Recycled Genius

Recycle"He also got visited by some of the most powerful men in the Church's hierarchy.

"Not, of course, the six Archpriests or the Cenobiarch himself. They weren't that important. They were merely at the top. The people who really run organizations are usually found several levels down, where it's still possible to get things done."

—Terry Pratchett
Small Gods

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How Betting Lines Work — Super Bowl Example

Betting LinesIf you are like me, you are not watching the Super Bowl. If you are like me, you are only vaguely aware of it. I had to be reminded yesterday at 4:00 that it was even happening. And it was only today that I learned that it is taking place here in the Bay Area. It's not that I don't follow the news. But when talk turns to sports — most especially football — I just tune out. But I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about how betting lines work.

This all started because I was talking to Will and he told me that 70% of the action was supposedly on the Panthers. I already knew that the line was Panthers -6. That's a points line and it means that if you bet on the Panthers, they need to win by more than 6 points. That also means that if you bet on the Broncos, you get 6 extra points. So if they lose by only 5 points, you would win your bet. But when Will told me about all the action on the Panthers, I asked what the line was originally. He told me: Panthers -6. That didn't make any sense.

When betting lines first come out, they are based upon the work of sports nerds: analysts who crunch numbers to determine how the teams will perform against each other. It will probably not surprise you, given my colorful life, that I used to be one of those guys. (I didn't do it for sports books, of course; I wrote commercial software that did these kinds of calculations for sports bettors.) So that's fine. But betting lines don't stay where they start. They move based upon how the betting is going.

The thing that non-betting people don't understand (and I assume that describes most Frankly Curious readers) is that the sports books are not at all interested in who wins. When you bet, there is a vigorish or "vig." That means you bet a dollar, but if you win, you are paid something less, like 90¢. That would be a 10% vig. That's all the books care about. So they want to have as much money bet on one team as is bet on the other. That's what the betting lines are all about. Then the books pay the winners with the losers' money, and keep the vig. It's a simple and beautiful system.

Why Betting Lines Move

The initial lines that the sports nerds come up with are not always right. But even if they are, it isn't a question of how the teams stack up; it is a question of how the bettors think they stack up. So if there is too much money bet on one team, the sports book will move the line in the opposite direction. This is why I asked Will what the starting line was. If 70% of the action was on the Panthers, then the line should have gone up — to Panthers -6.5 or higher still — whatever it took to equalize the amounts bet.

Given that the betting lines didn't move except maybe at some small books, I have to assume that the 70% number has to do with the number of bets. The books don't care about that. They aren't going to change the betting lines over that. What must be happening is that the little bettors are going strong for the Panthers and that the bigger bettors are going for the Broncos. (This doesn't mean they think the Broncos will win, of course; just that they won't lose by more than 6.) But if I were a betting man (And I'm not!) I would go with the Broncos, just because I have more confidence in people who are putting big money on the game.

Of course, I don't know that this is what's going on. Maybe the big money is on the Panthers, it is just that there is a lot of medium money on Broncos. As I understand it, there are a lot of middle class white folk who don't like that uppity colored quarterback. And with that, I have gotten as close to the Super Bowl as I care to get.

Update (7 February 2016 3:36 pm)

I just got email from Will that the line actually did start at Panthers -3. So there has been excessive money bet on the Panthers to move the line to -6. I'm not going to change any of the above, because it is all still valid for discussion's sake. The fact that the line did move, however, greatly complicates how the books have to manage their bets. This is why they hire really smart people, hoping to get it right to start.

Update (7 February 2016 3:43 pm)

That makes my "middle class white racist" theory invalid.


Filed under Science & Data, Sports and Games

Hale Stewart Should Stop Writing About Economics

Hale StewartAs most of you know, I have a PhD in physics. And I know a lot of stuff about arcane topics. But I did not major in economics. I didn't even minor in economics. I just took one stupid course! I really enjoyed it. The subject was fascinating and I had a great teacher. Still, I write about economics. But I probably shouldn't. After all, according to Hale Stewart, "Econ isn't something you can teach yourself."

If this is the case, why should anyone read about economics from writers like, oh, I don't know, Hale Stewart? I mean, if econ isn't something you can teach yourself, what is the point? If a stack of good books on the subject isn't going to help you, how are some articles at Business Insider written by lawyer?

It amazes me how elites can be so cavalier about what's going on with less educated workers. But it is hardly new. The argument that Stewart is implicitly making is the skills gap: these people just don't have the skills for the modern economy!

This is all a response to an article at The Bonddad Blog, where Hale Stewart recently wrote, Ed Morrissey Should Really Stop Writing About Economics. According to him, having some kind of formal education is very important. (For the record, my self-study of physics before I became a formal student was probably the best part of my education. But that's just physics, not a real subject like economics!)

Don't get me wrong, I'm with Hale Stewart: Ed Morrissey really should stop writing about economics. But Stewart's argument is elitist nonsense. I would have let it go if it hadn't been for the second part of his article.

Hale Stewart Should Stop Writing About Labor Force Participation

Stewart complained that Morrissey is constantly talking about labor force participation. This is a very interesting issue. You see, since about 2000, the fraction of people in the labor force (employed or seeking employment) has dropped — precipitously. And that has many people concerned. Stewart does a good job of going over the demographic factors that explain most of this: retiring baby boomers and fewer students working. But that still leaves us with a problem.

If we look at prime age workers (people between the ages of 25 to 54), these demographic factors don't apply. And Hale Stewart grudgingly admits, "There is a percentage of people ages 24-54 (the prime working age) that have left the labor force." That's actually a highly deceptive statement. It implies that there is 1% or one percentage point. Instead, if we look at civilian employment, it is well over two percentage points since the financial crisis, and well over three since the high tech boom of the late 1990s.

But not to worry! Hale Stewart wipes that all a way with a wave of his callous and elitist hand:

Most of them are people with a high school or less educational level who used to work in blue collar industries who have been left behind due to globalization and automation.

Oh, well! Why didn't he just say that to start with! There's a reason these people are unemployed, so we can just abandon these people. But there's one little problem with this theory. Globalization didn't suddenly get worse after the financial crisis. There are very real reasons for not being impressed with the current economy, as discussed by Kevin Cashman, Prime-Age Workers Left the Labor Force During the Recession And the Recovery.

It amazes me how elites like Hale Stewart can be so cavalier about what's going on with less educated workers. But it is hardly new. The argument that Stewart is implicitly making is the skills gap: these people just don't have the skills for the modern economy! That's an easy argument to make when you don't hang out with those blue collar workers who are having a rough time of it.

I would prefer that Ed Morrissey go away too. He's a hack, as I discussed in, Conservatives Will Never Get Over Obamacare. But his problem is not that he didn't minor in economics. And on the labor force participation rate, he's right. The big problem with him is that if there were a Republican in the White House, he wouldn't be making this argument. Instead, he'd be making Hale Stewart's argument: low skilled workers are out of a job; so what?!


Filed under Politics

Morning Music: Les Six and Francis Poulenc

Francis PoulencLet's make a big change for the Morning Music posts this week. Probably my favorite period of classical music (and I'm sure you can find places where I've said differently) is that wonderful period in France around 1920. It's the generation that was building on Debussy and Ravel. It's a sweet spot when music was coming off the rails but hadn't quite — when the music was exotic yet hummable. Most of all, it was a period when music was still fairly integrated. What really marks postmodern art of all kinds is that it has shattered into a million pieces. And that's great in its way; but it's also nice to have continuity. Thus, this week, we will be listening to Les Six.

Les Six was a group of six French composers: Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, and Germaine Tailleferre. One thing that's interesting about them, however, is that there were in a technical sense, all very different. But what binds them together is the overall feel of the music. They represent sort of what the Classic period was in relation to the late Baroque. As much as I love Debussey and Ravel, it had gotten a little out of hand. Particularly with Ravel, most of the time it is hard to make out what one might consider a melody. (The Boléro is totally unlike anything else Ravel ever did.)

Francis Poulenc

Today, we are going to feature Francis Poulenc. As always, I would like to go with the Flute Sonata, which he wrote for Jean-Pierre Rampal, and which the two performed for the first time together. I recommend listening to the version by Jean-Pierre Rampal and Robert Veyron-Lacroix. It's still the best after all these years, although there are other version I admire.

So we are going to listen to some extracts from a ballet that he wrote in 1923, Les Biches. Francis Poulenc was a protégé of Erik Satie. And you can really hear it in Poulenc's early work. But by Les Biches, the influences are quite a bit more diverse. And this is a wonderful example of his range.

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Anniversary Post: Pluto Gets Closer Than Neptune

PlutoOn this day, and for the first time since they were discovered, Pluto slipped inside the orbit of Neptune. It stayed closer to the sun until 11 February 1999. But you might wonder, given that Pluto is such a puny object compared to Neptune (or even the Earth), why the larger planet hasn't "cleared" it (basically: crashed into it). Well, there are a few reasons for that.

Right now, it would be impossible for Pluto to crash into Neptune because the dwarf planet orbits in a plane that is at quite an angle from that of the other planets — including Neptune. And when it is at the same axial distance to the sun as Neptune, it is way off the plane. And I do mean way off the plane: along the axis of the solar system, it gets as far as 8 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun (AU).

Pluto OrbitBut that wouldn't save Pluto forever. Orbits precess (this explains part of the Earth's ice age cycle). So there have been and will be times again when it will be on the plane at the right time. But again, Pluto is not in danger. Obviously, if it were in danger, Neptune would have long ago swallowed it up and we never would have had to have this argument about whether Pluto is a planet or not.

The two planets are in a 2-to-3 orbital resonance. This means that for every two times Neptune goes around the sun, Pluto goes around it three times. And they end up right back where they started. This sounds amazing, but there are lots of examples of this kind of thing in our solar system. Thus, they will not run into each other, because their precessions are locked together.

But Pluto Is Doomed Anyway!

Pluto is so small and so far away from the sun that it is chaotic. I mean that in a strict mathematical sense. Models of its future are highly constrained because very minor perturbations can have huge nonlinear effects on its orbit. But thus far, it really is the little planet that could. It has defied the odds and maintained its independence — to a large extent due to its having a powerful friend in Neptune. But it's okay that Pluto is doom because so is everything. And it is going to last a whole lot longer than humanity.


Filed under Anniversaries, Science & Data

Conservative Emails Everyone She Knows!

Conservatives, Zombies, WhateverDo you get this? Conservatives you know put you on their mailing list and send you out every ridiculous thing that comes along? Today I got, "Bernie Sanders, the Bum Who Wants Your Money" — by those bastions of elite thought, the editors at Investor's Business Daily. It came with the headline, "MUST READ scoop on Bernie...." It's not what you are probably thinking: an article about how his policies would result in more wealth redistribution. No. It's an attack on Sanders' character, talking about how he didn't get a "steady paycheck" until he was 40 — and you know what that was: a government paycheck! (For the record: Sanders, like many people in the years after college, had many jobs; that's what they mean by him not having a "steady paycheck.")

But I'm not here to respond to the article. It is idiotic — that why I'm not even linking to it. But I got the link from someone I'm in business with — a once hippy, now Tea Party Republican who is addicted to hate radio. She is convinced (despite the fact that he has less than a year left in office) that Obama is going to start a race war. Blah, blah, blah. As I've said many times: I don't mind if you disagree with me, but please don't bore me to death by repeating the same talking points I hear everywhere.

Interestingly enough, the word "pravda" ("Правда") means "true" or "the truth." And that is what the conservative media echo chamber has brought us: a bunch of propagandized ignoramuses who are certain that they know The Truth™.

It's particularly bad because we have a professional relationship. She sends the email out through her business website address. It's the same address she sends out announcements about conferences and other business related material. And given her business, I assume most of the people on the list are liberal like me. She certainly knows that I'm at least a liberal. Yet I constantly get my mail box filled with this kind of garbage — much of it conspiracy oriented.

Conservatives Are Attacking!

This is not the only such person in my life. It's always the same: it's always conservatives. I don't have liberals constantly forwarding stuff to me. And you would think I would! After all, I write about it. But these conservatives are not sending stuff out to me; they are sending it out to everyone they know! That's the main thing: liberals don't seem to be in the habit of creating mailing lists and then thinking that their divisive opinions are something all the world needs to know about.

I think it shows the distinct immaturity of the conservative mind. I've especially run into this with libertarians, who believe that if I just read this one thing and had this one thought experiment, I would be a convert! What these people find, usually very starkly, is that I've thought about the issue in much greater depth than they have. Conservatives make the mistake of thinking that liberalism has no intellectual basis because most liberals aren't intellectuals. That is, in fact, true. Most liberals I know have not thought through liberal policy very deeply. However, as Matt Bruenig has pointed out, just because most liberals are mistaken about why the minimum wage is a good idea, does not mean they are wrong about the fact that it is a good idea.

I believe the reason there are so many conservatives around forwarding all of this nonsense is because of hate radio and the related conservative infrastructure. People listen to Rush Limbaugh and think that they are getting educated. I've seen this especially with Fox News viewers who are convinced that since they watch a lot of political "news," they are informed. This is like someone in Moscow in 1970 who read Pravda every day and thought they were well informed.

Interestingly enough, the word "pravda" ("Правда") means "true" or "the truth." And that is what the conservative media echo chamber has brought us: a bunch of propagandized ignoramuses who are certain that they know The Truth™. And so I get placed on email lists with links to really vile things rather than actually cool things like Henri: the Existential Cat.


Filed under Politics, Social

Income Inequality and the Marco Rubio Tax Plan

Dividends TaxationPaul Krugman provided this fine pie chart that shows who exactly is paying taxes on long term capital gains. The reason it is important is because Marco Rubio wants to eliminate this tax. Up until now, this idea has been extreme even for Republicans. And you can see why: over half of benefits from Marco Rubio's tax cut would go to the top 0.1% — the people in the top 1/1000th of the income distribution. And if you look at the whole of the top 1%, that's almost 80% of where all the benefits go.

Still, I find the graph a tad bit deceptive, because people tend to assume that "everyone else" is somewhat equitable. I'm not suggesting that Krugman means to imply this. He's making a different point anyway. I just know how non-mathematical people think about this kind of stuff. Something that Krugman has written about over the years is that inequality is kind of like a fractal. (Actually, I believe that's my analogy, not his.) It doesn't matter where you are in the income scale, the people above you are a lot more rich than you are. It's such that people barely in the top 1% often think of themselves as poor because they are around people who are so much more wealthy. And so on until you get to Bill Gates, who when asked if he was rich said only, "Well, I'm certainly not middle class." (Or something like that.)

Marco RubioThe data for this graph comes from the Tax Policy Center. And if you look at the top 5%, you get 92.3%. The top 10%? 95.4%. And the top 20% — the upper class? 97.5%. So 97.5% of Marco Rubio's tax cut on long term capital gains would go to the upper class and only the upper class. Pretty amazing, huh?

So let's talk about what these high incomes mean. In order to just make it into the top 10%, you would be making over $115,000 per year. To just make it into the top 1%, you need to be making more than $400,000. I can't find data on the top 0.1%, but we are talking millions per year. So these are not people who are struggling. They are not the people who need helping and they are not the "job creators" who will start hiring if only they had just a bit more money.

But it's worse than even that. There's 2.5% left over for the bottom 80%. Is it shared even somewhat equally? Of course not!

The upper middle class gets most of the remaining: 1.9%. The middle class gets almost all of the rest: 0.6%. The lower-middle class get the final 0.1%. The lower class — those in the bottom 20% — get nothing at all. Of course, you can depend upon the Republicans finding some middle class person who gets all their income from long-term capital gains and dividends, and making a commercial where they talk about how much better their lives will be. Meanwhile, millions more children will go to bed each night hungry. But that won't be mentioned.

Income inequality is a virus that is killing our democracy. And it does those who have excessive money no good. As Henry George noted long ago, "Man is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied." I don't think this is a natural state, but rather the result of a civilization that has no values beyond that of commerce. And people like Marco Rubio think this is just great. The next time he mentions God, remember what he really worships.


Filed under Politics

Morning Music: Slumber Party's I'm Not Sad

Psychedelicate - Slumber PartyToday we are going to listen to yet another band that is kinda sorta sadcore: Slumber Party. To be honest, what they sound most like to me is an all female version of the Velvet Underground — but really, with better musicianship — at least compared to the early albums. And even though Wikipedia says the band is still together, I find no real evidence of this fact. Their last album was Musik in 2006.

Thank God we are at the end of our sadcore week. I'm not saying that because the music is bad. I've loved all this music. But it's frustrating. To begin with, it is, as I've discussed, an ill defined term. But it's also the case that there just aren't as many sadcore bands as I had thought. And that is itself sad. You would think there would be. There are a lot of depressed musicians out there.

The reason there probably aren't more people doing this kind of music is because it's a lot harder than it seems. One of the things that ties these bands together is their control of the mood of the songs. Other kinds of bands can just do whatever it is that they like. But even when American Music Club was being funny, they did it in their usual "Eeyore makes a joke" way.

Is Slumber Party Really Sadcore?

Today, we are going to listen to Slumber Party's song "I'm Not Sad" off their 2001 album, Psychedelicate. Maybe it is more correct to call it slowcore rather than sadcore. It's an uplifting song in a way. A relationship is over, but the guy was alright when they were together. And that's why she's not sad. Except that she starts the song by noting that she is sad. So it seems more one of those things where you try to convince yourself intellectually that you don't feel the way you clearly do. It's a beautiful song:


Filed under Morning Music

Women's Suffrage and the Slow March of Progress

Women's SuffrageThis was an important day for women's suffrage in 1918, UK women over the age of 30 got the right to vote. Even then, certain property requirements applied. It took until the end of that same year for women to be given the right to serve in parliament. But it took a whole decade for women to get voting parity with men. The Representation of the People Act 1928 allowed everyone over the age of 21 to vote. It's nice to look back and be happy that women finally got the right to vote. But how frustrating it must have been for women of that time, even if the original Representation of the People Act 1918 was a huge victory.

This has some resonance in the Democratic primary for president. But not as much as I think people might believe. The truth is that you need the Clintons and the Sanderses. But they are not examples of these poles, because both of them are of the marginal change varieties. What we need are more radicals who say, "Change now! We've already waited far too long!" In other words, we need people who terrify the establishment. We need Thomas Paine and Malcolm X. The fact that Sanders terrifies the establishment is an indication of just how far our society has gone off the rails.

I can wait. I don't like conflict and I hate violence. But my life is good. I don't have to worry that I'll be killed by a police officer just because I don't do exactly what I'm told to. I don't have to worry about much of anything at all. Given my inclinations and idiosyncracies, if I weren't a straight white male, I'd probably be doing 25 to life in some prison somewhere.

So I respect those who are impatient. And we all should. They are critical to our development, whether it is in the fight for women's suffrage, racial equality, or economic fairness.


Filed under Anniversaries, Politics

Who Cares About Bernie Sanders' Healthcare Plan?

Sanders' Healthcare PlanThere are substantive policy issues regarding the Bernie Sanders policy proposals. The main one that concerns me is Sanders' healthcare plan.

Now, in a way, it doesn't matter. We all know that nothing big is going to happen on the left anytime soon. If anything big happens, it will be on the right. If the economy tanks and Republicans take control of Washington, it will be very bad. I fully expect them to repeal Obamacare. And maybe I will have to go down to Mexico, where I could now certainly support myself and get low cost health and dental care.

But this is what's so frustrating about dealing with this election on the Democratic side. The same people who claim that the Bernie Sanders' policy proposals are unrealistic are also busy saying that we can't afford them or that the numbers don't add up. Still, it does matter to me that politicians that I support have policy proposals that make sense.

I think that Jonathan Chait lays out some valid concerns in his recent article, Bernie Sanders' Healthcare Plan Does Not Add Up. But just the same, he is playing the "big numbers" game on everyone and I don't appreciate that.

The real question we have to ask here is whether we actually want to have a policy discussion. I do! But I certainly don't think that Jonathan Chait does.

Chait referenced a study by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and he claimed Sanders' healthcare plan "would still fall several trillion dollars short of covering its expenses." Well, that makes it sound worse than it is. They claim $3 trillion over ten years. Given the total cost of the plan (roughly $15 trillion), that would be a shortfall of roughly 20%. That's substantial, but that's nothing compared to, say, Mitt Romney's tax plan that was nothing but fairy dust.

So the truth is that Sanders' healthcare plan could be fixed, assuming that this study is correct. I would like to see the Sanders campaign respond to these questions with more than denial. But you can see why it doesn't. Chait's article is a great example of this. Half of the article is taken up with Kenneth Thorpe's analysis that the Sander campaign rightly calls a "complete hatchet job." It claims that the proposal would cost $14 trillion more than Sanders claims. Thorpe's claims have been called into question. Jonathan Cohn noted that, "Thorpe's analysis is as subject to scrutiny and second-guessing as anybody's." And David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler provided a thorough refutation of it, On Kenneth Thorpe's Analysis of Senator Sanders' Single-Payer Reform Plan.

The real question we have to ask here is whether we actually want to have a policy discussion. I do! But I certainly don't think that Jonathan Chait does. I think Chait just wants to snipe in a partisan way — that it's all politics and no policy. Similarly, in The New Yorker, Alexandra Schwartz wrote, Should Millennials Get Over Bernie Sanders? That one was answered by Dean Baker, New Yorker Joins Open Season on Bernie Sanders.

The truth is that no one really wants to talk about Sanders' healthcare plan or any of this stuff. The media certainly doesn't. And by that, I'm not even talking about people like Chait who do care about policy when it suits them. But we have a media infrastructure that will not allow candidates to act in reasonable ways and alter their plans. Would it be seen as acceptable for him to alter it? I don't think so. And I'm not exactly sure what the point would be, given that even if the Democrats were swept into office, the plan would be the starting point of a negotiation.


Filed under Politics

Closed Minds at the New Hampshire Debate

Angry Mob at New Hampshire DebateI watched the vast majority of the New Hampshire debate last night on MSNBC. I was on twitter and had a nice time chatting with Elizabeth, but overall, I wasn't too pleased. It wasn't the candidates. Like all the Democratic debates, this one put the Republicans to shame. Bernie and Hillary talk about actual stuff — policy. I wasn't too thrilled about a lot of the rancor at the beginning, but I guess that's to be expected. Given what it was (a political debate), the candidates were very well behaved and even went out of their way to say how much they admired each other.

What bothered me were the people on Twitter who were following the New Hampshire debate. They do not share the candidates mutual admiration. I was amazed at the display of closed mindedness. Bernie Sanders' supporters thought that everything Hillary Clinton said was proof that she was just a fraud. Hillary Clinton supporters thought that everything Bernie Sanders said proved that he was an unserious interloper. There was real hatred for these two candidates by the other side. And I understand having strong feelings. Can we all agree that both these candidates are actually pretty similar? That even John Kasich (by far the most reasonable Republican candidate) would be a catastrophe compared to either Clinton or Sanders?

I like to think in terms of psychology. But most people tend to imagine people they don't know as being psychopaths. That guy who cut you off in traffic isn't just in a big rush or having a bad day; no, he's just driving around everywhere trying to mess with people because he's evil. It's a thing we never do to ourselves. When we cut someone off, we know it was usually a mistake, or if we were being rude, it was wrong and not something we go out of our way to do. People have reasons for doing things.

The main thing is that I thought both Hillary and Bernie made good points throughout the New Hampshire debate. It reminded me of 2008 when the Democratic Party had three really good candidates.

As you should all know, I continue to be a strong Sanders supporter. And I'll admit: it isn't just the policies. He reminds me of the old bumper sticker, "If you aren't outraged; you aren't paying attention!" But this narrative among a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters that Hillary Clinton is just this corporate tool is all wrong and was on full display during the New Hampshire debate. There was one particularly good example on the other side. One Clinton supporter asked if Sanders respected Obama so much, why did he called for president to be primaried in 2012. I responded that it was to make him a better candidate. She scoffed at this notion. But I know it's true. I was around. I called for the same thing. A lot of people did, and it was all for that reason. But no, to some Clinton supporters, that can't be true because Sanders just wants to destroy the Democratic Party or something.

Throughout the debate, I thought that both candidates had strong moments. As I wrote yesterday, I have been disappointed in Sanders for his attacks on Clinton's purity. I think that got itself worked out last night, and Clinton definitely had him on the ropes regarding that. On the other hand, I thought Clinton went low when she quoted the obviously wrong Kenneth Thorpe financial analysis of Sanders' healthcare plan. (I have an article about it this afternoon; I wrote it days ago, but it kept getting pushed off.)

The main thing is that I thought both Hillary and Bernie made good points throughout the New Hampshire debate. It reminded me of 2008 when the Democratic Party had three really good candidates. (Obviously, Edwards would have been a disaster because of his affair, which I believe would have come out before the election; but I'm talking policy here.) And there was one moment when I got a flow of tweets from Clinton supporters saying, "I'm with Bernie on this one." It was the death penalty. We Democrats really don't like it!

It's funny to me, because I think Clinton is flat out lying on the issue. I don't believe for a moment that she actually supports the death penalty. But the truth is that it is very popular in this country. And I don't begrudge her or any other candidate their little compromises. Certainly Sanders has them too. Despite what some would claim, he is not pure as the driven snow either.

But as Democrats, we really ought to feel good about having these two excellent candidates. We can have heated discussions about which one is better. I don't buy into the idealist vs pragmatist narrative, but that's an argument that can be had. I'm going to try to stay out of those arguments, because I feel like I've been neck deep in them recently. But if Sanders wins, the Democratic Party needs to get on board with him. And if Clinton wins, Sanders voters need to already understand that Clinton is a real liberal and absolutely deserving of our full-throttled support.

Afterword: New Hampshire Debate

Full disclosure: during the course of the debate, I did drink an entire 12 oz bottle of Lagunitas Brown Shugga'. Even though I try to have a drink every night, I'm still a lightweight. And that particular beer has a 9.8% alcohol content. So after the debate I passed out for an hour and a half. But I felt like I was following everything...


Filed under Politics

Anniversary Post: Early Day Miners' East Berlin at Night

Placer Found - Early Day MinersEarly Day Miners are not a sadcore band. They aren't even close. So why am I featuring them? Well, their first album, Placer Found, is a wonderful example of sadcore. It isn't that the music itself is sad. But if you are at home with little to do, and it is drizzling outside, this album is the soundtrack of your day. That's especially true of today's song, "East Berlin at Night."

Early Day Miners are also known as a Shoegazing band. That's another ill defined term. But you get the idea. And that's well on display in this song. "East Berlin at Night" never mentions Berlin or Germany. I can take the song in one of two ways. I can see it in a political light. There's that Life Magazine cover with the sailor kissing the nurse the day that Japan surrendered. Somehow, to me, the defeat of Germany (two weeks later) always brings to mind Time Square at night. And the resolution of things in Europe was a mess. So New York and East Germany are very much linked.

But I tend to think that the song is more personal. Watching the snow pile up outside in New York makes the singer feel cut off, just as East Berlin was as a result of World War II. Not that it matters. It is, like most sadcore, more evocative than concrete. And what it evokes in me is not depression but a mild melancholy — the feeling that something is not quite right in the universe, or at least my little corner of it. It isn't a bad feeling. But it does seem somewhat silly when the sun comes out. It's definitely music for rain days and late nights.


Filed under Morning Music

Who Is Bob Douglas and Why Is He in the Basketball Hall of Fame?

Bob DouglasOn this day in 1972, Bob Douglas became the first African American inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Not Bill Russell?! Who the hell is Bob Douglas anyway?

The Basketball Hall of Fame opened in 1959. But despite the fact that it took them 13 years to induct an African American into it, basketball's history has not been nearly as racist as baseball. In the early days of basketball, it was highly segregated — but only because the society itself was. There were, for example, white players on the Harlem Globetrotters. What's more, black teams played white teams.

Bob Douglas was one of the pioneers of barnstorming basketball. He founded and coached the New York Renaissance — generally known as the Rens. Apparently, in the 1920s and early 1930s, the biggest basketball attractions in the nation were the games between the Rens and the Original Celtics (which has nothing to do with the Boston Celtics, but was a very white team). They won the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1939. And in 1948, they came in second, losing to the Minneapolis Lakers who were led by the legendary George Mikan. (Note: the Minneapolis Lakers are today's Los Angeles Lakers — they moved in 1960.)

The Rens disbanded in 1949. By that point, the NBA was on the rise. The only team to survive from that period were the Harlem Globetrotters. Although it's interesting to note that what the Globetrotters are today is more like what basketball used to be. It's the NBA that has changed the game.

Bob Douglas played a part in getting the first African American player, Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, signed to the newly established NBA. That's incredibly important, of course — as is Douglas' status as the "Father of Black Professional Basketball." But what I find so fascinating about people like Bob Douglas is that they have idiosyncratic ideas and they just go with them. The fact that Douglas was hugely successful at his doesn't matter to me as much as his commitment.

Bob Douglas died in 1979 at the age of 96.

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