Morning Music: Miles Davis

Bitches Brew Live - Miles DavisWhen I was a wee teen, my friend Will bought Isle of Wight: Atlanta Pop Festival. It was a three LP collection, containing tracks by an eclectic mix of people from Johnny Winter to Sly & the Family Stone to Kris Kristofferson. As I recall, I didn’t especially care for anything on that album except for David Bromberg’s wonderful version of “Mr Bojangles.” But I especially hated a 17 minute jam by Miles Davis, “Call It Anything’.” It just sounded like noise to me.

One of the great joys of life has been to experience my gradual maturation of music appreciation. I’ve had the same experience with Frank Zappa. When I was young, I hated his guitar playing, but now I think it is marvelous (even if I’m not in the mood for it that often). And the same thing is true of Davis’ later work. This is the Bitches Brew period, and now I love it. In this live video from Isle of Wight in August of 1970, Davis is performing with quite a band. It includes the original Bitches Brew crew: Chick Corea on electric piano, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Dave Holland on bass with parts that seem designed to cause hand cramping, and Airto Moreira doing some unnatural things with percussion. In addition, there is Keith Jarrett on organ and Gary Bartz on soprano saxophone (Wayne Shorter was on the original album). This 35 minute set made up the majority (tracks 4 through 9) of Bitches Brew Live. It’s wonderful music.

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Anniversary Post: Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate BridgeOn this day in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge opened. To be honest, it isn’t my favorite bridge. I’m more fond of the Bay Bridge because of its two short-tower suspension bridges one after the other. But that is more of an intellectual thing. The truth is that the Golden Gate Bridge is magnificent and I still get a thrill crossing it. There is the long ride up the Waldo Grade, the drive through the Waldo Tunnel, and then the steep descent to the bridge and almost two miles across the bay. Unfortunately, I cannot walk across the bridge. I’ve tried, but my acrophobia is too bad. Plus, I think, there is a residual from my grandmother who used to tell me (All the time!) that if I didn’t put on some weight, a strong wind would come up and blow me away.

After 9/11, I had a hard time understanding what New Yorkers were going through. I understood the terrorism aspect of it. But they had a special unhappiness that I didn’t understand. The way I figured out how to empathize was to imagine if someone had destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge. That certainly would mean something special to me. It is a potent symbol of the Bay Area. Of course, it is also beautiful. That is something that cannot be said of the Twin Towers. But I still get it. Note to would-be terrorist: please don’t destroy our bridge!

I could provide you with a history of the bridge. The problem is that having grown up in the Bay Area, I’ve heard too much about this stuff. And I don’t really care. It is an amazing structure, and a much needed tool for the area. But for you from out of the area, the Golden Gate is the entrance to the San Francisco Bay — also known as the “Golden Gate.” The bridge itself, is not golden. And even if it were, what the hell is “gate” doing in its name? Huh?!

Happy anniversary Golden Gate Bridge!

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Technology Is Changing, Not Improving

Paul KrugmanOn Monday, Paul Krugman wrote about one of the great myths of modern times: the increasing pace of technological development. In The Big Meh, he noted that while we seem to have a lot of new technologies, they don’t seem to be revolutionizing our economy. But what new technologies? People see substantial technological advances where there are only constant technological shifts. Once upon a time Flickr was a big deal, but then we got Instagram. The best you can say about most of this kind of technological change is that it allows corporate interests to better monetize play. It’s all summed up in Peter Thiel’s quote, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”

Krugman even starts out the article by mocking the Apple Watch. And rightly so! Apple is the ultimate technology company of the modern world. That’s because it doesn’t do much in terms of technology. It takes other people’s ideas and packages them nicely. But more than that, it is all about brand and about how the products that people consume define them. It is extremely sad — pathetic, in fact. But in terms of the broader on the country, it doesn’t mean anything in a direct way. The newest version of the iPhone will not make us more productive and any happiness it brings will be short lived indeed.

But Apple provides a good example of why we don’t see much in terms of economic growth. The company employs a relatively small number of Americans: less than 100,000. These are generally good, middle class jobs. And then the company employs a million or so people overseas — paying them almost nothing. This allows Apple to keep more the fruits of laborers. And this is why Apple has been sitting on piles of cash. Eventually, in 2012, it was necessary to pay out major dividends. And then there have been the massive stock buybacks. Apple has lots of money, but no ideas. Unless you think the Apple Watch is a new, much less important, idea.

What all this means is that Apple works as a way to increase inequality. None of this would be surprising if Apple were just a tech film. Apple employs roughly the same number of people employed by Google and Microsoft. But they are not hardware companies. Just the same, the focus of venture capital these days is not on hardware. They are all out chasing their tails looking for the next “killer app.” And that will be… what? An application that will allow people to share even more moments from their lives with other people who don’t care enough about them to be part of those moments? I understand that there was a lot of marginal utility when grandma could see what granddaughter was up to in almost real time. The marginal utility of any new gains in that area are essentially zero.

Krugman ended his column by noting that the exact things that are said about technology today were said about technology in the 1930s. Then as now, it was used as an excuse for why it was that companies like Apple were sitting on piles of cash and not hiring. Today, we hear that everyone ought to be computer programmers or the ill-defined “entrepreneurs.” It’s all silly. Those Chinese workers pumping out iPhones are not better educated or otherwise more capable of doing that work than are Americans. It’s all about incentives. As Dean Baker is fond of noting: globalization has only been allowed to destroy the jobs of the American middle class. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, and scads of other professions continue to enjoy economic protection.

SS Ideal X

I’m not a futurist; I don’t know where technology could go if our culture weren’t held captive by a bunch of little brains who are only interested in next quarter’s profit statement. But I do know that technologically speaking, there is more sound and fury than substance when it comes to technological innovation. Having a transistor radio was an improvement on the home radio, but it wasn’t anything close to as big a deal as the invention of radio itself. Now people want to make a big deal about Pandora on their phones or extra gigabytes for MP3s. These things are nice, but hardly revolutionary. When was the last time we had a technological revolution? Container ships have undoubtedly had a bigger effect on our lives than computers — much less the most recent iPhone.

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Parasitic Credit Card Companies

David GlasnerA favorite tactic of the credit-card industry is to offer customers zero-interest rate loans on transferred balances. Now you might think that banks were competing hard to drive down the excessive cost of borrowing incurred by many credit card holders for whom borrowing via their credit card is their best way of obtaining unsecured credit. But you would be wrong. Credit-card issuers offer the zero-interest loans because, (a) they typically charge a 3 or 4 percent service charge off the top, and (b) then include a $35 penalty for a late payment, and then (c), under the fine print of the loan agreement, terminate the promotional rate on the transferred balance, increasing the interest rate on the transferred balance to some exorbitant level in the range of 20 to 30 percent. Most customers, especially if they haven’t tried a balance-transfer before, will not even read the fine print to know that a single late payment will result in a penalty and loss of the promotional rate. But even if they are aware of the fine print, they will almost certainly underestimate the likelihood that they will sooner or later miss an installment-payment deadline. I don’t know whether any studies have looked into the profitability of promotional rates for credit card issuers, but I suspect, given how widespread such offers are, that they are very profitable for credit-card issuers. Information asymmetry strikes again.

—David Glasner
Is Finance Parasitic?

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What Came First in TPP: the Trade or the Cronyism

Tyler CowenOne interesting thing about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is that libertarians are on both sides of it. There are what I would consider the stupid libertarians, who are in favor of the deal because they are for anything that seems like it will make the rich richer. These are the kinds of libertarians who are against unions and for the liberty-destroying “right to work” laws. If we exclude the people who are libertarians simply because it is a presentable form of neo-confederacy (and that is most of them), the majority of libertarians are of this kind: people who just think the rich are super-keen and need to be ever rewarded. This group includes Tyler Cowen — hero of subgeniuses everywhere!

Timothy B. LeeBut there is a small fraction of the libertarian movement that is actually in favor of individual liberty. This group will generally be against the TPP. They understand that this treaty is not much about trade. What it is primarily about is providing handouts to powerful economic interests. So I was pleased to see that, as I had previously noted, Timothy B Lee is one of the better kinds of libertarians. He’s still wrong about exactly what libertarianism would bring, but he is at least trying to create a better world for all, not just for those who are already doing well.

Over the weekend, Lee wrote, Why Killing Obama’s Trade Deal Could Be Good for Free Trade. Cowen had claimed that if the TPP gets shot down, future trade deals could be worse as a result. Why that would be isn’t clear. His followups seemed to be a lot of magic thinking: he believes it because he’s already decided that the TPP must be good. Lee, in refreshing contrast, was clear as could be: it’s the cronyism, stupid!

The US has been using trade deals to push counterproductive copyright and patent policies on the rest of the world since the 1990s. Each time a deal comes up for a vote, supporters play up the trade provisions and downplay the corporate giveaways. If the TPP is approved, we can expect the same kind of terms in the next trade bill the US negotiates.

And conversely, if the failure of the TPP is seen to be due to all of the corporate giveaways in the deal, then future deals would be seen as DOA if they included them. As Lee put it, “When special interest groups started lobbying for another round of goodies, US trade negotiators would be able to say, ‘We’d love to help but we can’t risk having the deal rejected.'” The only question is whether future trade negotiators would see it that way.

But on that issue, Lee is also right: none of the major players arguing against this treaty are doing so out of a sense of protectionism. The number one thing that I hear people talking about is that it strengthens intellectual property rights, which will increase costs everywhere. The second thing I hear most often is the threat that the TPP could cause to democratic governance through the strengthening of investor-state dispute settlement — the unaccountable international legal system that could force countries to pay companies for laws that the court claims are hurting companies’ profits.

On the other hand, so what if future trade negotiators don’t take that lesson away from the defeat of the TPP? Surely after the defeat of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) for similar reasons, they would learn. And if not for that one, maybe the next. Whatever it takes. Although I have to say: I don’t see us getting more of these treaties if there aren’t major businesses able to get special treatment. The barriers to trade are already low. The TTP (and TTIP) didn’t come about because governments were itching for them. Now, the point of these deals seems to be very little besides the cronyism. I think they start with the cronyism and then come up with other things that will allow them to be sold.

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Dealing With Inequality Requires Progressive Taxes

Family Legacy

This cartoon sums up a fact of our economic system. And it provides all the information you need to appraise the claim so loved by conservatives, “We don’t care about equality of outcomesopportunity.” What they mean is that they don’t care about either. It’s really quite simple: equality of opportunity — or even anything in the same ballpark — is a lie if equality itself is too far out of kilter. The conservatives who don’t care about inequality are just the modern day royalists. They want to enforce the current class makeup of society, but rather than use the idea of “blood” they use the far less reasonable idea of “meritocracy.”

The great cure-all for inequality is “education.” I’ve written about this a lot over the years. It is based on a correlation. Not surprisingly, people with college degrees make more money than people without college degrees. Of course, I’m highly skeptical of the mechanism here. For one thing, it is easier to get a college degree if you are stupid with rich parents than it is if you are smart with poor parents. So to some extent, a college degree is simply an indication of class. But the real reason that people push education is because it is a way of saying, “We can’t do anything right now!” And then they have another couple of decades to come up with a new reason why the rich should never be taxed.

Matt BruenigSo when Bernie Sanders (or Barack Obama) suggest that college be free, I’m not exactly inspired. That’s not to say that I don’t think it is a good idea. But it is not the panacea that many people think it is. As a result, I was very interested to read a recent article by Matt Bruenig, Wealth Inequality and Student Debt. In it, he provided a very useful thought experiment.

First, consider our current system for funding higher education. Two students — one rich and the other poor — go to a college that costs $100,000 for four years. The rich student gets no government assistance, but her parents pay the $100,000 and she ends up with no debt. The poor student gets $50,000 from the state, and nothing from her parents. She ends up with $50,000 in debt. Thus, the rich student is $50,000 ahead of the poor student.

Bernie SandersSecond, consider the Sanders system for funding higher education. Both students pay nothing for college. But the rich student’s family still gives her $100,000 — perhaps as a down-payment for her first house. So she ends up $100,000 ahead and the poor student ends up even. In the first case, the poor student ends up $50,000 worse off. In the second case, the poor student ends up $100,00 worse off. This means that the more progressive system actually increases inequality more than the current system.

Note that this is true whether we are looking at the student alone, or the student’s family. And it is worse than even this makes out. Because a college degree for the rich student is going to be worth more than the college degree of the poor student. The rich student will simply have more opportunities based upon her connections. So the reward for that $100,000 investment is almost certainly far greater than the reward that the poor student gets from her $50,000 investment.

All of this highlights the fact that we need a highly progressive tax system. This, of course, is why the rich are so stuck on the idea of a flat tax. It is considered by them to be “fair.” But, of course, in the case above, it clearly isn’t. The tax system folds back on itself, because it doesn’t benefit the poor as much as it ought to. In the most basic sense, the rich student’s parents should be paying at least $50,000 more in taxes than the poor student’s parents pay. And when it comes to the upper middle class, that may well be the case. But when it comes to the truly wealthy, that isn’t the case at all. As I noted during the 2012 election, in Mitt Romney’s most recent tax year (2011), he had paid almost exactly the same tax rate that I did, even though I had made about $20,000 that year and he had made more than $13 million.

Clearly, there are more specific solutions to this problem. For example, we could just pay the tuition of poor students and not leave them in debt, even as we did nothing for rich students. But ultimately, the “free college” solution is the best. We just have to figure out how to tax everyone fairly. Until we do that, all is lost.

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Morning Music: Ann Sexton

Anthology - Ann SextonAnn Sexton is a great soul singer from the 1970s, who had a fair amount of success but who never exactly broke out. She had a couple of songs that made it into the R&B top 100 — enough to get some attention, but not enough to make her rich. So after releasing two albums in the 1970s, she retired to what would generally be considered a normal life.

And then in 2003, Alejandro González Iñárritu used her song “I’m Losing You” in his film 21 Grams. This caused a bit of flurry of interest in Sexton on the internet. Eventually, she was tracked down and performed her first concert in three decades in 2007. The following video shows her at the Baltic Soul Weekender, back in 2008. Then there was a a lot of activity in her career, but after 2010, I don’t see much. Certainly, her website hasn’t changed since that time. But it is hard to say. Like a lot of great American musicians, Sexton is more popular in the UK. So maybe she’s over there performing nonstop. Or maybe she’s retired; she did turn 65 this last February.

Regardless, enjoy this song:

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Anniversary Post: Dracula

DraculaOn this day in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was first published. Vampires have always been a problem for me. Call it the caribou problem. As you may remember, the caribou of North America were starving to death because there were no predators to thin the herd. So wolves had to be reintroduced to save the caribou from their success. But imagine if every caribou killed turned into a wolf. Very soon, there would be no caribou and only wolves and then there would be no wolves because they would all starve to death. This is the kind of thing that I think about with regard to Dracula.

I’m also not that keen on the epistolary novel. Even when Stoker wrote it, it was coming to be obsolete. Really: what is the point of it anyway? It is a literary affectation that doesn’t seem to provide much of anything in exchange. But people at the time certainly seemed to like the novel (those who read it anyway). And it is still quite popular, but I think that has more to do with Bela Lugosi than Bram Stoker.

It’s hard for me not to compare Dracula with Frankenstein. And as much as it is possible to discern a theme for the mess of the former, it does not appeal to me. In an important sense, the two novels are opposites. Frankenstein presents a monster created by the society itself. The fault lies with the society that cannot deal with an outsider. Dracula presents a monster as an external contagion; the fault most definitely does not lie with the society for rejecting the outsider.

Thus, even though Dracula appeared three-quarters of a century later, its humanity had regressed. Frankenstein is a liberal — even radical — allegory of our treatment of the “other.” Dracula is a conservative allegory about how we must be fearful of the “other.” It is a story that would be welcomed by Pamela Geller and other bigots both more and less extreme. It would be welcome by them, that is, if they understood it.

Still, Dracula is a good adventure story. And if you love the British Empire and hate Romanian gypsies, well, you can hardly go wrong. That’s especially true if you don’t have anything better to do, like drink… wine?

Happy anniversary Dracula!

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Human evolution and the Myth of Control

Bone House Wasp - Very Good MotherMother Nature Network published an interesting little article the other day, Kooky Cartwheeling Spider Among Bizarre New Species. It seems that 18,000 recently discovered species were given official names this last year. And so the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at State University of New York (SUNY) decided to highlight ten of these creatures. Think about that for a moment. Humans have spent thousands of years cataloging different animal species, yet we can still be discovering tens of thousands of them each year. According to the article, there are still 10 million yet to be discovered. This number is also the estimate of the total number of species on the earth. Thus far, humans have only been able to catalog about 1.5 million species.

The group of creatures include some things that demand a rewrite of Hamlet, “There are more things on earth than are dreamt of in your worst nightmares.” Take the bone house wasp. Although disturbing, we must admit that she is a hell of a good mother. She creates a nest in a hollow stem of a plant. At the bottom, she lays her eggs. On top of it, she puts a dead spider for the hungry baby wasps, once they are born. That’s actually rather nice of the mother in regard to the spider — paralyzing, and having them eaten alive seems a much more common approach in the wild. The creepy part comes when the mother wasp piles dead ants on the very top. This is done to ward off predators because of the smell ants. So think about a nursery with rotting corpses piled by the door to keep others away. Effective, loving, and very creepy!

For the creationists out there, there is the Limnonectes larvaepartus. It is a frog from Indonesia that gives birth to live tadpoles. That’s interesting because most frogs lay eggs and a few frogs give birth to baby frogs. This new frog is what we might call “the missing link.” But as we know from creationist apologetics, there will always be “holes” in the diversity of life. Nothing will convince them because they cannot be convinced. They “know” the truth and are only looking for things that justify what they already “know.”

Another of the new species is Torquigener albomaculosu, a kind of pufferfish. The male of this species attract females by creating beautiful designs in the sand. That reminds me of the following “Effective Catcalls” cartoon. Females really do appreciate a man who can provide a nice home.

Effective Catcalls

The sad thing about all the species we are discovering is that plants and animals are going extinct at an even faster rate. Of course, life forms are always going extinct — it is the nature of life. But it is hard not to figure that we are largely responsible for the fast rate. Thus far, we have done this by destroying habitat, but as time goes on, the climate forcing is going to be a much bigger — even catastrophic thing.

Still, the amazing diversity of life on the earth is staggering. At the same time, mama wasps are just like human mothers in all they do to protect their young. And I know that a lot of people will dismiss what the wasp does as just instinct. But our great brains don’t seem to change the overall nature of things. We humans are pre-programmed to think that human babies are cute and worth protecting. We may obscure that with ideas like “feeling” and “choice.” But I think that’s all rubbish. We are all on autopilot, we just have these big brains that trick us into thinking we are in control.

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Capitalists Hire Managers

Karl MarxOur [capitalist] friend, up to this time so purse-proud, suddenly assumes the modest demeanor of his own workman, and exclaims: “Have I myself not worked? Have I not performed the labor of superintendence and of overlooking the spinner? And does not this labor, too, create value?” His overlooker and his manager try to hide their smiles. Meanwhile, after a hearty laugh, he re-assumes his usual mien.

—Karl Marx
“Have I Myself Not Worked?”

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If Court Harms Obamacare Reps Will Be Blamed

Jeffrey ToobinLast week, Jeffrey Toobin pushed back against the idea that if the Supreme Court find for the plaintiffs in King v Burwell, it is a problem for the Republicans, Obama’s Game of Chicken With the Supreme Court. In fact, he used Colin Powell’s old Pottery Barn rule to make the case. According to him, if Obamacare is broken, it will be the president’s problem because it is the president’s law. Toobin is a smart guy, but I don’t think he has a clue about political science.

Think about government shutdowns: why is it that the people always side with the president? Well, part of it is because the president is always a Democrat. Dig down a little deeper and you will see that the public’s reaction is almost axiomatic. Democrats are seen as being in favor of the government. Republicans are seen as hating the government. (I don’t think either of those perceptions are right, but they are what people think.) So when the government is shut down, it must be because the Republicans wanted it. If the proximate cause is the Democrats, it must be because the Republicans forced them into it.

The case here is even more on the Democrats’ side. The whole point of the Pottery Barn analogy was that if Bush went into Iraq and broke it, he bought it. In this case, it isn’t Obama who’s screwed things up. You’d have to use some pretty twisted logic to get there: people are getting subsidies because of Obamacare, and now they aren’t because of the continued Republican War on Obamacare, and so it is Obama’s fault for people not getting something that Obama gave them to start with. No. This is much simpler: Republicans hate Obamacare and this is their fault. This one isn’t hard. This is how it will play. Whether the Republicans will care or not is another matter.

Another aspect of this is how media shape perceptions. Clearly, the media cannot push a narrative that is totally at odds with what people are inclined to believe. But the media can certainly push a narrative that goes slightly against what the public is inclined to believe. And there isn’t even a question in this case. The media will push the narrative that the public already accepts. The only thing that will push against this is Fox News and hate radio. And the people who tune into those “news” sources will already believe the narrative that they are hearing. In terms of overall perception, we are talking about the people who listen to NBC Nightly News.

Clearly, everyone should hope that King v Burwell goes down in flames — with none of the justices siding with the plaintiffs. If that happened, maybe we could put an end to these frivolous anti-Obamacare lawsuits. If we get another 5-4 decision, I fear they will continue on. It’s like playing craps: the conservatives just keep rolling the dice hoping to get lucky. Regardless, this will be a problem for the Republicans and they will be forced to deal with it — even if they do it in a piecemeal way just until the next president’s term.

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Memorial Day 2015

Memorial DayHappy Memorial Day. I used to really hate holidays — unless they were ones when people called me over to cook. To me, they were just days when the library wasn’t open and there wasn’t much news. But now, all days are pretty much the same for me. So it’s Memorial Day and that doesn’t really change anything. But Memorial Day has always been an exception in the sense that it is a serious holiday. As much as I may question the American war machine, I don’t question the sacrifice that people have made in the name of official government policy.

I’ve twice written about Memorial Day. The first time was, Remembering on Memorial Day. At that time, I said:

In general, the military is used by countries for immoral purposes, like accumulating resources and providing leaders with glory. Thus, it isn’t the military who we should despise but the country’s generally vile leaders. At the same time, I think it is a major mistake to pretend that we owe the military any greater acknowledgement than other public servants.

But this isn’t Veterans Day, it is Memorial Day. It is the day to honor those who died in our wars. Most of these people (one way or another) had no choice about serving. Regardless, they were all doing what our leaders said was the right thing to do. These people should be honored. My only wish is that we honored them by not thinking that every new war is a great idea. We should honor the dead by limited who we send to die in the future.

Last year, I wrote, Try to Be Better on Memorial Day. I think that it is worth quoting in total, because it sums up what I feel about this holiday — both good and bad:

It is the way of my people. We are not barbecuers. We do not like the Monday holidays. But if it is for a good cause, we bear it. The labor struggle is a good cause. The civil rights struggle is a good cause. And today is Memorial Day, and remembering the men and women we sent to their deaths, is a good cause. I like to think of Memorial Day as a day of remembrance of all who have died pointlessly. And before people jump on me, war is a pointless activity. It doesn’t matter that there are times when good people are forced to fight wars. World War II was a righteous war because of the Nazis and others, but certainly it would have been better if the Nazis had not risen and forced the world into war.

Let’s think about the “Good War” for a moment. As many as 25 million soldiers died during it. Of those, 5 million died while in POW camps. As many as 55 million civilians died, roughly half of them from disease and famine. What a waste. I can’t help but think of us as two colonies of ants, because the individuals on either side are pretty much indistinguishable. The treatment of Jews and other “undesirables” by the Nazis was inhuman, but other than being more concentrated it was no different than what we did to the native peoples of America. The Japanese treatment of the Chinese was terrible, but did it really justify our systematic destruction of the Japanese civilian population? Did it justify dropping two atomic bombs on them?

Again and again, I come back to 95/5 principle: 95% of the population just wants to live their lives and have their Memorial Day barbecues (or in the case of my people, write maudlin essays about the tragedy of war); and 5% of the people want something else — I don’t even know what it is anymore. It’s mostly power, I suppose. But once these things are set in motion, there seems no way to stop it. Everyone has pitchforks and torches, and in the end no one is quite sure why.

Simpsons' Mob

Unlike Memorial Day that I rather like, I really dislike Veteran’s Day. The whole thing reminds me of the bumper sticker, “If You Like Your Freedom Thank a Vet.” Sadly, the military is necessary. But the last even remotely existential threat we faced was 75 years ago. And sure, we should thank those vets. But just as much, we should thank the vets of the Soviet Union — over 11 million of whom died to protect our freedom.

But if people want to see Memorial Day as a nationalist holiday, I’m against that. The last thing we need is to expand the holiday — to make it about even more dead soldiers. The sacrifice that these men and women gave is not “cool.” It is not something to be celebrated. It is something to be honored, because as a species, we are extremely flawed. Above all, it should be a day that we, as a species, ask forgiveness from those we’ve murdered in what were almost always fights over natural resources. Very much like this:

On this Memorial Day, let’s try to be better than the chimpanzees.

So there you go. Let’s honor and remember our military dead. And let’s try to do better from now on. It is not a matter of better technology. It is a matter of better morality. Happy Memorial Day.

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