Monthly Archives: October 2018

“Fake Jews”

While in Detroit for a political rally on Tuesday, vice president Mike Pence decided to convey his solidarity with the families of the people killed in the synagogue mass murder in Pittsburgh by inviting a rabbi to share the stage with him.

Nice touch, right?

Well, nice touch but, it turns out, wrong rabbi.

The “rabbi” Pence and his team chose is what’s known as a “messianic rabbi.”  That means the flock to which he tends is a group better known as “Jews for Jesus.”

Which most definitely are NOT Jewish.

And Pence’s rabbi turned around and said a prayer, as reported by Vox:

Jacobs opened his prayer by invoking “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, God and father of my lord and savior Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, and my God and father, too.” (As NBC News notes, many Messianic Jews refer to Jesus as “Yeshua.”)

One observer tweeted “Fake Jews.”

There is probably no easier, faster, and better way to insult a Jew than to equate his religion with that of the so-called Jews for Jesus.

Short of wearing a swastika, anyway.

Ladies and gentlemen, our vice president, Mike Pence.  A man of all the people – so long as they are Christian.

A Great Line – and So True

Introducing a segment on his program Last Week Tonight With John Oliver on Sunday night, Oliver began by saying

States’ attorneys general – and yes, that is the correct plural, and if you already knew that, I’m sorry that high school was such a rough time for you.

That, readers, is a great line; it left Mr. and Mrs. Curmudgeon laughing out loud.  You can hear it for yourself here; it’s at the very beginning (although the whole segment is worth watching).

And yes, as you suspected, high school was reasonably rough for The Curmudgeon.

The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting – and a Short Story (part 2 of 2)

The Curmudgeon doesn’t think of himself as a pacifist.  Oh, he abhors war and violence and all that stuff, but where he parts company with true pacifists is his belief that there ARE some things worth fighting for.

He suspects that most people, including some who might casually consider themselves pacifists, would agree.  Whether it’s your child being harassed at the playground or your spouse at the diner, a country slaughtering innocents for the crime of being born a different race or religion or gender or tribe, there are times when we turn the other cheek and times when we decide that we have to take a stand and fight back.

A madman sending bombs to former presidents?  Another madman walking into a house of worship and shooting every person he encounters?  A kid with a grudge walking into an elementary school?  A homophobe entering a gay nightclub with guns blazing?  A university student who knew he had violent tendencies and had sought professional help for them climbing into the observation deck atop a building’s tower with his rifle and just randomly shooting anonymous people for no particular reason?

At what point do people decide to stop wringing their hands and start fighting back and take matters into their own hands?

More than a few years ago The Curmudgeon considered this problem in a work of fiction that is particularly relevant this week because the subject of this short story is anti-Semitism and the question it addresses is that of deciding when to continue turning one’s cheek and when to fight back.  The following is a work of fiction about a group of teenagers who tackled such a dilemma – and what they decided.

 

*            *            *

 

“The Finger”

Two boys carried trays full of high school cafeteria food and sat down with their peers at a long table in a large room full of many rows of many long tables.

“Did you hear about Danny Schneider?” one of the other boys asked them before they could even move their first bite of chicken fingers into their mouths.

“No, what?”

“They got him in the boys room in the 240 hall after eighth period yesterday.”

“Bad?”

“Not too bad.  They hit him in the ribs a few times and tried to kick him in the balls, but he covered up pretty well.”

“Did they say anything?”

“They told him he should transfer to the school with the rest of his tribe and leave this place to them and their people.”

“Was he alone?”

“Yeah.”

“Dammit, he should know better.”

“I don’t think he had much of a choice. It was after eighth period, most of us go home after seventh, but Danny has an eighth period class twice a week.”

“Well, he could’ve grabbed someone to go in with him.  Anyone would have done it for him.”

A new voice sounded from the far end of the table.

“We shouldn’t have to ask for help to go to the bathroom.  We don’t need someone to hold our pee-pees for us.  This is our school, too.”

“So what’re we going to do about it?”

No one spoke.

The boys were fighting an epidemic of violence in their own school and in their own community.  Everywhere they went they met with anger, hatred, and either the threat of violence or the reality of it.  The playground now was virtually off-limits unless they could muster a group of at least twenty, for self-protection, and the main neighborhood shopping center was becoming dangerous.  Even the library – a place none of their tormentors ever actually entered – was becoming a risky destination because it was a place they were known to frequent.  Recently, some of those tormentors had taken to hanging out there, waiting for potential victims, so the boys now preferred to ride a bus to a different library in a safer but more distant neighborhood.

Their tormentors were becoming bolder, too. They now sometimes waited at the major intersections near the area’s last remaining synagogue late on Saturday mornings, and any boy walking past them wearing a necktie was likely to face some combination of taunts, expletives, pushes, and the occasional punch.

Of all the places, school had become the least comfortable.  Danny Schneider was jostled in a bathroom, and in truth, he really did have only himself to blame:  he should have known better than to enter such a place alone and to isolate himself as he had.  The gym locker room was a similar hazard, and the boys – most of the fifty or sixty in a school of about 2500 students – had organized to have their locker assignments changed so that none of them had to dress alone.  Gym classes themselves were a major hazard as well:  any sport that involved any degree of physical contact – and many that ordinarily did not – provided an officially sanctioned opportunity for a barely-outside-the-rules elbow in the ribs, kick in the shin, or knee to the groin.

And then there were the ever-present middle fingers.  Everywhere they turned, it seemed, their tormentors taunted them with a digital display of their disdain.  Frequently it was a direct, in-your-face wave in a hallway, a study hall, or a classroom when a teacher’s back was turned.  More often, it was a subtler display – one designed to avoid detection by their teachers and other school authorities:  a quick rearrangements of fingers on a hand carrying a book so that only one was visible; a chin propped upon a hand with a single finger pointing skyward; that same single finger extended as they held their hands over their hearts while reciting the pledge of allegiance during assembly.

Nothing the boys attempted helped them solve their problem.  They sought transfers to a school in a neighborhood with more of “their people” but their requests were rejected; they – and their parents – spoke to the school principal, who angrily denied that his school had any such problem; they spoke to a sympathetic newspaper columnist who was willing to write about their dilemma yet warned that doing so might result in an escalation of the abuse, not a cessation, leading them to ask her not to tell their story after all; and some tried fighting back, but those who did were both outmuscled and outnumbered.

They also took steps to attract less attention to themselves within the school:  they stopped raising their hands in class, dropped out of most extra-curricular activities, and resigned from the student council; even the school’s highest-scoring basketball player quit the team.  But when the school orchestra lost most its string section, the school paper folded, and the debate team withdrew from city-wide competition, they only alienated the last of their protectors – the faculty – and their problems increased.

Efforts outside the school proved similarly futile.  When one of their parents approached a school board member during high holiday services, that official told them that he was up for renomination in three months and could not afford to alienate the mayor, whom he knew to be unsympathetic; when they approached the city’s human relations commission, they were literally laughed at by staff members who had no interest in helping a handful of white, heterosexual, American-born, middle-class boys; and the local branch of the anti-defamation league promised to look into the matter – and six months after this promise, apparently was still looking.

One Sunday, two of the boys decided to attend a weekly flea market at the area’s largest outdoor shopping center. It was a huge event: several acres of parking lot hosting dozens of vendors selling the exercise equipment they had never used, the clothing their children had outgrown, the books they had started but never finished, and the small electric appliances that had long collected dust in their kitchen cabinets.

As the two boys walked up and down the aisles of tables, they came upon a table at which nothing was being sold. Instead, atop the table sat three piles of pamphlets with a star of David on their cover and entitled “Conspiracy of the Elders of Zion.”  One of the boys discreetly picked up a copy and they quickly walked away. Now off to the side, they turned page after page and read about how “their people” controlled the world’s banks and media, helped blacks and Hispanics, and were turning the country liberal and how their rabbis used the blood of Christian children to make holiday crackers.

They were appalled, and one of the boys was angry.  Without consulting his friend, he stormed back to the table; his friend trailed behind, scurrying to keep pace.

“Have you read what you’re passing out?” he asked angrily.

“Yeah,” said the young man behind the table. There were three men standing behind the table, all broad and at least six feet tall, all with hair cropped close to their skulls, all wearing green Army-style jackets.  All appeared to be about twenty years old.

“What of it?” he replied.

“Don’t you think it’s a little out of line?” the smaller boy asked.

“The truth is never out of line. Sometimes the truth hurts some people, but there’s no escaping it and it must be heard.”

“Could I ask you to please stop passing them out?” the boy persisted.

“You can ask all you want, Sammy, but I ain’t moving.  This is America, we have a constitution, and you and your people haven’t taken away all of our rights yet.  Us white Christians still have some rights left, you know.”

The boy reached for the middle pile of pamphlets, but one of the larger men standing behind the table grabbed his wrist and began to twist it.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, little guy.  Unless you two are willing to take on the three of us right now, I suggest that you get back on your tricycles, go get some corned beef, and then go tell your mommies about what the big bullies did to you.”

*      *      *

Three weeks later the boys gathered across the river with fraternity mates from throughout the region.  It was an annual tradition:  a Christmas-day conclave of both their fraternity and its affiliated sorority.  It was a day-long event, an attempt to find something fun, interesting, and constructive to do on a day on which they had few entertainment options.  The group took over an entire community center building, and throughout the day, they swam, danced, played basketball and volleyball, flirted, and talked to old friends and made new ones.

The plight of the boys from the changing neighborhood in Philadelphia had gradually become known throughout the organization, and in a room normally used for day-care activities, about twenty boys gathered to discuss the situation.  Sitting astride tiny, brightly colored plastic chairs, straddling hobby horses, and reclining under posters of cartoon characters, they talked about the problems and their unsuccessful attempts to address them.  Some of the boys played idly with the toys as they talked; a few tossed nerf balls across the room while they listened. Occasionally, other people wandered into and out of the room.

At one point, just as they were discussing the ever-present middle fingers, a tall, slender, dark-skinned boy with bright eyes entered the room and sat on the floor in the corner.  As the discussion turned to a fight outside the public library and the harassment of girls at a department store, the tall boy mumbled something.  A few heads turned his way.  Then, when the boys described the recent encounter at the flea market, the boy in the corner raised his voice and spoke in strong, accented tones that everyone could hear.

“Don’t be such wimps,” he declared.  “You have no one to blame but yourselves. Our people have faced abuse like this for 6000 years, and we’ve only found one thing that works to combat it: we have to fight back.”

A few boys rolled their eyes; others looked down.

“You think it can’t be done?” the boy continued.  “I tell you it can – and that you have no choice.”

“Look at us,” one of the boys objected. “There aren’t that many of us, and we’re not exactly built for this.  We’re raised to study, not to fight.  There are too many of them.  We’d get slaughtered.”

“Nonsense,” the dark boy said, his accent just heavy enough that some of the boys had to strain to understand him.

“We’re raised to survive.  Study is a luxury we get to enjoy only if we succeed.

“Look, I’m not from here, so I don’t want to tell you what to do.  My name is Yuri Grossman and I came here from Israel three years ago, and over there, we’ve never let being smaller and outnumbered get in our way.

“You’re right:  one on one we’re probably no match for them.  But we have all those brains you talked about, and there are other ways, including making sure that you never get caught one on one.”

He paused.

“And then there are some drastic, pre-emptive measures you can take that just might scare the hell out of them and stop this whole nonsense in a hurry.”

“What?” someone asked.

“The fewer people involved, the better. The three at the flea market, they’re there every week?”

“Yes,” someone replied.

“Good,” he said.  “Then I need about fifteen of you who are willing to fight and maybe get a bloody nose, and of that fifteen, I need four or five who have real balls and are willing to do more.  I also need the two who talked to the guys at the flea market. And if any of you have a father or relative who’s a dentist, that would be helpful, too.  The rest of you will have nothing to do with this and will know nothing.

“So, who’s in?”

The boys looked around sheepishly.  No one moved.

“Anyone?  Or do you want to spend the rest of high school holding your water and having people give you the finger?”

One boy stood.

“Count me in.”

Another followed.

“Me, too.”

It took a few minutes, but eventually, there were the fifteen boys that Yuri requested.  Eight attended the school with the problems; the rest were from other communities, including some affluent places.

“Everybody else out,” Yuri said.  “Forget you were here.”

The others left; some were shaking their heads skeptically.  Of the half-dozen girls who had wandered into the room during the discussion, half looked at Yuri admiringly and half with disdain, recognizing that his intentions were distasteful to them.

When the door closed behind the last departing person, Yuri spoke again.

“How many of you are willing to fight and how many are willing to go further?”

At first no one spoke, but then one boy did, asking what the others were thinking but reluctant to ask.

“We’re not going to kill anybody, are we?”

“No.  It’s not necessary.  We can accomplish what we want without going that far.”

Within minutes, Yuri had more than enough volunteers.  Once that was settled, he announced, “Boys, I’ll need to see the place where they’re handing out those booklets, but let me give you an idea of what I’ve got planned for the fellows with the middle fingers.”

*      *      *

Two weeks later, the two boys who had first come upon the pamphlet distributors at the flea market returned to the scene of that encounter.

“Remember us?” asked the boy who had spoken the first time.

“Yeah,” one of them replied.  “It’s Sammy and his kosher companion.  What do you want?”

“I want to ask you the same thing I asked you last time:  please stop distributing those pamphlets.”

The man laughed.

“You hear that, guys?  He said ‘please.’  I guess that’s supposed to make a difference.  No, little man, forget it.”

Like before, the boy reached for the pile, and again like before, one of the boys seized his wrist.

“Unless you’re willing to rumble, I suggest you walk away, Sammy.”

The boy responded as he had been instructed.

“If that’s what you want, you’ve got it. Just you and me, behind the dumpsters outside the pool hall down at the other end of the shopping center, in a half-hour.”

The men laughed.

“You and me?  You’ve got to be kidding.”

“If you’re afraid, we don’t have to, but I’m tired of your crap, and the only reason I don’t go after you now is that there are too many witnesses out here and I don’t want to go to jail for what I’m going to do to you.”

Again the men laughed.

“Big talk for a little boy.  Okay, you want your ass kicked, I’ll kick it for you.  A half-hour from now down by the dumpsters near the pool hall.”

“Don’t chicken out,” the boy said as he turned away.

*      *      *

Twenty-five minutes later the boy stood, alone, by the dumpsters.  A long way off, about 300 yards away, he saw someone walking toward him.

“Here he comes, Yuri,” he said, although no one was visible.

“Any weapons?” came a voice from behind the dumpsters.

“Nothing I can see,” the boy said, looking directly at Yuri, who sat on his haunches among six other boys hiding behind the dumpsters.

“Dammit, Evan, don’t look at me!  He’s not stupid – you want him to know we’re here?”

“Sorry.”

“Then shut up so he doesn’t see you talking.”

The boy, terrified, collected himself and stared straight at the man, now fifty yards away.  He then glanced quickly at a van that was parked parallel to the fence.

“I’ve gotta admit, kid, I’m surprised to see you here.  You’re stupid, but you got a pair on  you.”

As coached, Evan slowly took five steps backward, as if in fear, ensuring that the man would never reach him.

As the man came even with the dumpster, three cars simultaneously blocked the alley about 200 yards to the east and three more cars pulled out to block the alley about 30 yards to the west.

Quickly, six boys jumped out from behind the dumpsters and surrounded the man.  They quickly immobilized him, and one boy came behind him and placed a chloroform-soaked handkerchief over his mouth.  He struggled briefly, and when he could struggle no more, the boys dragged him into the van.  As soon as the van started to move, the cars blocking the east and west ends of the alley abandoned their positions.

Ten minutes later, with their hostage still unconscious, the van pulled into a city park – an area that on a spring or summer day would have been teeming with people but that on this winter day had not seen a human footstep in weeks.  As the van pulled up the road, two cars approached right behind it to block the path from other traffic.

As soon as the van stopped, the rear doors opened and two boys climbed down.  They grabbed the feet of their prisoner and started to pull away while two boys followed, holding his arms.  They carried him about 300 yards off the path and into a wooded area and set him down on the ground.  The fresh, cold air almost immediately began to revive him, and as he started to stir, Yuri said “Masks.”  The boys quickly pulled ski masks down over their faces.

That was the last word Yuri spoke; he knew that with his accent he ran a risk, albeit a slight one, of being identified later.

As the man stirred, Yuri and another boy held his bound legs; two other boys held his similarly bound arms.  The prisoner started to speak when a fifth boy, standing in front of him with a canvas bag in his hand, spoke.

“Now’s a time for me to talk and you to listen, you got that?” he began.

“You can scream if you want, but we’re a quarter mile deep in the woods a half mile from the street and it’s January, so there’s no one around to hear you.

“We know who you are.  We know you’re one of the people who hand out the pamphlets, but we also know that you’re one of the people who hassle us at the mall, the library, the playground, and anywhere else we want to go.

“And we also know that you’re one of the guys who’s always flipping us the finger.

“Well, my friend, your finger-flipping days are now over.”

He reached into the canvas bag and pulled out a saw.

“That’s right:  you’ve heard of an eye for an eye?  Well, this is a finger for a finger.”

The man screamed, told him he was crazy, and begged.  He told them they would be caught.

“No, I don’t think we’ll be caught, because I don’t think you’re even going to go to the police, because if you do, you’ll have to explain why we did this, and I don’t think you want to do that.”

The man again screamed and again pleaded.

“Now, before we begin, I have to make a few points.  First, we’re not trying to kill you.  If we were, you’d already be dead.  There’s a bag over there by the tree with ice and a towel.  After we cut off you finger, you should wrap your hand in it and keep it in ice.  We’ll keep your finger as a souvenir.”

“Second, see that path over there?  That’s your way out of here.  It’s about a half mile to the street.  You won’t have to wait more than a minute or two before you can flag someone down, and the hospital’s only five minutes away.

“Third and most important, this is a message, and we want to be very clear about it.  The hassling will stop.  The muggings will stop.  This is our community, too, and our school and our everything else, and we have a right to live here in peace, too.  We got you today and we’re prepared to do something like this every day if we have to.

“And most important of all, we don’t want to see any more fingers waved in our faces anymore.  Got it?”

The man was too frightened to respond.

The boy who spoke went behind the man and took his leg from Yuri.  Yuri took the saw, came around front, and sliced – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven times – ripping through skin, muscle, and finally bone as blood spurted out of the man’s hand.  The man screamed in pain, and one of the boys who held him groaned and then vomited.  As soon as Yuri seized the now-unattached finger, the boys freed the man and sprinted up the path.  In seconds they were gone.

*      *      *

The following day, all of the boys looked apprehensively in the newspaper to see if it reported on their crime; it did not. That morning at school, it seemed almost like business as usual:  a few were tripped in the corridors and there was an incident in the gym locker room.

At 12:30, though, when they went to lunch, there was nothing:  no incidents, no harassment, no bullying, just an occasional stare.

And not a single middle finger.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting (part 1 of 2)

It really shouldn’t make a difference.

But it does.

There have been more than a few hate-inspired mass murders and near-tragedies in this country in recent years and when you come down to it, they’re pretty much alike:  somebody filled with hate and suffering from psychological problems gets hold of a weapon and goes out and kills people.  Sometimes the people killed are kids, sometimes they’re people who are a different race, sometimes they’re people with a different sexual preference, and sometimes they’re people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But the murders in Pittsburgh hit a little closer to home for The Curmudgeon. The killings were in a synagogue and The Curmudgeon is Jewish.  The widow of one of The Curmudgeon’s cousins used to attend the synagogue at which the Pittsburgh shooting took place.

The Curmudgeon has experienced anti-Semitism at various times in his life, such as the home his parents decided to sell not longer after a neighbor kid wrote something on the house’s wall; the little league team where every other kid was given an opportunity to pitch except for The Curmudgeon, who was an experienced pitcher; the day in eleventh grade when a kid The Curmudgeon didn’t even know came up to him in the hallway at school and said apologetically that he hoped The Curmudgeon didn’t mind but he took down one of The Curmudgeon’s campaign posters – he was running for student government office at the time – because someone had drawn a swastika on it; and others, including, probably, some he didn’t even realize.

Last Saturday The Curmudgeon visited one of the three or four web sites he spends a few minutes with each evening, first to find out what’s going on in the world and second in search of ideas worth writing about for this site, and on the Associated Press web site he came across an article about the social media activities of the Pittsburgh shooter.  The following are some excerpts:

Police have identified the suspect as Robert Bowers, 46, of Pittsburgh. A man with the same name posted on the site Gab.com on the morning of the shooting that “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

 HIAS is a Maryland-based nonprofit group that helps refugees around the world find safety and freedom. The organization says it is guided by Jewish values and history. President and CEO Mark Hetfield said he wasn’t aware of the shooter’s “obsession with HIAS until this morning.”

*            *            *

In a statement, Gab.com said it suspended the alleged gunman’s account Saturday morning shortly after his name was mentioned on police radio chatter. The company said it backed up the content of the account and notified the FBI.

Gab has become an alternative to Twitter for users whose racist and harassing online behavior got them banned from the mainstream platform. The company said it disavows acts of terrorism and violence, but sees its mission as defending “free expression and individual liberty online for all people.”

Gab founder and CEO Andrew Torba declined to answer emailed questions posed by an AP reporter. A post made on the site’s Twitter account on Saturday appeared to revel in the attention prompted by the killings, saying “We have been getting 1 million hits an hour all day.”

*            *            *

 In the description on his account, Bowers wrote “jews are the children of satan.” The cover photo featured the neo-Nazi symbol “1488.” The first two numbers refer to the white supremacist “14 Words” slogan, while “88″ stands for “Heil Hitler” since “H″ is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

 Among his recent posts, Bowers posted a photo of a fiery oven like those used in Nazi concentration camps used to cremate Jews, writing the caption “Make Ovens 1488F Again.” But in other posts he also featured memes containing false conspiracy theories suggesting the Holocaust — in which an estimated 6 million Jews perished — was a hoax.

 Another post derided Trump for being “a globalist, not a nationalist” and added that “there is no #MAGA” as long as there is a Jewish “infestation,” using a slur for Jews. The same post also referenced QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory that started on the message board 4chan and has been spread by a fringe element of the president’s supporters.

Bowers also recently posted a photo of a collection of three black semi-automatic handguns he titled “my glock family,” a reference to the Austrian firearms manufacturer. He also posted photos of bullet holes in person-sized targets at a firing range, touting the “amazing trigger” on his weapon.

*            *            *

This is the world we live in today.  While to many Donald Trump is responsible for stoking anger and violence, it’s hard to hold him wholly responsible for something like this that is so far beyond the pale of even ordinary anger and violence.  In truth, it’s not hard to imagine something like Saturday’s Pittsburgh shooting happening in a world where Donald Trump isn’t president of the United States but is a glorified Wink Martindale trying to get us interested in watching Danny Bonaduce, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jenny McCarthy, and David Hasselhoff in a new season of Celebrity Apprentice.

But neither is Trump without some degree of culpability for this and for other such tragedies.  He didn’t initiate the toxic climate we have in this country today but he capitalized on it, exploited it, benefited from it, and is now raising it to an entirely new and higher level.  He refuses to acknowledge the conditions surrounding the Republican Tea Party – the anger, the protests, the physical confrontations, the manner in which public officials were treated at town hall meetings and other public events, the call to arms to “take back the country” that no one had taken away from them.  He is wrong when he criticizes those who dare fight back against his rhetoric, who have the temerity to disagree with him, whether they are journalists or protesters or, heaven forbid, Democrats.  He is partisan in a way that no president of this country has ever been partisan, vilifying anyone who dares disagree with him and painting hopelessly diverse groups with the same broad, malignant brush.

He and his supporters demonize the virtually invisible, inactive “antifa” non-group while, with totally straight faces, equating the blood drawn by lunatic gunmen of the far right with the inconvenience to a few Republican elected officials of being driven out of their favorite neighborhood watering hole by a few harsh words from an unhappy constituent.  He endorses violence in support of his own agenda, whether that violence takes the form of  body-slamming political opponents, Hulk Hogan style, “knocking the crap out of” people who attend his rallies to show their opposition, or finding a way to justify a neo-Nazi rally in which one loon drove a car into a crowd of people by insisting that there are, that there possibly could be, good people on both sides of that particular issue.

What was the Saturday massacre in Pittsburgh if not a response to Trump’s call for a defense of that agenda?

What was last week’s arrest of a man who mailed bombs to some of Trump’s highest-profile public critics if not a response to Trump’s call for a defense of that agenda?

At his urging, his people are out for blood.

On Saturday they got some.

Now, that blood is on his hands and on theirs.

(more tomorrow)

 

 

A Winning Solution?

The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles are off to a rough start this year and a former Eagles player – currently a sometimes television sports guy, sometimes radio sports talk guy, and a one-time candidate for Congress – believes he knows how to fix their problem.

I would go to drastic measures.  I think they need to go on a fast.  Not food fast.  The boys need to be cut off.  From sex.

Then, just to be sure people understood what he was talking about, former pro football player Garry Cobb added that

It fogs up your mind.

And the topper:  he said this on television.  See it for yourself here.

Bad Judgment All Around

A few days ago Caitlyn Jenner took to the pages of the Washington Post to declare that he/she/it was mistaken in his/her/its endorsement and support of Donald Trump.

Jenner

That Jenner exhibited flawed judgment can hardly be considered surprising:  after all, he/she/it spent 24 years married to the truly awful Kris, and if that doesn’t show truly abysmal judgment, The Curmudgeon doesn’t know what does.

Also exhibiting bad judgment:  the Washington Post.  Why on earth would the Postturn over highly prized inches of op-ed space to such an attention whore? In what alternative universe does anyone believe that Caitlyn Jenner has anything of value to add to any conversation that doesn’t involve how to put aside one’s dignity and self-respect in the pursuit of public attention for fun and profit?

About Dancing

A while back the New Yorker magazine – as The Curmudgeon has said in the past, you really should read the New Yorker – invited writers to describe things they’d like to see uninvented.  One wrote about mirrors, another about the written Chinese alphabet; one would uninvent fiction, another high heels, and another the conference call.

And one wrote about he would uninvent dancing.

The Curmudgeon especially liked that one.

The Curmudgeon has written about his antipathy toward dancing before; find it here. He knows he’s not alone in his unwillingness to take to the floor but still, it was heartening to see someone so publicly explain the wherefores and the whys.  The following are excerpts from the piece, which was written by Charlie Brooker.  Actually, it’s most of the piece, minus only the parts in which the author describes his own gracelessness.  The Curmudgeon does not believe that particular problem is at all a factor in his own unwillingness to dance.  He is a graceful person, a virtual Baryshnikov.

Dancing. Ban dancing. Break its legs and bury it. And don’t make me do it. Don’t make me dance. Jesus, the indignity. I’d sooner defecate on live TV than dance at your wedding.

***

I vaguely remember my first visit to a night club; must’ve been around 1988. I was seventeen and sober; the music was shockingly loud and my limbs had no idea what was expected of them. I tried to join in, but it was immediately clear that this was a physical language I was never going to grasp. A hundred years later and nothing has changed. People who dance voluntarily are unknowably alien to me. I don’t relate.

***

Oh, what’s that? Dance like no one’s watching? Imbecile. You fucking imbecile. I’m watching, even when I close my eyes. Watching and judging. My brain won’t wander away. It stands there with its arms folded, loudly asking me what the fuck me thinks it’s doing.

So you, at the party. Stop trying to make me dance. Cajoling. Bullying. Grabbing my arm and jerking me toward the dance floor. Do you want me to start crying? Sobbing in front of you? Is that what you want? How come this tyranny is socially acceptable?

I know the theory. They repeat it over and over: Hey, Grumpybones, just get on the dance floor. You’ll enjoy it once you’re on it.

I won’t. I’ll shift from foot to foot with the lumpen gracelessness of a deck chair unexpectedly granted the power of motion, worrying about what to do with my elbows and screaming in silence at the inside of my own face. You’ll enjoy yourself. I will not.

 I know you’re worried about looking stupid, but, honestly, no one cares.

 Thanks for the pep talk but I already look stupid. Sitting rigid at the periphery of the wedding, like an exile—I care about that.

Look! There’s even a guy in his seventies up there—terrible dancer, but by Christ he looks happy.

 And I’d settle for that. I would. But it’s not going to happen. So go now. Leave me here to die.

 Off they slink, radiating pity. And then they dance till four in the morning, guffawing like ancient kings. They’re lucky.

 Society judges the dance-averse harshly. As party poopers. Sticks in the mud. Cowards. It doesn’t help that dancing is widely portrayed as the most life-affirming thing a human body can do short of giving birth. I know you haven’t sat through a TV ad in two years, but did you realize that ninety-five per cent of all commercials now depict overweight people dancing for comic effect?

 Things are worse at the movies. C.G.I. animation is a wonderful thing, but, on the downside, it makes convincing dance moves comparatively simple to create. In 1967, Disney’s “Jungle Book” animators had to painstakingly craft the “I Wan’na Be Like You” routine by hand. These days, they synch their animation software with a Spotify account, hold down the function key, and count to five while it shits out an end-credits sequence in which a trio of lovable gophers triumphantly shake their rumps to “La Bamba.” I’d rather see a cartoon end with the Zapruder footage. At least then the kids would leave the auditorium in silence.

And not one of them would be dancing. Victory. 

***

Bonus points to Mr. Brooker for invoking Jungle Book; The Curmudgeon loves that movie and especially the “I Wanna Be Like You” routine (and “Bear Necessities,” too).  For now, he will stick to the one and only one song to which he dances with Mrs. Curmudgeon – dances very slowly, barely moving, because, well, because… you just read why.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Follies Revisited

Now that the smoke has cleared from the Kavanaugh nomination, The Curmudgeon would like to revisit a few aspects of the Senate committee process that led to Kavanaugh’s regrettable confirmation that flew a little under the radar.

Traditionally, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee ask questions of court nominees – especially nominees to the Supreme Court.  They also ask questions of major witnesses testifying about those nominees.

When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified, however, Democratic members of the committee questioned Dr. Ford but Republican members delegated that responsibility to a surrogate.  Without question, they did so because they were uncomfortable with how it would appear for eleven white men to question a woman about an alleged sexual assault by the nominee.  They clearly had learned their lesson well from the Anita Hill hearing of 1991.

The way Senate Republicans went about this was deeply flawed.  They have many, many female lawyers on the committee’s staff – The Curmudgeon knows, he checked – but they apparently considered none of them up to the challenge of asking the questions.  This leads one, if nothing else, to question the value of having all those particular lawyers on the public payroll.

Another problem was hiring an experienced sex crimes prosecutor to ask the questions. That prosecutor may have been well-suited to ask questions of Judge Kavanaugh, but of Dr. Ford?  SHE wasn’t accused of any sex crimes, yet she was treated by the committee as if she was suspected of one.

Yet another problem was that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, suffering from terminal tone deafness and stupidity, referred to that prosecutor given temp work by the committee as a “female assistant.”  Really?  He referred to an experienced career prosecutor hired by Republicans on the committee to bail themselves out of a tight spot as a “female assistant”?

When it was over, reporters asked the committee’s chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, why there were no Republican women on his committee.

He could have observed that there are only six Republican women in the entire Senate and that there simply aren’t enough to go around.  That answer doesn’t reflect well on Republicans, to be sure, but it would’ve been a pretty benign explanation.

But no, he didn’t say that.  What he did say, as reported by Vox, is that

“It’s a lot of work — maybe they don’t want to do it,” Grassley said. “My chief of staff of 33 years tells me we’ve tried to recruit women and we couldn’t get the job done.”

Seriously, that’s what he said.

“Step aside, ladies. The Judiciary Committee is men’s work.”

Let us put aside for now the suggestion that committee staff recruits members of Senate committees; that’s utterly ridiculous.

Grassley asserted that being on the Senate Judiciary Committee is a lot of work and it looks to him as if women in the Senate don’t want to work that hard. When it was brought to his attention that he had said something incredibly stupid he immediately began to hem and haw and walk back his remarks, but in the ensuing fuss one thing got overlooked.

There ARE four women on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Diane Feinstein.

Amy Klobuchar.

Kamala Harris.

Mazie Hirono.

All Democrats.

Using Grassley’s warped logic, it appears that Democrats aren’t as deterred by hard work as Republicans.

More Verbifications

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Two years, in fact.  Rest assured, readers, the passage of time has not diminished in any way The Curmudgeon’s disdain for verbifications:  the act of transforming a noun into a verb because the writer is either lazy or wants to sound, you should pardon the expression, cool.  The Curmudgeon continues to collect new specimens and is now adding some new ones to past specimens you can find here,hereherehere, and here.

A Business Insider article that outlined the minor impact that increasing worker wages would have on McDonalds’ profitability required a correction by the author, who noted that “…employee costs are about 24% of revenue, not 17%. So if the company doubled wages, its operating income would likely drop a bit more than I ballparked above.”

Yes, he ballparked those estimates.

A brief New Yorker piece chronicled an encounter between two nitwits:  a “writer and social critic” and an actor whose fame is based on nothing to do with her acting skills.  Some social critic:  she’s not even familiar with The Good Wife, so the actor attempts to enlighten her:  “It’s a show that problematizes that thing of standing by your man.”

That’s right:  it problematizes.

Yikes!

In a Philadelphia magazine piece about a company that plans to launch the next failed local news web site by glomming off the work product of others while producing little actual journalism of its own, the article noted the impact of a free site featuring content from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News on the efforts of those papers to sell electronic subscriptions:  “The Inquirer and Daily News still upload their content for free on the ghastly Philly.com, a practice that undermines the papers’ paywalled stand-alone web sites.”

Those stand-alone web sites have what are known as paywalls – not a term The Curmudgeon likes to begin with – so they are therefore paywalled.  Ugh.

Newspaper columnists don’t report the news; they share their views – their opinions. They are not, as a New Yorker book reviewer noted, opinionating. (Which reminds The Curmudgeon of the theme song to the old television series Blossom that offers another interesting variation on “opinion.” See it here.)

An American Prospect magazine article about Rand Paul described some of the Kentucky senator’s political views, noting that “In the past, he expressed support for voucherizing Medicare, and privatizing Social Security…”  “Privatizing” has, unfortunately, become one of those verbifications that has so completely permeated the culture that even The Curmudgeon can no longer muster any serious energy for complaining about it, but voucherizing? Never!!!

The restaurant critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer gives restaurants “bells” instead of stars – it’s a Philadelphia/Liberty Bell thing.  He recently reviewed a restaurant a few days after the owner of that restaurant took to the Huffington Post to criticize restaurant critics.  The review was generally favorable, but when one of the comments on the newspaper’s web site suggested the review was mild because the reviewer was cowed, one of the newspaper’s editors felt compelled to respond, writing that “The review was written, belled, edited, photographed and even laid out before the HuffPo article.”

That’s right:  it was “belled.”

Coca-Cola is looking to branch out into beverages that aren’t terrible for you, and high on its list of candidates is milk – yes, milk, which isn’t exactly good for most people but is a whole lot better than carbonated water filled with high fructose corn syrup.  But Coke doesn’t want to sell just any old milk: it wants to sell what it’s calling a “premium milk,” with premium, in this case, referring to less sugar and more protein.  (It also wants to sell this premium milk at twice the price of the perfectly good stuff you get at the corner market.)

So how does Coke describe what it’s doing?

According to an Associated Press report published in the Philadelphia Inquirer,

“It’s basically the premiumization of milk,” Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, said at an analyst conference in November.”

That’s right, readers:  Sandy called it a “premiumization.”

New Yorker article about books about corporate management described what used to be the gold standard in corporate management – the manner in which General Motors was run – to what appears to be the gold standard today:  how Google is run. The reviewer, though, questioned the degree to which some of the successful techniques employed by some companies can be adopted by others and at one point noted that “That’s the logic under which Google’s success is generalizable.”

Generalizable.

As in Generalizable George Patton? Generalizissimo Francisco Franco?

The New Yorker ran an interesting article about the commercial emergence of paperback books in the years before, during, and after World War II.  Sadly, in describing books that had been released in hardcover form and then converted into paperbacks, the article noted that this was especially common for mystery novels and that “Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett were paperbacked, of course…”

Then, just to make sure readers knew that this particular writer is especially resourceful when it comes to verbification, he referred to “mass-market paperbacking.”

A double threat, this guy!

New Yorker article about Bob Dylan described a period in his life during which he retreated to work on some new music, stating that “Dylan was woodshedding with musicians he had known mostly onstage…” That’s right:  he was woodshedding.

In an article about how a tough-talking Marine became a champion of the environment, Mother Jones magazine tell us that as commander of the military response to Hurricane Katrina, the marine “…was choppered back to his floating headquarters about the USS Bataan…”  Ugh.

Pennsylvania’s state legislature was considering a proposal to turn over to state control any local school in the state that persistently under-performed based on the results of standard tests administered to their students.  Many of those failing schools are located in Philadelphia, and a state senator from Philadelphia, fearing that the proposal was little more than an attempt to turn more public schools into charter schools, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that “…on its face, it sounds like a backdoor move to charterize schools.”

It sounds as if this state senator might be a product of one of those schools that might be a candidate for…charterization.

The Curmudgeon ran across something as rare as hint of personality in Harrison Ford:  an interesting article in the publication Fortune, which has to be the most boring magazine ever to hit a newsstand.  The article was about Ikea and how the company has succeeded and grown over the years.  At one point the writer is visiting the company’s design department, where all the new products are developed, and observes that “…one of the four 3-D printers was outputting a toilet brush.”

Outputting a toilet brush.  How…off-putting.

In a “Dear Abby-style Sunday feature, a New York Times advice columnist was trying to counsel a woman to let her teenaged daughter try navigating a tricky social situation on her own, warning that “I get your instinct to Mama Bear her.”

Mama Bear” – now a verb.  What’s the world coming to?

New Yorker magazine article about how investing in energy efficient technology – things like solar panels and batteries – is becoming more economically feasible and the challenges this presents for power utilities told the tale of one town that has been especially enthusiastic about embracing such technology.  “In July,” the article declared, “when the site flickers on the city will be the most solarized in northern New England.”

Solarized.

In a Mother Jones article about Republicans’ insistence on pushing bans on abortions even in the face of growing evidence that the public doesn’t support such bans, a Democratic political strategist noted that some Republicans stress abortion in their primary campaigns because they don’t want to get outflanked on the right by a primary opponent.  “Does pushing [the ban] help some individual Republicans in conservative states who don’t want to get primaried?  Yes.”

Well, that’s a good thing; primaried sounds like it could be painful.

You have a public school and it undergoes a process to become a charter school.  According to a Washington Monthly article, that process is “chartering.”  Now The Curmudgeon knows you can charter a bus and charter a boat, but can you charter a school?  He thinks not.

The subject of a letter to Carolyn Hax, the advice columnist who, unlike Dear Abby, isn’t an idiot, was from a couple that had chosen someone to care for their children if something should happen to them, but since making that decision their daughter developed a severe allergy to dogs and the would-be caretakers have two dogs they love.  What to do?  Well, forget about the advice:  The Curmudgeon is more interested in the column’s headline:  “Tell Me About It: Rehome dogs for allergic orphan niece?”

That’s right:  rehome.

While checking on the acceptable sizes of liquid containers on airplanes, The Curmudgeon visited the web site of the Transportation Safety Administration and came upon this:  “Any liquid, aerosol, gel, cream or paste that alarms during screening will require additional screening.”

Now we know “alarm” can be a verb, but not THIS verb.

Let’s hope they protect better than they write.

An article in the Columbia Journalism Review lamented the failure of those who run newspapers to comprehend the changes the internet is bringing to their industry. Sadly, though, the article states that “They were also so tunnel-visioned, lazy, stupid and greedy that they missed every chance to make the winning moves.”

The Curmudgeon has a lot more of these and intends to empty his archive by year’s end, so…stay tuned.

It’s All About Him (part 2)

When the U.S. managed to gain the freedom of a pastor who had been detailed in Turkey for two years, that pastor made a stop at the White House on his way home.

“Being held in captivity for two years must have been brutal. So, what do you think of the job I’m doing as president?”

While he visited with the president in the oval office he said a prayer for him, after which the president turned to him and asked

 Can I ask you one question?  Who did you vote for?

Trump Is unbelievable – even without taking into consideration that the pastor’s captivity began one month prior to the 2016 presidential election.

Once again, it’s all about him.