Monthly Archives: February 2015

About Keith Olbermann

The Curmudgeon isn’t a Keith Olbermann fan. Although apparently a real pain in the ass to work with, which doesn’t bother The Curmudgeon because he doesn’t anticipate sharing an employer with Olbermann anytime soon, he’s a terrific broadcaster, incredibly forceful and articulate, and probably an excellent writer, because all of those rants of his surely can’t be extemporaneous. When he was on MSNBC, his style was so thoroughly obnoxious that even though The Curmudgeon agrees with him on the vast majority of political issues, he found watching Olbermann no less unpleasant than watching Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity.

Olbermann’s at ESPN these days – his second tour of duty there after stints with MSNBC, Fox Sports, NBC sports, the ABC radio network, and something called Current TV. Right now he has a thirty-minute afternoon show five nights a week, a mix consisting of two-thirds of Olbermann pontificating and one-third him interviewing someone from the world of sports or entertainment. The Curmudgeon has never seen Olbermann’s current ESPN show and has no interest in doing so because it’s not the kind of thing that interests him regardless of who’s doing the talking or what they’re talking about.

olbermannA few days ago Olbermann was suspended from his job for the rest of the week because of a Twitter exchange he had with some Penn State students who were bragging about a successful charity event they had just completed. Olbermann belittled the students, belittled the event, belittled the school, and belittled its alumni.

But suspending him doesn’t make sense. ESPN hired Olbermann, an opinionated guy, and put him on television two-and-a-half hours a week to… give his opinions. He’s not a reporter, he’s a commentator. Pretty much all he does on his show, as The Curmudgeon understands it, is sit there and give his opinions. That’s his job; it’s what ESPN hired him to do.

So then why suspend him for giving an opinion? Is he only permitted to express some opinions? The nice opinions? The opinions that don’t offend anyone, or don’t offend many?

The folks at ESPN knew what they were getting when they hired Olbermann, knew he would be inflammatory, and no doubt encourage him to use Twitter to engage with viewers and potential viewers to build the audience both for his show and ESPN in general.

So why suspend him for daring to express a unpopular opinion?

When did we get so damned sensitive that we can’t tolerate opinions that differ from our own and feel the need to punish – severely – those who have them?

Back to the Comments at the Bottom of the Page

Like a sore in your mouth that you just can’t keep your tongue away from, The Curmudgeon finds himself unable to refrain for long from looking at the reader comments that come at the end of online newspaper articles. Mostly he’s appalled, but sometimes, that appalling can be pretty damn entertaining.

Recently, one of the dumbest women in the world – you know her as “Dear Abby” – received an inquiry from a woman who was concerned because her bright, interesting, and attractive eighteen-year-old daughter had no interest in dating and denies being gay. The reader wanted to know what to do.

Based on no more information than The Curmudgeon provided above, the readers on philly.com, online home of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, offered the following helpful, enlightening comments and suggestions:

Sounds like mom isn’t getting any and wants to live vicariously through the daughter’s sex life.

Get her an old house and a half dozen cats. Let nature take its’ course from there. Nothing wrong with being an old maid.

Diagnosis: your daughter is a prude. Accept it and move on.

This girl is probably already bangin multiple college dudes or grown men and in full control at all times.

Mom sounds like a tramp, daughter ought to move out, or she’ll be dealing with Mom all her life.

Mom sounds like she has certain self esteem issues……the kid sounds like she doesn’t want any.

How do you know this letter isn’t from Kentucky. She’s almost a spinster there……

After all, her twelve year old sister is already married with two kids.

Dried up and barren too

Scary, ain’t it?

February News Quiz

  1. Walmart is raising the wages of its lowest-paid workers to at least nine dollars an hour because: a) it enjoyed profits of $30 billion last year and felt it was only fair to share its success generously with its hard-working employees; b) it believes its employees will be so grateful for the raise that they’ll lose interest in unionizing; c) it figures it can recoup all the additional payroll money, and more, by cutting back on health insurance benefits because more of its employees are now eligible for Medicaid; or d) it’s confident that at nine dollars an hour, or $18,720 a year, a full-time Walmart employee can now comfortably support a family of four and it won’t have to hear about the inadequate wages it pays anymore?
  2. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French diplomat once accused of raping a New York City hotel maid, told a court in France that he had only attended twelve sex parties in the past three years and not nearly as many as his accusers alleged. Charged with procuring sex workers for these parties, he said he did not think the women he brought to the parties were prostitutes but thought they were: a) aspiring actresses interested in learning more about foreign affairs; b) models hoping to learn about international finance; c) nuns on a one-week break after ten years of self-imposed isolation; or d) Kardashians?
  3. National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell was paid $35 million in 2013 because: a) it’s hard to find a guy so willing to turn his back when players are beating the hell out of their wives and girlfriends; b) it takes a tough man to ignore complaints from retired players who’ve suffered brain damage as a result of having their concussions treated as minor injuries during their playing careers; c) it takes a special skill to do things like pretend that the league’s most successful team of the past decade doesn’t routinely cheat at almost every aspect of the game; or d) team owners understand the value of a man who can do all their dirty work and still sleep at night?
  4. Radio Shack is on the verge of going out of business because: a) it never figured out how to sell the kind of personal electronic devices people are buying; b) it could never find enough locations for its stores in malls and strip shopping centers; c) knowledgeable but insufferable sales staff; or d) it drowned under the weight of all the names, addresses, and phone numbers it collected over the years from customers who spent $1.49 for a AAA battery?
  5. During a recent baptism ceremony at the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis told women it was okay to breast-feed their crying children if the children were hungry because: a) he’s a warm-hearted man who’s pained by the sound of children crying; b) he wanted to silence the little buggers; c) he hoped encouraging public breast-feeding would attract more men to future services; or d) it was as close as his holiness can get to looking at naked women since they removed the Wi-Fi from the Vatican?
  6. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg admitted that she fell asleep during the president’s state-of-the-union address because she had too much wine at dinner before the speech. She said she drank too much and ended up falling asleep because: a) the wine at dinner was too good to pass up; b) she’s eighty-one years old and it was past her bedtime; c) dread over needing to sit through another speech in which Obama sounds great but says nothing; or d) she thought she’d need it to get through the evening after learning she’d be sitting next to Clarence Thomas?
  7. After several lethal assaults on Jewish individuals, institutions, and organizations in Europe, Israel’s prime minister invited Jews living in Europe to emigrate to his country because: a) they shouldn’t live in such a dangerous environment; b) you can’t get decent corned beef in Paris, Barcelona, Copenhagen, or London; c) Israel is the land of milk and money; or d) nothing’s safer than living in Israel?
  8. House Speaker John Boehner said he was prepared to let funding for the Department of Homeland Security lapse if Congress and the president can’t agree on that funding because: a) he’s only the speaker of the House, so it’s not as if he has any real power over what Congress does or doesn’t do; b) he believes in small government and doesn’t mind if there’s no Department of Homeland Security; c) he’s soft on terrorism; or d) he likes the idea that if there’s no Department of Homeland Security and then there’s a terrorist attack he can blame it all on the president?
  9. A “superbug” is: a) a potentially deadly germ spread primarily by a certain type of endoscope; b) a forty-years-later sequel to the movie Super Fly; c) a new electric car from Volkswagen; or d) the virus that the NSA has illegally implanted in your computer, cell phone, and laptop to monitor all of your communication?
  10. The Academy Award for best movie of the year went to: a) Birdman; b) American Sniper; c) Boyhood; or d) we don’t know yet: the award ceremony started last Sunday night and still appears to have another hour or so to go?

A Strange Emphasis

A man was recently charged with shooting and killing three Muslims in North Carolina, and many of the newspaper accounts found it necessary to report that the accused is an atheist. Almost immediately there was finger-pointing about how atheists are somehow more dangerous than believers. One good example, reported in the Washington Post, was that

Writing in the New Republic, Christian writer Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig demanded  a reckoning, framing the murders as a wake-up call to atheists about dangerous tendencies among them. She argued that the cocksureness that comes with atheistic certitude has allowed more-rational-than-thou young white men to blind themselves to a growing strand of hatefulness. Atheists, she said, need to consider the possibility that such violence is an “outgrowth of a system” that fails to sufficiently question its moral commitments.

The Curmudgeon would like to note, just for starters, that had the accused been Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, Unitarian, or Catholic, no newspaper would even have mentioned that.

He also would like to state, as an atheist himself, that he believes atheists are no better and no worse, no less moral and no more moral, and certainly no less or no more inclined to kill people than anyone else.  Trying to paint any group with such a broad brush is almost always a mistake.

And for the record, the following are things for which believers, not atheists, are responsible:

  • The crusades
  • The inquisition
  • Pogroms
  • Slavery in the U.S. (and elsewhere)
  • The assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King
  • The Holocaust
  • The mass murders in Rwanda and Cambodia
  • The attack on Pearl Harbor
  • The attacks of 9/11
  • The internment of the Japanese in California during World War II
  • The mass murders in Columbine, the University of Texas, Virginia Tech University, and Fort Hood
  • The actions of Ted Kaczynski, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Richard Speck, the Son of Sam, and the Subway Vigilante
  • The Boston Marathon bombing

A guy killed those three Muslims in North Carolina – a guy with some serious mental problems. He happened to be an atheist. He could just as easily have been a Christian – and based on the history of murder and mayhem in this world, the odds were overwhelming that the man who murdered those three Muslims in North Carolina would have been Christian. On this particular occasion, though, those overwhelming odds didn’t reconcile with reality.

But when the odds point in the right direction, as they usually do, no one ever points a finger at Christianity and suggests that Christianity could be behind the murder and mayhem.

They shouldn’t point a finger at atheism, either – because that would be a downright un-Christian thing to do.

And just plain wrong.

A New Old Experience

The Curmudgeon manages his financial affairs in a pretty orderly manner. He has rules, he has practices, he has his ways of doing various things.

One of those practices is that he doesn’t like using credit cards. Oh, there have always been certain things for which credit cards are okay – appliances, hotel bills, large car repairs, orthopedic shoes, things like that – but in general, he doesn’t like using his plastic.

He’s had to modify that rule a bit over the years with the emergence of internet commerce – remember when, if you wanted something, you had to go to a store to buy it? – but in general, his philosophy has long been that if he can’t afford to pay for it with the cash he has in his pocket then he can’t have it and should just put aside cash until he has enough to make the purchase.

He’s reasonably generous to himself when it comes to cash for spending money, especially since he more or less assumes that he’s not very long for this world. (If he reaches retirement age he will be in very, very deep s—t.) But when gasoline prices skyrocketed about a dozen years ago and he saw what a dent filling his tank put in his pocket money, he reluctantly decided to move gasoline purchases out of the cash-only category and into the “acceptable use of a credit card” category.

As you know, gasoline prices have plummeted of late – although they now seem to be creeping up just a bit – and The Curmudgeon has noticed how much less filling his tank now costs compared to just a year ago. Consequently, when he pulled up to a gas pump last Saturday, rolled down his window, and requested “Fill it up with regular, please” and the attendant asked “Cash or charge?” he found himself, for the first time in maybe a dozen years, saying “Cash.”

The bill was $17 (small car, small gas tank, and in the winter he fills it when it’s half empty (or half full, for you optimists)).

And handing over cash instead of a credit card felt very, very good.

 

A Potential Moment of Ethnic Pride, and Then…

The Curmudgeon lost touch with professional basketball a long time ago – around the time each team had at least one player whose last name was Johnson and he couldn’t keep them straight and then he saw a beloved local player shake the hand of a teammate who had just missed a free throw, as if that was a reason to congratulate someone. So when he heard on the radio right before he went to sleep two Saturdays ago that someone named Zach Levine had won the NBA slam dunk contest he thought…

Is it possible…

Could it be…

Nah, it’s inconceivable, but…

Is there any way a Jewish guy named Zach Levine won the NBA slam dunk contest?

A Jewish guy?   A landsman? In the NBA at all? And one who could…jump?

Even the fellow Jews who get that far, they get there on guile; no way they can…jump.

The Curmudgeon’s people haven’t accomplished a whole lot in the world of sports. In the 1930s and 1940s there were a few prominent Jewish boxers; one of the all-time great NFL quarterbacks, but he’s from the 1940s and few remember him; the man who more or less invented how professional football teams have played on offense for the past fifty-five years; and the greatest coach in the history of professional basketball. Coach, not player.

We have no one in hockey and had to root – hard – against the swimmer Michael Phelps because of our allegiance to Mark Spitz. There’s the former wrestler who went by “Goldberg,” but wrestling doesn’t count. A few years back the American Jewish Historical Society created a set of baseball cards that it claimed included every Jew who ever played major league baseball, but after reviewing the set he purchased, The Curmudgeon found that other than Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax (about whom The Curmudgeon has written in the past), that is one sorry group of ball players.

You see, as athletes, The Curmudgeon’s people make for…very good students. Doctors. Lawyers. Guys who own professional sports teams, not guys who play on them.

So you can imagine how the possibility that there might be a Jewish guy in the NBA who was good enough and athletic enough to win the league’s slam-dunk competition could be pretty exciting to The Curmudgeon.

So the next morning, right after he wiped the sleep out of his eyes and turned on the heater, which he extinguishes every night an hour before bed, The Curmudgeon turned on his Mac, went to the ESPN web site, and…

Saw his hopes dashed.

Zach Levine was Zach LaVine, pronounced like La-veen, and he was certainly no landsman. Instead of being a brother, LaVine is…a brotha.

Once again, as Jim McKay announced for all those years at the start of ABC’s Wide World of Sports as that poor Yugoslavian skier plummeted off the ski jump, “The thrill of victory – and the agony of defeat.”

The Name Game

We learned to call young Cassius Clay by his new name, Muhammad Ali, and we were still able to appreciate the basketball skills of Lew Alcindor when he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Many people don’t even remember that the television personality and former pro football player they know as Ahmad Rashad started his playing days as Bobby Moore.

In the wider world, we learned that the city we grew up knowing as Peking is now Beijing and that the man who led the country of which that city is a part and we knew as Mao Tse-tung is now Mao Zedong. We also learned that one of our culinary favorites, Chinese Szechwan food, is now Chinese Sichuan food.

But now The Curmudgeon has learned – he’s not sure if he’s late to the party and missed it or if this is a relatively recent development – that the large city in India that we all knew as Calcutta is now known, according to the most recent edition of the Columbia Journalism Review, as Kolkata.

Kolkata.

Oh, Calcutta!

(Whoops)

Oh, Kolkata!

About Bruce Jenner’s Recent Auto Accident

Women drivers!

The Westminster Dog Show

If you’ve turned on your television this week and done any channel-surfing at all there’s a decent chance you’ve at least run into the Westminster dog show. It’s so utterly ridiculous and you can’t help but wonder which is stranger: the people who train their dogs to participate, and who participate themselves, or the television executives who think this is something worth broadcasting.

dogsAnd maybe you also wonder: is there anything else like this – ever – on television?

And then you think.

Hmm: they take these ordinary animals, dress them up in ridiculous costumes, induce them to do things ordinary animals would never do on their own, and then film them doing those strange things they’d never do on their own.

And then it hits you: they DO televise something very similar to this.

It’s called Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

Anybody Wanna Run for Mayor?

Help wanted: Republican Party in country’s fifth-largest

city seeks candidate for mayor. Must have money or rich

friends to pay for campaign. Republican beliefs optional.

The Republican Party in Philadelphia is in a bad way. It hasn’t gotten one of its own elected mayor since the 1940s and its two most successful mayoral candidates of the past fifty years were Democrats who switched parties to avoid a primary election they knew they couldn’t possibly win. Their candidate in the last election was yet another Democrat lured by the opportunity to run for mayor, a total nonentity who barely campaigned and went back to being a Democrat before the last lawn signs were picked up and tossed in the trash.

People complain about one-party rule in Philadelphia, but it’s sort of like the joke about the old Jew who complained to god because he didn’t win the lottery.

“God, I don’t understand, I’m a good person, I raised three children who all became good people, why didn’t I win the lottery?”

When he didn’t win the following week, he again complained.

“God, I follow all 613 of your commandments. Isn’t that good enough? Why didn’t I win the lottery?”

When he didn’t win the following week, he complained yet again.

“God, I’m a good person, I give generously to charity and I’ve persuaded to my children to give to charity as well. So why don’t I win the lottery?

A roar of thunder echoed across the sky, the old man dropped to his knees, and a voice rang out from on high:

“Meet me halfway, Mr. Goldberg. Buy a ticket.”

And that’s the Republicans’ problem and the answer to the complaints about one-party rule in Philadelphia: they’re not meeting the voters halfway. If they want to elect a Republican mayor and end one-party rule they need to put up a half-decent candidate – and Philadelphia’s Republicans have seldom come even remotely close to doing that.

It looks like this year will be more of the same. A former spokesman for the city’s current Democratic mayor briefly considered running as a Republican but changed his mind, perhaps because he realized there’s something seriously wrong with a black man who is a Republican anything, and is running as a Democrat instead. It doesn’t matter: the guy’s so clueless that he officially announced his candidacy on a weekend and got virtually no news coverage. If a press guy doesn’t know better than to try to make news on a weekend, imagine how clueless he’d be trying to lead a major city.

The Republicans had another possible candidate, a Democrat who switched to run as a Republican in the past – three times, with less success each time – and is considering one more run, but he just switched his registration to “Independent” because he knows he has about as much chance of getting elected mayor running as a Republican as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has of being named the B’nai Brith man of the year.

The city’s Republican Party asked the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, who just reached the court’s mandatory retirement age and is now out of work, if he’d consider running. He said thanks but no thanks because he’s been down that road before, running for mayor in 1991 and winning only a third of the votes in the Republican primary. Clearly, he knows better.

The Republicans are so hard up, in fact, that they reportedly asked the executive director of the city’s housing authority to run for mayor even though he’s virtually unknown to the public, has only been in Philadelphia for a few years, and there’s no reason to believe he’s even a Republican.

Which shows you how desperate they are.

There are a few long-time elected Republican officials who could run, but they won’t: one who’s been on the city council for thirty-five years and has never accomplished anything because he puts no real effort into his job; a one-time speaker of the state House who was ousted from that job after a single term and ran successfully for city council only so he wouldn’t have to work for a living; and another state representative who’s very highly regarded, has been around forever, but apparently is intimidated by the possibility of needing to do anything other than sit on the sidelines and criticize and is more comfortable just collecting his safe state paycheck.

So if you’re interested in running for mayor of Philadelphia and desperate enough to do it as a Republican, Philadelphia’s Republican Party wants YOU. Give them a call: all volunteers are welcome, the standards are almost non-existent, and it’ll look great on your resume.