Monthly Archives: February 2017

Separated at Birth?

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Trump administration toady Stephen Miller.

Wait a minute:  maybe Miller is actually Putin’s son and that’s how the Putin-Trump relationship works.

(By the way, if you’re not familiar with Mr. Miller, check out these clips that were put together by MSNBC and the reaction of the people on the program that aired them.  And be afraid:  be very afraid.)

putinmiller

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Gutless

Last week, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell did something that a lot of people didn’t like: he told one of his colleagues, Senator Elizabeth Warren, to sit down and shut up.

So when McConnell flew home to Kentucky last weekend and learned that there were a few dozen protesters at the airport terminal waiting to tell him they were unhappy with his actions, McConnell used his influence as a Very Important Person to persuade airport officials to allow a car to pick him up on the tarmac so he wouldn’t have to go into the terminal to face the protesters.

If he had the guts to make such a controversial call then he should have had the guts to be accountable for his actions. McConnell clearly lacks the courage of his convictions. (Although The Curmudgeon would argue that in reality McConnell actually has no convictions, but that’s a whole different matter.)

The Immigration Raids

In the past week U.S. immigration officials have raided sites in Georgia, North Carolina, California, New York, Texas, and six midwestern states, rounding up 680 illegal residents, most with criminal records, with the apparent intention of deporting them.

Okay, so that’s 680 out of what is widely thought to be 11 million undocumented residents.

immigrationIf The Curmudgeon’s math is correct, scooping up 11 million people at a rate of 680 a week will take 16,176 weeks.

Or 311 years.

Which means we’ll be free of our 11 million illegal residents by…the year 2328.

Except if they procreate, of course, in which case it may take a few dozen additional years.

Four or five or ten officers picking up one, two, or three dangerous foreigners at a time.  A great use of taxpayer money, no?

So you hang in their immigration officers; you have a lot of meaningful, valuable, patriotic work ahead of you.

Ask a Silly Question…

Last week new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos thought she was being cute on day one of her new job when she tweeted the following message:

devosThe Curmudgeon will tell you where the pencils are, Ms. DeVos: they’re alongside the paper and the rulers, the copy paper and the erasers, the construction paper and the glue, the hand sanitizer and the scissors and the paper towels and more.

And where’s that, Ms. DeVos?

Ask many public school teachers, and especially urban public school teachers, and they’ll tell you: they’re at Walmart and Staples, at Target and Office Max, at Kmart and Dollar General and Dollar Tree and Dollar Discount and Dollar-Rama and any other place where under-appreciated and under-fire (in too many cases, both figuratively and literally) teachers dip into their own underpaid pockets for supplies that neither their school districts nor the parents of their students can afford.

That’s where the pencils are, Ms. DeVos.

pencilsThe Curmudgeon speaks from experience. The Curmudgeonly Sister is a public school teacher in Philadelphia, and every August brother and sister have a continuous dialogue by phone and by email and, since The Curmudgeon joined the 21st century, by text as well as she follows all the Staples and Walmart and dollar store sales and calls her brother to pick up ten sets of ten-for-a-dollar folders, as many $1 boxes of pencils as the store will permit, two-for-one specials on cases of copy paper, and more. He’s been on vacation with his sister at the Jersey shore in August and joined her on some of her daily trips to Staples to take advantage of sales on whatever the slowly dying retailer is practically giving away in an attempt to lure teachers into its stores. There, brother and sister pick up two baskets: she fills his and then fills her own and they stand in line and pay for them separately so they don’t violate the terms of the sale that limit the quantities individual customers may purchase.

And he’s also joined her at library used book sales to pick up as many books as she can carry because experience has taught her that the best way to get an elementary school boy to be interested in reading is not to hand out the same school-owned book to every child in a class but just to give a boy a book and tell him it now belongs to him, so over the years she’s purchased thousands of books so she can turn disadvantaged students, many of them from families where English isn’t the first language spoken at home, into children who love to read and can use those reading skills to learn.

That’s where the pencils are, Ms. DeVos.

Ask a silly question and get a serious answer, Ms. DeVos.

You’ve been a hobbyist in the education world, a dabbler, but now you’re in the real world, where children’s futures are on the line.

And now your job to help make those futures bright. Don’t screw it up.

Carrot and Pea Vegetable Patties?

The Curmudgeon likes Trader Joe’s as much as the next guy – well, maybe not as much, but he does like it – but he has to roll his eyes over some of the products the company sells. The latest Trader Joe’s advertising circular just hit his mailbox and features, among many other products, the following items:

  • trader-joe

    Photo courtesy of the  BecomeBetty blog. Try it, you’ll like it.

    tricolor quinoa

  • Kung Pao tempura cauliflower
  • smoked pepper mackerel
  • red lentil sedanini
  • tomato feta soup
  • virgin coconut milk
  • ginger turmeric herbal tea
  • harissa salsa
  • riced broccoli
  • raisin rosemary crisps
  • art cherry, chia and pumpkin seed oatmeal

Seriously: tart cherry, chia and pumpkin seed oatmeal?

The Trump Watch – February 13

Before we begin: The Curmudgeon found it touching that they started the Super Bowl last week with a moment of silence for the victims of the Bowling Green Massacre. Had it not been for the heroic actions of Frederick Douglass, it would have been much, much worse – and it’s equally heartening that President Trump has acknowledged Mr. Douglass as an up-and-comer.

The For-Profit Presidency

The Trump Organization, as distinguishes from the Trump administration, recently announced that it’s doubling the initiation fee for new members of its Mar-a-Lago Club: from $100,000 to $200,000.

Which is what happens when the president of the United States talks and tweets about a place incessantly.

But can we really distinguish between the Trump Organization and the Trump administration? What about when son Eric goes on a business trip to South America and it costs the Secret Service a reported $97,000 just to put up its people in a hotel during the trip? The Curmudgeon isn’t questioning the decision to protect the son of the president, but if Junior Trump is going to travel for his company, to make money, shouldn’t he bear some of the costs of his protection? If so, how much of that cost? There’s no easy, obvious answer, but it’s a question that needs to be asked and needs to be explored.

And while the cost quoted for the trip is $97,000+, that includes only hotel rooms for the delegation. What about airfare, the salaries of agents, meals, ground transportation, and other expenses? Also, the State Department sent some of its staff to “support” junior’s visit, so that’s an additional cost. Is this the usual practice when representatives of relatively small American businesses that create relatively few jobs for American workers on American soil visit South America or was it a special accommodation for the son of the president?

By the way, how many people does it take to run up a hotel bill of nearly $100,000?

For that matter, are taxpayers paying Mar-a-Lago rates for the president’s security team when he takes one of those vacations he insisted he would never take to his South Florida home? Isn’t there, say, a Motel 6 in the area? They’ll even leave the light on for you.

Draining the Swamp

As a child, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and his mother, one of the swamp things.

As a child, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and his mother, one of the swamp people.

Did you know that Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s mother, Anne Burford Gorsuch, was director of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Reagan administration? And that in that role she slashed enforcement of environmental standards, dismissed cases against alleged polluters, and hired lobbyists to work at the agency? When Congress suspected that the EPA had mishandled $1.6 billion in toxic site clean-up funds and subpoenaed documents so it could investigate, Burford refused, Congress cited her for contempt of Congress, and she resigned under pressure.

So now it looks as if instead of draining the swamp, Trump is inviting the spawn of swamp-things to return to it.

Calling a Spade a Spade

The new Trump administration isn’t going to pussy-foot around the issue: “radical Islam” is now a synonym for “terrorist.”

According to the Reuters news agency, the Trump administration intends to change the name of the Department of Homeland Security’s “Countering Violent Extremism” program to the “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” program, and in the process, it would no longer watch American groups, such as white supremacists, that have bombed and shot people on American soil.

Because it’s apparently okay for Americans to commit acts of terrorism against their follow Americans.

It Was More Than the Rollout That Was Flawed

What's the difference between this and the president's Muslim ban?

What’s the difference between this and the president’s Muslim ban?

Republicans who were appalled by the President’s premature ejaculation of the right of some foreigners with approved visas to step onto American soil inevitably blamed “the rollout” through which that action was undertaken, ignoring the simple reality that the courts rejected it not because it was done clumsily but because it was done illegally – no different, really, than taking a brick, tossing it through the window of a Best Buy, and helping yourself to a 72-inch HDTV.

Okay, if they’re referring to the flawed rollout for failing to run the idea past people who could’ve told them it was illegal they’re theoretically onto something, but it seems reasonably clear that they already knew that and decided to go ahead anyway because President Trump, like his apparent role model, Richard Nixon, believes that if the president does something it’s automatically not against the law.

Many members of Congress complained bitterly that they weren’t informed of the ill-fated executive order beforehand, but that’s only half-true: some of their staff members knew. How? They helped write the executive order and signed confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from telling their bosses.

How profoundly wrong is this?

A Quicky Quiz

Other than being the subjects of the late, unlamented, judicially rejected Trump immigration order, what do Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya have in common? The answer: unlike many other countries in the middle east, the Trump organization has no business interests in these places. Excluded from the list: Turkey, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia, where it does have business interests.

Those Saudis, all they did was fund Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda and provide the pilots who drove jetliners into buildings on 9/11, so we certainly don’t need to worry about Saudis as potential terrorists.

Also excluded from the ban is Indonesia, which is only the largest majority-Muslim country in the world. The Trump Organization has not one but two resort projects under way there and we can’t get in the way of the president’s business partners coming over to consult, can we?

Speaking of Immigration

barneyThe president has revived an older program to deputize local police departments to help in the hunt for bad-guy immigrants. We all know how well that worked in the hands of homegrown bad guys like Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But the real question: do you want this guy chasing down illegal immigrants on your behalf?

Words Matter

A 1954 law commonly referred to as “the Johnson amendment” restricts political speech by tax-exempt churches. Some people like the law and others don’t, but it’s an issue on which reasonable people may differ.

Our president, alas, is not one of those reasonable people. It’s fine when he says he wants to overturn the law but over the top when he declares that he’s going to “totally destroy” the Johnson amendment. In a climate that’s too often filled with violence, that kind of language can only fan the flames. (And he also overlooked that the law was an act of Congress and can only be overturned by Congress, not the president.)

But we have no business expecting nuanced language or respect for the impact of words from a man who refers to people serving on the bench as “so-called judges” and just reprised his campaign practice of referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.”

Paying for the Wall

This analogy is not original; The Curmudgeon read it recently and doesn’t remember where but is repeating it (although cleaning it up and expanding it a bit).

  • Jorge sells avocados for $5 apiece. John buys avocados from Jorge.
  • The U.S. imposes a 20% import tax on Jorge’s avocados so John pays Jorge $6 for an avocado.
  • Jorge still gets $5 for his avocado but John pays $6 for that avocado.

So tell us again, who’s paying for the wall?

Another scenario: Jorge charges $6 for an avocado and John buys a non-Mexican avocado elsewhere for $5.

And yet another scenario: Jorge and his family can’t earn a living with Jorge now selling hopelessly overpriced avocados so Jorge sneaks into the U.S. before the wall is built to earn money for his family.

The Financial Crisis (Revisited)

Remember the financial crisis? The stock market crash, banks failing, brokerages going under, IRAs and 401(k)s losing nearly half their value?

Sure you remember; it was in all the papers.

"Hey, we deserve government help, too."

“Hey, we deserve government help, too.”

Our new president remembers it and thinks the people who caused it got a bum rap when it came to shouldering the blame. Now, the man who said he was going to represent the people and not the Wall Street people has apparently decided that Wall Street people are people too and is proposing to overturn some of the regulations that were introduced as part of the Dodd-Frank law that were designed to prevent a similar financial disaster.

To do this, he ordered the Treasury Department to begin rewriting the rules to make them easier on banks because banks are good guys. Surely this has nothing to do with the approximately $700 million Trump currently owes banks and another $2 billion owed to banks by real estate partnerships in which he’s involved.

So no, there’s no reason for him to do favors for banks, is there?

He also wants the Department of Labor to eliminate the so-called “fiduciary rule” that says that the people who advise you on your retirement investments need to advise you with your best interests in mind and not their own. That means not selling you stocks and mutual funds and annuities and other such things you don’t need just so they can pick up the commissions.

Yes, this is EXACTLY what all those working people had in mind when they voted for Trump.

This Just In

The president declared that all bad news is automatically fake. Welcome to the alternative-facts universe.

fake-news-tweet

A Conservative Radio Talk Show Takes the Blame

Why does the president get away with all his blatant lying? Because the people who believe him have been conditioned to accept his insistence that it’s the media, not him, that’s lying. Writing in the New York Times, conservative talk show host Charles Sykes offered the following mea culpa:

For years, as a conservative radio talk show host, I played a role in that conditioning by hammering the mainstream media for its bias and double standards. But the price turned out to be far higher than I imagined. The cumulative effect of the attacks was to delegitimize those outlets and essentially destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information. We thought we were creating a savvier, more skeptical audience. Instead, we opened the door for President Trump, who found an audience that could be easily misled.

Build That…Fence?

fenceThe Secret Service is planning to replace the seven-foot fence surrounding the White House with a new fence that’s eleven feet seven inches tall and sports “anti-climb and intrusion detection technology.”

Any chance it might help keep the president OUT?

One Final Thought

Do you still find yourself gritting your teeth or shaking your head in disbelief every time you hear the phrase “President Donald Trump”? Do you think it will ever go away?

 

 

 

R.I.P.

coreyProfessor Irwin Corey, 1914-2017

As readers no doubt have noticed, The Curmudgeon likes words, and for that reason he always enjoyed the comedian who went by “Professor Irwin Corey.” Corey’s shtick, if you will, was giving long-winded, overly detailed, incomprehensible explanations of relatively simple things and throwing in plenty of three- and four-syllable words for good measure – some of them not meaning quite what they suggested. He kept on doing this in comedy clubs and elsewhere into his nineties and was photographed in 2011, at the age of 97, panhandling for money for Cuban charities – like The Curmudgeon, Professor Corey was a liberal, only perhaps more so. As far as The Curmudgeon can recall, he only saw Corey perform in two places: on the old Mike Douglas Show and the Merv Griffin Show. That was enough: he was hooked and always a fan thereafter.

Funny

The following piece appeared in The New Yorker in November.  It’s very funny, so The Curmudgeon, who did NOT write it, thought he would share.  (And recommend, once again, that you consider subscribing to the magazine.  It’s really terrific.)

 

TRUMP’S AMERICAN GIRL DOLLS

by Megan Amram

At Trump American Girl, we celebrate girls and all that they can be. Get inspired by our new line of Donald J. Trump-approved dolls and their timeless stories.

Meet ANGELA! Angela is a real American girl from the nineteen-fifties, a time when America was truly great. She’s an energetic and optimistic girl who follows her heart instead of the crowd, and also she has huge breasts and a tight little ass. She’s a beautiful girl who knows what she wants: blond hair, blond skin, and separate water fountains for white people! Angela is Miss Teen U.S.A. 1953 and a solid 7, who will be downgraded to a 6 as soon as she turns twenty and will eventually be “retired” at age twenty-six. Her special talent is “keeping her mouth shut while you watch her undress.” She dreams of someday marrying a much older man whom she can cook for and call Daddy!

Meet BETSY! Betsy is a perky girl during the American Revolution. She enjoys speaking her mind but also loves her perfect hourglass figure and large breasts! Betsy wants to fight in the American Revolution, just like her brothers, and tries to disguise herself as a boy but can’t because her breasts are too large to tape down, and plus she’s not a lesbo. Instead, she learns to sew and designs the first American flag, which she then tattoos on her lower back!

Meet ALICIA! A quiet Mexican girl whose large heart is outshone only by her even larger breasts! Alicia has just illegally arrived in America. While her brothers are all off raping and murdering white women and small dogs, Alicia learns how to whip up a delicious taco bowl (Hispanic for “sandwich bowl”) and goes to work at the Trump Tower Grill. The best taco bowls are made in the Trump Tower Grill.

Meet ROSIE! Rosie is a spirited girl in the Second World War. She gets a job at a factory but has to leave after she’s sexually harassed because of her large breasts. This teaches Rosie a lesson—that she was asking for it by wearing such large breasts to work. She instead becomes a kindergarten teacher and then a feminist because she’s a fat lesbian. Later, she dies of menopause!

Meet NELLIE! Nellie is a large-breasted, plucky daughter of a sharecropper, living during the Reconstruction era. She is so grateful not to be living as a black person in 2016, when all black people are living in hell. In 2016, you can get shot in the inner cities when you’re walking to the store to buy a loaf of bread! She agrees that Donald Trump is the least racist person she’s met and that he has a great relationship with the African-Americans.

Meet ELIZABETH! Elizabeth is a goofy Pocahontas who eats . . . beans? Corn? I forgot what Pocahontas is (are?). Which browns are they? Are they the taco-bowl browns?

Meet HILLARY! Hillary is a butch lesbian in 1969 who, because she is so sickly and handicapped, is forced to use two wheelchairs, one for each droopy old-lady breast! She is secretly a black man but lies so she can steal taxpayer dollars to go be an abortionist at Wellesley College. For fun, she killed a Vietnam War vet named Pepe, who came back to haunt her and all the other “liberal media” homos. Comes with fun flip-flops for her to flip-flop in and one Benghazi. I don’t know what that is but I hear it’s bad and Jewish.

Meet IVANKA! This American Girl’s got everything—a tight little figure, an ass you could bounce a million-dollar bill off of, not to mention she’s my daughter! If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her. Even if she were my daughter, I’d probably date her. I’m gonna date her. I’m dating her!

Meet ALINA! Alina is a fourteen-year-old girl from Moldova! I purchased her from a farmer for six beads and a taco bowl from the Trump Tower Grill! Blink twice for “I love you,” Alina!

Meet MELISSA! She is a monster that I engineered in my private genetics lab at Mar-a-Lago. Her body is just two huge breasts, genitals, and a head with no mouth! She is the Platonic ideal of a girl. Now that Melissa exists, you will never be able to look at a regular girl again!

Meet TIFFANY! Who is Tiffany again? I forget who Tiffany is! ♦

An Opinion on an Opinion Poll

About a month ago The Curmudgeon, in his interminable, five-part series on the blurring of fact and opinion, wrote about how the press, even as it protests that it’s a victim of that blurring, actually encourages such blurring on occasion by inviting readers to participate in polls that ask questions for which those readers cannot possibly offer an informed opinion. The example he offered was a poll question about whether readers thought an injured professional athlete would play in his team’s next game, the issue being that readers aren’t doctors, they aren’t given much information about the player’s injury, but they’re still asked to offer their opinion on whether the player will play regardless of these circumstances as if those opinions have any value at all.

opinion-pollDuring the course of his professional reading recently The Curmudgeon came upon another example of such a “tell us your opinion even though we know you’re utterly without insight on this subject poll”: the Central Penn Business Journal reported that the publication Drug Store News (yes, there really is a publication called Drug Store News) asked its readers’ opinion on whether the Federal Trade Commission would approve Walgreens’ acquisition of Rite Aid before the Obama administration left office. According to the Central Penn Business Journal, 48 percent of poll participants said they believed the sale would be approved before inauguration day. (As of this writing, three weeks after Obama boarded Air Force One for the last time, it still hasn’t approved the sale.)

To which The Curmudgeon asks: based on what did those readers respond? Their opinion? And on what did they base that opinion? Short of knowing someone who works for the Federal Trade Commission there is absolutely no way that anyone who participated in that poll could have any genuine insight into the deliberations on that decision.

But that didn’t stop our friends at Drug Store News from asking the question and it didn’t stop more than 200 nitwits from answering despite their complete cluelessness on the subject.

An opinion based on…absolutely nothing.

Yet publications of all sorts continue to lament their readers’ loss of faith in the veracity of what they read.

Who can expect people to believe what they read when they’re telegraphing their belief that you don’t need to know anything – anything – about the issue at hand to have an opinion about it? Why should people respect the opinions of experts when they’re reading stories that suggest that they themselves are the experts? And why should we be surprised that people can’t tell the difference between real news and fake news when they’ve been enlisted to participate in a form of fake news and have come to believe that there’s value in what they bring to that fake news, which in turn makes it real news in their eyes?

 

So Let’s Get This Straight

The United States Senate is debating the merits of a nominee to serve in the cabinet of the newly elected president but the senators debating those merits are forbidden from saying anything negative about that nominee because that nominee is one of their own – that is, a U.S. senator?

And the penalty for doing so is not only that the miscreant is required to sit down and shut up but also is not permitted to speak again for the rest of the debate?

Silenced

Silenced

That’s what happened on Tuesday when the Senate began debating the nomination of Jeff Sessions to serve as attorney general. Sessions was nominated to become a federal judge in 1986 but the Senate at the time rejected that idea, concluding that he was too much a racist to serve on the bench. Among those who opposed his nomination at the time was Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King. Ms. King wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time expressing her opposition to Sessions’ nomination and on Tuesday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren attempted to share that letter with her Senate colleagues.

And the Republicans in the Senate told her to be quiet and sit down like a good little girl.

Which left The Curmudgeon wondering whether this was the Senate or the Politburo.

And then, the next day, they let three MALE Democratic senators read the letter.

Whereupon The Curmudgeon knew it was neither the Senate nor the Politburo:  it’s the Catholic church.