Sep 29

Frank Is Sick

Frank Moraes - SickI was very sick yesterday. It felt like a rope had been tired around my heart and pulled. I could barely walk. So instead of leaving at 5:30 in the morning yesterday, I ended up staying in bed the whole day. This went along with instances of shaking, turning white, and going very close to blind. It’s all very strange.

I’m feeling much better, but hardly well. I hope that I will be feeling better today. And assuming that, I should be back on my regular publishing schedule. But if I don’t, it won’t be because I’ve died. This may just take a few more days for me to recover.

I’m looking forward to working on this. I love writing. But as for now, I just want to go back to bed. Have a great day!

Sep 28

Presidential Race Results Not Affected By Trump

Donald Trump - Presidential RaceI do think that there is something special about Donald Trump. Actually: lots of things. He’s clearly a psychopath — in a strict sense of the word. He’s also fairly dimwitted. It’s clear he’s unable to concentrate and thus incredibly ignorant. He’s the perfect presidential candidate for the Twitter age. But in terms of the politics, there’s nothing unusual about Donald Trump. He’s just like any other Republican in any presidential race.

We see this most clearly in the polling. What we are seeing is exactly what we saw with Mitt Romney in 2012. You may remember that he was losing badly to Barack Obama up to the first presidential debate. In that debate, he did well. True, he lied throughout and contradicted everything that he had been saying throughout the campaign. But in terms of political theater, he did great. And his polling numbers went way up. And all the pundits talked about how the debate had helped him and given him momentum.

Presidential Race Won’t Be Affected

Now, after Trump’s disastrous first debate, we are hearing that Trump’s momentum has stalled. It’s the same error they made with Mitt Romney. In 2012, the debate didn’t give Romney momentum. It just gave people who were always going to vote for him a reason to stop saying they were undecided and start saying they were going to vote for him.

What we’ve seen with Trump is that his numbers have have steadily improved over the last two months. This has not been because more and more people have been won over to him. It is just an indication that Republicans would vote for a groundhog if it had an “R” after its name. So these people have gradually gotten comfortable saying that they will vote for Trump. But they always were going to vote for Trump.

Clinton’s Numbers Haven’t Changed

Look at the Real Clear Politics average. Since the end of June, Hillary Clinton’s polling numbers have been quite solid. Yes, they’ve fluctuated. That’s because there are people who will definitely vote for her who get embarrassed when the meida start talking about her email server. But there’s no trend.

On the other side, Trump’s numbers have steadily increased for the same period of time. (The exception of that is his temporary peak from the RNC.) So people are wrong to think that things would be different if John Kasich or Ted Cruz had been the nominee. They wouldn’t have seen the long, slow increase in polling numbers; they would had numbers like Hillary’s: pretty steady.

John Kasich Wouldn’t Change a Thing

But in both cases, it would be the same: Hillary Clinton would be about 2 percentage points above Kashich, Cruz, or (as is the case) Trump.

But in both cases, it would be the same: Hillary Clinton would be about 2 percentage points above Kashich, Cruz, or (as is the case) Trump. And I can’t blame the Republican voters. I think they are wrong, but in terms of what they care about, any Republican would be better than any Democrat. I believe the opposite.

What I have a problem with is this idea that there is a kind of grand narrative of the presidential race. There isn’t. There is just a Democrat running against a Republican. And that’s all there is.

There Are Differences

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t things that will affect this presidential race. Trump’s explicit racism has the down side of scaring away conservatives who don’t want to be seen as racist. And this has been what Trump’s whole “minority outreach” campaign has been about: making them feel comfortable with him. And this is certainly going to cause Gary Johnson to do better than he normally would.

But the really big issue is that if John Kashich or Ted Cruz had won the nomination, they would have normal ground operations. They might not be as good as Hillary Clinton’s. But they would have had them. Trump seems to have next to nothing. And I suspect this will have a big effect that we are not seeing in the polls.

But when you hear pundits claim that this presidential race would be very different if the Republicans had nominated someone other than Donald Trump, don’t believe it. This presidential race will end up the same regardless of which nutjob the Republicans had nominated.

Sep 27

Media Should Not Guess Voter Reactions

xxxThere’s a deep tension in the way the media judges presidential debates. On the one hand, we know that our coverage affects the public’s ultimate view of the event — in that way, we are key participants in the debate, not merely observers of it.

But that knowledge is uncomfortable. It’s not the role we are meant to play. The press wants to reflect reality, not shape it.

And so we attempt, peculiarly, to recast ourselves as observers of voter reactions we can’t observe. We judge the debate based not on what we think to be true about it but on what we think the public will think to be true about it. And so we end up asking not whether the candidates made good arguments given what we know to be true but whether they made good arguments given what we imagine voters know to be true. And once you’re in that mindset, a section where Trump sounded good can be a win even if nothing he said made sense — after all, fairly few voters are trade policy or labor market experts.

But the public isn’t relying on us to tell them what we thought they thought watching the debate. They’re relying on us to tell them what we found when we compared the candidates’ answers to reality, and to the best analysis on offer from experts, so they can make a better-informed judgment on what actually happened in the debate. And sometimes there’s a very big gap between how good a candidate’s answers sounded and how good his or her answers actually were.

That’s the case for Trump’s opening section last night. He was speaking on the issues where he’s supposed to be strongest — his whole pitch is he’s a businessman who knows how the economy really works and what is really needed to fix it — and he showed he didn’t have any real idea what he was talking about. Voters deserve to know that.

—Ezra Klein
The Press Thought Trump’s First 30 Minutes Were His Best — They Were His Worst

Sep 27

Supreme Court Justice Mike Lee

Supreme Court Justice Mike LeeLast Friday, Donald Trump released a list of 10 more judges that he would put on the Supreme Court. As Ian Millhiser noted, Trump’s New SCOTUS Picks Signals Willingness to Abolish Child Labor Laws, Medicare, Social Security. But that’s not quite accurate because Millhiser is only talking about one of those picks: current Senator Mike Lee. We can assume looking at the other nine, things would be even worse.

The article focuses on a lecture that Mike Lee gave in 2010. In it, he claimed that the federal government is prohibited by the Constitution from passing child labor laws. According to Lee, that was left up to the states. Millhiser pointed out that we actually tried this and that all it did was cause businesses to move from one state to another — eventually causing all the laws to be repealed or simply ignored.

Mike Lee Is a Tenther

Similarly, Mike Lee doesn’t believe that Social Security and Medicare are Constitutional. He claims “the Constitution doesn’t give Congress any of those powers.” This must mean that Mike Lee is a “Tenther” — a person who thinks that the Tenth Amendment says, “The powers not expressly delegated to the Unite States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The problem is that the Constitution does not say this.

This idea came from The Articles of Confederation. You know: the form of government that the Constitution was created to replace because it was impossible to govern the nation under it. And that one little word makes all the difference in the world. People like Mike Lee are constantly putting it in our founding document because they want all the power in the nation to be at the state level. But the founders of this country wanted something different.

Trump’s America Would Be Unrecognizable

Imagine our nation if Mike Lee and the rest of the Tenthers had their way. Would we still have slavery in some states? Probably. We would certainly still have six-year-olds working in factories. And we would have no minimum wage. We wouldn’t even have a country. Various blocks of states would have broken off into their own countries. So not surprisingly, Mike Lee shows he is a true conservative by being against the very idea of this country. And Mike Lee is number one on Donald Trump’s newest list of Supreme Court nominees.

If you look at the data for voters in Florida, what you see is the biggest Trump supporters are people between the ages of 65 and 80. I wonder how they would feel about Trump wanting to put a man on the Supreme Court who wants to take their Social Security and Medicare away from them. They’d probably just dismiss it because conservatives always think that the bad stuff will be applied to those other people — the “bad” people — not themselves.

The Reality Trump Represents

But this is the reality. If Donald Trump becomes president, he will put people like Mike Lee on the Supreme Court. And while Trump may be out of office in four or eight years, his imprint on the country would last for decades. This is why all this nonsense about us just managing to get through a couple of years of Trump is such madness.

The next time you see Trump, imagine Mike Lee on the Supreme Court. Imagine a revolution — but not a normal one. Imagine our entire way of life being turned upside down without a shot fired — with just a Supreme Court decision or two. Imagine Supreme Court Justice Mike Lee.

Sep 26

Live Blog: First Presidential Debate 2016

First Presidential Debate 2016So I guess that I will be live blogging the first presidential debate. It starts at 6:00 pm Pacific Time. But I will likely be blogging throughout the day.

I have to admit to being worried about this. This election is so important and this debate really could go any way. I figure that it makes sense to give you some idea of what I think will happen. And we’ll see if I turn out to be right.

In one way, it seems like the outcome of these debates doesn’t so much matter. I remember Mitt Romney’s excellent performance in the first 2012 presidential debate. He got a permanent bounce from it. But as I noted at the time, all that had actually happened was that people who were doubtless going to vote for him in the end finally felt good enough about him to tell pollsters.

Looking at the polls thus far, I think that Trump has already gotten that bounce: all the Republicans have come home to support him (because they really don’t care about the principles they claim to). This time, it is Clinton who has a lot of people who haven’t felt comfortable supporting her.

The word is that roughly 100 million people will be watching this. This is a good opportunity for Clinton. I wonder how much it can help Trump.

Trump at the Presidential Debate

I don’t think that Donald Trump is as much a loose cannon as many people think. I suspect that he will go into the debate doing his best impression of “presidential” that he can. Just the same, this thing will go on for a while. I suspect his greatest problem will be avoiding obvious bordom.

I’ve talked about this quite a lot in the past. Donald Trump really has only about 5 minutes worth of material. If you’ve listened to any of his speeches, you know this. He’s incredibly repetitive. The real question is whether he will be allowed to get away with this. Will people actually notice that he isn’t saying anything? That there is no substance to what he’s saying? It’s not like the viewing audience seems to care that much about substance. And sadly, neither do the professional pundits.

Clinton at the Presidential Debate

I think we do need to stop thinking about this election being all about Trump. At the same time, it’s hard not to think of Hillary Clinton as just a given. In a quantitative sense, it’s like Alabama playing against Sonoma State University. Alabama is one of the very best college football teams. Sonoma State isn’t in the same league. If the presidential debate were a football game, Clinton would simply crush Trump.

But I keep thinking back to Frank Bruni during the first 2000 presidential debate. Sure, Bush was pathetic. But Bruni wasn’t interested in that. Being stupid and ignorant was no sin compared to Gore’s being “barely able to suppress his self-satisfied grin.” Has the press learned for all this? I kind of doubt it.

What I Expect

I figure that Clinton will be prepared for whichever Trump shows up. What I except to show up is a fairly subdued Trump. But I do expect him to bring up the things that Clinton didn’t answer well in the primary debates. In particular, I expect some mention of her high speaking fees talking to bankers. But mostly, he will just pretend that things like his ridiculous tax plan are equivalent to Clinton’s carefully constructed policies.

Above all, I expect that the moderator will allow Trump to largely get away with this. So it really comes down to how Clinton is able to focus attention on the fact that Trump really is devoid of substance. Anyone who isn’t convinced that Trump is a bigot will not be convinced by anything in this presidential debate. But maybe, just maybe, if things go well, they will see he really is nothing but bluster.

Post-Debate Thoughts

I think you can see how worried I was before the debate based upon my posts. But right out of the gate, Hillary Clinton was in control. I really didn’t think that Trump could be as bad as he was.

There was reporting that he wasn’t taking the debate preparation very seriously. I didn’t believe that. But seeing the debate, it is clear he didn’t. He really approached it the same way that he approached the primary debates. I’ll be very interested to see what the pundits say. But I can’t imagine that anyone but the strongest Trump supporters thought he did well.

It’s interesting that at MSNBC there is much analysis. And even the Republicans think Clinton did great and Trump did poorly. On Fox News, there is no analysis. It is just Sean Hannity interviewing Donald Trump. That’s not exactly how you reach out to anyone but the truth believers.

Sep 26

Odd Words: Biedermeier

BiedermeierWe are back on track with Page 26 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. Before I start complaining, let me just tell you that today’s word is “Biedermeier.” Yes: capitalized.

Not Great Beyond Biedermeier

As I’ve noted in the past, words tend to clump because of roots. This was a big day for biblio- words. There were 14 of the little suckers. That’s almost an entire column. And then there were the bi- words. There were eight of them — with more to come. The page still had a lot of good words, however. It had bibelot, a small decorative objective. It also had biggin, which is some kind of coffee pot contraption. And it had bijouterie, a collection of jewelry.

It also had some interesting words that I already knew. For example, it had “Donald Trump.” I’m sorry, I mean “bigot.” Additionally, it had “bigamy.” I don’t especially care, except for a great Captain Spaulding bit in Animal Crackers. When told that his suggestion that two women marry him is bigamy, he responds, “Yes and it’s big o’ me too! It’s big of all of us. Why not be big for a change!” And that’s just an excuse for embedding this little bit of video:

But enough of that. On to Biedermeier:

Bie·der·mei·er  adjective  \bē’-dər-mī-ər\

1. denoting or relating to a style of interior decoration, furnishing, etc, found in German-speaking countries in the 19th century and characterized by ebony inlays and veneers of fruitwood used in a simplified style resembling French Empire.

Date: mid 19th century.

Origin: from the character Gottlieb Biedermaier.

Example: Ruszwurm, a tiny shop close to Buda Castle, is a Biedermeier-era throwback flaunting original wood and spot-on krémes that unite buttery vanilla cream with flaky pastry.Alia Akkam

Sep 25

Ted Cruz: Perfect Republican

Ted CruzLast weekend, I was freaking out. The idea of Donald Trump winning the presidency is frightening. But this week, the polls have swung back in Hillary Clinton’s direction. I really do think the whole thing is simple: if the media stop talking about all the “questions” that “remain,” then she does better. The truth is that this election is going to go as I’ve long said: Republicans will vote for Trump, regardless of their supposed concerns about him. The perfect example of this was Friday’s announce by Ted Cruz that he was endorsing Trump.

Now why would he do that? After all, Ted Cruz was the man of principle! Why is he endorsing Trump now. Well, I think the direct cause is the same as my last weekend freak-out: it looks much more likely that Trump will win. If that happens, Cruz would be marginalized. He might even be primaried in 2018 and lose his awesome government job. But the issue is deeper than that.

Ted Cruz Looks Out for Ted Cruz

It was clear all along that Ted Cruz was looking toward the 2020 presidential election. If Trump went down in a major defeat in 2016, he could present himself as the Republican who really stands for something. As we all know, if Trump loses, the Republican Party will not blame it on its ideology and hostility toward simple governing competence. They will blame it on Trump being a bad candidate. And they will blame it on him not being a “true” conservative.

(Fun fact: what is a “true” conservative? A conservative who wins.)

Back in July, Trump’s chances of getting the presidency looked really bad. So Ted Cruz was making a calculated bet about his own future. It actually shows intelligence. I always wondered about Hillary Clinton and John Kerry with regard to their votes for the Iraq War. They were thinking short term. They weren’t playing the long game, and it hurt them both. So I’m impressed that Cruz even tried to play this long game.

Of course, the whole thing demonstrates that he is the opposite of what he claims to be. He doesn’t care about principle. Ted Cruz has no soul. He just wants power. That’s why he decided to snub Trump at the RNC. And that’s why he decided to endorse him on Friday. And this has been the complaint that people in the Republican Party itself have always had against Ted Cruz: he cares about his own political career and isn’t a team player.

Republican Party Looks Out for Republican Party

In that way, he’s perfect for the Republican Party. After all, the Republican Party is all about doing what is best for it at all costs. There are currently over 5 million American adults who do not have insurance simply because a whole lot of Republicans want to send some kind of message to President Obama. This certainly represents hundreds, if not thousands, of extra deaths each year. But partisan posturing is more important than the lives of constituents.

And that’s Ted Cruz. That’s why he’s a Republican. That’s why he didn’t endorse Trump before. And that’s why he did endorse Trump on Friday. He’s a vile guy. He’s the perfect Republican!

Sep 25

Odd Words: Bedizen

BedizenPage 24 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition just sucked. Really! First we got more be- words. Then we got a bunch of ben- words. I decided to go with “bedizen,” because there was only one other word that I could even remotely say I didn’t know.

One Word Beyond Bedizen

The other word was beldam, which our dictionary defines as “an old woman; a hag.” That’s interesting in that I would have figured that it meant “beautiful woman.” That is, after all, what it literally means. And apparently, it was first used to mean more or less “grandmother.” But now it’s just an old woman or even a hag. Anyway, I think the word is archaic. Thus: don’t use it — not even for an odd words post.

Bedizen is a more interesting word:

Be·di·zen  verb  \bi-‘dī-zən\

1. to ornament or dress gaudily or vulgarly.

Date: mid 17th century.

Origin: it seems to come from the Dutch word disen, which seems to mean to put on a facade to impress others. But I’ve had to use a number of different sources to come to that conclusion.

Example: But with age — and possibly, I concede, declining virility — I began to see that pornography entailed the exploitation of vulnerable and mostly young people, while the depictions of violence which bedizen our ubiquitous screens aren’t victimless crimes — no matter how enthusiastically those who stage them, may consent.A Point of View

Sep 24

Samuel Goldman: Another Very Surprised Conservative

Samuel GoldmanZack Beauchamp seems to have pissed off Ezra Klein. Over at Vox, he’s been getting these assignments to hang out and talk to conservative intellectuals who he needs to treat as though they are anything but entirely part of the problem. Most recently, I noted him talking to healthcare “expert” and eternal Young Republican Avik Roy, Avik Roy Cries Into His Beer. And this week he was stuck talking to George Washington University political theorist Samuel Goldman, A Conservative Intellectual Explains Why the GOP Has Fallen to Donald Trump.

That headline is deceptive. Samuel Goldman didn’t explain anything. The whole interview was an extended apologetics session for the conservative movement. Oh how surprised Samuel Goldman was that serious conservatives like himself weren’t what was actually powering the conservative movement! How could they ever have known?! Well, one thing they could have done would be to look at the last 50 years of the Republican Party. They might have noticed how the Republican Party would be dead if it weren’t for all the southern segregationists moving from the Democratic to the Republican Party.

Samuel Goldman Don’t Know Much About Political Science

But how could a professor of political science have had access to that kind of information. I’m sure that such history is withheld from all the faculty at George Washington University. It’s either that, or it’s that it has been really convenient for “principled” conservatives like Samuel Goldman to have ignored the racist power that allowed them to get their tax cuts and wars and “Christian” values. It strikes me as very much like Captain Renault in Casablanca. “I’m shocked — Shocked! — to find that gambling is going on in here!

What I said about Avik Roy could just as easily be said about Samuel Goldman, “But did it really take Donald Trump to make Avik Roy realize that the Republican base wasn’t actually in it for the tax cuts they never got? For the deregulation that caused them to lose their jobs? For the lead in their drinking water that mentally retarded their children? I don’t think so.” It’s just so much nonsense.

Hate Trump But Love His Policies

In the end, I doubt very seriously that either Roy or Goldman will be bothered if Trump gets into office and signs Paul Ryan’s budget and appoints extremist judges. What the two of them don’t like is that Donald Trump makes explicit the lie they’ve been telling for years: that the people who vote their way don’t give half a stick of crewed gum about “limited government, social conservatism, and a strong military.”

What has caused all these conservative intellectuals to be so surprised by the rise of Trump is still going on with them. They won’t admit to reality. Samuel Goldman dismisses the fact that black voters aren’t in the Republican Party as being the “result of a very specific history.” Yeah: a history of being racist.

Samuel Goldman Don’t Know Much About Economics

And he doesn’t engage with economics at all. He claims that “the truth is nobody really has any idea.” Well, just because Goldman doesn’t known anything about about economics (undoubtedly because he wants to continue to play the “Who knows?!” game) doesn’t mean the rest of us are so inclined. As Mark Thoma has shown, there are actually policy reasons, Why the Economy Does Better Under Democrats.

The Future of Conservatism Is Like Its Past

But Samuel Goldman does see a replacement for the old conservative movement. He sees three things. First, there is nationalism — but not the racist kind — just something that stands up to the open-borders crowd. Second, there is some kind of anti-PC politics. Third, there is a “realistic form of foreign policy.” If this sounds kind of pathetic, it’s not surprising.

First, there really isn’t an open-borders crowd outside of the collective conservative fever dream. Anti-PC is just another term for racism and other forms of discrimination. It’s guys unhappy that they are looked down on for making sexist comments. It’s people thinking they are losing out because of minorities. As for the realistic form of foreign policy, I think that would be the Democrats.

To be fair, Samuel Goldman doesn’t say that he is happy with this replacement. But the fact that he thinks “political correctness” is a issue of sufficient importance to talk about says much about him. It says that just as before, he’s willing to feed the beast in the name of tax cuts and regulation cuts and individual rights cuts. In other words, he’s just another conservative apologist.

Sep 24

Odd Words: Berdache

Berdache Ceremony - George Catlin

We’ve made it to page 25 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. And you know what? I knew all the words except for one: berdache. But I have a feeling other people know this word. It’s so modern and edgy.

Beyond Berdache

The page was filled with be- words: bereft, beseech, besmitch, bespoke, betide, betrade. Geez! Very disappointing. But I’m quite glad to learn berdache. With so much discussion of people who see their gender as different from their sex, it’s good to remember that things have always been that way. Social conservatives want to pretend that it is all some kind of liberal conspiracy and that everyone would be exactly the same if they weren’t given “ideas.”

So onward with the word of the day: berdache.

Ber·dache  noun  \bər-‘dash\

1. an American Indian tribesman who adopts the clothing and duties of a woman.

Date: 17th century.

Origin: from the French bardache, which goes back to an Arabic word that seems to describe a sex slave, which itself goes back to a Persian word for a prisoner.

Example: Men who were poor hunters, possibly berdaches, procured bark for the cabins, ran errands back to the town where the old people were left, made wooden bowls and dishes and clay tobacco pipes.John Lawson

Afterword

From my brief reading, the word “berdache” is meant to indicate not a discrete individual or form of behavior but rather the continuum of people and their behavior. In recent years, the term “two-spirit” has become popular. But it is important in such matters to remember that there is no such think as an American Indian or Native American. There are 562 federally recognized tribes in the United States. And I don’t know how many there were when the Europeans began their invasion. But the diversity of cultures in North America was enormous. So when discussing “berdache,” we want to be careful about making too many assumptions. It is a word used to describe a lot of different behavior from an outsider’s perspective.

Note

I screwed up and did Page 25 when I should have done Page 24. I’ll do Page 24 tomorrow.

Sep 23

An Insightful Analysis of the Divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Brad PittGiven the audience for this blog and my status as a maven of pop culture, it should come as a complete surprise that I’m writing about the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. After all, Jolie only filed for divorce on Monday. That’s 19 September 2016. Normally, I wouldn’t get around to the subject until early 2019 at best. Indeed, it is only a complete fluke that I found out about it. Because here’s the thing: I don’t care. That, I’m sure, will come as no surprise.

But I am interested in why it is that Hollywood couples so often divorce. Of course, it isn’t just them. “Power” couples tend not to last. And this, I believe, is due to a fundamental flaw in human social psychology and capitalism itself. Personally, I think that Brad Pitt is a very attractive man. I assume that’s widely accepted. Angelina Jolie looks very odd to me. But most men I know think she is attractive. And both members of this power couple are certainly professional-level screen actors.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Are Not That Amazing

But neither Brad Pitt nor Angelina Jolie are so distinguished in any way that they would be considered more than near the top of a collection of people. Yet because of their success, they are held in ridiculously high esteem. This is where the social psychology and capitalism come in. It is because of the capitalist system that they are far more successful than their talents warrant. Success creates success in a capitalist system — especially one so very aggressive in enforcing property rights. It’s not surprising that people look up to icons like this, even though it isn’t justified. A little hierarchy isn’t a bad thing. Sadly, there is no such thing as “a little hierarchy” in a capitalist system.

Angelina JolieBut I’m more interested in how it destroys the icons themselves. Why do Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie suffer from “irreconcilable differences”? You know what most hurts couples: financial difficulties. This couple did not have that problem. Their combined net worth is estimated to be almost a half billion dollars. What could be so bad in their lives that they absolutely can’t work it out? Infidelity? Drug addiction? Domestic abuse? People with much less manage to work through these problems — and worse.

Don’t Need to Work

I think it comes down to this: they don’t need to work through their differences. All their wealth and celebrity have turned them into adult versions of spoiled brats. And just as I don’t blame spoiled children for their behavior, I don’t blame Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for theirs. The blame goes to all of us: the people that accept an economic system that allows people to have that kind of money. They are, after all, actors. They should live in a system that requires them to act for a living until they are in their mid-60s.

Before someone mentions it: I know about their humanitarian work. I don’t care. All it shows is that they are at least vaguely aware of their privilege. Did I meantion they have a combined net worth of almost a half billion dollars? These are people who could be stripped of every penny they have and would still manage to be millionaires by this time next year. They will not suffer. They cannot suffer in an economic sense.

Save the Rich!

The reason we need economic reform is primarily for the billions who suffer in a direct economic sense. But we also need it for people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Because we’ve allowed them lose at least part of their souls. Because that’s what great privilege does to people. It doesn’t make them bad people. I think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have managed remarkably well. As far as I know they haven’t murdered anyone. But for their sake — For the sake of their children! — we must stop the madness. We must save the souls of the rich by making them like the rest of us.

Afterword

Note that one reason conservative give for paying the rich excessive sums of money is that if we don’t they will work less. But this has never held water. If you increase my salary by 10%, I’ll probably work more. I don’t make that much money, so it works as an incentive. But for people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie? Don’t you think they would act in a lot more films if they actually had to do it for a living? If it was something more than a habit or a hobby?

Sep 23

Odd Words: Bastinado

BastinadoThere were problems with page 23 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. There were some cool words (which I’ll discuss), but I didn’t have enough resources to do a full definition. So we are stuck with: bastinado.

Beating Past Bastinado

The first word I wanted to use was “battologize.” It is “to repeat words or phrases excessively in speech or writing.” I suffer from this. It’s not just that; I also suffer from this. In fact, it gets so bad, that I sometimes suffer from this. But really: it’s easy to fall into that kind of thing. That’s why it’s important to at least read a piece of writing before publishing.

The second word I selected was “bavardage.” It means “foolish or nonsensical talk.” You would have thought that I would have known that word. It’s like the first word I remember learning: facetious. By the time I was four, the most common sentence my mother said to me was, “Don’t be facetious.” One day I asked her what it meant. Here’s the thing: I could tell it wasn’t good. But whenever she said it, I was feeling pretty damned good myself. Not much has changed over the last five decades.

I suppose I could complain about all the bathy- words on this page. But you know how I feel about that. So let’s move on to today’s word: bastinado.

Bas·ti·na·do  noun  \bas-tə-‘nā-dō\

1. a blow or a beating with a stick, especially as applied to the soles of the feet as a method of punishment.

Date: very late 16th century.

Origin: from the Spanish word bastón, which is a stick.

Example: Inflicting the bastinado is not different from (the capital punishment for) serious crimes; if by good fortune (the victims) do not die, they cannot function (again) as men.Anthony François Paulus Hulsewé

Older posts «