Author Archives: foureyedcurmudgeon

The Four-Eyed Curmudgeon is a middle-aged male who is everything right-wing America despises: he is a big-city, ivy league-educated, liberal Jew. He currently resides in a suburb of Philadelphia. He chooses anonymity for the time being because this is his first experience blogging and he wants to get comfortable with it, and see if he likes it, before he exposes himself (figuratively speaking, of course) to the world.

A Telling Anecdote About Today’s Congress

The New Yorker recently published a profile of Tom Cotton, a Republican senator from Arkansas. Cotton is the kind of guy almost everyone to the left of Attila the Hun would consider a dangerous conservative, but The Curmudgeon will say one thing in his defense: he appears serious and earnest.

And here’s how one of his Senate colleagues responded to that earnestness, according to The New Yorker.

“I remember the first time I met Tommy,” Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina congressman, told me. “We were debating a medical-malpractice bill on the floor of the House, and he comes up and starts talking about the details of the bill. And I said, ‘First of all, who are you?’ He said he was the new congressman from Arkansas. And I said, ‘You can’t be from Arkansas, because you’re wearing shoes.’ And then he starts telling me to read some law-review article about malpractice by Robert Bork or someone. And I said, ‘Dude, the chess club meets around the corner.’ ”

As Gowdy illustrates with a bravado that reveals him to be a fool, Congress increasingly is not a place for serious people to consider, discuss, and debate serious things. It’s a place for political gladiators to do battle, heedless of the prize and interested only in winning – and winning not on behalf of the people they represent but at the expense of their opponents.

Once Moore, With Feeling

By now we thought we’d pretty much heard everything there was to hear about Roy Moore, the Ku Klux Klan Party’s candidate to fill Alabama’s vacant seat in the U.S. Senate.

We thought wrong.

Oh, we’ve heard about his belief that Muslims aren’t fit to serve in Congress.

That he likes to refer to Native Americans and Asians as “reds and yellows.”

That he believes god is the source of all laws.

That he believes homosexuality should be against the law.

And of course, about his ardent desire to get horizontal with little girls.

Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore

But Roy Moore, bless his heart, may have topped all of that piddling stuff last week when he took to the podium at a rally to inveigh against the spiritual wickedness of the Congress he so ardently seeks to join.

Because if there’s anyone who knows about spiritual wickedness, it’s Roy Moore.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times,

At Moore’s Florence rally, the former judge outlined all the wrongs he sees in Washington and “spiritual wickedness in high places.” He warned of “the awful calamity of abortion and sodomy and perverse behavior and murders and shootings and road rage” as “a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins.”

If things are so bad now, a member of the audience asked him, can he point to a time when things were great?

Here’s the good part.

I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.

 So there was Roy Moore talking positively, even wistfully, about those good ol’ days of slavery.

In front of a crowd of people.

Including the African-American guy who asked the question.

And on Tuesday, it looks like those people are going to send him to the U.S. Senate.

Dentists’ Delight

Seriously: stores devoted to all things sugar.

There are 100 of these across the country. The Curmudgeon spotted this one in San Diego.

And didn’t go in.

A Thought About Congress and Sexual Harassment

John Conyers, a member of Congress who sexually harassed female employees, resigned from Congress this week.

That’s good and that’s fair.

Al Franken, whose non-congressional sexual harassment shenanigans have been well-documented in recent weeks, reportedly is resigning sometime today.

That’s good and fair, too.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve been told, Congress has settled 260 complaints of workplace discrimination at a cost to taxpayers of $15 million.

We need to place those figures in a little perspective.

First, there are forms of “workplace discrimination” that do not involve sexual harassment. Remember when “workplace discrimination” had an entirely different meaning?

So let’s not assume that all 260 complaints were for sexual harassment.

Second, it seems likely that at least some of those complaints were against congressional employees and not against members of Congress themselves. So again, let’s not assume that all 260 complaints are against members of Congress.

Third, it appears that at least some sexual harassment complaints against members of Congress were settled through payments to those harassed that came out of the budgets of the individual members of Congress who were the offending parties and are not part of the 260/$15 million.

And fourth, it appears that at least some complaints against members of Congress were settled when those members paid off the complainants out of their own pockets.

Still, despite all this, it seems almost certain that John Conyers was not the only member of Congress whose sexual predations cost taxpayers’ money.

And again, it’s right that Conyers is now an ex-member of Congress and can live out his life in disgrace.

But…

What strikes The Curmudgeon as unfair is that the only cases in which members of Congress have been pushed toward the door so far are those that are known to the general public.

So…

Since it’s our money, and since there are certainly other cases involving other members of Congress, isn’t it only fair that those payouts – tantamount to an admission of wrongdoing – be made public and all of the members of Congress, past and present, who were the offending parties receive the same treatment for which Conyers and Franken have been singled out?

Because if Conyers is gone and Franken is gone and the others survive only because Congress is keeping their names secret, isn’t that both seriously wrong and unfair to taxpayers and the women (or men) whom those members of Congress abused?

 

 

 

An Unsettling Invasion of Privacy

The Curmudgeon and The Curmudgeonly sister share a minor but annoying little medical malady but she suffers more from it than he does. Recently she decided to consult a doctor and among the things the doctor did for her was to recommend a specific type of over-the-counter medical product that neither brother nor sister even knew existed (or that it might help them).

The following evening The Curmudgeon did a quick web search for this product and made a mental note to buy it the next time he visits a drug store. There was no urgency about it, but he definitely wanted to make the purchase.

Less than a week later he checked the mailbox at his bachelor condo – finally, an agreement to sell it! – and there he found a coupon, addressed to him by name, offering a buy one/get one free deal on a brand of the very product for which he had performed the web search just a few days ago.

Surely that’s not a coincidence (“don’t call me Shirley”). The Curmudgeon has no idea how those folks got his name and address from a routine search.

And he doesn’t like it. He finds the whole thing very unsettling – and potentially dangerous, depending on the circumstances. We talk a lot about our right to privacy but it’s looking more and more as if that right now exists in theory only and that our lives are an open book for all to see.

And that a seemingly harmless thing like a routine web search could end up with someone knocking on your front door. This particular knock was reasonably innocuous: someone trying to sell a tube of a product that probably costs $7.

But what when it’s… not so innocuous? When it’s something more serious – and potentially, more dangerous?

Very unsettling.

 

An Interesting Observation

Courtesy of a lawyer friend of Mrs. Curmudgeon, about the president’s tweet revealing that he engaged in obstruction of justice and his lawyer’s subsequent insistence that he, and not Trump, was responsible for the tweet.

Very Different Ideas of Right and Wrong

Regular visitors to this site may have noticed that The Curmudgeon doesn’t much care for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson was president and CEO of Exxon Mobil, so The Curmudgeon assumes that he is a seriously capable guy. His beef with Tillerson – or, to be fair, his beef with Tillerson’s appointment as Secretary of State – is that being a seriously capable guy doesn’t necessarily qualify him to be Secretary of State, nor does the deal-making Tillerson has done over the years with sheiks and tycoons and all sorts of leaders in countries with oil. Tillerson got a lot out of those people? Of course he did: he traded his barrels of money for their barrels of oil so naturally, they loved the guy. This country would be well-served with Tillerson in almost any cabinet-level position – any position, that is, except Secretary of State. Diplomacy should be left to the professionals.

Apparently, the soon-to-be former Secretary of State

Tillerson’s not going to last very long as Secretary of State; in fact, as The Curmudgeon posts this on Friday evening to appear in this space on Monday morning, it’s possible Tillerson will be the former Secretary of State by the time you read this. We now know that he doesn’t have a very good relationship with Agent Orange, at one point referring to him “a f—cking moron.” Tillerson shows no interest in being Trump’s pal, which is a problem in Trump World: for a guy who loves to dish it out, Trump has virtually no capacity to take it and is offended that someone he honored with a cabinet appointment doesn’t want to play golf and eat overcooked steak with him.

Tillerson and Trump come from different worlds, and an excellent illustration of this is the following passage from a long and interesting article in the New Yorker:

In February, a few weeks after Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate, he visited the Oval Office to introduce the President to a potential deputy, but Trump had something else on his mind. He began fulminating about federal laws that prohibit American businesses from bribing officials overseas; the businesses, he said, were being unfairly penalized. Tillerson disagreed. When he was an executive with Exxon, he told Trump, he once met with senior officials in Yemen to discuss a deal. At the meeting, Yemen’s oil minister handed him his business card. On the back was written an account number at a Swiss bank. “Five million dollars,” the minister told him.

 “I don’t do that,” Tillerson said. “Exxon doesn’t do that.” If the Yemenis wanted Exxon on the deal, he said, they’d have to play straight. A month later, the Yemenis assented. “Tillerson told Trump that America didn’t need to pay bribes—that we could bring the world up to our own standards,” a source with knowledge of the exchange told me.

That’s a pretty vast cultural gulf to span – and a sad thing to learn about one’s president. Of course, Trump comes from the real estate and property development world, where greasing the palms of building inspectors, making campaign contributions to local elected officials in exchange for zoning variances, bribing overseas officials to support deals, stiffing contractors, and other such dishonest actions are probably less the exception than the rule.

And that’s Trump’s world. That’s why he could stand on a stage in the Great Hall of People in China and tell his audience about the trade imbalance between the U.S. and China that

I don’t blame China. After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for benefit of their citizens? I give China great credit.

Yes, we know, he calls that “winning,” and in so doing betrays his “ends justify the means” ethos that he shows to his fellow Americans and the world virtually every day, but it’s a bitter pill to swallow that this is the sense of right and wrong that the president of the United States brings to his role as leader of the free world.

Arby’s Announces Its Purchase of Buffalo Wild Wings

Because why sell really crappy food in one category when you can sell really crappy food in two?

A List of Democrats Who Seem Primed and Ready to Run Credibly Against Trump in 2020

A Job Well Done

As he has written in the past, The Curmudgeon is a telecommuter: he works at home. (And no, in anticipation of your question, he does not work in his jammies and slippers.) Occasionally, though, he is asked to visit the home office, and when that happens his day begins around the ungodly hour of 5:15 in the a.m., followed by his arrival at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia shortly before seven to catch a 7:25 train for the 1:40 minute ride to the state capital. (And yes, The Curmudgeon is one of those compulsive early arrivers. He learned long ago that he’s more comfortable being unfashionably early and needing to kill time than he is stressing about whether traffic is going to cause him to miss his train.)

At seven in the morning the train station is just starting to come to life. People are starting to line up for trains to New York and Washington, D.C. but most of the rest of the stairwells leading down to the tracks are still fairly quiet, the lines at the coffee places are still modest, the bathrooms are still clean, and there are only a trickle of passengers coming down the ramp from the local public transit commuter trains that feed directly into the Amtrak station. By 7:15, though, the station is starting to come alive: the lines at the New York and Washington stairwells run more than 100 feet long, folks are lining up six and eight deep at the coffee places, and commuters are now streaming in bunches down the walkway from the local commuter trains, scurrying so they can catch a bus or a subway-surface line or the el or just walk to their final destination in Philadelphia’s central business district or the University City area.

The Curmudgeon occupied a seat on one of the many long, well-worn benches – pretty much pews, actually – that line the large open space of the train station. He doesn’t see much need to wait in the growing line for the 7:25 Keystone to Harrisburg because he knows his destination on the train is the car farthest from the stairwell – the quiet car – and he’s not going to have much competition for two seats for himself because most people are either too lazy to walk the extra 25 yards or want to spend their commuting time in conversation on the phone or with their neighbor.

On this particular morning there were two pretty shabbily dressed men sleeping on benches not far from where The Curmudgeon sat. It was a cold morning following a cold night, and apparently, Amtrak doesn’t mind if a few homeless people use the train station so they can get a decent night’s sleep out of the cold and wind. With the station now bustling, however, two uniformed Amtrak police officers approached the two sleepers. This should be interesting, The Curmudgeon told himself.

It was.

When the two officers approached, one of the officers rapped his fist against the wooden bench about ten feet from the first sleeper, doing so almost as casually as he might knock on a neighbor’s door. The man opened his eyes and raised his head just slightly.

“Man, do you snore,” the Amtrak officer said.

The sleeper laughed and sat up a little more.

“Do I really?”

“Yeah. I heard you all the way over there,” the officer said, pointing across the cavernous hall.

The sleeper laughed again.

“Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” the officer said.

“No, thanks,” the man replied, sitting up. He took a moment to wipe the sleep from his eyes and get his bearings and then sat up and quietly departed.

Meanwhile, the second officer approached the second sleeper.

“Time to rise and shine,” the officer said.

The man sat up quickly.

“Did I miss my train?”

The officer was surprised. Based on the way the man was dressed, he assumed – as did The Curmudgeon – that this man was homeless.

“Where are you going?” the second officer asked.

“Atlantic City.”

“Man, that train left nearly an hour ago.”

“Damn, I missed it.”

“Well, there’ll be others,” the second officer said. “See that sign over there?” the officer added, pointing to the large customer service desk in the middle of the room.

“Go over there. You can pick up a schedule there or ask someone to help you. Have a good day, sir.”

“You too.”

And that was it. No fuss, no muss, no scene, no spectacle, no threats or posturing or yelling, just a couple of police officers doing their job and a couple of men who instantly understood that they needed to play by certain rules and the time had come for them to move along.

No, The Curmudgeon decided, it wasn’t just a couple of police officers doing their job: it was a couple of police officers doing their job awfully, awfully well.