Oct 18

My Life and Work in the California Fire

My Life in the California Fire

I lived through the northern California fire. I just saw a map of the Tubs Fire. It came a lot closer to me then I had thought — perhaps just too short blocks. I’m going to talk about my experience with the fire. It is light-hearted. But don’t take that to mean that I don’t take the fire very seriously. Over 40 people died. Some people were identified by the serial numbers on their replacement hips. Roughly 3,000 structures were burned to the ground. At least another thousand were partially burned. It was a horrible thing. People were very afraid and for very good reason.

Evacuation From the California Fire

Sunday night I had been smelling a wild fire. I sleep with my window open because I have south-facing Windows and my room tends to get very hot during the day. Then at 3:00 in the morning there was a knock on the door. My neighbor Jodi told me that there was a fire and that people were evacuating. I could see the main street from my doorway and indeed it was bumper to bumper traffic — at 3:00 in the morning.

Then at 3:10 in the morning I got a very loud knock on the door from Charlie, my next door neighbor, telling me that there was now a forced evacuation. I threw on some clothes, grabbed my father, and drove to Coddingtown, the biggest mall in our area. The mall is less than 3 miles away. I walk to it all the time, and it takes me about 50 minutes to get there. It took us longer than that to drive there.

Hanging Out in Coddingtown

We sat in the car and listened to the local news. Most of the local news was not what I consider news. But it reminded me very much of the news coverage of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. They didn’t know anything. There was no new news. And they were going to repeat that over and over again.

The only cool part was at around 5:00 am when the fire got close enough to them that they had to evacuate. I don’t say that because it’s cool that they were In Harm’s Way. It just broke things up. And it was some actual news for a change. And note they were all safe and so was the station. Unfortunately, our local NPR transmitter was completely destroyed. So now I have to listen to the San Francisco feed which is not very good.

Back Home — in Retrospect, Not Too Smart

At around 10:00 in the morning we decided to go back home. I could see on my phone that although we were in the evacuation Zone we were at the very edge of it. If we simply crossed the street we were not in it. So we went home and sat around there. My bed is much more comfortable then a car seat.

The next few days we’re all the same. I spent the days reading books which was nice because I get so little time to do that. And at night I tried to read by flashlight but found it very difficult. I’ve seen this in movies a lot. Maybe it’s just kids who are able to do it. I usually just gave up and slept an excessive amount.

Life Without Internet

If I had taken the money back the gods would surely have cut the electricity again.

My biggest problem was that I was unable to work. We had no electricity; no internet; no gas. It was kind of interesting though. You could drive 5 miles away and everything was just fine. So we ate out a lot. But that would only go so far because if I didn’t get an internet connection soon I wasn’t going to have any money to eat out. My work is entirely dependent upon having an internet connection.

But on Wednesday I had an idea. I called up my friend Barbara who took care of my brother when he was still alive. I asked her if I could rent some space in her home where I could work. She said sure — that I could do it for free. But I was certainly not going to do that. Barbara has a lot more people to care for than I do. She deserve to be paid.

Renting Office Space Outside the California Fire

So Wednesday night I brought my computer and everything else over to her house and set it up. It was great. Thursday morning I made my way over to her place and worked my first day. I was thrilled. Then I went home.

Tribute to the Gods

And then the electricity came back on! That included the internet connection. Thank all the gods!

So I drove back to her place and got my computer and set it up. Barbara tried very hard to give me the money back. But I was sure that was a bad idea. As far as I was concerned the money I had paid was a tribute to the Gods. If I had taken the money back the gods would surely have cut the electricity again.

The Journey’s End

We only got gas back yesterday. Which means that we went for another 4 days without it. And it is impossible to cook anything substantial in my house without gas because the stove is gas.

But I didn’t care because I had electricity and I had internet and I could work. And we were extremely lucky. We could easily have lost our home. The picture above is of the house of my sister-in-law who lives about a mile away from me. It looks like Armageddon. The first couple of days of the fire it looked like Armageddon everywhere. But it’s mostly over. And I hope there will be little more destruction and no more death.

Oct 15

Paul Krugman on Trump Terror

Paul Krugman - CarrierRight now, I’m feeling more terrified than at any point since the 2016 election. Why? It’s time for some game theory! Start with a clear-eyed assessment of Trump’s character: he basically has negative empathy — that is, enjoys seeing others hurt. Normally, however, one would expect him to pretend to care and maybe even do some good things out of ambition and self-aggrandizement.

At this point, however, it’s clear to everyone — probably even him — that he just can’t do this president thing, and won’t get better. The prospect that he will be removed, say by the 25th Amendment, are getting realer by the day. And again, he probably knows this at some level. So we’re getting into the end game. He can’t save his presidency. He can, however, still hurt a lot of people — and he surely wants to.

So from now on, until he’s gone, I’m going to fire up my computer every morning in a state of existential dread.

–Paul Krugman
13 October 2017 Tweet Storm

Oct 07

Just How Expensive Is the Tokay in Dean Spanley

Just How Expensive Is the Tokay in Dean SpanleyI am going to turn off comments on this article. This is because it will eventually be combined with my article, Dean Spanley: Film and Book Comparison. So if you wish to comment on this article, go to that article and comment there. Thanks! (Wondering where your comment went if you got it in before I turned off comments? Read above!) –FM

A big part of the film Dean Spanley is the difficulty that Henslowe Fisk has in acquiring Tokay — and just how expensive it is. When he finds his first bottle, he asks how much it is, and Wrather says to him, as though doing a favor, “Five guineas for you.” Fisk is shocked, “Five guineas?! That’s a bit bloody steep!” Wrather cheekily responds, “These little things were sent to try us, as the man said of the Pygmy judge.”

But Fisk, having no choice pays the five guineas. Now, as an American, I don’t know much about British currency. So I had no idea what they were talking about. What is a guinea? Is it like a pound? And just how much does five guineas represent.

How Much Would I Pay?

The more I thought about it, the more I approached the problem internally. How much money would make me react that way? I figured it couldn’t be as little as a couple hundred dollars. That’s a lot of money for a bottle of wine. But he’s got to understand that this isn’t going to be cheap. He’s only talking to Wrather because literally no one else has it for sale at any cost. So if I were in his situation, I would gladly pay several hundred bucks.

On the other hand, if it were $10,000, it would be a deal-breaker. At that price, I would simply go to the Dean and tell him I had heard from my source and that he wasn’t able to get me the Tokay. Given that the Dean was only going because of the Tokay, I’m sure he would respond with something like, “It is all for the best because I just found out I need to have dinner that night with the Bishop.” And that would be that.

As a result, I figured it had to be in the range of $1,000. Maybe it was just a bit less, or twice as much, but it had to be in that range. That is the amount of money I would pay to both do something I really wanted to and to save face. Given that Fisk and I are both roughly as rich as each other (at least until his father dies), I figure this would apply to Fisk as well as it does to me.

What Is a Guinea?

British currency — like most of its units of measure — is a mess. As All About Romance has noted, “The monetary system of Great Britain can be very confusing to the average American reader, especially since the system until fairly recently, was not a decimal one.” For an example, I wrote an article called Numeracy in Shakespeare in Love. I noted there that there were 240 Pennies in a Pound. Who but the British would come up with a system like that?

Well, a Guinea is worth one Pound and one Shilling. There were 20 Shillings in a Pound, so a Guinea is worth 1.05 Pounds. In other words, it really is a useless unit of measure. But there you have it. I’m only throwing it in for completeness, but for most purposes, a Guinea’s as good as a pound.

The Guinea Over Time

Concertina has a great webpage to help us answer this question, Calculate Modern Values of Historic Concertina Prices. It allows you to enter a year from 1830 through 2000 with an amount in Pounds, Shillings, and Pence. Then it spits back its year 2000 value in Pounds and decimal Pence.

Before we can use the calculator, however, we have to date the film. The book was published in 1936. But that doesn’t help us all that much. For one thing, the movie and book are quite different. And the Second Boer War plays a major role in the movie. It ended in 1902. Given that Jeremy Northam (who played Fisk) was only 47 at the time of the film, he would have been 13 at the end of the war and so his younger brother would not have been in it.

Overall, the feel of the film is that it exists in that time between the Boer War and World War I. For one thing, cars are brand new. The one in the film has a single headlight, and looks more typical of cars around 1910. This is certainly not the 1930s. But since the younger brother’s death seems to be something in the distant past, I will place it right before World War I: 1914.

5 Guineas in 1914

Assuming this, the calculator finds 5 1914 Guineas to be worth £1,385.11. That’s in the year 2000. According to Macro Trends, the exchange rate at that time was 1.65. In the year 2008 (when the film was made), the exchange rate was 1.98. So we can set the value to £1,662.13.

That gives us rather a larger number in dollars: $3,291.02. But it’s important to note that the exchange rate jumps around quite a lot. The rate is 1.31 right now, which brings the number to $1,814.49.

Conclusion

Although my gut feeling seems to have been a bit on the low side — about half what the Tokay actually cost, it was definitely in the ball park. It shows how well you can do with these kinds of calculations. And I, at least, think it’s pretty fun to play around with this kind of thing.

If you haven’t seen Dean Spanley, you really owe it to yourself to see it. It is filmmaking at its finest. It isn’t psychotronic at all. It’s just a good film, made for adults. If your parents are still alive, it’s a nice one to share with them.

Sep 29

Math: When You Need to Feel Superior

Math: When You Need to Feel Superior

From as long as I can remember, I’ve been good at math. It was just fun. The same way that Jerry West practiced basketball late into the night, I was the same way about math. Probably as a result, I’ve always hated math used as a substitute for intelligence. And it was in that context that I came upon the image above.

It was for something like joining Mensa or buying some “brain training” course of something. But I like a good math puzzle as much as anyone. So I figured I would solve it. It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here, and it is as good an excuse as anything.

The thing about it is that it isn’t much of a puzzle. It’s just a math problem. And it takes zero creativity. All you need is to have taken a basic algebra course taught by a reasonably competent teacher. And you must have taken the course seriously enough to learn the material.

That shouldn’t have been hard because math actually is loads of fun. But the fact that someone would use it to construct such a simple, uninspiring problem does sum up everything that makes most people hate math. But without further ado, I guess I will get to it.

Why Someone Thought It Was Interesting

The two equations look similar. It’s just that one is with x and the other with x2. And so it looks like there ought to be some clever trick that allows the problem to simply pop out.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. A mathematician better than I might see something brilliant. But I don’t. There are lots of ways to approach the problem, but they all end in a slog.

Solving the Equations

Sadly, this is a brute force problem. The first equation is just a quadratic that can be solved all by itself, admittedly, with two solutions.

We just multiply both sides of the equation by x, and end up with the following equation:

x2 + x – 5 = 0

Oh, how I do wish this were more interesting. There are a bunch of ways to solve this, one way or another, you get that the two values of x are:

x = (5 ± 21½)/2

If we choose the “plus” case, then x = 4.79. If we choose the “minus” case, then x = 0.209. And through the wonders of mathematics, if you put these two numbers into the second equation, you will get that:

x2 + 1/x2 = 23

Now an actual mathematical question is why this is so. What we just did was plug numbers into equations. This is a good example of why most people hate math.

Even worse is that some dimrod thought that solving this question indicated any kind of intelligence or, even worse, intellectual creativity.

But trust me: this is the kind of nonsense that your children are being taught in school. This is why the American Empire won’t last the century.

Sep 21

Hillary Clinton and the Conservative Book Club

Hillary ClintonMatt Yglesias wrote a great article and Matt Bruenig followed up on it. The bottom line of it is that Donald Trump became president because Hillary Clinton was unpopular. There are some striking facts to chew on, like that Donald Trump won a smaller proportion of whites than Mitt Romney.

Long History of Clinton Hate

I know this from my personal experience. My father voted for Donald Trump. This is despite the fact that he was not going to vote for Donald Trump after reading David Cay Johnston book on Trump. But in the end he voted for Trump because he hate Hillary Clinton.

I’m not saying that his hatred of Hillary Clinton was right. The truth of the matter is that conservatives via the conservative book club and right-wing hate radio and Fox News have turned Hillary Clinton into some kind of evil figure.

If you have any questions about this I highly recommend that you read David Brock’s book Blinded By the Right. It explains all of this. But the truth is that a great section of America simply didn’t trust Hillary Clinton. And it had nothing to do with her or what she had done. But that’s politics, right? It isn’t fair.

The Smart Democrats

Sad to say, the Democratic Party should have known not to run Hillary Clinton. But Hillary Clinton was extremely liked by most of the people in the party. I am an extremist. In a parliamentary system, I would definitely not be a Democrat. And yet I like Hillary Clinton very much. There is no question in my mind that she would have made a great president.

But she was the nominee because those in power in the Democratic party wanted her to be. They were her friends. If they had been objective they never would have allowed her to be the candidate. But they weren’t rational. They liked her just as most Democrats like myself like her.

Lost Opportunity

And this is yet another lost opportunity for the Democratic party. As I have noted many times, in 2008 the Democrats were in the perfect position to nominate a real liberal, but instead we nominated a moderate. In 2016, we could have nominated a socialist (a real one — not Bernie Sanders) but again, we nominated a moderate. The big problem this time is that we didn’t even win.

As Matt Bruenig noted, “If you had replaced [Clinton] with almost anyone else, they would have beaten Donald Trump. Bernie would have won. O’Malley would have won. And Barack Obama would have dominated in an absolute landslide.” This is, of course, assuming that the Democratic Party establishment hadn’t sabotaged any other campaign. But as we saw with the Labour Party in the UK, the establishment only has so much power.

Conservative Book Club and the 1990s

One thing is clear: Donald Trump won the election in the 1990s. He won via the sustained attack on Clinton as a new and dangerous kind of woman — a feminazi — a woman who didn’t think her place was staying at home baking cookies. And in addition to the things Clinton actually was, there were all the ridiculous stories made up about her like the murder of Vince Foster.

But ultimately, it is our fault — Democrats. It’s not that I didn’t know there was this weird belief that there was something wrong with Clinton. In the minds of many Americans, she represents everything that was scary about the 1960s. Donald Trump might be a racist sexual predator, but that’s something Americans are all very familiar with.

Should we have known? All I can say is that the thought occurred to me several times. But the polling and Trump’s vileness made me push it to the background. I shouldn’t have.

Sep 14

Nixon: Despair

Nixon: Despair

Sep 13

Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders? Really?!

Hillary ClintonI’ve really been trying to avoid this whole battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Well, I say battle. It’s actually just Clinton’s battle. Sanders isn’t taking part of it. But hey: she lost. I understand how that must be hard and how she would want to write an apologia. What I don’t understand is why she thinks it makes any sense to attack Sanders. But given what I’ve heard from Clinton supporters, I’m not surprised by it.

This morning, Clinton was on The View and she said something that made me angry. She said that after she lost the primary in 2008, she endorsed Obama and worked hard for him. “But I didn’t get that respect from [Sanders] and his supporters.”

Well, the fact that she had to work so hard to get her supporters to vote for Obama shows that Obama didn’t get that respect from her supporters either. But here’s the thing: I was paying close attention to the 2016 primary. And after Sanders lost, I remember him giving Clinton a lot of support. And in the end, as many Sanders supporters voted for Clinton as Clinton supporters voted for Obama.

Hillary Clinton Is Confused

Bernie SandersI think that Clinton is confused. You see: Clinton and her supporters wanted Sanders to drop out of the race is February. It was back in April of 2016 that the Clinton camp was so upset that Sanders wasn’t supporting her. Was Clinton supporting Obama in April of 2008? Of course not!

Now, it’s true that the Obama-Clinton race was much closer than the Clinton-Sanders race. I called the race in February 2016. But I don’t blame Sanders for not seeing it the same way. My position was largely based on the fact that the Democratic establishment was determined to have Clinton as their nominee, and nothing other than a clear win by Sanders would change that.

Sanders Was a Good Surrogate

Once Sanders lost the primary, he was quite a good surrogate for her. And I find it petty that Hillary Clinton is now going around complaining that Sanders wasn’t a good enough surrogate for her. What incentive do future primary losers have to play ball when they get such treatment.

But it looks like this treatment happened long before now. As Slate reported, “Bernie Sanders surrogates who extended an olive branch to Hillary Clinton’s staff after the primary and were met with, at best, closed ears and, at worst, mockery.”

My biggest concern about Bernie Sanders winning the primary was always that the Democratic Party establishment would be more interested in tanking his campaign than in winning the election. You can look at George McGovern in this country or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. In the petty world of politics, the only things worse than your stated enemy are the people in your own party who don’t quite agree with you. Let’s call it the People’s Front of Judea theory of politics: the Republicans may be awful, but not as awful as people who disagree with you about how to provide universal healthcare.

The “Bernie Isn’t a Democrat” Canard

In addition to Bernie Sanders supposedly not supporting Hillary Clinton during the general election, I was treated to one of my most hated complaints: Bernie Sanders isn’t even a Democrat. Look: I wish Sanders would just join the Democratic Party. I’m not keen on this purity nonsense. The truth is that he is a Democrat in every way that matters.

I’m a Democrat. And I’m actually a lot further from the party ideologically than Sanders is. Sanders is a Democrat in the FDR sense of the word. I’m not. But in the US, we have a two party system. Neither Sanders nor I are Republicans; so we are Democrats.

But this idea that Sanders — who is hugely popular among Democrats — isn’t a real Democratic and so shouldn’t be taken seriously is just nonsense.

Are We a Party or Not?

I voted proudly for Bernie Sanders in the primary. And I voted proudly for Hillary Clinton in the general election. But Clinton is really disappointing me with her book tour. The truth is that the future of the Democratic Party is with Sanders, not Clinton. But she’s smart. And she should see that that part of the reason she lost the election was that everyone could see that she was working too hard to thread the needle.

One reason I was proud to vote for Hillary Clinton was that I knew she was real liberal. She was the person in the Bill Clinton White House who was constantly causing problems. If she had run as that authentic liberal, she might be president now. Regardless, that was a bigger problem than that Bernie Sanders didn’t support her enough in the general election.

Hillary Clinton Is Harming Her Image

Complaining about Bernie Sanders just makes her look small. And for those Democrats who can’t see that Democratic voters like Sanders and can’t see why, they’re lost. They need to spend some time thinking about that. Because the problem is not with the majority of Democratic voters who like Sanders. It is with you.

Sep 09

DACA and the Republican Destruction of Norms

DACA and the Republican Destruction of NormsWhen DACA was first put into effect, my immediate thought was what would happen if the Republicans went and shut the whole thing down. Now it has happened. And all these kids have given all of the information to the government. Will the information be given to ICE so that they can all be picked up easily?

The word is that it isn’t. But I don’t believe that. Sure, the government hasn’t given ICE all the information yet. But just give it time. Let a terrorist attack happen that was committed by an unauthorized immigrant and see how quickly that all changes.

DACA Is Just Another Norm Set for Destruction

When DACA was first passed, there was an unstated assumption. This kind of thing in government is not supposed to be partisan. Things aren’t supposed to change that much from administration to administration — even when parties change. This is somewhat similar to the way that nations are responsible for the spending of previous despots.

But now what I originally feared is coming to fruition. The only question is how bad it will be. And now quickly it will happen.

The State of DACA Repeal

President Donald TrumpThe whole DACA situation has been very annoying to me. It all started last week with a discussion with my father. He assured me that Donald Trump would not repeal DACA. For all of my father’s negative political beliefs, he is very pro-immigrant, given that he is the son of immigrants.

When Trump did do DACA repeal, my father went ballistic. But then a good 10 minutes of Fox News viewing and he saw things entirely from Trump’s stated position. It was all about process. Trump didn’t want to hurt close to a million young people. He just wanted it done by Congress. Thus, the Congress would have to pass a law. And of course they will. That didn’t mean much coming from the man who said of course Trump wouldn’t repeal DACA.

DACA Has to Go Because of “Process”

This is the typical excuse that all politicians and those who favor their policies use when they do something that is both cruel and unpopular. Supposedly, Trump didn’t want to screw over these kids. But he had to, you see, because Obama use the wrong procedure.

But suppose that if Trump really did think that DACA needed to be on a more stable political grounding. He could have let it continue to make its way through the counts. But he didn’t do that, because he doesn’t care about process. He knows his political support is based on white resentment. He killed DACA because it hurt Latinos and his base hates Latinos. So he talks about process so that ABC News doesn’t report on him as the monster he is. And his supporters know that he is the monster he is.

Republicans Don’t Care About Norms

Given that Republicans will do anything they want without thought of precedence or anything else. And given that they can always find a justification for it that will be accepted by the mainstream media, what are we to do? Should Obama have simply let the Dreamers languish in their uncertain legal status?

What is clear is that the Republicans cannot be trusted about anything. If they can do something they will. They have no commitment to normal political order. And this is why the Republicans must be destroyed as a political concern. As much as I dislike much of the democratic party, at least it is a normal political party. The Republicans are a pox on our nation. And we cannot continue on as a stable nation if the Republicans continue to wield any kind of power.

Sep 08

North Korea and Just How Generous the US Is

North Korea and Just How Generous the US IsThis weekend I was at a family gathering. And I overheard two older people — great-grandparents —
discussing foreign aid. One of them noted that it was one thing they agreed with Trump about.

As nicely as I could, I pointed out that our total expenditure on foreign aid was about 1% of our federal budget. I could see that the information was resisted. They just didn’t want to believe it. They just “know” that we spend an enormous amount of money on foreign aid.

It’s odd. But I think it goes along with the idea that Americans have — especially Americans of that generation — that we are an extremely generous people. Is doubtless comes from the Marshall Plan. Of course, given how little Word War II touched us, it was the least we could do. But we did do a lot. It’s just that we don’t anymore.

We Spend a Lot on Our Military

We are, in fact, a fairly miserly country. If you compare the amount of foreign aid that we give out to what other countries give out, we look very bad. Where we spend a lot of money is on our military.

We have bases all over the world. This undoubtedly is what a lot of people think of as foreign aid. But it isn’t that at all. It is the outward manifestation of American Empire. We have those military bases to protect our interests, not to protect the interest of those people who often don’t want our bases anyway.

Aid and Nuclear War for North Korea

But shortly after the family get-together, I learned why the subject even came up. Trump is complaining that we give money to North Korea. “The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” It is a tiny amount of money. Over the course of 15 years, it has averaged $85 million per year. But as we know, the amounts don’t much matter.

The truth of the matter is almost all of the people in North Korea are effectively prisoners. The aid we give North Korea is for food for these people. Anything we could do to help those poor people would be a good thing. It is certainly something that anyone who calls themselves Christian should do.

Instead, I see a lot of conservatives thinking we should just nuke North Korea. They tend to forget that this would cause a nuclear war with China. But apart from that, who would be hurt by our attacking North Korea? All of these innocent people. We would kill them in the most horrible way imaginable.

How Generous Is the US?

But what about the aid? Just how generous is the US?

Let’s look at how much money we give to other countries and how much money other countries give out. It isn’t pretty. If you look at the total amount that we give as a percentage of our total economy, we give roughly 0.16 percent. The United Nations says that advanced economies should give at least 0.7 percent. Many counties do give around this amount — and more. Sweden — the top country in this regard — give 1.4 percent. But even the tenth most generous country — Switzerland — gives 0.52 percent. We give less than a quarter of what we ought to.

Americans live in a fantasy land where we are noble and generous. But this has no real relationship with reality. And this is why people like my old relatives think that we give so much money in foreign aid. But it is time to give up childish beliefs. Maybe if we accepted the fact that we aren’t generous, we would become generous. But we never will be if we just assume we are.

Sep 04

Libertarianism and Labor Day

Libertarians and Labor DayWhat most annoys me about Libertarians — and free market purist of all varieties — is that they see the only potential liberty killing force as being the government. Or if they don’t believe that they believe that it is only the government that we should be fighting against.

This seems to come from the idea that they can’t stop businesses from doing what they want because that would limit the individual liberty of the business owner. And they are unwilling to make any judgments to maximize liberty. Even if a law would greatly increase the liberty of workers and only decrease the liberty of employers by a tiny amount, it can’t be done. This is largely because libertarians don’t see in terms of trade-offs, and they don’t even know they are making a trade-off.

The result of this is that their philosophy comes down to support for oligarchy. Since they start with business owners’ rights as undeniable, workers always get screwed. And this is why for example Libertarians almost to a person are in favor of Right to Work laws, even though they are clearly liberty killing on the part of the workers and employers. Libertarians just don’t like workers. It is simple as that.

What Limits Your Liberty?

If you vote for a libertarian what you end up getting is a politician who is against all of the good things that the government does. But they are all for continuing the gravy train for the rich.

But think about your life. Do you find it is the government that destroys your liberty? Unless you have spent a lot of time in jail, the answer is almost certainly no. The single biggest thing that gets in the way of your liberty is your boss.

Libertarianism might not be so bad if we still had a rural economy where almost everyone was a self-employed farmer. But today almost no one has any choice but to get a job working for someone else. And depending upon their boss, they are living in tyranny.

I stress the fact that workers had no choice because Libertarians always throw this idea up. To them everyone has endless choices. This may come from the fact that most libertarians are themselves from affluent or at least upwardly-mobile families themselves. But the truth is that people have at most an alternative not a choice. And most people don’t even have an alternative.

Libertarianism Just Helps the Rich

So libertarianism is a useless philosophy. All it stands for is bashing the government and allowing in the rich to do whatever they want. And I will fully admit that governments are often a huge problem. But in the United States it is not. The government is a problem mostly to the extent that it acts as a protector of the rich. Thus it isn’t surprising that the rich tend to be libertarians. In the United States it’s quite a deal. You have a government that supports the powerful and here is this supposedly scruffy political philosophy that wants to destroy the government.

This goes back to something I noticed many years ago and is probably the biggest reason why I stopped being a libertarian. If you vote for a libertarian what you end up getting is a politician who is against all of the good things that the government does like helping the poor, providing healthcare, providing for retirement, and so on. But they are all for continuing the gravy train for the rich.

Now it is true that if you talk to libertarians, they will usually tell you how they don’t believe in all this crony capitalism. But there are two important issues here. One is that in practice this is the way libertarians always act when elected. And the other is if you look at the libertarians themselves and how their default position is pro-business and anti-worker, you will see that it’s no accident that in practice libertarian philosophy always comes down to the worst form of conservatism.

Libertarianism Is Anti-Worker

What workers need to know is that libertarianism is not their friend. Even if it says some nice things about workers and rights it is dead set against them. It believes that if you aren’t a business owner you are just a taker and you should be glad that some great Job Creator is there to give you a job.

When you get down to it, libertarianism is the worst political theory that gets any kind of a fair hearing in our society. It is quite amazing that libertarianism hasn’t been soiled the same way that communism and fascism have been. But I believe this is only because a major country has not explicitly called itself libertarian. The truth is that Pinochet’s Chile was a libertarian system of government. Of course libertarians will never admit this.

Libertarians Will Not Accept Its Practical Results

Libertarianism only exists as a platonic ideal in the minds of its adherents. When it exists in practice it simply reduces to the worst kind of conservatism: absolute law of the jungle capitalism for the poor and crony capitalism for the rich. But this is never the fault of libertarianism. This is because libertarianism is a cult. It can never fail; it can only ever be failed.

Thus I get incredibly tired of even talking to libertarians because they aren’t willing to talk about the real world. They are stuck in their minds. But even on that level they are no friend of the workers. Remember that. If you work for a living, libertarians hate you.

Happy Labor Day!

Afterword

On this Labor Day, you should really read Elizabeth Anderson excellent article How Bosses Are (Literally) Like Dictators. I read it right after writing this article, and I was pleased that she said much of what I had. But she goes into a lot more depth overall. What’s more, she talks about how all the great free market (libertarian) writers were talking about a totally different economic environment, and how the Industrial Revolution made what they were talking about irrelevant. I highly recommend reading it. I’m going to get her book, Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It).

Aug 31

Check Out My Elvira Page on Psychotronic Review

This is just a temporary page. I’ve been watching a lot of Elvira recently. So I created a page for her. Check it out: Elvira Movies.

See you tomorrow!

Update

I’ve added more to the article. I added a section on the television pilot she created. The video of it is there. It isn’t great, but well worth checking out.

It was 109°F today. And even as I write this at 8:00 pm, it is still 95°F. It’s hard to get any work done when it is like this. That’s especially true in my work/bed room that has two large south-facing windows. It is now exactly the same temperature as it is outside. I’m hoping that things get better by 10:00 pm.

Aug 30

Conservatives Now and in 1865

Conservatives Now and in 1865Jonathan Chait wrote a very good article yesterday, Republicans Confuse the Electoral College With “the American People.” For me, it highlights the fact that conservatives never change. In it, he talks about an article in The Federalist by Josiah Peterson, No, Jesse Jackson, the Electoral College Isn’t Racist. Forget for now the fact that Jackson never said that the electoral college was racist. Let’s just look at Peterson as a fine example of a conservative thinker.

In the article he claims that the Three-Fifths Clause of the US Constitution was intended to give Southern States less power. I’ve heard this argument from conservatives many times in the past. But it turns reality upside down.

The truth is that slave owners treated slaves as property. They weren’t some kind of special property that had rights. They were literally seen the same way that an ox or a cart were seen. So the idea of giving southern states political representation for slaves is the same as giving them political representation for the number of horses they had. These states wanted slaves to be property when it suited them and not property when it suited them.

The slave states insisted upon the Three-Fifths Clause in order to allow the Constitution to be ratified. But there was never any justification for it other than conservatives whining and wanting special rules for themselves.

Special Rules for Conservatives After the Civil War

You may remember that towards the end of the Civil War, when it was clear they had lost the war, the South wanted to give up. But they wanted to be able to keep their slaves. In other words, they wanted the right to wage a civil war so that they could have their own country free to treat human beings as slaves. And then when they failed at that, they wanted things to go back to exactly the way that they were — to pretend that they hadn’t started a war. (Note: they pretty much got that anyway with the help of President Andrew Johnson and other like-minded racists.)

This is entirely typical of conservatives today. They want special rules. It’s interesting to look at the electoral college system. Because conservatives used to be against it. But now that they have won two presidential elections where they lost the popular vote, they think that it is absolutely essential that we keep it.

Conservatives Want It All

I’ve often noted that conservatives only care about power. This is why they destroy norms any time things do not go the way they want them to. If they are legally allowed to do something, they will do it. (Note that this is the way that corporations deal with taxes. If the tax code allows them to write off $500 for something, they will always write off $500 for it. An individual will generally write off quite a bit less. That’s because individuals have some sense of shame — at least the non-psychotic ones do.)

This belief in power only really comes down to this idea that there are special rules for them. They have no sense of community. Think of Margaret Thatcher and her idea that society didn’t actually exist. All that matters is them and their desires. And if the society has to be destroyed because of that, so be it.

We saw this when conservatives owned people, and we see it today. And if there were suddenly a repeal of the 13th Amendment, conservatives would have no problem owning people today.

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