My New Romantics Anonymous Video

Romantics AnonymousI created another video. Kind of. My short love letter to Romantics Anonymous was flagged by the fucktards at Studio Canal. YouTube announced that the video would only be allowed to be shown in some countries. Well, I thought one of those countries was the United States, because I could watch it. But it turns out that you can’t watch it in the United States. It is just because I posted it that I was able to watch it.

Studio Canal’s claim to it was not for the video but just for the audio. So I decided to take out the audio. As it is, the dialog is in French, so people can still enjoy it. And instead of the dialog, I recorded over it with my own complaint about what’s going on. I will be deleting the original video soon. I hate to do it. It has almost 700 views and 4 thumbs up. But I just hate all this business. I don’t think that any individual person has done so much to promote this film. The whole thing just drives home how broken our copyright system is. I never do anything to harm copyright holders. I’m not one of these guys who posts long scenes from films. I am the kind of person who Studio Canal should be encouraging, “Please! Advertise our films for us!” But no. Like most modern businesses, they can’t see past next quarter’s profits.

Anyway, here is the new video, which is kind of fun. It is both a strong endorsement for the film and a blast at Studio Canal.

How to Improve the Capitalist System

Jeff BezosOkay, so Jeff Bezos wants to send carrots to my door via helicopter drones. Or something. I don’t know. My father gave me the news last night that 60 Minutes continued their long history of hard hitting investigative reporting by doing a puff piece about how Amazon totally rocks! They could have just photoshopped a picture of Matt Yglesias sucking Bezos’s cock, but that wouldn’t have eaten up 15 minutes of air time. Look, I’m for Amazon. Last year I was able to order Christmas gifts, have them wrapped, and sent my nieces and nephews without ever having to talk to them. Now if Amazon could just come up with a service to handling those “thank you” calls, I’d be set.

But here’s the thing. What if Amazon succeeds? The truth is that our income inequality problems are the result of exactly this kind of thing. We need to think about whether the capitalist system really works as human labor becomes less and less important. I’ve begun to think about it like a game. Imagine that the World Series was decided by a single game. It is well known that any team in the major leagues can beat any other team on any give day. So that wouldn’t be fair. But take it further. Imagine that none of the players on any of the teams got paid unless they won the World Series. That’s pretty much the system that we have.

Let’s think about my favorite example: Mitt Romney. He makes about $20 million per year. The average American family makes about $50,000. So he’s making 400 times as much as the average American and he doesn’t do anything. And he never did. He mostly just extracted wealth out of the work that other people did. But taken to extremes, what exactly is our society going to do when Jeff Bezos has all the money? What good will his carrot delivering helicopters do? No one will be able to afford carrots—just Jeff and Mitt.

Of course, it won’t get to that point. Economies evolve. But conservatives are so rigid in their thinking. They pretend as though the economy is the same as it was when Adam Smith was alive. But it isn’t. As I wrote last year at this time, Tsarist Russia Less Unequal Than America. And why is it less equal? It isn’t because people are worse now. It is that the economic system now allows for “winners” to win far more than is reasonable.

The question is what we are going to do about it. To me, we are at the point where we should provide a guaranteed income. This would do a number of things. First, it would reduce the amount that the “winners” win. Second, it would mean that businesses that wanted labor would have to pay reasonably well. Otherwise, there would be no point in working. Third, it would force businesses to automate and not use humans to do stupid, repetitive, boring work. Overall, it would be a boon to innovation. Conservatives claim that people only innovate if there are huge rewards for doing so. I haven’t found this to be the case at all. I work two different jobs that currently aren’t paying anything to speak of. One of them is this blog, which continues to grow in terms of its readership. The other is a high tech start-up. I’m doing both of these things because I have a financial cushion. If I had to worry about my next meal, no amount of potential future reward would make me work on them.

So if Jeff Bezos wants to deliver carrots by helicopter, he ought to be in favor of this new approach to our economy. Otherwise, there will not be enough people who will be able to afford drone delivered produce.

Raising Minimum Wage Won’t Raise Prices

Paul KrugmanPaul Krugman’s column today is on the minimum wage, Better Pay Now. Basically, he says that given how popular raising the minimum wage is even among Republicans, it just might be possible to do. It is true that 57% of Republicans claim to be in favor of raising it. But give Fox News just one week of coverage and see that number plunge down to the low 20s. So I don’t know about just how politically feasible it is.

But I was struck by the very first comment to the article by one bck453 from Wall, NJ. He made a counter argument that I hear from conservatives all time. On the surface, it sounds reasonable. But it actually shows the typical complete misunderstanding of how business and economies work.

If we raise the minimum wage, then something else has to be taken away. So companies will be forced to raise prices, demand more output from their employees, find a way to cut costs by laying off some of the higher paid employees or a combinations of all of these. Mr. Krugman, turns a blind eye to this inevitable outcome.

For the umpteeth time, repeat after me:

Prices are not determined by costs!

Every conservative would-be economist thinks that a company just passes on higher expenses to their customers. If they are selling a hamburger for one dollar and their costs go up by 15¢, then the price of the hamburger will go up to $1.15. If that’s the case, why was the restaurant not selling the hamburger for $1.15 all along? After all, they could have made an extra 15¢ profit on every burger they sold!

Markets don’t work this way. Most conservatives think that businesses sell their products at the lowest prices possible. This is exactly the opposite of the truth. They sell their products at the highest prices possible. The only reason that markets work is that there are multiple businesses who compete with each other. Our hypothetical restaurant owner above is selling his burger for one dollar because that’s the price that allows him to make the most money. If he had charged $1.15, much of his business would have gone elsewhere.

So if the minimum wage goes up, will prices increase? Yes, they probably will go up a bit, but nothing comparable to the increase in wages. Will companies demand more output from their employees? Yes, just like always! And will companies fire their higher wage employees? Not at all. Commenter bck453 is just an idiot.

In the end, bck453 claims to be for an incremental approach to slowly raise the minimum wage to $15 over the next ten years so as to not shock the economy. There is some sense to this. But raising wages either will cause low wage workers to lose their jobs or it won’t. It turns out, it won’t. But bck453 is as confused about how the economy works as he is about whether or not he is for raising the minimum wage. Unfortunately, his thinking on the subject is the most common that I run across.

Conservative Elitists Cry Elitism!

Why We're LiberalsIn Why We’re Liberals, Eric Alterman attacks the conservative claim that liberals are “elitists.” He writes, “While unelite America is wonderful in every way, it’s just not a place where a Laura Ingraham or Rush Limbaugh or Bernard Goldberg or Ann Coulter or John Podhoretz or Newt Gingrich or Peggy Noonan and Andrew Sullivan or Michael Ledeen or David Brooks would ever choose to live.” It’s a great observation because conservatives have no shame about this kind of stuff. The book was written before the rise of Sarah Palin, but in what world would someone consider her just an ordinary American? In what world does an idiot nobody end up on the best seller’s list for any stupid book she “writes”?

But let’s go through and find out what these people have to say about liberal elitism. First: Laura Ingraham. On The View, she said, “People in this audience make this country great—not celebrity elites, not UN elites, not European elites and not business elites.” Ah yes, because we just want to pick some recent college ideologue to go create the Iraq stock exchange. Wait! We already did that! Incompetent governance rocks!

Where do we start with Rush Limbaugh? Maybe when he blamed the Boston Marathon bombing on liberal elite thought. Yep, that’s right! Those hoity-toity colleges in and around Boston do nothing but try to close down young minds and get them to accept fundamentalism. It’s a good thing we have Rush to keep free thinking alive with his army of ditto heads. Closed minded authoritarianism rocks!

Bernard Goldberg is a classic. One of his extremely sloppy books is, Bias, where he takes on the “liberal media.” In the book he writes such gems as, “Everybody to the right of Lenin is a ‘right-winger’ as far as media elites are concerned.” Basically, his complaint with the “liberal media” is that they didn’t treat him very well. He got in a tiff with Jon Stewart, after Stewart caught him saying, “This idea that that whole middle of the country is made up of sort of jerks—that’s a Democrat, that’s a liberal thing.” Afterward, he walked it back to say that he didn’t mean “liberals”; he meant “liberal elites.” The problem with this is that although liberals do take occasional swipes at the middle of the country, it is nothing like the constant conservative attacks on the coasts. Ignorance and stupidity rocks!

Ah, Ann Coulter, or as we like to think of her, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. Most recently she slammed that rich elite Jim Carrey for his Funny Or Die song “Cold Dead Hand.” This is from a woman who said that Clinton “masturbates in the sinks.” And that the backbone of the Democratic party is a “typical fat, implacable welfare recipient.” And “God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.'” And when anyone gets upset, her response is the same, “Liberals have no sense of humor.” But apparently she only has a sense of humor about what she says. Hypocrisy rocks!

As for John Podhoretz, let me just outsource it to Eric Alterman:

John Podhoretz, the son of neoconservatism’s second couple, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who attended elite private schools and the University of Chicago before his father’s connections helped him secure jobs in the media empires of Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch, also professes to see America through rose-hued glasses. “Bush Red is a simpler place,” he explains, on the basis of a visit to Las Vegas. It’s a land “where people mourn the death of NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, root lustily for their teams, go to church, and find comfort in old-fashioned verities.”

Privilege rocks!

Do I have to even talk about Newt Gingrich? Here is a politician with a feel for the common man that rivals William F Buckley Jr. Here’s a man with a PhD from Tulane University. A man with a net worth of close to $10 million. He is an elitist on pretty much any scale you can define. Yet he’s always out fighting the liberal elitism. Two years ago he was defending oil company tax breaks from those liberal elites who want everyone to move to the city and ride the bus. Protecting the wealth of the rich in the name of freedom for the poor rocks!

Peggy Noonan went to Fairleigh Dickinson University, which US News and World Report ranks as the 69th best college in America. In other words, it’s an elite institution. She was Ronald Reagan’s speech writer. She’s a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I don’t know what her net worth is, but I’m sure it’s in the millions. So you can see how closely aligned she is with the American middle class. When Obama was first running for president, this is what Noonan had to say about him and his wife:

Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? … Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised–so raised in the liberal cocoon–that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think?

I don’t know, but I’ll leave it to such a salt of the earth as her to decide. Disingenuousness rocks!

Andrew Sullivan is a hard one because now he is more or less a liberal. Of course, he’s still a bigot. I really don’t understand his popularity. But back in 2001, this Harvard PhD had the gall to write the following:

The middle part of the country—the great red zone that voted for Bush—is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead—and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column.

This is from a guest in our country. I think he should have been thrown out of the country. Rudeness rocks!

Michael Ledeen is another regular American with a PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Eric Alterman quotes him as bragging about a road trip “to Indianapolis for a Toby Keith concert, where [they] partied with something like 25,000 happy rednecks.” That was when he was 65 years old. A big partier he! He was so in tune with middle America that he thought that Toby Keith was a Republican. (Of course, Keith is an idiot and is probably a Republican today.) And there’s nothing that middle class Americans like so much as old PhDs calling them rednecks. Cluelessness rocks!

New York City native and University of Chicago graduate David Brooks knows what the folks stand for. And he’s very even handed. He knows that the conservatives dismiss all intellectuals as liberal intellectuals. But the liberals started it! Mostly, he’s just an apologist for all the stupid and creepy conservative policies. Here he is explaining how Bush Jr helped America know how to live, “People who are part of that culture tend to adopt the values of George W. Bush, regardless of the values they had in their old towns. These include order and neatness over disorder and dysfunction; achievement, sports, and competition; and a sense of responsibility and success.” A bunch of tired platitudes rocks!

Those who run our various social institutions are, by definition, elites. But it’s only the conservative movement that wraps itself in the mantle of every man. Both sides have their elites. But at least liberal elites have earned their statuses. Conservative elites have mostly been born into it.

Que Seurat Seurat!

Georges SeuratWow, what a terrible day for birthdays! But at least I don’t have to lower my standards for today’s winner. But before we get to that, and with a great big yawn, let’s get on to the other birthdays.

On this day in 1863, the co-founder of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Charles Edward Ringling was born. Is that a big deal? Probably not. There were seven of them. But to his credit, he was the Kermit the Frog member of the family. He managed the crazies and everyone really liked him. So let’s give him a great bit, “Yea!”

I don’t normally do politicians, but how can I not note that Harry Reid is 74 today. Look, the man ended the filibuster. He made it happen and I’m very pleased. I’ve had my problems with him over the years. But the truth is that he is an effective majority leader just as Nancy Pelosi was an effective speaker. That’s one thing we Democrats can be proud of: our people are capable.

The British actor Brendan Coyle is 50. He plays John Bates in Downton Abbey, who is the only reason I watch the show. In general, I don’t care about the show. But Bates is the most noble of characters. He plays Lord Grantham’s valet. In general, Grantham is a good guy. But every time something happens that calls Bates’ past into question, Grantham just lets him go. It isn’t that Grantham is a total asshole about it. But who is the noble man? It certainly isn’t that man born into nobility; it is the man who has lived his difficult life with grace and honor. But all is not bad, because he ends up married Joanne Froggatt. Happy days!

Other birthdays: painter Otto Dix (1891); character actor Bill Erwin (1914); film director Vilgot Sjoman (1924); actor Julie Harris (1925); actor Lucy Liu (45); and singer Britney Spears (32).

The day, however, belongs to the great Post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat who was born on this day in 1859. He was the guy who painted with little dots of paint, a technique he pretty much invented called pointillism. But that’s all technique. What matters is the result. And the result is really interesting. It’s hard to know which of his work to highlight. I’m rather fond of his more stylized work like The Circus, but I think Bathers at Asnieres is more indicative of his work:

Bathers at Asnieres - Georges Seurat

Happy birthday Georges Seurat!