Monthly Archives: May 2018

R.I.P.

Philip Roth, 1933-2018

In the winter of 1985 The Curmudgeon worked for a good government organization in Philadelphia and one of his responsibilities was to hire college and law students for summer jobs doing research and writing. One of the applicants was an undergraduate from the University of Pennsylvania, and as The Curmudgeon recalls, he was really poorly dressed for his interview:  pants and a sport coat that were mismatched, solid wool tie, and hush puppies.  The Curmudgeon didn’t care about that:  he himself is not much of a dresser and it certainly didn’t matter that this young fellow had no idea how to put together an outfit that didn’t involve blue jeans.

At the end of the interview the young man stated that regardless of whether he got the job, he would like his writing sample – the quality of which was reason he got the interview – returned to him.  There seemed nothing out of the ordinary about the request:  these were pre-computer days, it was typed, and he probably hadn’t made a copy.  Still, The Curmudgeon couldn’t resist asking why.

“Because my professor’s comments are on it and that professor was Philip Roth, so I want to keep it.”

The Curmudgeon couldn’t blame him.  By 1985 The Curmudgeon had read only two of Roth’s books – Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint (which he re-read recently and endorsed here) – but he knew he would keep reading Roth.  And he did:  he has read every piece of fiction Roth wrote, has read some of his non-fiction, and has a general idea of how he will go about reading the rest of Roth’s non-fiction.

Roth isn’t always easy to like.  He wrote about sex a lot, and not in a romantic way, and often seemed to be a little at war with his readers and a lot at war with women. Today, a lot of people are criticizing his work in the face of fast-changing social mores.  The Curmudgeon recalls reading Roth’s novel The Professor of Desire on an airplane, and around the time he read a passage about Roth’s protagonist, well, doing something in the bathroom soap dish in the home of someone he was visiting, putting down the book and saying to himself “This is ridiculous.  I’m done.”  But it was a cross-country flight and he had nothing else to read, so he resumed – and shortly thereafter was rewarded when the light bulb went on over his head and he realized, “Ah, so that’s where he was going with all that.  This is great.”

The Curmudgeon has a pretty high opinion of his own writing but sometimes, he reads a Roth sentence and says to himself “I could never, ever write a sentence like that.”

A few years ago Roth announced that he was done writing fiction.  He was about 80 at the time, so it was understandable.  Even so, Roth has toyed with his readers for so many years that The Curmudgeon always suspected that there would be the surprise publication of a new Roth novel anyway.  Philip Roth passed away last week at the age of 85, and if we see a new, posthumous Roth novel in the next few years, The Curmudgeon wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Roth was a treasure, and The Curmudgeon, and many of Roth’s readers, will miss him.  Many of those readers also hope the folks in Sweden will wake up and award Roth in death the Nobel Prize for Literature that eluded him during his life.

The Trump Watch (late May) (part 2 of 2)

There’s so much stuff this month it takes two posts to cover it.  Go here to see yesterday’s post.

Strong-Arm Tactics

You have a doctor.  The Curmudgeon has a doctor.  Most of us have doctors.  Our doctors have our medical records.  If we move or change doctors, we contact the old doctor and he or she makes a copy of our records and sends it to the new doctor. But the old doctor retains a copy of our medical records.  That’s just the way it is.

Yes, this guy again

But not if you’re Donald Trump, who sent his goons/aides to his old doctor – you remember this guy, right? – and had them seize every single piece of paper about Trump and leave nothing behind.

As reported by Vox,

 Dr. Harold Bornstein — who said Trump would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” — is claiming Trump associates “raided” his private practice to seize the president’s medical records.

 Bornstein, Trump’s personal doctor in New York for decades, told NBC News that Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller, Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten, and another individual arrived at his office unannounced and took Trump’s medical records in February 2017. The trio took the original copies of charts and lab reports under Trump’s name and some pseudonyms Trump apparently used, according to Bornstein. He also said the visitors asked him to remove a picture of Trump and him that had been hanging on his wall.

Wait – pseudonyms? Why was he having lab work done under false names?  What on earth could Trump have been trying to hide?  Serious medical problems?  Paternity issues?  Emotional problems?  Another hair transplant?

Chlamydia?

Whatever it was, his strong-arm tactics are appalling.  And wrong.  As far as The Curmudgeon is concerned, Bornstein should have sought to press charges against the people who, essentially, robbed his office.

Putting it on Layaway

Trump wanted a smart lawyer to join his legal team but instead he hired Rudy Giuliani, who appears to know about as much about good lawyering as The Curmudgeon knows about cooking vegetables.

Which is to say, not a damn thing.

One of Giuliani’s revelations:  that Trump has reimbursed attorney/fixer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to Stormy Daniels for her silence on their one-night stand.

But that’s not the interesting part:  no, the part that fascinates The Curmudgeon is that Trump repaid Cohen $35,000 a month until he paid off the entire $130,000.

Leading to an obvious question:  What kind of multi-billionaire needs to pay off a $130,000 debt in INSTALLMENTS?

It’s All in the Branding

Many of us can think of some desirable uses for this kind of branding, too

When Trump the real estate developer found that his money-making magic touch had deserted him he reinvented himself as a brand – kind of like Kotex.  He did it again as a candidate for the presidency, and now that he’s president he continues to view branding as an important weapon in his arsenal in the war of public opinion.

We now know that the FBI received some information about Trump from within the Trump campaign in 2016. But was it a leak?  A spy?  We don’t know.

Neither does he.

But he’s not letting that stop him from saying he does, as the online publication The Hill reported.

President Trump told a confidant this week that he aimed “to brand” an FBI informant on his campaign a “spy” because he thought it sounded more nefarious, according to The Associated Press.

 Trump reportedly told one ally that he thought these embellishments would produce a greater response among media and the public.

Don’t you just love that “embellishments” euphemism?  That’s what us regular folks call “lies,” and he showed not a moment’s hesitation about lying to help himself.

The Leader, Apparently, of Just Some Parts of the Federal Government

Almost from the day he took office Trump has made it clear that he was unhappy with the Justice Department.  But when he decided he was unhappy with Jeff Sessions, his choice to head the Justice Department, he declined to fire him.  Oh, he talked about firing Sessions – and talked and talked and talked about it some more – but he never did more than talk.

So why doesn’t he roll up his sleeves and get involved in fixing a Justice Department he thinks is so badly broken?

When it comes to justice, Trump knows nothing, hears nothing, says…well, says a lot

No particular reason, it turns out.  He’s just decided that a bad Justice Department is perfectly fine with him.  Vox tells the story.

I’ve taken the position — and I don’t have to take this position and maybe I’ll change — that I will not be involved with the Justice Department,” President Donald Trump said in an April 26 interview on Fox & Friends. 

And Americans who need a functioning justice system?

That’s apparently too damn bad.

Not Very Bright

It’s hard to grasp the idea that a guy capable of making billions of dollars just isn’t very bright; it’s so…illogical.  Sure, he had a million-dollar head start from his daddy, but who among us, if given the same advantage, would be able to turn one million into billions? Very few of us, The Curmudgeon suspects, and The Curmudgeon knows he certainly couldn’t.  So the guy must know SOMETHING, right?

Well, it’s looking more like he knows a lot about a few things but damn little about anything else, and it took another really, really smart guy to help show us that recently, as Vanity Fair reports.

On Thursday night, MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes aired footage of a presentation by Microsoft founder Bill Gates,in which the billionaire philanthropist told audience members at a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation event that on two separate occasions, he had to explain to Trump that H.I.V. and H.P.V. are, in fact, not the same thing. The former, human immunodeficiency virus, is a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to AIDS. The latter, human papillomavirus, is an S.T.D. that causes genital warts and, in some cases, cervical cancer. “Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between H.I.V. and H.P.V., so I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other,” Gates told the crowd.

That is really, really hard to comprehend.

But Gates was only getting started.

Perhaps more concerning, Trump apparently had to be talked out of launching a commission to investigate whether vaccinations cause autism and other developmental disorders, a fringe conspiracy that has been debunked by the medical community. According to Gates, during both meetings, Trump asked “if vaccines weren’t a bad thing because he was considering a commission to look into ill effects of vaccines.” (Gates said he told him, “No, that’s a dead end. That would be a bad thing, don’t do that.”)

Holy chicken pox, Batman!  This guy’s an idiot.

A Curious Double Standard

One of Trump’s beefs with former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe was that McCabe’s wife ran for the Virginia state Senate as a Democrat and accepted campaign contributions from the kinds of people who contribute to Democrats’ campaigns.  How could McCabe be loyal to him, Trump kept asking, when his wife ran for office as a Democrat and received contributions from Democratic donors?

It’s a ridiculous premise, of course, but the same thing is occurring in a slightly different way now, yet without any complaints from the president, because it involves one of Trump’s favorite staff members:  Kellyanne Conway. Conway, of course, is one of Trump’s most vociferous and visible defenders even as the number of news programs willing to invite her on to lie for him for five or ten minutes continues to dwindle.

But Conway’s husband?  THIS is an interesting story:  Conway’s husband has become a pretty vociferous Trump critic.  The publication The Week tells the story.

Two writers who wrote columns critical of President Donald Trump told Politico that George Conway, husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, emailed them out of the blue with suggestions on how to strengthen their anti-Trump arguments. 

 George Conway, a highly respected corporate attorney, has kept a low public profile until now. According to Politico, he struggles with his disdain for how, in his view, the administration is flouting legal norms and the rule of law. He reportedly turned down offers for two White House positions — solicitor general and head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. 

 On his Twitter account, he routinely re-tweets articles critical of the administration that his wife helps lead to over 50,000 followers. 

 Some of his most eye-catching tweets, some of which were later deleted, included deeming a report that Trump’s lawyer looked into pardons for two aides “flabbergasting,” called Trump’s other behavior “absurd,” and shared a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled, “The Stormy Daniels Damage.”

So you have to wonder: why was it a problem that McCabe’s wife ran as a Democrat for a seat in a state legislature a year before anyone was even taking Trump seriously as a candidate for president but it’s apparently not a problem that Kellyanne Conway’s husband is out there front and center pointing out Trump’s many forms of foolishness?

Getting Personal – and Irrational

Trump’s vendetta against Jeff Bezos continues.  While newspapers around the world continue to report about Trump’s incompetence and corruption, the president has decided to make an example of the Washington Post by taking out his anger on Bezos’s other business, Amazon.com.  As the Post reports,

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

 Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery.

The reality is that there’s no basis for Trump’s charges and there’s one school of thought that suggests that at a time when the postal service’s letter volume is in steep decline, it’s companies like Amazon and their package delivery business that are actually keeping the postal service afloat, if only barely.  But as we’ve seen, Agent Orange has never been one to let a little thing like the facts get in the way of a good vendetta.

“Devastated and Destroyed”

 Agent Orange tweeted last Sunday that the Russia/collusion investigation has “devastated and destroyed” the reputations of people, leaving one to wonder:

Who?  Is there a single person, other than those who have already pleaded guilty to crimes or who have been charged with crimes, whose life has been “devastated and destroyed”?

Conspiculously, Trump named no such individuals.

 America:  Love it or Leave It

We haven’t heard that argument much since, oh, the days of protest against the war in Vietnam – protests, by the way, that time has proven to be correct – but it’s getting new life these days as Agent Orange puts aside the affairs of state to tackle an issue he believes to be of even greater importance:

Football players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.

After the National Football League announced a truly moronic policy – that players who wish to protest the national anthem should do so by hiding in the locker room until after the anthem is played – Trump took to Fox & Friends to offer his perspective:

I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.

Birds of a feather…

Which only reminds The Curmudgeon of the ravings of another loon, Major Frank Burns of the television program M*A*S*H, who once declared that

Unless we each conform, unless we obey orders, unless we follow our leaders blindly, there is no possible way we can remain free.

 

 

 

 

 

And Fringe Benefits, Too!

Apple CEO Tim Cook is a very well-paid boy.

You’d be smiling, too

His base salary is $3 million.

His 2017 bonus was $9.3 million.

During the year he owned 560,000 shares of Apple stock that vested.  The value:  $89 million.

He has 2.94 million more shares of Apple stock that will eventually vest.  Their value, if they vest at the price of Apple stock on the day The Curmudgeon wrote this piece:  $392 million.

There is no way in the world this kind of compensation can possibly be justified, but that’s a subject for another time.  No, The Curmudgeon’s interest today is in some of the fringe benefits Apple paid its CEO.

It paid $3000 for his life insurance premiums.

Because we wouldn’t want the family to go to the poor house if the guy died tomorrow.

And reimbursed him $103,000 for unused vacation time.

That’s nice:  The Curmudgeon once worked for a company that unapologetically refused to pay him for three days of unused vacation time when his salary was $56,000 a year.

And The Curmudgeon’s favorite:  Apple put $16,200 into Cook’s personal 401(k).

Because a guy worth a half-billion dollars never knows when he’s going to need to fall back on his pension.

The greed knows no end, does it?

 

 

 

The Trump Watch (late May) (part 1 of 2)

With every passing month the doings of the Trump administration get more and more bizarre.  Today and tomorrow, The Curmudgeon shares just a few of the highlights – well, okay, more than just a few.

Presidential Pardons

Lost amid the dizzying speed with which appalling news comes out of the Trump big-top is Agent Orange’s pardon of Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Libby, you will recall, was convicted in 2007 of several felonies, among them perjury, lying to the FBI, and obstruction of justice, all misdeeds involving his participation in the effort to cover up who in the Bush administration leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

How seriously can you take a guy when his name…

Libby’s crimes were serious, but a president who’s lying himself to cover up something probably doesn’t see a whole lot wrong with what Libby did.  Also, it’s hard not to suspect that the purpose of this unjustified pardon is to signal to those who might be forced to provide information about Trump to authorities that the president will have their back in the future.  But they shouldn’t count on it:  if nothing else, Trump has shown that perhaps with the exception of his precious Ivanka, he will throw anyone – ANYONE – under the proverbial bus.

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Trump called former FBI director James Comey “a slimeball.”

Well, if there’s anyone who’s an authority on slimeballs…

The First Amendment Be Damned

Kim Jong-Trump expresses reverence for the second amendment but apparently thinks the first amendment is for the birds.  When James Comey was still FBI director he met with Trump and the president expressed concern about all the leaking from his administration.  Instead of questioning his own judgment about the people with whom he’s chosen to surround himself who are leaking like sieves and, essentially, betraying him, Trump reserved his ire instead for the reporters who are just doing their jobs and sharing those leaks with their readers.

As the Washington Post reported,

Comey said he told the president, “I was eager to find leakers and would like to nail one to the door as a message. I said something about it being difficult and he replied that we need to go after the reporters, and referred to the fact that 10 or 15 years ago we put them in jail to find out what they know, and it worked.”

Trump was referring to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who was imprisoned for failing to reveal her sources on a story about who leaked Valerie Plame’s identity.

But “it worked”?  No, actually, it didn’t:  Miller spent nearly three months in jail and was released without revealing her source.

In the same conversation Trump combined his disdain for the first amendment with his love of the idea of encouraging acts of violence against people he perceives to be his enemies.  Again, from the Washington Post:

“I said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message,” Comey said. “ by saying it may involve putting reporters in jail. ‘They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, they are ready to talk.’

“Make a new friend,” of course, being Trump’s way of suggesting that if a male reporter who refuses to reveal his source is imprisoned and sodomized by another mail prisoner he will happily reveal his source in exchange for his freedom.

This is the kind of person we now have in the White House.

And if You Can’t Throw Them in Jail…

…you can always “monitor” them.

At least that’s what the web site Think Progress notes has been reported by Bloomberg News.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking to compile a database of journalists, bloggers and social media “influencers” here and overseas, Bloomberg reported.

 A request filed on April 3 sought a contractor to gather information on people posting across all platforms — radio, print, digital, and television — in 100 languages. Bids are expected on April 13.

This is both foolish and dangerous.  Again, there’s this little thing called the first amendment.

And if You Can’t Monitor Them…

…you can take away their press privileges.

Or so Trump suggested in a recent tweet:

The Fake News is working overtime.  Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?

Hmmm, suppressing the press:  isn’t that in chapter two of the dictators’ handbook?

Taking the Fifth

Trump doesn’t want to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller.  His aides are encouraging him not to, too, knowing well that the guy can’t keep his mouth shut.  They put him through a dry run of some anticipated Mueller questioning and the Wall Street Journal reported on how it went.

In an informal, four-hour practice session, Mr. Trump’s lawyers were only able to walk him through two questions, given the frequent interruptions on national-security matters along with Mr. Trump’s loquaciousness, one person familiar with the matter said.

Taking the fifth – or blowing a kiss to a cute juror?

Can you imagine how many of the things he said probably would have gotten him in trouble? No wonder he’s so afraid of Mueller.

But not talking to Mueller?  Isn’t that a lot like… taking the fifth?

And we all know how Trump feels about taking the fifth.  See it for yourself here.

When will he learn that someone is capturing everything he says and when he says dumb things they’re always – always – going to come back to haunt him.

With Friends Like These

Agent Orange has spoken glowingly of his personal lawyer/fixer, Michael Cohen.  In defending his use of his own money to pay off Stormy Daniels, Cohen has suggested that it’s the kind of thing that friends do for friends.

But this is how Trump treats his friends, as reported by the publication Business Insider:

President Donald Trump reportedly humiliated his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen at his son’s bar mitzvah in 2012. 

 Trump was apparently so late to the event … that he delayed the blessings, according to what an attendee told the Wall Street Journal.

 The future president then gave a speech in which he said he hadn’t actually planned on attending but came after Cohen begged him to come by repeatedly calling him, his secretary, and his children. The attendee said guests cracked up at Trump’s remarks, because they seemed fairly believable. 

With friends like these…

Short Attention Span

We’ve heard a lot about Trump’s short attention span and unwillingness to read.  The New Yorker offers another enlightening example.

When Trump assumed office, N.S.C. staffers initially generated memos for him that resembled those produced for his predecessors: multi-page explications of policy and strategy. But “an edict came down,” a former staffer told me: “ ‘Thin it out.’ ” The staff dutifully trimmed the memos to a single page. “But then word comes back: ‘This is still too much.’ ” A senior Trump aide explained to the staffers that the President is “a visual person,” and asked them to express points “pictorially.”

 “By the time I left, we had these cards,” the former staffer said. They are long and narrow, made of heavy stock, and emblazoned with the words “the white house” at the top. Trump receives a thick briefing book every night, but nobody harbors the illusion that he reads it. Current and former officials told me that filling out a card is the best way to raise an issue with him in writing. Everything that needs to be conveyed to the President must be boiled down, the former staffer said, to “two or three points, with the syntactical complexity of ‘See Jane run.’ ”

Sheesh!

More on the Price to Pay for Ignorance

When you have no history of paying attention to public affairs and no demonstrated background in public affairs and refuse to listen to the experts and refuse to read the materials your staff gives you about things you know nothing about, you’re going to make mistakes – and that’s exactly what Trump did when going overboard in his enthusiasm about meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un.  That meeting has now been scrapped, and it’s clear that it failed because of a combination of Kim Jong-Un outsmarting Kim Jong-Trump and Trump making the pretty serious mistake of paying too much attention to his own inflated hype, including all that silly talk about a Nobel Peace Prize.  Vanity Fairexplains.

In his rush to reach a disarmament agreement with North Korea, Trump appears to have badly misjudged his adversary, Kim Jong Un. As multiple State Department sources have told me, U.S. demands that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons were always going to be a nonstarter for Kim. Nevertheless, Trump appeared to misinterpret Kim’s overtures, relayed via South Korean President Moon Jae-in, that he would unilaterally disarm, and was reportedly “surprised” and “angered” last week when North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator released a statement to that effect. According to The New York Times, Trump now believes he may have made a mistake in agreeing to meet with Kim

And this:

Diplomats and North Korea experts, however, say this was entirely predictable. “Kim Jong Un has not offered to give up his nuclear weapons. He has not done that. He has never said anything remotely close to that,” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at Middlebury College, told me recently. “What he has said is that he is willing to endorse the kind of vague principle of the elimination of nuclear weapons.” But Trump, in his excitement over the prospect of a Nobel Peace Prize, inflated his expectations for the June 12 summit. As Korea expert Victor Cha noted, Kim had “not even reaffirmed the more definitive statements about denuclearization that were used by the North Koreans in the past,” during previous negotiations with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. “It all sounds good if you are not aware of what North Korea’s strategy is. North Korea in the end, they do want a peace treaty, and they do want normalization, but they want those things as a nuclear-weapon state. . . . They’re willing to part with some of their capability, but they’re certainly not willing to part with all of it.”

So how did Trump miscalculate so badly?  Again, Vanity Fair:

It is not clear, exactly, how this message got lost, or whether Trump merely misunderstood the context of the negotiations. White House aides told the Times they are concerned the president does not understand the elements of North Korea’s nuclear program—details with which Kim is intimately familiar—and that Trump “has resisted the kind of detailed briefings about enrichment capabilities, plutonium reprocessing, nuclear weapons production and missile programs that Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush regularly sat through.” 

That kind of ignorance can get a lot of people hurt.

What Does Trump Believe In?

Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster decided to prepare a succinct document, just eight pages, presenting the president’s views on world affairs, but when he and his staff tried to determine what, exactly, those views were, they ran into a little problem, as The New Yorker reported:

Composing the document was a challenge, because Trump did not havemany concrete views on foreign policy beyond bumper-sticker sentiments like “America first.” When McMaster requested Trump’s input, the President grew frustrated and defensive, as if he’d been ambushed with a pop quiz. So staffers adopted Trump’s broad ideal of American competitiveness and tried to extrapolate which policies he might favor in specific instances. McMaster touted the resulting document as “highly readable,” and as a text it seems reassuringly plausible. But nobody on McMaster’s staff could confirm for me with any conviction that the President himself had read it.

 Ladies and gentlemen, the leader of the free world.

Lies

One of the reasons Trump originally offered when denying allegations about the Moscow golden shower incident was his insistence that he had not spent the night in question in Moscow.  That explanation – his alibi – dissolved in stages until eventually the president had to admit it was a lie.

At first he said he only used his hotel room to shower and dress for his Miss Universe pageant.

After all, he wanted to be fresh as a daisy amid a pool of beautiful young women gathered in one place for him to abuse.

But in the process of revealing that FBI director James Comey had informed him about the dossier with the golden shower story, months after that Comey meeting and months after Trump claimed he hadn’t spent the night in Moscow, Trump changed his tune, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“He said I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there,” Trump said. “I stayed there a very short period of time but of course I stayed.”

No, the only one claiming that Trump hadn’t spent that night in Moscow was Trump himself – until he decided he needed to change his story and said he’d spent the night there after all.

More Lies

At a gathering of military families and mothers, Trump proudly boasted that he was giving members of the military their first pay raises in ten years.

Only it wasn’t true.

Oh, military members WERE getting pay raises:  but then, military pay has risen every year – for more than 30 years.

So where did Trump get his numbers?  He didn’t:  he just made them up.

Because that’s what he does.

Still More Lies

Last weekend found Trump outraged – outraged! – over what he insisted was the New York Times’s fabrication of a news source to confirm that while Trump has reconsidered his decision to cancel the meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, that meeting almost certainly will not take place on the originally scheduled date of June 12.  He tweeted that

The Failing @nytimes quotes ‘a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist, as saying ‘even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.  WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.”

Just one problem:  that information was provided not just to the Timesbut to a newsroom full of White House reporters last Friday in a background briefing – that is, information that can be used but not attributed to anyone.  Which is exactly what the Timesdid after the White House’s very intentional decision to share this information with the press.  The Times, which almost always conducts itself above-board and honorably, did the honorable thing and didn’t name the source even after the president’s attack.  Other reporters, though, did name names:  the spokesman was Matthew Pottinger, who is on the staff of the National Security Council.

Maybe a little less of this?

Maybe if Trump paid more attention to what his own people are doing on his behalf he wouldn’t be caught so infrequently with his lies – and in this case, a lie that wasn’t even about something important.  One way he can do that:  PUT DOWN THE REMOTE CONTROL.

(more tomorrow)

Ford Surrenders

When U.S. automakers (allegedly) hit the skids during the financial crisis of 2008-2010, U.S. taxpayers came to their rescue.  The Curmudgeon has no intention of tackling the question of whether this was a good idea or not; he’d have to do a lot of homework before giving Regis his final answer on that one.

Ford ponied up to the bar and took a $5.9 billion loan that the Congressional Research Service says saved 33,000 jobs.  Was that a good investment?  Two observations here:  first, again, The Curmudgeon doesn’t know enough to say; and second, Ford isn’t expected to finish repaying the loan for another four years, so for at least that part of the transaction the jury is still out.  At the time Ford borrowed the money, it said it needed it, in part, to retool its manufacturing plants to make more fuel-efficient cars.

But Ford recently announced that in the coming years it will stop making all but two models of passenger cars, the Mustang and the Focus, and focus instead, no pun intended, and on manufacturing trucks, SUVs, and crossovers.

So much for fuel-efficient cars.

Ford never really got over the idea that this is the car Americans want

In hindsight, Ford never had a chance.  Foreign companies, mostly Japanese, outclassed the folks at Ford in every way:  they designed better cars and they did a better job of building them. When we wanted smaller cars, they were ready with the cars we wanted while Ford took years to catch up. When we wanted better cars, more reliable cars, they were ready with the cars we wanted and Ford never caught up. Oh, you could still order your Ford in any color in the rainbow, but what you were ordering was a decidedly inferior car because Ford was more interested in selling you a car in the color you wanted than in selling you the car you wanted:  one that got good gas mileage and was reliable.

About ten years ago The Curmudgeon went on vacation to Florida and reserved a compact car for his six-day visit.  As has happened about 50 percent of the times The Curmudgeon has reserved a compact rental, when he reached the reservations desk the sales representative told him they were out of compacts and upgraded him to a mid-size:  the Ford Taurus. When The Curmudgeon found his car in the lot it was absolutely eerie:  the car was the same color as the Camry The Curmudgeon then owned, both the interior and the exterior.  He slid into the driver’s seat and felt right at home.

But before The Curmudgeon even left the mile or so access road leading into and out of Tampa International Airport – spring training! – he could feel, without question even for a non-car guy like himself – how totally inferior this Taurus was, in every way, to his Camry.

So in the end, Ford realized it couldn’t compete and decided to give up even trying.  It’s probably for the best:  after 40 years of pretending to try and 30 or so of actually trying, it’s become abundantly clear that the folks who run and work for Ford simply aren’t up the challenge.  They just aren’t smart enough.

 

 

 

 

That’s What the Headline Said

The Fox News web site headline, that is, of late last week declaring that

The House is revolting

Which, of course, one can read in more than one way.

Giving rise to a simple question: in this case, do you view “revolting” as a verb or an adjective?

Hey Sweden: About That Nobel Peace Prize

In the wake of Kim Jong-Trump’s cancellation of his big summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, here’s hoping you didn’t lay out the $19.95 to have Agent Orange’s name engraved on the prize.  You won’t be needing it anytime soon, his supporters’ premature speculation notwithstanding.

America’s Worst-Selling Cars

While driving along one Saturday afternoon in America’s most popular car (the Honda Civic, #1 in U.S. sales in 2017) The Curmudgeon heard a news report on his car radio – terrestrial radio, he’s not buying the cow when the milk is free – about the worst-selling cars in the U.S. in 2017. When he came to the next red light he stopped and jotted it down in the notepad he keeps in his car for this very reason – you don’t think this random crap just materialize out of thin air, do you? – and when he got home he did a quick web search and found the list.

The Buick Verrano: only 4277 sold in all of 2017. Yeesh!

Here is the list of the 15 worst-selling cars in the U.S. in 2017.

  1. Buick Verrano
  2. Dodge Dart
  3. Volkswagen CC
  4. Chrysler 200
  5. Nissan Quest
  6. Toyota Yaris
  7. Buick Regal
  8. Jeep Patriot
  9. Buick LaCrosse
  10. Cadillac CTS
  11. Hyundai Genesis
  12. Buick Cascada
  13. Cadillac XTS
  14. Cadillac ATS
  15. Buick Envision

Do you see the common thread here – other than that they’re mostly cars The Curmudgeon, a notoriously not-a-car guy, has never heard of?

That’s right:  eight of the 15 cars are made by General Motors – five of them Buicks and three of them Cadillacs; another three – the Dodge, the Chrysler, and the Jeep – trace their lineage to American roots.  It looks like American car manufacturers have fallen upon their hard times the old-fashioned way:  they earned it by making lame automobiles that no one wants.

Getting the Whole Story, Not Just Part of It

When The Curmudgeon cried uncle recently and went to see his family doctor about the shoulder pain that had been bothering him for oh, about four months, she quickly diagnosed it as tendinitis of the rotator cuff, said he did not need x-rays or an MRI – she knows he wants to avoid this whenever possible because after radiation treatment and the constant CAT scans that follow such a thing he already glows slightly in the dark – and offered three courses of action.

She could give him some exercises to do and see if they help.

He could go to physical therapy and let someone else give him exercises to see if they help.

Or she could give him a shot of cortisone and put him out of his misery.

The Curmudgeon liked that approach:  he came to her with a problem and she laid out his options and offered to send him to the next step along the way if that was what he chose.

She laid out ALL of his options and helped him pursue the option of his choice.

Yeah, so, what’s the point?

The point is that the Trump administration recently announced changes in how it will distribute Title X federal family planning money – changes that will prevent family planning providers from counseling their clients about all of their options.

When women go to a family planning facility for family planning assistance, someone there presents the various options available to them depending on their individual situation and needs.  The conversation may touch on sexually transmitted diseases but it’s usually about birth control options – and other options when it’s too late to talk about birth control.  Among the options are abstinence, different types of birth control, having and keeping a baby, giving a baby up for adoption, and abortion.  If women express interest in any of these options, family planning sites typically give them further information about the services they seek and how to get them.  All of these options, it’s important to note, are legal in this country and have been now for many years.

But now the Trump administration has proposed establishing a new rule that calls for any facility that provides further information about one of those options – abortion, naturally – to become ineligible for Title X federal family planning money.

Even though abortion is, of course, completely legal.

The target, of course, primarily being Planned Parenthood.

Because once again, the people who repeatedly insist that they want to get government out of the lives of its citizens are demanding yet again the right to burrow into the vaginas of its female citizens.

The hypocrisy – and the lunacy – never end.

Hey, Texans!

How do you feel about that thar second amendment NOW, pardners?

Or do you still consider 10 dead bodies, including eight of your babies, to be a reasonable price to pay once in a while in exchange for the right to delude yourself into thinking you’re swinging a bigger dick than the guy next door?