Monthly Archives: February 2017

Biting the Hand That Feeds You

Belk is a department store chain with 300 stores located in 16 states, mostly in the south. Because this is the kind of thing businesses do these days, Belk sponsors a post-season college football bowl game – the Belk Bowl.

Really has a poetic ring to it, doesn’t it?

This year the University of Arkansas and Virginia Tech University were invited to play in the game, and as a reward to the players, Belk gave them all a $450 gift card to spend in its stores and 90 minutes in which to spend it.

Apparently, college football players are only semi-amateurs.

Still, $450 to spend in a department store is nothing to sneeze at. It’s pretty generous, but one University of Arkansas player apparently decided it wasn’t generous enough and that he wanted more.

So he took more.

From the same Belk store that gave him the $450 gift.

Without permission.

"I play college football. I had no idea anyone would think that the rules that apply to other people apply to me, too."

“I play college football. I had no idea anyone would think that the rules that apply to other people apply to me, too.”

University of Arkansas player Jeremy Sprinkle was caught red-handed shoplifting: trying to sneak an additional $260 worth of merchandise out of the store. For reasons The Curmudgeon does not understand, Sprinkle wasn’t arrested and the store didn’t press charges.

Okay, The Curmudgeon wasn’t being honest there: he does understand why Sprinkle wasn’t arrested and the store didn’t press charges: because Sprinkle is a college football player and that means a lot of people believe he’s automatically entitled to special treatment.

And while the university suspended Sprinkle, thereby preventing him from playing in the glamorous Belk Bowl, its public statement about the suspension included this:

Throughout his career and this season as a graduate student-athlete, Jeremy has displayed numerous times the qualities we want to represent our program. We have standards within our family that must be upheld on a daily basis and unfortunately he failed to do that in the last week. Jeremy’s suspension isn’t drug, alcohol or violence related but one that will cause him to miss his final game as a Razorback.

Well, if it’s not for drugs, alcohol, or violence, that apparently means it’s not so bad to the people who run the University of Arkansas.

They should be ashamed of their student and ashamed of their response to his actions.

Thanks You, Fox Broadcasting Company…

84-commercial

Two very dangerous-looking hombrettes.

…for protecting us patriotic Americans from commercials from radical left-wing building supplies companies.

A New Chapter in the War on Working People

Three years ago the city of Philadelphia passed a law that requires companies with at least 10 employees to give those employees at least five paid sick days a year.

And the Pennsylvania state legislature thinks that’s a terrible idea – and is trying to do something about it.

A state senator recently proposed a law that would bar any cities and towns in Pennsylvania from adopting such a requirement. Even though the legislature started a brand-new session only a few weeks ago, the bill was already approved by a legislative committee. The sponsor’s rationale: “Local mandates such as this create an uneven playing field for the businesses located inside the municipality,” especially small businesses, and “As more governments jump on board, businesses with more than one location are forced to comply with a variety of different and changing mandates.”

Which we all know is a load of you-know-what.

This isn’t about what’s right or wrong or what’s good or bad. It’s about politics and it’s about geography.

The politics part is that the Pennsylvania’s state legislature is now overwhelmingly Republican, and even though the Republican sponsor of the bill found a Democratic stooge to be his co-sponsor, this is about sticking it to working people. What kinds of businesses don’t offer sick pay in a city like Philadelphia? Smaller businesses that employ very low-wage workers, often people of color. If there are three things Republicans don’t respect it’s working people, poorly paid people, and people of color, so a bill like this is a natural for them. That such people usually vote for Democrats is just the cherry on top for these folks.

And the geography part is about the only city in the state that has adopted such a law. Pennsylvania Republicans hate Philadelphia and even a lot of Democrats who don’t live near Philadelphia hate Philadelphia. As The Curmudgeon wrote in his novel Taking Care of Business, doing things to hurt or screw Philadelphia and Philadelphians is the official sport of the Pennsylvania state legislature.

And The Curmudgeon doesn’t think there’s anything anybody can do to stop that proposal from becoming law.

Low-income working people who have the audacity to get sick: the latest victims in the war on working people.

Hey, Readers

You’re on notice.

Misleading Caption

A New Yorker magazine article about an exhibit of the paintings of artist Agnes Martin offered the following photo of one of her paintings.

new-yorker-agnes-martinThe caption beneath it said “Summer” (1964): Synthesizing both Abstract Expressionism and minimalism.”

The Curmudgeon disagrees. When he views this painting he sees “Ceramic tiles in the men’s room at Macy’s in Philadelphia.”

“One Day at a Time”

This is it. This is it.

This is life, the one you get

So go and have a ball.

 

This is it. This is it

Straight ahead and rest assured

You can't be sure at all.




So while you're here enjoy the view

Keep on doing what you do

So hold on tight we'll muddle through

One day at a time, One day at a time.

For years and years and years it seemed as if all of the creativity we’ve viewed came from the movie industry. Movies were where you went to see something new and vital and challenging and television is where you went to see performers and writers and ideas that weren’t good enough for the movies.

Over the last decade that has changed. While The Curmudgeon doesn’t consume a whole lot of either television or movies, it’s clear that television is in the midst of a golden age – he’s seen it described as a “platinum age” because “golden age” is often a term used to refer to the days of Milton Berle and Sid Caesar – while movies are sadly atrophying. While television tries new ideas with things like Orange is the New Black, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Man in the High Castle, and many others, movies seem stuck in a rather pathetic cycle of remakes, over-reliance on special effects, searching for and then milking “franchises” for whatever they’re worth, and cannibalizing the creativity of others, such as by turning bad comic books into worse movies.

one-day-oldThat’s why The Curmudgeon was so surprised to read recently that Netflix has remade the 1970s/1980s television series One Day at a Time.

To which his initial reaction was “Huh”?

Still, he remembers liking the original One Day at a Time so, now living in a household that functions in the 21st century and actually gets Netflix and other cable networks, he and his much better half sat down to give the new One Day at a Time a try.

one-day-newIt was just awful. He cringed for the first time in the very first minute and often thereafter. The show has been updated and refreshed in a few ways: the family is Cuban, it has a daughter and a son instead of two daughters, the mother is a veteran, the grandmother (played in an over-the-top, painful-to-watch way by Rita Moreno) appears to live with the family, and Schneider seems almost like a member of the family, a status he needed years to attain in the original.

Comedies are supposed to be funny, and this one so…wasn’t. One Day at a Time also had a message, but in this version the lead character spoke several times about the challenges of being a single mother. In the original, Ms. Romano didn’t talk about it: she lived it and modeled it every week. On this version they hit you over the head with it – constantly.

The day after viewing it The Curmudgeon spent some time with his sister and mentioned it to her, knowing that she, too, was a fan of the original. The Curmudgeonly Sister can be pretty perceptive, and she was on this occasion, observing that when One Day at a Time first aired in 1975 it showed us something we hadn’t seen before: a single woman, single of her own choosing, struggling to raise her children. But now it’s 2017 and we’ve seen this before, many times, so there’s just no point to remaking this particular show.

And she was right, of course. There’s absolutely no reason to remake One Day at a Time, no new ground to break. The folks at Netflix have been pretty adventurous about trying new ideas and doing them in new ways, so you have to wonder: is this what happens when a business becomes successful? Does it forget what made it successful in the first place and start going for safe instead, like Netflix’s remake, also unnecessary, of the series Full House?

Let’s hope that history won’t show that Netflix’s production of series like Fuller House and One Day at a Time marked the beginning of the end of television’s platinum age.

The Trump Watch (early February) (Part 2 of 2)

Part 1 was yesterday; find it here.

Switching Sides

1930s Portrait Of Man With Gag In MouthThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention canceled a scheduled conference on climate change when officials there realized it would have been a complete waste of time under life with a new boss who doesn’t even believe in climate change. A reasonable choice but a bad decision: the experts shouldn’t muzzle themselves voluntarily. They should make the politicians muzzle them.

Another potential side-switcher is the Justice Department, which has been supporting a civil rights case in which plaintiffs are challenging Texas’s voter ID law, claiming it discriminates against low-income people and people of color. As soon as the new occupant entered the White House, Justice Department lawyers petitioned the federal court to delay hearing the case. Why? Because the Trump Justice Department is apparently deciding whether to change sides and support the Texas voter ID law that discriminates against low-income people and people of color.

If He Said it Once, He’s Going to Say it Again 

And again and again and again, with nothing more to support him than his own delusions: Donald Trump won the popular vote.

Or at least he would have, he claims, if millions of illegal voters hadn’t cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton. How many millions? Three to five, Trump believes. Of course there’s not a shred of evidence to support this claim – not even the study Trump frequently cites, which doesn’t say it at all. He won the electoral college and he’s now president, so now all that’s left for him is being a sore winner.

And he shows every sign of being very, very good at that.

Well, at least daddy has enough money to post bail after Tiffany is read her rights and carted away.

Well, at least daddy has enough money to post bail after Tiffany is read her rights and carted off to the hoosegow.

So good, in fact, that he’s threatening to launch a major investigation – will it ever be possible for Trump to do anything without calling it “major” – into vote fraud in an election he actually won; again, talk about your sore winner. In addition to illegal immigrants, Trump is upset about people he believes register to vote in more than one place – and in more than one state, in particular. The hated press, in fact, has already identified five such individuals:             Steven Bannon, Trump’s “strategist”; Sean Spicer, his Dippin Dots-hatin’ press secretary; Jared Kushner, his son in-law and new White House advisor; Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary nominee who apparently forgets more than the extra, unreported $100 million stuffed in his mattress; and Trump’s own daughter, Tiffany. In addition, it is now being reported that Trump’s vote fraud expert, a guy named Gregg Phillips, is registered to vote in not one and not two but three states – a real achiever, he is.  The Curmudgeon guesses that if anyone understands vote fraud it would be a guy like Phillips, who reportedly is a rather accomplished practitioner of the art.

Lock-them-up! LOCK-THEM-UP!

Step Aside, Muhammad Ali

Ali passes the torch

Ali passes the torch

The late heavyweight champ always told us he was the greatest, but now that he’s gone, Trump seems ready to fill that void.

Don’t believe it? Just ask him.

As reported last week in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The way President Trump tells it, the meandering, falsehood-filled, self-involved speech that he gave at CIA headquarters last weekend was one of the greatest addresses ever given.

Mixing his metaphors: surely Trump knows that Manning plays football and not baseball and doesn't hit home runs - or does he?

Mixing his metaphors: surely Trump knows that Manning played football and not baseball and doesn’t hit home runs – or does he?

“That speech was a home run,” Trump told ABC News just a few minutes into his first major television interview since moving into the White House. “See what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming. … I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl, and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time.”

The most powerful man in the world continued: “You probably ran it live. I know when I do good speeches. I know when I do bad speeches. That speech was a total home run. They loved it. … People loved it. They loved it. They gave me a standing ovation for a long period of time. They never even sat down, most of them, during the speech. There was love in the room. You [ABC] and other networks covered it very inaccurately. … That speech was a good speech. And you and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech. And it was very, very unfortunate that you did.”

Trump brushed off the suggestion that it was disrespectful to deliver the speech — which included musings about magazine covers and crowd sizes — in front of a hallowed memorial to CIA agents killed in the line of duty. He insisted that the crowd was filled with “the people of the CIA,” not his supporters, and could have been several times larger than it was. Had a poll been taken of the 350-person audience to gauge the speech’s greatness, Trump said the result would have been “350 to nothing” in his favor.

And then he returned to the size of the crowd at his inauguration:

“Here’s a picture of the crowd,” the president explained to the nation he now leads. “Now, the audience was the biggest ever, but this crowd was massive. Look how far back it goes. This crowd was massive. And I would actually take that camera and take your time [scanning the crowd] if you want to know the truth.”

Then the president took Muir to see another image, a panoramic photo by a local artist who has taken the exact same shot at each inauguration since Reagan was in office. (The other years were not presented for contrast.)

Size really really REALLY matters to this guy

Size really really REALLY matters to this guy

“One thing this shows is how far over they go here,” Trump said, walking up close to the print and pointing as he spoke. “Look. Look how far this is. This goes all the way down here. All the way down. Nobody sees that. You don’t see that in the pictures. But when you look at this tremendous sea of love — I call it a sea of love. It’s really something special, that all these people traveled here from all parts of the country, maybe the world, but all parts of the country. Hard for them to get here. Many of these people were the forgotten men and women, many of them. And they loved what I had to say. More importantly, they’re going to love the result.”

Emoluments?

Emoluments? Isn’t that something you rub on a rash? No, actually, emoluments is a word in the constitution. It says:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Appropriate application of the constitution's emoluments clause will free foreign state-owned television stations to save their money so they can stock up on really good American television programs

Appropriate application of the constitution’s emoluments clause will free foreign state-owned television stations to save their money so they can stock up on really good American television programs

Emoluments, in this case, means “power and/or pay.” In the situation of President Trump, there’s an argument that he’s accepting emoluments when representatives of a foreign government rent office space in a Trump office building or stay a night at a Trump hotel. While The Curmudgeon finds the hotel business a bit of a stretch, consider this possibility: a country attempting to curry the president’s favor uses its state-owned television station to purchase the rights to broadcast The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice reruns, in which the president holds a financial interest, for a handsome or what appears to be impossible-to-justify fee even though it may not be terribly interested in actually broadcasting the program at all. Why? To curry the president’s favor.

That’s why the constitution includes such a clause – the founders and writers of the constitution were very, very clear about this – and that’s why a group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is suing the president over his failure to free himself of situations in which he will be receiving emoluments from foreign states.

The Curmudgeon isn’t a lawyer and he doesn’t play one on the internet, but the legal brief supporting this claim makes for interesting reading. Find it here.

Shades of…

 

And we know how it ended with him.

And we all know how it ended with him.

Firing officials for doing their job the right way, as opposed to his way.

Publicly declaring the press to be his enemy.

Acting as if everyone is against him.

Shades of…Richard Nixon?

And all in less than two weeks in office!

*            *            *

More in the not-too-distant future. The Curmudgeon suspects that this feature will not be wanting for fresh material.