Monthly Archives: November 2018

The Presidential Brain

See Mr. Trump.

See Mr. Trump talk to the Washington Post (even though he hates the Washington Post).

See Mr. Trump make a fool of himself talking to the Washington Post when pontificating about the environment and climate change, doing so days after his own administration issued a report saying climate change is real and is causing serious harm.

“One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers,” Trump said during a freewheeling 20-minute Oval Office interview with The Washington Post in which he was asked why he was skeptical of the dire National Climate Assessment his administration released Friday.


“You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean.

Well, what with that “very high level of intelligence” and the assertion that our environment is “right now at a record clean,” whatever the hell that means, perhaps we should just close the book entirely on environmental issues and climate change.




Surely People Have Better Things to Do

Or maybe they don’t.

People love their emojis.  As silly as The Curmudgeon finds them – surely you didn’t need him to tell you that – he must admit that he uses them occasionally, mostly for mid-day “thinking of you” text messages to Mrs. Curmudgeon.  (Who, it should be noted, created her own absolutely adorable bitmoji and uses it to excellent effect.  The Curmudgeon thinks his wife has much too much time on her hands.)

The creators of emojis seem to be running out of ideas for things to turn into emojis, so recently, Apple released… a new bagel emoji.

Because surely we need to be able to send wordless depictions of bread products to our friends.

But to damn near everyone’s surprise, people were not pleased about this bagel emoji.

Not pleased at all.

And since a lot of those displeased people were apparently New Yorkers, they were not at all shy about expressing their displeasure.

So, what was their beef?

The bagel had nothing on it.

Their tweets on the subject included:

You call this factory-produced bagel an emoji that stands for all bagels??? New Yorkers demand more.

 Apple’s new bagel emoji is a monstrosity

 I’m organizing a march in New York City against Apple’s just-revealed bagel emoji, which comes out with the next iOS update. It looks like something you get from a cardboard box in the freezer section at Walmart. This insult will not stand.

 This bagel emoji should only be used to illustrate what kind of bagel you don’t want your friend to pick up on the way over.

Seriously, people?  There are people starving all over the world, kids who can’t read, and the country is being run by a guy who clearly wants to be dictator, not president, but all we’re concerned about is a bagel emoji?

Apple, alas, is not at all interested in alienating its customers, so it changed the bagel:  it put a streak of cream cheese on it.

Or what some of us would call a schmear.

Personally, The Curmudgeon would have preferred some lox.

A Pretty Lame Excuse

A hospital in Michigan recently had to explain why it’s in financial freefall even after laying off ten percent of its staff.

The problem, you see, is that it has competition.

A news release put out by the Dickinson County Healthcare System explained that

There is an aggressive, direct competitor in our market and they are funneling healthcare dollars into other communities and away from DHCS.

 Imagine that:  like all other businesses, hospitals need to compete for patients – and this particular hospital is none too happy about.

But this particular hospital seems disinclined to do so.  The article continued by noting that

“As we are all aware, the healthcare dollars that are generated in our communities through our insurance coverages and from Medicare and Medicaid are limited,” said John Schon, administrator and CEO of Dickinson County Healthcare System, according to the report. “If patients are referred out of this community for services that are provided at our local hospital, the result will be the loss of these services in the future, eventually leading to the further loss of jobs and jeopardizing the hospital’s future ability to continue to provide the full scope of services it currently provides for our community 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days a year.”

 Mr. Schon said DCHS could have avoided some layoffs if patient volumes had not fallen in the first half of this year.

“The annual impact of these staffing reductions equates to an estimated $4.5 million reduction in our hospital payroll. However, if our hospital patient utilization would have remained the same as 2017, we would have been able to maintain a significant number of these jobs — bolstering our local economy, rather than the economy of other communities where patients are being referred for their patient care,” he said.

And not a word about competing, about fighting back.

If you’re a patient served by a hospital like this, or considering being served by a hospital like this, you have to wonder:  if the hospital isn’t willing to fight for its business, will it be willing to fight for its patients?  To fight to get good doctors?  To get good facilities?  To get good equipment?

And then you have to wonder whether maybe all those people who are choosing to go out of their own community for care might know something you don’t.

Every year, dozens of hospitals in the U.S. close – hundreds in recent years – and more are expected to do so in the coming years.  The good ones, the competitive ones, usually survive.

It sounds as if the Dickinson County Healthcare System isn’t one of the good ones and isn’t one of the competitive ones and that the community it believes it’s entitled to serve might just be better off without it.




The Curmudgeon Respectfully Disagrees

A federal law that requires many restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus recently took effect amid questions about whether seeing those numbers would have any impact on diners’ selections.  Apparently there’s real skepticism:  limited studies in places that experimented with such listings, or that already have them, suggest that people look at the numbers and then proceed to order whatever they want anyway.

In other words, the science says showing calorie counts will have little, if any, effect.

To which The Curmudgeon says “Balderdash! Poppycock!”

Sooooo good. Sooooo many calories

While he’s not much of a chain restaurant guy, The Curmudgeon has long made an exception for Applebee’s because he enjoys Applebee’s oriental chicken salad so much.  Applebee’s menus in Philadelphia have shown calorie counts for a while now, though, and as soon as The Curmudgeon saw that the oriental chicken salad had 1310 calories – even with the grilled rather than fried chicken! – he hasn’t touched the stuff since.  As far as he’s concerned, he’s absolutely, positively had his last Applebee’s oriental chicken salad.

And there’s not much else on the Applebee’s menu that offers a meal for less than 1000 calories, either, so these days he’s sticking to Thai shrimp salad, which is only 410 calories.

Seeing the number of calories in a meal won’t affect how people order?

The Curmudgeon says “Feh!” to that!

Another Reason Health Care Costs So Much

Because it’s the moral thing to do.

Or so insists Nirmal Mulye, CEO of Nostrum Laboratories, which sells generic nitrofurantoin, an antibiotic used to treat bladder infections.  Nitrofurantoin isn’t a new drug on which Nostrum spent hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development:  it’s been around since 1953 and is now what is known as “off-patent,” which means no drug company sells it exclusively and any company that can figure out how to make it can sell it.  That’s how it works with generic drugs.

Nirmal Mulye, CEO of Nostrum Laboratories

So imagine the surprise of many people when Mulye raised the price of nitrofurantoin from $474.75 a bottle to $2392 a bottle.

So, Mulye, why did you nearly quintuple the price of a drug that had already been on the market for 14 years before your birth in 1967? He told the publication Financial Times that

I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can . . . to sell the product for the highest price.

That’s what he said: it’s a “moral requirement.”

The Financial Times also reported that

Mr Mulye compared his decision to increase the price to an art dealer that sells “a painting for half a billion dollars” and said he was in “this business to make money”.


We have to make money when we can. The price of iPhones goes up, the price of cars goes up, hotel rooms are very expensive.

And that’s that:  a pharmaceutical company executive believes it’s a moral requirement to impose stratospheric increases on the price of a drug that’s been around for longer than most of us have been alive.  He’s direct:  no rationale that the company invested millions to develop the drug, no justification that he’s saving lives, no explanation that it’s the only way his company can avoid going under.  For him, it’s simple: if there’s an opportunity to gouge consumers, it’s his moral responsibility to gouge consumers.

Yet another reason health care costs so damn much these days.


New Jersey Governor’s Idea of Good Government

People who commit crimes and serve their time deserve a second chance.  If we don’t think that’s true, then we need to lock them up forever – and be prepared to foot the bill for doing so.

Even so, some of the crimes that some folks commit suggest that certain jobs are best off limits to some of them.  You wouldn’t, for example, want someone released from jail after serving a term for pedophilia to serve as a school crossing guard and maybe someone with a history of drug abuse shouldn’t be permitted to serve as a pharmacy tech.  It just seems reasonable:  help people get a second chance but don’t let them take the kind of jobs where they’ll be tempted to return to their old ways.

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy apparently hasn’t gotten that memo.

This came to light a while back when it was reported that Murphy’s Department of Education hired a former Passaic City councilman for a $70,000-a-year job as a “special assistant” in the department’s Office of Civic and Social Engagement.

Even though while serving on the Passaic City council, the guy was convicted of accepting $26,000 in bribes to help a company get state contracts and spent more than two years in jail for his crimes.

So why’d they hire this guy for this job?

An education department spokesman lamely offered that “A legal review has been done and he was deemed eligible to serve in this position.”

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, a rich guy with little experience with state or local government, supports the hiring, saying that someone who has admitted his mistake, repented, and paid the price deserves the right to get back on his feet and that this man “…has done all the above and I think we should accept that that should be the new norm going forward.”

In general The Curmudgeon doesn’t disagree, but the job involves working “…with various stakeholders, faith-based groups and other community and civic organizations to advance public education in New Jersey.”

Some of which, it’s not hard to imagine, will end up seeking state contracts.

Which means New Jersey has just given a fox the job of guarding the hen house.

A Few Gun Facts

Courtesy of Los Angeles Times reporting on a new project to quantify the impact of guns and gun violence world-wide.

Six countries that together account for less than 10 percent of the global population account for more than 50 percent of all gun-related (non-war death).

Those countries:  Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, and Guatemala.

That, if you’re keeping count, is five countries, which means you know the sixth.

That would be us:  the U.S.

If you live in Singapore, your chances of being killed by a gun are literally one in a million.

In Japan, two in a million.

Both countries have strict limits on the availability of guns.

In the U.S.?  Your chances of being killed by a gun are 10.6 per 100,000 population.

And we have damn near no limits on the availability of guns.

Any questions?

Some Things are Worth Fighting For

And some things are not.

French fries, you would think, would clearly fall into the latter group.

You’d think wrong – at least for some people.

“Give me crinkle cuts or give me death.”

When a restaurant in Maine switched from crinkle cut to straight cut French fries this summer, some of its customers were unhappy.

Very unhappy.

The owners of the restaurant took to their Facebook page to share information about the resistance they encountered.

So recently, within the last week, we have encountered some pretty disturbing and hostile customers apparently very unhappy with our straight cut French Fry.

The local newspaper reported that

Recently, the outrage about the change made by owners Leslie and Jim Parsons has escalated. Jim Parsons said a man came in earlier this month, angry about the change, and ended up threatening to fight him when he was kicked out for becoming disorderly around customers.

The Parsons are the restaurant’s new owners, reopening in 2017 a community landmark that had closed three years earlier.  One of the things they learned as new owners was that the equipment that produces the crinkle cut uses a lot of blades and those blades don’t last very long, making it financially impractical to continually replace them. The owners are very clear about the challenge:  nearly half of their French fries revenue goes into purchasing the blades.

Blades that cut straight cut fries, on the other hand, have an easier job and last longer and fewer are involved, hence the switch.  The restaurant still hand-cuts all its fries and uses the same potatoes it always has.

But some customers are unhappy, and instead of just conveying their disappointment to the owners and perhaps taking their business elsewhere, they decided that they had to confront, threaten, and curse them instead.

Over French fries.

Not because they’re using cheaper potatoes.

Not because they’re using frozen potatoes.

Not because they raised prices.

Not because they shrunk portions.

But because they cut the potatoes differently.


Compound Error

A South Dakota woman entered a hospital to have surgery to remove her adrenal gland and an associated mass.

Instead, the doctor removed her kidney.

Her healthy kidney.

And not the adrenal gland and mass.

Ben Casey this doctor was not

And only got around to telling her about his mistake when she was being discharged.

Even though the clueless doctor was informed about his mistake by the hospital’s pathology department shortly after the surgery.

“Hey, doc, I think we have a situation here.”

The woman went to another hospital to get the surgery she still needed and then sued the doctor and the hospital, claiming they were negligent both for removing the wrong thing and then for not telling her right away.

In response, the doctor and the hospital denied that they breached the standard of care by removing the healthy kidney and denied that they caused the patient any harm.

Because making a mistake that cost a patient a healthy kidney and necessitated a second surgery apparently does not, in the eyes of this doctor and this hospital, constitute harm.

Amazing, isn’t it?  The Curmudgeon once had something removed surgically and every person he ran into that day, from the time he entered the pre-op area until he was on the operating table waiting to be put under, asked him “Which side?”  The surgeon came to visit him while he was still in pre-op, being hooked up to an IV, and drew a big circle in bold purple marker atop the body part to be removed.

The bigger question in this case is why this doctor is still permitted to perform surgery.

Or is still permitted to practice medicine, for that matter.

Just Doing His Part


That’s The Curmudgeon, pictured on the right, raking leaves in his yard as part of what is apparently the new, official national strategy for preventing wildfires.  He’s just pitching in to protect his south Jersey suburb from becoming a California-like inferno.