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Hypocrisy at Fox & Friends

So what else is new?

They may call it “Fox & Friends” but it seems more like “The Young and the Witless.”

On Tuesday morning the fools at Fox & Friends celebrated with great enthusiasm the success of protesters in France in gaining the attention of their elected leaders by rioting and winning a rollback of a gasoline tax hike that was about to take effect. They could not stop kvelling about the effectiveness of angry protest in helping their cause succeed.

These are the same dim Fox & Friends bulbs, of course, who are so bitterly critical of protests from the left in their own country, labeling any gathering of liberals a dangerous, unruly mob and the participants in such gatherings hooligans and un-American.

Such is the quality of the brainless folks at Fox & Friends.

Music and House Painting

In either 1992 or 1993 The Curmudgeon took advantage of the week off between Christmas and the new year that his employer so generously gave him to paint his bedroom and cut, paint, and hang crown molding in that room.  (And if you want a good laugh, picture The Curmudgeon trying to work with a miter box.  Can’t picture it?  Well, try picturing Larry, Moe, and Shemp working with a miter box. THAT bad.)

To help pass the time while he spackled, sanded, taped, painted, moved around furniture and drop cloths, and desperately worked to clean up paint spills that evaded his drop cloths before they became permanently embedded in the wall-to-wall carpeting, The Curmudgeon brought his boom box into his bedroom – stop laughing, people, it was 1992 or 1993.  The paint job went well, the molding was amateurish but, since it was nine feet above the ground, not conspicuously so, but the enduring legacy of the hours he spent in that room that week listening to what at the time passed for alternative radio were four performers, only one of whom he had even heard of before that week, whose music has given him countless hours of pleasure over the years:  Lucinda Williams, Tori Amos, Shawn Colvin, and Rosanne Cash.  It was quite an experience; the house is long gone but the music lives on.

With Mrs. Curmudgeon and stepson J out of town recently visiting family and with the dog away with a sitter – The Curmudgeon adores the dog but does not do solo care – The Curmudgeon took this rare opportunity alone in an empty house to paint J’s bedroom. There was no boom box this weekend, just a tiny Bose blaring from the room next door, and instead of alternative radio he listened to some old albums from his iPod, with an emphasis on music that offered both melody and volume.  Volume is essential, The Curmudgeon finds, when painting and cooking.

During these hours he didn’t discover any new performers but did rediscover a few songs he knew from the past but heard anew, with previously unrealized appreciation, during his two days of spackling, sanding, taping, painting, moving around furniture and drop cloths, and desperately working to clean up paint spills that evaded his drop cloths before they became permanently embedded in the 100-year-old oak floors.

Now he’d like to share those songs with you.

The first is Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It.”  For The Curmudgeon this must be about getting married for the first time at the age of 59 and realizing how incredibly lucky this boy is.  It’s also a really good song.

The second is Meatloaf – again, The Curmudgeon sees you snickering; cut it out now – singing “For Crying Out Loud.”  It’s loud, bombastic, overblown, and MacArthur Park-esque in length, but the singing is great, the piano-playing is out of this world, and the lyrics are pretty stirring.

La Ronstadt

And the third is Linda Ronstadt’s “Sorrow Lives Here,” which sounds like it comes from the 1940s but was written in 1967 by Eric Kaz (who also wrote “Love Has No Pride,” so this guy has some serious chops).  The Curmudgeon doesn’t ever recall hearing this song on the radio, but since it was released in 1977 and he was still a few years away from having his first car with an FM radio, that’s not such a surprise.  The song features a strong melody, more great piano playing, terrific lyrics, an inspiring sort of musical urgency, and of course that stirring, amazing Ronstadt voice.

 

Enjoy.

The Bush Tributes are Sweet, But…

…can you recall a time, ever, when we’ve celebrated ordinariness and mediocrity with such enthusiasm?

Sticking it (Again) to Working People

From a strictly financial perspective, people who work in restaurants are pretty much at the bottom of the employment ladder.  The work is hard, the customers are often nasty, and the pay’s often pretty lousy.

And the owners are often jackasses, as The Curmudgeon has chronicled on a number of occasions.

This is another of those occasions.

It turns out that SM Choi, Inc., which operates fast food restaurants in suburban Philadelphia food courts, could give lessons on how to screw working people.

The “Montco Today” web site tells the story:

WHD [U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD)] investigators found that the employer paid cashiers and cooks flat salaries, in cash, without regard to the number of hours that they actually worked. This practice resulted in violations when employees worked more than 40 hours in a workweek but the employer did not pay overtime. SM Choi Inc. also failed to maintain required records of the number of hours employees worked. WHD found the employer engaging in this same practice in a previous WHD investigation in 2016.

“SM Choi Inc. employees worked five to six days per week, for an average of 10 hours per day, and were denied the wages they rightfully earned,” said Wage and Hour Division District Office Director James Cain, in Philadelphia. “This enforcement action and consent judgment will help to ensure that workers are paid the wages they are legally owed and that employers in the restaurant industry operate on a level playing field.”

So now, SM Choi will pay the price for its thievery:

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ordered SM Choi Inc… to pay $93,146 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to 38 employees for willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Department also assessed the employer $26,121 in civil penalties…

The war against working people continues.

 

 

 

 

 

Some People Call Him the Space Cowboy

Some people just call him Maurice.

“Him,” of course, is musician Steve Miller, the self-styled pompitous of love.  Those of us of a certain age will recall a period in the 1970s during which Miller almost continually had a song (or two) on the pop charts – familiar songs like “Jungle Love,” “Take the Money and Run,” “Rock N’ Me,” “The Joker,” “Jet Airliner,” “Swingtown,” ”Fly Like an Eagle,” and others.  A recent article in the New Yorker explains that those songs were anomalies in Miller’s career, that for the most part his music was Texas blues, not pop rock, and that before the hits that’s what Miller performed and after the hits that’s the music to which he returned.  Miller didn’t disappear from the music scene so much as he stopped making the kind of music to which most people listen.

The New Yorker also reports that after more than 30 years living in Idaho and amassing a collection of more than 400 guitars, including some that are collectors’ items and others that are custom-made, Miller married a musicologist and moved to New York City, where he started sharing and donating some of his instruments and getting involved in the city’s music scene.  Included in that involvement was an appointment to the visiting committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Musical Instruments and, more recently and after meeting and becoming friends with jazz star Wynton Marsalis, an appointment to the board of jazz at Lincoln Center.

Of the latter appointment the New Yorker notes a particularly trenchant observation by Miller:

“I walked in and said ‘Jesus, this is a real fuckin’ board.  That’s the guy who built the building.  That’s the guy who raised the twenty million.’” And now there’s the guy who wrote “Ab-ra-ca-dabra/I wanna reach out and grab ya.”

And with that memorable understanding of his place in the world and his willingness to articulate it, The Curmudgeon is now a Steve Miller fan.

 

Way to be Classy, Buffalo

There are some silly traditions when it comes to throwing things onto the field of play at sporting events.  At the Palestra, home basketball court of the University of Pennsylvania, students throw rolls of toilet paper onto the court after the home team’s first basket of the night.

Yes, it’s silly.

In hockey, when a player scores three goals in one game he is said to have scored a “hat trick,” so obliging fans stream their hats onto the ice in celebration.

Yes, it’s silly.

In Detroit, fans throw octopuses – octopi? – onto the ice as part of the celebration of success during the Stanley Cup play-offs.  We will not get into the question of where the fans get their octopi or how they manage to sneak them into the arena past security guards who have been directed to detect and detain the slimy mollusks.

Yes, it’s silly.

And the latest entry to the silliness of throwing things onto the field of play comes from Buffalo, where professional football fans in recent years have started throwing quite a different type of object onto the field.

Dildos.

Surely you weren’t expecting…

That is not a misprint.

In 2016, a Buffalo Bills fan apparently wrote New England Patriots player Tom Brady’s name on a leftover Halloween prop and tossed it onto the field, allegedly as a symbol of how his team is constantly being screwed by the famous quarterback.

And a tradition was born.

Since then, dildos have been thrown onto the field of play in Buffalo on a number of occasions during contests with the Patriots.

Way to launch a new tradition, Buffalonians (Buffaloites?). Way to keep it classy.

Way to be totally, totally weird.

Another Front in the War Against Working People

A lot of people get paid by the hour for the work they do.  Whether they sign in or punch a clock or log onto a computer, the idea is that some means is employed to record how much time they work and then someone adds up the number of hours they worked, multiplies it by their hourly wage, and generates a paycheck, complete with appropriate payroll and tax deductions.

But not all employers have been willing to pay all of their employees for all of the time they work.

Take Starbucks, for example.

Starbucks was in the habit of routinely denying hourly employees their due for the time they spent setting alarms, locking doors, and other such activities. One employee was unhappy enough that he sued Starbucks for what he perceived to be his rightful pay.

And won.

Over Starbucks’ most strenuous objections.

As reported by the Associated Press,

Starbucks said it was disappointed with the ruling. In a brief filed with the California Supreme Court, attorneys for Starbucks said Troester’s argument could lead to “innumerable lawsuits over a few seconds of time.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a court filing also warned of the possibility of “significant liability” to businesses in the state.

The amount of money Mr. Troester sought in his lawsuit was not great: he was seeking his $8 an hour – shame on Starbucks! – for 12 hours and 50 minutes over a period of 17 months, or a total of $102.67.

Starbucks was unhappy about having to pay the money and unhappy that Mr. Troester’s victory would leave it vulnerable to other such claims and other such litigation.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce backed Starbucks in the suit because, well, because there may not be any organization that hates working people and begrudges them their wages as much as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Starbucks isn’t exactly hurting:  in 2017 it reported sales of $22.4 billion and profits of more than $4 billion.  It’s sitting on such an embarrassingly large pile of cash for which it has no use that it plans to distribute $15 billion of that cash to shareholders over the next three years.  It’s certainly not sharing its success with its employees:  the average salary for a Starbucks store worker is $10.52 an hour.

The Curmudgeon thinks it’s only fair that people making less than eleven dollars an hour get first shot at some of those huge profits, certainly ahead of shareholders, by getting paid for the work they do to help produce those huge profits.

 

 

The Presidential Brain

We all know that no one has a higher opinion of Donald Trump than Donald Trump himself.

How high?

Consider this, from Newsweek, about a new book about Trump that The Curmudgeon won’t cite by name because he thinks one of the new book’s writers is a total slimewad:

“The amazing thing is that you have certain people who are conservative Republicans that if my name weren’t Trump, if it were John Smith, they would say I’m the greatest president in history and I blow Ronald Reagan away,” Trump said in an interview for the book, according to the Examiner. “All these guys that if they looked at my agenda with a different name…and he got the biggest regulation cuts in history in less than two years, judges, environmental stuff, getting out of the Paris horror show. If you said that conservative president John Smith did that, they would say he’s the greatest president. Far greater than Ronald Reagan.”

Not that The Curmudgeon has a high opinion of Ronald Reagan – quite the contrary, as you might imagine – but this is amazing.

Just…freaking…amazing.

 

 

 

Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish

If you pay attention to all the noise about health care costs and health care spending you’re aware that a lot of the money that we collectively spend on health care is for care for a relatively small number of people suffering from a relatively small number of medical conditions.

One of those conditions is diabetes.  The American Diabetes Association estimates that health care costs for people with diabetes are 2.3 times greater than for those of us without diabetes and overall U.S. spending for diabetes in 2017 was about $237 billion for about 29 million people who have diabetes.

$237 billion.

In addition to this direct spending is another $90 billion in “lost productivity” associated with people with diabetes.  The Curmudgeon has long been suspicious of  those lost productivity figures – we’re supposed to believe someone actually sat down and computed lost productivity in workplaces because of company NCAA tournament bracket pools? – so let’s ignore that and just think about annual spending on diabetes as $237 billion.

A lot of organizations try to do things to help people with diabetes.  The key is keeping such people out of the hospital: out of the ER and out of hospital beds.  That’s where the costs really add up.  Professionally, The Curmudgeon has long been familiar with Medicaid HMOs that spend a lot of money to help their diabetic members take care of themselves and stay out of the hospital.  That’s only natural:  it’s in their best financial interest to keep their members out of the hospital because that’s where these HMOs spend most of their money.  You sure can’t count on hospitals to do this: hospitals are places where health care providers deliver health care services and as far as they’re concerned, the more patients, the better.  Hospitals are in the business of making sick and injured people better; helping people avoid illness and avoid injuries is not something they want to do because it hurts their bottom line, which is all that really matters to hospitals.

So you’d think health insurers would be falling all over themselves to get their diabetic patients enrolled in diabetes education programs, right?

Think again.

The Curmudgeon was surprised to read in the Philadelphia Inquirer a while back about a man who was diagnosed with diabetes and decided to try to take control of his condition by enrolling in a diabetes management course at his local hospital in Georgia.

Perhaps naively, he never inquired about the cost of the program, so he was gob-smacked when he opened up an envelope one day and found a bill for the course he had just completed.

$1044.

For two half-day sessions in a hospital conference room.

$1044.

A Johns Hopkins professor of health policy and management explained that

If you can get 25 in the class and charge $500 each, you can make a lot of money.

Nice, huh?

In addition, offering such classes, he pointed out, brings “…people into the hospital that they expect will need the hospital in the future.”

Because that’s what hospitals are all about:  making money, not helping people.

So the guy in Georgia turned to his health insurer for help – one of those Blue Cross plans The Curmudgeon has written about in the past.  (See here,here,here,here, and here.)

And the Blue Cross plan proudly told the fellow that its negotiated price with the hospital for the class was $626.

But because the guy hadn’t met his deductible, he was out of luck:  his insurer wouldn’t help and he was on the hook for the $626.

You have to wonder:  hospitals have no shame and that’s unlikely to change, but why wasn’t the insurer falling all over itself to help this guy?  Why did he have to take the initiative to find a class at all?  Why didn’t the insurance company go to him immediately after the diagnosis and encourage him to take a free class?  The insurer has an enormous financial stake in making sure its newly diagnosed member knows how to take care of himself and keep himself out of the hospital, but the insurer doesn’t offer such a program itself and really didn’t push the hospital for a decent price.

But that’s the American health care system today:  hospitals and insurers are all about making money, even if some of their decisions are penny-wise, pound-foolish, and they’re all about doing so at the expense of the people they are supposedly in business to serve.

 

A Great Line

“There she is…”

You may recall that there was a good deal of controversy swirling about the Miss America beauty pageant, er, scholarship contest this year.  Some people complained about the elimination of the swimsuit competition, many thought the new Miss America board of directors was acting sort of high-handed, a past Miss America complained that she had been bullied by the board, and some of the state-level pageants, er, scholarship contest organizations staged a brief insurrection.

Well, the contest is over now and the Miss America board was apparently taking names and ready to penalize the insurrectionists, and the Associated Press found a great way to launch into an explanation of the latest doings:

The other heel has dropped at the Miss America Organization, which had endured a revolt by dozens of states this summer against the national leadership of the pageant headed by former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson.

Is that a great line or what?