Jun 22

We Have a United Democratic Party

Bernie Sanders - We Have a United Democratic PartyYesterday, I heard a bit of Majority Report. This sometimes amazes me because it goes along with my thinking so much. I hear from other people that I’m really rare, yet here is this very popular podcast with people who agree with me almost all the time. Ultimately, I think we have a united Democratic Party; it’s just some who can’t stand minor differences between us.

What I heard was another podcaster calling in. He was a Bernie Sanders’ supporter, and he was complaining that the show wasn’t being harsh enough with Hillary Clinton or positive enough for Bernie Sanders. That’s an outrageous claim.

Their position on Sanders and Clinton is the same as mine. They supported Sanders during the primary. They still would have preferred to have had him as the Democratic nominee. They have many problems with Hillary Clinton. Just the same, they fully supported her during the general election.

(And let’s be clear: how could you not be in favor of Clinton in the general election? There were two parties running. If people want to make themselves feel good by voting for Mickey Mouse — or Jill Stein, who had as much a chance of winning — fine. That’s their choice. But the most important thing about that choice is that they are choosing not to be a factor in the election. A vote for Stein was certainly not a vote for Trump; but it was a vote for no one. So the position of the Majority Report folks just seems obvious to me.)

“The Election Was Stolen!”

But this guy who called in went on and on about Democratic Party malfeasance during the primary. His proof? The Democratic establishment wanted Clinton to be the candidate from the beginning. Who cares? Really! Who cares? Isn’t this what we expect? The fact that they set up the debates to make it easier on her is expected. But the truth is that the Republican Party actually did worse to Trump, and he still managed to get the nomination.

It’s sad for me to say, but Sanders lost the primary because he lost the primary. And I really think that had he been our candidate, he might be president right now. But this is hardly the first time that the Democratic establishment has convinced the voters to choose the “electable” candidate, only to lose. Remember how we chose electable John Kerry rather than unelectable Howard Dean, even though political science shows that if any Democrat would have won that year it would have been Dean?

“I Hate Sanders ‘Cause Some Idiots Like Him”

Hillary Clinton - We Have a United Democratic PartyOn the other side, I hear almost nothing about Sanders except as it is filtered through this caller’s lens. Because that’s all Sanders is. Take his most wacky supporters and define him as such. Matt Yglesias pointed out that the populist demographics in the UK went along with Hillary Clinton voters, “Corbyn’s electoral map, in the end, turns out to look a lot like Hillary Clinton’s. He did well in the most diverse and most educated parts of the United Kingdom and worst among older voters.”

The truth is that most people who prefer Sanders still like Clinton and vise versa. And generally, liberals are becoming more economically liberal. It makes sense. The truth is that economic inequality is the greatest tool that conservatives have against gender and race inequality. The whole of the Democratic Party has turned left — including Hillary Clinton. (Who thinks that Bill Clinton circa 1992 could win a Democratic primary today?)

We Have a United Democratic Party

I’m getting tired of this. Yes: both sides can find people on the other who are annoying as hell. But I think we have the most united Democratic Party in my lifetime. I also think it is more economically liberal than it has been in decades.

One thing that unfortunately also seems to be true is that most of the Democratic Party elite is afraid of this left turn — just as they were in the UK Labour Party. I think that has more to do with their wrong assumption that moving to the left is bad politics. They’re wrong, and they will eventually learn that — or they’ll figure out that they aren’t actually liberals and move to the Republican Party.

The Change Has Already Come

I think I’m a typical Democrat. I think the people on Majority Report are typical Democrats. And yes, I would prefer that this tiny minority of Sanders supporters would run for office rather than try to litigate the 2016 Democratic Party. And I would prefer this tiny minority of Clinton supporters who can’t find it in themselves to support Sanders would do the same thing.

But if not, I don’t suppose it matters. We have a united Democratic Party. We don’t need to change to come.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/22/united-democratic-party/

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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

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/21/ossoff-loss/

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Jun 15

OCD Editor: Dealing With Weird Quotation Marks

OCD Editor: Dealing With Weird Quotation Marks

As an editor of online materials, I find myself with a curious problem: how to deal with single and double quotation marks. Because I suffer from a mild form of OCD, I like these always to be represented by the typewriter keys ' and ". Then I let WordPress, or whatever other content management system I’m using, convert these characters into the typographic symbols with left and right sides.

For example:

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”


‘The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.’

But as an editor, I get text in many forms. Rarely are single and double quotes delivered as ' and ". Instead, they are entered as ‘/’ and “/”, as well as ‘/’ and “/”.

If those last two sets are confusing you, they are just how HTML actual stores these right and left quotation marks. All you need to know is that writers actually do submit text with these symbols in the text and they are perfectly correct.

The problem is that I don’t like them. I like my text to be straight ASCII7, and so I like my straight ' and " keys. If I had to choose from the other sets, I would take ‘ over ‘.

The other day, I was talking to a fellow editor who was complaining about this. She didn’t mind ‘ so much, but ‘ drove her crazy. It’s understandable; they really do make the raw HTML harder to read.

Since I was no longer alone in my complaints, it occurred to me that I should write a program to fix this problem. At first, I thought I would write it in PHP, given that I really like its string (short for “text string” or more generally a collection of characters) library. But then I thought it would be downright trivial to do with JavaScript.

One great thing with JavaScript is that you don’t even need a server. You can just run the program locally on your machine. And a few minutes later, I had the following program:

Remove Annoying Quotation Marks

This program removes annoying special quotation marks and replaces them with normal ASCII7 characters. The characters are:

  • ”
  • “
  • ’
  • ‘

Text Box

Source Code

I often pine for the days when you had to really get inside a machine. But I have to admit that it’s pretty cool to be able to write a program that solves an annoying problem like this with almost no thought or time.

Here is the entire program. All you would have to do is put it in a file with an html extension and then run it in a browser on your computer.

    <title>Remove Annoying Quotation Marks</title>
function Clean() {
  var t1, t2;
  t1 = document.getElementById("text1").value;
  t2 = t1.replace(/”/g,"\"");
  t1 = t2.replace(/“/g,"\"");
  t2 = t1.replace(/“/g,"\"");
  t1 = t2.replace(/”/g,"\"");
  t2 = t1.replace(/‘/g,"'");
  t1 = t2.replace(/’/g,"'");
  t2 = t1.replace(/‘/g,"'");
  t1 = t2.replace(/’/g,"'");
  document.getElementById("text1").value = t1;
    <h1>Remove Annoying Quotation Marks</h1>
    <p>This program removes annoying special quotation
    marks and replaces them with normal ASCII7 characters.
    The characters are:</p>
    <h2>Text Box</h2>
    <div style="text-align: center;
    margin-left: auto;
    margin-right: auto;"><textarea rows="5"
    cols="50" id="text1"></textarea></div>
    <p style="text-align: center;"><input
    onClick="Clean();" type="button"
    value="Clean" /></p>

You can download the program if you wish:



I realize this is pretty arcane. It combines a number of things people don’t care about: computer programming, editing, and my neuroses. But I still think it’s interesting.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/15/quotation-marks/

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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

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/13/paul-waldman/

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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.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/12/trumps-incompetent-men/

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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

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/11/trump-excuses/

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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.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/09/left-wing-populism/

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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

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/07/loyalty/

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Jun 06

The Raven Is Wrong About the Word Vegetarian

The Raven / Comedy of Terrors - The Raven Is Wrong About the Word Vegetarian1963 was a big year for Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff as a team. Of particular interest is that all three of them starred in two of my favorite horror comedies: The Comedy of Terrors and The Raven. Both were also written by one of the greatest horror writers of his generation, Richard Matheson. Recently, I’ve been watching The Raven a lot. And doing that tends to cause one to start noticing really minor things.

There is a very funny moment in The Raven. Peter Lorre shows up in the form of a raven and wants Price to turn him back into his normal form. But Price doesn’t do that old fashioned kind of magic. He’s able to do magic with hand gestures not the kind of stuff the three witches did in Macbeth.

The Vegetarian Joke

Lorre asks if Price has various things like dried bat’s blood. Then he says, “How about some chain links from a gallow’s burg? Jellied spiders, rabbit’s blood, dead man’s hair?” And Price responds, “No, we don’t keep those things in this house. We’re vegetarians.” It’s a wonderful 1963 reference. The comedy comes from the fact that the film does not take place in 1963.

We know that Price’s father died roughly 20 years earlier. And later we see his coffin, which reads, “Roderick Craven: 1423 – 1486.” So we know that the film takes place around 1506. Maybe it’s a little later — 1509, but certainly not as late as 1516.

The Etymology of Vegitarian

The whole thing got me thinking because I know that the very idea of vegetarianism is quite new. Being a vegetarian is an indication that your food supply is quite stable. Certainly different species of animal have preferences for different foods. But humans are the only ones who get to pick and choose.

Until quite recently, we were the same as other animals: we were lucky to get food to eat at all. So we didn’t make philosophical decisions like vegetarians do that we won’t each animals. In fact, that’s why even most animals that we think of as carnivores and vegetarians are actually omnivores, unless they simply don’t have the ability to digest vegetables or animals. If you’re hungry enough, you’ll manage to eat anything.

So I went to the dictionary to find out when “vegetarians” made it into our language. After all, the term does not have to only apply to to humans. We know that cows, for example, are vegetarians. I believe all snakes are carnivores — at least the ones where I live.

Vegetarian Is a Young Word

But it turns out that “vegetarian” is quite a recent word. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first known use of the word is 1839 — just a little bit more than a century before “vegan.” So The Raven is off by at least 323 years!

I’m not blaming the film. Stupid indeed is the person who trying to learn word etymology from old horror films. That’s especially true when the film at hand is using the word for a joke. The idea of a 16th century sorcerer being a vegetarian is pretty funny.

Two Good Vincent Price and Peter Lorre Films

But since we are on the subject, you really should watch the film. It’s a lot of fun. I always like films where Vincent Price plays a good guy. And this is yet another film where poor old Price is cuckolded by an evil woman.

On the other hand, check out The Comedy of Terrors if you want to see a film where he is just horrible to his wife and Peter Lorre is the sweetest man in the world. And you can get both films together on a single DVD.

There’s something very special about comedy-horror as a genre. The truth is that horror is a very silly genre of film. So it combines well with comedy — as long as you aren’t looking for grammar lessons!

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/06/06/raven-vegetarian/

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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

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/05/30/prescription-drug/

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May 28

Daryl Is Dead

Daryl: The Magician's MagicianWhen I was a kid, I was very interested in magic. In fact, it is that interest that I credit for getting me interested in reading. But I remember when I was 13 years old, I went to my first magicians convention and one of the stars of the event was Daryl Martinez[1] — in his early 20s, he was a rising star in the field. I just found out that he killed himself on 24 February of this year — right before he was supposed to appear at the Magic Castle. He was just 61 years old.

(Before I go on, you should know that there has been some misreporting that his death was an accident. There was also a lot of reporting that he was only in his underwear — a assume implying that it was a matter of autoerotic asphyxiation. But no. He was fully clothed and intentionally killed himself by hanging.)

I saw Daryl a couple of more times. I attended a lecture he did for his first book Secrets of a Puerto Rican Gambler. I remember that he was signing the books “To a TNT man.” When I had him sign my book, he asked if I was a TNT man. I told him I didn’t know, so he wrote in mine, “To a future TNT man.”

Over the years, I corresponded a bit with him and his wife (who is a magician too). They were both very nice. And that’s saying something, because my experience in the world of magic is that most people are not very nice. See what I’ve written about Harry Lorayne and Ed Marlo as well as Michael Close.

Why Did Daryl Kill Himself?

So Daryl’s death means something to me. And from what I read, there was no indication of it. He had no health problems. He really was the happy guy that he played on stage. He hadn’t fallen into a depression. His suicide seems to have come out of nowhere.

Was Daryl Having Financial Problems?

I have a few thoughts regarding this. One is that Daryl might have been suffering from financial problems. People think of performers as rich. But that’s not true. Performance art has the same kind of income inequality that our society does. Robert Downey Jr might get paid $20 million for a film, but other actors who are in the film as much as he might make $100,000. An important character who isn’t on screen much might make as little as $3,000.

In magic, it’s the same — especially for a guy like Daryl. He didn’t perform a big show in Las Vegas. I believe most of his money came from the books he wrote and the videos he created. The lecture that I attended was $3.00 as I recall. There were maybe 15 people at the lecture and he sold 10 books at $8.00 each.

Selling DVDs

The last time I remember writing to him was about seeing volume 7 of his 8-volume DVD collect Daryl’s Encyclopedia of Card Sleights was on YouTube. I noted that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing because I was so impressed that I bought the whole collection. He said he had given up chasing after people doing that kind of thing. But in passing, he said he regretted that I hadn’t purchased it from him. (Any writer will tell you that they make a whole lot more selling their own books than they do from the royalties. I’m sure the same is true of the videos.)

I looked on his site, but the truth is that his website was badly organized and I didn’t find the whole thing as a set. I felt really bad about it, although that clearly wasn’t Daryl’s intent. But more than feeling bad that I had screwed him out of a hundred bucks, I felt bad that it was even an issue for him. Here was one of the top sleight of hand artists in the world and he was counting pennies.

I don’t think that Daryl was poor, but he a lot closer to it than rich. And that’s sad. I’d noticed over the last couple of years him being involved in some money making ventures. They weren’t sleazy. But they also weren’t what a man of his brilliance and experience should have been doing.

Getting What You Want

For some time, I was playing around with writing a book about people who more or less come out of the womb knowing what they want to do with their lives. I’ve always been fascinated by these people because I’m the opposite. I’m interested in everything and I haven’t changed despite many decades. But Daryl was one of the people I wanted to interview for the book, because magic had been his passion since he was 7 years old.

And now I wonder about that. Daryl was 61 years old. He’d certainly accomplished everything he ever could have wanted in a professional sense. What more was there for him to do? I wonder if having one great passion isn’t something of a curse. I’ve always envied people like Daryl. But maybe I had it all wrong.

Think about it. He didn’t kill himself at home. He killed himself right before a performance. He was dressed for the show. Could there be a clearer indication that his chosen profession was not fulfilling him?

Everyone’s Secret Pain

There is also the possibility that Daryl was depressed. No one knows the secret pain of others. I am the last person to blame him for taking his life because life is hard. And I don’t know what anyone is going through — other than myself. But I know that that is hard. There are days when I really don’t know why I go on. And maybe on that day, Daryl came to the conclusion that there really was no reason.

Missing Daryl

What meaning there is to life is how we make life better for others. That can take the form of helping people to die like Mother Teresa or teaching magic geeks how to do a cutting display in the middle of a triumph routine. It’s sad that Daryl is gone now, but his life was not in vain.

It is interesting that the last few months, I’ve been thinking of buying his Daryl’s Expert Rope Magic Made Easy DVD series. Although I do love card magic, my very small hands have always gotten in my way. And I’ve never really done much with rope, even though I’m very aware of how extensive and fascinating a field it is.

Here is Daryl doing one of his versions of a classic:

[1] Just as I was born Frank Morris and later found out that my real last name was Moraes, Daryl later learned that his real family name was Eastman. When I first contacted him as an adult, I referred to him as “Mr Martinez. He responded asking that I call him Daryl and certainly never to call him “mister.” Like I said, he was a nice guy.

As a performer, he went simply by “Daryl” — and often “Daryl: The Magician’s Magician.” That second moniker is not wrong. Daryl was loved by magicians because he was a great innovator — I think the greatest of his generation.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/05/28/daryl-is-dead/

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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.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/05/25/caring-others-not-voting-interests/

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