Category Archives: Uncategorized

Maybe We’re the Ones Who Have It All Wrong

If you visit this site with any degree of regularity you’re probably the kind of person who has gotten a good laugh over President Trump’s declaration that the press is the enemy of the people.

But according to USA Today,

Nearly half of Republicans surveyed — 44 percent — believe the president should be able to shutter news outlets for “bad behavior,” according to a new poll released Tuesday. 

The poll by Ipsos emphasizes the clear divide between party lines when it comes to the role of the media and its coverage of the Trump administration. Twenty-nine percent, nearly a third, of the more than 1,000 people polled said they believed the news media was the enemy of the American people, a phrase that was coined and popularized by President Donald Trump. That number jumps to 48 percent if you just examine Republicans surveyed. 

Still laughing?

Insurance Snafu

Health insurance is confusing.  You know it, your doctors know it, your insurer knows it.  Chances are you’ve been billed for services you already paid for and have received refund checks for bills you dutifully paid but the insurer realized, in hindsight, that you didn’t really owe.

That happened to The Curmudgeon last week.   On Wednesday, August 8 he received a check in the mail for $36.53 as a refund for a payment he had made in response to a bill he received for an x-ray of his foot.

The check was dated July 30, 2018.

And the date the x-ray was taken?  That was July 26.

2017!!!

Isn’t It Remarkable…

…that the president’s legal team is so worried that he will commit perjury if he talks to special counsel Robert Mueller and his team?  That they acknowledge that he’s such a compulsive liar who changes his stories so often that he can’t be trusted to sit down for a few hours and just answer some questions honestly?

And that they’re willing to talk about this so openly and so publicly?

Whoops!

SOMEBODY looked down last week and saw that he had left the house wearing two different sneakers.

Yikes!

A Scene at the Dentist’s Office

The Curmudgeon was sitting in the dentist’s office, waiting for his turn for his six-month check-up – he’s pretty serious about his dental hygiene – when the dental assistant opened the door connecting the clinic area to the waiting room and called out (changing the names to protect the innocent here) “Mrs. Dunphy and Danny, Melissa, William, and Julia.”  The kids looked as if they ranged in age from three to about ten.

The appointments were for the children but Mrs. Dunphy just sat there, unmoving, so the dental assistant came out and asked her a few quick questions about the children and their health.  Mrs. Dunphy mumbled her answers, all of them one word and most of them one syllable, and kept her eyes down and refused to rise, suggesting that she had no intention of accompanying her children into the clinic area.  Frustrated, the dental assistant said “Well, I at least need you to come in with the little one,” whereupon Mother of the Year called out “Melissa.”

No response.

“Melissa.”

Still no response.

And then Danny, the oldest, looked at his mother, at the dental assistant, and at Melissa, shrugged his shoulders as if this was the kind of scene he had witnessed many times, and walked to the back of the waiting room, scooped up his little sister, who smiled and threw her arms around his neck, and carried her back into the clinic area with him.

Mom waited until they had all disappeared through the door and then, with obvious reluctance and not a hint of urgency, rose and headed slowly toward that same door.

Local Liberal Loses Lots of Luster

While Philadelphia pretty much elects only Democrats to city-wide office, it seldom elects genuine liberals – and when it does, they’re elected to the city council, where their colleagues humor and marginalize them. It was a pretty big surprise, then, when city voters two springs ago nominated a fellow named Larry Krasner (over six opponents, some of them credible candidates) to be the Democratic candidate for district attorney – a nomination that in Philadelphia means you will certainly be elected unless you’re incompetent (which has happened in The Curmudgeon’s lifetime).

Krasner brings some pretty serious liberal credentials to his job.  He’s spent his career as a civil rights lawyer, has defended a lot of radicals and activists (including people from Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter), wants to stop imprisoning people unnecessarily, aspires to join others in ending the cash bail system that lets people with money go free and those without to rot in their cells, and more.  Once elected, he fired more than two dozen prosecutors he felt were unacceptably harsh in their approach to their jobs.

He received campaign contributions from George Soros, for heaven’s sake!

But Krasner’s not perfect, and he recently put that imperfection on public display when the local newspapers explained that in his financial disclosures, Krasner and his wife (a local judge) reported owing money to his former business partner – a debt that reportedly has been “settled” – and that he hired that former business partner for a $160,000-a-year job in his office.

So what we have is a guy who campaigned as not a typical politician acting very much like a typical politician by giving a high-paying job to a pal – a pal and former business partner to whom he once owed money.

Worse, when reporters wanted to talk to Krasner about it, he would have none of it:  he had a spokesman do his dirty work for him.

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer,

“Thanks to being in court nearly every day for 35 years, [Giampietro] [note:  the friend who got the job] has tremendous insight into and relationships with judges, police, prosecutors, sheriffs, defense attorneys, and court administration officials,” Krasner spokesperson Ben Waxman said in an email. “He has had a longstanding personal and business relationship with … Krasner and therefore is uniquely qualified to serve as a Senior Advisor in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.”

Qualified, perhaps – maybe – but isn’t doing something like this just a really bad idea?

The poor spokesman didn’t think so.

Waxman said Krasner’s office “reviewed the city code and found no ethics violations, including the conflict of interest section.” He said the review was conducted by Richard Glazer, who is Krasner’s ethics officer and the former chairman of the city Board of Ethics. Waxman would not say when the review was conducted, share its findings, or make Glazer available for an interview.

So it’s not illegal?  Not an ethics violation?  And the question of whether it was an ethics violation was decided by a guy appointed by the fellow whose actions were in question? And the review, conducted by a public official and paid for by public money, isn’t available for public review?

Is that really the standard a guy like Krasner believes he needs to live up to – or, in this case, live down to?

The jury’s still out on Larry Krasner and what kind of public prosecutor he’ll be but it’s clear that at bottom, he’s just another politician doing at least some of the things that politicians do – and that politicians’ constituents hate.

This may come back to bite him on the bum when – if – he runs for re-election.  If he does, he’s not going to be a guy above the political fray anymore. He’ll be just another politician who gives high-paying jobs to his pals and thinks there’s nothing wrong with it because it’s not against the law.

Public officials need to live up to a standard that’s higher than “not against the law” – sort of like whether Trump engaged in collusion with the Russians, regardless of whether he broke any laws – and on this count, Larry Krasner has failed.

Another Reason Health Care Costs So Damn Much

Your “non-profit” blues plan.

If you’re insured by a Blue Cross plan you know the company line:  “We’re non-profit and reinvest all of the money we make in our members.”

Yeah, right.

The Curmudgeon has written about this before:  instead of lowering your premiums, Blue Cross plans hold onto their profits – excuse us, “excess revenue over expenses” – in vast reserves that far outstrip how much money they need, from an actuarial perspective, to ensure their ability to pay their customers’ claims even in the event of an economic downturn.

Now, though, they’ve stumbled upon a new source of windfall profits – excuse us, “excess revenue over expenses.”  That source?  The Trump/Republican Congress tax cuts.

According to the online publication HealthPayer Intelligence – yes, The Curmudgeon knows, he REALLY needs to get out more – your friendly Blues plan is rolling in tax savings.

Fifteen BCBS companies reported a tax benefit of nearly $4.7 billion before accounting for net changes in tax assets. Only two BCBS payers had tax losses after accounting for changes in the TCJA.

And this figure is for 2017 alone.  These windfall profits will now continue annually.

So The Curmudgeon wonders:  are these Blues plans lowering their premiums in the wake of this vast infusion of unearned cash?

Of course they’re not.

Because in the end, they like to put a good guy sheen on it but your local non-profit Blues plan is every bit as rapacious as the for-profit insurers that don’t even bother with the pretext that they give a damn about their customers.

And this is yet another reason why health care costs so damn much in this country.

It’s About Time!

How else to respond to the Washington Post headline last week informing us that

Trump administration considers tax cut for the wealthy

After all, hasn’t he finished the job of taking care of all the little people – you know, the farmers and miners and police officers and the ordinary working people who declared him their champion?  The people who said they need less expensive health care?  The people who lost their manufacturing jobs? The people who are angry because illegal immigrants are stealing their minimum wage jobs?  The people who are worried about Sharia law displacing American law?

I’m Steve Mnuchin. I’m Treasury Secretary of the U.S. I’m worth $450 million but I want to lower taxes on people like me so I can be worth even more.

So hasn’t the time finally come for Trump to turn his attention to some rich folks – you know, people who never, ever ask for anything from government?  Like the proposal’s leading proponents, including President Trump (net worth of approximately $3.1 billion); Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (net worth of approximately $450 million); and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow (net worth of approximately $25 million)?  Aren’t these deserving souls entitled to some love from their government, too?

Oh, what’s that you say?  The Trump administration hasn’t yet done much for working people?

Real wages actually fell for the first quarter after the tax cut took effect? Really?  Wasn’t the tax cut supposed to change that?

And instead of investing in new equipment and facilities and creating new jobs, big corporations are buying back their stock and passing on their tax savings to their shareholders?  Are you sure? Weren’t we told big companies would reinvest their tax savings in new jobs?

And now the Trump administration is so worried about its ability to get its new handout for the rich through Congress that it’s looking for a way to do this through regulations instead of legislation?  But doesn’t Trump object to governing by executive orders?  In fact, on the campaign trail in 2016 didn’t he say that

We have a president that can’t get anything done so he just keeps signing executive orders all over the place.

And didn’t he also declare that

I want to not use too many executive orders, folks. … Obama, because he couldn’t get anybody to agree with him, he starts signing them like they’re butter. So I want to do away with executive orders for the most part.

So surely this can’t all be true:  surely Trump’s not going to reward the rich – again – before even providing any meaningful help at all to working people and surely he’s going to work with Congress to lower taxes for the rich, and for no one else, and not take the easy, coward’s way out by making major changes in public policy via executive order because he told us he believes that’s just plain wrong, right?

Surely the candidate who in 2016 explained that

You know, it’s supposed to be negotiated.  You’re supposed to cajole, get people in a room, you have Republicans, Democrats, you’re supposed to get together and pass a law. (Obama) doesn’t want to do that because it’s too much work. So he doesn’t want to work too hard. He wants to go back and play golf.

…isn’t going to forego all the hard work needed to secure legislation just so he can play golf, right?

Oh, yeah, golf…

So THAT explains why he’s willing to take the kind of shortcut he once condemned.

 

A #MeToo Television?

Woody Allen doesn’t appear to have been relegated to the “never again” category of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, and a few others, but he’s been considered pervy enough for long enough that at least some people are giving him the Edgar Allan Poe “Nevermore” treatment.  One of those people, it turns out, is Mrs. Curmudgeon, so when her husband suggested that they watch together the Woody Allen mini-series Crisis in Six Scenes on Amazon Prime, she gave her husband a quick eye roll that made it clear he’d be watching alone.

Kind of creepy before it really became a thing

The series was…okay.  Not great, not as bad as many of the reviews, but certainly no regrets over less than three hours of viewing.  It had a few, but not enough, of those wonderful Woody Allen observations, non sequiturs, and wisecracks that make you smile, and watching Elaine May play his wife and pretty much steal every scene she was in was fun – if nothing else, Allen has always been generous to his co-stars – but it wasn’t great television.

And there was never a second season because, well, you know.

But that’s not why The Curmudgeon is writing about this.

The Curmudgeon watched Crisis in Six Scenes through the Amazon Prime channel on his Apple TV. (Serious point:  when The Curmudgeon first read about Apple TV he didn’t understand what it actually was and just shook his head, unable to understand why Apple would get into the business of manufacturing televisions. That’s his second worst of such observations:  in the mid-1970s someone asked him what he thought of the new Hondas and he replied that he didn’t like motorcycles.)  Apple TV is one of several devices now available to stream web content onto your television:  there’s also Google Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire, and surely many others The Curmudgeon has heard of but doesn’t realize fall into the same category.  If you’re familiar with these devices, you know the drill:  you turn your television to a certain setting, you pick up a different remote – remember when you could watch television with just one gizmo in your hand? – and seconds later you have a whole different pool of channels about which you can eventually declare “There’s nothing to watch.”

Crisis in Six Scenes consists of six 23-minute episodes, set in the late 1960s or early 1970s, when the war in Vietnam was still being fought, in which the home of Woody Allen and Elaine May, playing a married couple – he’s a writer (surprise!) and she’s a psychologist or marriage counselor – is invaded by a young woman Elaine May’s character knows, played by Miley Cyrus, who is being hunted by police after shooting a prison guard.

So why does The Curmudgeon call this “#MeToo Television”?

Because every time The Curmudgeon started to watch an episode his television, which otherwise works perfectly well, turned itself off.

Possessed?

Just – on one minute and then a blank screen the next.

This doesn’t happen when he watches Phillies games.

Doesn’t happen when he and Mrs. Curmudgeon watch John Oliver or The West Wing or The Newsroom or New Girl or Grace and Frankie or Rachel Maddow or Homeland or Bunheads.

Doesn’t happen when Mrs. Curmudgeon watches The Affair, Bloodlines, Better Call Saul, Succession,Silicon Valley, or anything else.

Doesn’t happen when Mr. and Mrs. Curmudgeon watch other programs on Amazon, such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Goliath.

Doesn’t even happen when The Curmudgeon watches Fox News or Fox & Friends, just to see what the bad guys are saying.

But every time – every single time – The Curmudgeon watched Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes the television just turned itself off.

As if it was sending some kind of #MeToo message.

Like Father, Like Son

Or so one might conclude based on this report from Politico about some views Donald Trump Junior shared last week.

Donald Trump Jr. likened the Democratic Party’s platform to that of the Nazis during the 1930s during an appearance at a film screening Wednesday night, saying comparisons between the group and conservatives are the product of “wrongly influenced” academia. 

A real chip off the old block

The report continues.

“You see the Nazi platform in the early 1930s and what was actually put out there, and you look at it compared to, like, the DNC platform of today, and you’re saying, ‘Man, those things are awfully similar,’ to the point where it’s actually scary, and to me that was one of the most striking things I took from the movie because it’s the exact opposite that you’ve been told,” Donald Trump Jr. said during an interviewwith One America News Network.

And

“I’ve been out hearing the left talking about all these things — fascism, Nazism on the right — and when you look at the actual history of how these things evolved, and when you actually look at that platform versus the platform of the modern left, you say, ‘Wait a minute, those two are really heavily aligned and, frankly, contrary to the right,’” Donald Trump Jr. said. “It’s really more about just having actual, real history being out there. When people talk about these things, you can’t just spew that because someone told you that in a history class when academia and everything has been so influenced, and so wrongly influenced, by the left.”

For once, The Curmudgeon is speechless.