Notes From a Trip (part 2 of 2)

(During his month away The Curmudgeon traveled with his bride and stepson to San Diego, where various members of Mrs. Curmudgeon’s side of the family gathered from three cities across the country. The following are some observations from that trip. This is part two; part one appeared here on Tuesday)

The non-stop flight from Philadelphia to San Diego departed at 8:00 – okay, 8:30, it was American Airlines, which, as a descendant of US Airways, views schedules as strictly advisory – and about an hour later The Curmudgeon visited the restroom and was amazed to see how many people had alcohol on their tray tables, leading him to wonder:

What’s the deal with booze at 9:30 in the morning, people?

*      *      *

Same deal on the way home, although in a way a little worse: that flight was scheduled to depart from San Diego at 7:45 and there were people at the airport bar nursing beer and more at 6:30.

Seriously, people?

*      *      *

The last time The Curmudgeon flew to California was four years ago to bury his father, who died of liver disease. On this trip he was reading the novel Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett. The first scene is set in the mid-1960s and features, among other characters, a burly, 30-ish police officer at the christening of his daughter at his home in Downey, California. The Curmudgeon’s father was burly and 30-ish in the mid-1960s and after he moved to California he spent a few years living in Downey. The next scene in the book is 50 years later, with the child who was christened in the opening scene taking her father, who we later learn is the same age as The Curmudgeon’s, for his chemo treatment, his cancer having spread to his liver. They put her father on a scale and he weighed 133 pounds. At that point The Curmudgeon pretty much lost it and was grateful that at that moment he had a window seat and that both his wife and stepson were fast asleep and did not witness the spectacle.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon has always wondered about the signs in airplane bathrooms suggesting that “as a courtesy” to the next passenger, users wipe out the bathroom sink. In what alternative universe do people wipe out bathroom sinks after using them?

*      *      *

To get from home to the airport, the family used Lyft. The driver was nice and polite and accommodating. To get from the San Diego airport to the hotel the family took a taxi. The driver muttered under his breath the entire way. The next day the family took two taxis that meandered to a distant destination, led by drivers who weren’t quite sure where they were going or how to get there, at a one-way cost of $35 for each taxi. On the way home the Uber rides cost half as much, the cars were nicer, and one of the drivers offered excellent advice on destinations to avoid on the weekend because of crowds and also regaled his passengers with the tale of his guest appearance on a season one episode (“Marine Down”) of NCIS and offered the reassuring news that Mark Harmon is as nice a guy as you would imagine he is.

Lesson learned. From now on, when there’s a choice, it will be Uber or Lyft.

*      *      *

And when there’s a complete choice, Lyft. Over a dozen rides over five days the drivers were almost unanimous about being treated better, and more fairly, by Lyft.

*      *      *

The hotel room was on the 24th floor – an oversight on The Curmudgeon’s part. He has no fear of heights but does have a fear of fire and his view is that if a fire department’s hook and ladder can’t reach his floor then he needs to be on a lower floor. That won’t happen again.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon’s kind of restaurant

After checking into the hotel Mrs. Curmudgeon needed a nap so The Curmudgeon and his stepson set off in search of lunch. The plan was to walk to San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, an area with blocks and blocks of restaurants, but directly across the street from the hotel entrance was a place called Kansas City Barbecue.

Sold!

While waiting for our food, we learned that the bar scenes in the movie Top Gun were filmed at this place.

The barbecue was outstanding. The brisket? To die for. The Curmudgeon is serious about his barbecue and this was absolutely, positively the real deal.

*      *      *

Message on a restaurant receipt:

Your check includes a 3% surcharge to help offset the cost of state and city minimum wage increases.

Now THAT takes balls – from people who don’t have the balls to put a notice to that effect on their menus or, even better, to increase their prices three percent and explain why on the menu.

*      *      *

Restaurant charge: $5 for an onion bagel.

Seriously.

*      *      *

Heaven

This was the first time The Curmudgeon ever encountered a Ghirardelli store. He felt like he’d died and gone to heaven.

And when he tasted the brownie he purchased he knew he had lived and gone to heaven.

*      *      *

A member of the family suffered an injury during the trip and The Curmudgeon and that family member had the privilege of spending nearly four hours in a hospital emergency room. They were definitely the ethnic minorities in the ER, several people who spoke very little English, and a young couple from Germany (whose English was very good). There were two people bleeding after getting into fights, two were accompanied, in handcuffs, by law enforcement officers (police in one case and what appeared to be border guards in the other, the latter not so surprising considering that you can pretty much walk from San Diego to the border with Mexico), and a woman who was told that she would need to wait her turn because doctors had determined that she was not suffering a potentially life-threatening problem. Once in the exam area, the woman in the next cubicle was coughing so much that it sounded as if she had TB.

In other words, just like home.

*      *      *

NOT named after Rocky

When he started this piece The Curmudgeon was determined not to offer tourism suggestions but he’ll make one exception to speak to the virtues of a visit to San Diego’s Balboa Park. While the rest of the family visited the San Diego Zoo – The Curmudgeon grew up in a big city with a terrific zoo and has already spent enough time for one lifetime gawking at caged animals – he spent a few hours at the San Diego Museum of Art. Both are located in Balboa Park, as are about a dozen other different types of museums, cultural institutions, and performance venues. You could visit San Diego for a week and never leave Balboa Park. The Curmudgeon may be one of the least-traveled people you’ll ever meet and he’s never heard of a place like this. If he ever flies again – he’d really, really, really rather not – he’d gladly return to San Diego so he could spend more time in Balboa Park.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon has heard about selfie-sticks and read about selfie-sticks and has even seen selfie-sticks advertised and in stores but until he went to Balboa Park he’d never actually seen a selfie-stick in use. There, he saw plenty of them – all, for reasons he does not know, operated by people of Asian descent.

*      *      *

Something else The Curmudgeon observed in San Diego that he has never encountered in such numbers: people who not only have tattoos but have tattoos covering a significant portion of a limb or their body. He was amazed both at how many people he saw with large numbers of tattoos and that at least 95 percent of these people were women.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon has not yet reached an age at which he considers walking to be exercise but the health app on his phone informed him that he walked between five and 9.5 miles every day on his visit.

*      *      *

The Curmudgeon considers himself as chocoholic. Among his chocolate favorites is a company called See’s, which he first encountered when his father moved to California in 1983. It’s a mostly but not-entirely west coast company and The Curmudgeon is accustomed to seeing See’s stores in airports. When the traveling party arrived they walked for about a minute before briefly stopping for his stepson to use the restroom, and while Mr. and Mrs. Curmudgeon waited, The Curmudgeon complained about not finding a See’s store. Mrs. Curmudgeon looked on sympathetically, humoring her curmudgeonly husband. When they resumed walking they spotted a See’s store within 30 seconds.

Columbus was no less elated, you can be sure, when he spotted the shore of what he believed to India.

*      *      *

When the vacation began gasoline in New Jersey was about $2.20 a gallon – except at Shell stations, where it’s always 25-30 cents more for reasons no one has ever adequately explained. In Pennsylvania it was about 20 cents a gallon more, as is usually the case. In southern California? As much as $3.29.

*      *      *

Everything seemed to cost more in southern California. The climate in San Diego is so wonderful that The Curmudgeon and his wife briefly mused about the possibility of retiring there. Their hotel was just across the street from a series of high-rise condominiums, so a quick Zillow search was in order.

As a point of reference, The Curmudgeon’s bachelor home was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo of about 1200 square feet, and when he puts it on the market later this month he suspects the asking price will be about $140,000.

A similar condo in the San Diego community that interested them? $800,000.

Another dream dashed.

*      *      *

Mrs. Curmudgeon flies often enough to benefit occasionally from airlines rewards programs, and those benefits are multiplied because she also has a credit card from the airline she flies most often. Some of the upgrades are free, and the day before the return flight home, when she went online to check in the family, she found that all three members of the traveling party had been upgraded, at no cost, to first class – and to seats in the front row, which meant even more leg room than regular first class, a not-inconsiderable benefit for a five-hour flight.

The extra leg room is great but most of the rest of the benefits of sitting in first class are lost on The Curmudgeon: he doesn’t drink, the whole hot towel thing mystifies him, and he has an ironclad rule that if the airlines cook it he absolutely won’t eat it. (And he didn’t need that rule on this flight: the smell alone…)

One thing, though, surprised him about flying first class: they showed a movie! The Curmudgeon hasn’t had the option of an in-flight movie for years. His hopes for an easy way to kill a few hours of such a long flight were dashed, though, when he saw in the movie’s opening credits – he never did catch the title – that Chris Pratt was in it.

Has there ever been a better sign that a movie will be total crap than the presence of Chris Pratt?

 

 

Notes From a Trip (Part 1 of 2)

(During his month away The Curmudgeon traveled with his bride and stepson to San Diego, where various members of Mrs. Curmudgeon’s side of the family gathered from three cities across the country. The following are some observations from that trip. This is part one; part two will appear here on Thursday.)

The Curmudgeon isn’t much of a traveler, especially if that traveling involves flying. Ironically, the parts of flying that bother most people – take-offs and landings – don’t bother him at all. What he dislikes is the whole flying experience: navigating through the airport, dealing with airline, government, and airport personnel, security checks, the unpleasantness of air travel, and the manner in which airlines treat their customers – that is, with near-total disdain. Flying, he must admit, brings out the worst in The Curmudgeon, on occasion transforming his usual low-key public demeanor into a surly, obnoxious, occasionally loud jackass whom he barely recognizes himself.

*      *      *

The Lyft car showed up a little early – 5:50 a.m. and not 6:00-6:15, as scheduled – so The Curmudgeon didn’t have a chance to eat breakfast at home. Once the family settled at its gate in the airport he went off in search of a muffin and found instead a cup of yogurt with about three tablespoons of granola.

$6.75.

Welcome to Philadelphia International Airport.

*      *      *

Sometimes it makes sense to keep your mouth shut about the prices. On the way home The Curmudgeon ordered a muffin for himself and coffee for Mrs. Curmudgeon at a concession stand in the San Diego airport and was told the cost would be $6.29.

“You have to be kidding,” he suggested.

“I’ll check again,” the cashier replied and then took a closer look at the register tape.

“No, you’re right, I was wrong.”

The Curmudgeon smiled.

Prematurely, it turned out.

“It’ll be $6.67.”

*      *      *

Mrs. Curmudgeon flies often enough to make it worth her while to invest in TSA pre-check (five years for $85). For your money you get to skip the ridiculously long lines that are a living, breathing testament to government incompetence in favor of shorter lines and a less rigorous screening in which you don’t have to surrender your shoes and your belt – and along with them, your dignity. The help there is nicer, too. An unexpected but welcome benefit: anyone flying on the same reservation as the person with the TSA pre-check is treated as if they have TSA pre-check, too.

Call it a marriage dividend.

*      *      *

Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to do a cavity search, officer?

Alas, The Curmudgeon spoke too soon about not needing to surrender his belt: on the way home he was asked to do so. It was all he could do to refrain from his pre-9/11 practice of, when feeling harassed by airport security personnel, unbuttoning his pants, starting to lower them, and asking if they’d like to perform a cavity search.

The Curmudgeon is a joy to fly with, no?

*      *      *

As the plane sat at the gate well beyond the scheduled take-off time, The Curmudgeon turned and could see the air being piped into the cabin. Surely that was not a good sign: one is not supposed to SEE air.

*      *      *

When you pay $300 or $400 or $600 to fly across the country, don’t you think the airlines could at least give you the whole bottle or can of water or soda or juice instead of rationing you to about five ounces?

*      *      *

This flyer’s best friend

Another reason The Curmudgeon isn’t a happy flier is that he suffers from two pretty serious in-flight maladies: motion sickness and ear pain during take-off and especially during descent. For years he suffered from the drowsiness caused by the Dramamine he took for motion sickness, until a travel agent told him about ginger pills: two ginger pills every 75 to 90 minutes offer the same benefits as Dramamine without the drowsiness, glassy eyes, and general loopiness. For five years after The Curmudgeon started using ginger pills in this manner he insisted on bringing Dramamine with him, just in case, because he feared he was benefiting from a placebo effect that would wear off in mid-flight and leave him suddenly heaving in the aisles. It never happened: the ginger really works.

The Curmudgeon has long suffered from motion sickness. As a child he once discharged his recently completed dinner over a white dinner jacket his father was wearing while mom and dad were driving the kids to their grandparents’ house so they could attend a formal affair. So bad was The Curmudgeon’s motion sickness, in fact, that his grandparents, who already had all of the furniture in their home covered by those awful clear plastic slipcovers, actually had plastic slipcovers installed on the back seat of their 1969 Chevy Impala.

The ginger took care of the motion sickness but there remained the problem of the ear pain. When this issue first arose The Curmudgeon visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist whose first name was “King” – his parents no doubt had big plans for their boy – who said that one trick he often performed for pilots and flight attendants who had the same problem was to – get ready for this – put a slight pinprick in their eardrums.

“It doesn’t affect your hearing,” King insisted.

After The Curmudgeon described the unusual meteorological conditions that would be necessary for him to agree to such a procedure, King recommended a less invasive approach: a regimen of Sudafed, starting 24 hours before take-off, and a saline nasal spray every hour while airborne. He also taught The Curmudgeon how to pop his ears. It helped, but only to a limited degree, and descending was still quite uncomfortable.

This flyer’s second-best friend

Then The Curmudgeon discovered a product called Earplanes, which look like earplugs that you screw into your ears. The Curmudgeon uses the word “screw” in its literal form: the devices have threads, just like metal screws, and you literally screw them into your ears. Between the Earplanes and the ear-popping, The Curmudgeon gained a good measure of relief, even if he kind of repulses the unfortunate people seated near him on his flights.

No, you do not want to be seated next to The Curmudgeon when you’re 30,000 feet above terra firma. Think: Felix Unger honking.

But to this regimen The Curmudgeon has added one more trick of his own to help stave off ear pain while descending.

Skittles.

Yes, Skittles.

This flyer’s third-best friend

You probably know about the benefits of chewing gum during ascent and descent but what you may not realize is that it’s the swallowing when you chew that gum, and not the chewing itself, that provides all the benefits. So anything you put in your mouth that produces more swallowing than chewing gum will help you more than gum. So The Curmudgeon experimented.

M&Ms? Not enough swallowing.

Red licorice nibs? Pretty good, a worthy alternative to Skittles, but not always easy to find.

Nuts? Too many calories and they don’t last very long.

Starburst candies? Not bad.

But in the end, the best gum alternative proved to be Skittles, which The Curmudgeon had never even tasted until this little experiment. Skittles proved – not to get all technical on you or anything – to have a higher ratio of swallows per minute than any other food he tested.

Your results may vary.

So why the long discourse on in-flight ear pain?

Because for the flight from Philadelphia to San Diego, The Curmudgeon forgot his Earplanes.

Oh, he bought them, all right.

He even recalls taking them out of their little cardboard box on the morning of the flight.

But he left them on the table at home.

A discovery he made only when the plane started to back out of the gate.

Ascending wasn’t much of a problem, but descending, well, that was one pretty painful experience and all The Curmudgeon could do was keep nibbling his Skittles and popping his ears, nibbling and popping, nibbling and popping…

*      *      *

Since you can no longer bring your own beverage into an airport terminal for fear that someone may blow up a 747 with a Diet Dr Pepper, passengers are held hostage to whatever the rip-off airport vendors feel like charging for their wares. The Curmudgeon recalls an effort by Philadelphia’s mayor in the late 1990s to attempt to compel airport vendors to engage in street pricing for their merchandise, but if what The Curmudgeon encountered on this trip was street pricing then that street surely must be Rodeo Drive.

$3.29 for a Diet Snapple, anyone?

*      *      *

And the lines move very slowly at airport stores, too, because for reasons The Curmudgeon cannot fathom, more people than not are using a credit or debit card to pay for that $3.29 Diet Snapple.

Seriously, people?

*      *      *

Of course, The Curmudgeon would have been grateful to find even a $3.29 Diet Snapple in the San Diego airport. Four stores, no bottled or canned iced tea of any kind.

Way to go, San Diego!

*      *      *

One of the benefits of standing in those slow-moving airport concession-stand lines is listening to fellow passengers talk about their purchases. At one point The Curmudgeon noticed a woman ahead of him looking at Dramamine but then she put it down and picked up a package of Benadryl and then a package of Nyquil. From a purely medical perspective, you don’t need to be a doctor to know that just doesn’t make sense. She then engaged another woman in line on the subject and The Curmudgeon realized that people buying these products at the last minute aren’t looking to fight motion sickness or colds: no, their objective is to find the concoction that will be most effective at helping put them to sleep for as much of their flight as possible.

P.S. She went with “The nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine” even though the sun had just risen an hour earlier.)

*      *      *

Speaking of sleeping through the flight, The Curmudgeon’s stepson slept for four-and-a-half hours of the five-hour flight. He spent nearly half of that time turned toward his mother and with his forehead on her shoulder. The boy is nearly 17 years hold and more than six feet tall and has a beard that calls to mind Scooby Doo’s sidekick “Shaggy” and if you think that didn’t elicit a lot of “isn’t that adorable?” looks from the other passengers you’re sadly mistaken. The Curmudgeon made sure to take pictures, and the one with the boy sleeping with his mouth wide open will make an excellent poster-sized birthday present.

The Curmudgeon, for his part, is a terrible sleeper, and it’s getting worse with age. He can only sleep at night, in bed, under the covers, and in the dark, and even then, he now considers seven hours of sleep a moral victory and takes comfort that seven hours appears to be all he needs. So when his stepson finally awoke, The Curmudgeon told J that he considers the boy a sleep god and bows down to his greatness.

(more on Thursday)

We Interrupt This Fishing Trip…

…to ask a few fundamental questions.

Where is the decency?

Where is the introspection?

Where is the sense of right and wrong when there is a clear right and wrong, the sense of good and bad when there is clear good and bad, the sense of good and evil when there is clear good and evil?

Where is the capacity to experience, let alone express, feeling, empathy, and compassion?

Watch Saturday’s statement:  it was read mechanically, coldly, and without emotion or expression by a man who lives to speak off the cuff.  The words were awful and empty and without emotion, any feelings hidden by the words of others, and when he tried to extemporize because he can never resist the desire to extemporize he revealed a hollowness that surpassed even what so many of us have suspected for so long.  Tuesday’s words were even worse – worse because given the luxury of time and the opportunity for introspection and consideration and contemplation and consultation they not only were no better but they were worse:  arrogant, unapologetic, unrepentant, even hostile.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  It doesn’t require a Hollywood script writer.

It requires… heart.

But you have to have heart to show heart, and the absence of heart in a person holding a position of such power is disheartening and appalling and frightening and just plain awful.

 

 

Gone Fishing

As he has in the past, The Curmudgeon is taking off the rest of August for some R&R.  He plans to return the Tuesday after Labor Day.

He hopes you will, too.

Let the Amateur Psychoanalysis Begin

This is president’s signature.  What, if anything, do you think it says about him?

 

The Trump Watch – Early August

Leaks and Anonymous Sources

Agent Orange complains endlessly about leaks and anonymous sources, conveniently overlooking that those leaks all come from people who work for him and who are appalled by the things he’s doing.

This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black because Trump himself is the master of using anonymous, uncited, or unknown sources in his own proclamations.  In fact, he makes so many unsubstantiated assertions that The Curmudgeon long ago stopped believing him – and he suspects many others feel the same way.  We’ve concluded that he simply makes up things to suit his needs.

The New York Times certainly has noticed this.

Trump complains endlessly about the media using anonymous sources, but Trump himself is addicted to anonymous sourcing, as demonstrated during the press conference. Trump discussed the Russian lawyer who met with his son:

“Somebody said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch. Now, maybe that’s wrong. I just heard that a little while ago. But a little surprised to hear that. So she was here because of Lynch.”

Who is “somebody”? Why are you repeating something at an official press conference with another head of state in another country that you freely admit may be wrong? And if you admit that it may be wrong, how can you state declaratively that “she was here because of Lynch”?

Would I lie to you?

Lies

We all know Trump lies like a rug.  But how much?

The New York Times is keeping track, and on the six-month anniversary of his inauguration it published a list of his lies – complete with links to the facts that prove they’re lies.  Explore it for yourself here.

More Lies

Let us put aside for a moment that the president of the United States made a purely political speech to the Boy Scouts of America during which, among other things, he belittled his political opponents.

Let us look instead, just briefly, at the reaction to that speech.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal that

…I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.

But did he?

No, he did not.

As reported by the Washington Post, the CEO of the Boy Scouts wrote that

I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree.  That was never our intent.

When faced with this pretty stark contradiction, what did the White House do?

It admitted that the call about which Trump boasted never actually happened.

The guy knows no shame.

Isolation

One of the many problems that arises when your chief advisors are your daughter and your son in-law is isolation:  you’re surrounded by people who don’t really know what’s what and only tell you what you want to hear or what they think you want to hear.  They confirm all of your thinking and never challenge it and there’s no one willing to speak truth to power.

The New Yorker magazine explains.

Unlike previous Republican Administrations, Fortress Trump contains no party elder with the stature to check the President’s decisions. “There is no one around him who has the ability to restrain any of his impulses, on any issue ever, for any reason,” Steve Schmidt, a veteran Republican consultant, said, adding, “Where is the ‘What the fuck’ chorus?”

 Trump’s insulation from unwelcome information appears to be growing as his challenges mount. His longtime friend Christopher Ruddy, the C.E.O. of Newsmax Media, talked with him recently at Mar-a-Lago and at the White House. “He tends to not like a lot of negative feedback,” Ruddy told me. Ruddy has noticed that some of Trump’s associates are unwilling to give him news that will upset him. “I don’t think he realizes how fully intimidating he is to many people, because he’s such a large guy and he’s so powerful,” Ruddy went on. “I already sense that a lot of people don’t want to give him bad news about things. I’ve already been approached by several people that’ll say, ‘He’s got to hear this. Could you tell him?’ ”

 Job Creation?  Think Again

The president has boasted about how some of his actions have created jobs.  As is so often the case with this compulsive prevaricator, the facts suggest otherwise, as the Washington Post reported.

 The problem for Trump is many of his populist promises are starting to look fraudulent. Remember that Carrier plant in Indiana that Trump claimed to have saved? It’s reportedly beginning to lay off 600 people. The Boeing plant in South Carolina that Trump visited in February to showcase his fight for manufacturing jobs? Layoffs there, too. Trump denounced plans by Ford to move production of the Focus from Michigan to Mexico. Now Ford is moving the work to China instead.

“My doctor says that at this rate, I’m going to get carpal tunnel syndrome from signing all these bills.”

 More Unsubstantiated Boasting

 We’ve signed more bills — and I’m talking about through the legislature — than any president, ever.  For a while, Harry Truman had us. And now, I think, we have everybody.

Well,  not quite.

As of the date Agent Orange made this assertion, he had signed 42 bills into law.

The New York Times crunched the numbers for some other presidents and found that

President Jimmy Carter signed 70 bills in the first six months, according to an analysis of bills signed by previous White House occupants. Bill Clinton signed 50… Mr. Truman and Franklin Delano Roosevelt both had signed more bills into law by their 100-day mark than Mr. Trump did in almost twice that time. Truman had signed 55 bills and Roosevelt had signed 76 during their first 100 days.

Trump also exaggerates the importance of the bills he has signed.  Fourteen are considered ceremonial or routine; five were bureaucratic tweaks; four were science and technology bills.

Missing:  the wall, health care, immigration reform, and tax reform.  Not missing:  a bill to rename a federal courthouse after an actor, the appointment of three people to the Smithsonian Board of Regents, a bill to seek research into better weather reports, and a bill calling for the Department of Homeland Security to manage its fleet of vehicles more efficiently.

Because these are the very things that will make America great again.

Stealing American Jobs

On the campaign trail, candidate Trump complained about foreign workers stealing American jobs.  As president, he said, he would do something about.

Well, he’s doing something about it:  he’s now helping those foreign workers steal American jobs.

And in the process he’s helping himself, too.

Aside from those who cross the borders illegally and take jobs that Americans don’t want and won’t do, like picking crops, cleaning hotel rooms, and busing restaurant tables, the primary means through which foreign workers “steal” American jobs is via what are known as H-2B visas.  These visas are for jobs for which there aren’t enough Americans who are able, willing, qualified, or available to do the work.  A lot of them are seasonal jobs at hotels, ski resorts, and landscaping companies.

So the Trump administration just raised the annual limit of H-2B visas from 66,000 visas a year to 81,000.

And guess who wants a piece of this action (as reported by the very good Vox web site):

On Thursday, the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, said it wanted to hire 15 housekeepers for $10.33 an hour; 20 cooks for $13.34 an hour; and 35 servers for $11.88 an hour. The Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, was asking for six cooks to hire for $13.34 per hour.

Because apparently there are NO Americans available who can cook, wait tables, and make beds.

So is it “make America great again” or “make the Trump Organization more profitable than ever”?

He’s Gonna Make Him an Offer He Can’t Refuse

During the run-up to the failed Republican health care bill, the president invited Republican senators to the White House to talk about what they needed to do to win that vote.  Strategically seated next to him was Dean Heller, a senator from Nevada who had resisted the first Republican health care bill in the Senate and was on the fence about the revised version.

This was the one we were worried about. You weren’t there. But you’re gonna be. You’re gonna be. Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he? And I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they’re gonna appreciate what you hopefully will do. Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you’re fine with Obamacare. But being fine with Obamacare isn’t enough for another reason. Because it’s gone. It’s failed. It’s not gonna be around.

Yes, he was threatening Heller at the same time he was not even trying to hide talks with Republicans in Nevada who might be interested in challenging Heller if he runs for re-election next year.

The People Be Damned

After the Republican attempt to dismantle Obamacare fell apart for the very simple reason that those Republicans invested all of their energy in opposing the health care reform law and damn near no time on what to do if they could make it go away.  Agent Orange was furious – and in a threatening mood.

And you know what that means.

Time to tweet.

 If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!

He’s referring, of course, to the subsidies that help some people purchase health insurance if they meet the income requirements for such assistance.  In his zeal to punish Congress and punish insurers, Agent Orange seems perfectly happy with the idea of punishing millions of working people, too.

Again With Hillary

A few days after throwing his attorney general under the bus, Agent Orange referred to Jeff Sessions as “beleaguered” even though Trump was doing all of the beleaguering himself.  He also tweeted that

 So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?

Well, The Curmudgeon can’t speak for the congressional committees, but if the FBI and attorney general aren’t looking into Hillary Clinton’s alleged crimes it’s probably because their boss, the president of the United States, hasn’t directed them to.

That’s one of the differences between running for president and being president that Trump still hasn’t grasped:  that when you’re on the outside and looking in you can complain about what government is or isn’t doing but when you’re the guy calling the shots, if you’re not happy about what government is or isn’t doing it’s your own damn fault.

Speaking of Campaign Trail Behavior…

“I’m telling you, hombres, there’s a new sheriff in town.”

You will recall that candidate Trump liked to encourage his supporters to get rough with those who didn’t share their political views.  It was tough talk coming from a guy who’s probably never been in a fight in his life and probably hasn’t stepped out on his own without having some kind of security guards around him for what, maybe 20 or 30 years?

As president, Trump is no better.  The Washington Post reported on his speech to a gathering of law enforcement officers in New York.

“When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” Trump said, miming the physical motion of an officer shielding a suspect’s head to keep it from bumping against the squad car.

 “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,” Trump continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”

In other words, he was telling cops not to hesitate to rough up suspects.

Can you imagine?  Can you imagine the president of the United States setting aside that silly old “innocent until proven guilty” nonsense and encouraging police offers to rough up suspects?

And despite the well-earned reputation of many police departments across the country for pretty much subscribing to that philosophy, the law enforcement community was not at all amused by Agent Orange’s suggestion.  Officials of the Suffolk County police department, to whose officers Trump made the remarks, made it clear that they did not agree with the sentiment he expressed, as did spokespeople for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, and police departments in Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, and New York, among others.  Even the organization Blue Lives Matters objected to the president’s words.

Don’t expect their disapproval to stop him – or even slow him down.

Okay, What are YOU Hiding?

When last we addressed the Trump vote fraud commission it was demanding from states a level of information on voters and voting records that is illegal in some states and just obnoxious to others and more than half of the states told the commission to go pound sand.  The commission invited the public to comment on its activities and then, showing its disrespect for the people who took the time to do so, published the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of those who submitted comments.

Nice.

This commission held its first public meeting recently and while introducing it, Agent Orange addressed the unwillingness of many states to provide the information the commission requested.

If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about. And I asked the vice president, I asked the commission: What are they worried about?

Couldn’t one ask the same question about the president’s unwillingness to share his tax returns?

Who Knew?

Finally we return to “who knew?”  In this feature we reveal things that our president doesn’t know, or doesn’t know about, that anyone holding that kind of position really, really ought to know.

In his interview with the New York Times, for example, Agent Orange explained that

Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

The Curmudgeon wants some of that $12 a month health insurance!

Seriously, is he so sheltered from the real world that this is what he thinks health insurance costs?  This wasn’t, moreover, a slip of the tongue:  he’s used this same explanation in the past.

Agent Orange told the Times his tax reform proposal would be a “windfall” for the middle class, but Vox explains that

According to the Tax Policy Center, the average American family would see its after-tax income rise by about $760, while families in the top 1 percent of the income distribution would see their incomes rise by about $175,000 — more than triple the total household income of the median American. Trump’s plan also features a big corporate tax cut.

That’s some windfall for the middle class, eh?

In fairness, Vox allowed for the possibility that Trump wasn’t misinterpreting his own tax reform plan but that he might simply be lying about it.

Who Knew, Part 2

More from the New Yorker on what the president doesn’t know.

 Trump has been meeting with congressional Republicans in small groups. By and large, they have found him more approachable than they expected, but much less informed. “Several have been a little bit amazed by the lack of policy knowledge,” Kristol said. “God knows Presidents don’t need to know the details of health-care bills and tax bills, and I certainly don’t, either—that’s what you have aides for. But not even having a basic level of understanding? I think that has rattled people a little bit.” He added, “Reagan may not have had a subtle grasp of everything, but he read the briefing books and he knew the arguments, basically. And Trump is not even at that level.”

A Viewing Recommendation

One of the by-products of marriage is that The Curmudgeon has been brought into the world of paying to watch television through products like HBO, Showtime, and Netflix.  For the most part he has not been overly impressed:  Veep is awful, Homeland overrated, Bill Maher execrable, and Orange is the New Black beyond unappealing, as is the cartoonish House of Cards.  The first season of The Man in the High Castle was interesting but the second season was unwatchable.  The first season of The Wire was good but every season after it was worse than its predecessor.  We won’t even address Stranger Things:  suffice to say that when the sixteen-year-old says he’s willing to watch television with you, you hand him the remote and let him have his way.  On the other hand, The Curmudgeon gets a kick out of John Oliver and watching the geriatric stars of Grace and Frankie.

Without question, the best thing he’s seen so far is The Comeback, starring Lisa Kudrow.  Kudrow plays a former sitcom star who’s no longer a star and is willing to suffer any and all indignities to return to her former stature.  The show appeared on HBO in 2005 but was canceled after one season – and then was brought back for another season in 2014.

The show is very good but the attraction here is Kudrow:  she is simply amazing.  As far as The Curmudgeon is concerned, her performance is the best he’s seen since Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice half a lifetime ago.  He always knew Kudrow was good but had no idea she was this good.  Kudrow’s performance is breathtaking, and as the creative force behind the program as well, she appears to take pains to resist doing anything that might soften her character or make it more sympathetic or appealing.  The strain of watching the manner in which her character conducts herself, and endures all those indignities, is so great that The Curmudgeon finds that his face hurts after watching a single episode.  Sitting down and watching more than one episode at a time is impossible.

The Curmudgeon doesn’t generally make a practice of recommending books, movies, or television viewing because he understands that tastes in such things is so very personal, but if you have access to HBO, he encourages you to give The Comeback a try.

A Scaramucci Bonus

Surely by now you’ve heard enough from The Curmudgeon on the subject of Anthony Scaramucci.

But the king is gone, he’s not forgotten…

This is the story of Anthony Rotten…

But seriously, The Curmudgeon is going to give what he hopes (but doesn’t promise) will be the final words on this outbreak of herpes on the body politic to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who wrote a fun and funny piece about The Mooch earlier this week.  Read it here.

The Scaramucci Files (Part 4 of 4)

(You know the expression:  “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  Well, they went awry on The Curmudgeon on Monday.  As you know by now, tough guy-legend-in-his-own-mind Anthony Scaramucci is now the former White House communications director, failing to last even ten days on the job.  But what a ten days they were!  The Curmudgeon, alas, had sat down last weekend and churned out four pieces about Scaramucci for this space – a veritable Anthony Scaramucci festival.   The first of those pieces appeared Monday the second Tuesday, and the third yesteday, and The Curmudgeon’s not going to let perfectly good (and snarky) material go to waste, so there’s a fourth and final item today, below.  Think of them not as irrelevant and outdated (or as a sign of The Curmudgeon’s laziness) but as a tribute to an exceeding unusual development in the very troubled Trump administration:  a rare exercise of sound judgment.  Enjoy)    

*     *     *

The Oxford online dictionary defines “hyperbole” as “exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.”

Hyperbole, meet Anthony Scaramucci.

When Scaramucci called The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza and Lizza had the audacity to write about that conversation, what got most people’s attention was the profanity, the accusations about now-banished White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and the suggestion that Steve Bannon possesses, well, a higher degree of physical flexibility than most of us would expect of a man his age.

That’s what caught most people’s attention, but The Curmudgeon isn’t “most people.”

No, what caught The Curmudgeon’s eye was the genesis of this tirade.  What inspired this ferocious yet puerile outburst?  And why call a guy from The New Yorker, of all publications?

As it turns out, Scaramucci’s call to Lizza was prompted by a Lizza tweet that Scaramucci was dining at the White House that night with the president, uber-hater Sean Hannity, and Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive.

As reported by the Boston Globe,

Scaramucci called Lizza shortly after, demanding to know who leaked the dinner’s guest list.

“You’re an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I’m asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it,” Scaramucci reportedly said to Lizza.

So here’s where the hyperbole comes in:  leaking to the press, and to the public, the guest list at a casual White House dinner is – Scaramucci’s words here – “a major catastrophe for the American country”?

A major catastrophe?

A MAJOR CATASTROPHE?

Is this guy a wackadoodle or what?  At the very least he is the personification of hyperbole:  a walking, talking, cartoonish exaggeration of a human being who cannot and should not be taken seriously.

 (P.S.  Apparently, even the president, himself a monument to hyperbole, concluded that Scaramucci couldn’t be taken seriously.)

 

The Scaramucci Files (Part 3 of 4)

(You know the expression:  “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  Well, they went awry on The Curmudgeon on Monday.  As you know by now, tough guy-legend-in-his-own-mind Anthony Scaramucci is now the former White House communications director, failing to last even ten days on the job.  But what a ten days they were!  The Curmudgeon, alas, had sat down last weekend and churned out four pieces about Scaramucci for this space – a veritable Anthony Scaramucci festival.   The first of those pieces appeared Monday and the second yesterday, and The Curmudgeon’s not going to let perfectly good (and snarky) material go to waste, so there’s a new item today, below, and there will be one more piece on Thursday.  Think of them not as irrelevant and outdated (or as a sign of The Curmudgeon’s laziness) but as a tribute to an exceeding unusual development in the very troubled Trump administration:  a rare exercise of sound judgment.  Enjoy)    

*     *     *

Last week, late night talk show host Seth Meyers described new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci as “a human pinky ring.”  That left The Curmudgeon and Mrs. Curmudgeon laughing out loud.

But when you listen to Scaramucci talk, when you take in the absolute and fawning worship he expresses for Donald Trump, when you hear him describe the ferocity of his misguided effort to root out all the leakers in his own communications shop when you know that the real problem is the leakers in the defense and intelligence communities and not the gossip-mongers and hairdressers in the White House communications office, and when you come to appreciate his absolute lack of readiness and fitness to serve in the position to which he has been appointed, you realize that Scaramucci really isn’t there to serve as Donald Trump’s White House communications director.

He’s there to serve as Donald Trump’s Luca Brasi.

(P.S.  And we all know what happened to Luca Brasi.)