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.

No, That’s NOT Entertainment

Every once in a while you’ll hear someone – usually someone even older than The Curmudgeon – insist that they don’t make entertainers the way they used to.

No, actually, it’s not

The people who say that are absolutely, positively full of s—t, as this video clip shows.  Don’t just view the clip; read the reverential comments below.

Now tell The Curmudgeon:  do you think THAT’S entertainment (other than in the “laughing at them” rather than “laughing with them” sense)?

Separated at Birth?

MSNBC know-it-all Joe Scarborough and Gumby.

Our Privacy – and Yet Another Front in the Battle Against Working People

Have you ever found yourself somewhere – say, a doctor’s office or a store – and had someone ask for your email address?

And was the first thought that went through your mind something along the lines of “Hell, no!”

Well, get used to it, because it’s apparently going to be with us for a while.

The Philadelphia Inquirer explains.

For the retail industry, customer emails are currency.

 Get that address, and a company can personalize customers’ future experiences, targeting them for discounts and promotions that could make them more likely to become repeat customers.

 The responsibility to capture those emails often falls to the sales associates working the floor. In fact, collecting emails and signing customers up for loyalty programs is a big part of those jobs now, said Jill Dvorak, senior director of digital retail for the National Retail Foundation.

How big a part of the job?

But workers at Five Below, the Philly-based national discount chain that’s made headlines for thriving in the age of Amazon, say there are consequences when they don’t. They’re told email collection affects how many hours they get each week.

 Tiffany Rogers, a recent Parkway Center City Middle College graduate who worked at the Five Below on Columbus Boulevard for five months, said she was told she had to get emails from 25 percent of the customers she rang up.

 In February, after watching her hours dwindle from more than 20 a week during the holiday season to 10 to 14 after New Year’s, she got scheduled for just four hours two weeks in a row. When she asked her manager about it, he told her it was because she wasn’t getting enough emails.

So what does Five Below have to say about this?

Five Below marketing manager Dana Zuppo said there is no email quota for cashiers, nor are there incentives for workers to collect emails.

 “The email ask at the register,” she said, “is simply to benefit the customer, allowing them to stay in tune with the brand.”

Does anybody buy that nonsense?  And isn’t this lovely? Demanding that people who generally make little more than minimum wage do something that will almost surely incur the wrath of their customers – and something that the people making the demand wouldn’t be caught dead doing themselves?

(And a little acknowledgment, please, for The Curmudgeon not going off over the store mouthpiece’s use of the term “the brand.”)

The Curmudgeon has been asked for his email address by someone who has no business possessing his email address on many occasions.  On a good day, he just politely says no.  On a bad day, he finds himself starting to get obnoxious about it when he realizes that the person to whom he’s about to get obnoxious is just doing his (or her) job.

Next time, maybe he’ll ask to speak to the manager about it.  Then, he can be as obnoxious as he pleases.

A Good Line

In a review of the reconstituted Roseanne minus Roseanne – from here on out for what probably will not be very long to be known as The ConnersNew York Times writer James Poniewozik explained that

Not-much-of-a-spoiler alert: Roseanne is dead. This was the only responsible, not to symbolically punish the character but to make it final and avoid an ugly, protracted and inevitably politicized comeback campaign.

 It also instantly gave “The Conners” a premise, a reason to exist beyond nostalgia. “Family moves on after a death” is a trusty sitcom premise (that’s the way they all became the Brady Bunch). But to have the loss be someone the audience has known as long and as well as family is a challenge, and an opportunity.

That “Brady Bunch” line, at least to The Curmudgeon, is a real winner.

Are Our Taxes Really Too High?

Well, “high” is a relative thing.

If you ever take a moment to look at your pay stub you may think “Damn, Uncle Sam is taking a lot of what I earn.”

And let us put aside the question of what you are getting in return for that money, but it’s not nothing.  Still, it seems like a lot of money.

And politicians, and especially Republican politicians, like to tell us that Americans are overtaxed and that it’s killing our ability to compete in world markets.

And The Curmudgeon will put aside for the moment that he cannot think of a single friend, relative, or acquaintance who works in an industry that is subject to international competition.

But are your instincts about the government taking so much money out of your paycheck accurate?  And are we really overtaxed into being uncompetitive internationally?

The Bloomberg company, good friend to business everywhere, recently took a look at this question and some of what it found is pretty interesting.

Bloomberg examined taxation in 35 of the most industrialized countries in the world and found that the U.S. ranks 25th out of the 35 in its rate of taxation, which means 24 of the 35 tax their citizens more than the U.S. does.

What countries tax their citizens more than we do?

Canada, Hungary, and France do.

Italy, Austria, and Sweden do.

And so do Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, and Japan.

At the top of the list is Belgium, and right after Belgium at number two on the list is Germany.

Germany, which has a thriving economy.

Germany, which by law must give every worker four weeks of paid vacation a year along with 13 paid holiday days.  (The Curmudgeon is jealous.)

Germany, which has a trade surplus (as opposed to the U.S. trade deficit of more than $500 billion).

And when was the last time you heard Germans complaining that their country’s high rate of taxation was costing them jobs – the unemployment rate in Germany is 3.9 percent while in the U.S. it’s 4.4 percent – and hurting their country’s ability to “win” in international trade?

Whether U.S. taxes are too high is an appropriate subject for discussion and debate, but when politicians start telling you that high U.S. taxes are hurting the country competitively in international markets, we need to remind them that other industrialized countries are taxed even more and still manage to generate trade surpluses.

But expecting honesty from our politicians when the subject is taxes may be too much to ask.

Fighting the Smartphone Monkey on Your Back

As he has written in the past, The Curmudgeon was late to the smartphone party – and for reasons that go beyond his dislike of the very word “smartphone.” He’s had one now for more than two years, however, and he sees their merits and cannot envision any circumstances, other than purely financial, under which he would choose to ditch his smartphone in exchange for, well, a dumbphone.

But others are apparently doing exactly that.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently wrote about such people.

Exactly one year ago, Roman Cochet swapped his $500 iPhone 7 for a $30 LG flip phone.

Overwhelmed by constant alerts, Cochet felt his time was disrupted, his creativity drained. His flip doesn’t do email, Instagram, Facebook, Uber, or news alerts. The 30-year-old Parisian painter, who lives in Brooklyn, said he regrets nothing.

“With a smartphone, you spend so much time texting, talking, in constant communication, that you don’t have time to do anything else,” Cochet said. “I’m way more focused now on what I’m doing. I’m less distracted.”

 Cochet said some of his artist friends dismiss his choice of phone as a hipster affectation, an artist’s asceticism. But his studio, scattered with paint cans and empty beer bottles, is now void of a smartphone’s distractions. The phone itself is a throwaway object smeared with paint, the keypad indiscernible.

Cochet said he’s also become more connected to other people (he remembers the bodega cashier’s name) — and more present in the moment. “I’m way more conscious of my surroundings than if I was on my screen,” he said. “I have friends who struggle looking at a subway map. I think people should throw their phone away. It would be good for them.”

The Curmudgeon doesn’t mean to pick on this guy because he’s only being used in the article as an example of folks who are abandoning their smartphones, but…



Spending too much time talking and texting?  Then DON’T TALK AND TEXT.

Disturbed by constant alerts?  TURN THEM OFF!

Or better yet, UNSUBSCRIBE!

You KNOW you’ve seen scenes like this

No one’s holding a gun to your head, forcing you to use, or use extensively, every feature the smartphone offers.  Even when The Curmudgeon was using a dumbphone, for example, he made it clear to almost everyone with whom he interacted that he was not interested in receiving text messages or phone calls on the cell phone (as opposed to his home phone) except in cases of emergency or unless arranged beforehand.  He doesn’t recall anyone failing to respect his wishes, either.

He also didn’t give his cell phone number to most people.  He had a landline phone at home and if people wanted to reach him, they could call him there and leave a message.  At no time, The Curmudgeon recalls of his pre-smartphone days, did more than about a dozen people have his cell phone number, and most of those had the same last name that he has.

Remember messages?  Remember voice mail? The Curmudgeon read recently that people are no longer leaving messages – often, because they know no one’s listening to them.  In fact, The Curmudgeon has a few co-workers who don’t leave messages if he’s not at his desk when they call, which he finds absolutely infuriating.

The point here is that people need to grow up.  At the risk of seeming like an old fuddy-duddy – which is, come to think of it, a second cousin of a curmudgeon – folks need to take responsibility for their actions.  A smartphone doesn’t MAKE you answer a text, REQUIRE you to spend time chatting with your friends, or TWIST YOUR ARM into spending your time on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever the kids are doing with their phones these days.  (Okay, the “whatever the kids are doing these days” comment is definitely more fuddy-duddy than curmudgeon.)

And…learning the name of the guy at the bodega?  Please:  don’t do that.  Just don’t do that.  You don’t really care and he doesn’t care, either.  In fact, he probably finds it kind of creepy.

And one final bit of advice for those who choose to step back into the 20th century: enjoy your choice but don’t start proselytizing on its behalf, because if you do, pretty soon you’ll be able to go back to a smartphone because no one’s going to want to talk to you and no one’s going to want to text you because no one likes a know-it-all who tells them their way is better than yours.

How does The Curmudgeon know this?  BECAUSE HE KNOWS.

Ask a Silly Question…

…get thrown out of the White House.

And even if you ask a not-so-silly question.

So it goes for CNN’s Jim Acosta, who last week exercised the poor judgment of asking President Trump a question Trump didn’t like and then had the audacity to attempt to pin down the president when he wouldn’t give a straight answer.  Enraged, and apparently mistaking a presidential press conference for a WWE event, the White House press staff sent someone to wrestle the microphone from Acosta’s hand.

The result:  Acosta has been banned from the White House.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders, increasingly serving as Bonnie Parker to Trump’s Clyde Barrow, charged Acosta with assaulting the member of her staff who tried to take the microphone away from him.

Which everyone who was in the room could see was definitely not the case.  There was no assault.

Undaunted – and increasingly unbound by any inclination toward honesty – Sanders tweeted a link to a doctored video of the encounter in which it almost but not quite looks as if Acosta might have shoved the woman.

Only he didn’t.

So who suffers from this?

Acosta, who’s been kicked out of the press briefings.  Yes, he’s a bit of a showboat, but his questions are legitimate.

CNN’s viewers, who will now get a second string reporter asking the questions.

But the biggest loser is the constitution and its guarantee of a free press. That free press is the cornerstone of our democratic form of government, as Thomas Jefferson made clear in 1787 when he wrote that

The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

Donald Trump, it is clear, does not agree.

This now has nothing to do with Acosta. It’s about a president punishing a free press for daring question him.

You don’t have to like Jim Acosta to be troubled by his ejection from the White House. Lord knows, The Curmudgeon is certainly not a fan.  What you should be troubled by, though, is the idea that the president of the United States is comfortable with banning reporters whose questions make him uncomfortable.

And that the White House press corps is apparently not planning any kind of meaningful response to Trump’s actions.

One by one, Trump is attempting to take away our liberties – and it’s going to take a lot of Jim Acostas to prevent that from happening.

And a lot of good people to stand behind people like Acosta.

Behind the Scenes: Trump Looks at the Constitution

The scene is the Oval Office.  Seated amid a semi-circle of chairs around the front of the president’s desk are Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. They’re chatting quietly when Steve Bannon enters the room.

GIULIANI:  Good morning, Steve.  You invited, too?

BANNON:  Yeah.  Hey, Kavanaugh, you’re in my seat.

KAVANAUGH:  It’s not a tea party, Bannon; they didn’t put out pretty place cards. There’s another seat available.

BANNON:  But not my seat.  That’s where I always sat when I counseled the president.

KAVANAUGH:  Until he counseled your ass out the door.  Park it somewhere else.

BANNON: I want my seat, Kavanaugh, and I want it now.

KAVANAUGH:  Did you not pay attention during my confirmation hearings, Bannon?  All that after-school weightlifting that I did with PJ and Squee and guys, that was for real.  Get off my case or I’ll crush you like a grape.

GIULIANI:  Do you guys have any idea why we’re here today?

KAVANAUGH:  And on a Saturday?  Judges do not work on Saturdays.

BANNON (taking an available seat):  Of course not.  Working hard isn’t required of government help, is it, Brett?

KAVANAUGH:  Shut up, Bannon.  Besides, from what I read in the papers, this president barely works during the week, let alone on Saturdays.  What’s he even doing in Washington?

(A door opens and the president enters.  Giuliani and Kavanaugh rise from their seats.  Bannon does not.)

TRUMP:  Thank you for joining me, gentlemen.  I guess you’re wondering why I invited you here today.

GIULIANI:  It doesn’t matter.  We’re here to do your bidding, Mr. President.

TRUMP:  Hush, Rudy, I know you’re subservient and obsequious but you don’t need to prove it every ten seconds.  Every day is enough.

Anyhow, I’ve asked you, as my closest advisors, to join me here today…

KAVANAUGH:  Excuse me, Mr. President, but I’m not one of your advisors.  I’m a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

TRUMP:  Yes, I know, I appointed you, and that makes you a member of my administration and therefore an advisor.

KAVANAUGH:  Excuse me again, sir, but it most certainly does not.  The judiciary is a separate and equal branch of government, as any sixth-grader understands.
BANNON (muttering):  Well, that lets him out.

(Now speaking louder)  So what am I doing here?  You fired me, remember?

TRUMP:  Steve, Steve, I’ve fired plenty of people I stay in touch with.  I talk to Corey Lewandowski all the time. The poor schmuck doesn’t even realize I’m just milking him.  I consult regularly with Michael Scaramucci before he goes on television, which is an awful lot lately.  I utterly humiliated him in front of the entire country last year but this goombah just keeps coming back and begging to carry my water for me.  Reince Priebus came to dinner last night. Michael Flynn was advising me on investment opportunities in Iraq just last week.  Michael Cohen wrote my address to the U.N.  You need to learn to wear getting fired by me as a badge of honor, Steve.  If you’re not careful I could end up firing you again.

BANNON:  You can’t fire me because I don’t work for you.

TRUMP:  I’m president, Steve.  Everybody works for me.  You work for me, Mitch McConnell works for me, Brett works for me, Sean Hannity works for me.  The guy who poured you your ninth scotch last night works for me.  That’s the way it works in this country.

GIULIANI:  Strictly speaking, sir, it does not.

TRUMP:  Shut up, Rudy.

Anyhow, the reason I asked you here this morning is to follow up on a few weeks ago when I was trying to get out from under the shit show I had created for Republican candidates for Congress by talking about passing an executive order that would render the 14th amendment of the constitution null and void…

KAVANAUGH:  Something you surely know you can’t do.

TRUMP:  I’m president, Brett.  If I say I can do it then it’s automatically permitted.  That’s the way it works in this country. Nixon said so.

KAVANAUGH:  And Nixon got himself drummed out of office in disgrace because he thought that way.

GIULIANI (turning to face Kavanaugh and Bannon):  I’ve been through this with him before, boys.  It’ll go a whole lot easier if you just let him get to his point.

TRUMP:  As I was saying, when I started talking about overruling the 14th amendment…

KAVANAUGH:  Something you absolutely cannot do…

GIULIANI:  Really, Brett?  You have nothing better to do on a Saturday than prolong whatever agony this is going to be?

TRUMP:  So as I was saying – Brett, would you be more comfortable if I had someone bring you a beer?

KAVANAUGH:  It’s 9:30 in the morning, sir.

TRUMP:  Is that a no?

KAVANAUGH:  Okay, I’ll take one.  Make it two; I’m getting the impression this is going to take a while.

(Trump picks up his phone and issues instructions for refreshments to be brought into the room, including Kavanaugh’s beer.  Seconds later they arrive, and after the four men serve themselves, Trump resumes speaking.)

TRUMP:  So I got to thinking that if there’s something so obviously wrong with the 14th amendment there may be problems with some of the other amendments, too, so I ordered a briefing put together on the amendments to the constitution and which ones I might like to address and possibly overrule.

KAVANAUGH:  Which you can’t…


KAVANAUGH:  Yes, Rudy, I forgot.  Sorry.  Please continue, Mr. President.

TRUMP:  Thank you.  So I received this briefing a few days ago and now I’d like to discuss some of the amendments we might consider addressing.

GIULIANI:  Excuse me, Mr. President, but who exactly gave you this briefing?  I’m your lawyer, that’s supposed to be my job.

TRUMP:  Rudy, I love you like a somewhat deranged and demented brother but I hired you for your tongue, not your brain.  Based on what I’ve seen over the years, your legal skills are on a par with that DA who lost every case to Perry Mason for nine seasons, so I decided I’d better seek some outside help.  The briefing was provided to me by Harry Hamlin and Christine Baranski.

BANNON:  Of what possible use could they be?  They’re actors, not lawyers.

TRUMP:  But they played lawyers on television, which you know counts a lot with me.  I figured they learned all the law they needed to know to win their cases.  Like Rob Lowe, on The Grinder.  Besides, have you seen the legs on that Christine Baranski?  If I wasn’t being watched so closely by the press I’d totally hit that.  She’s almost as hot as my Iva…Melania, that is, almost as hot as my Melania.

Anyhow, based on their briefing, I’d like to talk to you about five amendments to the constitution and the possibility of overruling or modifying them:  the 1st, the 8th, the 13th, the 22nd, and the 24th.  I’d like to discuss them from the most recent to the oldest.

KAVANAUGH (putting down his can of beer):  Mr. President, I must protest.  Putting aside for a moment how foolish addressing those amendments would be and that you don’t have the authority to do so on your own without an act of Congress or the consent of the states, I can’t be part of this conversation because if you try to do any of the things you’re contemplating you’ll be sued and the case could come before the Supreme Court and I would have to recuse myself.

TRUMP:  Excuse yourself?  For what?

KAVANAUH:  No, I’d have to recuse myself.

TRUMP:  What does that mean?

KAVANAUH:  I’d have to withdraw from the deliberations and neither discuss the case with my colleagues on the court nor vote on it.

TRUMP:  Oh, great, another Jeff Sessions.  Just what I need.  Don’t forget what I did to him, Kavanaugh:  I fired him and I can fire you.

KAVANAUGH:  Actually, Mr. President, you can’t fire me.  An appointment to the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment that ends only with retirement or death.

TRUMP:  Okay, that’s a part of the constitution I’ll have to address another time. So why do you think you’d have to withdraw from such a case if it came before the court?

KAVANAUGH:  Because I would then be considered part of the decision-making process being challenged in the lawsuit so it would be a conflict of interest for me to cast judgment on a process in which I took part.  It’s legal ethics 101.

TRUMP:  We didn’t teach legal ethics at Trump University.

KAVANAUGH:  (muttering) From what I understand, you didn’t teach anything at Trump University.

TRUMP:  Here we go again.  You should have told me about this before I appointed you.

KAVANAUGH:  But the potential problem hadn’t arisen before you appointed me.

TRUMP:  I didn’t accept that excuse from Sessions and I’m not accepting it from you, either.  Besides, your concern is nonsense.  This is how I do all of my business:  I get someone on the inside who will be a decision-maker so they can help me when the day comes that I need their help.  You’re my insider, Brett.  I invested an enormous amount of political capital to get you that job and put you in a position to help me and now is when I seek a return on that investment.

KAVANAUGH (suppressing belch):  Mr. President…

BANNON:  Enough, Kavanaugh.  Let him get it out or we’ll be here all day.

TRUMP: That’s the ticket, Steve.  That’s why I wanted you here today.  I was trying to decide who to invite here for this conversation and the devil wasn’t available so I thought ‘Mr. Trump, get the next best thing.’  I’ve come to enjoy referring to myself as ‘Mr. Trump.’  I think that was Gary Busey’s idea on Celebrity Apprentice. Or maybe Meatloaf.  Or was it Danny Bonaduce?
So let’s start with the 24th amendment. Your thoughts, Rudy?

GIULIANI:  I like your thinking about that, Mr. President.

TRUMP:  Even though you haven’t heard it.  Way to be fast on your feet, Rudy.  God forbid you might have a thought of your own once in a while.

BANNON:  For laymen, please.

KAVANAUGH:  The 24th amendment prohibits the revocation of voting rights if a person doesn’t pay a poll tax or any other tax levied related to voting.  He’s talking about permitting states to reinstitute poll taxes, which they would then use to disenfranchise people who can’t afford to pay them.

TRUMP:  What do you think, Brett?  Is it like that Christine Baranski?


TRUMP:  You know:  doable.

KAVANAUGH:  No, Mr. President, it’s not doable.  It would reverse much of the civil rights movement and would be used by southern states to prevent low-income African-Americans from voting, and maybe in big cities, too.  It would be an outrageous act that would probably get you impeached.

TRUMP:  Let me worry about the politics, Brett.  Can I have the steward bring you more beer?

KAVANAUGH:  Yes, please.

TRUMP:  So, what do you think, Rudy?

GIULIANI:  Personally, I love it.

TRUMP:  Of course you do.

GIULIANI:  I’m tired of all those freeloading coloreds in Alabama getting the right to vote without paying taxes.

KAVANAUGH:  “Coloreds”?  Really?

TRUMP:  Look, I got my start in real estate working in my father’s rental properties, and the way that worked was clear:  you had to pay rent and if you didn’t pay your rent we turned off your electricity and heat and running water and the next time you left your apartment we moved out all your stuff and put it out on the street.  If you can’t pay, you can’t play.  In this case, if you can’t pay the poll tax, you can’t vote.

BANNON:  I agree.  I could get wholly behind this.  We can make it so that only European-Americans have the right to vote in this country, as it should be.

GIULIANI (turning to Kavanaugh):  What?

KAVANAUGH:  He means only white people would be able to vote.  (Pops the top on another can of beer.)

GIULIANI:  Well, I can go along with that with enthusiasm.

TRUMP:  Of course you can, Rudy.  Then it’s settled:  I’ll have Calista Flockhart draft an executive order revoking the 24th amendment.

KAVANAUGH:  Not to nitpick, Mr. President, but revoking a constitutional amendment involves a formal, very specific process.

TRUMP:  Your nitpicking is noted, Brett.  We won’t revoke the 24th amendment.

KAVANAUGH:  That’s a relief.

TRUMP:  No, we won’t need to.  I’ll just prohibit all local, state, and federal authorities from enforcing it.  Problem solved. Let’s move on to the next amendment:  the 22nd.

KAVANAUGH:  You want to end the two-term limit for presidents?

TRUMP:  I like this job and I think I want to keep it.

KAVANAUGH:  That’s outrageous.

BANNON:  No, it’s brilliant.  I love it.  We’ll seize control of the administrative state for good.

GIULIANI:  You’ll be nearly 80 by the end of your second term if you win re-election.

TRUMP:  You mean WHEN I win re-election, Rudy.  Who do the Democrats have to beat me?  Pocahontas?  The colored kid from New Jersey?  The black girl from California – who, I have to admit, is at least an 8. Joe Biden won’t even make it to 2020.  Have you seen him lately?  He looks terrible. And Hillary’s not stupid enough to come back for more.

BANNON:  Brilliant.

KAVANAUGH:  Ridiculous.

TRUMP:  In addition to making the 22nd amendment unenforceable, I’d also like to add a new element to it.

KAVANAUGH:  (muttering) This ought to be good.

TRUMP:  Modified primogeniture.

BANNON:  For laymen, please.

KAVANAUGH:  Primogeniture is an antiquated system generally abandoned more than 200 years ago under which the first born inherits all of the father’s wealth upon his death.

GIULIANI:  You want Don Junior to succeed you, Mr. President?

TRUMP:  That simpleton?  No, of course not.  That’s where the modified part comes in:  I get to pick which of my children gets to inherit not my money but my job.

KAVANAUGH:  Good lord, you’re proposing to establish a monarchy.

BANNON:  What?

GIULIANI:  With a king?

TRUMP:  No, a queen.

GIULIANI:  You mean a queen like that chubby guy on Modern Family?

TRUMP:  No, you idiot.  I’d designate Ivanka as my heir, and when I die, she’d be president.

BANNON:  Brilliant.

GIULIANI:  Oh, I don’t know.

KAVANAUGH:  Are you insane?

TRUMP:  I don’t think I like your attitude, Brett.  I know it’s a lawyer’s job to say no, but…

KAVANAUGH:  I’m not your lawyer, Mr. President.

TRUMP:  Of course you are.  I appointed you to the Supreme Court.  In fact, I’m considering appointing you White House counsel.

KAVANAUGH:  That’s absurd.  I won’t give up a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land for a short-term job working for a one-term president.

TRUMP:  I wouldn’t be asking you to give up the Supremes.  It would be your second job.  And don’t think I didn’t catch that reference to a one-term president.  Do that again and it’ll be off to the gulag for you, Kavanaugh.

KAVANAUH:  What you just suggested is illegal, sir.

TRUMP:  The second job or the gulag?

KAVANAUGH:  The gulag idea is for another conversation.  The second job would be illegal.

TRUMP:  Why?

KAVANAUGH:  It’s against the law for someone to work for two branches of the federal government at the same time.

TRUMP:  Fine.  Then I’ll just issue an executive order suspending that limit.  Problem solved.

KAVANAUGH:  You don’t have the power to do that, sir.

TRUMP:  Of course I do.  I’m president.  Tell him, Rudy.  But let’s get back to the report.

KAVANAUGH:  But just so we’re clear, being on the Supreme Court makes me an interpreter and an arbiter of the law, not a presidential advisor.

TRUMP:  Well you’re MY advisor, Brett, and that’s all there is to it.  You’re advising me now, aren’t you?

KAVANAUGH:  I won’t stand for this anymore.  I’m leaving.  (He stands, wobbling just a little.)

TRUMP:  Down, boy.  I have the Secret Service posted outside with orders not to permit anyone to leave unless they get the word from me.

KAVANAUGH:  (Returning to his seat)  So you want to be president for life and then turn it over to your daughter when you die?

TRUMP:  Yes.

KAVANAUGH:  You want to be king?

TRUMP:  Well I’m not calling it that.  The optics would be bad.  I prefer to think of it as adding the U.S. portfolio to my family business and since Ivanka is the heir to running the family business, this would be one of her responsibilities.

GIULIANI:  Mr. President, I don’t know about this.

TRUMP:  So now that that’s decided, let’s turn to the 13th amendment.

KAVANAUGH:  Surely you’re not talking about overruling the amendment that abolished slavery.

BANNON:  That’s extreme even for me.  It would be political suicide.

TRUMP:  I don’t agree.  I think my supporters would be very enthusiastic about this.

KAVANAUGH:  I can’t believe we’re talking about abolishing slavery!

TRUMP:  Slavery is such a harsh word, Brett.  I’m not as good at explaining my idea about this so I’m going to ask Stephen Miller to step in for a few minutes to explain it for me.  (Picks up the telephone)  Please send in Dracula.

(Miller appears and pulls up a chair alongside Giuliani, who leans away from him)

Stephen, I was just telling Brett and Rudy about my idea for using repeal of the 14th amendment to address both the immigration crisis and the shortage of people willing to do menial labor.  The labor thing is important:  do you fellows realize how many workers I need to import for a few months every year to do jobs at my various resorts and golf courses that regular workers won’t do?

BANNON:  Regular workers?

TRUMP:  White people.  The temporary worker visa program that the Trump Organization goes through is supposed to be reserved for people who bring to America skills Americans don’t have or don’t have in adequate supply – things like doctors, nurses, people who can code, engineers who will work really cheap.  We’ve been working with the immigration people for years to make the same argument about people who rake greens and spread manure and how they’re just as valuable and because we can’t find real American workers who…

KAVANAUGH:  (muttering) Talk about spreading manure.

You mean white American workers?

TRUMP:  Now you’re getting the picture, Brett.  Hold on, let me have the steward bring a refill for you.  (Trump picks up the phone, says a few words, and seconds later someone wheels in a golden cart bearing a six-pack.)  The Trump Organization has been working with immigration officials for years…

BANNON:  And by “working with” you mean…

TRUMP:  Paying cash per body for every worker we can get.  You know:  the American way of doing business with government.

BANNON:  Sweet.

TRUMP:  But expensive, and Stephen will explain my better idea.  Stephen.

MILLER:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Gentlemen, this is perhaps the greatest idea you’ve ever heard, combining the two problems of immigration and the shortage of people willing to work for low wages into one elegant solution.  We call it the “Working Path to Citizenship.”  The way it will work is that individuals who seek entry to the U.S., instead of sneaking in because they know their story won’t pass the guidelines for seeking asylum, will be offered an opportunity to enter into a formal contract agreeing to work at specific jobs for a specific period of time at sub-minimum wages, and at the end of that period they’d receive permanent green cards.  They won’t be eligible for any public benefits during the indenture period except to send their kids to public schools but they won’t be oppressed, they won’t be hunted down, and they’ll be almost full-fledged Americans.  We’re thinking that maybe we could count them as three-fifths of a person for census purposes.  As you know, that’s been done before.

BANNON:  I love it.

GIULIANI:  It sounds like…

KAVANAUGH:  He called it “indenture.”  What it sounds like is slavery.

MILLER:  No, not slavery.  They would be entering voluntarily – strictly voluntarily – into a standard indenture contract.

KAVANAUGH:  You mean… indentured servitude.  Slavery.

MILLER:  We prefer to think of it, as I explained, as a Working Path to Citizenship.

GIULIANI:  How long would these periods of indenture last?

MILLER:  We’re thinking 20 years, with any offspring of those working under indenture contracts required to work under indenture themselves for 15 years after they reach the age of 15.

KAVANAUGH:  Good god, man, you’re really talking about resurrecting slavery!

TRUMP:  Duh.  No:  we’re talking about extracting a fair price for entering the greatest country in the history of the world.  Why else do you think we’re talking about repealing the 13th amendment?

KAVANAUGH:  You’re insane!  The public won’t stand for that.  The courts won’t stand for that.  The Supreme Court certainly won’t stand for that.

GIULIANI:  Oh, I’m not so sure about that last one.  We know we can count on Sam Alito to support such an exercise of presidential authority.  And I ran this by Neil Gorsuch when I nominated him and while he did spit out his coffee when I explained, he never expressed any misgivings or concerns.

BANNON:  And you can count on Clarence Thomas.

KAVANAUGH:  Are you mad?  Clarence Thomas is black.  A black man is never going to stand for a return of slavery.

GIULIANI:  Oh, that boy’s been in denial about his race for years.

BANNON:  Like with that pretty white wife of his.

TRUMP:  Pretty?  She’s a two, tops.

BANNON:  I was speaking metaphorically, Mr. President.

TRUMP:  I don’t know what that means, Steve, but if it’s dirty, count me in.

GIULIANI:  The south will definitely go for it.

KAVANAUGH:  No it won’t, Rudy.  The population there is too black.

TRUMP:  Sure, it is right now, but if we repeal the 24th amendment ban on poll taxes and the blacks can’t vote, we’d get the support of the regular people.

KAVANAUGH:  And by that you mean white people?

TRUMP:  Yes – and it would work that way all around the country.

BANNON:  This could work.

KAVANAUGH:  No, it can’t work.  It’s insane, and you’ll be drummed out of office in disgrace.

MILLER:  It’s a brilliant idea and you WILL respect it, Mr. Justice.

TRUMP:  Easy, Stephen.  Why don’t you go back to your office now and let the grown-ups move on to the next amendment.

(Miller leaves.  Kavanaugh opens another can of beer.)

Okay, next on my list is the 8th amendment.

BANNON:  For laymen, please.

KAVANAUGH:  It bans cruel and unusual punishment.

TRUMP:  It’s too namby-pamby for me.  It’s not consistent with my well-deserved image as a tough guy and my base wants me to be tougher on crime and we can’t be tough on crime and those bad hombres if we’re sending criminals to country club prisons.  Did you know there are states that are actually cutting the number of people they have in jail by 10 and 20 percent and more?

BANNON:  And that’s almost entirely minorities they’re letting out of jail and back onto our streets to terrorize ordinary Americans.

GIULIANI:  Ordinary Americans?

BANNON:  European-Americans.


KAVANAUGH:  He’s talking about letting people of color out of jail to commit crimes against white people.  You really are as bat-shit crazy as some people say you are., Rudy.

GIULIANI:  What people are saying that?

TRUMP:  I read it on the internet, so it must be true.

So anyhow, I’m thinking of a new round of mandatory sentencing guidelines I would impose by executive order.

KAVANAUGH:  You mean Congress would adopt them.  That’s Congress’s job, for federal crimes.

TRUMP:  Federal crimes, state crimes, I’m suggesting that by overruling the 8th amendment I can take over creating sentencing guidelines for every level of government, not just federal, which would enable me to make the death sentence mandatory for first, second, and third degree murder, for sex crimes and child molestation, and for failing to pay rent in a timely manner.


TRUMP:  Yes, Rudy.  Did I mumble or stutter?


TRUMP:  Yes, rent.  This was always a problem in the rental units my father owned and that I later ran and owned. People would think twice about not paying their rent if they thought there was a chance they would face a firing squad.

BANNON:  A firing squad?

TRUMP:  That would be my new, mandatory means of capital punishment.  With all of the gun enthusiasts in my base, I thought we would hold lotteries for the right to serve on firing squads, maybe make the raffle tickets $500 apiece, with half of the money going to help pay down the national debt and half going to the Trump Organization as a royalty because it was my idea.

KAVANAUGH:  That’s insane.TRUMP:  No, I’m pretty sure those tickets would go fast.

KAVANAUGH:  No, the idea is insane.  You’d also be violating the 9th amendment.

GIULIANI:  There’s a 9th amendment?

BANNON:  Didn’t you go to law school, Giuliani?

KAVANAUGH:  Yes, there’s a 9th amendment.

BANNON:  For laymen, please.

KAVANAUGH:  It’s the one that leaves to the states all of the rights not specifically enumerated in the constitution.

BANNON:  It’s the very core of conservative beliefs.  You can’t do away with that!

TRUMP:  If it’s in the way of me making deals and getting things done, it’ll have to go.

BANNON:  It’ll be seen as a betrayal by your base.  Of the entire conservative nationalist movement.

TRUMP:  They’ll get over it.  Have you seen the other stuff I’ve done in the past two years with damn near no consequences?

BANNON:  But this…what about conservative values?

TRUMP:  Steve, Steve, have you not been paying attention at all?   I’m not conservative.  I’m also not liberal.  I’m a pragmatist.  When I was running for president I was for anything that I thought would help me get elected and now that I’m president I’m for anything that will help me accumulate power and stay in power.  And you’ve been a great help.  Thanks, buddy.


TRUMP:(Picks up the phone)  Send in the agents.

(Three agents enter immediately) Please escort Mr. Bannon out of the building. Again.  And this time don’t be so gentle about it.  This time I think I’m done with Steve for good.

Now, gentlemen, let’s continue.  The last amendment to the constitution that I’d like to talk over is the first.

KAVANAUGH:  You’re kidding, right?


TRUMP:  No, I’m deadly serious.

KAVANAUGH:  Mr. President, the 1st amendment is the very foundation of our government. The constitution never would have been adopted without the first amendment.  It’s the core of our beliefs, the heart of our democracy.

GIULIANI:  Yeah, what he said.

TRUMP:  Like the buildings I level to build my palaces, it may have served its purpose in its time but that time has come and gone.  It’s now old and smells of death and needs work.

KAVANAUGH:  You can’t do that.

TRUMP:  But I’m betting that I can.

KAVANAUGH:  Such as?

TRUMP:  Well, here, let me take a look at this analysis prepared for me Elle Woods and Vincent Gambini.

Hmmm, let’s see:  freedom of religion.  This one’s a no-brainer.

KAVANAUGH (muttering):  Well, coming from one.

TRUMP:  I would outlaw the Muslim religion in this country.  They’re all terrorists or aspiring terrorists.

KAVANAUGH:  Mr. President!

GIULIANI:  I’m intrigued.  Go on.

TRUMP:  Free speech would mostly continue except that it would be against the law to speak ill of the president or write negatively about him.

KAVANAUGH:  You’re resurrecting the alien and sedition acts?  That’s outrageous!

GIULIANI:  I’m intrigued.  Go on.

KAVANAUGH:  Dammit, Rudy, stop staying that.

TRUMP:  The right to peaceable assembly would remain except for instances in which those assemblies are to protest the actions of the president or in support of an opponent of the president.

KAVANAUGH (opening another can of beer):  You absolutely cannot do that.  You’ll be assassinated!

GIULIANI:  I’m intrigued.  Go on.

KAVANAUGH:  Seriously, Giuliani?

TRUMP:  That’s what I’VE been saying!

KAVANAUGH:  Mr. President, you really, really can’t do any of these things.  They’re just un-American.

TRUMP:  I’m changing what it means to be American.  I have the unwavering support of my base and that doesn’t seem to change no matter what I do.  Having a Democratic majority in the House will make no difference whatsoever. I’ll continue to be able to govern as I see fit.  I am the president and I will be the absolute ruler for the rest of my reign, er, term.

(There’s a knock on the door.  Without waiting for an invitation, Ivanka enters.)

IVANKA:  Hi, daddy.

TRUMP:  Hey there, hot stuff.

IVANKA:  Oh, daddy.

TRUMP:  How’re you doing?

IVANKA:  I’m having a good hair day, daddy.

TRUMP:  Good hair days run in the family.

IVANKA:  So what’s with the Saturday meeting?  Jared likes to say that he thinks of you as an honorary Jew because you never work on the sabbath.

TRUMP: What?

IVANKA:  The Jewish sabbath is Saturday.

KAVANAUGH:  Mr. President?

TRUMP:  Yes, Brett.

KAVANAUGH:  Could you have them bring in some more beer for me?

TRUMP:  I’ll be happy to.

KAVANAUGH:  Thanks.  It looks like this is going to be a long, long day.

Sore Losers

Last Tuesday there were elections:  some people won, some people lost.

And it took only two days for a few sore losers to emerge and begin plotting their revenge.

In Wisconsin Republican members of the state legislature, furious that the incumbent Republican governor was voted out of office, plotted to shift the state’s voter ID laws from administrative actions to state law so that the new, Democratic governor would have less influence over their enforcement; to strip the new, incoming Democratic governor of some of the appointments he gets to make to the Wisconsin Economic Development Board; and, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Wednesday he would discuss whether to look at limiting [newly elected Democratic governor] Evers’ power with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). FItzgerald is open to the idea, according to an aide. 

“If there are areas where we could look and say, ‘Geez — have we made mistakes where we granted too much power to the executive,’ I’d be open to taking a look to say what can we do to change that to try to re-balance it,” Vos told reporters.

“Maybe we made some mistakes giving too much power to Gov. (Scott) Walker and I’d be open to looking at that to see if there are areas we should change that…”

Geez, Republican Scott Walker was governor for eight years and no one heard Republican Vos talking about looking at HIS powers as governor.

Meanwhile, over in North Carolina, Republicans lost their super majority in the state legislature and will have to get by with only a regular majority next year, but before the supers depart they plan to pass some laws they have no chance of passing next year, including – of course – tougher voter ID laws, to make it harder for Democrats to win even more elections in the future.  It’s hard to imagine how much tougher they can make it:  the state legislature already passed a law that made University of North Carolina ID cards, community college ID cards, University of North Carolina and community college employee ID cards, municipal employee ID cards, public assistance ID cards, and emergency responder ID cards no longer acceptable forms of identification at the polls.

We have a tendency to conclude, after the votes are tallied – even when our favorites have lost – that “the people have spoken.”

But it looks like legislators in Wisconsin and North Carolina – and no doubt in other places as well – have no intention of listening.


A Simple Solution to a Serious Problem

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone to learn that hitting people with your head will hurt your brain and that covering that head with a hunk of plastic before hitting people with your head will still result in injury to the brain.  We finally have pretty clear evidence of what we all should have intuitively understood – enough so that The Curmudgeon believes that any parent who permits a minor child to play tackle football in light of all this now-clear evidence should be investigated for child endangerment.

With that said, Americans love their football and there are still millions of idiotic American males who are willing to risk injury to their brain for the thrill, glory, fame, and riches of playing football.  Or they just like hitting people. People are doing a lot of things to reduce the incidence of brain injuries by making helmets stronger, teaching players not to block and tackle with their heads, and introducing penalties for those who persist in doing so.  Short of banning tackle football, it’s not clear that much more can be done.

Or maybe there IS something that can be done.

With this in mind, The Curmudgeon has a modest proposal.

Once upon a time, football players didn’t wear the massive, rock-hard helmets they wear today.  No, they wore leather helmets, the purpose of which was not to facilitate blocking and tackling with the head but to protect the players’ brains when they fell to the ground – something that happens a lot when people play tackle football.

As silly as this may (at least on the surface) seem, why not…go back to the days of football players wearing leather helmets?  The problem with today’s helmets is that while they clearly do not protect the brain from long-term injury, they DO protect the brain from “Oh my god I can’t believe how much that really, really hurt” moments.  You can tell a young man interested in thrills, glory, fame, and riches that hitting people with his helmeted head will cause him long-term problems but when he hits people with his head and it seldom even hurts he just doesn’t believe it, and the evidence be damned.

Put him in a leather helmet, though, and he’ll learn that lesson quickly.

Real quickly.

And the problem with brain injuries in football will be solved.