Monthly Archives: September 2018

It Takes Real Balls

Example #1

Michael Cohen, whose net worth is generally placed as high as $20 million, has launched a “GoFundMe” account to help pay his lawyer bills.  Roger Stone, political dirty tricks expert extraordinaire going all the way back to the days of Richard Nixon, has declared that he expects to be indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller and is making a similar pitch for financial support for his legal costs.  Stone is reportedly worth about $10 million.

Example #2

Congressman Duncan Hunter, indicted for using campaign contributions for personal and family purposes in violation of federal campaign finance laws, is using campaign funds to pay for his defense against charges that he broke the law by using campaign funds for personal purposes.

REAL balls.

Which is Harder to Believe?

You be the judge.

The first:

Last week the Houston Texans of the National Football League lost to the Tennessee Titans by a score of 20-17.  The Houston team was trying to score when time ran out and the game ended. The Houston Chronicle published a story about the game and its ending and, as is often the case, readers posted their own comments after the story in the newspaper’s online edition.  One of those comments read:

That may have been the most inept quarterback decision I’ve seen in the NFL.  When you need precision decision making you can’t count on a black quarterback.

The quarterback of the Houston team, Deshaun Watson, is black.

That’s pretty bad, right?


The second:

The person who wrote that comment?  It was the superintendent of the Onalaska Independent School District, which is about 75 miles from Houston.

So, which is worst?  The comment or the source?  Or does it even matter?

Thinking About Bert and Ernie

Must we really be subjected to speculation about whether two puppets are gay or straight?

And if so, who’s next?

“Hey, Rock, wanna see me pull a rabbit out of my hat?”
“That wasn’t what you pulled out last night, Bullwinkle.”

Do we need to ponder Rocky and Bullwinkle?  Yogi and Boo Boo?

Batman and Robin?  (Okay, The Curmudgeon concedes that a LOT of people have some thoughts about that particular dynamic duo.)

For that matter, didn’t those Three Stooges ALWAYS sleep together?

And Sherman and Mr. Peabody:  was Mr. Peabody some kind of pedophile?

Can’t they just be…Bert and Ernie, for crying out loud?

A Little Too Controlling?

Not to suggest that The Curmudgeon is a little too fussy and demanding when it comes to the written word but…

Last week was the very uncurmudgeonly Mrs. Curmudgeon’s birthday and her husband purchased a card with what he thought was the best, most appropriate, most romantic and heartfelt message he could find.

Then he took it home, read it again…and edited it.

In red ink.

A bit much?

You Can’t Have it Both Ways

Last week the actor Matthew Perry tweeted for the first time in five months, declaring

Three months in a hospital bed. Check

That’s pretty bad news if you’re a Matthew Perry fan, which The Curmudgeon is, although he thinks it’s pretty bad news even for people of whom you’re not a fan.

Inquiring reporters immediately began querying the people who are responsible for Perry’s publicity, seeking to learn more about what’s wrong with the former Chandler Bing.

Then, as reported by People magazine – apologies for the weak source but this isn’t exactly the kind of issue to which the Wall Street Journal assigns a team of reporters – we learned that

In August, it was first revealed that the actor was on the mend after undergoing surgery. “Matthew Perry recently underwent surgery in a Los Angeles hospital to repair a gastrointestinal perforation,” a rep for the actor said in a statement to PEOPLE.

 “He is grateful for the concern and asks for continued privacy as he heals,” the statement concluded.

Sorry, Matthew Perry and his people:  you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t interrupt your five-month radio silence with such major news and then demand that your privacy be respected.  If you’re all that interested in your privacy you don’t tweet about the hospital stay and if you do, you share more than the very little bit of information you grudgingly offered.

But that’s show biz:  they do everything they can think of to get into and stay in the public eye but when they get into it for something they don’t really want to talk about – even when they raised the subject themselves – they suddenly go all dignified and ask for respect for their privacy.

The Curmudgeon says nuts to that.  As he wrote, he considers himself a Matthew Perry fan but Perry opened this door and he has no inherent right to close it in the manner he has.

Good Help Can be Hard to Find…

…when you’re Donald Trump.

Putting aside the ridiculous manner in which he’s attempting to run the country, he gives every sign of being a terrible boss.  He doesn’t listen to the advice of people who know more than him about certain things – mostly because he doesn’t believe ANYONE knows more than him about ANYTHING; he doesn’t read and has a short attention span, which makes it difficult to convey information to him; he’s suspicious of those around him who receive public attention for their ability or administration-related achievements and almost instantly seeks to undermine such people; and he has an unusual, unjustified degree of confidence in the ability and judgment of his adult children and their spouses.

When he ran for president he told us he would surround himself with the very best people – the very best people, really, absolutely fantastic people.  He hasn’t.  Some of the people he put in important jobs are, arguably, among the best and brightest (Gary Cohn, the former National Economic Council director who resigned when Trump didn’t take seriously his warning that tariffs would be a disaster); most decidedly are not (Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt, anyone?); and others, like former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, are people of accomplishment in other areas of endeavor who are in no way qualified for the jobs to which he appointed them.

Beavis and Butthead here are Trump’s idea of good lawyers

Even before he was elected, The Curmudgeon read that Trump was especially litigious but that his reputation was that he didn’t hire very good lawyers to conduct all that litigation.  Exhibit A is Michael Cohen and Exhibit B is (bat shit crazy) Rudy Giuliani.  Exhibit C is the great difficulty he’s had finding someone to represent his legal interests in the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.  Again, it’s not hard to understand why:  even when Trump hires people who know things he doesn’t he’s not going to take their advice much of the time.  People who are at the top of their field and who can choose for whom they work are not going to choose to work for someone like Trump.  The icing on the cake of disinclination to work for him is his reputation for stiffing people when they present bills for the services they have provided to him.

The Curmudgeon got to thinking about this recently when he read a New York Timesarticle about White House counsel Don McGahn’s extensive interviews with special counsel Mueller’s staff.  The article offered a little background information about McGahn, noting where he had worked prior to taking his current job and mentioning that he had attended the Widener University Commonwealth Law School and that Trump had at first been hesitant about hiring McGahn because he wanted someone from a top law school.

To suggest that Widener is not a top law school is an understatement.  It’s not.

To suggest Widener is even a decent law school is an overstatement.  It’s not.

In fact, in the greater Philadelphia area, where there are six law schools – Widener as well as Penn, Villanova, Temple, Rutgers, and Drexel – you would be hard-pressed to find even a single person who would rate Widener as anything other than sixth among them.  It’s not a very good school and many of its graduates are just plain mediocre.

That doesn’t mean they’re all mediocre and it certainly doesn’t mean McGahn is mediocre.  Without question, people reach a point in their professional lives where their ability and their accomplishments say more about them than their credentials – after all, when was the last time someone asked you what you scored on your SATs? – but still, the idea that the president of the United States, who should pretty much have his pick of the litter when it comes to selecting his White House counsel, ended up choosing the runt of the litter says a lot more about Donald Trump than it does about Don McGahn.  (Who, incidentally, was shown the door a week after Trump learned of his little chats with Mueller’s team.  For once, though, Trump did it nicely:  it was announced that McGahn would be leaving his job before the end of the year, although that departure is clearly not voluntarily.)

Some Folks Still Don’t Get It

Very good at his job but apparently not a very good person

By now you’ve probably heard that CBS has said bon voyage to its president and CEO, Les Moonves, after it turned out that Moonves has been using his power to take advantage of women for a very long time.  Of all of the public figures who’ve been caught doing this so far, Moonves is the biggest fish by far because for the past 23 years he’s been an executive of a media conglomerate that includes not just CBS television, with which we’re most familiar, but also the CW network, CBS Films, CBS Records, the Chowhound web site, CNET, Showtime, The Movie Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, Simon & Schuster publishing, and many, many others.  The biggest fish before Moonves was Harvey Weinstein, but his movie studios probably didn’t release more than one movie a month.

So Moonves is a very big deal who was very good at his job, and under his leadership CBS made an awful lot of money for an awful lot of people, so it’s not surprising that some of those people were reluctant to let him go.

Even though they understood what he has been doing for, apparently, many years, as the New York Times recently reported.

“We are going to stay in this meeting until midnight if we need to until we get an agreement that we stand 100 percent behind our C.E.O., and there will be no change in his status,” said one board member, William Cohen, a former congressman and senator who was defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, according to directors who heard the remarks and other people who were briefed on them.

Another director, Arnold Kopelson, an 83-year-old producer who won a Best Picture Oscar for “Platoon,” was even stronger in his defense of Mr. Moonves, the directors and others said. “I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff,” Mr. Kopelson said in a meeting soon after the conference call. “Les is our leader and it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.”

That last one is especially interesting:  Kopelson said that “I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff.  Les is our leader and it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.”

Even if 30 more women stepped forward with similar allegations.  

Cohen, Kopelson, and their board colleagues only relented, the Times reports, when one of Moonves’s accusers threatened to go public.  Then and only then did they realize they were going to have to part ways with their cash cow.

And if that one woman hadn’t been willing to go public and no others would, either?  Moonves would still be running CBS with the enthusiastic support of his board of directors.

Despite everything we’ve been experiencing and witnessing this past year or so, it’s clear that some people still haven’t gotten the message – and some of these people are very, very influential.

It looks like we’ve got a long way to go, baby.


Hard to Believe

Few areas of endeavor have been hit as hard by our new-found, long-overdue unwillingness to tolerate the physical mistreatment of women than professional sports. After a few especially egregious incidents and especially weak responses to those incidents, the National Football League appears, finally, to be taking such matters seriously and responding swiftly when they occur.

In some situations, a case might be made that those reactions may even be a little too swift.  These days, a player doesn’t have to be convicted of assaulting his wife or girlfriend or sister or whomever.  All he has to do is be accused, not even necessarily charged with a crime, and his team drops him like a hot potato and no one will touch him.  It hasn’t happened yet, but one day one of those charges will be bogus and an innocent man will lose his livelihood at least for a while and his reputation probably forever, but it looks like it’s going to be a while before the pendulum swings back in the other direction.

Mychal Kendricks is a professional football player who hasn’t been accused of assaulting his wife or girlfriend or sister or whomever.  No, he came to our attention last month for another reason: he was accused of participating in an insider trading scheme that netted him $1.2 million in ill-gotten gains. The feds had the goods on him and he quickly pleaded guilty.  He hasn’t been sentenced yet but published reports suggest that he could spend as long as 25 years in the hoosegow.

But Kendricks hasn’t been sentenced yet so he needs something constructive to do with his time and last week he found that something:  he signed a contract to play football for the Seattle Seahawks this season.  Details are not yet available about the contract but Kendricks, who has already made $20 million in his NFL career, will be doing pretty well for a guy who will soon be fitted for an orange jumpsuit:  the NFL minimum salary this year for a player with Kendricks’ years of experience is $790,000.

So a guy who allegedly strikes a woman but has neither been convicted nor even charged will lose his job almost immediately but another fellow who pleads guilty to stealing more than a million dollars and stands to go to prison for as long as 25 years can get a job earning at least three-quarters of a million dollars, and probably much more, while awaiting sentencing.

Is this a great country or what?

But They’ve Got…Personality

As he wrote yesterday, The Curmudgeon attended a Phillies game this week.  Parking in the stadium area – for readers who aren’t Philadelphians, there are three stadiums within a few hundred feet of one another in Philadelphia, none of which The Curmudgeon will name because he’s not in the business of giving commercial plugs to rapacious banks and financial institutions – is always confusing:  you’re never quite sure where to go, finding your car after the game is often an adventure, and figuring out how to get out of the parking lot and onto the highway of your choice for the drive home is practically a death sport.

Only not $5. $18.

When he finally left his parked car and tried to place it in the context of an enormous sea of auto-covered asphalt so he could find it after the game, The Curmudgeon started a five-minute walk toward the stadium, with a parking attendant cheerfully stopping traffic to enable The Curmudgeon to cross the street (so he could, like the chicken, get to the other side).  The attendant walked with him, and at that point The Curmudgeon realized that all of the parking people he encountered who had ushered him from the main street through which he had entered the stadium complex to his eventual parking spot seemed unusually upbeat and he decided he wanted to know why (The Curmudgeon being, as you know, pretty curmudgeonly and expecting curmudgeonliness of others as their default disposition).

“So tell me something,” The Curmudgeon said to the parking attendant.  “You guys are all very upbeat and positive. That’s not very Philadelphia. What’s the deal?”

He looked at The Curmudgeon and smiled.

“That’s right.  That’s how this company hires:  personality.  If you have it, if you’re positive, you get the job.  If you don’t have it, they don’t care how much parking experience you have, they’re not going to hire you.”

The Curmudgeon mentioned this to the friend he was meeting at the game and his friend immediately summoned a parallel to some of his own experiences, noting that the people who work at one fast food restaurant he frequents (alas, Chick-fil-A) are always positive and friendly while those at another (Wendy’s) tend to be pretty sour.

So where do you think he prefers to eat his occasional poison?

A lot of businesses could learn lessons from customer experiences like these.

Sticker Shock

The Curmudgeon attended a major league baseball game in Philadelphia this week.

After emptying his wallet for an overcooked pretzel and a bottle of water, The Curmudgeon was afraid even to ask about the price of peanuts and Crackerjack

He’s not much for eating food cooked by the kinds of companies that run ballpark, arena, airport, and airline concessions and didn’t have a chance to eat dinner before arriving for the game so he thought he’d play it safe.

A soft pretzel and a bottle of water.

The pretzel was $6.  (But it’s a Bavarian pretzel,” the kindly, sympathetic cashier told him.)

The bottle of water:  $5.

So he played it safe – but he certainly didn’t play it cheap.