May 27

Ann Kirkpatrick and AZ-01 She Leaves Open

Ann KirkpatrickI am always harping on Frank ignoring the House and Senate races and he challenged me to write up something on the House races the national media is ignoring due to the massive oxygen suck that is the Presidential race. You would think that the national media and pundits would just say, “Clinton is going to win the Presidency and now for something interest,” but you would be wrong. So for the next six months we are going to get one billion stories about how Clinton is not going to win, well maybe, but really, Trump is going to somehow pull it off because the national media is filled with overpaid addlepated… Okay, okay, I will stop.

First up on the list is my hometown Arizona 1. This is a seat currently held by Representative Ann Kirkpatrick. What is interesting about her is that she was one of the people to lose in the 2010 electoral bloodbath after she voted for the Affordable Care Act and had to endure the gauntlet of hate that most Democratic politicians had to deal with during the fight to get healthcare. She later fought her way back into Congress in 2012, one of the few to do so. She won re-election even though the district is rated as R-leaning. Now she has set her sights on McCain and because of the unique situation this year for Republicans, she is polling incredibly well against him.

I have no idea how that race will play out.

Ann Kirkpatrick Tries to Move Up Leaving Arizona 1 Open

So with Ann Kirkpatrick looking to move on up to the Senate, the House seat is open. That being the case, the usual cast of characters on the Republican side has shown up to run for the seat: Paul Babeu, Ken Bennett, David Gowan, Gary Kiehne, Wendy Rogers, Carlyle Begay, and Thomas Vearl Whipple.

All Those Republicans

Paul Babeu is a current Sheriff in Pinal County who was outed as gay during the 2012 congressional race by an ex-lover who happened to be here as an undocumented immigrant. I have met his brother but I haven’t met him since there has been little reason I would.

Ken Bennett is the former Secretary of State of Arizona (person in charge of elections and some of the paperwork for businesses among other things) and he ran for governor losing to Doug Doucey in the Republican primary. He is receiving some support from the NRCC Young Guns Program. Ironic since neither him nor Gary Kiehne are under 50.

Wendy Rogers is actually interesting from a personal aspect-she lived in my district and ran against my former State senator David Schipira. She then ran for Congress in 2012 and 2014, losing to Kyrsten Sinema the second time in what is billed by the political punditry/polling companies as a toss up seat but is really Democratic.

Carlyle Begay is the only other one of note in my opinion since he was appointed to office as a Democrat, won re-election then switched to being a Republican. Now he is running for Congress when people really don’t like party hoppers.

Gary Kiehne is getting national level support but he doesn’t have the history that Ken Bennett has.

I suspect it will be Ken Bennett who pulls off the win of the Republican primary. He doesn’t have as much money as some of the others (Gary Kiehne has the most) but he does have higher name ID for the district.

On the Democratic side there are three: James Maloney, Tom O’Halleran and Miguel Olivas.

Of the three, only Maloney has not run for office in any capacity.

On the Democratic Side

Ann Kirkpatrick leaves the door open for Tom O’Halleran. He is very interesting because he was a Republican, then independent, and finally he has become a Democrat. He also has served in office before as a Republican so he knows how to campaign and he almost beat one of the Republicans that show up in the news periodically to make the rest of us living here in AZ cringe: Sylvia Allen. I also view O’Hallaran as serious since I am getting his fundraising emails so he has bought some list I am on and he has the highest amount of the three. He also has a lot of support from the dreaded establishment including outgoing Kirkpatrick and the national Democratic Party.

I think he will probably win the primary.

The General Election

On to the General: it is unclear who will win if it is a Bennett v O’Hallaran match up. Both are experienced campaigners with long histories in most of the district. Which means what is going on at the top of the ticket might have an impact on it staying in the Democratic column.

On one hand, this isn’t as interesting since it won’t flip the House but on the other, with the mess at the top of the ticket, it is one of those races that it is likely to stay Dem instead of being flipped.

This election looks better for the Democrats in Arizona than I would have thought, with Ann Kirkpatrick having a real change in the Senate.

Next time we will look at AZ-02. That one is a pick up possibility.

May 27

AMBER Alert on My Phone Now

AMBER AlertI just got an AMBER Alert — on my phone. I’m a late adopter, so maybe all of you are very used to these things. But I was worried. With the high pitched screeching, it reminded me of those tests we got on television to prepare us all for nuclear war. But now, it was just a missing child in Solano County — roughly an hour away from me by car.

Generally, an AMBER Alert is just about some child custody case. I don’t mean to suggest that they aren’t serious. I’m constantly amazed at the way that couples use their children to get at each other. It’s disgusting. It’s cruel. And most of all, it’s childish. Leave the biologically children out of it!

This particular AMBER Alert is about an actual kidnapping, it seems. Allegedly, Pearl Pinson (15) was dragged by Fernando Castro (19) into his gold 1997 Saturn Wednesday morning. But this is hardly the kind of kidnapping that one normally thinks about. It is almost certainly the case that Pinson and Castro knew each other. I assume that they used to be lovers and have broken up. Castro is acting the way a lot of young men do who are scorned.

I don’t want to live in a society in which everyone is deputized.

This doesn’t make the act harmless. Castro may have a gun. This is a perfect set-up for a murder-suicide. So I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of this in the least. I hope that everything works out with no further harm coming to anyone.

But an AMBER Alert just last week sounds exactly the same: a 15-year-old girl was dragged into the car of her 22-year-old boyfriend. The girl was found three hours later, having been dropped off at the assailant’s parent’s house. As far as I can tell, the police still haven’t found the boyfriend.

But I have real problems with the AMBER Alert. The most obvious one is why we make a big deal out of this particular crime committed against this particular population (people under the age of 17). I suppose the idea is that the crime is still in progress. But the crime is still in progress when someone kills everyone in a 7-11 and rushes away with a gun. And why do we care only up to the age of 16?

The other issue I have is that I don’t want to live in a society in which everyone is deputized. I hated it when shows like America’s Most Wanted showed up. And that was a very telling example, because it started off going after murderers. But before long there were drug dealers on it. There’s a delicate balance that young children are taught: there are things we need to worry about and there are things that we shouldn’t worry about. We don’t want to live in an authoritarian nightmare.

So I’m concerned about Pearl Pinson and Fernando Castro. And if I could do something to help, I would. (Creating a standoff with the police is probably the most dangerous thing that could happen.) But getting an alert on my phone about something that happened yesterday, an hour away from me, when I’m not in a car? It sounds like a waste of resources to me. And I wonder what the police have been doing in the day and a half since Pinson was kidnapped.

Is this another case where the police are not held accountable for any wrong they do and are always proclaimed heroes — even while they can’t find two known people in a known car? Is the AMBER Alert just a subtle reminder that our policing departments are filled with incompetents?

May 26

How to Stay a Bad Writer in 3 Easy Steps

Dick Dastardly - Bad WriterI’m a professional editor. I’m all right at the job. In the past, I’ve worked with some great editors, so I’m well aware of where I am lacking. But I do a reasonable job. And I am capable of turning a bad writer into a competent one — if the writer has any interest in that.

There are two attitudes that writers have toward editors. Some, like me, love editors — as long as they reasonably good. They help the writer out enormously. Writing is a very introverted activity and just having a sane outsider to point out unclear sections is very helpful. But a good editor (much less a great editor) is a collaborator who can greatly improve a writer’s work.

Then there are writers who hate editors. I am not one of them. But I can speculate because I’ve had a recent run in with someone who is nominally my editor. That wasn’t truly an issue of my not getting along with an editor, however. I was never asked to change any text. Instead, I got a flood of complaints about constantly changing format requests. But I suspect that writers who hate editors feel much as I did.

I felt as though I was being abused. The “editor” was simply trying to assert her authority on me — not doing her job and not asking for anything that would actually improve what I had written. In fact, in the case of this “editor,” I don’t think the text for the vast majority of the work was read. And that is doubtless how editor hating writers feel: that what they produced is just fine and that the editor is just being difficult.

In my experience, writers who hate editors are bad. I suspect a lot of it has to do with their inability to take criticism. There are a lot of people who think they can write who really can’t do much more than talk on paper. And the situation is getting worse because the internet has created an explosion in the need for written content. So it isn’t hard to be a professional writer.

But there’s a problem. If you do something long enough, there is a good chance that you will become at least competent. And then where will you be? Because being a bad professional writer is great! I mean that. When I’m being paid to write something, I fret over it endlessly. I’ll spend an hour working on a single sentence if it is critical to the piece. But for the bad writer, it doesn’t matter. You just dump your thoughts on the page and collect your check.

Editors can stand in the way of that. They can force you to improve. And so, given that I would hate so see any bad writer lose out on the gravy train that they’ve found, I offer the following three easy steps for staying a bad writer:

  1. Submit a thousand words of really mediocre copy. Don’t worry about it being in the least bit interesting. Just dump some words on the page, make sure no more than two to three words are misspelled, and submit it.
  2. You will hear back from your editor who will, fearing for your fragile writer feelings, ask for a “polish.” But because the editor knows that you are bad writer, they will give a specific list of numbered changes to make. Ignore these changes. Spend maybe 15 minutes noodling with some of what you wrote, but be careful: don’t make any changes that would notably improve the copy!
  3. You will hear back from your editor who will, fearing for your fragile writer feelings but now somewhat pissed off because you ignored their previous request, ask for a “polish as I requested before.” The editor will usually restate the requested changes in a different way so that the two of you can pretend that you are not just a hopeless, arrogant, and bad writer who they would fire if they were allowed. Now you must go in and make all the changes requested. But don’t do them artfully; do them as quickly as possible. And then — this is critical — don’t do a final read through to see if it all makes sense. This last bit should be easy, because as a bad writer, you never do a final read through anyway.

At this point, the editor will just fix what the bad writer wrote. The truth is that the editor knows that the bad writer is incapable of doing any better. And even if they were, they wouldn’t care enough to spend the time to do it. What’s more, if the editor hurts the fragile feelings of the bad writer, the bad writer will just complain to the editor’s boss.

Eventually, of course, the bad writer will be fired. But they will just get another job where they will torture another editor.

May 26

The Alternate Reality of Hillary or Bust

Hillary ClintonI’ve been thinking about an alternate reality where there is a “Hillary or Bust” movement. I actually think that there is an implicit one. I read a number of articles when Sanders first started to take off about how we couldn’t support him. He wasn’t even a Democrat! Blah, blah, blah. The truth is that one concern I’ve had since the beginning has been if Sanders had won the nomination, the Democratic establishment would not have supported him. But let’s move back.

As you all should know by now, I’m really against the “Bernie or Bust” movement. Well, if it is just a rhetorical movement to help Bernie Sanders in the primary, then I’m fine with it. But there clearly are people who have convinced themselves that the difference between Clinton and any Republican is minor. I don’t think that they are all that wrong on this point. Where they are wrong is in thinking that Sanders is some kind of radical. For all we hear about incrementalism with regard to Clinton, Sanders is also an incrementalist. Americans really need to get out more, ideologically speaking!

But I think the “Bernie or Bust” movement is really quite small. In an alternate reality where Bernie were winning, I think there would be a huge “Hillary or Bust” movement. And it wouldn’t just be brats on Twitter and subgeniuses on The Young Turks. The “Hillary or Bust” movement would be more like the “Never Trump” movement. But given that Democrats aren’t generally authoritarians, they wouldn’t fall in line the way the Republican dissenters have.

It’s perfectly fine to complain that Sanders and other liberals are uncompromising. But the people making these complaints are no more willing to compromise…

This really isn’t about the Democratic Party, of course. It’s about the Labour Party and its treatment of Jeremy Corbyn. It isn’t just all the public slanders. It is that after Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party — because the people who make up the party voted for him — the establishment had no interest in helping him or aligning with him. This is the Labour establishment that has lost two straight elections — the second one of which was very much winnable.

The main (public) establishment complaint about Corbyn is that he really isn’t up to the task of leading the Labour Party. I largely agree with that. But instead of making the best of a situation they didn’t like, the Labour Party establishment turned its back on him. It is apparently better to lose another election (and in the process teach the prols who voted for Corbyn a lesson) than to get only part of what they want.

And that’s the thing I’ve noticed here in the United States. It’s perfectly fine to complain that Sanders and other liberals are uncompromising. But the people making these complaints are no more willing to compromise; they just happen to be in power and thus are getting everything they want (inside the party). So I really have almost no doubt that it were Sanders who had effectively won the Democratic Primary, there would be a “Hillary or Bust” (or “Never Bernie”) movement that was far bigger, more viscous, and more effective than the “Bernie or Bust” movement. Like with the Labour Party, the Democratic Party establishment would rather lose than win with the “wrong” candidate.

Note that this has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton. She just happens to be the establishment candidate for the Democrats in 2016. And I’m fairly fond of her. Talking about “Hillary or Bust” is really just talking about about the way that those in power respond to change. So as much as I might not like “Bernie or Bust,” I think we have to admit that if things were reversed, it would be far worse.

May 25

Burt Kwouk RIP

Burt KwoukI just found out that Burt Kwouk died yesterday. He was the kind of actor that you saw everywhere, but he will always be remembered for the part of Cato Fong, Inspector Jacques Clouseau servant who attacked him all the time in The Pink Panther film series. This was supposed to be part of Clouseau’s continued training. But it is quite absurd. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, the two of them totally destroy Clouseau’s apartment. (Not that it matters, given that it is blown up shortly afterward.)

The following scene is entirely typical. Cato surprises Clouseau, they fight, and after the fight is over, Clouseau attacks Cato in the most unsportsmanlike way imaginable. It’s very silly stuff. But I love it. And when I was a kid, Cato was the only character I really felt a kinship to.

But Burt Kwouk was much more Cato Fong. The IMDb has him listed in 144 films and television shows. And this gives him but one credit for the 78 episodes of Last of the Summer Wine that he appeared in. No cause of death has been announced. He was 85.

I think I will call it a night and watch one of the Pink Panther movies. I only recently got The Pink Panther Collection with the first five films.

May 25

Why Is Danish Actor Mille Dinesen So Worried About Taxes in the US?

Mille Dinesen - Denmark TaxesSchool teacher Mille Dinesen is really upset about taxes in the United States!

I found out all about it when I was talking to William today. He mentioned that one of his clients (who appears to be a little unstable) saw his “Feel the Bern” bumper sticker and emailed him something about how horrible things are in Denmark. You see, both Sanders and Clinton have said nice things about Denmark. And we aren’t supposed to do that, because everyone knows that Fascist Italy was so much better. I did a quick Google search and found out that the text was taken from what was a viral meme that was supposedly written by a school teacher in Denmark, apparently Mille Dinesen, even though it was signed in some versions, “Mikkel Clair Nissen.” But you can see Mille Dinesen there on the left, and she’s the one displayed in the meme. See the chalkboard behind her?!

The meme has been thoroughly rebutted. PolitiFact, for example, went after the claim that the suicide rate in Denmark was two to three times higher than in the US. It turns out that the suicide rate in Denmark was higher in Denmark in 1960 through 1990. But it has steadily decreased. And the US suicide rate has gone up steadily (though not as drastically). So now the suicide rate in the US is substantially higher than it is in the Denmark. Oh well.

But mostly the thing is about how terrible the taxes are. This is a typical conservative thing. What if the government taxed you at 90% and then gave the money back to you? That is, in fact, largely what the government does. Conservatives have this idea that the government takes money and just wastes it. But if that money is used to make people better off, then the rate of taxes is not a big deal. One problem we have here in the US is that we tax a great deal so that we can spend roughly as much on our military as the rest of the world combined.

Last year, Matt Bruenig wrote a very interesting article, When Is It Better Not to Be in America? It looks at the Luxembourg Income Survey data to determine how much disposable income people have at different places in the income distribution. And it turns out that people in the bottom one-third of the income scale do better in Denmark than they do in the US. And it is the opposite for the people at the top. As Bruenig noted, “We treat our rich well. Nobody can deny that.”

He goes on to note that the harm of taking money away from the wealthy is more than offset by the good that is done by giving the poor money. Not that this is the final word on the subject or anything. But the fact that cars are taxed at 180% in Denmark is totally irrelevant. The point of the meme isn’t to make people think about Denmark — it is to make people not think about America.

Mikkel Clair Nissen or Mille Dinesen — Whatever!

But there’s a funny thing about that school teacher. That isn’t a school teacher. It is Danish actor Mille Dinesen in the title role of the Danish television show Rita about a “headstrong and unconventional teacher and single mother.” (These are the kind of jobs that TinEye reverse image searches are great for!) I’m sure the writer (who appears to be just another libertarian loon) did a Google image search on “Danish teacher” and grabbed it. He is from Denmark. But he might have bigger problems than pretending to be a school teacher on television. This is from his Facebook page:

Hi folks, as I have mentioned earlier, I left the US a month ago to find out what was going on with my children. Unfortunately all in avail. I don’t feel safe in Denmark, I therefore left for Spain after only a week in Denmark and now reside in Spain where I am working in a night club. Well, this is just an update, as well as a thanks to all of you who have supported me through hard times.

Sounds a bit like Alex Jones, “I don’t feel safe in Denmark”! But I wonder why it is that people on the political right find it necessary to cherry pick data and generally distort reality in order to make their case. Oh, I’m kidding! They do it because their ideas are bad. But I’ll admit: if I have to wade through rubbish, I’d rather look at Mille Dinesen than Mikkel Clair Nissen.

May 24

Sadly, It Is Not Johnny-Cum-Lately

Johnny-Cum-LatelyIt’s amazing how the internet can allow you to seem a lot more knowledgeable than you are. For example, I was thinking of the phrase “Johnny-come-lately.” But I thought that the middle word was “cum” and not “come.” It is, after all, a weird construction. And I was used to phrases of this form that used “cum”: something-cum-something. So so why not Johnny-cum-lately? I decided to look up the word “cum.” And then I released that if I entered that word into Google, I was not going to get the information that I was looking for.

It reminds me of a time years ago that I was working on an underground magazine called Orange Toast. And I had this idea for a comic called, “Alf: Prostitute for Peace.” And we all thought it would be extra funny if I drew it. Then, the mastermind of the whole thing, Mark Neville, would do the pen work. So it ended up looking kind of professional, but with my total lack of perspective and whatnot. But I remember that Mark was unhappy that I used the word “come” for what he thought should be “cum.” Mark was pedantic in that way.

The truth is, I didn’t really know. Having an orgasm seems to me rather like “coming.” And the use of “cum” in the porn industry strikes me even today as an affectation. Regardless, I always knew that “cum” was a real Latin word, so I entered “cum Latin” and I got the answer that I was looking for. In Latin, “cum” means “with.” Although it also means “together,” which I find amusing. It gives a whole new meaning to the idea of simultaneous orgasms. But when the word is used in everyday English, it is with the former meaning — or perhaps “along with.”

Grammarist offers a good example of the use of the word, “Jimmy is a hunter-cum-animal-activist.” And in that example, you can see how easy it is to get confused. It means that Jimmy is a hunter and an animal activist — a somewhat ironic, or at least unusual, combination. But if you read the sentence out of context, it would be more natural to read “cum” as “become” as in, “Jimmy is a hunter turned animal activist.” So you can see why I might have thought the original phrase was “Johnny-cum-lately.” And I think the case can be made.

For example, when “cum” is used as a conjunction it can mean “since” or “while” or “although.” The last of those works rather well. It isn’t that I’m trying to justify my ignorance. It’s just that “Johnny-come-lately” is so strange a way to describe a newcomer. That’s not to say that it isn’t useful, because none of the definitions I’ve seen get at the critical thing about the phrase: it is a pejorative. The implication is always that someone has joined a group or movement only after it became popular and most likely only because as well.

Regardless, I wish it were “Johnny-cum-lately.” It just feels right. The right spelling of it doesn’t make distinctly more sense.

May 24

Why I’m Against Open Primaries

Open PrimariesOne thing that has shown up a lot on the Bernie Sanders side of the Democratic primary is the idea that independents should be able to vote in party primaries. Indeed, this is already the case in 20 states. I think this is totally wrong. What’s more, I think those in favor of it have forgotten what political parties have traditionally been. In the not so distant past, political party elites pretty much decided who was going to be their candidates. Since then, things have gotten much more democratic. And that’s a good thing. But open primaries? I think it would be better to go back to the elites deciding.

I don’t like our two party system. If we had a parliamentary system with multiple parties, I most definitely wouldn’t be a Democrat. But we do have the system that we have. Let’s change the system! I’m all for that. But I’m not for people who can’t even be willing to take a stand as to their party preference deciding which candidate either party decides to nominate. Democrats should get to nominate the Democratic nominee and Republicans should get to nominate the Republican nominee. Otherwise, what is the primary even for?! Why not just go straight to the general election?

I’m not sure what the Sanders campaign is complaining about. According to Ballotpedia, Clinton has won 58% of the open primaries and 61% of the closed primaries.

There are lots of things we could change about the primary system. I’d personally like to see fewer super delegates in the Democratic Party. But it doesn’t much matter. I fully believe that if Bernie Sanders had three million more votes than Hillary Clinton, there would be a mad rush of super delegates to Sanders. And look at the Republican Party! It seems that every four years they change their rules to stop what happened last time from happening again. And they succeed! Something even worse happens, instead!

Open Primaries Are Like Non-Primaries

I’ll be honest: I don’t understand this issue at all. Being a member of a political party is no more difficult than registering to vote. (I think having to register to vote in general elections is a big problem, but few people are complaining about it.) Allowing independents to vote in partisan primaries is like letting Canadians vote in US elections. It really isn’t any business of independents who the Democrats and Republicans nominate.

Now I’ll admit: I’m not keep on independents. To me, they are just a bunch of people with a clear partisan ax to grind who want the world to applaud them for their “independence” and lack of partisanship. Well, if that’s what they want, there ought to be some price to pay. And the bare minimum that the price should be is that they don’t get a say in how the political parties run their business. They are, after all, “independent.” Why do they even care who the parties nominate? They are above all that! And in the end, there will be a full slate of candidates to vote from parties more explicitly fascist than the Republicans to actual socialists.

What’s more, I’m not sure what the Sanders campaign is complaining about. According to Ballotpedia, Clinton has won 58% of the open primaries and 61% of the closed primaries. Are we really supposed to believe that this election would be different if there had been nothing but open primaries? I’m a very disgruntled Democrat. But I am a Democrat. And I don’t see why people who can’t even be bothered to pick a party should get a say in who my party nominates.


Note that this does not apply to candidates. The fact that Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat doesn’t matter in the least as long as members of the Democratic Party want to nominate him.

May 23

Steve M: Forget Democracy When I’m Winning

Steve MI’ve already cut a number of people out of my RSS feed because they are annoying me. But Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog has thus far avoided this treatment because in general he’s insightful. But he wrote an article yesterday that was so stunningly brain dead that I may have to change my mind. The article is, Why Democrats Could Tolerate a Lot More Division in 2008. The end of the title was cut off in my feed, so I thought that it was a call for continued democracy. But no.

Steve M is making the lamest of counterarguments against those who note that Hillary Clinton fought Obama to the end in 2008. And the argument is: it was different in 2008! He even claims that he hated Clinton for doing it then. Now in one sense, this is very consistent: when his candidate is winning, he thinks the other candidate should drop out. It’s a vile position to hold, but since that’s all that is going on, he should own it. He shouldn’t be making arguments that it was okay for Clinton to do it then but it is not okay for Sanders to do it now.

Steve M’s Retrospective Argument

And really: all his argument comes down to is that in retrospect, we know that Obama won therefore Clinton did no damage. Of course, that doesn’t stop him from pulling out statistics about how unpopular Bush was. The truth is that the reason Obama won big in 2008 was the economy. And it was only in May that we started to see the economy fall apart. So the truth is that when Clinton was fighting most she and the nation did not know the election was a slam dunk. The idea that the Democrats “had the wind at their backs” is silly if not stupid.

I do wish this whole thing were over. Bernie Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee. Even the marginal notion that he would get the super delegates to switch to him is now ridiculous with everything he’s done to alienate the Democratic establishment. But the man has every right to stay in the race. And Clinton supporters should accept this. Steve M concluded his article, “No, the Democrats can’t afford the luxury of a sustained fight. Not this year.” That’s a nice way of saying that Sanders should have dropped out of the race in February.

Steve M Has “Reasons”

I believe in democracy. I believe in it in the Democratic primary and I believe in it in the general election. Barring an economic catastrophe, I don’t see Trump winning. And the truth is that I don’t think that Steve M would be making the argument that this election is going to be really close under normal circumstances. But that’s what he has to say to make the argument that everyone must rush to get in line behind Clinton. Authoritarianism isn’t just something for Republicans. And it doesn’t matter if the authoritarian has “reasons”; authoritarians always have “reasons.” And in the case of Steve M, we’ve heard the exact same “reasons” before.

Let me leave you with a thought: in 2008, the Clinton and Obama camps were probably more angry at his other than the Clinton and Sanders camps are today. I didn’t even follow politics that closely then I heard lots of Clinton supporters claim that they wouldn’t vote for Obama. It didn’t go like that in the end, of course. The time for unity is the general election. The only people who call for unity in the primary are the people who are winning. If Hillary Clinton loses in November, it won’t be because of Bernie Sanders.

May 23

No One Is Slacking at Frankly Curious

Nobody's SlackingI know you are all probably thinking that I’ve been slacking. I haven’t been posting two articles per day. I think this is a misconception. But the truth is that I’ve been very tired. Dealing with my father’s medical problems were hard. But they were nothing compared to after it was all over. You can maintain a certain level of energy while you have to — while you are going through a stressful situation. But after it is over, you fall apart. Or at least I do.

But all of this has been more reflected in my day job. I’ve actually been doing a lot of work here on Frankly Curious. For one thing, I think the features that I’ve been writing here have been more in-depth. In the past, when I was writing a lot of articles, I had a tendency to bring them to hasty conclusions after I hit about 500 words. Now there’s more of a natural flow of things. And I seem to be writing more things in the 800 to 900 word neighborhood.

More than that, I’m doing things that you probably haven’t noticed. The new page, Don Quixote in English Language Translation, is now up to roughly 3,000 words. And it continues to climb. But along with that, I have to go through all these old Don Quixote articles. Most of them are from the days before we switched to WordPress, and they need to be reformatted. And there are other technical details that need to be dealt with. It’s all a pain.

Of course, I know that few people around here are all that interested in Don Quixote. But it’s part of a process. There are a number of other things that I think I will do similar pages for. One is for the artist Bernard Frouchtben, although I think my articles on him are already the top three on Google. It’s too bad he isn’t better know, because I am pretty much the only source of information about him. The other thing I’m thinking about doing is a long article about Bob’s Burgers. I really do think I could do a blog on the show without any problem. And it would be unusual, because I think my insights are much deeper than what you are going to find at the AV Club.

So I haven’t been slacking. I’m just focused on making Frankly Curious more than it is. The truth is that over the last two years, we’ve seen the popularity of the site grow. But for the last six months, it’s stagnated. I do know one way that I could increase traffic: I could write about Donald Trump all the time like Digby is. But I just don’t care. In fact, as you’ll see later, about the only time I write about the presidential election at all is when I get angry at the way that “liberals” treat Bernie Sanders. It isn’t that I think Sanders deserves to be treated well. But I wish people would stop claiming that they are democratic socialists when they were never willing to vote for the only democratic socialist in the race.

Bottom line: I’m not slacking. I’m working hard. Even as I write this, I’m exhausted. Yet here I am in front of my computer working. And what are you all doing? Slacking I’ll bet!

May 22

Theranos and All That Silicon Valley Nonsense

TheranosI’m not much of a fan of Facebook. It is, after all, just a photo sharing website that took off. What it had that other photo sharing websites didn’t have was founders with friends who had rich daddies. But at least it does work as advertised. There are other issues with it that I will come back to, but it is generally useful to people. This is not always the case. Take the case of Theranos.

Theranos is one of the big new purveyors of Silicon Valley disruption. It created a device called Edison that could test for disease using just a couple of drops of blood instead of a whole vile. Thus, instead of going to a phlebotomists to get blood draw, you would “just” get your finger poked and be done with it. There was just a small problem: it didn’t work that well. The Wall Street Journal reported last week, Theranos Voids Two Years of Edison Blood-Test Results.

But what’s the big deal? People make mistakes. Well, it’s a little worse than that. Theranos is voiding all results from a two year period. Geoffrey Baird of the University of Washington Department of Laboratory Medicine said that this was “unprecedented.” But what’s worse is that this move was really just an attempt by the company to mitigate damage. Back in October, The Wall Street Journal published an investigative report, Hot Startup Theranos Has Struggled With Its Blood-Test Technology. And since then, the heat has been on.

In April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services threatened Theranos with banning founder Elizabeth Holmes and her second in command, Sunny Balwani, with a two year ban from working anywhere in the blood-testing industry. Balwani later resigned. But the whole thing is a mess. And this is at a company that is supposedly worth $9 billion. But as they were showering the company with money, no one seemed to care that their product could do what it claimed.

More Fundamental Problems With Theranos

But even if the product worked, there are other problems. Like so much Silicon Valley “innovation,” I wonder why we should care. To me, the ultimate example of this is this app that allows you to deposit a check to your bank account remotely. I first saw it with a commercial of a couple who were laying in bed on a Sunday morning and didn’t want to go out to the bank. Well, okay. But there’s no mail delivery on Sunday, so you probably got the check on Saturday. And depositing it on Sunday will be no better than waiting until Monday. So who cares?

So whether it is Theranos or Facebook, what they really do is provide investors with a better way to make money. They don’t offer customers anything distinctly better.

One of the selling points of this procedure was that it was less painful. I find this a farcical statement. I have really bad veins and have gotten lots of blood tests. There is basically no pain associated with giving blood unless it has to be drawn from an unusual place like a knuckle. On the other hand, the idea of having my finger stabbed gives me chills. And it isn’t like I don’t have a lot of experience with that too. It’s a minor thing, but typical that Theranos would use a thoughtless lie to sell its product.

A more important issue is whether this is a good idea to allow people to get tested all the time. I know far too many people (I might be one) who would become addicted to this. And having medical treatments are often more dangerous than the disease (or in many cases, non-disease). In my father’s recent problems, we now think that it was just a kidney stone. But in putting a catheter in, they managed to cause a bladder infection. So basically 90% of the pain was due to the doctors.

New Ways to Do Old Things

But what more bothers me about Theranos is that there is nothing truly disruptive about it. It would be innovative in the sense of making blood tests easier. But it is disruptive only in an economic sense. It is a way of putting a bunch of phlebotomists out of work and then keeping all the savings. This seems to be the point of “disruption.” In the past, technologies that put people out of work were worth it because the savings were shared. That’s just not true anymore.

So whether it is Theranos or Facebook, what they really do is provide investors with a better way to make money. They don’t offer customers anything distinctly better. For all the talk of Uber, people aren’t getting anything better. Uber is just a way to skirt existing regulations and make drivers pay more of their own expenses. And it’s still hard to get a ride where it was hard before.


As you may know, I used to work with my brilliant young friend Mikhail on a start-up. And it amazed me that we couldn’t get investors. But now it seems all too clear. We were doing cutting edge technology. It had a clear path to profitability, but it wasn’t a way of siphoning off money from an existing money-making system. And that’s why no one was interested. It reminds me of a conversation I had a long time ago with Jim Hogshire. I mentioned that I wanted to write a book about a particular subject, but that there were already books on the subject. He told me that it was easier to get a book published if there were already books on the subject. The hardest thing to sell to publishers was something brand new.

That’s the same thing in “innovative” Silicon Valley. They aren’t interested in anything new. That’s why Facebook was so big: it wasn’t new. It a distinct example of something that was well worn. So it isn’t at all surprising that investors in Theranos didn’t care if the company could actually do what it claimed.

May 21

Matt Taibbi on Republican Weaklings

Matt TaibbiIf this isn’t the end for the Republican Party, it’ll be a shame. They dominated American political life for 50 years and were never anything but monsters. They bred in their voters the incredible attitude that Republicans were the only people within our borders who raised children, loved their country, died in battle or paid taxes. They even sullied the word “American” by insisting they were the only real ones. They preferred Lubbock to Paris, and their idea of an intellectual was Newt Gingrich. Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to Romney and Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates, all with the same haircut — the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.

A century ago, the small-town American was Gary Cooper: tough, silent, upright and confident. The modern Republican Party changed that person into a haranguing neurotic who couldn’t make it through a dinner without quizzing you about your politics. They destroyed the American character. No hell is hot enough for them. And when Trump came along, they rolled over like the weaklings they’ve always been, bowing more or less instantly to his parodic show of strength.

—Matt Taibbi
RIP, GOP: How Trump Is Killing the Republican Party

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