Recycled Genius

RecycleI've decided to stay sane by not reading any of Paul Krugman's articles that contain the word "Sanders" in them. I did a search on his column today and found that he chose to write about the success of Obamacare in the context not of the Sanders campaign, but of Sanders supporters. Now Krugman is just getting silly. Does he really have nothing better to write about?

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

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

—Terry Pratchett
Small Gods

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Conservative Emails Everyone She Knows!

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

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

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

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

Conservatives Are Attacking!

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

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

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

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


Filed under Politics, Social

Income Inequality and the Marco Rubio Tax Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Is Slumber Party Really Sadcore?

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


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Women's Suffrage and the Slow March of Progress

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

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

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

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


Filed under Anniversaries, Politics

Who Cares About Bernie Sanders' Healthcare Plan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Closed Minds at the New Hampshire Debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afterword: New Hampshire Debate

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


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Anniversary Post: Early Day Miners' East Berlin at Night

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

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

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


Filed under Morning Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Douglas died in 1979 at the age of 96.

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Kenneth Dahlberg: Stuck in the Middle With Nixon

Kenneth DahlbergI have a certain fascination with Kenneth Dahlberg. He raised money for Richard Nixon's re-election campaign and was a critical player in the Watergate scandal. After the break-in was discovered, investigators found that a $25,000 check from Dahlberg had been deposited in the bank account of one of the burglars. As is documented (apparently quite accurately) in probably the most exciting scene in the film All the President's Men, Dahlberg simply gave the check (a bundle of smaller donations) to Maurice Stans, the head of finance for Nixon's Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CRP, which everyone who didn't like Nixon called "creep").

Maurice Stans was an interesting character. He was Secretary of Commerce from the beginning of 1969 to the beginning of 1972, when he stepped down to help out on Nixon's campaign. He was basically an accountant. He had worked in the Eisenhower administration. Now he claimed throughout his very long and pampered life that he didn't know where the money was going. But I find this hard to believe. CRP had a huge slush fund. Nixon had a million dollars in the White House safe. Now if I had been chair of finance for CRP, I think you could rightly believe that I had no idea because I'm clueless. But Stans was an accountant. As it is, it seems that everyone at the Washington CRP office knew something was going on, even if they didn't know what.

Regardless, Stans was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, but never convicted. He pleaded guilty to reporting violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act and had to pay a small (for him) fine. And that was the end of that.

So here is Dahlberg, who is a Republican at a time when it didn't mean you were a horrible or just deeply ignorant person, who is helping to get his party's president re-elected. It's a patriotic act. He believes in the Republican agenda. He isn't doing it for his direct personal benefit. He's being a good citizen. And he finds himself in the middle of a criminal conspiracy. It's just amazing.

Of course, Dahlberg was never indicted or anything. I think that everyone knew all along that he didn't know what was going on. But it's kind of interesting that CRP would not deposit the donation into its slush fund and rather just sign over a campaign check to a criminal. This could have been done because they thought Dahlberg was a patsy. But I suspect they did it out of a combination of hubris and incompetence. As Deep Throat says in the film, "Forget the myths the media has created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys." (Remember during the George W Bush administration how everyone talked about how brilliant Karl Rove was, but he turned out to be a mediocrity, just like them all.)

What I found interesting was that Kenneth Dahlberg was a World War II hero. He was a fighter pilot in Europe and was credited with 15 aerial victories. In the course of all of that, he was shot down three times himself. He got a ridiculous number of metals, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award the army gives out. He had a very eventful war. He was also a very successful businessman — one who actually made things (in particular, hearing aids).

I think it all fits a certain kind of profile of a man who, though very much not like me, was a decent man — trying to do what was right.

Afterword: Theoretical Kenneth Dahlberg

Beliefs are cultural. I think Kenneth Dahlberg was a good and noble man in terms of his business dealings and his politics. He was 55 in 1972, so I think he was, if anything, naive. But if he had been born 40 years later, he would be the same kind of outsourcing, "greed is good," "demagogue everything for the sake of my tax cuts" jerk that is the Republican Party today. But as the man he was in his own time, he was good — even a hero.


Filed under Politics

The Right Way to Attack Bernie Sanders

Brian BeutlerTomorrow, I will publish an article on how not to attack Bernie Sanders, Who Cares About Bernie Sanders' Healthcare Plan? Today, I'm going to discuss the right way to attack Bernie Sanders.

Brian Buetler wrote a really good article this morning, Bernie Sanders Will Be Unelectable If He Keeps This Up. And it gets at a really important point about the Sanders campaign. One thing I've liked about the Democratic campaign thus far has been the mutual respect that the two main candidates have shown, and how it has been all a question about the best way to achieve our shared liberal goals.

Let's not forget that the most important liberal policies are widely shared. When it comes to economic matters, people are for a far more fair system than we now have. And when it comes to reproductive rights, people come down firmly on the pro-choice side. (This is often obscured because the anti-choice movement is good pushing the discussion to the edges of the issue: intact dilation and extraction and fetal tissue.) These are not just things that Democrats agree on; they are things that Republicans largely agree on — especially on the economic side.

Attack Bernie SandersSo the greatest mistake we can make is to turn this into a primary about purity. Screw purity! A huge issue for me is the minimum wage. Sanders is pushing for a $15 minimum wage. Clinton is pushing for a $12 minimum wage. These are not ideological positions. I'm with Bernie: $15 is what we should be going for. It represents a living wage. But $12 is a worthy goal too. And for people working minimum wage in California (where it is, high by American standards at $10 per hour), $12 would be a very big deal. My concern is that asking for $12 does not get you to $12. But regardless, the issue is not ideological.

And this is especially true when there is a large and growing movement in the Republican Party that we should have no minimum wage at all. Based upon their very primitive libertarian thinking with their Frédéric Bastiat thought experiments, all our unemployment problems would go away if only people could take jobs for a buck fifty a day. So it's really important that we not lose perspective here.

I don't like to see tweets like this from the Sanders campaign yesterday:

It was followed up with a series of even worse tweets of the form, "Most progressives I know don't..." This was responded to cogently by Alex Katz, "Most progressives I know supported the Brady Bill and common sense gun control. Not #BernieSanders." Now it just so happens that I care far more about economics because I believe economic inequality kills far more people than guns or cars or anything else you can mention. But this is madness to claim that the progressive issues I care most about are what make me pure while I apologize away my heresies.

Brian Beutler's article is not really meant to attack Bernie Sanders. For one thing, I think he's highly sympathetic towards Sanders. But he's providing some excellent reminder to the Sanders campaign that this is not how you win primaries — not to mention general elections.

Recap: How to Attack Bernie Sanders

We know how not to attack Bernie Sanders. Jonathan Chait and Paul Krugman have shown us the way to their eternal shame. But Beutler summarized David Roberts' criticisms:

Sanders would be far and away the oldest president to take office; he has self-identified as a socialist for most of his career, undeterred by the media's inability to distinguish between social democrats (what he is) and Leninists (what Republicans will say he is); he supports a higher tax on middle-class labor, which is politically and substantively the worst way to finance a welfare state expansion.

I would add to this that I do think it is a problem for the Democratic Party to not nominate a woman. The last time we nominated a woman, it was Geraldine Ferraro, 32 years ago — for vice-president. This too concerns me.

None of this means that I now support Hillary Clinton for president. I wear my Bernie Sanders shirt proudly. I will almost certainly proudly cast my vote for Sanders on 7 June (after the primary is effectively over). But I don't want to see this turn into a purity contest. I've written before, Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Real Liberal. Now let's get back to the real substantive campaign that we have thus far had.


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Morning Music: Hood's Branches Bare

Hood - Cold House - Branches BareIs Hood a sadcore band? I don't know. Like I implied before: its too eccentric a concept to be clearly defined. In addition, I've come to think that there aren't so much sadcore bands as there are sadcore songs — even albums. I mean, listen to American Music Club's song Can You Help Me. Sure, the lyrics are depressing, "A century of my tears wouldn't even fill a thimble." Yet I don't know of a song that makes me feel better. The whole refrain is, "Can you help me to believe?" Today, we listen to Hood's not at all uplifting "Branches Bare."

"Branches Bare" is off their fifth studio album, Cold House. What's unusual about them is that while mostly, sadcore comes at music from a kind of folk perspective, Hood is essentially an electronic band. Sure, they are usually pretty down. But you know they not only listened to Kraftwerk, they also really liked it. To me, Kraftwerk was one of those bands that was clearly good and interesting and all of that — but which I just hated listening to.

Branches Bare Analysis

The song has a sorta kinda rap section toward the end of the song. It's interesting, but doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The rest of the song couldn't be clearer. Some people are going through the house and all the stuff left by a recently dead person. It's a reflection on the meaning of our lives. One of the people asks the other:

Will the memories be lost
When we lose you
When they clear the house
You lived so many years?

Sad to say, yes. I've thought about this a lot. I have no children. I will never have any. In a century, one of my distant relatives will dig into the family history as people do. And they will say, "There was this curious fellow — wrote some odd books — quite the eccentric it seems like." And that will be it. That will be my legacy. But don't misunderstand: it thrills me to think that someone might look back and know that there was this curious fellow. When you get right down to it, that's all I've ever expected from life.


Filed under Morning Music

Anniversary Post: Chief Justice John Marshall

John MarshallOn this day in 1801, John Marshall was sworn in as the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His greatest legacy is Marbury v Madison. It's important because it is more or less where the Supreme Court being the ultimate arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution came from. When I first read about this in school, I thought it was great, because we were in that period when had a decent Supreme Court. But as is well documented in Ian Millhiser's excellent book, Injustices, the Supreme Court has generally used its power in the most pernicious of ways.

The Supreme Court found itself in a difficult situation. Jefferson was president (Madison was Secretary of State). The administration was wrong to deny William Marbury his appointment as Justice of the Peace. You see, Adams had appointed him, but there was a mix-up, and Marbury never got his papers. Well, since it was an Adams appointment, and he and Jefferson were basically at war with each other, there was no way he was going to make good on it. The problem was, if the Court found for Marbury, Jefferson would just ignore it, turning the Court into a powerless bureaucracy.

So John Marshall came up with a trick: the Court didn't have the authority to do anything to help Marbury (even though it claimed that the actions of the administration were wrong), but it did have the authority to interpret what the Constitution meant. So the Supreme Court managed to increase its power at the same time that it claimed it couldn't help a relatively little guy caught in the middle of a fight between titans. Is that not America in a nutshell? We can always find ways to help the powerful become more powerful. But the weak must make it on their own.


Filed under Anniversaries, Politics