Saturday, February 24, 2018
Opinion

Curses, it's cursive

So it turns out the next treasury secretary of the United States has unintelligible penmanship that makes an abstract Jackson Pollock look like a Thomas Kinkade landscape.

Jack Lew's looping circles signature has been variously described as a sad slinky, the curlicues atop a Hostess cupcake and Charlie Brown's hair. We might also add the Olympic rings on steroids and the grill of an Audi.

Here is a man about to assume responsibility for the nation's finances, and all anyone seems interested in is that his John Hancock looks more like a hostage note. In fact, all manner of handwriting experts have weighed in to opine on what the scribble says about the Cabinet nominee's personality, character and inner demons.

I have a certain sympathy for Lew's penmanship plight.

I was born left-handed. In grade school during the 1950s, the Sisters of the Blessed Waterboarding would come around with a ruler and whack anyone consumed enough by Satan to attempt to use their southpaw to write.

Consequently, after being forced to use my right hand by the Sisters of the Holy Vigilantes, my handwriting is a mystery even to me. About an hour before I started to type this, I was in an editorial board meeting with Hillsborough school superintendant MaryEllen Elia. My notes from that meeting would stump even a CIA code-breaker.

Indecipherable handwriting that resembles a Rorschach Test recalls that scene in Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run when his stumblebum criminal, Virgil Starkwell, fouls up his own bank robbery when the teller can't make out the holdup note.

Lew is certainly entitled to his idiosyncratic hen-scratching, although it might be argued if your name is going to grace the nation's currency it shouldn't look like a Hare Krishna chant.

At the same time, since Lew appears to write in what might be best described as a dead language, there is always the possibility his writing might be misinterpreted and lead to the inadvertent sale of the nation to Andorra.

That might explain why Lew has promised to practice his penmanship before he is sworn in so at least one consonant is clear. The new treasury secretary won't only have to be conversant on the International Monetary Fund, interest rates, currency manipulation and the national debt. He has to relearn to spell his name so that no one mistakes him for Prince, who once changed his moniker to … well, a thingy.

Who would have thought that over the course of just a few short days the normally somnambulant Department of the Treasury could capture the nation's attention for eccentricity and zaniness, first with a nominee for the Ministry of Silly Signatures and then for a briefly floated idea to create a magic coin?

Treasury officials briefly pondered the notion of minting a $1 trillion coin that would technically allow the federal government to avoid yet another tiff with Congress over raising the nation's debt ceiling. Apparently the law allows Treasury to mint whatever denominations it wants. The sacred coin would then be deposited over at the Federal Reserve and just like that, we'd have an extra trillion bucks to play with. Would the treasury secretary get at least a toaster?

It's worth reminding ourselves that we're talking about the most powerful and technologically advanced nation on the face of the planet trying to solve its economic woes as if it were Popeye's pal Wimpy bumming spare change for a hamburger. "I will gladly pay you with a $1 trillion coin tomorrow for a nuclear submarine today."

Not wanting to be confused with the Grand Duchy of Fenwick, outgoing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner killed the two bits, six bits, eight bits, 1 trillion half-wits idea. Or at least that's what everyone seems to think since Geithner's own handwriting (take a look at a dollar bill) isn't much more legible than Lew's.

It's only going to get worse. Fewer schools are bothering to teach cursive writing. For younger generations who have been raised using keyboards, the idea of penmanship is the abacus of language.

So it's altogether possible in another 20 years or so when we pull out a sawbuck we'll see it's been signed by what looks like The Big Lebowski's the Dude — or whatever.

Comments
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the stateís safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last weekís massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Associationís solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasnít enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldnít take months or another tragedy for Florida ó which is hot and full of seniors ó to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. Thatís why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18