Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Answer is Obvious

The headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer posed a question for which it suggested the article below it had an answer:

“John Boehner was a longtime opponent of marijuana reform. Here’s what changed his mind”

Boehner, you will recall, is the original Agent Orange: the former Speaker of the House whose strange orange skin tone both alarmed and amused.

As Speaker, Boehner opposed the legalization of marijuana, writing to a constituent in 2011 that

I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug.  I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”

 And he reiterated that opposition publicly as recently as 2015.

 But last week came news that Boehner, no longer Speaker of the House, has changed his mind because

I have concluded descheduling the drug is needed so that we can do research and allow the VA to offer it as a treatment option in the fight against the opioid epidemic that is ravaging our communities.

Not-so-coincidentally, Boehner was recently appointed to the board of a company called Acreage Holdings. The following is how Acreage Holdings describes itself on its web site:

Founded in 2014, Acreage Holdings (formerly known as High Street Capital Partners) has the most diverse portfolio of any company in the American cannabis industry, with cultivation, processing and dispensing operations across 11 states with plans to expand.

 Acreage has fostered strong partnerships with regulators, physicians and medical researchers with the aim of setting a new standard for the industry. As legislation and regulations evolve, Acreage is poised to build on its leadership position by expanding its footprint and capabilities in bringing safe, dosable and affordable cannabis to the market.

So it appears that we now have the answer to the question of what changed John Boehner’s mind about marijuana reform.

Money. Boehner’s principles apparently were for sale and Acreage Holdings paid his price.

Congratulations, Mr. Speaker.

A Great Way to Put It

Many thanks to sister in-law Martha, who put together on her Facebook page the following three tweets by Donald Trump in 2012 and 2013…

and titled them…

Operation Desert Stormy.

The Trump Watch (mid-April 2018)

Pants on Fire

We know Trump lies to us, lies to Congress, even – maybe especially – lies to his wife, but recently we learned that he lies to the leaders of other countries as well, as the Washington Post reported.

President Trump boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up information in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S. ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether that was the case.

Trump was wrong, of course.

If he’s going to lie – even to one of our closest allies – and then he’s going to reveal publicly that he’s lying, why should the leader of any other country believe a word he says? And doesn’t that hurt the country Trump’s supposed to be leading?

“Would I lie to you?”

Another Lie

Trump recently told a rally in Pennsylvania that he won the women’s vote in his campaign; he said 52 percent of the women who voted picked him.

Okay, that number is off by a little: it was actually 41 percent, which is not only 20 percent lower but also means he didn’t actually win the women’s vote after all.

McMaster Drove Him Crazy

“it’s not like McMaster talks about anything important.”

Kim Jong-Trump and now-deposed national security advisor H.R. McMaster apparently were not a good match from the start but we’ve now learned about one of the things about McMaster that bothered Trump the most: McMaster’s meticulous attention to detail. Whenever they sat down to discuss a policy or a problem or a new way of doing something, McMaster would come armed with a PowerPoint presentation that laid out all of the options and explained the pros and cons of the various choices in great detail.

Which is pretty much what you’d expect of any national security advisor and especially from one who has spent his life in the military.

Trump hated it. He doesn’t want information, doesn’t want to know the details. He just wants to make quick decisions based on his instincts – instincts informed by virtually no knowledge or understanding of the issues at hand. So of course McMaster drove him crazy because professionalism drives him crazy and so of course McMaster had to go.

And replaced by John Bolton, the guy who gets practically orgasmic at the thought of the U.S. attacking North Korea.

Speaking of Bolton…

We now know that as far back as December of 2016 Trump was interested in appointing Bolton secretary of state but decided against it because…he didn’t like Bolton’s mustache.

Seriously.

Firing By Tweet

Agent Orange’s practice of firing people by tweet is appalling. It’s gutless and classless and just plain rude, especially when the people he’s firing, The Curmudgeon’s disdain for most of them notwithstanding, are people of accomplishment and distinction and deserve better.

Everyone deserves better. Remember when he sent his bodyguard to California to give James Comey a letter firing him and then was angry that the FBI let Comey fly back to Washington on the government plane that took him to the west coast?

Also deplorable is the manner in which Trump treats people when he’s getting ready to fire them – as the Washington Post found a source to explain:

“What’s befallen Shulkin is a favorite tactic of Trump’s, who followed a similar approach with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and, to a lesser degree, national security adviser H.R. McMaster,” they continue. “The president emasculates those who fall from favor, humiliating them through media leaks and in disparaging comments to friends. The mixed signals often leave even senior White House officials guessing who will be fired and when.”

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Published reports suggest that Agent Orange has required some of his senior staff members to sign non-disclosure agreements that could cost them as much as $10 million – for every violation.

That’s unacceptable. We may have no right to the inside scoop on operations in the Trump Organization but this is the White House and the federal government and that’s the people’s government, not the Trump Organization government. Books about public service, books about people who work in government, and the ability of people of conscience to express their concerns to the press, either confidentially or for attribution, are absolutely essential to our very form of government.

The Curmudgeon suspects that such non-disclosure agreements would not stand up in court, but that may not even matter if the people who signed them are too intimidated to challenge them.

And if that’s the case, we’re all worse for it.

The Caravan

We know that about 1500 Nicaraguans crossed their country’s border together into Mexico, fleeing violence at home. They were bound for the U.S., the president told us.

Actually, many of them were bound for Mexico, not the U.S. That’s not a surprise: border crossings from Mexico into the U.S. are reportedly at a 45-year low.

But that caravan, he told us, was dangerous: Trump insisted that women on the caravan “…are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”

Only it’s not true. With all of the information sources at his disposal, Trump relied on a newspaper report – and promptly misinterpreted it. It said absolutely nothing about rapes within the caravan. In fact, NBC news reports about “… one woman who praised the men in the caravan for protecting her, noting that it “has begun to feel a little like a family.”

So once again, he made up fake facts to support the story he wanted to tell rather than the story of what actually happened.

Vote Fraud – Again

Never one to abandon a good lie even after it’s been debunked, Kim Jong-Trump continues to insist that millions of votes were cast illegally, most of them against him, in the 2016 election.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, he doubled down on his lies to a Virginia audience.

In many places, like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that,” he told the crowd. “They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.

Of course there’s never been a whiff of proof that this is true. In fact, Trump appointed a special commission to look into vote fraud in the 2016 election and that commission found nothing and disbanded.

But it’s a great way to get a sympathetic crowd going and he’ll no doubt continue using it.

Bad Faith

Republicans and Democrats worked together through an agonizing process to craft a makeshift budget to take the federal government through the rest of the current fiscal year and to set spending levels for the year after that as well. There was a lot of give and take, a lot of compromises by both sides, and both sides had victories they could show their supporters and promises on which they failed to deliver. The final product is a hot mess that pleases no one but got the job done.

But just a few weeks after it passed, Agent Orange decided that he wants to cut spending some more as soon as possible.

To their credit, even a lot of Republicans are telling him his idea is a non-starter and that if they go back on their word just weeks after they gave it, they’ll never be able to negotiate with Democrats again because those Democrats would never have any reason to believe them about anything.

But Trump doesn’t understand that kind of thing, doesn’t understand integrity, doesn’t understand the importance of keeping one’s word.

Using the Presidency to Promote His Businesses

How does a president make a golf tournament all about him?

Trust Agent Orange to find a way.

When Patrick Reed won the Masters golf tournament, Trump tweeted his congratulations:

Congratulations to Patrick Reed on his great and courageous MASTERS win! When Patrick had his amazing win at Doral 5 years ago, people saw his great talent, and a bright future ahead. Now he is the Masters Champion!

 That’s nice, right? It’s arguably the most prestigious golf tournament in the world, the golf equivalent of the Super Bowl, and the president congratulated him. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Well, a closer look finds that the Masters was Reed’s sixth golf tournament victory, so why did the president mention only one of his other five?

Because the Doral tournament Reed won five years ago about which the president tweeted is actually called the Trump National Doral and it’s played on a Trump course in Florida.

The guy never misses an opportunity to use his office to promote his own business interests.

The Seven Deadly Sins

The seven deadly sins, we’re told, are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. When it comes to these standards, Agent Orange is a real achiever. His pride, we’re told, is off the charts. Greed we all know about. Lust? Ask Stormy Daniels and the others. Envy? He’s always been envious of anyone who has more money than he does. Wrath: we’ve certainly seen it, the adult version of a two-year-old’s temper tantrum.

But you wouldn’t suspect sloth. After all, he’s an enterprising guy who appears to have worked pretty damn hard to make money, build his reputation (such as it is), and then, late in life, enter politics and get elected president. But we’re hearing that he’s sort of resting on his laurels now, as many people his age do, and last week Vanity Fair wrote about a guy who’s apparently incredibly lazy.

This past weekend, we saw yet another report, this time from Jonathan Swan at Axios, on how little time Donald Trump spends at the office. Swan reports that Trump is spending about seven hours a day in the West Wing, much of it watching TV in the dining room, then taking off for home to watch more TV. This is consistent with other reports suggesting that Trump’s schedule consists largely of coming into the office to scream at people for seven hours and then going home to tear through cheeseburgers and scream at Fox. Even before the feds raided Trump’s lawyer, the president, according to The New York Times, spent his weekend “engaged in few activities other than dinner at the Trump International Hotel.” Policy discussions seem to be so difficult that the president now gets doses of “Policy Time” once or twice a day. Trump has bowed out of a Summit of the Americas trip, sending Mike Pence in his place, so that Trump can focus on Syria, except that Pence seems to be taking the lead on that, too.

 Even worse is what he does with all that free time.

Unstructured time seems to be incubating his biggest outbursts of rage, and those have mostly negative policy consequences. This week, he has been taunting Russia with promises to launch missiles at Syria. His sounding board on whether to indulge in such rhetoric is John Bolton, whose judgment on obnoxiousness is best compared to Caligula’s judgment on kink.

And then there’s all that tweeting. Aside from how ridiculous so many of his tweets are, don’t you find yourself wondering “Doesn’t this guy have anything better to do with his time?”

Actually, it’s sort of like…blogging. (Gulp!)

The Michael Wolff Book

The Curmudgeon has just finished Michael Woolf’s behind-the-scenes look at the Trump administration (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House) and all he can say is that if you choose to believe even 25 percent of this book you’ll realize that it’s all far, far, far worse than you ever imagined. If you haven’t already read it, try to find a copy (The Curmudgeon got his from the Free Library of Philadelphia).

The Word of the Day

The word of the day is “kakistocracy,” a 730 SAT word that leaped into the public consciousness on Friday when former CIA director John Brennan tweeted the following message to President Trump:

our kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey. As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived.

For those of us unfamiliar with this nearly 400-year-old word – and The Curmudgeon was among them until Friday – the Oxford English Dictionary tells us that kakistocracy means “government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state” or “a state or society governed by its least suitable or competent citizens.”

Mr. Brennan: well-done, sir!

Not the Kind of Headline You See Every Day

From the Entertainment Weekly web site on March 27:

Breaking down the severed penis scene in Netflix’s Game Over, Man!

Yikes!

Don’t Spend it All in One Place

About six months ago The Curmudgeon received a letter in the mail telling him that he was due a refund on his mortgage.

He didn’t pay it a whole lot of attention: first; he hadn’t had a mortgage in six or seven years, which raised the question of how someone could suddenly be offering him a refund on it; second, he had never heard of the mortgage company that sent the letter and he knew it certainly wasn’t the company that had given him the mortgage in the first place; and third, having moved out of his bachelor condo but not having sold it yet, he had sent change of address notifications to everyone with whom he did business but not yet to the post office, so as a result, only junk email – oh, and stuff for his father, gone four years now but still receiving pretty regular mail, thank you – was still coming to the condo, with the rest going where it belonged, to the home owned by his wife and in which he now is a happy resident.

In short, it looked like some kind of come-on or scam, so he tossed it.

But then another letter arrived about a month ago – this time addressed to his marital home, where he now resides exclusively since selling the bachelor condo in December. It said that if the money was not claimed it would become property of the state of Pennsylvania – never a good idea because that state’s government is utterly hopeless and would just waste it on some damn fool business. (Say what you want about New Jersey but the state is run infinitely better than Pennsylvania.)

Color The Curmudgeon intrigued.

Intrigued enough, at least, to make a quick phone call to the number in the letter.

Whereupon he learned that the letter was legitimate, that the mortgage company that sent it had purchased a company that had purchased a company that had purchased a company that had purchased the original company that extended the mortgage to The Curmudgeon.

The Curmudgeon still thought he smelled something funny: his mortgage on the condo was held by Morgan Stanley, which he knew had not been sold.

Oh no, the woman informed him: not the mortgage on the bachelor condo. No, she was calling from the mortgage company that had purchased a company that had purchased a company that had purchased a company that had purchased the original company that extended the mortgage to The Curmudgeon for his first home, in Philadelphia.

In 1990.

And which he sold in 2003.

So after nearly 14 years of silence they reached out to him about a refund on his mortgage.

How much of a refund, The Curmudgeon asked.

We can’t say, the representative said. I have a number in front of me but it needs to be confirmed by our accounting office and we can’t give it over the phone. You should receive a check in about 20 business days.

Alas, it was a small check

The check just arrived: $56.84.

Leaving The Curmudgeon with one thought: did this sum include interest on the 14-year debt or was the actual amount far, far less?

He’ll never know. $56.84 is $56.84 and he knows better than to look this gift horse in the mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Few Thoughts About the “Roseanne” Reboot

The Curmudgeon was a sometime-watcher of the old Roseanne sitcom and, after some hesitation, decided to watch the first episode of the revival.  Now, a few observations:

  1. Maybe it’s just the weight loss, but John Goodman looks frail.
  2. Roseanne, on the other hand, looks great.
  3. The Curmudgeon loves the conflict between Roseanne and Jackie about President Trump and has no problem at all with Roseanne being a Trump supporter.
  4. He also forgot how incredibly annoying Jackie can be.
  5. He finds it awfully disappointing that Darlene never made anything of herself.
  6. Becky’s 43 years old!
  7. It usually doesn’t matter if child actors can’t act so long as they’re cute or appealing in some way.  When they’re adults, though, and still can’t act, it burdens every scene in which they appear.   On this show, that means a lot of burdened scenes.
  8. Speaking of acting, 21 years off the air and Roseanne Barr couldn’t bother taking any acting lessons?

The verdict:  Roseanne Barr’s awful acting has always dragged down this show and the passage of more than two decades hasn’t changed that.  Of course, The Curmudgeon has that same problem with other stand-up comics who star in sitcoms (yes, he’s looking at you, Jerry Seinfeld, at you, Ray Romano, and even at you, many moons ago, Margaret Cho, and there are almost certainly others he’s forgetting at the moment).  But in the new Roseanne that bad acting is multiplied by several more bad actors who don’t get a free pass anymore just because they’re kids. Having John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, and the vastly under-rated Sarah Chalke, who are all so very good, isn’t enough to overcome that.

In the end, though, tv comedy is about being funny. The old Roseanne understood that always remembered that its top priority was to bring the funny, even when it was trying to deliver a message. The new Roseanne, though, unlike the old, doesn’t bring the funny, so The Curmudgeon is booting this reboot and won’t be watching again.

A Nasty Flashback

The Curmudgeon attended a five-year high school and took Latin all five years.

His father’s decision, not his.

Then he attended college and took two more years of Latin.

His decision this time, because he already had a head start and hoped it would help.

It didn’t.

The Curmudgeon was just an awful Latin student; he has no talent at all for foreign languages. A student teacher in second grade taught him no Spanish, five years of Hebrew school left him with the fun ability to read words in a totally different script yet not know the meaning of a single one of those words, and he was so awful at Latin in high school that he couldn’t even pass out of college-level Latin 1 based on his score on his achievement test.

It’s not that he didn’t work at it, either. He believes he’s on pretty safe ground when he suggests that he spent more time working on Latin than on any other subject during his five years in high school. The same was true in college: the class met three times a week but he disliked it so much he could only bring himself to go twice, but he would always – always – spend the hour he was skipping in the library studying his Latin, going through the same reading as the class but free from the sheer terror of being called upon to read and translate. Join him on a trip to the public library in the neighborhood in which he grew up (Welsh Road branch, behind Korvettes!) and he’s pretty sure he can lead you to the volume with the translation of the major work of Latin poetry, Virgil’s Aeneid, that got him through his senior year of high school – Latin 5! – and Latin 3 and Latin 4 in college. The book was still there the last time he checked, about ten years ago – complete with his tiny ink markings (yes, he knows, he’s ashamed) – and it wouldn’t surprise him at all if he was the last person to withdraw it, back in 1977.

He thought his involvement with the study of Latin was firmly in life’s rear-view mirror. After all, at age 60…

Alas, he thought wrong.

Now his stepson, a high school junior, is taking his first year of foreign language study.

Latin, of course. His parents’ decision.

As a dead language, Latin hasn’t gotten any easier over the years, and it’s not easy for his stepson – hard enough that even though the kid is wicked smart and pours far more time into his school work than The Curmudgeon ever did, the family employs a tutor who comes to the house once a week to drill the young man because even though both his mother and his stepfather both studied Latin in school (his mother majored in French and Italian in college), everyone knows that while parents can pitch in with homework once in a while, taking on the job of tutor is a profoundly bad idea.

And as The Curmudgeon types this brief lament, the sound of his stepson and the tutor working together during an early evening tutoring session is giving him ugly flashbacks…

First declension.

Conjugate verbs.

The verb-to-be almost always ends in “re,” usually “are,” “ere,” or “ire.”

audio-audire-audivi-auditus

amo-amare-amavi-amatus

Let’s review the difference between the genitive and the dative.

Do we remember what an ablative absolute is?

It’s an absolute nightmare of a flashback, that’s what it is!

Southern Hospitality

What you see below is the actual sign drivers encounter when they enter Harris County, Georgia.

So much for southern hospitality!

 

How’s That Swamp Draining Coming Along?

Not so well, actually. In office less than 16 months, The Trump administration has seen an astonishing number of its upper-level people leave – many of them for ethical reasons, others because of competency concerns, and a few voluntarily.

First, those who chose to leave:

  • Chief economic advisor Gary Cohn – given a high-level job but never permitted to do anything; also, snubbed after joining the administration after being led to believe he would be the next Federal Reserve chairman. He lost that shot after he let it be known he was disgusted by the president’s response to the Charlottesville protest.
  • Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub, resigned after he realized his new employer has no ethical standards.

Next, those who were shown the door:

  • HHS Secretary Tom Price – questionable travel spending that led to his resignation.
  • Anthony Scaramucci – White House communications director, fired after ten days on the job for incompetence.
  • Press secretary Sean Spicer – blatant lying caused him to lose credibility.
  • National Security Advisor Michael Flynn – pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian government officials.
  • White House staff secretary Rob Porter – beating up on women.
  • Personal aide to the president John McEntee – gambling problems.
  • National Security Advisor W.R. McMaster – fired because of a different kind of competency concern: he is, and that concerned the president.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – honest but not competent and made the mistake of not socializing with the president. Also, for defending the Boy Scouts.
  • Communications director Hope Hicks – resigned after telling a congressional committee she lies on the president’s behalf.
  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman – fired after the chief of staff learned she didn’t actually do anything and was what people used to call a “patronage employee.”
  • Deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka – fired.
  • Chief strategist Steve Bannon – fired for taking credit for the ideas he gave to the president.
  • Chief of staff Reince Priebus – fired for incompetence.
  • FBI director James Comey – fired for not being willing to pledge his loyalty to the president and ending investigations of the president’s supporters.
  • FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe – fired because his wife ran for public office as a Democrat.
  • Under-secretary of state for Steve Goldstein – fired for telling the truth in response to questions from the press.
  • Chief White House usher Angella Reid – fired because she was hired by a Democrat and that’s reason enough.
  • VA Secretary David Shulkin – questionable travel practices and misleading government investigators and, apparently, inciting an unprecedented mutiny among members of his staff.
  • U.S. Forest Service chief Tony Tooke, because of an alleged history of sexual harassment, abuse, and retaliation while working in other jobs.

Finally, those who are on thin ice right now and could be gone any day:

  • EPA administrator Scott Pruitt – questionable travel spending and, just last week, news that he’s accepting practically free overnight accommodations from a lobbyist.
  • HUD Secretary Ben Carson – steering business to his family, giving his family advantages in business dealings, and approving the purchase of a $31,000 dining room table, in violation of federal purchasing guidelines.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin – questionable travel spending.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions – lying on forms disclosing contacts with foreign officials and lying to Congress.
  • Jared Kushner – lying on forms disclosing contacts with foreign officials on numerous occasions and lying about his personal financial assets. Also, new suspicions about massive loans his family’s business have obtained.
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – questionable travel spending.
  • Chief of staff John Kelly – lying about what he knew and when he knew about the inappropriate behavior of former White House staffer Rob Porter and ordering other White House staffers to lie about what he knew and when he knew it. Also, seeks to instill discipline in the White House staff.

This isn’t draining the swamp: it’s restocking it with even more venal swamp things (like John Bolton, who’s spent most of his adult life in the swamp).