Monthly Archives: April 2016

Caitlyn and Grown Men Wearing Feathers

Philadelphia has this ludicrous but to some people wonderful and charming tradition called the Mummers Parade. On new year’s day, brigades of grown, mostly white men parade up and down the city’s main street wearing brightly colored feathers. Some play musical instruments, some dance, and most have had too much to drink. There’s music and some kind of performance built around a theme. They sometimes make fun of people, of traditions, and of events. One type of brigade, known as “the comics,” consists mostly of white men dressed up as women – women wearing feathers, of course. The brigades are organized into clubs and the clubs spend all year preparing for new year’s day. It’s a central activity in the lives of those who participate. It’s all stupid, but it’s stupid fun and entertaining to many people and it’s not meant to harm or insult.

jenner - beforeOn new year’s day this year, one of the comic brigades lampooned Bruce Jenner’s Wheaties box and, in the process, ran afoul of the political correctness police.

The following is a description of the event from the (obnoxious) Breitbart.com web site:

The politically incorrect group was led during this year’s event by a man dressed as Bruce Jenner in all of his 1976 Olympic glory.

Standing in front of his iconic Wheaties box, lookalike Bruce Jenner flexed his muscles, celebrated a gold medal and even pretended to throw a discus, as children surrounded him with U.S.A. signs.

The flamboyant Jenner lookalike was then carted off in a wheel chair as Diana Ross’s 1980 hit “I’m Coming Out” played loudly.

Then a man wearing a “R.I.P. Bill Cosby” shirt introduced a sign showing a Fruit Loops box with a photo of post-gender transition Jenner on it. Bruce then reemerged dressed as Caitlyn to the tune of Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”

Others dance around him carrying signs showing the 1976 Bruce Jenner Wheaties box side-by-side with the 2015 Caitlyn Jenner Fruit Loops box mock-up.

(see it for yourself here)

And people were outraged! Outraged!

Mayor-elect Nitwit was outraged.

jenner - afterThe LGBT community was outraged.

Liberals were outraged.

The newspapers were outraged.

Outraged that a performance meant to be funny committed satire with intent to entertain.

Amid all the hubbub – The Curmudgeon is always looking for an opportunity to use the word “hubbub” and admits that too often in the past year or so he has resorted to “kerfuffle” instead because it may be just a tad more fun to say – a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist offered an interesting counterpoint to the argument made by members of the ignorant tight-ass club (with extra points for those who know the provenance of that “ignorant tight ass” reference) who were so outraged at the injustice visited upon poor, poor Caitlyn:

Bruce Jenner was not a timid, vulnerable, private person who underwent sex reassignment. He was the wild-card rumor machine of the Kardashian Family Flying Circus. This skit wasn’t a hurtful barb aimed at transgender people. It was a pie in the face of a shameless, posturing, publicity-seeking prevaricator’s unseemly, choreographed coming-out pageant.

Bravo!

Moonlighting

Alan Grayson, of Florida, has an interesting professional life.

By day he’s a member of the U.S. House of Representatives: a liberal Democrat representing Florida’s ninth congressional district.

And by night he…runs a hedge fund.

Say what?

That’s right: the congressman runs a hedge fund.

graysonA hedge fund that encourages prospective clients to invest with him in countries where unrest presents opportunities to make money – actually, where there’s “blood in the streets,” the hedge fund’s marketing materials say.

In those marketing materials, Grayson boasts about his international travels. What he doesn’t boast about is that taxpayers are footing the bill for some of those travels.

Those marketing materials also don’t explain that Grayson, as a member of Congress, has greater access to information about some of those dicey foreign situations than the typical investor or, say, someone who reads this blog.

An insider’s look. “Insider” as in a form of “insider trading.”

And they don’t mention that as a member of Congress, he could play a role in addressing some of that unrest.

But does he? Would he, knowing that successfully addressing unrest in some troubled country could be bad for business?

Until recently, Grayson’s hedge fund had branches in the Cayman Islands. Other than sunshine and gentle Caribbean breezes, we all know that the only reason financial interests operate out of the Caymans is to escape American taxes and hide income.

And speaking of hiding income…

Members of Congress are permitted to hold second jobs – but with limits: they cannot earn more than $27,495 a year in those jobs.

Which Grayson claims is not a problem for him because, as reported by the New York Times, he says

…he did not violate this rule because he had not reported any earned income from the fund…

“Reported” any earned income from the fund – an interesting choice of words. In fairness, it would be nice to know if that word is Grayson’s or the Times.’

So is this kind of thing okay with Grayson’s colleagues in Congress?

Well it is, at least so far. Sure, his congressional aides have encouraged him to get out of the hedge fund business. And yes, the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation in early January. The wheels of considering the propriety of certain kinds of behavior – policing themselves, that is – turn slowly in the House, though, and in late February the committee said it needed six more weeks to look into the situation.

Meanwhile, Grayson is seeking a promotion at the office: a member of the House, he’s running for the Florida Senate seat that Marco Rubio had decided he no longer wants.

Do the people of Florida understand what Grayson is doing? Are they okay with what Grayson is doing?

Is Congress?

Are you?

 

 

A New Kind of Celebrity Endorsement

The Curmudgeon was amused recently to read that the rapper Wiz Khalifa (The Curmudgeon has no idea who this person is) is dispensing with the usual celebrity business of endorsing clothes, electronic equipment, cars, or high-end alcohol and is going directly to endorsing…

…marijuana.

jointAs reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,

… the rapper had announced hours earlier that he’s partnering with Colorado-based RiverRock Cannabis to develop his own marijuana-related product line. This will include curated strains, infused products and concentrates, according to the press release.

 “It’s been a pleasure working with Wiz to create these products not only because of his respect for the plant, but also because of his commitment to political reform,” said RiverRock founder Norton Arbelaez.

Excuse The Curmudgeon if he finds himself even more curmudgeonly than usual at the suggestion of the rapper’s “respect for the plant.”

nelsonBut if a rapper can become the public face of legal marijuana, can a Willie Nelson brand be far behind?

 

Return to Sender; That Address Unknown

No such number. No such zone.

The Curmudgeon has had some good things to say about the U.S. Postal Service in the past.

But then there are stories like this one.

On September 7, 2013, a friend of The Curmudgeon who lives in New Jersey, just ten minutes from the river separating Pennsylvania and New Jersey, sent a friend just minutes across the bridge spanning that river an invitation to her son’s bar mitzvah. Mapquest says the originating and destination addresses are 8.6 miles apart and can be reached by car in 16 minutes.

Hey, it got there, didn't it?

Hey, it got there, didn’t it?

The invitation was returned to The Curmudgeon’s friend marked “Return to sender: Not deliverable as addressed.”

On March 25, 2016.

Wanna Feel Old?

steve millerSteve Miller, that joker, that smoker, that midnight toker, that picker, that grinner, that lover, and that sinner, the space cowboy some people call Maurice, that old pompatus of love, was inducted into the rock’n’roll hall of fame last week.

Miller is 72 years old.

If that ain’t that a kick in the head.

More on Scalia

When prominent people pass away, we have a collective (and understandable) tendency to reflect mostly on an individual’s positive traits, perhaps a remnant of the childhood lesson we were taught that “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.”

So, for example, remembrances of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia generally focused on his gregarious personality, his love of opera, and his unexpectedly warm relationship with court mate and polar opposite Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Well, the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin was having none of it.

In a New Yorker piece from late February that The Curmudgeon just ran across because, well, like most New Yorker subscribers, he’s almost always a few weeks behind in his reading, Toobin offered the following observations (find the entire piece here):

scaliaAntonin Scalia, who died this month, after nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, devoted his professional life to making the United States a less fair, less tolerant, and less admirable democracy. Fortunately, he mostly failed. Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that President Obama should avoid in a successor. The great Justices of the Supreme Court have always looked forward; their words both anticipated and helped shape the nation that the United States was becoming. Chief Justice John Marshall read the new Constitution to allow for a vibrant and progressive federal government. Louis Brandeis understood the need for that government to regulate an industrializing economy. Earl Warren saw that segregation was poison in the modern world. Scalia, in contrast, looked backward.

His revulsion toward homosexuality, a touchstone of his world view, appeared straight out of his sheltered, nineteen-forties boyhood. When, in 2003, the Court ruled that gay people could no longer be thrown in prison for having consensual sex, Scalia dissented, and wrote, “Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.” He went on, “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a life style that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

But it was in his jurisprudence that Scalia most self-consciously looked to the past. He pioneered “originalism,” a theory holding that the Constitution should be interpreted in line with the beliefs of the white men, many of them slave owners, who ratified it in the late eighteenth century. During Scalia’s first two decades as a Justice, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist rarely gave him important constitutional cases to write for the Court; the Chief feared that Scalia’s extreme views would repel Sandra Day O’Connor, the Court’s swing vote, who had a toxic relationship with him during their early days as colleagues. (Scalia’s clashes with O’Connor were far more significant than his much chronicled friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.) It was not until 2008, after John G. Roberts, Jr., had succeeded Rehnquist, that Scalia finally got a blockbuster: District of Columbia v. Heller, about the Second Amendment. Scalia spent thousands of words plumbing the psyches of the Framers, to conclude (wrongly, as John Paul Stevens pointed out in his dissent) that they had meant that individuals, not just members of “well-regulated” state militias, had the right to own handguns. Even Scalia’s ideological allies recognized the folly of trying to divine the “intent” of the authors of the Constitution concerning questions that those bewigged worthies could never have anticipated. During the oral argument of a challenge to a California law that required, among other things, warning labels on violent video games, Justice Samuel Alito interrupted Scalia’s harangue of a lawyer by quipping, “I think what Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about video games. Did he enjoy them?”

Scalia described himself as an advocate of judicial restraint, who believed that the courts should defer to the democratically elected branches of government. In reality, he lunged at opportunities to overrule the work of Presidents and of legislators, especially Democrats. Scalia helped gut the Voting Rights Act, overturn McCain-Feingold and other campaign-finance rules, and, in his last official act, block President Obama’s climate-change regulations. Scalia’s reputation, like the Supreme Court’s, is also stained by his role in the majority in Bush v. Gore. His oft-repeated advice to critics of the decision was “Get over it.”

Tru all dat.

Trump, the Popular Vote, Delegates, and the Possibility of Violence the Convention

Donald Trump is warning that there may – maybe even will – be violence at the Republican National Convention if he is denied the nomination after winning so many primaries and accumulating the most delegates. In conveying this warning he conveniently overlooks that he hasn’t won enough delegates to definitively prevent the people he believes are conspiring against from, well, conspiring against him.

But really, what has Trump won?

First of all, to be clear and to be fair, he’s won most of the primaries: 20 out of 33, to be precise (although The Curmudgeon thought it was more). That’s nothing to sneeze at, without question.

Second of all, he has the most delegates. At the current pace, however, it appears Trump will arrive at the convention without enough delegates committed to him – won by him, fair and square – to gain the nomination on the first ballot.

Why not? Because the Republican Party, like the Democrats, wants its nominee to win the support of the majority of its delegates. Not the most delegates but the majority of delegates.

Majority as in one more than half.

And as of right now, it appears Trump will have fewer than half of the delegates by convention time.

And if delegates vote the way their states’ primaries instruct them to vote and there’s no winner, convention rules permit them at some point to make their own choices rather than be bound by the voters who sent them to the convention.

trump hot airThese rules were put into effect long ago and were in effect when Trump was a reality television show star, the equivalent of the Kardashians, the Big Brother and Survivor and Real World people, Simon Cowell, the cast of Bret Michaels’ STD Tour, and the Unreal Housewives. So any time Trump even hints that someone has stacked the deck against him it’s just further proof that Trump is able to blow hot, putrid air out of more than one orifice.

As always, any excuse to mention Bill Murray will do.

As always, any excuse to mention Bill Murray will do.

How could it be any other way? If no candidate has enough votes to win the nomination outright, the only way to break the stalemate is to permit delegates to change their vote. Without the ability to do so the convention would just keep taking roll calls and the vote totals would remain the same, sort of like the movie Groundhog Day.

And for all of his amazing success – and it really has been amazing – Trump has failed to win over Republicans as a whole.

What, you ask? Hasn’t he won 20 of 33 primaries and the most delegates?

Yes, he has.

But let’s take a closer look at Trump’s performance in the 33 primaries and caucuses so far.

Below are his results in the 33 primaries and caucuses held to date.

  • February 1 – Iowa – 24.3% (2nd)
  • February 9 – New Hampshire – 35.3% (1st)
  • February 20 – Nevada – 45.9% (1st)
  • February 20 – South Carolina – 32.5% (1st)
  • March 1- Alabama – 43.4% (1st)
  • March 1 – Alaska – 33.5% (2nd)
  • March 1 – Arkansas – 32.8% (1st)
  • March 1 – Georgia – 38.8% (1st)
  • March 1 – Massachusetts – 49.3% (1st)
  • March 1 – -Minnesota – 21.3% (3rd)
  • March 1 – Oklahoma – 28.3% (2nd)
  • March 1 – Tennessee – 38.9% ((1st)
  • March 1 – Texas – 26.7% (2nd)
  • March 1 – Vermont – 32.7% (1st)
  • March 1 – Virginia – 34.7% (1st)
  • March 5 – Kansas – 23.3% (2nd)
  • March 5 – Kentucky – 35.9% (1st)
  • March 5 – Louisiana – 41.4% (1st)
  • March 5 – Maine – 32.6% (2nd)
  • March 8 – Hawaii – 43.4% (1st)
  • March 8 – Indiana – 28.1% (2nd)
  • March 8 – Michigan (1st)
  • March 8 – Mississippi – 47.3% (1st)
  • March 12 – Washington, D.C. – 13.8% (3rd)
  • March 12 – Wyoming – 7.2% (3rd)
  • March 15 – Florida – 45.7% (1st)
  • March 15 – Illinois – 38.8% (1st)
  • March 15 – Missouri – 40.9% (1st)
  • March 15 – Ohio – 35.6% (2nd)
  • March 15 – North Carolina – 40.2% (1st)
  • March 22 – Arizona – 47.1% ((1st)
  • March 22 – Utah – 14% (3rd)
  • April 4 – Wisconsin – 35.1% (2nd)

Now, a few observations.

First and foremost, note that in not one primary – not one – did Trump persuade a majority of a state’s Republican voters to support him. Not only is he on course to arrive at the convention without a majority of the delegates, but he also will not have won a majority of the votes in even one single primary state.

That’s majority as in more than 50 percent, not plurality, as in more votes than every other candidate.

Not even in one primary.

Second, let’s look at where his vote totals rest.

  • 0-10% of the votes – 1 election
  • 11-20% of the votes – 2 elections
  • 21-30% of the votes – 6 elections
  • 31-40% of the votes – 14 elections
  • More than 40 percent of the votes – 10 elections

And of course, more than 50 percent of the votes: never.

Third, let’s take a look at the average percentage of votes Trump has won in the 33 primaries so far.

Add them all up, divide by 33 (The Curmudgeon is using his fingers now) and you get…

34.1 percent.

In other words, the guy who’s warning that there will be violence if he is denied the Republican nomination because denying him the nomination would undermine the democratic process has gotten just a hair more than one of out every three votes cast in the elections he’s contested in his party’s primaries.

Now that there are only two-and-a-half candidates still in the race – it’s hard to take Kasich’s candidacy seriously – that percentage is undoubtedly going to rise in the remaining primaries.

But the fact remains: nearly two out of every three voters in the Republican primaries so far have seen Trump’s name on their ballot and rejected it.

And this guy thinks democracy would be subverted if he’s denied the nomination?

He’s misguided and he’s wrong. The primary reason the nomination might be denied to him is that by the time the primary campaign is over it will be clear that Republican voters don’t want him to be their candidate and prefer to look elsewhere in search of someone who can prevent their party from getting steam-rolled in November. This is the way the process has worked for a long time, no one changed it to deny Trump anything, and it’s only one person’s fault that the Trump campaign didn’t understand the process and didn’t pay enough attention to the selection of delegates and ensure that his own people were on the delegate ballots in state elections.

That person, of course, is Trump himself.

You see, a major part of the reason, ironically, is that Trump has been cheap: while he brags about how he’s entirely funding his own campaign – a claim we previously noted is not entirely true – he’s relied heavily on all the free media attention he naturally attracts, the same way you have to look when you drive past the scene of a serious auto accident, and hasn’t spent nearly as much as comparable candidates. As of the end of February, Hillary Clinton had spent $129 million, Bernie Sanders $122 million, Ted Cruz $59 million, Jeb Bush $34 million, Marco Rubio $42 million, and Ben Carson $60 million. Trump, on the other hand, has spent “only” $33 million. If he had spent more, he might’ve used at least some that money to hire some professional campaign consultants who understood the importance of delegate selection and would have invested the time, effort, and resources needed to ensure that his delegates were people actually loyal to Trump as opposed to what he apparently has now: a lot of delegates who are rule-bound to vote for him on the first ballot only and are on their own after that. He finally broke down and hired such professional campaign consultants only last week – the only one he employed prior to that was the moron who got arrested for assaulting an unfriendly reporter – but considering that 33 primaries have already been held, it could very well be a matter of too little, too late.

It was a rookie mistake, a neophyte’s mistake, the kind of mistake made by someone who doesn’t know how the process really works, doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, refuses to acknowledge that he doesn’t know everything, and hasn’t given the kind of serious thought to running for president that most people undertake before they decide to run. We need look no further than the failure of two of his own children to change their party registration to vote for daddy in the New York primary to see a great example of what happens when you jump into something as complex as running for president impulsively and without doing your homework. He ran practically on a whim, really, in part for the ego boost and in part in response to all those people who were making fun of him for threatening to run (“I’ll show them, that’s what I’ll do”), as he has in the past, and now, it appears, he may have ruined his chances of winning with his amateurish mistakes.

And it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy.

But by threatening violence without directly threatening violence, Trump once again is acting like a demagogue and demonstrating that he doesn’t understand our form of government and is unfit to be president.

But most of us already knew that.

 

 

Moonlighting

Alan Grayson, of Florida, has an interesting professional life.

By day he’s a member of the U.S. House of Representatives: a liberal Democrat representing Florida’s ninth congressional district.

And by night he…runs a hedge fund.

Say what?

That’s right: the congressman runs a hedge fund.

A hedge fund that encourages prospective clients to invest with him in countries where unrest presents opportunities to make money – actually, where there’s “blood in the streets,” the hedge fund’s marketing materials say.

graysonIn those marketing materials, Grayson boasts about his international travels. What he doesn’t boast about is that taxpayers are footing the bill for some of those travels.

Those marketing materials also don’t explain that Grayson, as a member of Congress, has greater access to information about some of those dicey foreign situations than the typical investor or, say, someone who reads this blog.

An insider’s look. “Insider” as in a form of “insider trading.”

And they don’t mention that as a member of Congress, he could play a role in addressing some of that unrest.

But does he? Would he, knowing that successfully addressing unrest in some troubled country could be bad for business?

Until recently, Grayson’s hedge fund had branches in the Cayman Islands. Other than sunshine and gentle Caribbean breezes, we all know that the only reason financial interests operate out of the Caymans is to escape American taxes and hide income.

And speaking of hiding income…

Members of Congress are permitted to hold second jobs – but with limits: they cannot earn more than $27,495 a year in those jobs.

Which Grayson claims is not a problem for him because, as reported by the New York Times, he says

…he did not violate this rule because he had not reported any earned income from the fund…

“Reported” any earned income from the fund – an interesting choice of words. In fairness, it would be nice to know if that word is Grayson’s or the Times.’

So is this kind of thing okay with Grayson’s colleagues in Congress?

Apparently not. This piece was scheduled to run last Thursday with a very different ending but The Curmudgeon pulled it when the House Ethics Committee came out with its preliminary report two days earlier. According to the Washington Post, the committee found “substantial reason” to believe Grayson “violated federal law and broke House rules in a number of business and legal activities and in managing his congressional office.” Among the issues the committee raised: running the hedge fund while serving in Congress; directing legal work performed by others but for which Grayson may have been paid while in office; and conducting interviews about his campaigns while in his House office.”

Addressing this in a timely manner is important: Grayson is seeking a promotion from the House to the Senate seat Marco Rubio is vacating. Recent polls don’t show anything conclusive: they range from the race being very close to Grayson having an eight-point lead over his opponent for the Democratic nomination. The Curmudgeon is only vaguely familiar with the candidates and knows Grayson’s positions on issues are far more to his own (left-wing) liking than those of his opponent but a guy who doesn’t know right from wrong has no place in public office. A person is innocent until proven guilty but only a fool would vote for someone with this kind of cloud hanging over his head. The primary isn’t until August, 30, though, so we – and Florida’s voters – should have a much clearer picture of the situation by then.

And have an opportunity to do the right thing.

It Costs HOW MUCH?

When the time came a few weeks ago to celebrate the Curmudgeonly Brother’s birthday, The Curmudgeon was assigned to purchase a cake. In his family it’s chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate, so the question was where to buy the chocolate cake. Always thinking outside the (cake) box, he decided to try someplace new: Carlo’s Bake Shop, a place in Marlton, New Jersey owned by the guy who was the star of a Learning Channel program called Cake Boss.

The smallest chocolate birthday cake was $23 but the chocolate mousse cake looked too good to resist: $30.

That’s an awful lot of money for a birthday cake. Still, little brother only turns 57 once, so…

And then came the question of whether The Curmudgeon was going to treat himself to a little something while he was there. Much of what he saw looked awfully good, but he’s been counting his calories lately so he was reluctant to indulge. There were prices on most of the items and they were awfully high, so he decided to compromise: indulge, but not too extravagantly and not too expensively. He chose a single, large chocolate chip cookie, because even though he’s not much of a cookie guy (except for one extraordinary cookie maker in Philadelphia), you can’t beat a good chocolate chip cookie.

chocolate chip cookieSo, was it a great chocolate chip cookie?

The Curmudgeon will never know. When the server rang up the sale and The Curmudgeon saw that a single cookie cost $3 he had the server remove it from his bag and his bill. He’s many things but a fool is not one of them and he’s certainly not going to pay $3 for one chocolate cookie – no matter how much he had his heart set on it by that time. He apologized to the woman for troubling her.

“It’s no bother,” she said. “It happens all the time here,” she added, giving him a very sympathetic look that suggested this wasn’t the first time she’d had such an exchange with a customer.

Did He Really Say That?

Gag me with a silver spoon.

Gag me with a silver spoon.

The “he” is Donald Trump, and what he said was that he wouldn’t take off the table the possibility of using nuclear weapons in the middle east, against ISIS.

Or in Europe (target to be named later).

Seriously. Again, The Curmudgeon’s not sure if we should laugh or if we should cry, but he does know we should be very, very afraid.