None of the Above (PA primary edition!)

Democratic voting is legalized bullying. That which you cannot do to your neighbor, mano-a-mano, you can instead inflict upon her in a voting booth. Does she want to host an immigrant family? Smoke a joint? Practice interior decorating without government approval? Keep what she earns? Not fund endless bombing campaigns of non-white nations? What is immoral and unethical between individuals receives the imprimatur of legitimacy if its source is a government-orchestrated election.

Most of you will disagree. Your candidate – you believe – will pass such legislation, enact such reforms and subdue your opponents in a way, and at no perceptible cost to you, that will make the sun shine brighter, your commute shorter, the poor richer, the rich poorer, your health healthier, your hamburgers more hamburgier, and, of course, appoint partisans who share your prejudices to usher in this glorious heaven on earth.

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If you still insist on queueing up to cast a vote that has an infinitesimal chance of changing the outcome of an election, I’ve prepared a free and handy Voting Guide:

Hillary Clinton – A mendacious grifter who brilliantly used government office to transform her middle class income into 1%’er status by cozying up to Wall Street and defense contractors, all while giving entirely unbelievable speeches that she is the champion of women and the underprivileged.

Reason to Vote for Hillary: You are well invested in GS and RTN stock.

Donald Trump – A pathological narcissist with a populist flair for pasting the worst economic myths into barely intelligible campaign speeches and lathering up the latent racism of working classes into his own unique brand of celebrity fascism.

Reason to Vote for Donald: You are so shitty at your job that you fear a non-English speaker will take your job (and likely your wife and dog, too).

Bernie Sanders – A cartoon character of a Fabian socialist who by some miracle has not noticed that coercive collectivization of income has spread misery and economic stagnation in every nation that succumbed to his Santa Claus economics.

Reason to Vote for Bernie: You believe in Santa Claus, unicorns, and have no idea that Che Guevara imprisoned gays and executed scores of political prisoners.

Ted Cruz – This early Bill Murray lookalike and darling of evangelicals promises to men who masturbate to Sarah Palin photos to make the sand “glow in the dark” in the Middle East. Very Christian, indeed.

Reason to Vote for Ted:  See Reason to Vote for Hillary.

John Kasich:  My fingers got bored just typing his name. Given that Nickelback has a better chance of being elected to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, I’m going to leave it at that.

Reason to Vote for John: You think vanilla ice cream is too spicy, and you secretly have a crush on Ted Cruz.

Posted in Election 2016, Government, Politics | Leave a comment

I’m Moving Out of the Country If

“I’m going to move out of the country if candidate X gets elected,” is possibly the most nonsensical threat one can make.

First, even though I would pay money to watch it on Pay-Per-View, no one ever follows through. Seriously, following a plane-full of Sanders voters as they flee to Caracas would make great TV, especially if they didn’t bring their own toilet paper. Or perhaps the best reality show ever: dejected Trump supporters vying to live on an island of only white angry people.

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The better option is to focus on policy, not personality. Like, if the national debt hits $22 trillion, I’m moving to, well, somewhere with less debt-y. Or if Planned Parenthood loses (or gains, depending upon your bias) more than 10% of federal tax dollars, I’m moving to a country with (lots more/lots less) abortions, regardless of the fact that I speak zero foreign languages.

Think how principled you will appear to everyone on Facebook when you moved to Switzerland after the US government droned the umpteenth Muslim wedding. Sure, it’s even money that Clinton or Rubio will drone an equal number of Muslim weddings, which is exactly why you have to pick a policy, so we – forced to endure your empty threats – know exactly when to stop by for your moving-out estate sale.

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Pittsburgh Plans

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After living in Pittsburgh for five years, I’ve become adept at translating – if not actually using – sentences such as “If yinz jagoffs git dahnahahs, I’m inna basement doin’ the warsh.”

But far more jarring to my eastern PA sensibilities is the local habit of calling a residential housing development a “plan,” as in “She bought a house in that new plan in Moon Township,” or “Mike’s brother’s dog got loose in the plan.” Plans are made, plans are lost, but are plans where you live? I immediately picture a very large blueprint with someone sitting on a couch in the section marked “Living Room/Great Room.”

Growing up in rural Lehigh County, we’d call our 1970s outpost of split-level houses a “development.” Where do you live? Heidelberg Heights, you know, that development off of 309. Later, in my years as a real estate development attorney, we’d call them “subdivisions,” referring to the land development process for turning one lot into many.

So what’s common in other regions? Who else lives on a blueprint?

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Must Watch TV

While the rest of America was watching the Super Bowl, I was reading Florence King and then binge-watching Banshee, a Cinemax original series.

For the uninitiated, Banshee is the improbable tale of a paroled felon who – through a violent deus ex machina – assumes the identity of a small town (the fictitious Banshee, Pennsylvania) sheriff in Amish country as a pretext to reuniting with his former girlfriend, the daughter of a Russian mobster, now living under an assumed identity married to Banshee’s district attorney.

The acting and plot are campy, perhaps deliberately. More problematic – at least to native Pennsylvanians – are two jarring narrative gaffes.

Our protagonist, the sheriff – with the help of a transgender cybercriminal – successfully passed himself off as a candidate hired sight-unseen from Oregon. In Pennsylvania, police chiefs are hired by municipal councils but sheriffs are elected. Having previously hired a police chief, I have to apply no small effort in suspending disbelief at the premise of hiring a top cop over the phone. But sheriff? Couldn’t an intern at Cinemax have checked wikipedia?

Also figuring in the plot line is an Indian tribe along with its obligatory tribal casino. There are exactly zero Indian reservations in Pennsylvania, a fact that would have taken the lazy producers of this show about 30 seconds to verify from a Google search.

Plot holes and campiness aside, you can’t go wrong with a storyline about an ex-con pretending to be sheriff in Amish country, bedding every pretty girl in sight while trying to rekindle a lost love, and simultaneously attempting to hide from a vengeful Russian criminal who goes by the name of Rabbit.

Much violence and graphic sexytime, so not appropriate for kids or your bible study group. Local connection: the third season was filmed in and around Pittsburgh during which the cast stayed at the Cork Factory in the strip district.

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Wager

hils and marc

I have a wager for those whose passions lead them to believe that Marco Rubio is a substantively different candidate than Hillary Clinton.

Regardless of who wins, during either Marco or Hillary’s first term:

  1. The US National debt will hit $21 trillion.
  2. US military interventionism will not abate (compared to foreign nationals killed by drones or combat over the prior 4 years).
  3. Goldman Sachs “Funds from Operations” will average positive growth.
  4. The NSA surveillance state will not be meaningfully curtailed (measured by legislative repeal of the Patriot Act).
  5. Obamacare will not be substantially repealed (measured by continued use of the IRS 1095 tax form).
  6. Neither federal sugar nor ethanol subsidies will decrease.

I bet $100. Friends and close acquaintances will be an e-handshake deal. Strangers can PayPal the full amount at brgross@inbox.com which I will confirm publicly in the comments, and refund with 5% interest if I lose. December 31, 2021 will be the final measuring deadline for the above list.

Posted in Election 2016, Government, Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Quit – Top 10 Reasons Why I Burned My Republican Voter Registration Card

This week I finally did it. After bouncing back and forth between the Republican and Democratic parties for the last 28 years, I called it quits. I, a former Republican candidate for state office, am no longer willing to wear that disagreeable label for another day. And before I begin to pile on solid reasons why, I should note that Democrats – pretty much to the person – believe in the most faith-based, asshattery version of Santa Claus economics since Karl Marx stained the minds of governments everywhere with his anti-market ramblings. So don’t gloat, Democrats!

And no001w a list of reasons why I’d be less self-conscious wearing my underwear outside of my trousers than being associated with the party of Dick Cheney, Chris Christie and Rick Santorum for one more day:

  1. Moar War! You want to fight simultaneous wars in Syria, Iran and the Ukraine? Have at it, just don’t tax my earnings to support your neo-mercantilist world empire that is effective only at creating massive debt at home and backlash abroad. Here, Republicans are nearly indistinguishable from Democrats; a neocon stew of defense contractors, Wall Street financiers, chicken hawks and people who think Israel is our 51st It is on exceptionally rare occasion that I approve any public policy embraced by Barry Obama, but I tip my hat to his choosing diplomacy over war with yet another Middleastistan country.
  2. Fathead fascist Chris Christie said he’d crack down on legalized marijuana if elected president. But prohibitions don’t work (see generally, The Prohibition, 1920-1933, and the absurd War on Drugs started by Richard Nixon and carried on gleefully by killjoy Republicans that sputter on about liberty and then ironically limit the amount of liberty consenting adults are permitted in engage in).
  3. Speaking of liberty, what about all the black and brown people caged in our prison-industrial complex, the biggest in the world? Other than Rand Paul, when is the last time you heard a Republican express concern about the liberty of those incarcerated for victimless crimes? Apparently Republicans are just too busy making yoga pants illegal to be on the forefront of criminal justice reform.
  4. Opposition to gay marriage. Thankfully, this is now close to a dead issue, but why get your knickers in a twist because your gay neighbors want to get married and suffer as much as heterosexual couples? Are Republicans afraid this added feature will attract more gays away from the ranks of straight people? Are Republican men afraid their wives will leave them and marry other women? As a libertarian, I am against government licensing of marriage of consenting adults; for millennia marriages were conducted by private organizations (churches) and would be better for everyone involved if marriage were recognized as the voluntary contract that it is.
  5. Jeb “Big Brother” Bush is on record advocating for a more powerful NSA. Admittedly, the Fourth Amendment, like much of the Constitution, is as effective restraining the government as Chris Christie’s hands are keeping him from pies and cakes, but Republicans (except those whose last name is Paul) have done exactly nothing to protect Americans from the warrantless spying accelerated by the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Surveillance Security.
  6. Because Sarah Palin fetishes are embarrassing. Yes, all politician fetishes are creepy, and that includes those who’ve turned Ronald Reagan into a totem, despite his rather awkward record of spending and borrowing more than Jimmy Carter ever did.
  7. Crony capitalism. Capitalism is empirically unmatched as the most humane method to raise the standard of living for the maximum amount of people everywhere. Unfortunately, capitalism gets a bad name from crony capitalism, its lazy, rent-seeking brother. Example: Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature refuse to privatize the state liquor monopoly unless new mini-monopolies are granted to big box retailers and to the existing mini-monopolist species, the beer distributors. Name one Republican champion of Uber or Lift in the Pennsylvania legislature and I’ll buy you a Guinness.
  8. Liar liar pants on fire Republicans. Congressman Tim Murphy comes to mind, and he is the norm, not the exception. All of these frauds pay lip-service to limited government and balanced budgets, but when is the last time a Republican-led legislature actually made government smaller and less spend-ier?
  9. Immigration. There I said it, the third rail of American politics. Everything Republicans think they know about immigration is demonstrably false. The truth? More people mean more jobs. Immigrants historically are not net tax eaters. If you lose your job to a third world laborer with shitty English skills, maybe that’s nature’s way of telling you to refocus your career goals. And the worry that immigrants are more likely to vote Democrat? Well if you keep being such a douchebag to immigrants, what did you expect?
  10. Republicans and Democrats are as different as burritos and enchiladas, which is why we can blame mountebanks in both parties for the $100 trillion in unfunded mandates from Social Security and Medicare, endless wars, national debt that is too big to be repaid, central banking that tilts wealth toward Wall Street and away from Main Street and the reality that we spend half the week working to pay for a hugely intrusive, inefficient and expensive bureaucracy that regulates 98% of your daily life.

If you were not offended by this post, you either didn’t read the entire thing or you are as bat poop crazy libertarian as I am.

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Bourbon in Denmark. And a Movie Review.

It’s been so long since I’ve posted, it took me six tries to figure out the password. But I’m back now and planning to write more regularly. One can’t annoy the Establishment by staying quiet.

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Earlier this month I visited Denmark, a lovely country containing just one third the land mass and half the population of Pennsylvania. Packed in that micro-nation is a queen (Margrethe II), an entirely different language (Danish) and coins with holes in the middle (the Krone).

I won’t bore you with too many travel details, but a few stand out. As a gift for our hosts, I bought a bottle of my favorite bourbon, Blanton’s, which cost 349 kr (about $49) inclusive of the 25% VAT charged on every consumer item in Denmark. A bottle of Blanton’s at a PLCB store lists for $57.99, plus sales tax (7% in my county), setting you back $62.35.

How is it that a bottle of bourbon made on the other side of Ohio costs $13 more in Pennsylvania than it does shipped across a vast ocean, slapped with a 25% VAT and sold to you by a guy who gets six weeks paid vacation a year? Unless you have been asleep since 1934, that question answers itself. Privatize the LCB, stupid.

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To be fair, it’s not all rainbows and bourbon in Denmark. The car tax is 180%. Not a misprint, sports fans. A $28,000 Subaru would cost a breathtaking $78,400 in Denmark. So not a lot of Yukons rumbling through their veje and motorveje.

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Speaking of cars, we rented a Renault Grand Scenic, an able little wagon that comfortably fit four people and two dogs with fuel efficiency that would make a Prius envious at 64 mpg (diesel). Why I can’t buy one of those online from France and have it delivered to my house without permission from a dozen state and federal agencies is reason #172 why government sucks.

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Movie Review: Speaking of sucks, anyone see The Birdman with Pittsburgh-area native Michael Keaton? I did, on the flight back. Save those two hours and go plant tulips, wash your golf clubs or take a nap. Keaton acted as well as he could have through that disjointed, claustrophobic and depressing script. The good news is that the main character – a schizophrenic, washed-up movie star – commits suicide at the end, so there won’t be a sequel.

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