk up because she thinks you’re talking to her. The Curmudgeonly Sister, an elementary school teacher whose academic minor was special education, has suggested that this is a form of a learning disability.

So The Curmudgeon and Mrs. Curmudgeon realize they are going to have to develop new euphemisms for “walk” because “stroll” no longer masks intent until a decision is made to stroll. The term du jour is “Enjoy the great outdoors,” and we are wondering how long that will last before we need to change it again. And even though both Mr. and Mrs. have decent vocabularies – the speed with which Mrs. Curmudgeon completes the New York Times crossword puzzle is dazzling, alarming, and even, The Curmudgeon must confess, a little arousing – we are eventually going to run out of synonyms and euphemisms for “walk” and will need to start using terms completely unrelated to the process of putting a dog on a leash, taking it outdoors, and encouraging it to do its business on the neighbors’ lawns.

One evening recently The Curmudgeon began riffing, as he is wont to do on occasion – surely you don’t have trouble imagining this? – about the wholly unrelated terms that might be used for this purpose and somehow landed on “Juicy Fruit.” At that moment The Curmudgeon’s stepson entered the room, heard the term, and shyly suggested that he thought it was being used in his presence as a surrogate for an entirely different kind of activity: one between two consenting adults who feel a specific type of physical affection for one another.

At that point the conversation ended – but neither Mr. nor Mrs. Curmudgeon will ever think about the act of chewing gum in quite the same way again.