May 31

Martha McSally and the Vulnerable AZ-02

Martha McSallyUp next in our series of Congressional Races is another Arizona race that is rated as a Leans Republican in the Cook Political Report. Arizona’s second Congressional District[1] is known for the tragic reason of the assassination attempt on Gabby Giffords that took place on 8 January 2011. After a year of attempting to recover, she resigned and a special election was held. The replacement race was won by Ron Barber who was another victim of the mass shooting. Ron won the first race in 2012 barely by 2,454 votes but then lost in 2014 by 161 votes. If anyone ever says your vote doesn’t count, it is races like these that prove them wrong.

So currently, incumbent Representative Martha McSally is considered a vulnerable candidate so she is part of the NRCC’s Patriots Program.

Martha McSally is a former fighter pilot and was apparently the first to be acknowledged having flown in combat. She was a Colonel in the Air Force and so is a bit on the militaristic side. She also has various degrees that she got from places like the liberal enclave of the US Air Force War College and (oddly enough) Harvard.) She serves mostly on armed forces committees and has been doing a ton of outreach in the district.

On the Democratic Side

On the Democratic side there are two candidates: former state representatives Victoria Steele and Matt Heinz.

Representative Steele is Native American (she is of the Seneca tribe) and she was a news anchor for years in the Tucson region. She was first elected to the State House in 2012 and won re-election in 2014. She has the backing of Raul Grijalva, who has served in a neighboring district for years. She has the support of most of the activists in the area but she hasn’t been able to do much fundraising.

Rep. Heinz is a medical doctor from the Tucson region. He has been able to do a lot more fundraising compared to Representative Steele, but from what I remember, the activists were not too happy with him running against Barber in 2012. I have met him a few times back when we all had hope (around the end of 2008) and he seemed like a decent enough person, if a little overeager at times. I do remember he fidgets more than I do and I am constantly fidgeting.

I may have met Representative Steele once, I don’t remember because I wasn’t going to many meetings for the longest time.

It is a difficult thing to say how this race will go. The DCCC is not really interested at the moment since it isn’t on the list of races that are being supported but if Steele wins, Emily’s List might come out for her. If Heinz wins, there might be solid LGBT support. Martha McSally is considered a strong contender because she is very visible in the district and has been making the right moves. (According to one source I consulted “she is everywhere.”) So it is likely that the district will stay Republican. But as I discussed last time, the mess at the top of the ticket can have an impact.

The thing about this is that you can have a razor thin margin at first and transform it later as Al Franken showed with his race. So as Martha McSally has been doing a lot of outreach, it won’t matter if the entire state goes blue for the Senate and president, it will keep her in Congress. Voters in that district are very used to having a lot of access to their congressional representatives and that is what matters overall.


[1] Giffords was actually the representative of the 8th district. These things change over time. It’s the same area.

May 30

It’s Memorial Day: Everyone Gets a Trophy!

Memorial DayI remember back in 2012, Chris Hayes got in a boatload of trouble when he tried to discuss Memorial Day. It was one of his greatest moments. He talked about the use of the world “hero” to describe soldiers who died in war. He said, “I feel uncomfortable with the word hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war.”

There is really nothing controversial about what he said. He was, as is his nature, very careful. He wasn’t saying that soldiers weren’t heroes; he was just trying to explain why the word made him uncomfortable. The conservative blogosphere, of course, went after him big time. How dare he question that every army supply clerk wasn’t Hector and Achilles rolled into one?!

Of course, that wasn’t what Hayes was saying at all. But the controversy is entirely typical of the way that conservatives, and to a slightly smaller degree the nation, think about the military. It’s sad because it shows how facile their appreciation is. They don’t actually care about any individual “hero” but rather the very idea of the military. And in that way, the attacks on Chris Hayes make sense, because he was questioning war itself.

But there is another level on which this “every soldier is a hero” business bothers me. It’s very much like “every child is a beautiful snowflake.” If every soldier is a hero then none of them are. All we’ve done is to redefine “hero” to mean any person in the military — even if all they’ve done is spend 20 years doing paper work. (Note: I am not belittling paper work, which can be terrifying.)

What’s most amazing is that this impulse to turn every soldier into a hero (some of whom, remember, are psychopaths) is that it treats them as if they need protecting. They are like the children’s sports leagues where everyone gets a trophy. Now, I’m all for that! Children shouldn’t be turned into professional athletes for the fun of their children.

But it is exactly the conservatives who want 5-year-olds to be taught the importance of “winning” who also think that every soldier is a special snowflake who can’t ever be criticized. It’s ironic. Or it would be if it were about the soldier. But of course, it isn’t. It is rather about exactly what Hayes was just grazing in his comments four years ago: that “every soldier a hero” is really just a pretext for continuous war.

Meanwhile, for the vast majority of Americans, Memorial Day is really just about barbecues and watching sports on television. I can see why people might find my thoughts on the matter of war offensive. But they really are no more offensive than those who don’t treat soldiers as individuals but just rhetorical tokens. And ultimately, the problem (if you choose to see it that way) is that the people of this nation don’t care. For most people, Memorial Day is just another day off work (if they are lucky). For them, “soldier as hero” is the same as yellow ribbons: patriotism bought cheap.

Want to be angry about the mistreatment of the military? Don’t look to me! Look to the apathetic nation and the war mongers who want more dead “heroes.”

May 29

Not All Sanders Supporters Are Bad — But They’re Sick

Paul Krugman - Sanders SupportersAchen and Bartels wrote an interesting article last week, Do Sanders Supporters Favor His Policies? It makes the point that political movements are not so much about ideals but about tribalism. It says that this is as true of the Clinton campaign as it is about the Sanders campaign. But it is also still as much of a hit job on Sanders as it can be while still seeming vaguely scholarly.

A good example of its bias is the contention that Sanders supporters are “disaffected white men.” It quoted a study that found that Sanders supporters were more pessimistic than Clinton supporters when it came to “opportunity in America today.” And they were less likely to think that concrete policy changes would improve things. I don’t really disagree with this, but it seems to me to be entirely the result of the youth and poverty of Sanders supporters. And certainly the quoted study did not control for these factors.

Paul Krugman was quick to jump on this article, The Truth About the Sanders Movement. (A title fitting of National Review!) Rather than summarize the article, he just quoted the most inflammatory section and then provided the Sanders ecosystem with “a short list based on my own encounters.” His own encounters! I’m sure he is basing this on all the food stamp recipients that he hangs out with. Or it could be just what he sees on Twitter. Either way, very illuminating!

He breaks Sanders supporters down into five groups. Not one of them includes me. What’s more, I think that not one of them includes 69% of Sanders supporters who say they will vote for Clinton in the general election (a larger percentage than Clinton supporters got in 2008). I think his list is actually the Sanders dead-enders or the “Bernie or Bust” types. They are:

  1. Genuine idealists;
  2. Romantics;
  3. Purists;
  4. Clinton Derangement Syndrome (CDS) folk;
  5. Salon des Refuses

The Romantics are just hedonists who love being part of a political movement. You know the type: the women dance on the grass and the men join the drum circle. The Salon des Refuses are policy intellectuals who feel marginalized. But every group is demonized. Of the “Genuine idealists,” Krugman says they “are ready to dismiss practical arguments about why all their dreams can’t be accomplished in a day.”

In the past, I’ve been angry while writing these articles about Krugman’s biases. But I actually find this amusing. Krugman has gotten to the point where he’s just silly. And the truth is, he is right that there are these kinds of people who support Sanders. In particular, there is more CDS than I would like.

But you could, of course, go through and pathologize Clinton supporters in the same way. Who cares? What’s interesting is what Krugman’s article unwittingly shows: his skewed view of Sanders supporters. It’s all about the “Bernie or Bust” crowd. It doesn’t even occur to Krugman that his analysis totally ignores the vast majority of Sanders supporters.

But I can be generous. Krugman is, like many intense Clinton supporters, concerned that Sanders supporters won’t vote for Clinton. But he doesn’t seem to know that 69% have already said they will. I actually feel sorry for Krugman that his faith in Clinton is so tenuous that he can’t see reality. Of late, Sanders is the main thing that Krugman writes about. Of his six most recent posts, one is his Friday evening music, two are about what a great guy Krugman is, and the remaining three are Sanders hit jobs.

If things were reversed, Krugman would be the worst kind of “Clinton or Bust” idiot.

May 28

People United Means Action and the 2016 Election

PUMA PAC: People United Means ActionGiven all this talk about PUMAs, I was interested to see that PUMA was an actual political action committee (PAC), People United Means Action. It was started by people in the “Party Unity, My Ass” movement. According to News.au.co, they said, “We are protesting the 2008 Presidential Election because we refuse to support a nominee who was selected by the leadership rather than elected by the voters.” That sounds suspiciously like what Sanders supporters are saying today.

In 2008, I was a John Edwards supporter. The reason was the same as the reason that I’m a Sanders supporter today: because they both got a woman they weren’t married to pregnant during the campaign. Oh, I’m kidding! People tend to forget that Edwards had a great platform. It bothered me that of the three major candidates, I wasn’t supporting the black guy or the woman. But to some extent, I think it is easier (or perhaps necessary) for minority candidates at the nation level to be more conservative.

Agnostic in 2008

Once Edwards dropped down, I didn’t particularly care. I thought that both Obama and Clinton were good. But while fatuous people claim that Clinton and Trump are the same, Clinton and Obama really were pretty much the same. It’s funny that I hear a lot of people say that what Democratic voters really want is a third Obama term. Well, that is what I think Hillary Clinton will bring. And I expect to be about as happy with her as president as I have been with Obama. And that’s why I fine with her but not excited.

It’s funny, however, when the “Party Unity, My Ass” folk decided to create a PAC, they went for the backronym People United Means Action. (For those who don’t know: a backronym is an acronym that is created after the fact.) I don’t mean to suggest that they should have gone with “Party Unity, My Ass.” That wouldn’t have been taken seriously. But “People United Means Action” was clearly picked so that insiders could titter to themselves about what it really meant. In fact, on the PUMA About page, they are even explicit about it, “You may know that there is another, more defiant meaning for the acronym PUMA and that many of us are motivated by a deep disgust with and distrust of the DNC leadership.”

“People United Means Action” Was Angry

I understand the disgust. Clinton did win the most votes in the 2008 primary. And when you look at pleged delegates, Clinton was really close. But as Clinton supporters will tell you today: you play the game with the rules as they are. Obama ran a brilliant campaign, and had the contest been to get the most total votes, it’s hardly clear that he wouldn’t have managed to get that too. At it is, the difference was just a bit more than a quarter million votes (out of over 35 million) and roughly three-quarters of a percentage point.

So the fact that Clinton supporters were angry is no surprise. But People United Means Action didn’t really do anything. In the end, the Democratic Party was united. And that’s what I expect this year. I’m completely with Greg Sargent, Stop Freaking out, Democrats. The Party Will Unify. Probably. He highlights a statistic that you’ve probably heard: 28% of Sanders supporters claim that they will not vote for Clinton in November, But at this point in the race in 2008, 35% of Clinton supporters said the same thing about Obama.

Now, as those in the “kids these days” caucus, like Jonathan Chait, claim that Sanders supporters say the whole system is corrupt. If you are talking about the economic system, that is a difference. But as we saw back in 2008, People United Means Action were making this same claim about the party itself. Even without Sanders’ help, I suspect the Democratic Party will be fine. But I expect that Sanders will end up being a strong advocate for Clinton, just as she was for Obama.

May 28

The Truth About Jonathan Chait

Erik LoomisWhen reading people like Chait, the question that comes to mind is, “How does he think liberal change actually takes place?” He and so many other nominally left-of-center pundits routinely define themselves as taking the most possibly left position and attacking anyone to the left of that. That’s because, I think, they have dreams of setting policy from nice offices in Washington, creating the Great Society without talking to any of the people this will affect, all no doubt while wearing great suits the likes of which they saw Don Draper wear. But if you want to create liberal policy, and if you look at the history of successful liberal policy making, what has to happen is on the ground activism. That means people in the streets, it means having buy-in from affected people, it means making deals with labor unions or even encouraging unions to take leading roles. The Social Security Act didn’t happen because FDR and Frances Perkins thought it was the right thing. The same with the National Labor Relations Act. LBJ didn’t push for the Civil Rights Act because he thought it was just good policy making. All of these things take social and political pressure from below. And people like Jonathan Chait hate the thought of that because activists can be intense and sometimes say mean things and yell a lot and might oppose you when you are a good smart college newspaper writer.

—Eric Loomis
Chait Hates Teachers’ Unions! To the Fainting Couch!

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.

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