Category Archive: Politics

Jun 21

Democrats Lose When They Talk About Nothing

Jon OssoffOssoff, like so many losing Democratic candidates over the years, was brought down fundamentally by arguments grounded in identity politics.

Karen Handel didn’t argue that the Republican Party’s healthcare bill is a good idea (it’s very unpopular) or that tax cuts for millionaires should be the country’s top economic priority (another policy that polls dismally). Instead, her campaign and its allies buried Ossoff under a pile of what basically amounts to nonsense — stuff about Kathy Griffin, stuff about Samuel L Jackson, stuff about his home being just over the district line, stuff about him having raised money from out of state — lumped together under the broad heading that he’s an “outsider.”

Much of this was unfair or ridiculous. And the stuff that wasn’t unfair — like the location of his home — is honestly pretty silly. None of this has anything to do with the lives of actual people living in the suburbs of Atlanta or anywhere else.

Ossoff’s team was aware, of course, that the district is not accustomed to voting for Democrats and that he was vulnerable to this kind of attack. They attempted to counter this move by positioning Ossoff as blandly as possible — just a kind of nice guy who doesn’t like Donald Trump — and dissociating him from any hard-edged ideas or themes. It’s a strategy that makes a certain amount of sense, but it also makes it hard to mobilize potential supporters. And by lowering the concrete stakes in the election, it also makes it easier for trivial and pseudo-issues to end up dominating in the end…

Ossoff’s effort to stay bland and inoffensive let hazy personal and culture war issues dominate the campaign — and even in a relatively weak Trump district, that was still a winning formula for Republicans…

If your opponents are unpopular enough, it’s certainly possible to win elections this way. But especially for the party that has a more difficult time inspiring its supporters to turn out to vote, that’s an ominous sign. Right now on healthcare and many other issues, Democrats suffer from a cacophony of white papers and a paucity of unity around any kind of vision or story they want to paint of what is wrong with America today and what is the better country they want to build for the future. And until they do, they’re going to struggle to mobilize supporters in the way they need to win tough races.

–Matt Yglesias
Jon Ossoff’s Georgia Special Election Loss Shows Democrats Could Use a Substantive Agenda

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Jun 13

It Looks Like the GOP Really Will Kill Obamacare

Paul Waldman - It Looks Like the GOP Really Will Kill ObamacareThe fate of the American health care system now rests with a group of allegedly “moderate” senators, who are getting ready to approve a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a repeal bill so monumental in its cruelty that they feel they have no choice but to draft it in secret, not let the public know what it does, hold not a single hearing or committee markup, slip it in a brown paper package to the Congressional Budget Office, then push it through to a vote before the July 4th recess before the inevitable backlash gets too loud.

“We aren’t stupid,” one GOP Senate aide told Caitlin Owens — they know what would happen if they made their bill public. Even Republican senators who aren’t part of the 13-member working group crafting the bill haven’t been told exactly what’s in it.

Today, we learned that in a break with longstanding precedent, “Senate officials are cracking down on media access, informing reporters on Tuesday that they will no longer be allowed to film or record audio of interviews in the Senate side hallways of the Capitol without special permission.” Everyone assumes that it’s so those senators can avoid having to appear on camera being asked uncomfortable questions about a bill that is as likely to be as popular as Ebola. As Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News tweeted about the secrecy with which this bill is being advanced, “I have covered every major health bill in Congress since 1986. Have NEVER seen anything like this.”

–Paul Waldman
How the Republican Coward Caucus Is About to Sell out Its Own Constituents — in Secret

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Jun 12

All President’s Trump’s Incompetent Men

President Donald Trump - All the President's (Trump's) Incompetent MenIt was always funny, during last year’s presidential election, to hear Donald Trump talk about all the talented people he surround himself with. It was clear even then that this wasn’t true. His entire life was a good example of how the society does everything it can to help the rich.

Trump’s Incompetent Doctor

But the most impressive thing during the election was the statement that we got from Trump’s personal physician. Rather than provide a normal physician’s statement about the health of a patient, Dr Harold Bornstein’s statement rambled on with with the kind of superlatives that I normally associate with Trump himself.

The letter ended, “If elected, Mr Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” At the time, Dr James Hamblin noted, “Donald Trump would be the oldest individual ever elected to the presidency. He sleeps little and holds angry grudges. He purports to eat KFC and girthy slabs of red meat, and his physique doesn’t suggest any inconsistency in this. His health might be fine, but a claim to anything superlative feels off.”

Dr Harold Bornstein's Bizarre Letter About Donald Trump's Health

It was clear then that it was more important to Trump that he had a physician who would tell him how great he was than one who was actually good at his job. Bornstein is the medical profession’s equivalent of a “yes” man.

Trump’s Incompetent Lawyer

I got the same feeling last week after James Comey testified before Congress. That was when Trump unleashed his personal attorney on us. Much has been made of him starting the letter, “I am Marc Kasowitz, Predisent [sic] Trump’s personal lawyer.” As Matt Yglesias noted, it was just one of many errors in the written statement. That just shows the kind of carelessness of everything in Trump-world. I disagree with Yglesias, however, in his belief that the problem is that the best people won’t work for Trump. There is a pattern here.

These errors didn’t offend me that much, though. It was the contents of the statement that did. The main thing was the repeated claim that Trump was innocent. If the FBI was not actively investigating Donald Trump, then he must be innocent. And then there is the claim that Comey releasing his own private memos — written specifically so that they contained no classified information — was equivalent to “selective” and “illegal” leaks.

What the statement said was just what Trump has been saying. All of his people are just there to repeat what the boss thinks. And I suppose there is something to be said for it. Repeat something often enough and people will believe it. That’s certainly true of Trump’s statement’s about his wealth and his ability to make deals. Both are lies, but they are widely believed — even by people who don’t like him.

Trump’s Incompetent Men Are America’s

But it all goes along so perfectly with my experience in American business. I’ve always found it easier to work with people from China and India than the United States. And the reason is that people from those countries care about results. Donald Trump is the perfect example of American business, where “getting along” is far more important than getting things done.

And now we have the President of the United States deciding who is going to lead all the different parts of the government. But we should count it as a great blessing that he has nominated so few people to run the government. And from Trump’s perspective, it doesn’t matter. You can use only so many “yes” men. And I think Trump has far more than any rational person would ever have.

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Jun 11

All the Republican Excuses for Trump

Brian Beutler - All the Republican Excuses for TrumpIn the midst of the most devastating testimony delivered about a sitting president in the living memory of nearly everyone serving in Congress today, the Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, shuffled before microphones to say that Donald Trump—in trying to interfere with FBI investigations—probably just made an innocent mistake: “The president’s new at this. He’s new to government and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”

Ryan wants us to imagine Trump sitting alone in the White House with only his intellect and his muscle memory as his guides. He asks us implicitly to forget that Trump has a White House counsel, a vice president with years of governing experience, and an attorney general who campaigned with him for a year, all at his behest to instruct him. He asks us, again implicitly, to forget that Trump pierced the veil meant to separate the White House and FBI, to corrupt the rule of law, and that he then fired FBI Director James Comey, lied about why, and confessed—to NBC’s Lester Holt, and to senior Russian officials in the Oval Office—that he did it to remove “the cloud” of Comey’s investigation of his campaign.

It is an article of faith in Washington that no revelation about Trump’s conduct, no matter how severe, could convince Ryan and members of his conference to launch an impeachment inquiry. As dispassionate political analysis, this may well be true. It would certainly be foolish to believe the opposite—that Trump’s impeachment is a certainty.

But for everything we know about Trump’s conduct already, all this means is that the ethical and strategic conduct of Republicans in Congress should now be as heavily scrutinized as Trump’s. Republicans may not know what they’re covering up, but covering up they are; and they may believe they’re acting in their own political self-interest, but they almost certainly are not.

–Brian Beutler
Comey’s Trump Testimony Will Haunt Republicans

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Jun 09

Left-Wing Populism Will Beat Upper Class Journalism

Jeremy Corbyn - Left-Wing Populism Will Beat Upper Class JournalismI’m really happy to see how well the Labour Party did under Jeremy Corbyn. It is a great victory for left-wing populism. Of course, it is of some interest that even in victory, I see the mainstream liberal press taking pot-shots at him. “Wow, it’s great that Labour did so well; too bad they are led by a guy who supports Hamas and Hugo Chávez.”

But I just wanted to share with you what I jotted down in my notebook yesterday. My hometown has the worst public transit system I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve ridden them on four continents in dozens of cities. But one of the best things about my “smart” phone is the little memo app that allows me to talk and create notes when I’m stuck because the bus isn’t working.

It’s “speech to text” feature doesn’t work that well. But it’s pretty cool that I can send my notes via email so I don’t even have to transcribe.

Just Yesterday

If the Labour Party does well tomorrow, Jeremy Corbyn will be said to have done a reasonable and maybe even a good job. They will never say that he did a great job. If the Labour Party does poorly, the media will blame it all on him.

In this particular case, I believe Corbyn deserves a great deal of credit if the Labour party does well. That is based upon the way that he’s managed the party. However I do not think that if the Labour Party does poorly that it is Corbyn’s fault.

I believe instead it is the Labour Party’s establishment that is to blame. Because they have done everything they can to sabotage him. Of course equal credit goes to the media which has done everything it can to delegitimize[1] Corbyn.

Then Left-Wing Populism Won!

Regardless, Corbyn and Labour did far better than I could allow myself to hope for. The truth is that the Torries were expecting to improve their position — not get beaten badly. And I think the whole thing shows that when liberals are allowed to be liberals, they do better.

A big problem with the New Democrats or the Tony Blair Labour Party types is that they aren’t authentic. Sure, they can win elections. That’s because elections are more about fundamentals like economic trends. The truth is that when Bill Clinton ran as a new kind of Democrat, he was still seen as a Jeremy Corbyn socialist. It doesn’t matter that Bill Clinton really, truly was a new (bad) kind of Democrat. The people still saw him as a leftist.

But we’ll win. As long as we vote, we’ll win. The people will support candidates who will support them — authentic left-wing populists.

And the people are right to think this. In a two party system, you expect that there is going to be one party on the left and one party on the right. When you have two parties on the right, the one that is slightly less conservative will be seen as, “Socialist! A socialist, I tell you!”

The People Need a Choice — And They Know It

And I still maintain that the Republicans’ move over the last four decades into a form of fascism is the result of the Democratic Party’s move to the right, starting in the early 1970s. Jimmy Carter was responsible for the success of Ronald Reagan. And Bill Clinton was responsible for the success of both George W Bush and Donald J Trump.

So the fact that the Labour Party won by being an unabashed leftist party is good news for the whole world. Everyone can see that there really is a constituency for left-wing populism. But our continued foe is the mainstream media. And that’s because they have never seen a conservative who was too conservative.

Liberal Journalists Think They Define Liberalism; They Don’t

But given that most journalists are liberal in the American sense of the term, they always define what they think as the right amount of liberalism. Thus, when a Jeremy Corbyn (or even an extremely moderate Bernie Sanders) comes along, they attack! The reporters define liberalism, not these politicians! So even if working people who make minimum wage like left-wing populism, the upper-middle class journalists can’t abide it.

But we’ll win. As long as we vote, we’ll win. It doesn’t matter that MSNBC thinks being pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage is all it takes to be liberal. The people will support candidates who will support them — authentic left-wing populists.

[1] My phone, in its infinite “speech to text” wisdom heard “delegitimize” and converted it to “deal egitim eyes.” As far as I know, “egitim” is not even an English language word. But it hardly matters. I knew what I had said.

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Jun 07

Jonathan L Rudd on the FBI and Loyalty

Jonathan L RuddIt is significant that we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and not an individual leader, ruler, office, or entity. This is true for the simple reason that the Constitution is based on lasting principles of sound government that provide balance, stability, and consistency through time. A government based on individuals — who are inconsistent, fallible, and often prone to error — too easily leads to tyranny on the one extreme or anarchy on the other. The founding fathers sought to avoid these extremes and create a balanced government based on constitutional principles.

The American colonists were all too familiar with the harmful effects of unbalanced government and oaths to individual rulers. For example, the English were required to swear loyalty to the crown, and many of the early colonial documents commanded oaths of allegiance to the king. The founding fathers saw that such a system was detrimental to the continued liberties of a free people. A study of both ancient and modern history illustrates this point. One fairly recent example can be seen in the oaths of Nazi Germany. On August 19, 1934, 90 percent of Germany voted for Hitler to assume complete power. The very next day, Hitler’s cabinet decreed the Law On the Allegiance of Civil Servants and Soldiers of the Armed Forces. This law abolished all former oaths and required that all soldiers and public servants declare an oath of unquestioned obedience to “Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of the German Reich and people.” Although many of the officers in Hitler’s regime came to realize the error of his plans, they were reluctant to stop him because of the oath of loyalty they had taken to the Fuhrer.

–Jonathan L Rudd
Our Oath of Office: A Solemn Promise

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May 30

How to Keep Drug Prices Down

Dean Baker How to Keep Drug Prices DownThe New York Times ran a piece discussing the efforts by various industry groups to ensure that they are not hurt by measures that reduce prescription drug prices. At one point, it listed some of these measures, noting a bill co-sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders, which would allow drugs to be imported from Canada.

It is worth noting that this bill, which is co-sponsored by sixteen other senators including Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Kirsten Gillibrand, also includes mechanisms that would reduce the cost of drugs by not granting them patent monopolies that make their price high in the first place. One proposal would create a prize fund, which would allow for the patents on important new drugs to be purchased by the government and placed in the public domain. They could then be sold as generics as soon as they are put on the market.

The other provision would have the government finance some clinical trials of drugs after securing all patent rights. In this case, also the new drugs would be sold as generics. By paying for the trials (which would be conducted by private companies under contract), the government would be able to require that all test results were in the public domain.

This would allow doctors and other researchers to be able to determine if a particular drug was better for men than women, or appeared to cause bad reactions when mixed with other drugs. As it stands now, drug companies only have an incentive to publicly disclose information that they think will help them market their drugs. If the government paid for some number of clinical trials, it could help to set a new standard of disclosure with its practices, in addition to making new drugs available at generic prices.

–Dean Baker
The Best Way To Bring Down Drug Prices, Don’t Grant Patent Monopolies

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May 25

Caring About Others — Not Voting Your Interests

Tea Time - Caring About Others -- Not Voting Your InterestsI had tea with my cousin on Friday. She knows that I’m a freelance writer and editor and asked about the harm that the repeal of Obamacare might cause me. It’s not so much a question of money. I have a major pre-existing condition, and depending upon exactly what the Republicans do, I might not be able to get insurance at all. So it is natural that someone who cares about me would be concerned about this.

I explained that if that happened, I would just join the Freelancers Union. What’s more, the original Republican plan would actually have helped me. Typical of Republican plans, since I don’t really need help from the government, the conservatives wanted to give me more help. Meanwhile, my desperately poor friend with three children might see his Medicaid taken away from his kids.

Don’t “Vote Your Interests

This all brings up the idea of “voting your interests.” Although I do bristle at people who vote against every interest they have except (for example) same-sex marriage, I do not think people should simply vote their interests. People should vote in such a way that they think will create the best society. So I really don’t have a problem with people voting only based on their anti-choice opinions if they actually think that abortion is equivalent to the Holocaust.

(Note however: I am quite certain that these people who are so upset about abortion are just being manipulated. Rich conservatives figured out a way that they could get poor people to vote for them by getting them to think of nothing but abortion. And these people have no moral standing when they vote against abortion choice but for policies that literally allow children to starve to death. So being against the Nazi death camps is admirable, but not if your position that the Jews should instead be left on a desert island where they will starve to death. And this really is equivalent to the thinking of the the people in the American anti-choice movement.)

Most People Vote for the Good of All

I’m not unusual at all in not voting for my own, narrowly defined, interests. This is what liberals do. If there is one thing that I think defines a liberal it is having a strong sense of empathy. Certainly I want to have good, affordable health insurance. But I think of it in a broad sense. Right now, the government pays me $200 per month toward my health insurance. I’m more than able to pay the remaining $200 per month for my health insurance.

The Republican plan would have paid me something like $300 per month toward my insurance. This is because the plan gave everyone the same amount of money toward their health insurance. Really, the Republicans would like to give nothing at all. So their giving everyone the same amount was their way of trying to, as Brian Beutler put it it, “obscure the brutality of that underlying moral vision.”

But I don’t think that it’s fair that someone gets paid more money when they don’t need it — even when that person is me. And that’s the difference between conservatives and liberals. Politics isn’t a game. It isn’t just about winning. I’m interested in make a fair society. So I am fine with getting fewer benefits from the government and paying more in taxes when I’m one of society’s winners.

The Selfish Side of Caring

Of course, there is a selfish side of doing this. A fair society is also a more stable society. I’m hardly rich. But I have a good life and thus have much more to lose if society were to fall apart.So paying more in taxes and so on is a kind of insurance. Of course, that isn’t the way I think about it.

I want to live in a society that is fair. And I’m well well aware of the advantages that I have been given by this society. I might not have won the jackpot in life’s lottery, but I won one of the top prizes. Being born a straight, white, and male in this society might not be worth quite what it was for my father’s generation, but it’s still worth a lot. And my intelligence and temperament are both great gifts. So is being born in the United States — in California, no less.

But it seems the conservative mind sees things the opposite. Just as they think that I should get more money for my healthcare since I need it less, they think I should get more of everything else because I’ve been so lucky in life.

Why Republicans Are Evil

Piles of Cash - Republicans Are EvilI’m not naive, though. I know that all their justifications are just lies. They claim that the rich should be given more money because they are “job creators,” but really they think the rich should be given more money because they simply believe in classes. The rich are better than the poor and therefore should be given more money. It really is as simple as that.

The problem with this is that there aren’t that many people who have a huge amount of money. So the Republican Party has had to figured out how to convince people to think that small issues are really important. So killing a 16-cell zygote is far more important than making sure that all grammar school children are properly fed. Stopping a tiny number of transvestite men in a country of 300 million people from using the women’s bathroom is far more important than billionaires paying less in taxes than their secretaries.

As liberals, our job should be to allow people to see their priorities clearly. And I’m afraid that we fail when it comes to this.

Voting for All the Wrong Reasons

I personally think that reproductive choice is a very important issue. It really is the difference between freedom and a limited kind of slavery. But we should understand that abortion is an important issue for some people. So we should make these people understand that if caring for the unborn child is very important, caring for born children is just as important. And that it is goes against everything they stand for to vote for a party that is against abortion choice but also wants to deprive children of food.

What’s more, caring about unborn children should mean more than just passing a law. Do we care enough for that unborn child to care for prenatal healthcare? For making sure that the mother is taken care of while she is pregnant? That she will have the freedom (real freedom, not the face libertarian “freedom”) to care for that child at least until it enters school.

The Republicans use liberal notions to get people to vote for their conservative agenda of taking money away from poor children and giving it to the rich. As liberals, we shouldn’t allow that. The truth is that if you talk to people who vote because of abortion or homosexuality, you’ll find their solution to the “problems” are fairly liberal. But the party they vote for has no solutions at all — much less liberal solutions.

The Republicans Will Only Bring Destruction

We need to ask these conservative voters what it is they expect from the party they vote for. The Republicans offer them passing a couple of laws. And that’s because the only thing they are interested in is giving money to the rich. The rest of it is just a con.

If women know they can raise their children in a stable environment, they will be more likely to do it. But the Republicans want to create the opposite. They want to make it illegal to have abortions so that we will have far more poor, malnourished children. They want to make unions illegal so that both parents will need to work in order to make ends meet.

I want a better society — not just for myself but for everyone. And I think most people are that way. So let’s not vote our interests. Let’s vote for our society’s interest. And that means a society in which one working person can support a family. It means a society where people are educated so they don’t have unwanted pregnancies.

The Better Society Is the Liberal Society

It sounds partisan to say it but the better society that conservatives claim they want is the society that liberal policy would produce. Otherwise, you end up with a society with a small number of super rich people, and then a bunch of poor people with malnourished children. Because regardless of what Republicans say, their policies lead to Oliver Twist. Liberal policy is the only kind that will lead to the society of mercy that Jesus preached.

Republicans ask not what they can do for their country but what their county can do for them. And there are very few Americans who want to live in this society. Americans want to live in a society where we all look out for each other. And that is a liberal society.

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May 24

Republican Euphemisms for Their Vile Policy

Brian Beutler - Republican Euphemisms for Their Vile PolicyThe political durability of conservative economic doctrine owes a great deal to euphemisms. As the main exponents of that doctrine, Republicans seek to distribute income from the poor to the wealthy by gutting social programs and returning the savings to high-income earners through tax cuts. Euphemisms obscure the brutality of that underlying moral vision. The affluent, in the language of the right, are “job creators,” the poor are “dependents,” the central goal (reducing top marginal tax rates) is a “simplification,” the programs losing funding are being “reformed” or “saved,” and the purpose of this reordering, stripped of ideological valence, is “growth.”

This familiar jargon survived the wreckage of George W Bush’s presidency, and remains bog standard Republican spin when tax cutting season rolls around. It is, to state the obvious, highly tendentious. But it is at least decodable.

It took a swindler of Donald Trump’s shamelessness, and the unexpected consolidation of power in Republican hands, to expose the limits of this spin. The breaking of Trump’s campaign promises, and the substitution of the old Republican agenda in the place of those promises, has forced Republicans to supplement spin with outright lies. Those lies were critical to the passage of the American Health Care Act, and to the advancement of other Republican priorities. This week — through the unveiling of Trump’s budget, and the coming Congressional Budget Office analysis of the AHCA — the lies are encountering reality for the first time.

–Brian Beutler
Will Republican Lies Catch Up to Them Before or After They Ruin People’s Lives?

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May 22

Our Economic System Causes Spam

Spam - Sudoku - Economic SystemI’ve been thinking about the last article I wrote here, The Evolution of Comment Spam. That article was more or less about computers and about how the internet works. But I’m really more interested in spam on a much deeper level — the political level — the level of our economic system. Because it really is politics and economics that causes us to have spam. If there were no economic incentive to create spam, no one would.

After all, spam isn’t an art form. I’m sure the people in Palestine who get paid pennies an hour posting spam would rather be doing something else. I admitted in the article before that I didn’t understand the economics of spam. How is the spammer making money and who are they getting that money from. But I do know the economics this far: the spammer is making money doing nothing but damage.

Let’s Think About Our Economic System

And I think as a society we really need to think about this. This is a function of our living in a capitalism. I’m willing to admit that the incentive structure of capitalism does some good things. It makes people build beautiful guitars, for instance. But it also does this; it creates the incentive for people to make the world worse.

It’s funny to think about it. I don’t even know why I have to deal with spam. I don’t know why it increases the work that I have to do in order to bring my readers the work they want. But I do know that there is an incentive. What’s more, it’s a perfectly legal incentive. It’s every bit as ethical as my putting an Amazon Associate’s link when I talk about my favorite translation of Don Quixote. The fact that no one else seems to find this strange is what is so bizarre about it.

Pornography: One of Our Society’s Great Values

Here’s a little factoid you’ll find interesting. We think a lot about Hollywood. I have a whole website about it (from a strange angle, admittedly), Psychotronic Review. And every Monday, the news tells us how much money the newest Hollywood blockbusters made. Yet depending on who you ask, video porn makes anywhere from somewhat less than Hollywod to the same as it to more than it.

Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against pornography. But I don’t find it edifying. And I think most Americans would be bothered that “adult” entertainment is roughly as profitable as the industry that brought us Schindler’s List. Yet that is the deal that we as a society have made. Listen to just about any libertarian around and they will tell you that the value of anything is determined solely by how much money people will pay for it. Thus, Hungry Bitches (“2 Girls 1 Cup”) is more valuable than almost every English language translation of Don Quixote.

Inefficient Economic System

Would stopping people from making more than one or ten million dollars a year really destroy our economy? Would making sure that everyone was well feed and had a place they could call home destroy our economy? I think not.

The time has come for us to think about our society. We have an economic system that is incredibly inefficient because people are encouraged to make money by harming other people. Spam has been around for a long time. But it was only when people could really make money that spam took off. And as it is, at least as much money is spent promoting work than creating it. In the film business, the rule of thumb is that about as much money is spent on marketing as on creating the movie. That’s pretty amazing when you remember that movies often cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

But I know: everyone looks back at the Soviet Union and the conversation stops. That’s typically American. The truth is that under the Tsar, the Russian Empire was a combination of a very primitive agricultural economy and an industrial capitalism. Russia did far better under communism than it did under the Tsar. So bringing up the Soviet Union doesn’t prove anything.

We’re Stuck Thinking About How Things Have Been

What bothers me more, however, is the total lack of vision among people who are with me. There is capitalism and there is communism and then there is nothing. Call me naive, but I think humans are smart enough to come up with an economic system that is better than both communism and capitalism. I don’t have all the answers, but I have some of them. One is to decouple economics from politics. We’ve seen what’s happened in the United States where the rich gain political power, which they use to make themselves richer.

So I think we should have a top marginal tax rate of 100 percent. And I don’t just say that because I think that income inequality is bad. I think the rich have to be saved from themselves. If what a business owner really loves is running their business, it shouldn’t matter that they aren’t making any money. But I think it would encourage them to do things that would be edifying like read books, have relationships, think about new things. The system we have now is like a game where the winner is the person who dies with the most money. I take pity on everyone and so I think even the rich deserve something more than a life of Sudoku meaning.

Simple Ideas and Better Lives

Would stopping people from making more than one or ten million dollars a year really destroy our economy? Would making sure that everyone was well feed and had a place they could call home destroy our economy? I think not. I think we have simply lived in the limited minds of the super rich for so long that we are unable to think creatively. And being stuck in this mindset that ruin lies before us if we insist upon a fair distribution of resources means that we live in a world where I have to worry about people soiling my blog just so they can make a buck and and live the big Sudoku meaning dream.

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May 17

Bizarre Conservative Silence About Comey’s Memo

Jonathan Chait - GOP Reasons for Healthcare Bill Make No SenseIn the modern media era, there may be no surer sign of presidential dysfunction than an absence of talking points on the leading story of the moment. The White House had warning in the middle of Tuesday afternoon that The New York Times would publish its blockbuster report on James Comey’s memo, and yet by that evening it had formulated no defense whatsoever. Last night’s Fox News lineup was a comical procession of unrelated jibber-jabber. Sean Hannity ranted generally about the left-wing media and other Trump enemies, referring only tangentially to the devastating news — “unprecedented leaks, including to The New York Times tonight” — that he neither rebutted nor even described. Tucker Carlson ran segments lambasting the Clinton Foundation and a New York City Council member’s inattentiveness to restroom conditions in Penn Station. The closest thing to a relevant defense witness he could summon was left-wing professor Stephen F Cohen, who reiterated his long-standing and increasingly absurd theory that questions about Trump’s Russia connections amount to “neo-McCarthyism.” Other party organs were likewise silent. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which had faithfully repeated the administration’s initial claims that Trump was merely following the urging of the deputy attorney general in firing Comey, went to press without any editorial addressing the news.

But then, this morning, a line of defense had begun to fitfully emerge: maybe President Trump did utter English words that, taken literally, amounted to a request that James Comey stop investigating Michael Flynn. But those words did not convey an actual instruction or any intent to influence Comey’s behavior.

–Jonathan Chait
Republicans: Trump Was Just Joking About Obstructing Justice

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May 16

Humorless Rants Podcast Does James Comey Firing

Humorless Rants Podcast

Our very own Elizabeth Rogers has teamed up with Kara Calavera to do the Humorless Rants Podcast. Thus far there are three casts. The first one is with Elizabeth alone. It was good, but it’s very hard to make something like that dynamic with one person. That’s why almost any kind of show like this has two hosts. For example, WNYC’s On the Media has two hosts, even though the show is mostly just a set of stories.

The most recent episode is What the Hell Was That?! The title is in reference to the firing of James Comey. And it’s amazing how interesting it is to listen to two knowledgeable people talk about the events of the day.

The dynamism of the show doesn’t come from a lot of back and forth. Both of the hosts give each other a lot of latitude to speak at some length. That’s unusual. And helpful. It allows them dig down into the issues at hand and make comments that are more than just facile.

Campaign Spotlight

The Humorless Rants Podcast is lively and informative and well worth checking out.

After only three casts, Humorless Rants is still finding its own structure. With the third episode, they introduced Campaign Spotlight, where they talk about smaller races you aren’t likely to hear about. I suspect this will be a keeper, because Elizabeth has always been very keen on the topic.

You may also remember last year when she wrote a series of articles for Frankly Curious, Congressional Races Worth Watching in 2016. That reminds me that I was actually looking forward to 8 November. After 4 November 2014, I thought, “At least this will be a pleasant night!” Geez! I’m having the same feelings about 2018 — that it will be a good year for liberalism in the United States. But maybe not. Maybe this country is just hopeless.

Anyway, the Humorless Rants Podcast highlighted Bebs Chorak who is running in the South Carolina House District 48 special election. She won the Democratic primary on 2 May. She’s running against Republican Bruce Bryant in the general election on 20 June. This is the level of government where democracy is lost or saved, so it’s great to see Elizabeth and Kara highlight the race.

James Comey

Most of the third show involves the firing of James Comey. I’ve followed this relatively closely, but I was surprised how much I learned. Much of it was speculation, but still: things I hadn’t heard.

Also, they spent quite a lot of time deconstructing Donald Trump’s note to Comey, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.” It’s worth listen to, and much more than, “Trump was just pushing his innocence again.”

Not Safe for Work

Listening to the Humorless Rants Podcast made me feel kind of old because it’s a bit coarse. I remember when I spoke in a much more coarse manner, so I’m not complaining. Go back and read the first couple of years of Frankly Curious. But you should know that this is “not safe for work.” Although I have always been a little unclear where people are allowed to play podcasts — especially political ones — loud enough so that others can hear them. I think the term is used to keep the speaker from sounding like an old fuddy-duddy like me.

Check Out the Humorless Rants Podcast

As time goes on, I’m sure that the Humorless Rants Podcast will get better. But it’s already very lively and informative. You should really check it out.

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