Shocker: Man Quits Drinking, Spends Less Drinking

People DrinkingTechnically, I’m pretty poor. But I don’t think of myself that way. I’m able to do what I want. It’s just that I’m really lucky to be focused on things that cost little money. I understand that other people have greater needs. But it annoys me when I see people making a big deal out of what they’ve come to think of as necessities of their lives. This is what I thought when I read an article by Tobias van Schneider, I Had No Alcohol and No Coffee for 15 Months and This Is What Happened. What happened is that he saved a thousand bucks a month.

That comes to roughly $33 per day. According to van Schneider, “Some might think that this is heavy alcoholism, but trust me when I say that having 1-2 drinks everyday in New York is more than normal.” I guess he means that his drinking more than 1-2 drinks is more than normal for him. And it isn’t the drinking that really costs the the money, “Going out drinking means that the occasional dinner & snacks are more frequent.” I see it: a drink or two, some beer-battered onion rings, and a couple of expensive Starbucks coffees a day and you easily get to a thousand bucks a month.

Van Schneider also noted that the second thing that happened was, “Less gossip.” What he means is that he socializes less. So what really happened was that he cut a big part of his social life away. Before, he had a thousand dollars a month that he spent on entertainment, and now he doesn’t. That’s fine. How ever he wants to focus his life is his business. But it isn’t really about coffee and alcohol, is it? It’s about a certain notion he had of his lifestyle.

My lifestyle is what most people would consider pathetic, but it is more or less the one that I want. Each day, I drink upwards of three cups of tea. I usually drink Trader Joe’s Irish breakfast tea. It comes in boxes of 80 bags for $2.99. That about 4¢ per bag, or 12¢ per day. Then, when I’m feeling flush, I buy beer. Right now, because it is in season, I’m drinking Lagunitas Brown Shugga’. It’s about $10 for a six-pack, and over $11 once tax and CRV is paid for. So let’s say it is two dollars a bottle. I drink a bottle a night — religiously. (Well, sometimes I forget; I’m not naturally religious.) If a friend stops by, I will give them a beer. That is rare. But even if it weren’t, my entertainment budget comes out to perhaps $100 per month.

I don’t point this out because I think I’m superior to van Schneider. But it’s ridiculous to say that cutting out alcohol and coffee saved you a thousand bucks a month. And that was what he led with. I would say the main thing he really got from the experience was this, “It made me realize how many friendships are actually based mostly on your drinking habits.” Yes. Most of your relationships really aren’t any more deep than that. Friendship is an art, and very few people practice it.

But other than that, the whole thing reeks of privilege. It comes off as a rich man saying, “I can’t believe how much money I saved since I cut out caviar and champagne!” Yeah. It’s funny how when you stop spending money on expensive stuff you, well, stop spending money on expensive stuff. It’s right up there with, “I’ve lost weight since I started eating less and exercising more.” And, “I feel better since I stopped banging my head with a wooden mallet.

Kentuckians Don’t Want Governor to Do What He Said He Would Do

Matt BevinOn Friday, Abby Goodnough wrote a very informative article at The New York Times, Poll Finds Kentuckians Split With Governor Matt Bevin on Expanded Medicaid. You may remember that just over a month ago, Bevin was elected governor of Kentucky by almost 9 percentage points. Of all the Republicans who ran, he was the most clear: the Medicaid expansion had to go. Here is a quote from last February before the election, “Absolutely. No question about it. I would reverse that immediately.” That seems clear enough.

Of course, as the election went on, it became muddled. According to Sam Youngman at Lexington Herald-Leader just a month before the election, “At last week’s Centre College debate, it was far from clear whether Bevin knew the difference between Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income and disabled residents, and Medicare, the health insurance program for people 65 and older.” To me, this is really telling. We liberals talk a lot about how Republican voters are ill informed. People who consume conservative media tend to believe things that just aren’t true. But the truth is that Republican politicians (especially over the last couple of decades) are that way too. They’re just mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. “It” in that sentence is nothing very concrete except their vague feeling that something ain’t right.

“Absolutely. No question about it. I would reverse that immediately.” —Matt Bevin

More important, however, Bevin’s position depended upon the circumstances. By July, he said it was “an absolute lie” that he ever said he would reverse the Medicaid expansion on the first day. In August, he was pushing for a complete reversal in a fundraising letter. For readers of this site, it is probably obvious that Bevin’s July statement is disingenuous. So he wouldn’t reverse the program on the first day? That just leaves every other day of the remainder of his term. And true to his word, as I write this on the fifth day of his term, he has not done anything official to the program.

The poll found that over 70% of Kentuckians who have an opinion on the Medicaid expansion want it kept the same. I’m sure that on many other issues the vast majority of Kentuckians are similarly at odds with the governor they just elected by a huge margin. I have to admit, this still annoys me. There really isn’t a bait-and-switch going on here. The people of Kentucky knew who they were voting for. Or to put it more accurately: the people of Kentucky knew who they were “not voting” for.

The same poll found that while 54% of Republicans wanted to keep the Medicaid expansion, only 43% who voted for Bevin (and I assume that pretty much means those who voted at all) want to keep it. I suspect that Bevin’s best political move would be to cut the Medicaid expansion. It really doesn’t matter what the people of Kentucky think; it matters what the voters of Kentucky think. Given that Kentucky holds its gubernatorial elections in off-off-years, he can depend upon a very conservative electorate. He’s for more likely to lose the primary because he did what the people want than he is to lose the general because he did not.

What it looks like he’s going to do is change the program so that the poor have “skin in the game.” He’ll probably also cut it back so that fewer people get it. These are both bad ideas. They reflect the usual conservative hatred of everyone who you don’t know. (Remember Rob Portman deciding that gay rights were a matter of liberty as soon as he found out that his son was gay? That sums up conservatives completely.) But Kentuckians should count themselves lucky. Like most politicians, Bevin was very clear who he is and how he would govern.

People love to quote Benjamin Franklin, “A republic — if you can keep it.” They usually quote it as if keeping the Republic would require some kind of herculean effort. Who would have thought we would lose our republic just because people couldn’t bother voting?

Morning Music: Hill Street Blues

Hill Street BluesFor this week, I thought we would do television show theme songs that I admire. But not just any. I want to features songs that are of a distinct type. But I don’t have a name for it. They are, roughly speaking, jazz instrumentals. These are often some of the most memorable songs. Usually, they are well written, but it is mostly because we hear them so much.

Probably the most well known practitioner of this kind of art is Mike Post, who wrote the music for pretty much every show you can think of from the early 1980s. I may come back to him later this week. He’s actually not one of the my favorites, but he seemed like a good person to start with. And the show I picked is Hill Street Blues. Now this is an interesting show. My friend Will loved it. But I have never seen it. It must be good, though; it is where David Milch got his start (he wrote a very large number of the episodes).

Anyway, here it is:

Anniversary Post: Saddam Hussein Capture

Saddam Hussein CapturedOn this day in 2003, Saddam Hussein was captured by American forces in a hole on a farm near Tikrit. I’ve always felt a bit sad for the man. Sure, he was a horrible despot. But he really did play by the despot rules. He had managed his power with a great deal of thuggish intelligence. And then he gets invaded for what?! I’m still not clear on it.

And the Persian Gulf War: what was up with that? Here’s the thing: the United States had supported him while he did all kinds of terrible things. And then, suddenly, it decided that it wasn’t going to support him. It amazes me that people like King Abdullah trust us. We really aren’t good allies. Personally, I would prefer if we actually did stand for democracy and all the other nice things we claim to. But we don’t. Is it asking so much to have a bit of consistency?

Of course, there is consistency. It is just that it isn’t of action, but of motivation. We do whatever is in our best interest at any time. We are not loyal to anyone. In other words, as countries go, we are a psychopath. Saddam Hussein never seemed to realize this. Before the invasion, he thought we were just bluffing. He was right that it made no sense in the grand scheme of things. (That’s another thing about us: we are sometimes led by complete idiots.) What can I say, it’s hard out there for a pimp; but it’s much worse for a despot.