A Great Piece of Writing

While sitting through the insufferable coming attractions in a movie theater last week – when will the owners of movie theaters show even a little integrity and be honest about when the movie you forked over way too much money to see will actually begin? – The Curmudgeon (and Mrs. Curmudgeon) viewed a preview, not for the first time, for Mamma Mia!  Here We Go Again, coming soon to a theater near you.

While contemplating how large a team of horses would be needed to drag him to such a movie, The Curmudgeon suddenly recalled a specific passage from a 2008 New Yorker review of the original (Mamma Mia!) that described a major challenge for the performers – and for one performer in particular:

I thought that Pierce Brosnan had been dragged to the edge of endurance by North Korean sadists in his final Bond film, “Die Another Day,” but that was a quick tickle with a feather duster compared with the agony of singing Abba’s “S.O.S.” to Meryl Streep through a kitchen window. Somebody, either a cheeky Swede or another North Korean, has deliberately scored the number a tone and a half too high, with visible results: swelling muscles along the jawline, tightened throat, a panicky bulge in the eyes. There is no delicate way of putting this, but anyone watching Brosnan in mid-delivery will conclude that he has recently suffered from a series of complex digestive problems, and that the camera has, with unfortunate timing, caught him at the exact moment when he is finally working them out.

Is that a great description or what?  Bravo! to The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane.

 

Woe is Them!

Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the beach season where The Curmudgeon lives – or the shore season, as locals like to put it, and as reliable as clockwork, Memorial Day weekend saw an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about how shore store owners are having a hard time finding people to work for them.

Let The Curmudgeon tell you about these people.  To them, EVERY year was a bad year: the weather was bad, the economy was bad, newspapers scared people off.  They’re full of excuses they use to hide their disappointment that even though they were raking in money hand over fist and essentially earning a year’s living in just three months, they’re bitter that they didn’t rake in even more.

Rodeo Drive it is not

The reason these business owners have such a hard time finding help is simple:  they want something for as close to nothing as possible.  A lot of resort-area businesses actually import teenagers from Europe (the white countries only) to scoop ice cream, wait tables, take the tickets at the ferris wheel, and ring up purchases of cheap t-shirts.  The visas that enable these kids to enter the country for a few months to work are in shorter supply this year, though – a situation that almost certainly will change in the near future because the Trump Organization, which operates numerous golf courses and resorts, is a notorious consumer of special visas to important cheap labor for work that absolutely could be performed by Americans.  That won’t help these particular resort-area businesses this year, though, so the business owners are wringing their hands with worry: “What are we going to do? We can’t find people to work for us.”

Here’s an idea:  offer better wages.

The Inquirer article noted that

New Jersey raised its minimum wage in January from $8.44 to $8.60 an hour – which prompted some Shore business owners to look for more experienced employees.

 “Because the minimum wage continues to go up, we can’t afford to hire younger kids,” said Chris Kazmarck, the manager at Surf Mall.  “We can’t afford to train them for as long as we used to in the past.”

 So, if we’re to believe Mr. Kazmarck, a 16-cent increase in the minimum wage – 16 cents! – has necessitated a complete change in his approach to hiring.

He must’ve said this in a telephone interview because there’s no way he could make such a statement with a straight face to a reporter standing right in front of him.

It seems to The Curmudgeon that there’s a pretty simple solution to this problem:  pay your help better.  If $8.60 doesn’t bring in either the quality or quantity of applicants you seek, offer $9.  If $9 doesn’t do the trick, try $9.50.  It’s the law of supply and demand, plain and simple:  keep going until you get the help you need – help raking in all that money you’re making.  And if you have to pay so much that you can’t make any money?  Well, you need to find another line of work.

The problem is that these store owners are greedy. They’ve set themselves up to expect to earn a year’s income in just three months, which is pretty damn lazy, and they’re so greedy for every last dime they can rake in that they refuse to pay their help a decent wage.

The Curmudgeon, for one, finds it impossible to sympathize with them.

A Woman After The Curmudgeon’s Heart

And no, for once it’s not Mrs. Curmudgeon.

It all began when Yvonne Mason, a retired English teacher, wrote a letter to the president about the Florida school shooting in February.

Mrs. Mason was NOT happy with the letter she received in response, but it wasn’t the substance of the letter that bothered her.

It was the writing.

USA Today tells the story.

In 17 years of teaching English composition in South Carolina public schools, Yvonne Mason had seen these blunders many times before.

 Redundancies. Faulty capitalization. Lack of clarity and specificity.

 But Mason wasn’t grading a student paper. She was reading a letter she received from President Donald Trump.

 “I have never, ever, received a letter with this many silly mistakes,” Mason said.

 The former Mauldin High School teacher promptly did what she had done thousands of times before: She corrected the writing and returned it, this one going back to the White House.

Also,

“When you get letters from the highest level of government, you expect them to be at least mechanically correct,” Mason said.

 She dinged the Trump letter particularly for repeatedly capitalizing “nation,” “federal,” “president” and “state,” turning these common nouns into proper nouns.

 Using her signature purple ink — since harsh red ink is discouraged by some educators these days [Note:  The Curmudgeon ALWAYS uses red ink when he edits] — Mason identified 11 instances of faulty capitalization in Trump’s letter.

 ‘Federal’ is capitalized only when used as part of a proper noun, e.g. the name of an agency,” Mason wrote.

 She resisted the idea of attaching a grade to the letter.

 “If it had been written in middle school, I’d give it a C or C-plus,” she said. “If it had been written in high school, I’d give it a D.”

And this:

“When I taught school for 17 years, I taught my kids in English that the way you present yourself in writing says a lot about who you are, about what you care about, about whether or not you care to get it right.”

And

Mason’s comments also draw attention to redundant expressions and overuse of the pronoun “I” in Trump’s letter. And there’s a dangling modifier to boot.

 “It’s stylistically appalling,” she said.

 Mason, an advocate of “clear, precise writing,” directs Trump to the government website plainlanguage.gov, dedicated to encouraging federal officials to write with clarity and specificity.

 “Part of the idea of clear, precise writing is abiding by grammatical and mechanical standards so everyone can be on the same page,” Mason said. “Otherwise, you’re going to be misunderstood.”

Imagine that:  someone as curmudgeonly about this kind of thing as The Curmudgeon!

Watch out, Mrs. Curmudgeon:  there may be “another woman.”

 

Shooting at a Moving Target

Why does Samantha Bee still have her job when Roseanne doesn’t?

Isn’t what she said at least as bad?

The Curmudgeon had this very conversation with Mrs. Curmudgeon the other night.  He suggested that while it’s absolutely unacceptable to use either of the words in question, if he knew a good joke – it would have to be a REALLY good joke – that had the “n-word” in it and that really needed to use that word, he might at least consider telling the joke after warning his listeners that he was about to use it and explaining that the word is integral to the joke.  But the “c-word”?  No way:  there are no circumstances under which The Curmudgeon can ever imagine himself uttering that word.

So why does Samantha Bee still have her job and Roseanne doesn’t?

The Curmudgeon feels their pain – both of them.  He and Mrs. Curmudgeon usually spend some time a few evenings a week on YouTube streaming the monologues of late-night television hosts Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert, with an occasional dose of Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah thrown in.  Mrs. Curmudgeon watches Bill Maher; her husband can’t stand him.  They watch John Oliver together, and with great pleasure, the day after the show is broadcast (being too old to stay up that late on a school night).  All of them walk a very, very fine line in the matter of the words they choose to, mostly, express their disdain for the president of the United States. While his audience is far, far, far smaller and he is (mostly) anonymous, The Curmudgeon continually asks himself whether the language he’s using is appropriate and whether he’s being too disrespectful and whether his disrespect – and the language he uses to express it – threatens to cross that line.

Recently, for example, The Curmudgeon used the word “vagina” in a piece; if you’d like to refresh your memory on its use, you can find it here. The decision to do so wasn’t made easily:  he thought long and hard about it and at least considered asking Mrs. Curmudgeon what she thought about it.  He didn’t and she never mentioned it after she read the piece (assuming she read it), but The Curmudgeon received an annoyed text message from his sister the day after the piece appeared.  A few weeks before that he took a pot shot at the religious right but before doing so he asked himself whether a regular visitor to this site who happens to be a minister might be offended by the observation (even though he’s not a member of the religious right) and considered running a draft by him before realizing he didn’t have his email address.

One of the things The Curmudgeon doesn’t like about Meyers and Colbert, both of whom he likes a great deal, is the frequency with which they belittle the appearance of the people they’re telling jokes about.  They love, for example, to show an overweight Trump in his tennis whites while refusing to acknowledge how great it is that a guy who will be 72 years old next week is still playing tennis. Mitch McConnell’s chins, John Bolton’s mustache, Jeff Sessions’ height, Steve Mnuchin’s face, they all seem fair game to these folks.  When they make remarks about various public officials’ appearance, Mrs. Curmudgeon often takes a quick glance at her husband to see his reaction.  It’s not pretty.  Years ago The Curmudgeon and his mother visited with the family of a relative who just passed away and sat near a woman who was going on and on about the ugliness of the daughter of a mutual friend.  As soon as mother and son left the house The Curmudgeon turned to his mother and said, “You know, as soon as we leave, she’s going to start talking about how ugly I am.”

The Curmudgeon tries not to do this kind of thing.  He’s sure he doesn’t always succeed, but he’s aware of the challenge and does pay attention to it.  It takes constant vigilance, and sometimes, something sneaks through.

Just last Friday, for example, the first sentence of The Curmudgeon’s post about Newt Gingrich began with the following sentence:

On Wednesday morning, the day after the whole Roseanne kerfuffle, The Curmudgeon was in his basement, pedaling the stationary bike and channel-surfing, eventually landing on Fox & Friends – a morning staple for him, since every day should start with a good laugh – when on came Newt Gingrich.

The end of this long-ish sentence was this way for the first two drafts but for the third draft, he changed the last phrase to “…when on waddled Newt Gingrich.” Fortunately The Curmudgeon thought better of it and restored the line to the previous version; he didn’t want to do what Meyers and Colbert and all of the others do.  He doesn’t want to be one of those people, and Gingrich’s girth has nothing to do with Gingrich’s grinchiness.  The Curmudgeon also thought twice – okay, three or four times – about the brief aside in that same piece about the circumstances under which Gingrich told his first wife that he wanted a divorce and only went ahead and included it because Gingrich is so incredibly judgmental about everyone who has the audacity to disagree with him.  It was a close call, and even now The Curmudgeon isn’t sure he made the right call.

Mind you, he doesn’t object to being a little “out there” – okay, a lot out there – but he’s also not looking to offend or hurt for the sake of offending or hurting.  He certainly doesn’t aspire to emulate Michelle Wolf, whose performance and the White House Correspondents Dinner a few weeks was so despicable.  A few years ago The Curmudgeon used the term “wife-beater” to describe an article of clothing in an attempt to draw a picture of the kind of person he was writing about and was taken to task by a reader who noted that changing mores make that term no longer acceptable (an exchange called to mind because just last week the New York Times published an opinion piece titled “Are We Really Still Calling This Shirt a ‘Wife Beater’?).  The Curmudgeon considered himself both chastened and educated.

Those of us putting our views out there also need to deal with the reality that when it comes to what’s acceptable and what’s not, we’re shooting at a moving target. Have you heard that Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers are considering a defense built around the concept that he’s an older guy who came up at a time when the “casting couch” was still common and everyone was doing it?  Does that mean the legal system should be giving Weinstein a mulligan?  Of course not – yet at the same time, as completely unacceptable as his behavior was, we’re being told (The Curmudgeon has his doubts) that for a long time it apparently was the norm rather than the exception.

Or take the R.I.P. The Curmudgeon wrote last week about Philip Roth.  As The Curmudgeon noted in that piece, Roth often wrote demeaningly about women, and as a result, a lot of people are looking at his work through a new lens.  Is that right?  Is that fair?  Is that necessary? Does it mean we need to condemn and discard Roth and everything he wrote or should we just look at him differently?  Is what he wrote no longer literature?  No longer great?  Similarly, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves:  do we need to take their names off streets and schools and towns and counties?  Off our money?

And how in the world do we explain the electoral success of Donald Trump in the middle of all of this?

There are no easy answers to these questions.  Oh, a lot of people think they have them, but they’re deceiving themselves. Can Kevin Spacey never act in a movie again?  The Curmudgeon doesn’t care.  Can Matt Lauer never host a TV show again?  The Curmudgeon doesn’t care.  But no more Louis C.K.?  Now THIS The Curmudgeon cares about, which just reinforces his belief that there are no easy answers.  Again, this is all shooting at a moving target, and while their age suggests that the possibility of redemption will almost certainly elude Bill Cosby and Charlie Rose, there are others who are younger who will need to sit by patiently until we figure this out.

After all, even hardened criminals get out of jail after serving their time and are invited to try, try again to be productive members of society.  Are the people we’ve recently learned these bad things about not to be given the same opportunity at some point?  Ever?

The Curmudgeon doesn’t even pretend to have the answers to these questions, but he’d like to end this piece with the same question with which he started it:

Why does Samantha Bee still have her job when Roseanne doesn’t?

 

Whatever Happened to Car Names?

Cutlass: Now THERE’S a name for a car!

When The Curmudgeon was growing up, the cars his parents owned had car model names: Comet, Corvair (and we lived!), Impala.  Some had pretty cool names:  Cutlass, Montego, Monte Carlo.

All of the cars The Curmudgeon has owned have had names, too:  Pinto (don’t do that:  he saw you roll your eyes), Charger, Camry, Accord, Civic. Okay, so “Camry” isn’t an actual word and “Accord” and “Civic” don’t even pretend to have anything to do with the real meaning of the words, but still, they were actual names and not just serial numbers.

So when Mrs. Curmudgeon recently decided it was time to trade in her car – a Honda model he’d never even heard of before he met her, and one he can’t recall off the top of his head and name for you now without doing a web search, which would be cheating – for a small SUV, The Curmudgeon found himself a spectator in a world he never knew existed:  a world where most of the vehicles she was considering were represented not by names but by a few letters and a few numbers:  the Acura CDX, MDX, and RDX; the Honda BR-V, CR-V, XR-V, and HR-V (the official model of human resources professionals?); the Infiniti EX/QX50, FX/QX70, JX/QX60, QX/QX80, and QX30; the Isuzu MU-X; the Mazda CX-3, CX-5, CX-9; the Suzuki SX4; the Toyota C-HR and RAV4; and the Volvo XC60, XC40, and XC90.

The Infiniti EX/QX50. Or is it the Volvo XC60? The Honda CR-V?

Did the people who named these SUVs have no imagination at all?  Or maybe it was a computer keyboard problem?

When Mrs. Curmudgeon started to discuss the ones that interested her, her poor husband’s eyes glazed over; he couldn’t keep the cars straight.  In addition to the SUVs all having names that look alike, in his eyes those cars all look alike, too – seriously, can YOU tell the difference between the Infiniti EX/QX50 and the Volvo XC60 just by looking at them?

“Can’t you just get a Santa Fe or a Dodge Durango?” The Curmudgeon whined.  “CAN’T WE BE LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE AND GET A CAR WITH AN ACTUAL NAME?”

She shook her head; there may have been some (blessedly, silent) rethinking of those wedding vows as well.  And when she made her choice and The Curmudgeon happened to mention this to his brother, who is definitely a car person and especially an SUV person, his brother asked which SUV she picked.

And The Curmudgeon had to admit:  “I have absolutely no idea.”

And The Curmudgeon knows, for sure, exactly what was going through his brother’s mind at that moment:

“My brother’s an idiot.”

 

 

Better Stay Healthy

Or at least avoid developing a rare form of blindness caused by defects in a gene known as RPE65, which tells cells in the retina to produce an enzyme critical for normal vision.

Why stay healthy?

Because the nice people at a company called Sparks Therapeutics have just developed a treatment for the rare, inherited problem.

And that treatment, a new drug called Luxturna, will cost patients $850,000.

That’s eight hundred fifty thousand dollars.

Or as the folks at Sparks Therapeutics apparently prefer to view it, $425,000 an eye.

Results not guaranteed.  As Reuters reports,

Clinical trials of Luxturna showed that 93 percent of participants experienced some improvement in their functional vision as measured by their ability to navigate obstacles in poor light after one year. It is unclear how long the benefit of the treatment will ultimately last.

Which doesn’t sound like you’re getting a whole lot for nearly a million bucks.

Is Newt Gingrich Expressing Tacit Solidarity With Roseanne?

On Wednesday morning, the day after the whole Roseanne kerfuffle, The Curmudgeon was in his basement, pedaling the stationary bike and channel-surfing, eventually landing on Fox & Friends – a morning staple for him, since every day should start with a good laugh – when on came Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich – a guy who, you may recall, told his first wife he was leaving her while she was in a hospital bed, recovering from cancer surgery – has this pretty effective way of coming across as the smartest guy in the room.  In conversation he seems thoroughly informed and authoritative.  He makes you want to assume that whatever he says is the gospel truth because listen, it sure sounds intelligent coming out of his mouth.

We’ve had nearly 30 years of Newt’s act, though, so we’ve learned that for the most part, this emperor has no clothes.  In his latest incarnation, Newt has lowered himself to being a Trump apologist, and it’s almost sad to listen to him, now thoroughly butt-naked, saying stuff you’re pretty sure – you hope – that deep down, he doesn’t believe for a second.

And this, alas, is the eye of Newt

So on Fox & Friends on Wednesday morning Gingrich launched into a ludicrous explanation about how the Mueller probe of Russian collusion in the 2016 election is actually about five scandals, beginning with – seriously – Hillary Clinton’s investment in cattle futures in 1978.  Professor Gingrich prattled on for a bit and then made this statement, which The Curmudgeon transcribed from a video on the Fox & Friends web site:

Look at how they treat the Trump people, look at how they treated the Hillary Clinton people.  Then third, you have the scandal of a totally false and, we’re now learning, very long Obama administration effort to destroy Trump through a variety of investigations, and I’m convinced it goes up to Valerie Jarrett and President Obama.

Just 24 hours after the whole Roseanne fiasco unraveled, Gingrich oh-so-coincidentally mentioned Valerie Jarrett.

Or not-so-coincidentally.

You’re forgiven if you knew little or nothing about Valerie Jarrett before the Roseanne tweet.  She was an important but relatively obscure aide to President Obama for his entire time in the White House, a senior counselor with no operational responsibilities but someone very close to, and very respected by, both Barack and Michelle Obama.  She flew almost entirely under the radar for eight years; her job was to advise and support the president, not to do things.  She was very influential but her work was almost entirely behind the scenes.

Yet here was Gingrich, just 24 hours after the Roseanne nonsense, taking something for which all the Trumpsters blame Obama and Obama alone and deciding, suddenly and out of the blue, that he should split the blame and declare Jarrett to be at fault as well.

All-but-invisible Valerie Jarrett.

How can that be anything other than Gingrich’s asinine way to express solidarity with Roseanne and signal to Trump supporters that he – and implicitly, the president – agrees that their new TV hero got a raw deal and that her raw deal had everything to do with Valerie Jarrett, of all people?

You know – you absolutely know – that two days earlier there was no chance – none whatsoever – that he would have mentioned Valerie Jarrett in such an explanation.

The Curmudgeon has long thought that Gingrich had sunk to an all-time low with his repeated rationalizations of all of Trump’s boorish behavior and bad ideas.

But The Curmudgeon was wrong.  It turns out that Gingrich found a way to sink even lower.

R.I.P.

Philip Roth, 1933-2018

In the winter of 1985 The Curmudgeon worked for a good government organization in Philadelphia and one of his responsibilities was to hire college and law students for summer jobs doing research and writing. One of the applicants was an undergraduate from the University of Pennsylvania, and as The Curmudgeon recalls, he was really poorly dressed for his interview:  pants and a sport coat that were mismatched, solid wool tie, and hush puppies.  The Curmudgeon didn’t care about that:  he himself is not much of a dresser and it certainly didn’t matter that this young fellow had no idea how to put together an outfit that didn’t involve blue jeans.

At the end of the interview the young man stated that regardless of whether he got the job, he would like his writing sample – the quality of which was reason he got the interview – returned to him.  There seemed nothing out of the ordinary about the request:  these were pre-computer days, it was typed, and he probably hadn’t made a copy.  Still, The Curmudgeon couldn’t resist asking why.

“Because my professor’s comments are on it and that professor was Philip Roth, so I want to keep it.”

The Curmudgeon couldn’t blame him.  By 1985 The Curmudgeon had read only two of Roth’s books – Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint (which he re-read recently and endorsed here) – but he knew he would keep reading Roth.  And he did:  he has read every piece of fiction Roth wrote, has read some of his non-fiction, and has a general idea of how he will go about reading the rest of Roth’s non-fiction.

Roth isn’t always easy to like.  He wrote about sex a lot, and not in a romantic way, and often seemed to be a little at war with his readers and a lot at war with women. Today, a lot of people are criticizing his work in the face of fast-changing social mores.  The Curmudgeon recalls reading Roth’s novel The Professor of Desire on an airplane, and around the time he read a passage about Roth’s protagonist, well, doing something in the bathroom soap dish in the home of someone he was visiting, putting down the book and saying to himself “This is ridiculous.  I’m done.”  But it was a cross-country flight and he had nothing else to read, so he resumed – and shortly thereafter was rewarded when the light bulb went on over his head and he realized, “Ah, so that’s where he was going with all that.  This is great.”

The Curmudgeon has a pretty high opinion of his own writing but sometimes, he reads a Roth sentence and says to himself “I could never, ever write a sentence like that.”

A few years ago Roth announced that he was done writing fiction.  He was about 80 at the time, so it was understandable.  Even so, Roth has toyed with his readers for so many years that The Curmudgeon always suspected that there would be the surprise publication of a new Roth novel anyway.  Philip Roth passed away last week at the age of 85, and if we see a new, posthumous Roth novel in the next few years, The Curmudgeon wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Roth was a treasure, and The Curmudgeon, and many of Roth’s readers, will miss him.  Many of those readers also hope the folks in Sweden will wake up and award Roth in death the Nobel Prize for Literature that eluded him during his life.

The Trump Watch (late May) (part 2 of 2)

There’s so much stuff this month it takes two posts to cover it.  Go here to see yesterday’s post.

Strong-Arm Tactics

You have a doctor.  The Curmudgeon has a doctor.  Most of us have doctors.  Our doctors have our medical records.  If we move or change doctors, we contact the old doctor and he or she makes a copy of our records and sends it to the new doctor. But the old doctor retains a copy of our medical records.  That’s just the way it is.

Yes, this guy again

But not if you’re Donald Trump, who sent his goons/aides to his old doctor – you remember this guy, right? – and had them seize every single piece of paper about Trump and leave nothing behind.

As reported by Vox,

 Dr. Harold Bornstein — who said Trump would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” — is claiming Trump associates “raided” his private practice to seize the president’s medical records.

 Bornstein, Trump’s personal doctor in New York for decades, told NBC News that Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller, Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten, and another individual arrived at his office unannounced and took Trump’s medical records in February 2017. The trio took the original copies of charts and lab reports under Trump’s name and some pseudonyms Trump apparently used, according to Bornstein. He also said the visitors asked him to remove a picture of Trump and him that had been hanging on his wall.

Wait – pseudonyms? Why was he having lab work done under false names?  What on earth could Trump have been trying to hide?  Serious medical problems?  Paternity issues?  Emotional problems?  Another hair transplant?

Chlamydia?

Whatever it was, his strong-arm tactics are appalling.  And wrong.  As far as The Curmudgeon is concerned, Bornstein should have sought to press charges against the people who, essentially, robbed his office.

Putting it on Layaway

Trump wanted a smart lawyer to join his legal team but instead he hired Rudy Giuliani, who appears to know about as much about good lawyering as The Curmudgeon knows about cooking vegetables.

Which is to say, not a damn thing.

One of Giuliani’s revelations:  that Trump has reimbursed attorney/fixer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to Stormy Daniels for her silence on their one-night stand.

But that’s not the interesting part:  no, the part that fascinates The Curmudgeon is that Trump repaid Cohen $35,000 a month until he paid off the entire $130,000.

Leading to an obvious question:  What kind of multi-billionaire needs to pay off a $130,000 debt in INSTALLMENTS?

It’s All in the Branding

Many of us can think of some desirable uses for this kind of branding, too

When Trump the real estate developer found that his money-making magic touch had deserted him he reinvented himself as a brand – kind of like Kotex.  He did it again as a candidate for the presidency, and now that he’s president he continues to view branding as an important weapon in his arsenal in the war of public opinion.

We now know that the FBI received some information about Trump from within the Trump campaign in 2016. But was it a leak?  A spy?  We don’t know.

Neither does he.

But he’s not letting that stop him from saying he does, as the online publication The Hill reported.

President Trump told a confidant this week that he aimed “to brand” an FBI informant on his campaign a “spy” because he thought it sounded more nefarious, according to The Associated Press.

 Trump reportedly told one ally that he thought these embellishments would produce a greater response among media and the public.

Don’t you just love that “embellishments” euphemism?  That’s what us regular folks call “lies,” and he showed not a moment’s hesitation about lying to help himself.

The Leader, Apparently, of Just Some Parts of the Federal Government

Almost from the day he took office Trump has made it clear that he was unhappy with the Justice Department.  But when he decided he was unhappy with Jeff Sessions, his choice to head the Justice Department, he declined to fire him.  Oh, he talked about firing Sessions – and talked and talked and talked about it some more – but he never did more than talk.

So why doesn’t he roll up his sleeves and get involved in fixing a Justice Department he thinks is so badly broken?

When it comes to justice, Trump knows nothing, hears nothing, says…well, says a lot

No particular reason, it turns out.  He’s just decided that a bad Justice Department is perfectly fine with him.  Vox tells the story.

I’ve taken the position — and I don’t have to take this position and maybe I’ll change — that I will not be involved with the Justice Department,” President Donald Trump said in an April 26 interview on Fox & Friends. 

And Americans who need a functioning justice system?

That’s apparently too damn bad.

Not Very Bright

It’s hard to grasp the idea that a guy capable of making billions of dollars just isn’t very bright; it’s so…illogical.  Sure, he had a million-dollar head start from his daddy, but who among us, if given the same advantage, would be able to turn one million into billions? Very few of us, The Curmudgeon suspects, and The Curmudgeon knows he certainly couldn’t.  So the guy must know SOMETHING, right?

Well, it’s looking more like he knows a lot about a few things but damn little about anything else, and it took another really, really smart guy to help show us that recently, as Vanity Fair reports.

On Thursday night, MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes aired footage of a presentation by Microsoft founder Bill Gates,in which the billionaire philanthropist told audience members at a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation event that on two separate occasions, he had to explain to Trump that H.I.V. and H.P.V. are, in fact, not the same thing. The former, human immunodeficiency virus, is a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to AIDS. The latter, human papillomavirus, is an S.T.D. that causes genital warts and, in some cases, cervical cancer. “Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between H.I.V. and H.P.V., so I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other,” Gates told the crowd.

That is really, really hard to comprehend.

But Gates was only getting started.

Perhaps more concerning, Trump apparently had to be talked out of launching a commission to investigate whether vaccinations cause autism and other developmental disorders, a fringe conspiracy that has been debunked by the medical community. According to Gates, during both meetings, Trump asked “if vaccines weren’t a bad thing because he was considering a commission to look into ill effects of vaccines.” (Gates said he told him, “No, that’s a dead end. That would be a bad thing, don’t do that.”)

Holy chicken pox, Batman!  This guy’s an idiot.

A Curious Double Standard

One of Trump’s beefs with former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe was that McCabe’s wife ran for the Virginia state Senate as a Democrat and accepted campaign contributions from the kinds of people who contribute to Democrats’ campaigns.  How could McCabe be loyal to him, Trump kept asking, when his wife ran for office as a Democrat and received contributions from Democratic donors?

It’s a ridiculous premise, of course, but the same thing is occurring in a slightly different way now, yet without any complaints from the president, because it involves one of Trump’s favorite staff members:  Kellyanne Conway. Conway, of course, is one of Trump’s most vociferous and visible defenders even as the number of news programs willing to invite her on to lie for him for five or ten minutes continues to dwindle.

But Conway’s husband?  THIS is an interesting story:  Conway’s husband has become a pretty vociferous Trump critic.  The publication The Week tells the story.

Two writers who wrote columns critical of President Donald Trump told Politico that George Conway, husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, emailed them out of the blue with suggestions on how to strengthen their anti-Trump arguments. 

 George Conway, a highly respected corporate attorney, has kept a low public profile until now. According to Politico, he struggles with his disdain for how, in his view, the administration is flouting legal norms and the rule of law. He reportedly turned down offers for two White House positions — solicitor general and head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. 

 On his Twitter account, he routinely re-tweets articles critical of the administration that his wife helps lead to over 50,000 followers. 

 Some of his most eye-catching tweets, some of which were later deleted, included deeming a report that Trump’s lawyer looked into pardons for two aides “flabbergasting,” called Trump’s other behavior “absurd,” and shared a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled, “The Stormy Daniels Damage.”

So you have to wonder: why was it a problem that McCabe’s wife ran as a Democrat for a seat in a state legislature a year before anyone was even taking Trump seriously as a candidate for president but it’s apparently not a problem that Kellyanne Conway’s husband is out there front and center pointing out Trump’s many forms of foolishness?

Getting Personal – and Irrational

Trump’s vendetta against Jeff Bezos continues.  While newspapers around the world continue to report about Trump’s incompetence and corruption, the president has decided to make an example of the Washington Post by taking out his anger on Bezos’s other business, Amazon.com.  As the Post reports,

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

 Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery.

The reality is that there’s no basis for Trump’s charges and there’s one school of thought that suggests that at a time when the postal service’s letter volume is in steep decline, it’s companies like Amazon and their package delivery business that are actually keeping the postal service afloat, if only barely.  But as we’ve seen, Agent Orange has never been one to let a little thing like the facts get in the way of a good vendetta.

“Devastated and Destroyed”

 Agent Orange tweeted last Sunday that the Russia/collusion investigation has “devastated and destroyed” the reputations of people, leaving one to wonder:

Who?  Is there a single person, other than those who have already pleaded guilty to crimes or who have been charged with crimes, whose life has been “devastated and destroyed”?

Conspiculously, Trump named no such individuals.

 America:  Love it or Leave It

We haven’t heard that argument much since, oh, the days of protest against the war in Vietnam – protests, by the way, that time has proven to be correct – but it’s getting new life these days as Agent Orange puts aside the affairs of state to tackle an issue he believes to be of even greater importance:

Football players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.

After the National Football League announced a truly moronic policy – that players who wish to protest the national anthem should do so by hiding in the locker room until after the anthem is played – Trump took to Fox & Friends to offer his perspective:

I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.

Birds of a feather…

Which only reminds The Curmudgeon of the ravings of another loon, Major Frank Burns of the television program M*A*S*H, who once declared that

Unless we each conform, unless we obey orders, unless we follow our leaders blindly, there is no possible way we can remain free.

 

 

 

 

 

And Fringe Benefits, Too!

Apple CEO Tim Cook is a very well-paid boy.

You’d be smiling, too

His base salary is $3 million.

His 2017 bonus was $9.3 million.

During the year he owned 560,000 shares of Apple stock that vested.  The value:  $89 million.

He has 2.94 million more shares of Apple stock that will eventually vest.  Their value, if they vest at the price of Apple stock on the day The Curmudgeon wrote this piece:  $392 million.

There is no way in the world this kind of compensation can possibly be justified, but that’s a subject for another time.  No, The Curmudgeon’s interest today is in some of the fringe benefits Apple paid its CEO.

It paid $3000 for his life insurance premiums.

Because we wouldn’t want the family to go to the poor house if the guy died tomorrow.

And reimbursed him $103,000 for unused vacation time.

That’s nice:  The Curmudgeon once worked for a company that unapologetically refused to pay him for three days of unused vacation time when his salary was $56,000 a year.

And The Curmudgeon’s favorite:  Apple put $16,200 into Cook’s personal 401(k).

Because a guy worth a half-billion dollars never knows when he’s going to need to fall back on his pension.

The greed knows no end, does it?