Monthly Archives: November 2015

They Should Have Let Him Rot

Today the prison cell door will open and Jonathan Pollard will taste freedom for the first time in nearly thirty years.

And that’s too bad.

In the 1980s Pollard, then an intelligence analyst for the Navy, was caught red-handed sharing U.S. security information with Israel. A lot of security information, in fact.

In other words, he was a spy – against his own country.

He said he did it because U.S. actions endangered Israel. He put Israel’s welfare ahead of that of his own country. Israel at first denied it, then admitted it and apologized, which was nice but also too little and too late, and when asked to return the stolen materials Pollard provided only returned a small portion of the items and then waited another dozen years before conceding that not only did it know about Pollard’s espionage from the start but it also paid Pollard for his efforts – paid him well, actually.

Pollard sought a plea deal, mostly to lighten the legal burden on his girlfriend, who was part of his little spy operation. During plea negotiations Pollard brazenly violated some of the terms of that agreement and the judge responded by sentencing him to life in prison.

Over the years Israel and some Jewish groups in the U.S. have attempted to secure Pollard’s release and in 1995 Pollard, still clear about his priorities, successfully applied for Israeli citizenship.

A lot of people The Curmudgeon respects have urged U.S. presidents to commute Pollard’s sentence – past and present members of Congress like Lee Hamilton, Arlen Specter, John McCain, and Barney Frank, former president Jimmy Carter, and law professor Charles Ogletree among them. Among those who opposed commuting the sentence are a lot of people The Curmudgeon doesn’t like: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, James Schlesinger, and others.

For once, The Curmudgeon’s with Cheney and Rumsfeld. He wants the guy to rot in jail until he dies. And while the plan is that he must reside in the U.S. for at least five years, The Curmudgeon would prefer that Israel send a plane for the guy and take him away immediately.

Spying for our enemies is bad enough; spying for our friends is even worse. We don’t need people like that in our country. Let him spend the rest of his life in Israel, wondering whether that loud sound he hears is a Palestinian rocket with his name on it.








An Astonishing Degree of Self-Centeredness

The ISIS attack on Paris was ugly and brutal. It has brought out the best in some people (solidarity, Americans taking a short break from hating France, all those temporarily shaded Facebook photos) and the worst in others (it’s France, not our problem).

It also has elicited some strange reactions – among them one from Bono, of all people, who according to USA Today said that

“If you think about it, the majority of victims last night are music fans,” he said in a Saturday phone interview with Irish radio host Dave Fanning. “This is the first direct hit on music that we’ve had in this so-called War on Terror. And it’s very upsetting. These are our people. … The cold-blooded effect of this slaughter is deeply disturbing and that’s what I can’t get out of my head.”

The attack, of course, was certainly not a “direct hit” on music. It was a direct hit on people, on a city, on a country, on a way of life, on a culture, on a religion, on a civilization, on humanity, it was a direct hit on many things but it most certainly was not a direct hit on music.

bonoBono’s always seemed like a pretty good guy – one of those people in the public eye who takes advantage of his privileged position to think and care about and act on behalf of others. His perspective in this situation, though, seems a little off and a lot self-centered; maybe it’s because he was in Paris at the time of the attack. He doesn’t have to worry: if ISIS ever attacks the Grammy Award ceremonies it’ll be because there are a lot of people in one place, a lot of celebrities in one place, and a lot of television cameras there to capture it. It would be the same if such an attack were perpetrated at a movie theater, a football game, a subway stop, or yes, a concert.

But it won’t be because of the musicians or the music they perform and no one will go ballistic, pardon the pun, over a stirring rendition of “Where the streets have no name” or even “Sunday bloody Sunday.”


Activist Judges

You may have read recently about the judge in Utah who took a child in the process of being adopted by a lesbian couple out of that couple’s home, maintaining that it was an unfit environment for a child to be raised.

The judge had not a bit of research to back his claim that being raised in such a home would be bad for the child. That’s a bad thing.

The judge also had not a bit of law on his side in exercising his authority in this manner. That’s a worse thing.

scales of justiceThere was a great hue and cry over this decision and even the state’s Republican governor got involved, criticizing the judge’s decision. Faced with such outrage, the judge relented – but only, it should be noted, temporarily. He could still take the child from the couple at a hearing next month.

Hillary Clinton immediately expressed her dismay over the judge’s unilateral decision that had no foundation in either research or law.

The Republican presidential candidates? As far as The Curmudgeon can tell, none of uttered a word.

Not a peep.

That’s a problem on two fronts.

First, what the judge did was just plain wrong. There’s not a single shred of evidence to suggest that a lesbian couple can’t raise a child into a good human being and solid citizen.

Second, and more important, where’s the outrage from these Republican candidates over yet another activist judge who uses his robes to pursue his own ideological agenda without regard for the law?

Where’s the outrage over yet another instance of judicial activism?

Or is it only “judicial activism” when the judge does something of which you disapprove?

And Speaking of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter…

A few days after Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter’s replacement was elected, Nutter participated in something called “ThinkFest” – geez, how pretentious can you get? – and said of his successor, Jim Kenney, that

He can build on that foundation and be an even better mayor than I’ve been.

As someone who has observed Nutter for the past eight years, The Curmudgeon can only report that this particular bar is not set very high.

A Sad Display by a Soon-to-be Former Public Official

As long as they’re not becoming lobbyists, The Curmudgeon doesn’t begrudge elected officials who, upon leaving office, decide they want to make some money. Many elected offices pay pretty well and have generous pensions, but if someone wants to make more money, that’s certainly his or her right – and contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, many of those former officials have a lot to offer a private sector employer.

But there’s a way to go about it, and mostly, that way involves just doing it and not spilling your guts to a reporter about it.

Exhibit A for the wrong way to do this was Hillary Clinton, who famously declared that she and her husband, upon leaving the White House, were “dead broke” even though they both were about to sign seven-figure book deals and both had seemingly limitless opportunities to make money (and without getting involved in something stupid like their ill-fated 1980s Whitewater investment). She should have just kept her mouth shut and gone about making money.

Exhibit B is Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, whose replacement was elected two weeks ago. On election day a reporter asked him if he had any idea what he might do after leaving office and Nutter, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, said

I want to do something really radical in my life . . . making money for the first time ever.

The Curmudgeon has no problem with the sentiment but a lot of problems with the statement.

nutterFirst of all, Nutter has tried to make money in the past: at the time he was elected to Philadelphia’s city council he was an investment banker.

Which is not exactly a low-paid, public-spirited line of work.

Second of all, Nutter’s current salary as mayor of Philadelphia is $177,679.

That’s $177,679.

Not exactly chopped liver. The idea that a more lucrative job would enable him to make money “for the first time in my life” is not only ridiculous but also insulting to working people everywhere. $177,679 is a helluva lot of money to make, and there’s something wrong a guy who publicly suggests that he’s made some kind of enormous sacrifice to work for such a pittance.

And third, before being elected mayor of Philadelphia Nutter served five terms on Philadelphia’s city council – twenty years. Between his twenty years on council and eight as mayor, Nutter is no doubt in line for a six-figure pension.

How many people do you know who, at the age of fifty-eight, leave their employer of twenty-eight years with a six-figure pension?

The Curmudgeon doesn’t have a high opinion of Nutter as mayor of Philadelphia: he did a few really good things, such as taking major steps to restore integrity in the city’s government – an accomplishment not to be underrated – but he was a poor spokesman for the city, a weak advocate of many of the things he was trying to accomplish, and a failure at taking advantage of the recession of 2008-2010 to make major, desperately needed changes in how his government operates.

But The Curmudgeon’s dismay isn’t about that. It’s about a guy who too often was totally tone deaf to the impact of his words and whose parting shot about how he wants to make some “real money” for the first time in his life because making $177,679 was some kind of sacrifice for him and his family reflects his continued tone deafness, something you think he’d have learned to correct after eight years as mayor, and symbolizes a generation of public officials who seem to view public service as a launching pad to wealth rather than a worthwhile end in itself.

Nutter can make all the money he wants but he probably lost the respect of a lot of people.

Of course, now that he’s no longer running for office, maybe he just doesn’t care.

Taking Care of Business (chapters 33 and 34)

For an introduction to the novel Taking Care of Business, links to all chapters posted so far, and a list of characters who have appeared so far, go here, to the Taking Care of Business resources page. To see every part of Taking Care of Business posted so far in one place, go here.)

Chapter 33

Still facing charges of operating a prostitution ring, Eugene Doctoroff continued to make good on his promise to identify, every other day, high-profile clients of what he characterized as his “escort business.” He had been doing so for more than a month, yet when asked by a reporter if he was nearing the end of the list of clients whose names would shock and appall and entertain the city, he just laughed and declared “Not even close.”

Throughout the town, guessing the next john to be named had fast become a favorite local pastime. So far, the unmasked included corporate executives, city officials, the mayor of a prominent suburban town, a local television news anchorman, two well-known newspaper reporters, a clergyman, a radio talk show host, two professional athletes, and the coach of a local women’s college basketball team. Despite the regularity and frequency of the revelations, Philadelphia had not tired in the least of the spectacle of watching the very public humiliation of many of its most prominent citizens.

So absorbed were residents of the region in this vastly entertaining situation that it took a week – despite the Post’s earlier, avid interest – before the local newspapers even noticed that Michael Ianucci had a primary opponent. Even then, recognition came slowly because no one had ever heard of Kathleen O’Donnell and no one seemed to know whether she was a serious candidate or just one of those people who put their names on an election ballot on a lark. After a few more days, the press still knew little: all it reported was that she was fifty-three years old, taught junior high school social studies in the Philadelphia public school system, was active in several community groups but did not serve in a leadership position in any of them, and had never, as far as anyone could tell, been active in politics in any way.

But a week after candidates filed their nominating petitions they were required to file a campaign finance report, and when they did, it was clear that Kathleen O’Donnell was a candidate to be taken seriously. While she had raised virtually no money, her campaign committee included many prominent Philadelphia politicians: a U.S. senator, two members of Congress, two members of council who owed their elected offices to Ianucci and had clearly turned on their mentor, and every living former mayor of the city. Without question, Ianucci’s enemies, and even some of his friends, saw this an opportunity to defeat him at a time when his vulnerability was unprecedented.

The newspapers finally noticed. While reporters told the story, columnists speculated on its meaning. Clearly, they wrote, Ianucci’s enemies were stepping out of the shadows and hoping to dethrone him. Still, they speculated about whether this would be possible, even in light of the circumstances. After all, only three weeks remained until the election, and despite her impressive roster of supporters, Kathleen O’Donnell had not raised any money and was still virtually unknown; the newspapers, in fact, did not even have a photograph of her to run alongside articles about her candidacy.

Mayor Norbert was more concerned about the implications of Ianucci’s loss of power for his budget prospects than he was about the contest for Ianucci’s seat in the state House, but reporters eventually forced him to address the matter – sort of – publicly.

After he cut a ribbon to mark the completed restoration of a public library, reporters from two television stations thrust microphones into Norbert’s face as he returned to his car.

“Mr. Mayor, you’ve had a good political relationship with state representative Michael Ianucci. Will you be endorsing him in next month’s election?”

“I’m not endorsing any candidates, Lisa.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve never endorsed any candidates in the past and I don’t see why I should start now.”

Failing to recognize that this was Norbert’s first year in office and that he had no past record when it came to endorsing or not endorsing candidates, the reporter simply accepted his explanation without question.

“What about Kathleen O’Donnell?” she asked.

“What about her?” the mayor replied.

“What do you think about her?”

“I’ve never met her.”

“Is that why you’re not endorsing her?”

“No, but that would be a pretty good reason, don’t you think?   But actually, I’m not endorsing her because, as I just said, I’m not endorsing anyone.”

“Won’t you be pressured by both sides for an endorsement?”

“Pressured? I don’t think so. I imagine I’ll be asked, but I have no plans to make an endorsement.”

The reporters were growing frustrated.

“If you have no plans, does that mean your plans could change?”

The mayor sighed.

“How many different ways do I need to tell you that I’m staying out of it?”

“But if you had to make a choice…”

He cut off the reporter.

“I don’t live in Roxborough and won’t be voting in this election, so I don’t have to make a choice, do I?”

With that, the mayor climbed into his car and shut the door and seconds later was gone.

Chapter 34

Mayor Norbert had more important things than endorsements to worry about – specifically, the status of his proposed budget. It was now late April, council’s budget hearings had been over for more than a month, and still, the group that one of his predecessors had once labeled “the worst legislative body in the free world” had not voted on the budget and had not given any sign that it was considering doing so anytime soon even though by law, the city’s budget had to be passed one month prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.

Norbert and his staff did not understand this delay. The budget he had presented to council was balanced, as required by law, and although it included the disputed state funding, this was standard practice because the deadline for passing Philadelphia’s budget was one month earlier than the deadline for passing the state budget. In every other respect, this budget was unexceptional: it proposed no tax increases or cuts in any popular city programs, nor did it call for any lay-offs of city workers. It also included a generous $140 million for pay raises for city employees and therefore would not require any difficult or politically sensitive last-minute adjustments once agreements were reached on contracts with the unions.

Most of the budget hearings, the mayor and his staff felt, had gone well: council members had many questions and complaints, as they always did, but not a single one had gone unanswered by the mayor and his staff. The single biggest controversy had been over whether to fund significant and costly renovations for a beloved but deteriorating outdoor city-owned concert venue, but when a number of council members had expressed anger and outrage over the mayor’s failure to propose such renovations – even though, in the many discussions and meetings between members of the mayor’s staff and council members prior to releasing the budget, not a single council member had so much as even mentioned the old amphitheater – Norbert had immediately revised his budget to include the desired funding. Philadelphia mayors had long grown accustomed to councils that huffed and puffed and tried to blow their budgets down, but ultimately, Philadelphia city councils proved sadly asthmatic, their huffing and puffing eventually turning into wheezing and coughing as they passed proposed budgets in a timely manner so their members could move on to the far more important business that commenced as soon as they completed that task: their three-month summer recess.

But Norbert and his leadership team of mostly non-Philadelphians did not understand much of the underlying dynamic that caused this unexpected and unwelcome delay.

One of those underlying causes was bruised political feelings. Of the seventeen members of this dilatory council, seven harbored serious mayoral ambitions of their own, and now, more than five months after Norbert’s election and nearly a year after his primary victory in a city in which Democratic nomination meant automatic election in the fall, they were still grudgingly adjusting to the reality that they were dealing with a first-term mayor in his first year of office in a city that, no matter how incompetently its government performed, had not voted a sitting mayor out of office in nearly a century. Among those it had returned to office were mayors who had allowed party bosses to run the city; mayors who had significantly raised taxes; mayors who had seen top deputies indicted for public corruption; and even a mayor who had permitted his police force to bomb an entire city neighborhood to force a group of noisy and annoying but unarmed back-to-nature radicals out of their home.

These bruised feelings were serious. Two members of council had lost to Norbert in the Democratic mayoral primary, and one of them had insisted, to the bitter end and even afterward, that he had been entitled to the job because it was “my turn.” A third had been scared out of the primary by what he viewed as the insurmountable challenge of running against a rich man financing his own campaign. Two others still had not grown totally resigned to the sad reality that the next time the office would be available – Philadelphia mayors were limited by law to two terms in office – they would be in their seventies and too old to pursue their dream.

The mayor and his team also failed to appreciate council’s genuine resentment of what they considered to be his overly austere and unnecessarily responsible budget. The mayor thought he was doing the responsible thing by budgeting pay raises for city workers and finding ways to pay for his programs without raising taxes and without proposing a spending increase of even one dollar over the previous fiscal year. This infuriated council members when they found that some of their own pet capital projects were not part of the proposed spending plan. Even though the city’s current configuration of recreation centers, playgrounds, swimming pools, ice skating rinks, libraries, and ball fields had been developed at a time when Philadelphia’s population had just crept past the two million mark, back in 1960, council members still wanted more such facilities – more recreation centers, more playgrounds, more swimming pools, more ice skating rinks, more libraries, more ball fields – even though twenty-five percent of the city’s population had vanished in the ensuing fifty years. They wanted new facilities so they could smile proudly at ribbon-cutting ceremonies and point to their accomplishment – and they wanted those facilities because they knew that city tradition dictated that once they retired from office, one of those facilities would be renamed in their honor.

Council members, for their part, did not understand the mayor’s interest in fiscal austerity. They were not interested in responsible budgets, they told one another in private. To the contrary, they were Democrats: they felt they had been elected to office to spend the public’s money and to exercise the good judgment and iron will to spend that money regardless of whether there was money available to be spent and regardless of whether the public really wanted the programs or the facilities on which they spent it. In fact, they felt it was their solemn duty to stand up to those who demanded that they exercise financial responsibility merely for the sake of doing so. They were even willing to raise taxes to fulfill this obligation, if necessary, and they were mystified and more than a little disturbed by a Democratic mayor so uninterested in spending money and so afraid to raise taxes so he could do so.

(more next Sunday)


A Reflection Back on Veterans Day

Here’s wishing the best for all of our veterans – even Senator John McCain, whom Donald Trump has deemed less worthy of our admiration and respect because he “allowed himself” to be captured and held in a prisoner of war camp for five years during the Vietnam War.

Getting Over Ourselves

When did we all get so damned sensitive and unyielding?

As he has written in the past, The Curmudgeon finds it unfortunate that we, as a society, have a growing tendency to write off people and institutions because of one misstep or misspoken word. Sometimes those missteps are small, sometimes they’re large, and sometimes they really are unforgivable, but mostly they’re just missteps and that’s all.

They can be Joe Biden’s tendency to let words escape his mouth a few seconds before completely processing what he really means to say. Or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell applying societal standards a whole six months or so behind the times when administering punishment to football players who beat on the women in their lives. Or even Kevin McCarthy, who probably would be Speaker of the House today if not for an unfortunate comment about Hillary Clinton and Benghazi that absolutely everyone knew to be true but no one dared speak aloud.

He dared. He lost.

The Curmudgeon does it, too; he is by no means exempt from this criticism and worries constantly – he is, after all, a worrier as well as a curmudgeon – that he’s taking himself too seriously atop this bully pulpit. In his defense, he offers only this: first, that this is, after all, a blog practically built around the concept of kvetching; and second, that you should see some of the things he starts to write about, only to realize that doing so would be taking things way, waaaay too far.

A number of recent events in the public arena have resulted in a lot of hue and cry about what are, when you think about it, minor matters. Earlier this week, Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky declared that she’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore and took us to task for it in her own special way.

The Curmudgeon can’t recall exactly how long Ronnie’s been writing for the Daily News, but however long it’s been, that’s how long he’s been reading her. She’s smart, she’s interesting, she’s thought-provoking, and she’s compassionate, and that combination is in short supply these days. Sometimes The Curmudgeon agrees with what she’s written, sometimes he disagrees, and sometimes he wants to pull a Ralph Kramden and declare “Bang, zoom, you’re going to the moon, Ronnie.”

But he doesn’t stop reading her.

And that’s the whole point.

So here’s Ronnie’s column (or go directly to the web site and read it here). Enjoy – and read her.

Losing our minds in the age of overblown offense

I’VE BEEN HOLDING back a primal scream for days. If I don’t let loose, I swear on all that’s holy that my head is going to explode off my neck and destroy the holidays for my family. So here goes.

Stop it, people. Just please, please, please stop it.

I’m talking to you, coffee drinkers outraged that Starbucks coffee cups aren’t “Christmassy” enough this year. If you need to sip your Peppermint Hot Chocolate Mocha Parsley With Salted Beef in a ceramic Baby Jesus mug shaped like a manger, go to the dollar store and buy one.

That includes you, Donald Trump, with your call for a Starbucks boycott – which comes on the heels of your calls to boycott HBO, Scotland, Italy, Oreos and Chinese products (even though your signature Donald Trump ties are made in China).

You mean none of it, you honor none of them.

Just shut up, you oversize Christmas elf.

And yo, University of Missouri students who don’t want the media to cover your public protest activities on the public land of the public school you attend, I have three words for you:

Get over yourselves.

All the media attention was fine by you, when your football team was calling for the university president’s head last weekend. It worked – and props to the guys for taking a bold stand against the man’s racial tone-deafness.

Now? You don’t want the press.

“Wahhhh!” you wail, “go away!” Your feelings are ruffled by some of the public response to your activism, which you think is the same thing as having your rights trampled. It’s not. The fact that you don’t appear to know that makes me wonder about Mizzou’s American history classes.

Then again, one of your supporters is mass-media professor Melissa Click, who was so incensed that the press – including reporters from your own school – was covering your activities, she sought help from bystanders.

“Hey, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here?” she yelled. “I need some muscle over here!”

Uh-huh. A communications professor – whose job is to use her words, like a big girl – felt that the way to communicate a difference of opinion was to escalate tensions with “muscle.” What else is in her tool kit – bullwhips?

Please don’t tell me that Click has a tenured university job for life, or I will smash my head through my computer.

You know who else needs to stop it already, like, yesterday?

Anyone who cares whether Jeb Bush would kill Baby Hitler.

OK, No. 1: I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence in reference to a presidential candidate. And No. 2: I can’t believe it’s based in fact. But, yes, Bush told the Huffington Post that he’d actually been asked if he would kill a baby Hitler if he were able to go back in time and do so.

The dignified answer would’ve been, “That’s an absurd question for a man who hopes to run this country one day. Next, please.” 

Instead, he said, “Hell, yeah, I would. Ya gotta step up, man!”

He then shared, with great erudition, that movies like “Back to the Future” have proved that changing a difficult past does not guarantee an awesome present.

The former Florida guv was just having a little fun. But it was lost on a significant swath of Americans who tweeted their horror that Bush would kill a baby if given a chance.

Except he didn’t, and can’t, because – seriously, people – time travel? Have we lost our minds? 

No. But we may be losing our resilience and sense of proportion.

Take Target’s new holiday sweater, whose front is emblazoned with the message “OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder.” It seems a harmless message, aimed at revelers who start decking the halls in July. But the retail chain has been accused by some who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder of trivializing mental illness.

“Let @Target Know That We Will Be Boycotting Their Store Until They Remove This Item,” tweeted one offended shopper.

To which Target evenhandedly responded, “We never want to disappoint our guests and we apologize for any discomfort. We currently do not have plans to remove this sweater.”

As Black Friday approaches, let’s see how that works for them.

And right here in Philly, a teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy was reprimanded for wearing a noose costume on Halloween. For some parents, it called to mind lynchings and suicides – which is something the teacher never considered, as his costume was inspired by the board game Clue. (The game’s rope is one of several weapons for the “Clue Master Detective,” reported my colleague Val Russ in her story about the controversy. Other weapons include a wrench, a lead pipe, a revolver, a horseshoe and a candlestick.)

Did parents object to gory costumes, too, which might mock the city’s high murder rate? Or to skeleton outfits, which might offend an anorexic? Or to “bald caps,” which could hurt the feelings of chemo patients?

I know these questions might cross a line, but that’s because I have no idea anymore where so many of the lines actually are. I want to be sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others.

Kindness is a good thing.

But I throw my hands in the air when people who are offended that their minds weren’t read or their hurt anticipated immediately call for “muscle” or a boycott.

I don’t know what ever happened to conversation. The kind where we ask, with curiosity: “Can you tell me what motivated you to do/say that thing? Because I have some thoughts I’d like to share. Are you up for hearing them?”

But that’s 161 characters, and Twitter maxes out at 140.

Who am I kidding? It’ll never fly.


Upscale Underwear…For Men?

More than a few women are inclined toward the purchase and use of special underwear: nicer stuff, frillier stuff, sexier stuff. Personally, The Curmudgeon has never seen the value of sexy women’s underwear, first because the women he encounters in his everyday life don’t routinely show him their unmentionables and second, those who do he’s already decided are sexy and if the underwear is really sexy the first thing he’s going to want to do is remove it anyway, but some women persist in the acquisition of “nicer” underwear.

fruitBut guys? Pu-leeze. Give us a set of Fruit of the Looms and most of us will wear them until they disintegrate.

And then maybe for another year.

Or two.

That’s why The Curmudgeon was surprised while listening to the radio before bed recently when he heard an advertisement for a company calling itself “Tommy John” that offered ridiculous statements about how men dress and why they need to step up their underwear game.

The next morning, as he was putting on his own BVDs, The Curmudgeon recalled the ad and went to his computer to check out Tommy John. (Not to be confused, by the way, with the former major league baseball pitcher of the same name who is best known for having a surgical procedure named after him.)

Sure enough, Tommy John sells expensive skivvies: boxer briefs for $31 (in multiple colors and patterns), “trunks” (The Curmudgeon has never heard that word used to describe undies) for $29, briefs for $27, undershirts ranging in price from $35 to $40, socks that average about $16 a pair, and more.

$31 for boy bloomers? $27 for tightie-whities? All that money for simple…drawers?

Those are some pretty pricey under-duds. Boxers for $31? The Curmudgeon can only recall a few times in his life he spent $31 for pants, not to mention underpants. $40 for a t-shirt? Other than a gift certificate his father once gave him for custom-made shirts, he’s never spent $40 for a shirt in his life.

Here’s the “story” the company’s web site offers for its reason for being:

Tom Patterson faced this reality every day. As a medical device salesman confined to a suit as he traveled from meeting to meeting, he couldn’t get through the day without his undershirts, underwear and socks bunching, pinching and sagging.

“Fixing things” doesn’t mean tugging at your crotch or pulling up your socks again. It means finding a solution to this age-old problem, once and for all. It means understanding how men move, combining innovative fabric technologies and tweaking the fit down to the placement of the last stitch. Tom made this task his mission. 

That’s why he quit his job and started Tommy John. With the support of his wife, Erin, a local tailor and a small team of designers, Tom re-imagined the fit, feel and function of man’s most fundamental layers. He built and patented new features from scratch. The result? Shirts that stay tucked, socks that stay up and underwear that keeps everything in place, whichever way a man moves.

It takes an awfully big shovel to hoist crap on that kind of scale, doesn’t it? Either that or the poor guy’s literally got his panties in a bunch.

Mr. Patterson’s sad tale notwithstanding, The Curmudgeon doesn’t have any of these problems. He buys off-the-shelf stuff, on sale and inexpensive, and it never rides up on him, never bunches, never wanders into, er, cracks or crevices. Maybe Tom Patterson has some…anatomical issues?

Short of providing a pleasurable massage action, The Curmudgeon can’t imagine what could possible make a pair of briefs worth $27, and as long as the store brand at Kohl’s costs $16 for four pair (or is it pairs?), he has no intention of finding out.

Well, it takes all kinds, but The Curmudgeon is not…one of those kinds. If any of you have a Tommy John experience, though, he’d love to hear about it.

On second thought, scratch that. He’d really rather not.

REALLY rather not.





A Tough Day for Journalism in Philadelphia

As The Curmudgeon has written before, the past decade has been a pretty tough one for big newspapers in Philadelphia. The city’s two major dailies, jointly owned for many years, have been sold four times, and each sale has brought major cuts in the size of the newspapers and the size of the staff responsible for preparing and writing them. More cuts came last week: 46 people lost their jobs, among them 17 of the 29 people who work for the papers’ web site, 17 of the Daily News’s remaining 60 reporters, and 12 Inquirer reporters.

That was on Wednesday, and on Friday it looked as if those who remained decided to take out their frustration through shoddy work.

The Daily News has a political column that’s sort of a gossip column, so readers, including The Curmudgeon, have become accustomed to less formal writing – but on Friday, less formal became just plain boorish.

The column started by describing a candidate in next year’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary as

… a tattooed 6-8 behemoth from the Pittsburgh suburbs who looks like the bar bouncer in a drunken nightmare where you wake up in a cold sweat right before his bowling-ball-size fist collides with your face.

The paper also reported that the man elected mayor of Philadelphia on Tuesday, a Democrat, had lunch with the Republican head of the state Senate. Where?

Early lunch at the Union League (natch).

That’s what they wrote: “Natch.”

The article went on to report that

Kenney, we’re told, began the meeting by saying he’d actually met Scarnati some years ago at a golf outing/fundraiser for the senator in his home district way the eff out in the middle of nowhere.

That’s what it said: “…way the eff out in the middle of nowhere.”

As to the merits of such a meeting, the Daily News explained that

It was a smart, mayoral way for Kenney to open the conversation with a guy on the opposite end of the political spectrum who’s also a BFD in Harrisburg.

BFD. The Curmudgeon knows what that stands for and you probably know what that stands for but the question on The Curmudgeon’s mind is why someone felt it necessary to put that in a newspaper.

Next, a local public figure is trying to make hay about the local district attorney, who is African-American, and who dared prosecute – successfully – other African-American elected officials for corruption in office. He promised to divulge the juicy details at a news conference, and the paper wondered

Just imagine what he’ll say at the actual presser on Tuesday.

The “presser”? He’s going to divulge this information at his dry cleaner’s shop? (One-hour Martinizing, and news, too?)

The Inquirer was not going to be left out of this moratorium on what we all learned by sixth grade. Writing about the impact of the state going four months without a budget and therefore unable to provide its usual funding for state-funded county human services, an article about this challenge started by explaining that

Montgomery County stopped funding Thursday human services normally covered by the state, saying the four-month budget impasse had maxed out the county’s financial reserves.

This should leave a discerning reader wondering: if the county is no longer funding Thursday human services, does that mean it’s still funding human services for the other six days of the week?

Maybe the newspapers’ staff was just down in the dumps about the lay-offs; that would be understandable.

Or maybe the writers were trying to send a message to their bosses.

The only message The Curmudgeon received, though, is that a few of the papers’ remaining writers are making it easier to decide whose neck should be on the chopping block the next time the papers need to fire people so its owners can continue living in luxury.

And there WILL be a next time: that much is clear.