Monthly Archives: February 2015

Free: Business Translation Service

The restaurant chain called Saladworks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy yesterday.

A news release announcing the action explained that

Saladworks has determined that the best way to maximize value for its stakeholders is through a sale or recapitalization.

Allow The Curmudgeon to translate this for you:

Business is bad, so we’ve decided to stiff everyone to whom we owe money.

And the sad thing is that the courts will allow a big business to do this while consistently denying similar recourse to people who can’t afford to pay their mortgages – not because they over-borrowed but because they got sick or lost their jobs.

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The Long Way, the Wrong Way

Baseball teams begin their preparations for the upcoming season later this month. All you have to do is say “Pitchers and catchers” to a real baseball fan this time of year and you’re sure to elicit a smile. “Pitchers and catchers” is short for “Pitchers and catchers report to training camp on February 22,” and the phrase can melt through the winter cold for someone who loves baseball.

The teams train in warm weather places – Florida and Arizona. The Curmudgeon’s team, the Phillies, trains in Clearwater, Florida, and he’s joined them down there for a few days on many an occasion.

Each year about this time, the team seeks a little attention from the Philadelphia press by announcing that its truck filled with equipment for spring training is departing for Florida. The story often makes the television news and the papers, and last Saturday, the Philadelphia Inquirer informed its readers that the truck was heading south with a cargo that included:

  • 10,000 drink cups
  • 2,400 baseballs
  • 2,000 shirts
  • 1,200 bats
  • 600 pairs of pants
  • 600 batting practice hats
  • 450 pairs of socks
  • 350 pairs of shorts
  • 250 batting practice tops
  • 200 fleeces
  • 200 light jackets
  • 150 pairs of batting gloves
  • 140 batting helmets
  • 125 belts
  • 40 heavy jackets
  • 25 sets of golf clubs
  • Six bikes

But The Curmudgeon has always found one part of this annual ritual puzzling.

Why hire a truck to transport all this gear to Florida? Since Clearwater is the real base of the team’s baseball operations and there are people there year-round, why not just – heaven forbid – have the companies from which they buy all this stuff ship it directly to Florida?

 

Cold Out There

How cold was it when The Curmudgeon awoke this morning?

Well, put it this way:  right now, he can’t get the song “When will I see you again” out of his head.

Bundle up.

Brian Williams

Oh what a tangled web we weave

When first we practice to deceive.

And NBC’s Brian Williams has certainly woven himself one seriously tangled web, hasn’t he – and a web it looks like he may never escape.

williamsThe Curmudgeon confesses that he’s only generally aware of who Brian Williams is. He doesn’t watch network news broadcasts because he thinks they’re not a very good place to get news, preferring the print media (and associated web sites) unless the news is breaking and conducive to live television coverage that’s genuinely informative. He’s aware that Williams looks and sounds like a bit of a stuffed shirt but apparently does appearances on talk shows and even comedies to demonstrate that he’s just a regular guy, no doubt because he thinks it’s important for people to see him as a regular guy who just so happens to wear $800 suits and make $10 million a year presenting the news on television to millions of people a night five nights a week.

His Alamo is no ordinary lie – more a tall tale: a genuine fabrication he’s told with increasing embellishment for more than a decade. His explanations notwithstanding, it’s virtually inconceivable to accept them as a misunderstanding or a “conflation of experiences.”

At least for some people, apparently, it was hardly unexpected. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote last week that “NBC executives were warned a year ago that Williams was constantly inflating his biography. They were flummoxed over why the leading network anchor felt that he needed Hemingwayesque, bullets-whizzing-by flourishes to puff himself up, sometimes to the point where it was a joke in the news division.” The Curmudgeon saw another published report suggesting that NBC has a file of Williams’ alleged prevarications.

If, like The Curmudgeon, you prefer to think of television news anchors as news readers – people who just read the script put in front of them, practically actors – then there would be no problem with the tales Williams has been telling because television news anchors, at least in his mind, don’t need credibility because all they do is read a script.

But that’s not how it works in this situation because we’ve been told that Williams isn’t “just” a news reader. He’s also his broadcast’s managing editor, which presumably means he has a voice – perhaps the dominant voice, but certainly a major one – in determining which stories are reported, how reports are edited, and what gets on the air. That requires judgment, and after what we’ve learned in the past two weeks, it’s reasonable to question how Williams could ever be handed the reins of a network news broadcast again. That wasn’t an honest mistake he made – the kind all of us have made at one time (or more) or another; it was a blatant act of dishonesty that he made over and over (and over and over) again for more than a decade.

There’s certainly something to be said for forgiveness and second chances; a lot of folks like that kind of stuff. At the same time, however, there’s also something to be said for people in certain positions of public trust being held to a higher standard and being held more accountable, and perhaps even harshly accountable, when they fail to live up to that standard.

If Williams returns to NBC news in some capacity ­– that doesn’t seem unreasonable, considering that he presumably still has the reporting skills that propelled him to the top of his field – it’s hard to imagine him coming back to his old job. Sure, he could return as anchor of the nightly news, but as managing editor? That doesn’t seem appropriate. (If he worked for CBS they’d probably ship him off to 60 Minutes. The Curmudgeon has no idea if NBC has a similar spot for people of ability who have no other natural place at the network. Maybe – MSNBC?) If he were to return, it would probably need to be as the face of the news broadcast but as a news reader only, practically an actor, and we all know what people in that role generally look and sound like.baxter

“Quality Inn”

quality innWhen you see a sign that says “Quality Inn,” don’t you pretty much assume that “quality” would be the last adjective you’d expect to use to describe the place?

A Little Short-Sighted, Don’t You Think?

Auto sales are up in recent months and automakers are reporting that leading this recent surge are sales of new SUVs and small trucks.

Why?

hummerBecause the price of gasoline has dropped and people who were worried about how much they would have to pay for gas are now breathing a sigh of relief and once again buying the gas-guzzling vehicles of their dreams.

Can people possibly be this short-sighted?

Do they really think the drop in gasoline prices in recent months is permanent, that it isn’t an aberration, a short-term thing, and that the prices will never, ever return to their previous, much higher levels?

Do they really think the oil companies are going to permit that?

Do they not remember why oil prices first started to rise, in the 1970s, when OPEC decided it would simply pump less oil out of the ground, lower the supply, and force prices upward?

And do they believe that American oil companies, which are even greedier and more evil than the 1970s and 1980s Arab oil sheiks, wouldn’t pull the same stunt and slow production to decrease the supply and drive prices upward again?

Have they not read that some oil companies, and especially those mining gas from shale, are already slowing production and laying off workers?

Nah, they’re too busy buying SUVs and light trucks again.

They’ll be sorry.

You can bet on it.

On the Campaign Trail (early February)

People running for public office seem to be predisposed to say really dumb things, and even though the Iowa caucuses are still eleven months away, the next presidential primary campaign is already showing every sign of being an absolute dumb-athon.

And that’s with only one party participating.

The Democrats appear to be resigned to the Hillary Clinton coronation/victory tour with nary a serious, legitimate opponent in sight. That’s unfortunate, both because competition is generally a good thing and because while Mrs. Clinton has proven herself to be strong, resilient, and capable, she hasn’t demonstrated that she has anything to offer this country beyond strength, resilience, and ability – qualities you can find almost anywhere. Presidents aren’t managers; they’re leaders, and leadership at that level needs to come, first and foremost, from the leader’s vision: a sense of where he or she wants to take the country.

That’s the very reason that, contrary to what most people think, George W. Bush wasn’t the worst president in this country’s recent history. No, his father was, and he was because he had no vision. In fact, George H. W. Bush actually mocked the concept, referring to it derisively as “the vision thing.” H.W., like Hillary, was smart, capable, and dedicated – and on top of that, perhaps the most thoroughly decent man to occupy the White House in a long time – but this country needs more from its leaders than decency. It needs vision. George W. had vision – you may not have liked his vision, The Curmudgeon certainly didn’t like his vision, but he unquestionably had one – but that vision was buried nine months into his first term under the rubble of the fallen World Trade Center towers, leaving him more than seven years to wander aimlessly in a quagmire for which he was ill-prepared and ill-suited.

Does Hillary have a vision? If she does, she’s certainly doing an excellent job of keeping it to herself, at least so far. It’s almost as if she’s asking Democratic voters to choose her and then she’ll reveal her vision. (If she has one. And this, come to think of it, is scarily reminiscent of Richard Nixon in 1968 telling voters he “has a plan” to end the Vietnam War but refusing to divulge that plan, insisting that if people wanted to know what it was, they first had to elect him. We all know how well THAT turned out.)

Whether any of the Republicans running for the opportunity to oppose Mrs. Clinton have any kind of vision remains to be seen. Mitt Romney didn’t – his chief flaw – so his departure from the race is a good thing.   Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee do, as repugnant as those visions may be to at least some of us, and the others – the field really needs a Gilligan’s Island-like theme song that can describe each candidate in a simple phrase, something like…

Libertarian

The brain doc, too

The Cowboys fan

W’s bro

There’s Cuban Pete

The Texan and

The preacher man

– may reveal their vision in the coming months. For some of them – certainly for Chris Christie – that vision is going to be nothing more than naked ambition, but time will tell.

But it looks as if at least some of them are going to be fun along the way.

With this in mind, The Curmudgeon is hoping they will provide enough material along the way to make “On the Campaign Trail” at least an occasional feature in this space, if not more.

But shorter pieces.

So onto the campaign trail…

For our first installment we offer Exhibit A, Mike Huckabee; Exhibit B, Rand Paul; Exhibit C, Chris Christie; and Exhibit D, Ben Carson.

huckabeeIn the beginning there was Mike Huckabee – a biblical introduction to the bible-totin’ former Arkansas governor who wants to transform the U.S. into a fundamentalist Christian nation. Bill Clinton once described him as “a conservative, but he’s not angry,” and Huckabee does have a friendly manner – at least until you pay attention to the words coming out of his mouth.

Then? Not so friendly.

A few weeks ago Huckabee expressed concern that the singer Beyonce was poisoning, culturally speaking, the First Daughters, Sasha and Malia. As reported in the New York Times, he spoke of the Obamas:

While promoting his new book, the former Baptist pastor told People magazine, “I don’t understand how on one hand they can be such doting parents and so careful about the intake of everything — how much broccoli they eat and where they go to school … and yet they don’t see anything that might not be suitable” in Beyoncé’s lyrics. He also said Beyoncé’s choreography is “best left for the privacy of her bedroom.”

In his book, Huckabee describes the Grammy Award-winning Beyoncé’s lyrics as “obnoxious and toxic mental poison.” He also accuses Beyoncé’s husband, rapper Jay-Z, of “exploiting his wife” like a “pimp.”

Note, by the way, the gratuitous swipe at Jay Z and the suggestion that if a woman has gone astray it must be because her husband sent her in that direction. The “pimping” business is also pretty funny because according to published reports, Jay Z is worth more than half a billion dollars himself – more than Beyonce and more than enough to enable him struggle through life’s many financial challenges without needing to push his wife – who was a pretty big deal all on her own, pre-Jay Z – to make more money. But in the fundamentalist Christian world of Mike Huckabee, the man’s the master of his family and calls all the shots.

But we digress.

Last week, Huckabee moved on to matters closer to his heart: homosexuals. Again, from the New York Times:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Sunday said being gay is akin to choosing to drink alcohol or use profanity — lifestyle choices he says are appealing to others but not to him.

The former Baptist pastor, who is weighing a second run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, also claimed that forcing people of faith to accept gay marriage as policy is on par with telling Jews that they must serve “bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli.” That dish would run afoul of kosher rules in the same way Huckabee sees asking Christians to accept same sex marriages.

Excuse The Curmudgeon, but…What the Huck?

Next we turn to Exhibit B, Rand Paul, about whom The Curmudgeon has already had a few choice words (go here, here, and here).

paulFor some reason there’s a lunatic fringe in this country that still doesn’t understand the value of vaccinations. Getting their information from model Jenny McCarthy, who holds a Ph.D. (that’s P-H-D as in “piled higher and deeper”) in silicone implants, they believe vaccines cause everything from autism and mental retardation to cooties. Rand Paul is a medical doctor, presumably a man of science, but he apparently sees no reason to alienate the anti-vaccine crowd without a better reason than the sheer stupidity of their central tenet. After all, in a close primary campaign the lunatic fringe vote could easily be the deciding factor, so Rand’s too canny to write off the loons without a better reason than their sheer lunacy.

When someone’s running for president there are always people out there who are going to dig up juicy stuff from their past, and that’s exactly what happened to Rand Paul recently. Again, from the New York Times:

Back in 2009, when Rand Paul was pursuing his long-shot bid to win Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary, he spoke to a small physicians’ association that has publicized discredited medical theories, including possible links between vaccines and autism and between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer.

And this:

On Monday, Mr. Paul helped set off an uproar when he said amid a national measles outbreak that parents should be allowed to decide whether their children needed to be vaccinated, and that he had heard from parents whose children had suffered “profound mental disorders” after being vaccinated.

Apparently he lacked the courage to suggest that those parents are, well, just plain wrong.

christieNot to be left out of the fun was New Jersey governor Chris Christie, our Exhibit C today.

Christie wasn’t even in the country – he was in England on a trade mission – but he managed to get in his two cents’ worth from 3500 miles away, as reported in the New York Times:

Amid an outbreak of measles that has spread across 14 states, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey on Monday said that parents “need to have some measure of choice” about vaccinating their children against the virus, breaking with President Obama and much of the medical profession

In remarks here, Mr. Christie at first stopped short of recommending that parents immunize their children against measles, or any other illness, calling for “balance” and “choice.” But his remarks quickly set off an outcry, prompting the governor to modify his position about an hour later and declare, through a spokesman, that “there is no question kids should be vaccinated.”

Exhibit D is Ben Carson. Now The Curmudgeon has an idea what you might be thinking right about now: who the @#$& is Ben Carson? Carson is, well, he’s the 2016 version of Herman Cain: an African-American male who is a genuine success story, highly intelligent, but so in love with his intellect and so incredibly full of himself that he’s certain that his success in an unrelated area of endeavor qualifies him to be president. Whereas Cain was a very conservative retired corporate executive, Carson is a very conservative retired neurosurgeon whose professional claim to fame is that he was the first surgeon who successfully separated conjoined twins joined at the head – a pretty spectacular claim to fame as claims to fame go. He’s also written several inspirational-type books.

Anyhow, Carson, with his impressive medical credentials – even more impressive than Dr. Rand Paul – has said about the growing measles epidemic that

These are things that we had under control. We have to account for the fact that we now have people coming into the country, sometimes undocumented people, who perhaps have diseases that we had under control. So now we need to be doubly vigilant about making sure that we immunize our people to keep them from getting diseases that once were under control.

While Carson may be a man of science, he’s also, it turns out, a man with little command of the facts.

Fact #1: The U.S. has a 92 percent vaccination rate for measles.

Fact #2: Mexico has a 99 percent vaccination rate for the measles – and a lot of the Mexicans who sneak into the U.S. and are eventually caught are carrying proof of their vaccinations.

Fact #3: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras all have a 93 percent vaccination rate for measles.

Fact #4: The combination of facts #1, 2, and 3 tell us that Carson is full of you-know-what.

carsonSince you may not be familiar with Carson – and other than having heard his name, The Curmudgeon wasn’t, either, until he sat down to do a little homework to write this piece – let’s take a quick peek at what the guy’s all about.

He recently declared that the protests against the police in New York City are a boost to ISIS and al Qaeda:

Can you imagine how delighted they are when they see all of this strife, internal strife?” Carson said. “They’re saying, ‘Oh my this is going to make it easy for us. We’ll get in there, we’ll infiltrate, we’ll get things going and they won’t even notice what’s going on.

Carson – the scientist – on evolution:

I find it as hard to accept the claims of evolution as it is to think that a hurricane blowing through a junkyard could somehow assemble a fully equipped and flight-ready 747.

Carson on Colorado’s high school advanced placement curriculum for American history and its inclusion of instructional materials on the evils of slavery and the massacres of native Americans:

I mean, I think most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS. This is what we’re doing to the young people in our nation and we have got to stop this silliness, we have got to stop crucifying ourselves.

And Carson on gay parents:

Recently a homosexual couple brought a child in to be examined on one of our neurosurgical clinical days. During lunch, after the couple had left, one of my fellow staff members commented favorably on the couple’s obvious love and commitment to the child. He said to me, “I know you don’t approve of homosexual relationships and wouldn’t consider their home a healthy atmosphere in which to raise a child. But I was impressed by that couple. I think their sexual orientation is their business. Think what you want, but it’s just your opinion.”

My response wasn’t nearly that politically correct. “Excuse me, but I beg to differ,” I said. “How I feel and what I think isn’t just my opinion. God in his Word says very clearly that he considers homosexual acts to be an ‘abomination.'”

If he lasts a while, Carson may very well become the leading contributor to this space.

But back to the measles.

This measles nonsense is sad and disappointing not only because there are far more important things for candidates for the presidency to talk about but also because they reveal some candidates for the highest office in the land to be people who are willing to set aside all reason in their lust for votes. Ambition seems to trump principle far too much and far too often.

Bad for the country but great for a certain curmudgeonly blogger who’s perpetually on the prowl for interesting subjects about which to write.

Stay tuned.

He Has WHAT?

You may be familiar with the actor Jason Biggs. He seems like a decent, amiable, but bland type, capable of playing ordinary roles but probably not up to the challenge of carrying on his back any kind of major movie or even television production, which is by no means a crime. He’s probably best known for defiling fruit-filled pastry in the movie American Pie, and if you want an example of how time flies, that was sixteen years ago.

biggsYou may also have heard that Mr. Biggs – not to be confused with Carrie Bradshaw’s Mr. Big – and his wife recently lost their dog. When it happened (last November: The Curmudgeon only stumbled onto this tale last weekend while plowing through a pile of unread Time magazines), Mr. Biggs turned to his Twitter followers, shared the details with them, and was reunited with Gina – that’s the dog, not the wife – within a day.

It’s a sweet, heart-warming tale with a happy ending but with one slightly disturbing aspect: you see, it turns out that Mr. Biggs, according to Time, has 490,000 Twitter followers.

Let us repeat that, for dramatic effect: actor Jason Biggs has nearly a half-million Twitter followers.

And so, at the risk of resorting to the use of the passive voice, also for dramatic effect, it must be asked:

Why?

Why in the world are there 490,000 people out there who follow the tweets of the amiable but otherwise unremarkable Mr. Biggs?

Bad Journalism, Bad Government

A few days ago the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story titled “’Superbug’ infects eight patients at Phila. hospital.” The story described a drug-resistant bacteria that was probably coming into contact with people through a certain kind of endoscope that’s apparently especially hard to clean.

And those with whom this bacteria comes into contact and infects? Between a quarter and a half of them die.

And the article, incredibly, did not name the hospital that’s been experiencing this problem.

When asked, a city health department official refused to name the hospital because, as the Inquirer reported, “…the city did not want to discourage facilities from reporting cases.”

What about the public the city’s health department was created to protect? Shouldn’t people have the right to know that if they go to a certain hospital for a certain procedure they could contract an infection and die? Shouldn’t their first responsibility be to the public and not a hospital that’s not doing its job very well and is endangering lives?

And shouldn’t the newspaper demand to know the identity of the hospital – and report it?

Bad reporting, bad public health work.

 

Shattering Dreams

The school system must be working well, municipal pensions must be fully funded, and unemployment must be close to zero because a member of Philadelphia’s city council apparently has nothing better to do than propose a law prohibiting cheap motels from renting rooms by the hour.

What a prissy spoilsport he must be.

motelThe Philadelphia Inquirer article telling this sad tale of a prudish public official trying to get in the way of people having a good time noted that one particular establishment, the Hub Motel on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia, offers rooms for forty dollars for three hours for those who check in before three in the afternoon and sixty-five dollars for three hours after three o’clock. It just so happens that the Hub is pretty much smack dab in the middle of everywhere The Curmudgeon lived during the first forty-six years of his life, and he used to wonder – although he also pretty much always knew – what kind of people “stayed” there. The Curmudgeon can’t remember a time when the Hub wasn’t there, going back fifty years, and in fact he drove past it two Sundays ago.

Actually, the whole business of motels renting rooms by the hour makes The Curmudgeon nostalgic for a similar establishment that was located about four or five miles north of the Hub along the same Route 1, just beyond the Philadelphia border in Trevose. It was called the American Motel– the building is still there but it has another name – and when The Curmudgeon was of an age to notice such things, he observed that the sign on the side of the building said “$6 and up.”

When he was young he wondered, occasionally aloud from the back seat of the car when passing the place, how a motel could possible make money renting rooms for just six dollars a night. His parents never said a word but surely they must have gotten a kick out of the question. When The Curmudgeon got a little older he had a pretty good idea that it wasn’t six dollars a night, just six dollars an hour, and he knew why, too, and he hoped – hoped that some day, maybe he would be able to take advantage of what sounded like a bargain and what was certainly preferable to the back seat of the family’s 1968 Cutlass Supreme (red with a black vinyl roof, AM radio only, and no air-conditioning) or trying to sneak someone into his parents’ basement at night after the folks went to bed.

That was never to be because, well, back then The Curmudgeon had no game at all – sort of how he is now, actually, forty years later – and he never came even remotely close to learning if the sign on the wall of the American represented truth in advertising.

And now, a member of Philadelphia’s city council wants to take away the similar dreams of young men and young women everywhere.

Shame on him.