Monthly Archives: May 2018

You Have to Wonder Why

Welcome back. We haven’t seen you in a loooonnnng long time

Why, that is, Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen sought one million dollars for his services from Qatar shortly after Trump was elected president.

Of what possible use could a lawyer and fixer be to this guy?

That’s What the Headline Said

Incredibly, this headline appeared on philly.com, the web site of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

Uranus has a funny smell, scientists say

Insert your own snarky comment here.

Is This What They Mean by “Irony”?

Example One:

Melania Trump, after sitting and cowering in a corner of the White House for more than a year while reconsidering her deal to sell her soul to the devil in exchange for a life of leisure, finally decides what will be her “cause” as first lady and settles, without a hint of shame, on an anti-cyber-bullying campaign for children even though that strange orange man who sleeps in the bedroom down the hall from her is perhaps the greatest proponent and greatest beneficiary – ever – of cyber-bullying.

Example Two:

An administration led by a president who cheated on his first wife, cheated on his second wife, cheated on his third wife, paid women with whom he cheated not to talk about it, and fathered a daughter out of wedlock (Tiffany, delivered by Marla Maples on October 13, 1993, after which Ms. Maples married The Donald on December 20, 1993), announces that it’s shifting the emphasis of its anti-teen pregnancy programs – and most of the money to fund such programs –from sex education to promoting abstinence.

Memo to the Trump Administration

To:          The Trump administration

From:      The Four-Eyed Curmudgeon

Date:       May 17, 2018

Subject:  Leaks

________________________________________________________________

When a member of your administration leaks something to the press – whether it’s about a conversation with the president of Australia that went off the rails, about a member of the cabinet referring to your boss as a f—g moron, or, as we heard just last week, about a junior-level communications staffer showing off what she mistakenly believes to be her sense of humor by making an unfortunate remark about the life expectancy of a member of the U.S. Senate, it’s not the press’s fault for reporting on that leak.

Nor is it the fault of television and radio talking heads for talking about that leak.

Nor is it the fault of ordinary citizens who want to talk about the leak, ask questions about the leak, or seek further information about the issue raised by the leak.

No, it’s your fault.  YOUR FAULT.  When the president had that obnoxious conversation with the president of Australia shortly after he took office, there were what, four or five highly trusted people in the room at the time?  One of them leaked.  That means you’re trusting people you shouldn’t be trusting.  You’re exhibiting poor judgment.  Your own people are betraying you.

When a junior-level communications staffer made that comment about Senator McCain, there were what, five people in that meeting?  Ten people?  Fifteen?  Twenty?  They all work for the administration, isn’t that correct?  And you trusted them all, isn’t that correct?  Well, you made a grave mistake because at least one of them decided to betray that trust and share that ill-considered comment with the outside world.  You have exhibited poor judgment.  One of your own people betrayed you.

Once that leak is made, moreover, the information is out there.  You can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube.  You can talk all you want about how the leak is regrettable, about how the comment or information or whatever wasn’t intended for public consumption, but it’s out there and you probably need to address it.  If you choose not to address it, though, continually complaining about the leak and about the leak being reported is not an option. It makes you look ridiculous – ridiculous because you’re pretending as if the information that got out never actually got out, ridiculous because almost everything that’s being leaked is true and the one thing you seldom do is deny the truth of all these leaks, and ridiculous because the longer the whole thing goes on, the more you keep reminding people that you don’t even know who, among your own people, you can actually trust.

Which makes us trust you and your judgment and your efforts on behalf of your country – OUR country – even less than we already do.

Medicaid for…White People?

That’s the way things are heading in the state of Michigan, where the federal government just gave the state permission to impose a work requirement on many Medicaid recipients and the state legislature is trying to decide how to implement such a requirement.

It’s a little complicated, but here’s the story.

Because unemployment is high in parts of Michigan, according to a proposal the state legislature is considering, people who live in counties where the unemployment rate is greater than 8.5 percent wouldn’t have to meet the Medicaid work requirement.  The rationale is that if there are already so many people out of work, it probably doesn’t make sense to penalize people for not working.

But people who live in counties where the unemployment rate is less than 8.5 percent would have to meet the requirement because in theory, if the unemployment rate is that low – although since when is eight percent a low unemployment rate? – people need to suck it up and get jobs.

The result:  in 17 Michigan counties that are mostly white and mostly rural and all represented by Republicans in the state legislature, Medicaid recipients would be exempt from any Medicaid work requirement.

But Medicaid recipients who live in six cities with some of the highest unemployment rates in the state and some of the highest proportions of minority residents in the state would be subject to the Medicaid work requirement.

Why?

Because those cities are located within counties where the unemployment rate is less than 8.5 percent – mostly because those poor cities, with their large minority populations, are surrounded by more well-to-do suburbs.  So people who live in Detroit, for example, would be subject to the requirement because while the unemployment rate in Detroit is now, depending on your source, somewhere between 8.7 percent and 9.5 percent, or about twice the state average (currently 4.7 percent, although on the campaign trail, didn’t Trump insist that inner-city unemployment was two or three times higher than the “official” count?), the unemployment rate in Wayne County, in which Detroit is located, is only 5.5 percent.

The bill to establish such a policy was written by a white member of the state legislature.  And where did he get the idea for the 8.5 percent unemployment threshold? From the Michigan Chamber of Commerce (you see:  The Curmudgeon told you that chambers of commerce are not the good guys).

So what you have, unless someone smacks the state legislature in     its collective face and makes it come to its senses, will be Medicaid for white people in Michigan.

What Kind of Person Runs for Lieutenant Governor?

Seriously: what kind of person runs for lieutenant governor?

Pennsylvania will be electing a new governor this fall but first comes a primary election tomorrow in which 12 people – 12 people! – are running for lieutenant governor. Seven of them are Republicans and five are Democrats.

Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor has virtually no formal responsibilities. The current lieutenant governor has behaved so disgracefully that the governor has stripped him of almost all of the even minor responsibilities he originally delegated to him.

The job also isn’t a stepping-stone to the governor’s mansion – at least it’s not in Pennsylvania. Only once in Pennsylvania history since the office was created, in 1873, has a sitting lieutenant governor been elected governor and that was more than 50 years ago.

So what can it be?

How about a salary of $158,000?

A mansion in which to reside, complete with a staff of servants?

And a car and driver?

The field of candidates running for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania

So what kind of person runs for lieutenant governor?

Clearly, someone who has no ambition and doesn’t want to work but definitely wants to feed at the public trough for four and, ideally, eight years.

Maybe that’s why 12 people are so eager to be Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor. It sure beats working for a living.

A Very Big Fuss About a Very Little Thing

Earlier this week and amid great fanfare, the Trump administration sent to Congress a proposal to cut federal spending by $15 billion, the implicit message being that while other people sit around talking about cutting spending, this administration is actually doing something about it.

Only it’s not true.

What the proposal actually does is take off the books $15 billion that Congress authorized the federal government to spend in the past but that it never actually spent – money from last year or the year before or even the year before that. In fact, it would be illegal for the federal government to spend this money because the legal authorization for such spending has expired.  Normally, Congress – in this case, both parties – likes to keep this kind of money on the books to offset new spending it proposes – as if that’s even remotely honest.  It’s a shell game that for once Congress is claiming that it’s wrong – wrong, they tell you! – to play.

So if you read about someone complaining about how this latest proposal will cut some major program – the one getting all the attention is the children’s health insurance program, usually referred to as CHIP – just ignore it.  The CHIP money they’re proposing to cut was from last year and wasn’t spent, and all they want to do is take it off the books.

Methinks I shall call this “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Likewise, if you read about someone bragging about how they’re cutting federal spending, ignore that, too – because this proposal doesn’t cut federal spending at all.  Not a dime.

But it gives some politicians, and of course Agent Orange, a reason – an illegitimate, deceptive reason, but a reason nonetheless – to go around pounding on their chests and insisting that they’re cutting unnecessary federal spending.

But they’re not.  They’re not cutting anything.

They Have Nothing to Apologize For

In the last few days executives of AT&T and Novartis have apologized for hiring Trump fixer and soon-to-be-fitted-for-a-striped-jumpsuit lawyer Michael Cohen to lobby for their companies.

In The Curmudgeon’s eyes, they have nothing to apologize for.  Businesses hire lobbyists all the time.  Some are former members of Congress or former members of congressional staff, some are former high-ranking officials in the executive branch of the federal government, some are well-placed lawyers. Companies don’t hire such people because they’re nice guys and smart and know a lot of stuff.  No, they hire them because they know people and think such people can place a call and reach high-ranking officials in government who are making decisions that will affect their businesses.  They’re hiring them for their influence, for their ability to get things done and influence future public policy in ways that benefit their businesses (or at least don’t hurt their businesses).

Coming soon: three hots and a cot?

In hiring Cohen, AT&T and Novartis – and there may very well be others we learn about in the coming weeks – did nothing wrong.  They identified a guy they thought would give them great access to the president and be able to convey messages important to them at just the right time.  They hired a guy they thought would be able to protect their interests in much the way they perceived that he had protected the president’s interests for many years.

Okay, so maybe they DO need to apologize to their shareholders for spending company money on a guy who turned out to be a total yutz, but there’s yuuuuuge difference between making a bad decision and making a wrong one.  Yes, they picked the wrong guy, but no, they didn’t do something that was itself inherently wrong.

Save Our…Jails?

If someone developed a cure for cancer, we wouldn’t expect the folks who run hospitals to oppose it on the grounds that they’d have too many empty beds because there weren’t as many sick people. No, ordinary people would say “Hey, that’s great” and move on to other things. Sure, we’d absolutely feel bad for all of the hospital workers who are going to lose their jobs because hospitals will have fewer patients but that bad feeling would be outweighed by the joy ordinary people would feel over the cure for cancer.

Politicians, though, are not ordinary people, and they proved it recently in Pennsylvania when a state Senate committee advanced a bill that would make it harder for the state to close prisons because…

Because…

Because of the economic impact prison closings have on the communities in which the prisons are located.

Americans are, you may be aware, the most imprisoned people in the world:   666 people per 100,000 population, the world’s highest rate. El Salvador is second, at 614, and a few other countries of note are Mexico (169), France (102), Denmark (59), Japan (45), and Guinea Bissau (10, the lowest rate in the world).

Unless Americans are the worst people in the world this seems ridiculous, and a lot of Americans in recent years have come to see the foolishness of sending so many people to jail. There’s been a real criminal justice revolution in the past decade or so, led, interestingly enough, by conservatives and conservative clergy: conservatives because jails cost money and they don’t want to use tax money to imprison people and assume the really dangerous ones don’t live near them anyway, and conservative clergy because they’re starting to remember why they became clergy in the first place and have started showing compassion for people who have lost their way instead of demanding that every miscreant be sentenced to eternal damnation. Throughout the country, new approaches to dealing with law-breakers are being tested and the result has been the first decline in the incarceration rate in this country in, well, in the history of the country.

But some state legislators in Pennsylvania want to slow down the criminal justice reform train. In addition to seeking legislation to make it harder to close prisons, they also want to slow down criminal justice reform efforts because it’s those efforts that are cutting down on the number of people being sent to jail, which in turn is emptying out jails enough to make some of them unnecessary.

And members of Pennsylvania’s state legislature can’t have that: they want their prisons, they want jobs for their constituents as prison guards and prison clerks, and they want contracts for their political supporters supplying prisons with clothes, food, beds, supplies, medicine, and other things.

Or maybe they just want to be sure that when they finally get caught doing the kinds of things politicians sometimes get caught doing they’ll be sent to a place close enough to home that their family members will be able to visit them.

The Disease of the Week

“Is that really a thing?”

You hear it all the time when someone describes a medical problem you’ve never heard of – and one you don’t really buy for one minute as a legitimate medical problem.

Werewolf syndrome?

Sleeping Beauty syndrome?

Alien hand syndrome?

These are all real things – at least someone says they are.

Someone probably with too much time on his hands.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently introduced its readers to a new one in an article titled

5 questions: Does your child have nature-deficit disorder?

Seriously.

The article begins

Can your child identify a cardinal? A holly tree? Queen Anne’s lace?

 If not, “nature-deficit disorder” might be the diagnosis.

No, The Curmudgeon thinks the diagnosis is one of two things:

First, it might be some poor schmuck in academia trying to justify not going out and getting a real job.

Or second, “nature-deficit disorder” is just “slow news day syndrome.”