The Uselessness of Property Owned But Not Used

PostedThe more I learn about economics, the more I turn against capitalism. It isn’t that I’m against markets or business or property ownership. But for all of the rhetoric to the contrary, capitalism is a very inefficient system. And I really think that globalization has highlighted some of the problems. At one time, to own land meant to work the land. Land that wasn’t being used was available to those who would use it. That’s not true anymore. I look around at where I live in northern California and I see all kinds of land that has not bee used for generations. But if you were to start camping on it, you would quickly find yourself in a jail cell.

I want to talk about a different kind of property, because it is one I know a lot about and that makes the subject very clear: domain names. They are the internet equivalent of land. And I’ve been in the market for a little internet property. I want to start a site about blogging with WordPress. It would be similar in style to Frankly Curious — personal, friendly, broad. But it would be about all the aspects of running a blog: technical, management, writing. And my focus would be to help people make a blog that works and not one that they start and quickly abandon.

So I came up with the name WPUnleashed. So I did a little research. Back in 2008, someone put a ghastly little website on it, “Complete Video Course Reveals
WORDPRESS Money Making Secrets.” But just because I have taste doesn’t mean that others aren’t allowed to use their websites as they see fit. But after a year, the owner let the domain name lapse and it was purchased by WebFizz, Inc. I can’t find out much about the company. It doesn’t have an office — just a box in a UPS Store. But I assume it is one of these companies that just buys old domain names and sits on them. This is what WPUleashed.com looks like now:

WPUnleashed.com

At the top of the page it reads, “The domain wpunleashed.com is for sale. To purchase, call Afternic.com at +1 339-222-5147 or 866-836-6791. Click here for more details.” So this company has been sitting on this piece of internet property for over six years. And of course, I know what the capitalism boosters will say, “That’s their right! They’ve paid for the domain name all these years!” That’s true, but it doesn’t matter. I’m not questioning that this is the way that capitalism works; I’m questions whether this is a good way to run a society.

My assumption is that the owner will want something around a thousand dollars for the name. Sometimes the owners’ valuations are far higher. This sort of thing is so common that I’ve created a website myself, Not Realistic. But the point is, things like domain names or plots of land are not something anyone created. Yet we have created a society that is based on the idea that you can just grab a piece of property and do nothing with it. This strikes me as immoral.

Libertarians (and similarly minded free marketeers) think that private property is such an important value that it trumps all other values. But the idea of private property (and similarly, intellectual property) has always been that it makes the society better. We’ve clearly reached a point where this isn’t true. I have no problem with people owning this kind of non-created property if it is being used to improve society. But it isn’t. This kind of property ownership actually makes us all less wealthy. And the owners are just parasites who suck off the efforts of people who are doing real work — adding real value to the society at large.

The ownership of land is an even more extreme example of this. In the past, to own a piece of land was to work it. Now, to own a piece of land is to simply have a piece of paper that allows you to use the police and the court system to stop other people from using the land. We need to seriously rethink the idea that the simple fact of ownership is worth something. Ownership of land or domain names should be dependent upon the owner making good use of the property. We can debate what “good use” is, but I’m not so much talking about the law here but about the way we as a society look at things. The laws in the US over the last 40 years have been terrible. But arguably even worse is just the way we think about economic issues, where there is no social cost for being the kind of “greed is good” jerk that would have made you a pariah during almost any other period in human history.

Update

I contacted the brokerage house and they said the domain name is available for $1,475. What a joke!

Do Conservatives Care About the Truth?

David Daleiden - The Face of EvilI think that certainty can be an extremely dangerous thing. Having a healthy dose of doubt is really important. Personally, I work on having a constant background thought that I might be totally wrong — that I am not the keeper of The Truth. I try on things like “tax cuts for the rich help the economy” and “same sex marriage harms society.” In almost all cases, I don’t just find the fit bad, I can’t even fully squeeze into their absurdity before ripping them off. But it is good to try because there are little things you can learn and you can evolve on questions. Some issues I do find vague and difficult to take absolute stands on.

But I wonder about conservatives on this issue. I’m not talking David Brooks here. He’s an idiot and a hack, but some intellectual sunlight really does make it to his brain. But you have to wonder about the conservative truth believers — and that is most of them. And then you really have to take a look at people like David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. They were two of the people behind the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) — the group that staged a “sting” against Planned Parenthood, using the usual tactics of highly edited footage made to look like something that wasn’t going on was — in this case that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.

I read a really good Dahlia Lithwick article about it, The Anti-Abortion Activists Targeting Planned Parenthood Have a Slew of Legal Troubles. Thus far, there have been 11 investigations of Planned Parenthood and all of them found that the group was (as expected) squeaky clean. But the most recent out of Texas turned the whole thing on its head, “The Harris County district attorney, announced the surprise indictments against the Center for Medical Progress’ David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for the felony of tampering with a governmental record; Daleiden received a second indictment for the misdemeanor prohibition on the purchase of human body parts.”

“The law is — we forget — different from politics, and even as politics becomes ever more a fact-free enterprise, the law is not.” —Dahlia Lithwick

Not that it matters. In the end, this will be just like it has been with James O’Keefe. These two will get a slap on the wrist. Maybe they will even go to jail for a while. But the money will continue to flow in and they will continue to be stars in the conservative movement. But this whole movement of young “sting” operatives has yet to result in a single actual discovery. In the case of the CMP, an enormous amount of time and energy was put into the effort. And like always, they found nothing. This is normally the case when one investigates an outrageous claim. When you shoot for the moon, you almost always miss.

But conservatives don’t seem to care about the truth. The nicest way you can put it is that they think they already know the truth. So it really doesn’t matter that they take dozens of hours of video, cut it up to make it look like something bad is going on, and then release it. The ends justify the means because they just “know” that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue. But I suspect I’m being far too charitable. Knowing conservatives it is just a matter of their side winning. (What continues to amaze me is that the mainstream press takes these adolescent pranksters seriously; have journalists no pride?)

Lithwick goes over in exhaustive detail all the legal problems that David Daleiden and CMP are having. At every turn they lose. As she put it, “The law is — we forget — different from politics, and even as politics becomes ever more a fact-free enterprise, the law is not.” This, of course, hasn’t stopped Congress and various state legislatures from acting as though CMP were on the level. But then, they are just looking for any excuse to end reproductive rights.

What it does all mean is that American conservatism is a kind of cult. Everyone in it just “knows” the truth and they will believe everything that confirms their beliefs. In fact, things that push against their beliefs make them believe it all the more strongly. It’s a very dangerous situation, given that these people will eventually be in control of this country and along with it by far the biggest military in the world.

Morning Music: Candy Says

The Velvet UndergroundIt is not entirely for James’ sake that we are going to listen to “Candy Says” today.

I hate self-titled albums. They just confuse everyone. But if you are going to have a self-titled album, make it be the first one. The Beatles’ self-titled album gets called “the white album,” which I’ve always thought was kind of silly. It’s because it’s white, get it? Of course you do, because there’s nothing to get. It’s grey lettering on a white background. It’s like they were teaching bad website design long before there were websites!

The problem is even worse with The Velvet Underground, which everyone I know just called “the third album” or “that one with the bad photo” or perhaps best, “the folk one.” Okay, not totally folk. There is “The Murder Mystery,” which is more an aural challenge just to see if you are willing to sit through to listen to After Hours. And I’m not sure it is, although I do love that song. In fact, I’d probably feature that song, if Maureen Tucker had not turned into a Tea Party Idiot.

So let me prepare you for Saturday, which is really going to be special. Really: you’ve got to come by; I’ll have a half hour of music you really ought to listen to. But until then, let’s listen to the Velvet Underground song “Candy Says.” It’s clearly one of those song that they would have had Nico sing if she hadn’t had better places to nod. This is, of course, exactly the point that the band was at when they recorded 1969: The Velvet Underground Live. What’s great about it is that, by and large, there is no pretense. For as much as I like Velvet Underground & Nico, there is a certain amount of pretending to be more hip than they actually are. All that is gone by this third album.

Anniversary Post: We Are the World

We Are the WorldOn this day in 1985, the song “We Are the World” was recorded. It was for a good cause. It was in response for the Ethiopian famine. Roughly half a million people died because of the famine — maybe a lot more. The proximate cause was a drought, but this was on top of war and bad government policy. Not that you would get any of that from the song.

“We Are the World” is exactly the kind of insipid song that you would think a bunch of rich people would come up with because they just have to do something. It was written Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie — both of whom were capable of writing decent songs. But when you set out to create a hit that will offend absolutely no one, you are sure to offend people like me. I’m just glad that Lester Bangs had died a few years earlier, because this song certainly would have killed him.

One of the things that distinguishes art from commerce is meaning. Art has something to say. It can be personal and small. It can be global and big. Whatever. But it has to be something. “We Are the World” has absolutely nothing to say. It isn’t even about peace and love. “We are the world”? “We are the children?” It’s no deeper than a Pepsi commercial, and it is a good deal less deep than a Coke commercial.

Of course, it was just a commercial. It was a way to get people to know about the famine and to care about it a little bit. But it makes me think very much of Slavoj Žižek’s “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce” — the idea that we feel good about ourselves by consuming the right products. Don’t drink Folgers; drink Starbucks because they will give a nickle to the poor from every ten dollar cup of coffee you buy from them. Good coffee karma. Or in this case, good insipid song purchasing karma.

I wouldn’t dare make you listen to “We Are the World.” Here is Slavoj Žižek’s discussion of the concept:

Ammon Bundy in Custody; Is Malheur Over?

LaVoy FinicumWell, as of Wednesday, Ammon Bundy is in custody and the standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is more or less over. One man ended up dead, which is sad. But given the situation, I think we need to be thankful. We aren’t talking about the most stable people here. It could have been Waco all over again. They could have decided to burn themselves alive. What I hadn’t known was that these guys had been coming and going from the refuge to have meetings with the press and so on. As a result, the FBI and local officials decided to just pick them up on the road. It looks like everything went okay until LaVoy Finicum panicked and drove away. When his vehicle got stuck, he charged at police and was shot dead. Ammon’s brother Ryan was apparently shot in the arm.

The supporters of these domestic terrorists are defending them. In fact, Nevada Assembly member Michele Fiore tweeted out, “My heart & prays go out to LaVoy Finicum’s family he was just murdered with his hands up in Burns OR.” Was she there? Of course not! She just heard it from someone else who wasn’t there. I’m not saying that Finicum wasn’t murdered in cold blood — police certain do that. But it’s typical of a conservative to just gab any liberal rhetoric and go with it, because they are postmodern and they define the truth.

To give you some idea of just how ridiculous this all is, on 21 January, Ammon Bundy went and met with the FBI to negotiate an end to the standoff. They was supposed to meet the following day, but Bundy left when the FBI refused to negotiate in public. It’s all too clear what this is all about. Ammon Bundy and company want publicity. Their demands are ridiculous: that the federal government doesn’t own any of its own land. Thus, according to these bozos, the land belongs to them. It seems to me that if federal land were to just go back to the people, it ought to be proportioned, which means that none of these people would get enough land to graze their animals in his new world. It’s just because they want to define the new world so that it benefits people like them — rich people who don’t need any help.

It is sad that Finicum is dead. But the whole thing is frustrating. All these guys have acted like spoiled five year olds. They don’t respect the law and they deserve to be put in jail for a very long time. But that’s not what will happen. Because they have a lot of money, this will all go on for a very long time. They will get slapped on the wrist. And if they get any kind of major penalty (and even if they don’t), they’ll just take over another piece of property that they don’t own. Personally, I think they should all be denied bail because the probability of this is so great.

Right now, perhaps a half-dozen people remain at the refuge. And they are talking tough. But now the FBI is not letting anyone in. It seems kind of strange to me that they ever did. I really do think the whole thing would have been better dealt with the way you deal with a spoiled brat. Let them whine in their rooms and don’t let them have any snacks. Soon enough, they’d get bored and give up. What they never should have been allowed was a major platform to air their petty grievances.

One thing that is ironic is that the Bundies and their followers have always claimed this was about the federal government. But it was the people of the local area who most wanted these guys to get the hell out. The FBI was getting a lot of pressure from the local people to end the standoff. But of course, Ammon Bundy has always hidden behind the “silent majority” rhetoric — claiming that the people in that area were totally behind them. They weren’t.

The whole lot of them should spend a long time in a jail or mental hospital — whichever is appropriate. And they should be watched. Because these are exactly the kind of people who blow up federal buildings — with day-care centers. These are bad people who the society needs to be protected from.

Federal Reserve’s Potentially Catastrophic Mistake

Federal ReserveJust as recently, I’ve been going on and on about liberal attacks on Bernie Sanders, a month and a half ago, I was going on and on about the impending rise in interest rates by the Federal Reserve. And I know it’s annoying. It is so much better to mix things up. That’s why it’s so great to have James around to write things like his most recent, Minnesota Advice for Those Suffering the Cold Weather in the East. My understanding is that the women back there are strong and James is good looking. Anyway, I am going to rant about the things that I’m going to rant about. And today, it is back to the Fed.

As you may have noticed, Wall Street has been going wild. And it seems that the economy has slowed sharply over the last month. (Please: don’t ask me about Christmas; they take that stuff into account.) And so now it looks like the Fed’s brilliant idea of raising interest rates even while the inflation rate continued to be below its target seems like a bad idea that was seen by pretty much everyone who didn’t have a vested interest.

“Most economists maintain the risk of a US recession this year are slim, but markets are now pricing roughly even odds of one, and that in itself has consequences.” —Robin Wigglesworth

Robin Wigglesworth at the Financial Times wrote, Talk of Fed “Policy Error” Grows.[1] He quoted JPMorgan Asset Management officer Bob Michele saying what I seem to have been saying for the last few years (ever since the Fed started publicly itching to raise rates), “Historically the Fed has raised rates because either growth or inflation was uncomfortably high. This time is different — growth is slow; wage growth is limited; deflation is being imported.” So why did they do it? I guess in a sense, it is like asking why the Mad Hatter and the March Hare keep changing seats: by the rules of normal people, they are insane.

But none of this means that our current problems are due to the Federal Reserve. It is just that the rate hike worked in exactly the opposite direction that we needed to go. Lots of people like Paul Krugman have argued that the problem with the rate hike was the asymmetric risk. There was basically no risk of putting off an interest rate increase, but there was a huge risk of raising too soon. We can’t say just how all of this is going to turn out. But here is a chilling bit of reporting from Wigglesworth, “Most economists maintain the risk of a US recession this year are slim, but markets are now pricing roughly even odds of one, and that in itself has consequences.”

Could Federal Reserve Get Trump Elected?

Tim Duy (the Fed Watch guy) thinks that we won’t have a recession because it is a “sector-specific shock” and not an “economywide shock.” That means something to me because Duy is a brilliant guy who does tend to understand this stuff. Just the same, another economist who I listen to, Brad DeLong, wrote:

Does anybody think that if the FOMC back last December had known how December and January would turn out that it would have raised interest rates then? Given that they would not have, why are they not intending to lower interest rates now at this meeting?

If you asked Tim Duy, the answer would be that the Federal Reserve thinks this is likely a temporary disturbance and that it’s very likely that far from reversing course, they will be able to continue raising interest rates, even if they can’t do it quite as fast as they had hoped. But I’m more focused on that asymmetric risk. What if the economy does go into recession? That almost certainly means President Trump or President Cruz. The Federal Reserve really does determine whether millions of people have jobs or not — and if tens of millions of workers gets raises. But what it does also affects who gets elected.

This stuff matters — a lot. And it terrifies me. It is perhaps the best example that we have that we don’t live in a democracy. We are all of us dependent upon what the plutocrats at the Federal Reserve do. And it affects us all the way down to the smallest city council.


[1] The article is behind a paywall. But I suspect you all know how to get around that if you need to. You could also, of course, subscribe.

Morning Music: Here She Comes Now

White Light/White HeatI would have moved on from White Light/White Heat today. But James mentioned that he really liked the softer side of the Velvet Underground, so I thought that we would stay and listen to one of their softest, and in some ways sweetest, songs, “Here She Comes Now.”

It’s a strange title for the song. “If She Ever Comes Now” would make a whole lot more sense. I assume that title is meant to provide the listener to a clue as to the meaning of the song. The singer is just impatient. She is coming. In fact, the implication is that she is so close, he can see her. So he’s saying that he will long for her right up to the moment that he can touch her.

Of course, “Here She Comes Now” must be meant as a response to There She Goes Again off Velvet Underground & Nico. That song was violent — even misogynistic. But it’s also quite honest about the violent feelings that a breakup can cause in anyone — but most especially in a man.

So “Here She Comes Now” is about the joy of love when it comes whereas “There She Goes Again” is about the anguish of when loves goes. They make a nice pair. I prefer “Goes,” although not for the lyrical content. It’s just that the music is better and it has that wonderful double time ending. “Here She Comes Now” was probably an effort to get some radio play. And I recall reading (decades ago) that the song did dip into the Billboard top 200 at some point. Wikipedia doesn’t mention it, so I might be wrong. Also, it was the B-side of “White Light/White Heat.” But it’s not like the Velvet Underground was ever well managed.

Anniversary Post: Paris Peace Accords

Paris Peace AccordsOn this day in 1973, the Paris Peace Accords were signed thus ending the Vietnam War. What I think is important about it is that it wasn’t actually the end. This is the sort of thing that everyone should be more aware of. Obviously, it was more than two years later before American troops were actually removed from South Vietnam. But the more important issue is that these things don’t just stop.

In particular, it is inconceivable that the Khmer Rouge would have come to power in Cambodia without the war. And that government was responsible for the systematic murder of roughly two million Cambodians. That’s a quarter of the population. When you look at Hitler or Stalin in proportional terms, they were nothing compared to Pol Pot. It was the most horrific genocide in the history of humanity. It’s hard to even imagine.

Of course, it wasn’t primarily the American carpet bombing of Cambodia that did it. It was also about various other things having to do with the central conflict in Vietnam. In particular, the Khmer Rouge got support from the North Vietnamese government. It seems ironic that it would be the very same Vietnamese government that overthrew the Khmer Rouge just four years later. It’s also amazing that the regime was able to kill that many people in that little time.

I am generally of the opinion that war is a science. There is little about it that is mysterious. Given a particular situation, the vast majority of military leaders agree on how to proceed. What is not a science — what is a total mess — is the wider ramifications of war. Carl von Clausewitz’s statement bears repeating, “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means.” If we could see that war is, in fact, a form of diplomacy, we would do much better. But too often, we see a dichotomy that doesn’t exist: diplomacy is for wimps and war is for real men.

I imagine Iraq in 2016: Saddam Hussein still in power. The situation isn’t wonderful, but it isn’t terrible. ISIS, in as much as it exists, is far smaller and more contained. And roughly a million more people are alive. “Winning” the Iraq War was just the beginning of its very negative consequences.

The Paris Peace Accords were important. Sunk costs are suck costs. But it is better to make the decision to not start the war.

The Paul Krugman Bernie Sanders Giving Game

Paul KrugmanYou have no idea! Right now, you’re thinking, “Not another article where Frank complains about Paul Krugman complaining about Bernie Sanders!” But really: this is nonsense. There was a time in 2008 when I looked forward every morning to checking out Krugman’s blog. Friday’s were a special day because I knew he would have a column out. And I still greatly admire him. But when I clicked over to him on Monday I saw, Bernie, Hillary, Barack, and Change. That’s where he argues that Obama thinks Clinton is his true heir — as though that’s a compelling argument to the leftists in the party. “Hooray! Clinton will bring eight more years of us not knowing if we’ll get Medicare turned into a block grant!” It does not help that Krugman has spent the last eight years complaining about the same things.

But then I scrolled down and found, How to Make Donald Trump President. Let’s see how that goes, “Step 1: Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders.” Of course, as I discussed in The Complete ‘Bernie Sanders Can’t Win’ Liberal Pundit Article Kit, no one like Krugman will ever make a straight attack on Sanders. Krugman doesn’t “think Sanders is unelectable.” He just takes it as a given that electing Bernie Sanders would give the election to Trump. But that’s not quite fair — to Bernie Sanders supporters.

Krugman really should be worried about the economy going to hell and about how the Federal Reserve is doing exactly the opposite of what it should be doing. But instead, every day is a day to claim that Bernie Sanders is going to put a Republican in the White House.

Krugman’s cunning plan to get Trump elected involves a second part: Michael Bloomberg enters the race and takes votes away from the Democrats, but somehow he takes none away from Republicans because “two-thirds of them currently support Trump, Cruz, or Carson.” Okay, but data — Remember data, Krugman?! — indicates that even among Republican supporters of Carson and Cruz, Trump is not popular. Among Republicans, Cruz has a 51% net approval rating. Carson has a 47% net approval. And Trump: 27%. So Trump still isn’t that popular even among the craziest of the Republican. But only Sanders would lose with a Bloomberg run.

And we know why that is: because it is the only way that Krugman can make his argument sound at all reasonable. Because otherwise, his post would have been six words long, “Step 1: Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders.” Because that’s all Krugman is saying. It amazes me that Krugman can be so smart, and yet write post after post where he shows himself to be stupid — or at least completely out of his depth. Under ordinary circumstances, I know that Krugman would mention the fact that the economy trumps all other aspects in an election. If Krugman weren’t so emotionally attached to Clinton, he could have come up with the actually reasonable — fact and researched based — description of How To Make Donald Trump President:

  1. Republicans nominate Donald Trump.
  2. The economy goes into recession.
  3. “Trump wins a yuuuuge victory.”

Krugman really should be worried about the economy going to hell and about how the Federal Reserve is doing exactly the opposite of what it should be doing. But instead, every day is a day to claim that Bernie Sanders is going to put a Republican in the White House. As long as Krugman is suffering from this brain fever, I think we can make a game of it. It’s called The Paul Krugman Bernie Sanders Giving Game. The rules are simple:

Every time Krugman writes something stupid about Bernie Sanders, you contribute to the Sanders campaign.

You can set your own level of giving. You’ve got to be careful, though. Because I suspect that Krugman is going to say a lot more stupid things about Bernie Sanders. And if Sanders wins in Iowa, you might be required to donate to Sanders several times a day.

Of course, it really shouldn’t work this way. It’s Krugman who should have to provide the money. After all, he’s the one saying stupid things that show none of the depth of thought that have made him a respected pundit. But I’m afraid, we aren’t going to get that. So we’ll just have to pay ourselves.

Afterword: If Paul Krugman Is Ill

In case Paul Krugman is suffering from undiagnosed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, then I am sorry. But for his benefit and that of the nation, he should not be writing in public. This doesn’t seem to be the case however. His articles about economics are still as good as ever.

The Case Against the Case Against Bernie Sanders

Bernie SandersOver the last few days, I’ve written two articles about liberal attacks on Bernie Sanders. First, there was, Erik Loomis Is Wrong About Sanders and Politics. And then there was my not so serious, The Complete ‘Bernie Sanders Can’t Win’ Liberal Pundit Article Kit. My point has not been that liberals are attacking Sanders. That’s a given. There are perfectly acceptable reasons that one might not want to support Sanders. But the arguments have been bad — from Loomis’ “liberals will be disappointed like they were with Obama” to Krugman’s argument that Sanders is campaigning too much like Obama.

I was pleased to see Monday morning that Brian Beutler is thinking the same things I am, Is Nominating Bernie Sanders a Worthwhile Gamble? Because that’s the question. Back in September, I wrote an article with an almost identical title, What Risk Is Bernie Sanders Worth? My point was that Sanders was worth some risk but not a lot of risk. But those were the days when the liberal establishment wasn’t afraid of Sanders. So they didn’t care. But now that it looks like Sanders is an actual threat, the liberal establishment’s answer is not only that Sanders is worth absolutely no risk, but also that Clinton represents no risk whatsoever.

Beutler’s argument is summed up in his subtitle, “Hillary Clinton’s supporters have yet to make a persuasive case that Sanders is too great a risk.” And that is quite right. In all the writing about the subject, the unstated assumption is that Clinton — the ultimate Wall Street insider — will easily destroy Donald Trump — the ultimate populist demagogue. On that one issue, I think that Sanders has a distinct advantage. But you would never know that from the garbage that is coming out of the “practical” wing of the party.

The Case For Bernie Sanders

Beutler made one of the stronger practical cases for Sanders. It goes back to something that I was complaining about for years under Obama. And it is, interestingly, something that Obama learned. But Clinton has regressed on it:

But if we’re imagining both of their agendas as opening bids in negotiations with Congress, why fault Sanders for not negotiating with himself? Ask a future Democratic Congress for single payer and a $15 minimum wage and you might get laughed at… but you also might get the public option and a bump to $12. Ask it for the public option and a $12 minimum wage, as Clinton might do, and you’ll get a fair hearing from the outset, but you might end up with advancements barely worth fighting for. President Obama, as Sanders is fond of noting, negotiated with himself, and progressives paid an unknowable price as a result.

He went on to note that although the Clinton camp wants to paint Sanders as a pie-in-the-sky idealist, “He’s been a relatively effective and pragmatic legislator.” What’s more, “This is Sanders’s strongest non-idealized appeal to progressives: he would appoint tougher regulators and conduct a more cautious, dovish foreign policy than Clinton.” It may be true that Clinton knows everyone, but what does it matter if she turns to Goldman Sachs to help regulate Wall Street? And finally, “But in a party that has become increasingly dovish and alarmed by increasing concentrations of income and wealth, he would have a strong claim to being a safer bet than Clinton — if he were to ever push the point.”

The Case Against Bernie Sanders

I think there is a strong case against Sanders. And it is a practical one. Sadly, it is not the practical case that Clinton supporters suppose. It is the case that Glenn Greenwald touched on in a recent article, The Seven Stages of Establishment Backlash: Corbyn/Sanders Edition. I have been amazed that so many Labour Party leaders seem to think that it is better to destroy their party than to support Jeremy Corbyn. And given the increasingly hysterical claims that we’ve heard from Clinton surrogates, I fear we would see the same thing here if Sanders won the nomination.

This makes me angry and not at all inclined to switch to the Clinton camp. If a Sander nomination destroys the party, it won’t be because people like me voted for him, but because party elites just couldn’t deal with our preferences. But apart from that, I think Clinton is a marginally stronger general election candidate than Sanders. The question is how big that margin is. Thus far, I’m not hearing much in terms of arguments about that — probably because it is really hard to say.

Moring Music: White Light/White Heat

White Light/White HeatI certainly could have spent the whole week on Velvet Underground & Nico. I do think it is the most fulfilling of their studio albums. Loaded has some of my favorite material and I really like the production. But I think it’s uneven. I’ll probably come back to that later. But today we are going to start on White Light/White Heat.

The album has a bit too much rock jam to it. And I’ll admit, Velvet Underground jams tend to be more interesting than other jams of that period. But still, “The Gift” is a bit much and “Sister Ray” (which I rather like) is too long. I do know this: after the first album (which was the first that I bought), White Light/White Heat was a disappointment. I do think there’s a tendency to see certain bands like the Velvet Underground (And good God: The Beatles!) as constantly brilliant and perfect. None of them are, as great as they may be.

The song “White Light/White Heat” is a gem. For one thing, I like that it doesn’t much make me think of speed, which it most clearly is about. The background vocals are simultaneously sweet and hilarious. It’s another song that Reed was never able to properly sing during his solo career. I might just have to spend another day on this album. We’ll see. Not a lot of time.

Anniversary Post: 2004 Exploding Whale

Exploding WhaleOn this day in 2004, an exploding whale event took place on its way to the Sutsao Wild Life Reservation Area in Taiwan where scientists were going to perform an autopsy on it. This was not an intentional explosion. When organic material decays, without the presence of oxygen, it creates hydrocarbons — most notably methane. This is what happened inside the whale. The methane built up and eventually: boom!

Although many people were present to watch the transport, no one was harmed. They did get covered with blubber and blood, however. The whale was eventually transported to its destination. And the autopsy was performed. It seems that the whale was hit by a ship, crushing part of its spine, and subsequently killing it. It’s very sad. I always find it hard to believe that ships can do this kind of damage. But they are moving very fast, and there is a great deal of inertia in the water.

Dead whales explode reasonably often. But when most people think of an exploding whale, they are thinking of something rather different. Back in 1970, a dead sperm whale had washed up on the cost of Florence, Oregon. As humorist Dave Barry noted at the time, “The responsibility for getting rid of the carcass was placed upon the Oregon State Highway Division, apparently on the theory that highways and whales are very similar in the sense of being large objects.” But things didn’t go that well. The officers loaded the whale with a half ton of dynamite, which blew large pieces of blubber very far away. One car over a quarter mile away was crushed. But luckily, no one was injured.

Clearly, care must be taken when dealing with dead whales. Although in the case of Taiwan, I give them credit for being interested in what had happened to this poor creature.