One of the unexpected pleasures of marriage for The Curmudgeon has been an absolutely delightful sixteen-year-old stepson he shall refer to as “J” because, well, use your imagination, folks.  J is a sophomore in high school and a good student who probably works harder at his schoolwork than his stepfather did – and The Curmudgeon was a serious grind at that age.

Earlier in the school year J took his PSATs – can you think back on your PSATs without hyperventilating? – and ever since then the house has been inundated with letters and brochures from colleges.  All have invited him to visit and a few have even created dedicated web sites with his name (first and last) in the URL as part of their sales pitch.  At this point J’s not focused on which schools interest him – his attention leans more toward next week’s chemistry test and some new game coming out on PlayStation – and doesn’t even look at the materials, but that doesn’t stop his mother from looking at them (and scheduling a couple of visits) and The Curmudgeon from collecting them.

So far – and while the deluge has slowed, sales pitches are still trickling in – J has heard from the following schools (since The Curmudgeon got the bright idea to collect the materials):

  • Adelphia University
  • Arcadia University
  • Bard College
  • Brandeis University (twice)
  • Brown University
  • Bucknell University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Champlain College
  • Elizabethtown College
  • Flagler College
  • Fordham University
  • Furman University
  • Hofstra University
  • Kenyon College (twice)
  • Lafayette College
  • Marymount University
  • Miami University
  • Monmouth University
  • Mount St. Mary’s University
  • Quinnipiac University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Roanoke College
  • Robert Morris University
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Salisbury University
  • Seton Hall University
  • Olaf College
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Stevenson University (twice)
  • Stony Brook University
  • The College of Saint Rose
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Delaware
  • University of Denver
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Richmond
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of Vermont
  • Ursinus College
  • Washington and Lee University
  • Western Carolina University
  • Widener University

The Curmudgeon definitely remembers hearing from a lot of schools but nothing on this scale.

No wonder college tuition is so outrageous these days:  they’re blowing tons of money on marketing!

Zero Integrity

That’s the only way to describe the Republican members of the U.S. Senate and their repulsive leader, Mitch McConnell, after the manner in which they’ve handled Supreme Court nominations.

As you will recall, when there was a vacancy on the high court a year ago and President Obama did his job and nominated a replacement, Republican members of the Senate, led by the repugnant McConnell, refused to do their job and even consider the nomination.  Wouldn’t even hold a hearing on the nomination.  Some Senate Republicans even refused to meet privately with the nominee.  Obama’s guy wasn’t their guy and they had no intention of considering his credentials or qualifications for the court.

The sum total of the integrity of U.S. Senate Republicans

Flash forward a year and now a Republican president gets to nominate someone to fill that vacancy but now it’s the Democrats who are resisting, using a means – the filibuster – that the anti-democratic McConnell has transformed from a rarely invoked tool employed only under extraordinary circumstances into something used in almost all circumstances, essentially undermined democracy as we know it in this country because for almost any bill to pass in the Senate these days it now needs 60 votes rather than a simple majority of 51 – as intended by the very founders of our country whom these same Republicans so often invoke with such solemnity.

So when the despicable McConnell and his team of America-hating Republican senators can’t get the 60 votes they need to put Agent Orange’s dime-a-dozen nominee on the Supreme Court, what do they do?

They change the rules to make it so they only need 51 votes.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican members of our U.S. Senate, who among them share one very obvious quality:  zero integrity.

Overblown Controversy?

What’s the difference?

Other than the lack of a catchy tune  – no one really does catchy tunes anymore, do they? – is there any real difference between the 1971 Coca-Cola “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” commercial and the Pepsi/Kendall Jenner ad that’s been on the receiving end of so much criticism in recent weeks?

Kicking a Company When It’s Down: United Airlines

By now you’ve probably read the story about how United Airlines, too cheap to give enough passengers enough money to make skipping their flight worth their while, physically removed a passenger who was already seated and refused to surrender the seat he paid for.  There’s good video, too, including of the passenger bloodied by his encounter with the airline’s goons.

Invoking “I’m a doctor” tells us that the passenger in question is a bit of a schmuck, but that in no way excuses United.  For reasons that make no sense at all unless you own or run such a company, airlines are permitted – by law! – to sell more seats than they have and then, if they cannot find “volunteers” willing to take underwhelming bribes to surrender their seat, to bar passengers from boarding the flight for which they have already paid their fare.  We all know United handled this poorly not only by sending goons to physically eject the passenger in question but also because it boarded passengers for the flight and let four of them take seats from which they were about to be ejected.  Obviously, the airline should have addressed this matter before anyone was permitted to board the flight – but that’s United, utterly stupid.

As for the schmucky passenger, The Curmudgeon is with him.  The Curmudgeon would have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of that seat once he occupied it, too.  He may have even evoked “Finders keepers, losers weepers” before they tried to knock out his teeth.

The Curmudgeon saw this on the Facebook feed of loyal reader S.W., laughed, and decided to “borrow” it. Thanks, S!

But one aspect of this situation has been underplayed amid all the attention to the very fine video and the photos of the passenger’s bloodied face:  the reason United needed to remove four passengers from this flight was that it decided to compound its poor business practice of selling more seats than it has on an airplane by also deciding to kick off four paying passengers because it wanted those four seats to transport its own employees.  Those employees, it said, were needed for other flights in Louisville, the flight’s destination.

Because United’s employees are apparently more important to the people who run United than paying customers.

And because United’s convenience, and its need to fix a staffing mistake 100 percent of its own making, is also apparently more important to the people who run United than paying customers.

Over the years the airlines have been among The Curmudgeon’s favorite whipping boys – with good reason.  For examples, go here, here, here, here, here, and here (and there are others).  But this one really takes the cake:  United’s customer service is awful and it absolutely screams that if you have a choice of airlines, United should probably be your last choice.

Last choice like a loan shark when you need cash.  Like an urgent care center when you’re sick.  Like the kid next door when your car is making a funny sound.  Like Elio’s when you’re jonesing for pizza.  Like Sears for any reason.

Even now we see every sign that United hasn’t learned its lesson:  as of this writing it’s still defending its response to this situation.

Which only makes it easier for the rest of us to defend a decision not to fly United if we have any reasonable alternative.



The Rockets’ Red Glare

Let us hope that Agent Orange didn’t order the air strike on Syria only after seeing a story about Syria’s use of chemical weapons on television.

The next national security advisor?

Because if he did, it may only be a matter of time before he needs yet another national security advisor – after the current holder of the job, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, realizes he’s working for a lunatic, throws up his arms in disgust, and runs screaming from the asylum.


This has almost certainly happened to you:  you make a purchase from a non-Amazon web site, and sometimes even before your purchase arrives, but certainly after it has arrived, you’re deluged with emails from the company.  Those emails say something to the effect of “We’re sending this to you because you subscribed” but of course you never subscribed.  They take your purchase as an implicit subscription, or maybe it’s buried somewhere in the fine print, but before you know it you’re getting emails:  maybe weekly, maybe two or three times a week, maybe even daily.

So you unsubscribe – which a few years ago wasn’t even a word – and when you do they’re polite about it, even though they may ask why you’ve chosen to forsake them, which of course is none of their business, but your action comes with an explanation/warning:  that unsubscribing takes ten days to two weeks and in that time you may continue to receive emails.

And you wonder:  how is it that they could take your money and get your merchandise to you in three or four days and start burying you with emails as soon as you hit the “purchase” button but it takes two weeks to delete your name from a mailing list?






Dawn Staley

Philadelphia’s own

(Last Sunday the University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team won the NCAA championship.  The team’s coach is Dawn Staley.  It just so happens that The Curmudgeon wrote about Staley three years ago in a piece that was really only marginally about basketball.  In honor of her victory, and because he feels that what he wrote three years ago is even more relevant today – the circumstances are different but the sentiment remains the same – he offers an encore presentation of that piece below.)

 *     *     *

A New Coach?

The Philadelphia 76ers basketball team is in the market for a new coach after its old coach decided he was no longer up to the challenge of leading a talent-starved team.  (And before you non-sports fans stop reading here, please bear with us; this is not really a piece about basketball.)

All of the usual suspects are lining up for the job – mostly, people who were fired from other head coaching jobs and others who have been assistant coaches whom no one has seriously considered putting in the top slot.

But The Curmudgeon has his own idea about who should coach the team.

Might the 76ers be interested in someone who was a star player in college and whose college team went to the NCAA tournament four times in four years, including three “final four” games and one national championship game?

Someone who played in the Olympics three times, won three gold medals, and carried the country’s flag during the games’ opening ceremonies?

Someone who had a highly successful six-year professional career, making the all-star team all six years?

Someone who has been coaching college basketball now for thirteen years, including eight years in Philadelphia, and whose teams have been to the NCAA tournament eight of those thirteen years?

And someone who is from Philadelphia – something that merits attention because a very bad team will have trouble drawing fans?

Well, then, The Curmudgeon has the perfect candidate for head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Dawn Staley.

You see?  The Curmudgeon told you this wasn’t really about basketball.


Everybody Knows…

… that you eat the vanilla side of these cookies before you eat the chocolate side.

A Mixed Message From Chris Christie

The Curmudgeon thinks Chris Christie was a good choice to lead the Trump administration’s commission to look at ways to address the opioid crisis.  After Christie returned to New Jersey following his failed bid for the presidency and spent a few months understandably feeling sorry for himself, he threw himself into the opioid crisis with a vigor and apparent purpose that were surprising – but most welcome.  As his term of office draws to a close – he’s in his last year as governor and cannot run again – he seems to view addressing the opioid problem as something on which he can build his legacy, and you don’t have to be a Christie fan – which The Curmudgeon is not – to wish him well.

When Christie appeared at a news conference with the president last week to announce creation of the commission with Christie as its head, Christie said

He [President Trump] and I are both pro-life.  We’re pro-life for the whole life.  Not just for the nine months in the womb, but for the whole life.  Every life is an individual gift from God and is precious. And no life is irredeemable.

And therein lies the mixed message, because as a proponent of the death penalty, Christie has declared some lives beyond redemption.

In 2015, he told the New York Times that

I’ve always believed that the death penalty is appropriate, and the reason it’s appropriate is because it’s an act of self-defense.

In 2011, Christie supported a bill in the New Jersey legislature that would have reinstated the death penalty in the state; that bill failed.

To be fair, Christie’s support of capital punishment seems lukewarm, as if it’s something expected of him because he’s a former prosecutor who wants to be seen as a real tough guy and he’s a Republican and it’s so incredibly, incredibly important for Republicans to convince people they’re tough on crime.

But in the end, his comment about “no life is irredeemable” seems hollow as long as he’s perfectly willing to declare some people irredeemable by sentencing them to death for their crimes.

A Bold (and Foolish) Statement of Priorities

Eight years ago, many of us were repulsed when Senate minority leader (then; now he’s majority leader) Mitch McConnell declared his number one priority to be ensuring that recently inaugurated president Barack Obama served only one term in office.

Not help the country.

Not pass needed legislation.

Not even “work in a bipartisan manner.”

No, his top goal was pure politics:  take control of the federal government away from the other guys – any way you can.

A lot of people were offended by that, even Republicans, and you would have thought politicians would learn a lesson from McConnell’s offensive declaration that politics is more important than country.

You would have thought.

But now Paul Ryan, so widely considered one of the smartest guys in the room, has made the same dumb mistake.

As reported by the Reuters news service (and many others), Ryan went on the CBS morning program last week and offered a variation of McConnell’s nonsense of eight years ago:

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, said he does not want President Donald Trump to work with Democrats on new legislation for revamping the country’s health insurance system, commonly called Obamacare.

In an interview with “CBS This Morning” that will air on Thursday, Ryan said he fears the Republican Party, which failed last week to come together and agree on a healthcare overhaul, is pushing the president to the other side of the aisle so he can make good on campaign promises to redo Obamacare.

“I don’t want that to happen,” Ryan said, referring to Trump’s offer to work with Democrats.

The object of government, at least theoretically, is to serve the needs of the people.  The object of the current health care reform effort, theoretically, is to find a better way to structure government’s role in paying for and delivering care than we employ today.

This is the Ryan smirk that one mild-mannered person The Curmudgeon knows says makes her want to smack him in the face.

Other than Paul Ryan, who apparently wants not only a better way but also full credit for coming up with it, does anyone else think it matters whose ideas we ultimately employ if the end result is the better way we all say we want?

For the second time in two weeks, Ryan blew it – blew it big time.  In so doing, he as revealed himself to be the very kind of politician he always claimed not to be.  It’s sad and disappointing – and disgraceful.