Odds and Ends Vol 29

Odds and Ends

Welcome to another Odds and Ends. I almost didn’t write it this week and went with a long article about the falling number of men working (see below). But there’s so much to write about!

Also, I’ve been putting off publishing a general interest article about apples because apples are cool. Speaking of which, my cousin just dropped a bunch of pears on me and this weekend, I need to do some major pie making.

Anyway, it’s time for more Odds and Ends.

Our Messed Up Electoral System

Will forwarded me the current odds on the US presidential race. They are illustrative even if they are more or less what you would think. Biden is -160 and Trump is +135. That means that Biden is a moderate favorite. You have to bet $160 to win $100. For Trump, you have to bet $100 to win $135.

But what’s shocking are the odds of the candidates winning the popular vote. Since neither candidate is the official nominee, it is by party. The Democratic candidate is -600 — bet $600 to win $100. The Republican candidate is +375 — bet $100 to win $375.

Roughly speaking, these are the odds of the candidates winning:

CandidatePopularElectoral
Biden96%68%
Trump4%32%

I can accept the popular and electoral vote not being exactly the same. But that’s ridiculously out of balance. Basically, unless there is major voter suppression, Biden is going to win the popular vote. We know that.

Yet here we are worried that the election will be very close or even that Trump will win. Democracies do not exist like this for long. Eventually, people will just give up because they see that the deck is stacked. Americans are clueless but even we can’t stay that way forever.

Kanye West

It looked like nothing would come of Kanye West’s presidential campaign, but it turns out that he has “friends” in high places. You know: Republicans who want to re-elect Trump with an even smaller fraction of the vote he managed in 2016.

I tend to think there is nothing to this. The kind of people who would fall for this are the kind of people who can’t even bother to vote. But I will admit that I’m still concerned. This election could come down to a very small number of votes in a state like Wisconsin. Biden could win the popular vote by 6 million and still lose. So we need to take this seriously.

But I want to say something to people who think we shouldn’t criticize West: fuck off! If he’s mentally ill, then he should have a handler who doesn’t allow him to run for president. He doesn’t get to do whatever the fuck he wants and then have an army of defenders claim he isn’t responsible when he’s criticized. If you’re going to take the love, you’ve got to take the hate too.

And yes: I hate Kanye West. You see, it really doesn’t matter to me whether or not he means to be evil. The actions result in evil being done. And it’s not even being done for the betterment of society. Even if he thinks his “dragon power” would be a force for good in the White House, he is not going to win. So fuck him. Fuck Howard Schultz. And fuck Ralph Nader!

A Social Ill

One last thing: our society needs to get past this idea that because someone is great at one thing they should be listened to about other things. Being a great stock trader does not mean you know anything about macroeconomics. Kanye West is taken seriously as a candidate because he’s a great musician. We’ve already been through that with Trump who was taken seriously by people who mistakenly thought he was a competent businessman.

Update: Kanye West Indicates That His Spoiler Campaign Is Indeed Designed to Hurt Biden.

Don Henley

Don Henley is a well-known asshole. But the guy is smart. At one of Mojo Nixon’s concerts, he forced his way on stage and performed “Don Henley Must Die.” But there was apparently no goodwill about it. He seemed to be pissed off the whole time. Regardless, good for him!

This tweet made me think of him.

This is the first Mojo Nixon song I ever heard. It’s probably the first that most people heard. I probably heard it on Dr Demento. “Elvis is in Joan Rivers — but he’s trying to get out!” The best thing about him is that he never changed.

Employment to Population

Something weird has been going on for a while: the employment-to-population ratio for prime-aged male workers. This is the percentage of men between the ages 25 and 54 who are working. Before the pandemic, it was sitting at roughly 86 percent. But it was roughly 95 percent in 1967 and it has been steadily declining since then.

Overall, the employment-to-population ratio rose from this period to about 1990 due to more women entering the labor market. But even it has been fairly steady in the high 70s since then.

When this issue is brought up, most people brush it aside as due to more people retiring. This makes no sense at all given that this is specifically for younger workers. (I’m not even included in this group!) So I asked Dean Baker about it on Twitter.

Bad Jobs

This resulted in a bit of discussion. Harland AL thinks it is due to the reduction in good jobs since that time. This makes a lot of sense. As economists are always telling us: incentives matter. And given that most jobs pay poorly, offer no benefits, and have little potential for advancement, why would people take them?

Note that the main (usually unstated) reason that conservative hate the safety net is because it gives workers options. The best thing for employers is to have a desperate and terrified workforce.

Mass Incarceration

But Dean Baker is the master at the unusual take and he presented a white paper that his think tank (CEPR) published a decade ago, Ex-Offenders and the Labor Market. It notes:

We use Bureau of Justice Statistics data to estimate that, in 2008, the United States had between 12 and 14 million ex-offenders of working age. Because a prison record or felony conviction greatly lowers ex-offenders’ prospects in the labor market, we estimate that this large population lowered the total male employment rate that year by 1.5 to 1.7 percentage points. In GDP terms, these reductions in employment cost the U.S. economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output.

This doesn’t give us data over time, but it’s a strong indicator that increases in incarceration has had a notable effect on employment and has harmed the overall economy.

Most Americans think that people who commit felonies “pay their debt to society” and then get on with their lives. This explains why they are so often confused about recidivism. But the truth is that our society punishes felons for the rest of their lives.

Passive-Aggressive Poe

Andrea sent me this.

Passive-Aggressive Raven: Nevermind!
Via Arte Van Gogh on Pinterest.

Kansas Senate Race

There are big happenings in Kansas. Roger Marshall managed to beat Kris Kobach in the Republican primary, which my sources tell me makes this a horse race. His challenger is Kansas State Senator Barbara Bollier. So if you can, donate to her campaign. The only way that we can move forward with Biden as president is by taking the Senate. So this is important.

Barbara Bollier

Frogs

I’m not sure why AIP decided to put out a horror film with the title “Frogs.” They aren’t the most terrifying creatures even if people do tend to find them a bit creepy. What’s next? “Banana Slugs: The Movie”?!

But Frogs is a pretty good little film starring Sam Elliott and Ray Milland. And other there they being a lot of frogs (mostly toads) on screen, it really isn’t about frogs. Nature is turning against man in the form of every creature in the swamp.

Most horror films don’t really scare me except for the jump scares, which I am especially prone to. But at a certain point in Frogs, I was certain things were crawling on me. If you are looking for meatier fare, check out The Mountain of the Cannibal God. But bear in mind that you will see real animal cruelty as well as a man anally raping a hog (thankfully, only simulated). But you get to see Ursula Andress’ boobs!

Frogs is playing over at Psychotronic Review. Watch it now!

Until Next Time

Hopefully, I’ll see you before next week. But it should be next week at the latest.

4 thoughts on “Odds and Ends Vol 29

  1. Pear pie, hmm? I’ve heard of pear cobbler. Pie is a creative use for pears.

    The Poe cartoon really made me laugh. And it’s a needed chuckle after grim prison statistics. If I had to recommend five books about America published in the last 20 years, “The New Jim Crow” would be right up there.

    Hey, Nader has a cookbook now! I’m definitely checking that out. Although it might be 100 recipes of “Stuff You’ll Hate But Is Good For You.” (It’s apparently full of Lebanese family recipes, which if they’re typical of Mideast cooking is delicious and good for you.)

    Ray Milland is Welsh and did a pretty good American accent! It’s funny that UK actors can often do US accents but the reverse is rarely true

    • The problem with pears in pies is that they are gooey. So I cut them with apples. It works quite well. Pears are delicious!

      I admire Nader but I also think highly ideological people who know nothing of politics should not do as he’s done. And as far as I know, he’s never done anything about his effect on the 2000 election other than justify it.

      A big part of the problem with American actors is the influence of “the method.” In Britain, acting is taught as a skill — not as a form of therapy. Although most people think of Brando as a method actor, he wasn’t. And he could do accents. However, it is worth noting that British actors usually learn an American accent and it isn’t that great. I think Jeremy Northam is a great actor but his American accent is pretty weak. And Helena Bonham Carter can’t keep her accents straight for more than a couple of sentences. Sam Neill is rather good with accents, but he was trained in New Zealand. Regardless, I wish Americans thought of acting more like a skill. There’s too much bullshit about acting. So much of movie acting is about not showing anything so that the audience can project. De Niro’s great at that. That’s probably why he isn’t very good at comedy.

      • That is an odd thing about pears — they are tougher than apples to cut raw yet much more transporter malfunction glop when cooked. I assume that’s why they usually go in cobbler instead of pies.

        I don’t blame Nader for 2000 as it wasn’t his fault. He ran an honest protest campaign. It is weird that he doesn’t seem to have any agonizing over “maybe if I hadn’t run in Florida, Bush wouldn’t have been appointed President by the Supreme Court.” There’s all kinds of things I’ve done in perfectly good faith which had bad repercussions. So I feel terrible about those things. I’ve just learned to live with “you couldn’t have predicted that outcome, you’re not a bad person for that mistake.” (I have enough things I’ve knowingly done which had predictably bad outcomes but I rolled the dice on “maybe I can get away with it just this once” and, nope.)

        I suspect Nader has a bit of a social mental block which makes him an absolute wizard on policy (he’s gotten more done than you or I ever will, and I’ve taken his advice to call/write your local politicos with sometimes happy results) yet terrible at politics.

        My understanding is that when Nader was going after car companies in the 1960s, they hired “honey traps” to get him. It didn’t work. That’s wild. Some people are hornier than others, but if you on your chastest day met an attractive, appealing person who could talk deeply for endless hours about Cervantes translations, wouldn’t you want to talk more? And eventually give up every password you own? It’s possible that GM just hired really shitty spies, yet it’s also possible that Nader’s simply immune to spies because he doesn’t have 100% typical social radar.

        So my guess is, he’s never acknowledged his part in the 2000 Florida fiasco because he has that social radar tic. “Of course it wasn’t my fault! I just did what the Constitution legally says I’m allowed to do!” And he’s right about that — but compare him to Bernie, who ran a similar protest campaign in 2016 then rallied hard for Clinton. Nader really is terrible at politics.

        That’s funny about UK actors learning “an” American accent. I’ve learned a few in my travels and I’ve never lived south of the Mason/Dixon line. (Nor will I: I’ve been told the bugs get huge, down there.) You can learn at least three living in New York City for a year (and those just of English, different accents in other American languages is a whole ‘nother deal). It’s possible UK actors just do an LA accent because that’s where movie/TV production is based. And when Method performers from America try UK accents, they go for an “English” accent which isn’t Welsh, Scottish, Cockney or BBC but a really terrible mix of the batch.

        • I think you need to wait for your pears to ripen! They are softer than apples even when fresh. But I will admit that at the grocery store, they can be really hard. Mine came from my cousin’s farm so they were pretty soft when I got them.

          Nader seemed defensive about it for a number of years. I don’t know what he feels deep down. But you have to get on with your life. I’m not very keen on third parties at the moment. But I’ve always assumed that he was somewhere on the Autism spectrum. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It just seems to me that people who suffer from it are often the most morally clear. But it would also explain some of your speculation about how he looks at what he’s done. As it is, I’m sure if Gore had been president during 911, the Republicans would have blamed him for it. And he would have likely lost in 2004. That would have been better than what happened. But it still would have given the Republicans two Supreme Court picks. We are fucked regardless.

          What I’ve been thinking about recently is how we on the left can grow what looks to be about 30% of the Democratic Party into a majority. I think we’ve done too much whining and excusing. We need to expand. Of course, I’m not certain we can. There are various aspects of American culture that push against it. But I just keep reminding myself that Americans were all for socialism in this country — as long as it was only benefiting whites. The US government used to give away land (usually stolen directly from others) and it was just great! Now it would never fly because people would fear some unworthy (ie, black) person might benefit. But it does show a bit of the path forward.

          I am very fond of the old movies where the actors were from various countries and they all had different accents and nobody cared. Hollywood is far too full of itself for that now!

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