Ask a Silly Question, Get a Reasonable Answer

President Trump recently tweeted about the Mueller investigation, raising an issue in two parts.  First:

When Mueller does his final report, will he be covering all of his conflicts of interest in a preamble, will he be recommending action on all of the crimes of many kinds from those “on the other side”(whatever happened to Podesta?), and will he be putting in statements from…..

And then:

….hundreds of people closely involved with my campaign who never met, saw or spoke to a Russian during this period? So many campaign workers, people inside from the beginning, ask me why they have not been called (they want to be).

Well, Mr. President, you’re the one who’s always bragging about his great intelligence, so consider this:

Maybe Mueller isn’t talking to those folks because he’s well aware that they never met, saw, or spoke to any Russians during the campaign and therefore have absolutely nothing to offer his investigators.

 

 

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The Wit and Wisdom of Senator John Kennedy

No, not THAT John Kennedy.  The John Kennedy – John N. Kennedy – who is a Republican senator from Louisiana.

Appearing recently with preppie Tucker Carlson to talk about the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, Kennedy said that

These are people — I’m not gonna name names — but I’m not sure they have a soul.  I don’t think their mother breast-fed them.

Then,

I think they went right to raw meat.

Earlier in the week, also on Fox News, he described the confirmation hearings as “an intergalactic freak show.”

And then added

If you think this is about searching for the truth, you ought to put down the bong.

The Curmudgeon had noticed Kennedy in the past.  He is, on one hand, a pretty bright guy, but on the other, he’s highly partisan – which, to be fair, is to be expected for someone in his line of work.  He’s also not above appearing to try to say things in ways that will get him public attention – also, to be fair, something to be expected of someone in his line of work.  So The Curmudgeon did some sleuthing – okay, it was more like one of these new-fangled FBI investigations in which you don’t look too hard and too far for too long – and came up with some other Kennedy pearls.

From Huffington Post:

Our country was founded by geniuses, but it’s being run by idiots,” Kennedy said dismissively last week, as a government shutdown loomed. “I think most Americans are wondering how some folks up here made it through the birth canal.”

And

“That’s why the aliens won’t talk to us,” Kennedy told reporters, referring to the bipartisan blame game over the president’s comments. “They look at us and say, ‘These people… they’re 13-year-olds.’”

And

He later described a recent meeting at the White House with Trump as “very positive,” adding that “no one called anybody an ignorant slut or anything.”

And

“This is Washington, D.C.,” Kennedy said in December. “Politics is in everybody’s blood, kind of like herpes.”

 Kennedy has directed witticisms at his fellow Republicans, as well. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), for example, is “tougher than a $3 steak,” according to Kennedy, while Sen. John McCain, who is still recovering from cancer surgery in Arizona, is “tough as a boiled owl.”

The Curmudgeon, for one, has no frame of reference for understanding the degree of toughness of a boiled owl.

And

In October, Kennedy drew plaudits from both parties when he said the IRS contracting the hacked company Equifax to combat fraud was like giving actress Lindsay Lohan ― who’s had her troubles ― “the keys to the minibar.” 

And

“Just because you’ve seen [the movie] ‘My Cousin Vinny’ doesn’t qualify you to be a federal judge,” Kennedy said to nominee Matthew Petersen, who admitted during the hearing that he had never tried a case or argued a motion in court. 

CNN offers this:

Skeptical of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimates the costs of various bills, Kennedy remarked last fall that it makes “those late-night psychic hotlines that you see advertised reputable.”

And this:

Kennedy, unlike some members too afraid of ruffling feathers, has commented freely on a range of issues and offered clear-eyed analysis of his own party’s reckonings. Amid the GOP’s infighting over tax reform, Kennedy offered a food analogy.

 “It’s like taking a big ol’ piece of cheesecake and putting a bunch of spinach on top and saying you can’t eat the cheesecake till you eat the spinach,” he said once, describing disputes that leaders had to resolve last fall before passing a final bill.

 He’s even called out his colleagues in a decidedly anatomical way. Senators need to “grow some oranges and … make some hard decisions,” he said in September, talking about fiscal issues. Too many of them “have been dictionary definition of weenies,” he added.

Even the usually humorless Fox News has found Kennedy entertaining.

That is, unless the newcomer tells a Supreme Court nominee during a confirmation hearing that his hope is the future justice can be a “cross between Socrates and Dirty Harry.”

Kennedy is an interesting guy, to be sure, and certainly a breath of fresh air in the stuffiest chamber of American government.

 

 

 

 

 

Another Reason Health Care Costs So Damn Much

Because insurers are overcharging us.

You read about it all the time:  Obamacare has driven up health insurance costs.  To be sure, health insurance premiums continue to rise, although it’s not clear that they’ve risen because of Obamacare.

They’ve also risen because insurers are overcharging us.

The Curmudgeon recently received a letter from his health insurer (he won’t say which one because he suspects his insurer is by no means the only one sending out such letters and therefore thinks it would be unfair to single out just one insurer) with the following explanation:

In 2017, you were covered by a [name of insurer] plan with your current employer.  The ACA law [Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare] states that we must spend at least 80 percent of the premium collected from your employer on health care services and programs to improve quality and patient safety.

In 2017, we did not meet the minimum Medical Loss Ratio standard of 80% as claims paid in 2017 were less than expected.

That’s right:  federal law says health insurers must spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect on actual health care and these folks didn’t.

So what did they spend it on?

They do, of course, have to spend money to run their companies and administer their claims – but more than 20 percent of the premiums they rake in?  People like to complain about government inefficiency but Medicaid’s administration and overhead costs currently are seven percent.  And Medicare?  That number is harder to pin down because Medicare shares some costs with social security, but it’s almost surely less than ten percent.

And private insurers?  They generally run between 12 percent and 18 percent.

So when your health insurer writes to inform you that it spent more than 20 percent of your premium dollar on itself and not on you, it’s only natural to wonder what they’ve been spending it on.

Seven-figure salaries for executives.  Lavishly appointed offices in palatial buildings. Additional money for their ten-figure “reserves.”  More seven-figure salaries for executives.  Executive retreats held in places like the Virgin Islands. In the case of for-profit insurers, dividends for shareholders.

But not on health care for you.

The letter The Curmudgeon received from his insurer whines, in two places, about being forced by federal law (the evil Obamacare) to disclose its gross overcharges to its customers.  The Curmudgeon isn’t writing this to sing Obamacare’s praises but it’s hard not to think that forcing insurers to reveal publicly that they’re profiteering at our expense is a good thing – because it is.

Health insurers overcharging people for insurance: just another reason why health care costs so damn much.

Vaccines and Stupid People in Positions of Power

Voters in Tennessee last month elected Mark Green, a doctor, to Congress.

It looks like those voters did a very stupid thing.

At a town hall meeting last month, Green told his constituents he believes vaccines may cause autism.

More precisely, he suggested that

…there was some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines.

He also accused the Centers for Disease Control of fraudulently managing data that might reveal that vaccines cause autism.

The situation today: ZERO evidence that this causes autism

Confronted with the gravity of what he told his constituents, Green doubled down on his accusation, explaining that

There appears to be some evidence that as vaccine numbers increase, rates of autism increase. We need better research, and we need it fast.

Of course, the absence of that research didn’t stop Green from making his statement anyway and he has yet to cite any evidence to support his claim.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  His “…there was some concern” statement is exactly what Trump does:  pick up on what someone else is saying, regardless of whether there’s any truth to it, and insist that it’s a legitimate basis for pursuing something that’s stupid or dead wrong.

Speaking of Individual 1, in 2017 he nominated Green to be Secretary of the Army but after folks got wind of his controversial statements about LGBTQ issues (that psychiatrists call “transgender a disease” and expressing his support of businesses that wish to discriminate against transgender customers), Islam (referring to former President Obama as “B Hussein Obama” and insisting that when public schools teach about religion they should exclude Islam except to refer to a “Muslim horde”), and evolution (he’s sticking with a literal interpretation of the bible’s version), he withdrew from the nomination.

But none of that mattered to the fine, upstanding voters of Tennessee, who have given to the rest of us a person in power and with meaningful credentials who now intends to use that power and the authority of those credentials to spread profoundly bad information that could potentially cause serious damage.

It almost makes one long for the days when the biggest anti-vaccine threat out there was only a former Playboy centerfold.

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas

May Their Owners Burn in Hell

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently ran a story under the following headline:

“Restaurants that will be open on Christmas Day

across the Philadelphia region”

The Curmudgeon’s New Rules for Television Cooking Contests

You’ve seen them:  television cooking contests.  Whether it’s Iron Chef America, Top Chef, Chopped, Cupcake Wars, one of Gordon Ramsay’s disgraceful programs, or any of the many other such programs that currently fill the airwaves, people seem to love watching cooking competitions.

But a few easy steps could make those competitions better, and just as he offered his suggestions for improving professional football and baseball in the past (and The Curmudgeon won’t gloat about how some of his suggestions about baseball go perfectly with the sport’s current interest in making its games shorter), The Curmudgeon presents a few easy rules that would improve television cooking contests.

Remember when the circus came to town, And you were frightened by the clowns…

Rule #1: 

Contestants may not cook with bacon.  It’s almost like bribing the judges:  they all love bacon and using it is both the ultimate in brown-nosing and an easy way to mask less-than-quality cooking.

Rule #2:

Contestants making desserts may not prepare crepes or French toast.  French toast and especially crepes are the go-to choices for cooks who’ve been given a disparate set of ingredients with which to work and lack the creativity to do something with them other than throw them into a crepe or on top of fried bread and dare call it a dessert.  Creativity is part of the contest, so if they can’t do better than French toast or crepes, the judges need to see that.

Rule #3:      

The judges don’t get to watch the contestants cook or know which contestants cooked which dishes.  Viewers see it all the time:  the judges convey expectations of individual contestants based on dishes those contestants cooked in an earlier round or a previous contest.  It’s a form of prejudice and inherently unfair, so in the future judges don’t get to know who cooked what until after they’ve articulated their opinions of the dishes themselves.

Rule #4:    

Contestants may not tell the judges about the addiction or near-fatal illness they overcame or the father/mother/sister/child/abuela who recently died or is dying or is suffering from some horrible disease.  Unless that sad state produces tears needed to salt the food it’s not relevant to the competition and is nothing more than a sleazy attempt to win the judges’ pity and influence their decision.

Ringleader of a fundamentally dishonest judging process

Rule #5:      

Contestants who are self-taught or who learned how to cook in the kitchens of others instead of cooking school may not remind judges or viewers that they’re not “classically trained” like some of their opponents. You’re in the contest, fella/lady, so please spare viewers your inferiority complex or your defiance because it’s gotten old.

Rule #6:     

Contestants may not tell judges about how they have something to prove to themselves or their parents or their kids or the people with whom they work.  It’s a cooking contest, not Dr. Phil.

The Curmudgeon has no problem with any of these cooking contests being on television.  From his perspective, there are many cable networks and tons of airtime to fill so there’s room for pretty much anything and everything.  Still, he thinks these suggestions would make televised cooking contests more interesting to watch and make the outcomes of those contests a lot fairer than they are today.

If You Want Something Done Right, Do it Yourself

Unhappy with the refusal of the press to cover him in glory for his extraordinary accomplishments and finally resigned to his inability to challenge the licenses of those who fail to extol his virtues, President Trump offered a new idea recently, tweeting

Something has to be done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!

If he’s serious about starting his own news organization – on top of the one the U.S. already runs, called Voice of America – The Curmudgeon has a suggestion for what Comrade Trump can call his personal news channel:

TASS.

You Know a Country’s Economy’s is Struggling…

…when its problems reach down into the sex trades.

There are few places struggling more economically these days than Greece, and those economic struggles are really hitting the ladies of the evening hard, the New York Times reports.

Supply (of prostitutes) is up, prices are down, and the usual johns just can’t afford as much, or as often, as they once could.

Prostitution is legal in Greece, but in some places legal brothels find themselves competing with, um, freelancers, and that’s what’s driving down prices. The Times spoke to one, er, entrepreneur about the problem:

“In 2012, it would require an average of 39 euros” for a client to hire a prostitute in a brothel, Mr. Lazos said, “while in 2017 just €17 — a 56 percent decrease.”

Customers are well aware that it’s a buyer’s market in Greece and they’re not above taking advantage of this:

Anastasia says they promise, “I’ll come when I get paid,” or they ask for bargains. Men often ask for unprotected sex, she said, and many prostitutes who are drug addicts take on such clients for less than 10 euros.

Customers are also being…more selective.

“Seven or eight years ago, 20 to 30 men would go to the bedroom with the girl,” said Vaso, 65, who has been a madam for the past 20 years. Today, she said, it is more like five or six.

“Now they come, take a look,” she said, “and say, ‘I’ll be back.’ ”

Damn: a girl with a dream can’t even make a living anymore in Greece.

 

 

The Return of Barney Fife

Those of us of a certain age certainly recall Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy on The Andy Griffith Show.  They also may recall that Sheriff Andy Taylor only let Barney have one bullet for his gun and he had to keep that bullet in his shirt pocket, not in his gun.  Why?  Barney could be, well, overenthusiastic about his law enforcement duties and Andy figured that the need to fumble with the bullet and load the gun before using it would help offset Barney’s bad judgment.

With this in mind, The Curmudgeon would like to introduce you to Officer Stuart Lee Harrison of the Southwestern Regional police force in York County, Pennsylvania.  A 15-year veteran officer, Harrison was among several officers who helped subdue a suspect who tried to rob a bank by asking to withdraw $500,000 and who, when informed by bank staff that he couldn’t withdraw $500,000 because he didn’t have an account at the bank, threatened bank employees and refused to leave the premises.

They grow their crim’nals realllllll smart in York County.

Barney’s gone but his spirit lives on!

Officers arrived on the scene and eventually wrangled the suspect into the back seat of a police car.  They had a hard time of it and even tried to subdue him with a Taser at one point in the struggle but were unsuccessful in hitting their target – not a very good sign.  Once they had him in the back seat of the squad car he remained uncooperative, and though he was apparently alone in the back seat of a locked car and not hurting anyone, Officer Fife, er, Harrison, decided he would use his Taser to create a little order.

So Officer Harrison reached into his holster and pulled the trigger on his Taser as he held it against the suspect’s thigh.

Only it wasn’t his Taser.  It was his gun.

His loaded gun, because the sheriff in town permits Officer Harrison to carry a loaded gun.

And he blasted the suspect in the leg.

The suspect’s reaction, by the way, was priceless:  he asked, “Dude, why’d you shoot me?”

Officer Harrison has been charged with second degree simple assault, a misdemeanor.

And THAT, friends, is why Sheriff Andy Taylor didn’t let Barney Fife carry a loaded gun.