Monthly Archives: October 2018

It’s All About Him (part 1)

In case you haven’t noticed, The Curmudgeon frequently points out instances in which President Trump’s public performance reflects a greater interest in his own, personal interests than the interests of the country he’s supposed to be leading.

Recently The Curmudgeon came across an excellent example of this in a (May!) issue of The New Yorker:

John Feeley, the Ambassador to Panama and a former Marine helicopter pilot, is not averse to strong language, but he was nevertheless startled by his first encounter with President Donald Trump. Summoned to deliver a briefing in June, 2017, he was outside the Oval Office when he overheard Trump concluding a heated conversation, “Fuck him! Tell him to sue the government.” Feeley was escorted in, and saw that Mike Pence, John Kelly, and several other officials were in the room. As he took a seat, Trump asked, “So tell me—what do we get from Panama? What’s in it for us?” Feeley presented a litany of benefits: help with counter-narcotics work and migration control, commercial efforts linked to the Panama Canal, a close relationship with the current President, Juan Carlos Varela. When he finished, Trump chuckled and said, “Who knew?” He then turned the conversation to the Trump International Hotel and Tower, in Panama City. “How about the hotel?” he said. “We still have the tallest building on the skyline down there?”

So there you have it:  the president meets with one of his ambassadors for the very first time, has a brief discussion about American interests in a country that, to be fair, isn’t terribly important to the U.S., and then steers the conversation to a subject far more important to him:  Trump’s own business interests in that country.

Yet again, it’s all about him.

Stupid and Irresponsible

Remember the candidate who body-slammed a reporter who asked him a question he didn’t like last year during a special election to fill a seat in Congress?

He has a fan:  the president.

As reported by the online publication Roll Call:

President Donald Trump on Thursday praised Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte  for physically assaulting a reporter on the eve of a special election last year.

Addressing a rally in Missoula on his third trip to Montana this year, Trump at first only alluded to the 2017 incident. “Never wrestle him,” he said after calling Gianforte onstage.

But then the president went further.

“Any guy who can do a body slam — he’s my guy,” Trump said to loud cheers.

Our president truly is a demagogue – and an ass.

A New Chick-fil-A Product

Chick-fil-A is testing a new product:  meal kits.

As reported by CNN Money,

Customers can pick up the kit at 150 participating locations in Atlanta. The meals include chicken flatbread, crispy dijon chicken, chicken parmesan, chicken enchiladas and pan-roasted chicken. 

No word yet on whether Chick-fil-A plans to offer a side of homophobia with those kits.

Another Reason Health Care Costs So Damn Much

Sherry Young of Lawton, Oklahoma had a foot problem that a surgeon said he could fix.  She had the operation and he fixed it.

Then she got the bill.  There was a problem with her insurer over it and the insurer threatened to stick her with the entire tab:  more than $115,000.  Ms. Young eventually worked it out with her insurer – they were just being insurance a-holes – but during the process of working it out she asked the hospital for an itemized bill.

On that bill she noticed that the hospital had charged her $15,076 for four screws the surgeon inserted into her foot.

$15,076 for four screws.

$15,076. Will that be cash or charge?

Ms. Young asked the hospital for the name of the screw manufacturer and the screws’ serial numbers.  They dummied up and wouldn’t tell her.  Later, when she went public with her story, reporters did the leg work for her, identifying the manufacturer and learning from an executive there that while they would not disclose the exact price they charge for the screws, they generally charge hospitals less than $300 per screw for most foot and ankle screws and about $1000 for their most expensive foot and ankle screws.

In other words, the hospital charged Ms. Young $15,076 for four screws that cost, at most, somewhere between $1200 and $4000.

That is one helluva mark-up charged by the Oklahoma University Medical Center.  That is greed and price-gouging and cheating the customer of epic proportions and it’s yet another reason why health care costs so damn much in this country these days.


A Ham-Handed Perspective

Steve King represents Iowa’s first congressional district in the House of Representatives. In the past he’s been waaaaaaay out there on some issues, such as…

He’s suggested that non-white people have made very few contributions to our civilization.

He rushed to the defense of that member of Congress who spoke of “legitimate rape.”

Iowa’s best and brightest

He opposed a law to make it a felony to bring a child to an animal fight.

He called for the resignation of the judges who ruled that same sex marriage was legal in Iowa and called for a residency requirement so that Iowa did not become a “gay marriage Mecca.”

He voted against Hurricane Katrina aid.

He said of undocumented residents that “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

He said of Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008 that

I don’t want to disparage anyone because of their race, their ethnicity, their name—whatever their religion their father might have been, I’ll just say this: When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States – I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam? I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Quaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11.

He called concern about global warming a religion, displayed a confederate flag on his desk even though Iowa is not a southern state, and described the Abu Ghraib prison torture as “hazing.”

There’s more, but The Curmudgeon trusts that you get the point.

Well, ol’ Steve is in the news again lately because he wants to prevent meat-packing plants in his district from…

… hiring Somali Muslims.

Say whaaaaaaat?

I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops.

And King is serious about this, too, tweeting that

I draw the line here and, if need be, will fight for freedom of choice — in our diets. Iowa’s 4th Congressional District is the #1 Pork district in America. No takin’ bacon off our tables.”

 Sounds like someone’s been takin’ brain cells out of his skull.

Mike Pence Has Apparently Changed His Mind

Once again, we’ve been told that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein’s job is safe.

At least for now.

Rosenstein’s been on the hot seat since the set-up crew took down all those unused chairs after the president’s inauguration and that seat grew hotter recently after an anonymous source said Rosenstein suggested taping the president at his incoherent best and then attempting to use the 25th amendment to the constitution to remove him from office.  It’s not clear whether Rosenstein said it seriously, said it in jest, or never said it at all, but the idea of removing a president from office just because you don’t like him is actually pretty appalling.

Don’t you agree?

But here’s something interesting:  vice president Mike Pence doesn’t think such an idea is so far-fetched at all.

At least at one time he didn’t.

CNN tells the story:

Vice President Mike Pence once argued the president of the United States should be held to the highest moral standards to determine whether he should resign or be removed from office.

Pence made the argument in two columns in the late 1990s, where he wrote that then-President Bill Clinton’s admission of an affair with a White House intern and prior lies to the public about the matter, possibly under oath, meant Clinton should be removed from office.

Yet Pence also moved beyond the specifics of the Clinton case: He made a far-reaching argument about the importance of morality and integrity to the office of the presidency.

Pence wrote the columns in the late 1990s when he was a local Indiana radio host and prominent conservative voice in the state arguing Clinton had lost his moral authority to lead the country. One of the columns, “The Two Schools of Thought on Clinton,” was posted on his now-defunct website for his radio talk show.Another column, “Why Clinton Must Resign or Be Impeached,” was posted on his congressional campaign website. Both columns were archived by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. The columns ran in various Indiana newspapers at the time but did not get national attention. 

Dismissing the idea that the president is “just the like the rest of us,” Pence wrote, “If you and I fall into bad moral habits, we can harm our families, our employers and our friends. The President of the United States can incinerate the planet. Seriously, the very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the Chief Executive that we place on our next door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous.

“Throughout our history, we have seen the presidency as the repository of all of our highest hopes and ideals and values. To demand less is to do an injustice to the blood that bought our freedoms.”

When it comes to self-righteousness, this guy even has The Curmudgeon beat

And there’s more.

In one of his columns about Clinton, Pence wrote, “Further, the Presidents (sic) repeated lies to the American people in this matter compound the case against him as they demonstrate his failure to protect the institution of the presidency as the ‘inspiring supreme symbol of all that is highest in our American ideals.'” 

He continued, “Leaders affect the lives of families far beyond their own ‘private life’. In the Bible story of Esther we are told of a king who was charged to put right his own household because there would be ‘no end of disrespect and discord’ among the families of the kingdom if he failed to do so. In a day when reckless extramarital sexual activity is manifesting itself in our staggering rates of illegitimacy and divorce, now more than ever, America needs to be able to look to her First Family as role models of all that we have been and can be again.”

Pence also wrote that Republicans needed to act to remove Clinton even if it meant losing the majority in Congress.

“If our leaders flinch at this responsibility, they would do well to heed the Proverb ‘if a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked,'” he added. “Our leaders must either act to restore the luster and dignity of the institution of the Presidency or we can be certain that this is only the beginning of an even more difficult time for our land. For the nation to move on, the President must move out.”

One can only guess that holier-than-thou Mike Pence never imagined that a Republican – a Republican! – could be capable of such awful behavior.

But then maybe the 1990s Mike Pence who wrote this hadn’t yet met – or even heard of – Donald Trump.

Or if he had, maybe he never imagined that such a defective human being could ever become president.

Meet the Candidate

The Curmudgeon would like to introduce you to Scott Wagner, the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania.  To be more precise, The Curmudgeon is reintroducing you to Wagner; he has written about Wagner before (herehere, and here.)

Wagner is trailing the Democratic incumbent in the polls, and after spending millions of his own dollars to get nominated he’s now running out of money and has discovered few people interested in opening up their wallets to help him.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so last week Wagner made, and posted to Facebook,  a video about him and his race for governor.

Among the statements Wagner makes in the video:

Somewhere yesterday your people said that I’ve raised a white flag. Well, Gov. Wolf, let me tell you, between now and Nov. 6, you better put a catcher’s mask on your face. Because I’m going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes because I’m gonna win this for the state of Pennsylvania.

Also, there’s this:

And we’re throwing you out of office, because I’m sick and tired of your negative ads.

To be fair, Wagner’s video begins with a Wolf billboard The Curmudgeon agrees is unfair.  For the most part, however, most of Wolf’s campaign ads have been negative only in a very unusual way: they barely acknowledge Wagner’s existence, which, for a guy like Wagner, may be the unkindest cut of all.

The video was so bad that Wagner eventually took it down off his campaign’s Facebook page and apologized.  (You may be able to see it here, but every time The Curmudgeon finds a new site that still has the video, it disappears an hour later.)  Even the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, Steve Scalise, wrote on Twitter that “there is absolutely no place in our politics for this kind of rhetoric.”

There are plenty of good, decent Republicans in Pennsylvania and many current Republican elected officials who would be appealing candidates for governor. It’s too bad the party’s lunatic fringe chose Scott Wagner to be their standard-bearer in November.  The Curmudgeon hopes they are deeply embarrassed – because they should be.






Out of the Mouths of Babes…

Stepson J is a high school senior who scored boffo on his SATs and can attend pretty much any college he desires and they all want him, so nary a day passes without several letters from colleges and college catalogues showing up in the mail.  So far he’s shown surprisingly little interest in any of them, so once in a while The Curmudgeon picks up one of the catalogues and hands it to him and suggests “Take a look at this one.”  The Curmudgeon recalls his own life during this period and remembers that he never pursued any of the colleges whose materials showed up in the mail, but he found that reading them gave him some useful perspective and a frame of reference as he zeroed in on his own choices.  (The Curmudgeon suspects this process didn’t serve him very well: he made an awful choice of what college to attend.)

One day a few weeks ago Mrs. Curmudgeon was out of town and it was The Curmudgeon and J alone for dinner, so The Curmudgeon picked up one of the catalogues, from a college that shall remain nameless, and tried to initiate a conversation about it with his mostly non-conversational stepson. (Is there such a thing as a conversational 18-year-old boy?)

J hated the title of the catalogue, which was “This is [name of college].”  This was unusual: J is about as non-judgmental person as you’ll ever encounter yet he didn’t even like the title of the catalogue.

So over dinner – almost always ribs when mom’s not home – The Curmudgeon opened to one page and read aloud a profile of an obnoxious overachiever being presented as a “typical” student of the college.

My name is Blake and I am a theater and international relations double major, German minor, brother of Sigma Pi fraternity, Young Republicans member, team player, model UN participant, former intramural basketball champion, waiter, the life of the party, jazzfest emcee, member of the international relations club, sports aficionado, self-taught guitar player.

It was enough to make you want to vomit, and The Curmudgeon, who is highly judgmental, rather unkindly declared “This guy is a dick.” J, non-judgmental, offered a half-smile but nothing more.

But this was fun, so when The Curmudgeon started turning pages and came upon another profile of a true striver, he resumed reading aloud.

My name is Bryanna and I am a psychology major, African American and Africana studies double minor, 2018 active mind emerging fellow, UCDC performer, researcher, heal lab research assistant, writing fellow, animal lover, lab manager, AAAS web assistant, America Reads tutor, Cloake House program coordinator, Psy Chi president, health disparities teaching assistant, Sankofa Umoja Nia member,kayaker, biker, swimmer, activist.”

The Curmudgeon, utterly repulsed – and a little exhausted – declared “And this woman is a dick-ette.”

Again, just the slightest acknowledgment from non-judgmental J.

So The Curmudgeon resumed turning pages until he came to another and again started reading aloud.

My name is Colin and I am a biology and neuroscience double major, Spanish and psychology double minor, on a pre-medical track, member of the men’s swimming team, tour guide, tutor, PASS (peer assisted study session) instructor for organic chemistry, member of Dr. Beth Bailey’s cardiac research lab, volunteer for little bears swim lessons, captain of the swimming relay team, participant in airband, relay for life and the ragball international charity soccer tournament, intramural badminton team member (very proud 0-6).

This one really rubbed The Curmudgeon the wrong way, so he looked across the table at J and said “And this one is a tool.”

Still barely an acknowledgement from J, but the boy is always notoriously hard to read, so The Curmudgeon decided to plow on, finding another obnoxious profile a few pages later.

My name is Kisha and I am a politics and women’s studies double major, senior admission fellow, study abroad participant, head tour guide, ____ College Republicans president, Haines-Bernard pre-legal society president, UC mock trial captain, Crigler Institute participant, summer fellow, five-time mock trial top attorney, pre-legal department intern, future lawyer, adventurer, sustainability fellow, escape velocity dancer, researcher.

Again The Curmudgeon was repulsed, but this time he turned to J and said he was out of names to call these people and asked “What shall we call her?”

And the boy, without cracking even the slightest of smiles, declared “A candidate to get stuffed in a locker.”

And only when The Curmudgeon laughed heartily did J offer a smile in return, after which the two of them resumed eating their ribs.




Is This What They Mean by Irony?

At a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania this week President Trump criticized Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey, who is running for re-election, by observing that

He’s banking on the name of his father

“Hey, Kettle: you’re black.”

Is this the same Trump who got his start in business with the help of a “small loan” of $1 million from his father and who we recently learned, courtesy of the New York Times, received hundreds of millions in additional financial assistance from his daddy over the years?

That’s What the Headline Said

The headline, that is, on the web site, which means it may (or may not) have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer as well:

Neil Young to play two secret solo shows at the Tower Theater

Pssst:  somebody really, really, really doesn’t understand the concept of keeping a secret.