A Portrait of Paranoia

For a frightening look at one of the inmates running the asylum, The Curmudgeon presents to you Mike Kelly, a member of the United States Congress and possible candidate for governor of Pennsylvania.

Is this guy nuts or what?  See for yourself here.

Rescinding Voting Rights

That wasn’t necessarily the intention – although The Curmudgeon (and others) might reasonably argue otherwise – but that was certainly the result when the Supreme Court in 2013 overturned a provision in the Voting Rights Act that required certain states with a history of infringing on the voting rights of minorities to run any proposed changes in their election laws by the U.S. Justice Department to ensure that those proposed changes weren’t discriminatory.  The Justice Department had long had the authority to reject any such changes it felt were discriminatory and it exercised that authority more than 700 times just between 1982 and 2006.

The very (mostly) southern states that bristled under the Justice Department’s watchful eye for more than 40 years didn’t waste any time getting down to the business of making it harder for poor people, and people of color, to vote, as the November/December 2016 edition of the magazine Mother Jones explained.

After the 5-4 Shelby decision, states passed a torrent of new voting restrictions that overwhelmingly affected minorities. On the day the decision was handed down, Texas announced that the only two forms of state voter identification it would accept were a driver’s license or a gun license—a measure the DOJ had previously blocked. Georgia moved some municipal elections in predominantly minority areas from November to May, depressing turnout by nearly 20 percent in one instance. Alabama implemented a strict voter ID law—and then shut down driver’s license offices in every county where more than 75 percent of voters were African American. Perhaps the most blatant was North Carolina’s omnibus voting law. Passed shortly after the Shelby decision, the law imposed strict ID requirements, limited the registration window, and dramatically cut early voting during times traditionally used by African Americans. 

Just like before, it's 1954 once more

Just like before, it’s 1954 once more

The actions of some of these states have been so outrageous that lower courts have, in a few cases, ignored the Supreme Court’s decision and ruled some of the states’ new policies unconstitutional – even courts in states like North Carolina and Texas.

Think about it:  how bad does a law infringing on voting rights have to be for judges in North Carolina and Texas – Texas! – to throw them out?

Pretty damn bad, but then, that’s what happens when the Supreme Court, led by John Roberts, who has long had his sights set on overturning the protection poor and minority voters enjoyed in southern states – reaches the utterly ridiculous conclusion that racism is gone in the south and it’s time to free southern states to regulate their own elections without federal oversight.

And even with the resistance from a few brave southern courts, it’s probably going to get even worse now that the Justice Department is being led by a man whom Congress rejected for the federal bench 30 years ago because it decided he was too racist to be a judge.

Separated at Birth?

Legally Blonde cutie Reese Witherspoon and the equally adorable Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” co-anchor Colin Jost.

An Unbelievably Immature Approach

There’s good reason to be skeptical about the proposal Republicans have put forth to replace Obamacare, but does anyone think it was in any way constructive for Democrats in Congress to force a committee vote on an amendment to change the name of the Republican proposal from the American Health Care Act to the “Republican Pay More For Less Care Act”?

If they’re going to act that way, then why don’t Democrats just stand up en masse, stick out their tongues at their Republican colleagues, and shout in unison “Na na na na na na”?

Because doing so would be no less childish than the stunt about changing the bill’s name.

House Democrats need to grow up and take this seriously.  The health care of millions is at stake and they’re playing games.  No wonder so many voters are fed up with them.

Hypocrisy and the FBI

If you were accused of a crime you absolutely did not commit – if Mother Teresa, for pete’s sake, had been accused of child molestation – and somehow the FBI was hornswoggled into investigating, the feds would refuse to comment on the status of the investigation.  They would leave you, or Mother Teresa, twisting in the wind, you and your forever-destroyed reputation the object of public suspicion, ridicule, and derision – by insisting that they cannot, under any circumstances, comment on an open investigation.

Until the entity under suspicion is the FBI.  Then, the FBI screams bloody murder.

FBI director James Comey: hoist on this own petard

We’re seeing it right now.  Last weekend, Comrade Trump accused the Obama administration of tapping his telephones during the fall presidential campaign.  FBI director James Comey – the same guy whose unscrupulous and malevolent actions helped swing the election Trump’s way – has demanded that the U.S. Justice Department reject the accusation, and the insinuation that the FBI was involved in such wiretapping, and declare that there was no such wiretap and the FBI is innocent of any wrongdoing.

And while The Curmudgeon, like most Americans in possession of even a hint of a brain, thinks the president’s accusation is utterly ludicrous, he nevertheless hopes the Justice Department will temporarily remain silent and let the FBI and its reputation do their own twisting in the wind for a little while and get a taste of the bitter medicine it routinely administers to many, many other innocent parties every single day.

And how ironic is it that Comey himself has now been victimized by the very man he helped propel into the White House?

Some Interesting New Street Art

It’s popped up in about 50 U.S. cities recently.  Read about it here.

And Yet the State Keeps on Going

The computer operations of all 16 Democratic members of Pennsylvania’s state senate are being held hostage for ransom by cyber-criminals.

No emails, no memos, no papers.  No records of requests for assistance from constituents.  No documents of any kind.

No phone, no light, no motor car, not a single luxury.

It’s called “ransomware,” a virus the officials somehow got on their computers, and the crooks have told them that unless they come up with a certain amount of money by a certain date, their data will disappear forever into the ether.

The Democrats refuse to say how much the ransom is for their goodies – and as far as they’re concerned it doesn’t matter because they say they ain’t payin’.

“Our phones are operating, our offices are open, our members are conducting business as usual,” the party’s senate leader, channeling his best Kellyanne Conway, managed to tell reporters with a straight face the other day.

An investigation is reportedly under way, by the state’s attorney general’s office.

Because that’s exactly what you need when something like this happens:  lawyers.

The timing couldn’t be worse, either:  the only thing Pennsylvania’s state legislature really, really has to do in any given year is consider, vote on, and pass a state budget, and now’s Pennsylvania’s budget season.  The legislature is currently holding budget hearings and the Democrats who participate in those hearings don’t have access to any reports or analyses that can help them figure out if what the state’s governor has proposed is any good or whether they should seek changes or vote for or against it.

But they’re not giving in.  They refuse to pay the ransom.

And you know what?  The really interesting thing is that the state’s government will manage to go on without them:  it’ll still conduct business, make decisions, and deliver services even without the all-important  – or, it turns out, not very important at all – Pennsylvania Democratic senate caucus because, as John, Paul, George, and Ringo once sang…

Ob-la-di ob-la-da life goes on bra

La-la how the life goes on

Ob-la-di ob-la-da life goes on bra

La-la how the life goes on

 

They’re “Stars”?

Last week ABC television, after burning up its telephone lines with fruitless calls to A-list, B-list, C-list, D-list, and E-list celebrities, announced the celebrity F-listers (as in “what the f am I doing on this stupid show?”) who will participate on its next season of Dancing With the Stars.

So it’s time for our annual “How many of these ‘stars’ have you ever even heard of?” competition.

We will soon see if her coochi-coochi still coos

We will soon see if her coochi-coochi still coos

Here are the announced “stars”:

  • Bonner Bolton
  • Charo
  • Chris Kattan
  • David Ross
  • Erika Jayne
  • Heather Morris
  • Mr. T
  • Nancy Kerrigan
  • Nick Viall
  • Normani Kordei
  • Rashad Jennings
  • Simone Biles

The Curmudgeon has heard of five.  How did you do?

 

The Health Care Pipe Dream

We occasionally hear and read about the efforts of people in the health care field, mostly academics and bureaucrats, to encourage people to engage in healthier personal practices that will both improve their health and reduce the amount of health care they consume. This, they tell us, is one of the keys to reducing our ridiculously out-of-control health care costs. They want us to watch our weight, exercise more, cut our sodium intake, stop smoking, drink less, eat more vegetables, sit less in the sun, and many other things, some of them reasonable and some of them…reasonable but not reasonable to expect of people.

Heartburn on a bun

Heartburn on a bun

The Curmudgeon thinks a lot of this talk is unrealistic, that even when people know certain practices are better for them they’re not necessarily going to stop doing things they like or start doing things they don’t. The Curmudgeon recalls a time, probably in the 1990s, when the experts were telling us that hot dogs are really, really bad for us and that we really shouldn’t eat them. It just so happens that The Curmudgeon doesn’t eat hot dogs, and when he attended cook-outs and declined offers of poison on a bun, he just told the simple truth: that he doesn’t care at all that hot dogs might cause him health problems 10 or 20 or 30 years in the future but that he cares very much that if he eats one he’ll probably spend a meaningful part of the next two hours… indisposed.

Want more fiber in your diet?  Suck one of these

Want more fiber in your diet? Suck one of these

And he thinks that’s how it is for most people. Once upon a time, for example, his attitude toward getting more fiber in his diet, which he expressed to more than one person, was “If I need more fiber I’ll suck a sock.” Now, though, he’s eating his own words – as well as more fiber: as someone who has diverticulosis that used to morph periodically into diverticulitis and had a foot of colon removed because of it, he keeps a mental count of how many grams of fiber he eats every day and doesn’t stop counting until he reaches 20 grams – and he never fails to reach those 20 grams.

So getting a young person to stop smoking because it may lead to cancer or emphysema 30 years from now is always going to be hard but getting someone to stop smoking because he or she is sick and tired of constantly coughing is much easier.

cold-turkeyThinking about that smoking analogy called to mind the 1971 movie Cold Turkey, which The Curmudgeon is certain he saw in a movie theater with his family when he was a kid. The premise is simple, and amusing: responding to the outcry that smoking is bad, a tobacco company offers $25 million to any town in which everyone – everyone – who smokes will quit smoking for 30 days. Eager not to spend that kind of money – remember when $25 million was a lot of money to a large corporation? – the tobacco company sends an employee incognito to sabotage the town’s efforts and tempt people with cigarettes. Written by Norman Lear and starring Dick Van Dyke, Tom Poston, Bob and Ray, Vincent Gardenia, Jean Stapleton, Paul Benedict, Bob Newhart, and a lot of other pretty funny people, it was a pretty entertaining movie. When you think about it, though, the premise is not unlike this current effort to get us to focus on wellness or what they’re increasingly (and obnoxiously) starting to call “community health:” that we’re all about instant gratification and it’s going to be awfully hard to motivate large numbers of people to give up things they like now because they will benefit from their sacrifices at some unspecified point in the distant future.

And The Curmudgeon says “Good luck with that.”

 

 

 

A New Theatrical Offering

scaliaComing to a theater in Washington, D.C. this summer will be a play called The Originalist, which the online publication Roll Call describes as diving  “…into the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s heart and soul…”

Casting apparently is proving to be a real challenge:  it turns out that finding a decent actor who has neither a heart nor a soul is more difficult than anyone ever imagined.