Monthly Archives: September 2018

Good Help Can be Hard to Find…

…when you’re Donald Trump.

Putting aside the ridiculous manner in which he’s attempting to run the country, he gives every sign of being a terrible boss.  He doesn’t listen to the advice of people who know more than him about certain things – mostly because he doesn’t believe ANYONE knows more than him about ANYTHING; he doesn’t read and has a short attention span, which makes it difficult to convey information to him; he’s suspicious of those around him who receive public attention for their ability or administration-related achievements and almost instantly seeks to undermine such people; and he has an unusual, unjustified degree of confidence in the ability and judgment of his adult children and their spouses.

When he ran for president he told us he would surround himself with the very best people – the very best people, really, absolutely fantastic people.  He hasn’t.  Some of the people he put in important jobs are, arguably, among the best and brightest (Gary Cohn, the former National Economic Council director who resigned when Trump didn’t take seriously his warning that tariffs would be a disaster); most decidedly are not (Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt, anyone?); and others, like former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, are people of accomplishment in other areas of endeavor who are in no way qualified for the jobs to which he appointed them.

Beavis and Butthead here are Trump’s idea of good lawyers

Even before he was elected, The Curmudgeon read that Trump was especially litigious but that his reputation was that he didn’t hire very good lawyers to conduct all that litigation.  Exhibit A is Michael Cohen and Exhibit B is (bat shit crazy) Rudy Giuliani.  Exhibit C is the great difficulty he’s had finding someone to represent his legal interests in the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.  Again, it’s not hard to understand why:  even when Trump hires people who know things he doesn’t he’s not going to take their advice much of the time.  People who are at the top of their field and who can choose for whom they work are not going to choose to work for someone like Trump.  The icing on the cake of disinclination to work for him is his reputation for stiffing people when they present bills for the services they have provided to him.

The Curmudgeon got to thinking about this recently when he read a New York Timesarticle about White House counsel Don McGahn’s extensive interviews with special counsel Mueller’s staff.  The article offered a little background information about McGahn, noting where he had worked prior to taking his current job and mentioning that he had attended the Widener University Commonwealth Law School and that Trump had at first been hesitant about hiring McGahn because he wanted someone from a top law school.

To suggest that Widener is not a top law school is an understatement.  It’s not.

To suggest Widener is even a decent law school is an overstatement.  It’s not.

In fact, in the greater Philadelphia area, where there are six law schools – Widener as well as Penn, Villanova, Temple, Rutgers, and Drexel – you would be hard-pressed to find even a single person who would rate Widener as anything other than sixth among them.  It’s not a very good school and many of its graduates are just plain mediocre.

That doesn’t mean they’re all mediocre and it certainly doesn’t mean McGahn is mediocre.  Without question, people reach a point in their professional lives where their ability and their accomplishments say more about them than their credentials – after all, when was the last time someone asked you what you scored on your SATs? – but still, the idea that the president of the United States, who should pretty much have his pick of the litter when it comes to selecting his White House counsel, ended up choosing the runt of the litter says a lot more about Donald Trump than it does about Don McGahn.  (Who, incidentally, was shown the door a week after Trump learned of his little chats with Mueller’s team.  For once, though, Trump did it nicely:  it was announced that McGahn would be leaving his job before the end of the year, although that departure is clearly not voluntarily.)

Some Folks Still Don’t Get It

Very good at his job but apparently not a very good person

By now you’ve probably heard that CBS has said bon voyage to its president and CEO, Les Moonves, after it turned out that Moonves has been using his power to take advantage of women for a very long time.  Of all of the public figures who’ve been caught doing this so far, Moonves is the biggest fish by far because for the past 23 years he’s been an executive of a media conglomerate that includes not just CBS television, with which we’re most familiar, but also the CW network, CBS Films, CBS Records, the Chowhound web site, CNET, Showtime, The Movie Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, Simon & Schuster publishing, and many, many others.  The biggest fish before Moonves was Harvey Weinstein, but his movie studios probably didn’t release more than one movie a month.

So Moonves is a very big deal who was very good at his job, and under his leadership CBS made an awful lot of money for an awful lot of people, so it’s not surprising that some of those people were reluctant to let him go.

Even though they understood what he has been doing for, apparently, many years, as the New York Times recently reported.

“We are going to stay in this meeting until midnight if we need to until we get an agreement that we stand 100 percent behind our C.E.O., and there will be no change in his status,” said one board member, William Cohen, a former congressman and senator who was defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, according to directors who heard the remarks and other people who were briefed on them.

Another director, Arnold Kopelson, an 83-year-old producer who won a Best Picture Oscar for “Platoon,” was even stronger in his defense of Mr. Moonves, the directors and others said. “I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff,” Mr. Kopelson said in a meeting soon after the conference call. “Les is our leader and it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.”

That last one is especially interesting:  Kopelson said that “I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff.  Les is our leader and it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.”

Even if 30 more women stepped forward with similar allegations.  

Cohen, Kopelson, and their board colleagues only relented, the Times reports, when one of Moonves’s accusers threatened to go public.  Then and only then did they realize they were going to have to part ways with their cash cow.

And if that one woman hadn’t been willing to go public and no others would, either?  Moonves would still be running CBS with the enthusiastic support of his board of directors.

Despite everything we’ve been experiencing and witnessing this past year or so, it’s clear that some people still haven’t gotten the message – and some of these people are very, very influential.

It looks like we’ve got a long way to go, baby.

 

Hard to Believe

Few areas of endeavor have been hit as hard by our new-found, long-overdue unwillingness to tolerate the physical mistreatment of women than professional sports. After a few especially egregious incidents and especially weak responses to those incidents, the National Football League appears, finally, to be taking such matters seriously and responding swiftly when they occur.

In some situations, a case might be made that those reactions may even be a little too swift.  These days, a player doesn’t have to be convicted of assaulting his wife or girlfriend or sister or whomever.  All he has to do is be accused, not even necessarily charged with a crime, and his team drops him like a hot potato and no one will touch him.  It hasn’t happened yet, but one day one of those charges will be bogus and an innocent man will lose his livelihood at least for a while and his reputation probably forever, but it looks like it’s going to be a while before the pendulum swings back in the other direction.

Mychal Kendricks is a professional football player who hasn’t been accused of assaulting his wife or girlfriend or sister or whomever.  No, he came to our attention last month for another reason: he was accused of participating in an insider trading scheme that netted him $1.2 million in ill-gotten gains. The feds had the goods on him and he quickly pleaded guilty.  He hasn’t been sentenced yet but published reports suggest that he could spend as long as 25 years in the hoosegow.

But Kendricks hasn’t been sentenced yet so he needs something constructive to do with his time and last week he found that something:  he signed a contract to play football for the Seattle Seahawks this season.  Details are not yet available about the contract but Kendricks, who has already made $20 million in his NFL career, will be doing pretty well for a guy who will soon be fitted for an orange jumpsuit:  the NFL minimum salary this year for a player with Kendricks’ years of experience is $790,000.

So a guy who allegedly strikes a woman but has neither been convicted nor even charged will lose his job almost immediately but another fellow who pleads guilty to stealing more than a million dollars and stands to go to prison for as long as 25 years can get a job earning at least three-quarters of a million dollars, and probably much more, while awaiting sentencing.

Is this a great country or what?

But They’ve Got…Personality

As he wrote yesterday, The Curmudgeon attended a Phillies game this week.  Parking in the stadium area – for readers who aren’t Philadelphians, there are three stadiums within a few hundred feet of one another in Philadelphia, none of which The Curmudgeon will name because he’s not in the business of giving commercial plugs to rapacious banks and financial institutions – is always confusing:  you’re never quite sure where to go, finding your car after the game is often an adventure, and figuring out how to get out of the parking lot and onto the highway of your choice for the drive home is practically a death sport.

Only not $5. $18.

When he finally left his parked car and tried to place it in the context of an enormous sea of auto-covered asphalt so he could find it after the game, The Curmudgeon started a five-minute walk toward the stadium, with a parking attendant cheerfully stopping traffic to enable The Curmudgeon to cross the street (so he could, like the chicken, get to the other side).  The attendant walked with him, and at that point The Curmudgeon realized that all of the parking people he encountered who had ushered him from the main street through which he had entered the stadium complex to his eventual parking spot seemed unusually upbeat and he decided he wanted to know why (The Curmudgeon being, as you know, pretty curmudgeonly and expecting curmudgeonliness of others as their default disposition).

“So tell me something,” The Curmudgeon said to the parking attendant.  “You guys are all very upbeat and positive. That’s not very Philadelphia. What’s the deal?”

He looked at The Curmudgeon and smiled.

“That’s right.  That’s how this company hires:  personality.  If you have it, if you’re positive, you get the job.  If you don’t have it, they don’t care how much parking experience you have, they’re not going to hire you.”

The Curmudgeon mentioned this to the friend he was meeting at the game and his friend immediately summoned a parallel to some of his own experiences, noting that the people who work at one fast food restaurant he frequents (alas, Chick-fil-A) are always positive and friendly while those at another (Wendy’s) tend to be pretty sour.

So where do you think he prefers to eat his occasional poison?

A lot of businesses could learn lessons from customer experiences like these.

Sticker Shock

The Curmudgeon attended a major league baseball game in Philadelphia this week.

After emptying his wallet for an overcooked pretzel and a bottle of water, The Curmudgeon was afraid even to ask about the price of peanuts and Crackerjack

He’s not much for eating food cooked by the kinds of companies that run ballpark, arena, airport, and airline concessions and didn’t have a chance to eat dinner before arriving for the game so he thought he’d play it safe.

A soft pretzel and a bottle of water.

The pretzel was $6.  (But it’s a Bavarian pretzel,” the kindly, sympathetic cashier told him.)

The bottle of water:  $5.

So he played it safe – but he certainly didn’t play it cheap.

Vindication!

When you’re typing there are two ways you can go when you reach the end of a sentence and are ready to type another.

You can leave one space between the end of the first sentence and the beginning of the next sentence.

Or you can leave two.

The latter is correct:  you should always leave two spaces between sentences.

So The Curmudgeon has long insisted.

He knows, first, that this is correct, because it’s the way he was taught – back in the days when there was a right and a wrong and no one – no one – was even suggesting the other way.  But he also knows, second, that this ultimately will be a losing battle, like those who insist on impacting upon and who reject use of the serial comma and who persist in using those damn verbifications.

The Curmudgeon does his best to enforce this standard where he works, but again, he recognizes that it’s a losing battle.  If he writes it, it has two spaces between sentences. If someone else writes it and he edits it, he makes sure there are two spaces.  (Although he thinks he has a co-worker who unedits his edits and makes it one space.)  And when others write and don’t have him edit?  It’s sheer anarchy!

Despite his overall pessimism about this subject he was heartened to read in a recent edition of The Atlantic that a small, only semi-scientific study suggests there is a rationale for the two-space approach.

The war is alive again of late because a study that came out this month from Skidmore College. The study is, somehow, the first to look specifically at this question. It is titled: “Are Two Spaces Better Than One? The Effect of Spacing Following Periods and Commas During Reading.”

A study! Science!

Rebecca Johnson, an associate professor in Skidmore’s department of psychology, led the team. Her expertise is in the cognitive processes underlying reading. As Johnson told me, “Our data suggest that all readers benefit from having two spaces after periods.”

“Increased spacing has been shown to help facilitate processing in a number of other reading studies,” Johnson explained to me by email, using two spaces after each period. “Removing the spaces between words altogether drastically hurts our ability to read fluently, and increasing the amount of space between words helps us process the text.”

In the Skidmore study, among people who write with two spaces after periods—“two-spacers”—there was an increase in reading speed of 3 percent when reading text with two spaces following periods, as compared to one. This is, Johnson points out, an average of nine additional words per minute above their performance “under the one-space conditions.”

To be fair, while the study found a difference in reading speed it found no difference in reading comprehension.  Also, the written material used in the study was a typed Courier font, which no one uses anymore, and not something generated through modern word processing software. The argument used by advocates of the one-space approach, which The Curmudgeon understands and appreciates while still rejecting – curmudgeonly prerogative, he likes to think of it – is that typewriters allot the same amount of space to every character, regardless of its width, whereas word processing software adjusts the space between letters and sentences based on the width of the individual letters.

But The Curmudgeon says nuts to that.  He’s sticking with two spaces between sentences, declares vindication for the view he’s long espoused and enforced, and now can do little but hope that he retires before the good guys lose this battle, as they almost certainly will.

Oh, and one final thing: take a look at the spacing in this little article.  It features one space between sentences and one after colons.  The Curmudgeon types it the correct way – the only way – but when he imports it into the WordPress interface to be posted (by cutting and pasting, not a more highfalutin process) it automatically adjusts his two-space spacing to one space.

The Curmudgeon has been – edited!  And edited incorrectly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venting a Little About Words

The Curmudgeon, you may have noticed, is a bit, shall we say, persnickety about things like words and punctuation – as you can see, if you wish to refresh your memory here (commas), here (odds and ends), here (apostrophes), here (more apostrophe’s), here (overuse of a word), here (terrible use of a word), and here (mother of all rants).  And there’s a semi-related piece coming on Friday, too.

But right now he’d like to address three words (or terms, if you will) and one writing practice that have especially put a bee in his bonnet (not that The Curmudgeon wears bonnets.  It’s a metaphorical bonnet, thank you).

“Frankly”

The Curmudgeon has had it up to his pupik with the growing use of the word “frankly” when it adds absolutely nothing to the discourse, either aloud or in writing, and for this offense there is a clear and obvious culprit to blame:  the president of the United States.  The Donald litters his speech with “franklys” as easily as we tossed trash out the windows of our moving cars until that damn Indian in the canoe with the tear running down his cheek came along.  Listen to him some time:  he uses it to suggest that he’s telling us something we’ve never even considered or couldn’t possibly know when what he’s actually doing is try to make his opinions sound more informed than they actually are or even make them seem factual when they are anything but.

It has, alas, become infectious.  A lot of people are using it – including those who dislike Trump.  One of The Curmudgeon’s bosses uses it all the time and when he does, The Curmudgeon wants to reach through the telephone line and rip the frankly right out of his throat (and this is someone The Curmudgeon likes and respects!).

Some examples of the unfortunate march that frankly is taking toward become a regular part of our language illustrate the problem.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, describing the outfit Melania Trump wore to the state-of-the-union address:

So this, her first appearance since it became known that Donald Trump’s attorney arranged a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair between them, may be the first lady’s visual way of telling us that frankly, she’s not having it anymore.

Zero value:  the addition of “frankly” frankly adds no meaning to that sentence whatsoever.

Speaking of things with no value, Sarah Sanders Huckabee was quoted by the Huffington Post dismissing celebrity criticism of the president’s state-of-the-union address before he even delivered it:

“Their message is one of negativity, and frankly, I think, a little bit of delusion,” Sanders told Fox & Friends.

 No value.

Nor here, from the Fox Business web site and an article about congressional leaders not doing enough to help the president address the economy:

And frankly if that succeeds, I have a few other places I’d like to dispatch them.

Of course, that came from doddering Lou Dobbs, so…

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, on the skill that the Philadelphia Eagles’ general manager exercises in managing professional football’s complex salary cap:

Frankly, he’s putting amateur cap analysts out of business, because every time Spotrac or Over The Cap makes you think the organization is about to go through a real belt-tightening…

A Mother Jones article describing charter schools that don’t live up to their billing quoted a former education reporter observing that “Frankly, if prisons had been in those conditions they’d be shut down.”

When the New York Times published an article speculating about basketball player LeBron James’s future as a Los Angeles Laker, it noted that

The Lakers themselves, frankly, still have a few questions to answer, after following up the James coup by immediately coming to terms with the world’s foremost LeBron irritant: Lance Stephenson.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on an existential crisis at the University of Pennsylvania:  did the university want its Fels School of Government to be a training ground for government officials  – essentially, a vocational school – or take a more academic approach that might be better suited for a school that’s part of an ivy league university?  One university administrator weighed in:

“When you look at its educational program and compare it to many others, we can do better and frankly we must do better,” said Steven J. Fluharty, dean of the school of arts and sciences, which oversees Fels.

A reporter for the NBC Sports Philadelphia web site wasn’t buying the Philadelphia Phillies’ explanation of why the team’s regular third baseman, Maikel Franco, wasn’t going to be playing that night, writing that

Maikel Franco was not in the Phillies’ starting lineup for a fourth straight game Sunday. He was held out of the lineup Friday and Saturday because he has a little head cold, but, frankly, that sounded like a convenient excuse.

The online publication Politico published a long piece that was essentially a summary of John McCain’s career and life, and among the observations it offered directly from McCain was that

“I came out of the Vietnam War convinced that frankly we could have won, and we had it won,” he told me in 2014. 

In a New York Times article about how Amazon steers customers toward its own brands (note:  CORRECT use of “brand”), one of those Wall Street analyst types who knows nothing about anything but will say anything about anything to get his name in a newspaper explained that

“Quite frankly, we think our estimate for the size of the private-label business is conservative,” he added.

Of course, “frankly” frankly adds nothing of value to that sentence – sort of like the work of Wall Street analysts, when you think about it.

A distinguished public prosecutor in Pennsylvania appears to be the subject of persecution for his aggressive investigations and he’s none too happy about it, saying of those who are after his hide that “They’re vicious, frankly.”

In a classic case of blaming the victim, Republican senator James Inhofe laid blame for the White House’s poor handling of its flag in the wake of John McCain’s death squarely on the very dead McCain, saying that

“Well, you know, frankly, I think that John McCain is partially to blame for that because he is very outspoken. He disagreed with the President in certain areas and wasn’t too courteous about it.” 

Frankly, The Curmudgeon has had it up to HERE with these people.

 “Lean In”

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg wrote a best-selling book advising women to “lean in” to get ahead professional.  Now, there’s a whole lotta leanin’ goin’ on – and The Curmudgeon is not at all happy about.

From Roll Call magazine, a headline:

Senate GOP Leans Away From Obamacare Repeal, Toward Stabilization

From an LA Times review of the movie Molly’s Game, describing how the title character recovered from the criminal charges against her and substance abuse problems:

She leaned into a 12-step program and now meditates regularly. 

From a New York Times article about changes in programming on Spike TV, quoting a network executive:

“We’re kind of leaning into the 100 years of the movie studio,” said Keith Cox, the network’s president for development.

From Modern Healthcare, on the nomination of Alex Azar to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If the Senate confirms Azar, he would take the helm at HHS just as the agency is leaning into dozens of rule changes and waiver requests that could dramatically reshape state Medicaid and Medicare payment programs to lower U.S. health-care spending — and, of course, how the Affordable Care Act is carried out under an administration that is antagonistic to it.

 From a Philadelphia Inquirer column by the daughter of mystery writer Lisa Scottoline, about a bar decorated like a bordello:

If I opened a bar, I would lean in to the bed gimmick even more.

That’s why mother, not daughter, is the best-selling writer.

A while back The Curmudgeon wrote about Seth Grossman, a Republican running for Congress in New Jersey who didn’t seem to understand the difference between affirmative action and diversity and had no use for either concept anyway.  In describing Grossman, the Huffington Postobserved that

Seth Grossman, the Republican nominee in the competitive race to represent New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, is really leaning into his reputation as the candidate who hates diversity initiatives. 

Politics is nothing if not a world built on clichés, and the online publication Politicois certainly not immune to this menace. In an article about former President Barack Obama’s campaigning in the race for governor of Illinois, its subtitle said that

In his home state, the former president leans in hard for the Democratic nominee

Then, to be sure its readers got the leaning message, Politicodoubled down on its offense, writing that

In a boost to billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker’s gubernatorial bid, Obama went beyond his customary political comfort zone, leaning in hard by cutting his first videoon behalf of a candidate in the 2018 midterm elections.

These are just a few of the people and publications The Curmudgeon would like to lean on these days – lean on with a sledgehammer, that is.

Obsession

This one is relatively new – and, The Curmudgeon hopes, will be more a fad than something that takes permanent root in every day speech.

But he’s not optimistic, mostly because it sounds like the kind of thing that started with kids and has worked its way into the adult world.

Are you obsessed with anything (like, say, inappropriate word choices)? That seems to be all the rage these days as people who appear to have no idea what an obsession is declare that they have one anyway.

A few examples:

Food & Wine magazine, in a how-do-they-think-up-this-s—t article titled “This One Tip Makes Cucumbers Taste So Much Better,” explains that

Every Friday, we’re publishing This Good Thing, where we’ll feature a restaurant dish, store-bought food item, kitchen tool, or food-adjacent obsession that we can’t stop thinking about. 

This appears to be an approach to writing favored by Food & Wine, because another issue featured an article titled

It’s Official: Everyone Is Obsessed With This Grocery Store

Clearly obsessed with obsession, another Food & Wine article offered the perspective of a person who had just taken his first cruise:

“You just go on board and are transported to a floating bizarro world, and wifi is expensive and almost never works, so you’re forced to unplug,” said PEOPLE food editor Shay Spence, a man who is obsessed with cruises (and goes on several a year.) “There’s a serious cheesiness factor that you have to just lean into and accept.”

“Obsessed” and “lean in” – a two-fer!

Real Simple titled an article

The Best Way to Brown Butter (Once You Try It, You’ll Be Obsessed)

Oh, The Curmudgeon doubts that very much, but another Real Simpleton who writes for Real Simple then decided to compound its obsession with obsession by observing that

Now you can use your brown butter in everything from green beans, salmon, and hasselback yams, to slice-and-bake cookies and our favorite vanilla pear pie.  Chances are good you’ll soon become as obsessed with brown butter as we are.

Not to be outdone, USA Today followed suit with an article titled

Teens are obsessed with Fortnite, and it’s driving school teachers crazy

Do you like Netflix?  If you do, you won’t want to miss the Bustle web site article

15 New Netflix Shows You’re Going To Be Obsessed With This Year

Do you like Chrissy Teigen?  Or do you, like The Curmudgeon, have no idea on earth who this person is?  Either way, the healthy eats (no capitals) web site wants you to know that

Chrissy Teigen Is Obsessed with This ‘Simple’ Cooking Method

An extra smack on the tuchas, by the way, for the headline writer who felt compelled to bracket “simple” with “quotation marks” in that “headline.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s restaurant critic has a new dessert interest:  ice cream bars.  If only he could have just said that instead of

Keystone ice cream bars are my newest dessert obsession

And Another Thing

Inanimate objects have a limited range of capabilities. Pill bottles feel no pain; your phone doesn’t become tired if you’re on it all day; your Camry is not humiliated if you pull alongside a $60,000 Range Rover at a traffic light.  That’s why The Curmudgeon’s panties are in a bunch these days over suggestions that Twitter and the internet are doing things that software and hardware simply aren’t equipped to do.  (Just a few samples here because this particular use of language has only recently started to get under The Curmudgeon’s skin to the point where he began collecting them.)

A web site called “Hello Giggles” – yes, The Curmudgeon is deeply ashamed, but sometimes that’s where the link leads you – titled an article

Ann Coulter just called immigrant children in detention centers “child actors,” and Twitter is justifiably livid

No, rest assured, Twitter is not.  Twitter users, perhaps, but Twitter itself, definitely not.

The slightly more credible Huffington Post – sorry, now it’s HuffPost, as if that makes more sense – committed a similar crime against the English language, telling its readers that

Donald Trump To Establish ‘Space Force’ And Twitter Users Can’t Deal

USA Today breathlessly told us that

‘Bachelor’ finale breakup: The Internet explodes, blames Arie Luyendyk Jr. and ABC

And last but not least, just a few weeks ago a site The Curmudgeon has never heard of called Daily Wire (or it may be DailyWire) reported on public response to the views of someone The Curmudgeon has never heard of regarding the recent re-emergence of one of those supposedly exiled pervy celebrities, screaming

Michael Ian Black Defends Louis C.K.’s Return. Internet Explodes

No, it did not; The Internet is still with us.

And now, The Curmudgeon thinks he needs to stop and cool off a bit.  He’s afraid, quite frankly, that he’s leaning into this kind of thing to the point where it’s become an obsession and his keyboard may explode.

Consider the Source

Last week a new study concluded that the Federal Reserve Bank cost the economy millions of dollars by raising interest rates before the economy was ready, doing so to prevent prices and wages from rising too fast but instead putting a damper on investments that would have created jobs.

The Curmudgeon isn’t an economist and has no idea if this is true but he’s not buying this bit of “research” even a little.

Why not?

Because it was done by Moody’s, the bond and stock rating company.

Moody’s, you’ll recall, was giving very high ratings to companies that were failing or dying slow, painful deaths during the recession of 2008-2010.

Time after time Moody’s gave “buy” ratings to the stocks and bonds of companies that were in financial freefall.  Why?  Because those companies paid Moody’s to rate their stocks and bonds and the “analysts” – you really need to put that word in quotation marks because they’re more sales people than analysts – were afraid that if they didn’t give the companies good ratings they would take their business elsewhere.  They especially turned a blind eye toward the mortgage securities that many investment companies own and that played an enormous role in the recession; for a surprisingly clear (and entertaining) explanation of how that happened, see the 2015 movie The Big Short.  Moody’s paid a fine of nearly a billion dollars for its dishonest work – a sum that didn’t even begin to cover the damage that bad work wreaked on the world economy.

So when the folks at Moody’s have anything to say about the economy or a company or pretty much anything, you have to consider the source and either dismiss their views entirely or at least take them with a grain of salt.

 

Barack Obama

Last Friday former President Barack Obama gave a speech at the University of Illinois.  It was one of the best speeches The Curmudgeon has ever heard and he encourages you to give it a listen.  It was wise, warm, perceptive, and inspirational.

Yes, it’s long – more than an hour – but worth every minute of it.  You may have heard that it included a “blistering attack” on President Trump.  It wasn’t blistering and it was only a minor part of the speech.

Enjoy

Hot Schools

No, not schools that are selective in their admissions and attracting large numbers of applicants.

HOT schools.  Schools in which the temperature is high.

Last week a heat wave struck Philadelphia just as, for the first time in forever, the city’s public schools began classes in August instead of the Tuesday after Labor Day, as has long been the custom.  During the week The Curmudgeon encountered a Philadelphia public school teacher who informed him that the temperature in her second floor classroom was 92 degrees – hot, to be sure, but not as hot as a classroom on the floor above hers, the top floor, where the thermometer registered 96 degrees.

96 degrees in a classroom with one sweaty teacher and 32 smelly fifth-graders.

In the faculty lounge several teachers found themselves conducting Google searches to learn whether area prisons are air-conditioned and discovered that many of them now are, in fact, artificially cooled on even the hottest August days.

And for a moment the teachers reflected on how society has chosen to treat prisoners, and those who watch over them, better than it does teachers and the children trusted to their care.