Monthly Archives: April 2018

This Guy is the Problem

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently introduced its readers to a fellow named Justin Moon in an article titled

Poconos gunmaker’s vision: an AR-15 for every American

Now, The Curmudgeon would like to introduce you to Mr. Moon through excerpts from the Inquirer article (and some occasional commentary).

“I mean, every American should really have an AR,” Moon said. “It’s America’s rifle.”

Think about that: this guy thinks every American should have an automatic assault rifle.

*      *     *

“I think I share the values of many Pennsylvanians,” Moon said. “I fish, hunt, camp, you name it. Pennsylvania has a strong rural population with strong values. They love America. They love freedom.”

And does Mr. Moon think “America’s values” should include aiding and abetting crazy people who want to be able to murder large numbers of people in a matter of seconds? Is that Mr. Moon’s idea of an “American value”?

*      *     *

Last month, Moon’s brother, Pastor Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, brought worldwide attention to rural Pennsylvania when he encouraged couples to bring their AR-15s to a marriage blessing at his World Peace and Unification Sanctuary Church in Newfoundland, about 20 miles from Kahr Arms. The Bible references Christ ruling with a “rod of iron,” and Sean Moon believes that rod is the AR-15, which is not made from iron.

 “His reading of [the Book of] Revelation and the rod of iron makes sense to me,” said Justin Moon, a church member.

 Aside from bringing new meaning to the term “shotgun wedding,” the interpretive powers of these people are truly, truly warped.

*      *     *

His mother must be bursting with pride

“I’m going to make a standard AR-15 with my brand on it,” he said. “The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America. It’s the most common rifle in America.”

 And soon to be the most common weapon of mass murderers as well? And will Mr. Moon be proud when one of the rifles he manufactures is used in one of those murders? Will he boast about it? Will he use it in his advertising?

*      *     *

The NRA estimates that eight million Americans own an AR-15.  It has also been used in five of the six deadliest mass shootings in the nation in the last six years, most recently in the Parkland, Fla., massacre.

 Some day, when one of these mass murderers is charged with murder, some fed-up prosecutor is going to seek to charge the NRA as an accessory to murder. Perhaps they should start with Mr. Moon.

*      *     *

Moon said he follows state and federal firearms laws but does not support age restrictions, limitations on specific guns, or even bans on the bump stock, an attachment that uses a semiautomatic rifle’s recoil to fire even faster — the reason why Stephen Paddock was able to kill so many people in Las Vegas last year. In fact, Moon believes the Founding Fathers intended the Second Amendment to evolve with the times, that citizens should be allowed to own any firearms they can literally carry in order to match the government’s firepower.

 “We should have the right to have the same arms the military has as soldiers,” he said.

No, we shouldn’t.   Does Mr. Moon believes we should have the right to purchase tomahawk missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and atomic bombs, too? Such logic screams “This guy is an idiot and a danger to everyone around him.”

These people are irrational. They are, in essence, arguing that the occasional and not-so-occasional mass murder is an acceptable price to pay for blind adherence to a right that isn’t actually a right at all.

These people are wrong, but they are absolutely resolute in their beliefs. Maybe when their own children are victims they’ll think again and reconsider their views.

But The Curmudgeon doubts it.

 

 

 

 

Oh, That Seems Highly, Highly Unlikely

Of one thing you can be certain: it looks better than it tastes

No matter WHAT the New York Times is trying to tell us with the headline

“Vegan Ice Cream Enters a Golden Age”

The President on “Fox and Friends”

Did you catch the president’s 30-minute call-in to Fox & Friends on Thursday morning? And if you did, did that not sound like a man becoming unhinged?

They were clearly mortified by the stuff coming out of the president’s mouth.

On Thursday evening The Curmudgeon saw a few tv blowhards on the left criticizing the Fox & Friends hosts for failing to press the president on some of his statements, but if you see the interview, he thinks those complaints miss the point: the hosts asked questions, they clearly were uncomfortable with the direction the president was taking the conversation, but overall they did a great job of leaving the president alone and giving him enough rope to hang himself – which he did with great gusto.

And what’s even scarier: the president and his people were so thrilled with his performance that about 24 hours after it ended White House advisor Kellyanne Conway revealed that Trump would like to return to the program monthly – and possibly even more often, as news breaks.

Talk about must-see TV!

If you haven’t seen the “interview” and have the time – it’s nearly a half-hour – you can view it here.

Mike Pence: A Very Strange Match

They’re not quite Felix and Oscar, but Mike Pence and Donald Trump certainly are an odd couple: the oft-married, loyal-to-no-one-but himself whoremaster Trump and the guy who won’t be alone in a room with any woman other than his wife. From the same New Yorker article The Curmudgeon excerpted yesterday about vice president Mike Pence come the following observations about the relationship and interaction between Two Very Scary Dudes. The Curmudgeon originally wrote snarky commentary to accompany some of these excerpts but he decided to remove them: they’re really not necessary.  (Everything that follows is a direct quote from The New Yorker.)

*     *     *

After many years, the return of the vice president whose primary job is to look adoringly at his boss

Pence, who has dutifully stood by the President, mustering a devotional gaze rarely seen since the days of Nancy Reagan, serves as a daily reminder that the Constitution offers an alternative to Trump.

*     *     *

“The President considers him [Pence] one of his best decisions,” Tony Fabrizio, a pollster for Trump, told me. Even so, they are almost comically mismatched. “You end up with an odd pair of throwbacks from fifties casting,” the former White House strategist Stephen Bannon joked, comparing them to Dean Martin, the bad boy of the Rat Pack, and “the dad on ‘Leave It to Beaver.’ ”

*     *     *

Pence has taken care to appear extraordinarily loyal to Trump, so much so that Joel K. Goldstein, a historian and an expert on Vice-Presidents who teaches law at St. Louis University, refers to him as the “Sycophant-in-Chief.”

*     *     *

Trump handily won the Indiana primary. Pence, who had tepidly endorsed Ted Cruz, switched to Trump. Pence’s history with Trump, however, was strained. In 2011, Pence had gone to Trump Tower in Manhattan, seeking a campaign donation. Trump brought up some gossip—the wife of Mitch Daniels, the outgoing governor of Indiana, had reportedly left him for another man, then reunited with her husband. According to the Times, Trump announced that he’d never take back a wife who had been unfaithful. Pence reacted stiffly, and their conversation grew awkward. Trump gave Pence a small contribution, but the coarse New York billionaire and the prim Indiana evangelical appeared to be on different wavelengths.

Nevertheless, in 2016, political insiders in Indiana began hearing that Pence would welcome a spot on the Trump ticket. “There was no doubt he’d say yes,” Tony Samuel, the vice-chair of the Trump campaign in the state, who was a lobbyist for Centaur and other companies, told me. Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman at that point, arranged for Trump to meet Pence, and urged Trump to pick him. Pence was seen as a bridge to Christian conservatives, an asset in the Midwest, and a connection to the powerful Koch network. Kellyanne Conway, who had done polling work for the Kochs, pushed for Pence, too, as did Stephen Bannon, although private e-mails recently obtained by BuzzFeed indicate that he considered the choice a Faustian bargain—“an unfortunate necessity.”

*     *     *

Still, Trump remained wary. According to a former campaign aide, he was disapproving when he learned how little money Pence had. In 2004, the oil firm that Pence’s father had partly owned had filed for bankruptcy. Mike Pence’s shares of the company’s stock, which he had valued at up to a quarter of a million dollars, became worthless. In 2016, according to a campaign-finance disclosure form, Pence had one bank account, which held less than fifteen thousand dollars.

*     *     *

But in July Pence found a way to please Trump when he played golf with him at Trump’s club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Recognizing that Trump was susceptible to flattery, he told the media that Trump “beat me like a drum.”

*     *     *

Yet, in a phone conversation that I had with Trump during this period, he told me that he was torn about the choice. He noted repeatedly that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, had been “loyal” to him. When I asked Trump if he shared Pence’s deeply conservative social views, he became uncharacteristically silent.

*     *     *

Before Pence’s trip to Bedminster, he had asked his brother Gregory to meet him at a Burger King. “He said, ‘Donald Trump wants to talk to me,’ ” Gregory recalled. They both knew what it was about. “I told him, ‘You have to go, you have no choice,’ ” Gregory said. As he saw it, his brother also had no choice about saying yes, if picked: “When your party’s nominee asks you to be the running mate, you have to do it.” But it was a gamble. As Gregory put it to me, “If he lost, he had no money, and he had three kids in college. He took out student loans for the kids. He’s got a retirement account, but I was afraid he’d run out of money in just a couple of weeks. He’d have to get a job. He was rolling the dice.” Some politicians in Indiana were surprised that Trump wanted to pick Pence, who was flailing as governor, and that Pence wanted to run with Trump. “The one thing you could count on with Pence was interpersonal decency, which made it strange that he joined the Trump ticket, the most indecent ticket any party’s ever put together,” Pete Buttigieg said. “But, really, he had nowhere else to go. His chances of getting reëlected were fifty-fifty at best.”

*     *     *

By July 14th, Trump’s aides had leaked that he was about to pick Pence, who had flown to New York for the announcement. But that night, as CNN reported, Trump called his aides to see if he could back out of his decision. The next morning, Trump called Christie and said, “They’re telling me I have to pick him. It’s central casting. He looks like a Vice-President.” A few hours later, Trump announced Pence as his running mate.

“I love this guy, I could just kiss him on the lips”

Several days later, at the Republican National Convention, Newt Gingrich, who had also been passed over for the Vice-Presidency, found himself backstage next to Trump while Pence was giving his acceptance speech. “Isn’t he just perfect?” Trump asked Gingrich. “Straight from central casting.”

*     *     *

The awkwardness between Pence and Trump didn’t entirely dissipate. When the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced, revealing Trump’s boast about grabbing women “by the pussy,” Karen Pence was horrified. According to a former campaign aide, Pence refused to take Trump’s calls and sent him a letter saying that he and Karen, as Christians, were deeply offended by his actions and needed to make an “assessment” about whether to remain with the campaign. They urged Trump to pray. When Trump and Pence finally did talk, Pence told him that his wife still had “huge problems” with his behavior. But in public Pence was forgiving, saying, “I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people.” (A Pence spokesman has denied that there was any friction over the incident.)

*     *     *

“What’s Pence doing?” Walter Mondale, who served as Vice-President to Jimmy Carter, asked me recently. “I ask myself that every day.” Before taking the job, Mondale got Carter to agree, in writing, that he could attend every meeting and see every memo that the President did. Mondale also requested that his office be moved from the Old Executive Office Building to the West Wing. Subsequent Vice-Presidents have inherited these upgrades, but Mondale felt that all Pence was doing was “trying not to make an enemy of the President.” Trump is known to humiliate subordinates, and Mondale noted that Trump often asks Pence to act as a master of ceremonies and introduce him at events, which Mondale finds demeaning. Dan Quayle, who was Vice-President in George H. W. Bush’s Administration, praised Pence, whom he has known for many years, for fulfilling the two major duties of a Vice-President: to be supportive and to be prepared. But when I asked Quayle if President Bush had ever asked him to leave the room—as Trump reportedly asked Pence to do, so that he could privately ask Comey to ease up on Flynn—he said, “Never.”

Mark Knoller, who has covered the White House for CBS since Gerald Ford’s Presidency, said of Pence, “He’s the most publicly deferential to his President of any V.P. I can remember.” At Trump’s first full Cabinet meeting, Pence said, “This is the greatest privilege of my life, to serve as Vice-President to a President who’s keeping his word to the American people.” Pence readily complied when Trump asked him to stage a protest at an N.F.L. game in Indianapolis on October 8th, by leaving the stadium when some players refused to stand for the national anthem. (Pence’s trip reportedly cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

In private, however, Pence has become a back channel for government figures who are frustrated by the impulsiveness and inattention of a President who won’t read more than a page or two of bullet points. Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator who admires Pence, told me, “Everyone knows that Mike Pence can get the job done, and the President can’t, but no one can say it.” According to NBC, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently became so enraged by the President’s incompetence that he called him “a fucking moron” in front of others, and threatened to quit. In an effort to calm Tillerson, and prevent yet another high-level resignation, Pence reportedly “counselled” the Secretary of State on how to manage Trump, suggesting that he criticize him only privately.

Trump knows how to keep Pence in line

“Trump thinks Pence is great,” Bannon told me. But, according to a longtime associate, Trump also likes to “let Pence know who’s boss.” A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

 

 

 

Mike Pence: You May Think He’s Preferable to Trump

But maybe you need to think again about that. A while back – okay, in October, The Curmudgeon has fallen behind in his reading again – The New Yorker published a long piece about vice president Mike Pence. Today, The Curmudgeon shares especially…interesting things about Pence. And offers a few comments. Tomorrow he focuses just on Pence’s relationship with Trump as reported by The New Yorker.

*     *     *

[Paul] Weyrich condemned homosexuality, feminism, abortion, and government-imposed racial integration, and he partnered with some controversial figures, including Laszlo Pasztor, a former member of a pro-Nazi party in Hungary. When Weyrich died, in 2008, Pence praised him as a “friend and mentor” and a “founding father of the modern conservative movement,” from whom he had “benefitted immeasurably.”

 Isn’t this comforting?

*     *     *

Never fear: there were other people present

…as Rolling Stone reported in January, he referred to her [his wife] in front of guests as “Mother.” Pence’s office has disputed the account, but a former Indiana Democratic Party official told me, “I’ve heard him call her Mother myself.” Pence also began observing what’s known as the Billy Graham rule, meaning that he never dined alone with another woman, or attended an event in mixed company where alcohol was served unless his wife was present. Critics have argued that this approach reduces women to sexual temptresses and precludes men from working with women on an equal basis.

Good lord.

*     *     *

In 1990, Pence tried and failed again to unseat Sharp, waging a campaign that is remembered as especially nasty. One ad featured an actor dressed in Middle Eastern garb and sunglasses, who accused Sharp, falsely, of being a tool of Arab oil interests. But Pence’s campaign foundered after the press revealed that he had used donations toward personal expenses, such as his mortgage and groceries…

Great: another guy skimming off the top of the campaign donations.

The following year, Mike Pence wrote an essay, carried by local newspapers, titled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he said, “A campaign ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate.” He admitted to reporters that he had violated this standard, and said that he had no “interest in running for elected office in the foreseeable future,” but added that if he ever did he would not wage a negative campaign. “I think he realized he’d besmirched himself,” Sharp told me. “He comes across as Midwestern nice, but it was mean and shallow.”

Based on the 2016 campaign, it appears that Pence has gotten over his desire to pursue “basic human decency.”

*     *     *

Cecil Bohanon, one of two adjunct scholars at Pence’s think tank, had a history of financial ties to tobacco-company front groups, and in 2000 Pence echoed industry talking points in an essay that argued, “Smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, two out of every three smokers doesn’t die from a smoking-related illness.”

 Think about that for a minute: his position in support of the tobacco industry is that it only kills one-third of its customers.

*     *     *

 Even as Pence argued for less government interference in business, he pushed for policies that intruded on people’s private lives. In the early nineties, he joined the board of the Indiana Family Institute, a far-right group that supported the criminalization of abortion and campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals. And, while Pence ran the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, it published an essay arguing that unmarried women should be denied access to birth control.

 Say whaaaat?

*     *     *

 In 2000, when a Republican congressman in northern Indiana vacated his seat, Pence ran as the Party favorite, on a platform that included a promise to oppose “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.”

Because if he’s going to have to put up with those damn homos he certainly isn’t interested in protecting them.

*     *     *

 Pence served twelve years in Congress, but never authored a single successful bill. His sights, according to Leppert, were always “on the national ticket.”

 Just what the country needed: another do-nothing congressman.

*     *     *

 In 2011, he made the evening news by threatening to shut down the federal government unless it defunded Planned Parenthood. Some Hoosiers were unnerved to see footage of Pence standing amid rowdy protesters at a Tea Party rally and yelling, “Shut it down!”

Seriously?

*     *     *

Pence became best known for fiercely opposing abortion. He backed “personhood” legislation that would ban it under all circumstances, including rape and incest, unless a woman’s life was at stake. He sponsored an unsuccessful amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have made it legal for government-funded hospitals to turn away a dying woman who needed an abortion.

So he’s in favor of hospitals turning away dying patients?

*     *     *

 Pence, who had called global warming “a myth” created by environmentalists in their “latest Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” took up the Kochs’ cause. He not only signed their pledge but urged others to do so as well. He gave speeches denouncing the cap-and-trade bill—which passed the House but got held up in the Senate—as a “declaration of war on the Midwest.”

Great, another science-denier.

*     *     *

 Pence’s tenure as governor nearly destroyed his political career. He had promised Oesterle and other members of the state’s Republican business establishment that he would continue in the path of his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, a well-liked fiscal conservative who had called for a “truce” on divisive social issues. “Pence was very accommodating,” Oesterle said. But after he was elected he began taking controversial far-right stands that, critics believed, were geared more toward building his national profile than toward serving Indiana voters.

Because being a demagogue on divisive social issues is a whole lot easier than rolling up your sleeves and getting down to the hard business of governing – especially for a guy who had even less interest in governing that he had success when he tried.

*     *     *

 At the last minute, he killed an application for an eighty-million-dollar federal grant to start a statewide preschool program. Education officials in Pence’s own administration favored the grant, but conservative opponents of secular public education had complained. When reporters asked Pence about his decision, he said only that the federal government had attached “too many strings.” But, as Matthew Tully, a columnist at the Indianapolis Star, wrote, “he could not name one.”

Nothing like being tripped up on your own deceptive and misguided rhetoric.

*     *     *

In the spring of 2015, Pence signed a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he presented as innocuous. “He said it protected religious freedom, and who’s against that?” Oesterle recalled. But then a photograph of the closed signing session surfaced. It showed Pence surrounded by monks and nuns, along with three of the most virulently anti-gay activists in the state. The image went viral. Indiana residents began examining the law more closely, and discovered that it essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals by businesses in the state.

*     *     *

The outcry over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enormous. Gay-rights groups condemned the bill and urged boycotts of the state. Pete Buttigieg, the young gay mayor of South Bend, who is a rising figure in the Democratic Party, told me that he tried to talk to Pence about the legislation, which he felt would cause major economic damage to Indiana. “But he got this look in his eye,” Buttigieg recalled. “He just inhabits a different reality. It’s very difficult for him to lay aside the social agenda. He’s a zealot.”

In an effort to quell criticism, Pence consented, against the advice of his staff, to be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on his Sunday-morning show on ABC. Stephanopoulos asked him five times if it was now legal in Indiana for businesses to discriminate against homosexuals, and each time Pence was evasive. Pence also sidestepped when Stephanopoulos asked him if he personally supported discrimination against gays.

So is the message here “dumb guy” or “bad guy”?

*     *     *

As governor, he proclaimed his opposition to any expansion of the gaming industry, but, though the state had banned political contributions from casino operators, cash had flowed generously to him from such sources, through indirect paths. The state’s gaming companies, including Centaur, routed donations to “soft money” groups like the Republican Governors Association, which then transferred the money to Pence and other candidates. Pence, meanwhile, used executive orders to quietly grant several of the gambling industry’s wishes, such as allowing riverboat casinos to expand onshore.

Just because you’re against something doesn’t mean you can’t try to benefit from it, too, right?

*     *     *

 

Just another day at the office

In 2002, he declared that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory,” alongside such theories as intelligent design, which argues that life on Earth is too complex to have emerged through random mutation. Pence has described intelligent design as the only “remotely rational explanation for the known universe.”

 Again with denying science. Pence is a man for the times – only those times were the 1850s.

*     *     *

 At the White House, Pence has been hosting a Bible-study group for Cabinet officers, led by an evangelical pastor named Ralph Drollinger. In 2004, Drollinger, whose organization, Capitol Ministries, specializes in proselytizing to elected officials, stirred protests from female legislators in California, where he was then preaching, after he wrote, “Women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.” Drollinger describes Catholicism as “a false religion,” calls homosexuality “a sin,” and believes that a wife must “submit” to her husband.

 It’s amazing that Pence would sponsor this kind of ignorance at the very highest level of the federal government.

*     *     *

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who has accused the Kochs of buying undue influence, particularly on environmental policy—Koch Industries has a long history of pollution—is less enthusiastic about their alliance with Pence. “If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period. He’s been their tool for years,” he said. Bannon is equally alarmed at the prospect of a Pence Presidency. He told me, “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”

Well that’s certainly comforting.

This guy is certainly a piece of work, isn’t he?

Tomorrow, a look at Pence’s relationship with the man who is the constant object of his adoring gaze.

Puns

Puns remind The Curmudgeon of the old tv commercials for Slim Jims: people seem to love them or hate them.

The Curmudgeon loves them and tries never to miss an opportunity to use one. His philosophy: the bigger the groan you elicit, the better the pun.

Mrs. Curmudgeon appears to like them. The qualifier “appears” appears because he has this nagging sense that there are times when she’s just humoring him. The Curmudgeon’s stepson? Not so much. When The Curmudgeon offers a pun, J’s reaction is simply to utter “Please stop.”

Well, as the late Ricky Nelson told us in his song “Garden Party,”

But it’s all right now,

I learned my lesson well.

You see, ya can’t please everyone,

so ya got to please yourself

Which, on the other hand, may go a long way toward explaining why it took The Curmudgeon 59 years to marry.

Recently The Curmudgeon was delighted to see a brief discussion of puns in a New Yorker book review of a new novel by the Scottish writer Ali Smith, who through this review earned her way onto his lengthy and growing you-need-to-read-something-by-this-person list.

For your entertainment and maybe even enlightenment, that commentary about puns:

If you are tired of puns, are you tired of life? Puns are easy to disdain. They are essentially found, not made; discovered after the fact rather than intended before it. Puns are accidental echoes, random likenesses thrown out by our lexical cosmos. They lurk, pallidly hibernating, inside fortune cookies and Christmas crackers; the groan is the pun’s appropriate unit of appreciation. On the other hand, everyone secretly loves a pun, and, wonderfully, the worst are often as funny as the best, as the great punster Nabokov knew, because the genre is so democratically debased. Puns are part of the careless abundance of creation, the delicious surplus of life, and, therefore, fundamentally joyful. Being accidental, they are like free money—nature’s charity. There’s a reason that the most abundant writer in the language was so abundant in puns: words, like Bottom’s dream, are bottomless.

And the reviewer offered a sample of Ms. Smith’s work:

She shifts on the substandard bed. The substandard bed creaks loudly. After the creak she can hear the silence in the rest of the house. They are all asleep. Nobody knows she is awake. Nobody is any the wiser. Any the wiser sounds like a character from ancient history. Astrid in the year 1003 BC (Before Celebrity) goes to the woods where Any the Wiser, who is really royalty and a king but who has unexpectedly chosen to be a Nobody and to live the simple life, lives in a hut, no, a cave, and answers the questions that the people of the commonweal come from miles around to ask him (most probably a him since if it was a her she’d have to be in a convent or burnt).

Sold! The Curmudgeon immediately went to the Free Library of Philadelphia’s e-book web site to reserve one of her novels.

The Kind of People Who Are Running Our Government These Days

Along with the stench the Trump family brought to Washington came a trailing stench that is being smelled in the far reaches of government.

Whether it’s the EPA secretary who thinks his job is to protect the environment from clean-up efforts or the son in-law who is profoundly ethics-challenged to the attorney general who’s a throwback to the 1950s or the head of the Centers for Disease Control who buys stocks in tobacco companies or the communications director who lasted a week because of an extraordinary string of lapses of judgment or the press secretary who lied through his teeth or the treasury secretary whose wife lorded her wealth over her husband’s detractors or the health and human services secretary who thought holding high office meant never having to fly commercial again or the national security advisor who lied to the vice president about potentially illegal actions to the senior advisor who went on television and told people to buy products being sold by the president’s daughter, this administration is rife with people who consistently exercise incredibly flawed judgment and just plain bad thinking – if, in fact, they’re actually thinking at all.

Let us add to this list the name of Carl Higbie, former chief of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs the AmeriCorps program. AmeriCorps, it should be noted, describes itself as “…a network of local, state, and national service programs that connects over 70,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet community needs in education, the environment, public safety, health, and homeland security. AmeriCorps’ members serve with more than 2,000 non-profits, public agencies, and community organizations.”

In other words, AmeriCorps is the good guys.

But somehow, a really bad guy got himself a job fairly high up in the good guys AmeriCorps organization because, well, because what most people think of as “good guys” and what the Trump people think of as “good guys” are very different things.

Here’s a taste of Mr. Higbie, as reported by the Washington Post.

Not exactly one of the “best and brightest”

In 2013, he spoke about giving away free firewood while working in Virginia Beach on “Sound of Freedom,” an Internet talk radio show that he hosted, according to CNN. Higbie said that black women think “breeding is a form of government employment,” that blacks were “lax of morality,” and that culture “is breeding this welfare and the high percentage of people on welfare in the black race.”

On another talk show in 2013, he expressed dislike for the term “African Americans.”

 “The whole African American thing gets me whipped up because it’s like 99 percent — and I’m paraphrasing here — of people who write down African American have never been to Africa,” he said.

He also spoke disparagingly of Islam, saying that he didn’t like Muslims “because their ideology sucks,” and that he was fine if his views caused him to be labeled a racist.

 “I just don’t like Muslim people. People always rip me a new one for that. ‘Carl, you’re racist, you can’t, you’re sexist.’ I’m like Jesus Christ,” Higbie said on “Sound of Freedom” in 2013.

 On another podcast, Warrior Talk Radio, in 2014, according to CNN, he struck a similar chord.

 “I was called an Islamophobe, and I was like, ‘no, no, no, no, no, I’m not afraid of them. I don’t like them. Big difference,’ ” he said on the show. “And they were like, ‘Well, you’re racist.’ I was like, fine if that’s the definition of it, then I guess I am.’”

This is not the first round of controversy for Higbie, who worked as the spokesman for pro-Trump super PAC Great America before the 2016 election. During an appearance on Fox News shortly after the election, he cited Japanese internment camps during World War II as a “precedent” for some of the president’s potential immigration plans, and the remarks drew wide condemnation.

Higbie resigned when this information became known outside the circle of people who put him in this job, but how a guy like this wound up in an organization like AmeriCorps, which exists to help people in need, The Curmudgeon will never understand.

Well, that’s not quite true: unfortunately, The Curmudgeon DOES understand – and so do you.

 

Starbucks

As The Curmudgeon and Mrs. Curmudgeon were walking Sable – that’s the dog, not the stepson – at around 10:00 last Friday night The Curmudgeon felt the first stirs of nature calling.

Maybe it was in sympathy with all of the responding to that call that Sable was doing.

Less than a minute after that first stir the threesome coincidentally walked past the local Starbucks, still bustling despite the hour, and it was all The Curmudgeon could do to restrain himself from throwing open the front door and asking

Hey, may I use your bathroom? Don’t worry, I’m white.

The Most Serious Data Breach Ever

The number of people affected may be modest but the latest data breach, affecting customers of Panera Bread, may be the most serious such incident ever.

This particular failure of corporate America to show even a modicum of respect for its customers apparently affected only people who order food online through Panera’s customer loyalty program, called MyPanera.

No, hackers apparently didn’t get access to customers’ credit card information but they DID get access to the specific food orders they placed through MyPanera.

How much would you pay to prevent people you respect from learning that you eat this kind of crap?

Harmless? Hardly. Think about the potential for blackmail: how much would you pay to prevent a blackmailer from telling your friends and loved ones that you ordered one of those weird Panera sandwiches:  you know, like teriyaki tofu with sprouts and kale with sriracha garlic aioli on a gluten-free ciabatta roll with a side of fermented mung beans and heirloom tomato-infused green iced tea?

Flying Under the Radar – But Probably Not for Long

You may not have noticed during all the tumult surrounding the FBI raid of the office of President Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, but the person overseeing the Cohen legal proceedings is federal judge Kimba Wood.

Judge Wood

And if you’re old enough – sorry, (some) readers – and this name makes you pause for a moment and think “Hey, haven’t I heard that name before?,” then you’ve been paying attention to public affairs for a long time.

We’ve encountered Judge Wood before, but not as a judge. In 1993, newly elected president Bill Clinton nominated Wood, then a federal judge, to be his attorney general but withdrew the nomination when it was revealed that Wood had hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Unlike Clinton’s first choice for the job, Zoe Baird, who employed an illegal immigrant as nanny when it was against the law to employ illegal immigrants and also had not paid her illegal employee’s social security taxes, Wood had paid all of the appropriate payroll taxes for her nanny and had employed her before it was illegal to employ an illegal immigrant. Trying to explain the distinction to a public that wasn’t interested in hearing anything from people who could afford to employ nannies was too complicated and too much trouble for a new administration that had already swung and missed once so Clinton withdrew the nomination and appointed Janet Reno instead. Wood remained on the federal bench and returns now to the spotlight with her assignment to oversee the Cohen proceedings.

Keeping in mind how Agent Orange once criticized a U.S.-born judge of Mexican ancestry as someone who couldn’t impartially hear a case on an immigration-related issue, how long do you think it will be before Trump insists that as a former Clinton nominee, Kimba Wood can’t possibly be impartial in the Cohen matter?

And what kind of tortured logic do you think he’ll attempt when it’s pointed out to him that Wood was appointed to the bench by…

Ronald Reagan?