Your Guess Is as Good as Ours!

Risk Hedge

The Industry for Those Who Dream Only of Money

Stephen McBride is the editor of RiskHedge Report — a stock analysis company. You know the kind of thing: a must-read website (used to be a newsletter) for people who are bigtime stock traders who are inexplicably not rich. How could following widely circulated tips not be a foolproof way to beat the competition?

McBride is such a successful stock trader that he is the editor of the modern equivalent of a tip sheet and a writer for another magazine of the inexplicitly non-rich, Forbes.

Netflix Is Shockingly Not a Good Investment Anymore

Thus, you might not be surprised when McBride reported, Netflix’s Worst Nightmare Is Coming True. I read the article because I thought McBride might have something to say about the increasing cost of bandwidth. But no, his point was that you shouldn’t buy Netflix for the same reason you shouldn’t by IBM: it seems to have peaked in its current state.

I don’t doubt him. This is the reason I don’t trade stocks: by the time I hear about a good company, everyone else knows. Netflix has been streaming video since 2007. And that is when the company really started raking in the money.

Disney Will Destroy Netflix

McBride’s main point is that Netflix is now getting major competition. So it’s dead. The problem is that Netflix has had competition since, well, 2007. Like Hulu. And Amazon Prime has been nipping at Netflix’s heals for years.

The big change is that Disney is coming out with a streaming system, Disney+, next year. (McBride knows it will be successful because he has a child so McBride will be Disney+.) Disney is planning to pull all of its content off Netflix at that time. That will cost Disney $300 million per year.

More Like Consumers’ Worst Nightmare Than Netflix’s

This move will require most people who want to keep streaming Disney films to buy Disney+. But if they want to continue to watch what are mostly exceptional Netflix-original shows and films, they will still need to continue their Netflix subscriptions. Most people will rightly blame Disney’s usual greed.

Side Note: Porno Mickey Is Coming!

McBride also claimed that Disney still had exclusive use of Mickey Mouse. Either he doesn’t realize that this annoying rodent goes out of copyright in 4 years, or he thinks that Disney will again be able to get the copyright term extended. I’m highly skeptical. At 95 years, no one without a major financial stake can think that a longer term will do anything but hurt creative work.

McBride’s Worthless Data

Netflix NASDAQ

But McBride’s only real data is that Netflix stock went up at a very high rate for the first 6 months of this year and has since gone down. Now it is back to its trend line from 2014 until the beginning of 2018. In other words, his big scoop is… nothing.

McBride Might Have Been Right!

It is clear that the only purpose of this article is to allow McBride to brag about what an awesome company RiskHedge Report is since it has been skeptical (for reasons so obvious I know them) for some time. If McBride were really secure, he would have waited another 6 months to publish this when the data would be clear. Right now they aren’t at all. So I suspect that he published now because he knew there was roughly a 50 percent chance that in that time the data would show the opposite.

In the article, he also recommends that people buy Disney stock because of Disney+. But I’ve already mentioned a couple of reasons to be skeptical. Another one is that Disney has never run a streaming company. This could all be a catastrophe. But what do I know? Maybe all start-ups prefer to start each year $300 million in the hole.

Stock Analysts Aren’t Worth Much for Society

My point in discussing this is not to say that Netflix is a better investment than Disney. Or vice versa. Rather it is to note that places like RiskHedge Report are more dream factories than Disney and Netflix. The argument by Stephan McBride is so facile that only someone desperate to believe would.

And on a broader level, how is any of this good for our society? This isn’t a situation where Disney+ will make costs go down. Oh sure, maybe each one will cost less than they now do. But most consumers will end up paying slightly less than twice what they now pay. And it’s all because $12.5 billion per year in net profits just isn’t enough for Disney. And note, they make so much because they’ve been so successful in manipulating the government into forcing consumers to pay much more by enacting unconscionable IP laws.

No one can ever say of me, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” I really don’t care about money. Even making the little I do, I still end up giving a sizable percentage of my income to people even poorer than I am.

But Stephan McBride clearly cares a lot about money. But there is no reason to ask that question of him either. He clearly isn’t smart. He’s nothing more than a professional psychic. It’s just that the people who listen to him are richer than those who call The Psychic Hotline. And they think the fact that the drones at RiskHedge Report can push numbers around in a spreadsheet makes their proclamations any more believable.

It’s just a bunch of people with big but shameful dreams.

Happy Thanksgiving 2018

ThanksgivingWe’re not doing much for Thanksgiving this year. I simply cooked two side-dishes yesterday. And most of today, I will be working. So I thought I would present a few interesting holiday things:

Woody Allen Jesus

I haven’t checked in recently with Tim Minchin. Truthfully, a little of him goes a long way. But he’s still good. Derren Brown is a mentalist/magician. I figured you would want to know. I figure you know who Simon Pegg is.

The Komodo Dragon

Almost no one finds Bob & Ray as funny as I do. But they are wrong.

The Lost Plague

This is a good video by CGP Grey. I can’t help but think of all the deadly diseases that the Europeans brought to America when the subject of Thanksgiving comes up. When I was a kid, in as much as it was talked about, the destruction of native peoples was always told as one of differing technologies. Of course, that was always nonsense. Guns at that time were not that useful. But given that Europeans had become used to living in filth, they could blithely wage germ warfare and convince themselves they were really badasses.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have to get back to work. I hope you have a good Thanksgiving. If you want, you can read my 3,700-word Thanksgiving Round-Up. I’m not recommending.

The Comics Code’s Target: EC Comics

Incredible Science Fiction #33William Gaines was the publisher of EC Comics — the only comic book in the 1950s that I liked. (I’m not that old; in the late-1970s, the comics were reprinted and better than any of the mainstream comics of the day.)

As we face every generation, there was outrage over how comics in general and EC, in particular, were “destroying the youth of today. You would think we would learn but we never do. There are always people of a conservative bent (I’m not particularly talking about politics here, but these do tend to be politically conservative) who think that because they don’t like something it must be stopped — usually in the name of protecting “the children.”

Juvenile Delinquency!

At the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearing (1954), Gaines’ opening statement was:

Entertaining reading has never harmed anyone. Men of good will, free men, should be very grateful for one sentence in the statement made by Federal Judge John M Woolsey when he lifted the ban on Ulysses. Judge Woolsey said, “It is only with the normal person that the law is concerned.” May I repeat, he said, “It is only with the normal person that the law is concerned.” Our American children are, for the most part, normal children. They are bright children, but those who want to prohibit comic magazines seem to see dirty, sneaky, perverted monsters who use the comics as a blueprint for action. Perverted little monsters are few and far between. They don’t read comics. The chances are most of them are in schools for retarded children.

What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of our own children? Do we forget that they are citizens, too, and entitled to select what to read or do? Do we think our children are so evil, so simple-minded, that it takes a story of murder to set them to murder, a story of robbery to set them to robbery? Jimmy Walker once remarked that he never knew a girl to be ruined by a book. Nobody has ever been ruined by a comic.

The Comics Code

The Comics Code Authority (CCA), which Gaines had the original idea for, would be taken over by conservatives who would do more than just censored basically anything worth reading. At least once the CCA tried to censor an EC title for a purely racist reason. Eventually published as Incredible Science Fiction #33, it was about an astronaut who visits a planet that is home to two “races.” At the end of the story, the astronaut decides that the planet won’t be entered into the federation type organization that he represents because of the planet’s racism. Then he takes off his helmet to reveal that he is black.

It was only allowed to be published because Gaines threatened to go public with the information that the administrator of the Comics Code, 40-year-old Charles Murphy, was a bigot. It was published Feb 1956. Sadly, it was the last comic that EC published.

Note how crazy this is! The elite, white, self-appointed defenders of morality weren’t concerned about the explicit racism and terrorism against African Americans. They were worried about comic books destroying Jack and Jill. And those comic books were my first introduction to Edgar Allan Poe, H P Lovecraft, and even Oscar Wilde (although not directly).

The only title that lived on was Mad. But it was converted to a magazine to remove it from the strictures of the CCA. That’s right: even Mad Magazine was too much for these Very Concerned Citizens.

The CCA Gets “Liberal”

Over time, of course, the Comics Code updated what was acceptable in comic books. I remember a full-page image in one Marvel title from around 1976 that was truly destressing. It was the picture of a man who was in a motorcycle accident and slid 50 feet on his face.

The fact that they had to do that shows that none of this was ever about protecting kids or any concern about morality.

Indeed, the reason the Code changed over time was to maintain its power. So it came as no surprise in early 2011, it died when even Archie Comics stopped using the Code. Of course, it had been decades since it had been relevant anyway.

Target: the Most Edifying Comic Books of the 1950s

The truth is that the purpose of the CCA was always singular and short-term: to put EC Comics out of business. Sure, there were other publishers that the Titans of Morality hated. And obviously, removing people of color and sexy women was great. But that was all icing. Making an example out of Gaines was always its purpose.

But these kinds of people never go away. It’s impossible for them to learn. Indeed, if they got their way and moved society back to 1980, they would immediately start working to set it back to 1940. And so on. That’s because they have an insatiable need to control others. It isn’t enough for them to live by their own morality. They have to push it on others.

Of course, the racist Charles Murphy and the CCA are dead. Meanwhile, those old EC Comics are as good as ever.

2018 Is Not 1982

Ronald ReaganEd Kilgore recently wrote an unfortunate article, Democrats’ 1982 Midterm Gains Looked a Lot Like 2018’s. Then Reagan Was Reelected in a Landslide.

I understand that Kilgore’s intent was positive: he is worried that Democrats are over-confident about taking the White House back in 2020. But there are ways to do this that don’t distort what we know about political science.

Facile Logic

The article is filled with facile comparisons of Trump and Ronald Reagan. For example:

“Democrats picked up 26 House seats, which was pretty impressive because they held 243 going into the election (they won 55 percent of the national House popular vote). They also gained seven net governorships, precisely the number won in 2018.”

Oh my! I guess I should go drown myself instead of face the prospect of Trump being a two-term president!

Reagan and Trump Coincidences

Some other amazing coincidences:

Trump’s Approval Wasn’t the Same as Reagan’s

Okay, most of Kilgore’s coincidences aren’t quite so facile. But they aren’t that much better. And in at least one case, he’s simply wrong: Trump has the same approval rating now as Reagan did at this time: 43 percent. To start with, he’s wrong on the numbers:

  1. First, according to Pew, the polling average so far this year is less than 41 percent. And the yearly average is only 38 percent. Where Kilgore is getting his numbers is unclear.
  2. What’s more, the most correct number for Reagan would be 44 percent, not 43 percent.
  3. So Reagan was beating Trump by 6 percentage points.

But the numbers don’t even matter because Kilgore does not put these numbers in context. When Reagan saw these terrible numbers, the unemployment rate was 10.8 percent! Additionally, the unemployment trend was horrible: it was only 6.3 percent when Reagan entered office. This completely explains why Reagan was so unpopular in 1982.

Things couldn’t be more different for Trump. The unemployment rate went from 4.9 percent when he entered office to 3.7 currently. Yet despite these good economic numbers, Trump is distinctly less popular than Reagan.

But Kilgore just throws up two (incorrect) numbers and provides no context.

Trump Could Very Well Win in 2020

Don’t get me wrong: over the last two years, a lot of liberals have indicated that 2020 will be an easy election for the Democrats. And I always tell them the same thing: if the economy is still growing, Trump will win.

Note that my simple presidential election model predicted that Trump would win the election in 2016 by a very small margin. And it will predict that he wins re-election depending upon the employment numbers in the first 9 months of 2020.

But there are a couple of things that make me think he will not win re-election.

The first is that Trump did far worse than the economic numbers would indicate. Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes when Trump should have won it by a small amount.

The second is that the economy is at as good a place as the Federal Reserve will allow. Trump’s only real hope is that there is a quick downturn and recovery. It certainly could happen. But if I were a betting man, I’d go with the Democrats.

Summary

The last thing I want to see is the Democrats getting complacent. It was tragic that after Obama became president, the base dropped the ball. Even worse: so did Obama. And in 2016, if all those Jill Stein voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio had voted for Clinton, the Democrats would contract the White House — and the Supreme Court for a generation.

The Democrats need to fight hard in every election. 2018 showed how important this is.

But the 2020 election will not depend upon this year’s results. And the comparison with Ronald Reagan in 1982 is meaningless.

How to Vote: November 2018

I’ve been meaning to write this for weeks. In some ways, it is hard to get too excited about, however. I can go through the propositions in July and tell you which good ones that are polling well will go down in flames because all the money spent on them.

Prop 10

This year, the primary example of this in Proposition 10.

The interesting thing about 10 is that it didn’t actually need much spending to be killed. The truth is that our “liberal” Californians are very much like our Silicon Valley plutocrats: they are all for liberal causes as long as it doesn’t require even the smallest personal sacrifice.

And the amazing thing is that Prop 10 doesn’t even do much. All it does is allow local governments to enact rent control if they want to. Currently, local governments are greatly limited regarding how much they can do to keep rents low.

Now, on one level, I’m not that keen on local control. As we have seen over and over, it is usually local governments that are most corrupt and evil. So I always had a small reservation about Prop 10. But I find it annoying that all the “local government is best” conservatives out there are voting against it. Remember: it doesn’t enact rent control; it only makes it available.

Other Stuff

Some propositions each year confuse me greatly. That was the case with Proposition 12. It sets how large a farm animal’s pen must be. I am voting for it. But both sides of 12 claim to be the real defenders of animals. And listening to them go back and forth makes my head spin.

One really good thing this year is that Kevin de Leon is running for US Senator against Dianne Feinstein. I know that she is going to win (although that itself is an indictment of our political system). But it is nice to have someone else to vote for. Feinstein’s sell-by date is about a decade old.

Votes

I am afraid this list is not very interesting. This is how a hard-core Democrat would vote. But that should surprise no one.

  • Prop 1: yes
  • Prop 2: yes
  • Prop 3: yes
  • Prop 4: yes
  • Prop 5: no
  • Prop 6: no
  • Prop 7: yes
  • Prop 8: yes
  • Prop 10: yes
  • Prop 11: no
  • Prop 12: yes
  • US Senate: Kevin de Leon
  • Representative (5): Mike Thompson
  • Governor: Gavin Newson
  • Lieutenant Governor: Ed Hernandez
  • Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
  • Controller: Betty Yee
  • Treasurer: Fiona Ma
  • Attorney General: Xavier Becerra
  • Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond

But just make sure you vote! Also: it’s important that Tony Thurmond win because that means Marshall Tuck will lose.

Why You Should Read Don Quixote — Part 2

Why You Should Read Don QuixoteMy first article on Why You Should Read Don Quixote was the text for a Toastmasters’ talk. And in this task, I was supposed to take the feedback on the talk and improve the speech. But it would be pretty dull to hear the same speech again. So I decided to take a new approach.

Before, I fear that I focused too much on the “great books” aspects of Don Quixote — how it was the first modern novel and the first postmodern novel. But really: I think you should read Don Quixote because it is enormously entertaining. It is The Twilight Zone of the 17th century. And so I thought I would spend a little time going over some of the amusing bits in the first book.

Pasteboard Visor

The novel starts with a discussion of this silly old man who has been driven crazy by the literary tales of knights errant. So he decides to become one.

In the past, you’ve probably seen movies where rich people have a knight’s suit of armor in their house as decoration. Well, lucky for Don Quixote, he too has one. So went he decides to hit the road and find glory by righting wrongs, he has a suit of armor waiting. Except…

The helmet has no visor on it. What to do? Make one out of pasteboard!

This shows, from the very start, that he understands, at some level, this is all play acting. He’s a knight errant in the same way that child who dresses up for Halloween as a pirate is a pirate.

The fact that pasteboard would not protect him doesn’t matter! As long as it looks like it will protect him!

Andres the Slave Boy

In his first real adventure, Don Quixote comes upon a farmer whipping a boy, Andres. He soon discovers that Andres has been working for the farmer. But the farmer abuses the boy and never pays him.

Don Quixote is outraged and demands that the farmer pay the boy. At first, the boy is happy to have this hero on his side. But Don Quixote simply instructs the farmer to take the boy home and pay him.

When Andres protests that if Don Quixote isn’t around, the farmer will just beat him further, Don Quixote dismisses him. Of course, the farmer will be a man of his word! And Don Quixote rides away, assured that he has done a good deed.

The Helmet of Mambrino

Later on, Don Quixote and Sancho are traveling in the rain. They see a man with a wash basin on his head. Or rather, Sancho sees a man with a wash basin on his head. Don Quixote sees a man wearing the mythical helmet of Mambrino! It makes whoever wears it invincible! So Don Quixote is keen to have it.

He rushes toward the man who, seeing a crazy man coming at him with ill-intent, drops the wash basin/helmet and runs off. A thrilled Don Quixote picks it up.

But he makes a rare admission to Sancho. He says that it does indeed appear to be a wash basin. Someone must have melted down the helmet of Mambrino, not knowing its value, and reformed it into a wash basin.

Reality Rears Its Ugly Head

At the end of the first book, Don Quixote and Sancho find themselves in a village they had visited earlier. There many of the earlier plots come back to haunt the Great Knight of La Mancha. But they don’t haunt us at all, because we are not crazy.

As we expected, after Don Quixote left the slave boy, the farmer beat the poor boy more savagely than he had ever before. The boy was no longer under the farmer’s control. Just the same, he had never been paid.

The man wearing the helmet of Mambrino was actually just a barber who was wearing his wash basin to shield his head from the rain.

It seems that everyone in the village has a story of how this crazy old man who thought he was a knight had ruined their lives. I think Andres, the slave boy, sums up the consensus, “Look here, mister knight-errant, if you ever come across me again, even if you can see that I’m being torn to pieces, for God’s sake don’t come to my rescue — just leave me alone with my troubles, because they can’t possibly be so great that your help won’t make them much worse!”

Many other exciting “adventures” come together at the end to turn Don Quixote’s world upside down. I’ve just highlighted two of my favorites, but I could go on.

If it sounds crazy, it should! You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound. A dimension of sight. A dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of shadow and substance — of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into Don Quixote.

A Useless Press Conference

FBII was driving today, so I got to listen to the entire press conference about the arrest of Cesar Sayoc — the man suspected of sending pipe bombs to a number of Trump critics. What most struck me was just how useless the press conference was.

Jeff Sessions

It all started badly with Jeff Sessions giving a “can’t we all just get along” speech without a hint of irony. This is the way it will be with Republicans. In fact, before the press conference, NPR interviewed two political consultants: a female Republican and a male Democrat. And she, of course, brought up Maxine Waters who told Democrats to harass Trump Cabinet officials in public.

The Democrat pushed back and said that Waters specifically talked about making it uncomfortable for people in the Trump administration to go out to dinner. In other words: putting a social cost on working for Trump. She specifically wasn’t calling for violence. And Trump has specifically called for violence.

The Republican backed-down and claimed that she did not mean to make the two sides equivalent. But if that’s the case, what was she doing? She was trying to give Republicans cover by misrepresenting what Democrats have been saying!

During the same segment, Sessions was applauded for the way he dealt with the matter. But this is totally backward. Sessions is simply trying to remove politics from this clearly political act. And that’s what you would expect because it the Republican Party that has been pushing this kind of violence. In other words: the best political move for the Republicans is to claim that this is not political. Sessions isn’t being a statesman; he’s being a good Republican Party soldier.

Self-Congratulations From Law Enforcement

The law-enforcement officers who spoke were the same way. They didn’t want to get into the politics of it because this was just a law-enforcement matter.

But their bigger mission was to congratulate themselves. There was endless repetition of “The work our people did was amazing” and “The American people should all unite in thanking the FBI for its amazing work in this case.”

But the one bit of information that was helpful in the press conference undercut this: they found the suspect because he left a fingerprint on the envelope that he sent to Maxine Waters.

In other words: this wasn’t amazing work by the FBI and others. Apparently, Cesar Sayoc left his fingerprint on the envelope. And even then, the FBI would not have found him had Sayoc not had a criminal history and thus had his fingerprints on file.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure that the FBI has done a professional job with this investigation. But this is not cunning investigational work. Any law enforcement agency would have found this guy. I see nothing that should make Americans especially proud of the work in this case. Indeed, if the FBI had not found this guy quickly, it would have been an indication that we desperately needed reform at the FBI.

Press Conference Was Supposed to Be Useless

I was struck by the fact that the press conference started with the FBI saying that they were not going to comment on the investigation nor the suspect. I thought right then: why are you having a press conference?! After all, that is the information that the people want.

But they didn’t live up to that. They told us a number of things about the investigation like the fingerprint on the envelope. It seems that they simply weren’t going discuss anything that might make the president or his party look bad.

And that makes me think that the government is going to do everything it can to let this whole thing blow over before having to admit that the Republican with all the pro-Trump, pro-Republican, and anti-CNN bumper stickers on his car is, in fact, guilty.

Standing Up for the Rule of Law

One thing Session discussed was that America stands up for the rule of law. That was an interesting claim, because when it comes to criminal behavior by Donald Trump, neither the administration nor the Republican Congress nor even Republican voters believe in the rule of law.

And this whitewash of a press conference is part of this. Had it been a Clinton supporter sending out pipe bombs to Republicans, I’m sure we would hear a lot more — even things that weren’t true.

Elections do have consequences. We see that more clearly now than ever. But at least when Barack Obama was elected, the people knew what they were voting for. Although Trump voters are largely okay with holding the president above the law now, I know that’s not what they voted for.

Cherokee Nation’s Response to Elizabeth Warren

Cherokee Nation's Response to Elizabeth WarrenThere is some question as to whether Elizabeth Warren should have been pulled into a pissing contest with Donald Trump. After all, the man does nothing but piss. And there is no winning an argument with a man who habitually lies and who won’t even admit wrongdoing when there is video evidence. For example, Trump offered to donate a million dollars if Warren took a DNA test and it showed she was “an Indian.”[1] When she did so, Trump claimed he never made the offer.

But let’s cut through all the nonsense. The facts are clear. Trump made an offer to Warren. She accepted it and proved she was right. And he has since had a number of excuses for why he doesn’t need to follow through on his promise. I have little doubt that the million dollars does matter to him — even though it isn’t much compared to all the corrupt money he has acquired while being president. But the bigger issue is that Trump will never admit to being wrong. And with the help of the Republican establishment’s mendaciousness and the Republican base’s motivated gullibility, he doesn’t need to.

The Cherokee Nation Responds

What most concerns me is the response from the Cherokee Nation. They have been engaged in some major false equivalence. In addition to it being morally wrong, it is bad politics. Do they really think that knit-picking a Democrat who is broadly supportive of their concerns will translate to support from Trump and the rest of the Republican Party? Although it isn’t a subject of particular concern to the Cherokee Nation, look at how the Republicans has responded to the concerns of Native Americans regarding the Keystone XL pipeline.

I’m not saying that the Cherokee Nation should just accept that their allies are in the Democratic Party and so they should shut up. But in this case, leaders of the tribe seem to be going out of their way to find offense when there really was none. And we know this because their complaints have been about things that Elizabeth Warren never did. For example, Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin was interviewed on NPR.

Determining Who Is A Cherokee Is More Than DNA, Hoskin Says (16 Oct 2018)

Tribal Identity Isn’t Determined by DNA

The complaints circle around what it means to be Cherokee. And Hoskin is right — not just about Cherokees but about any group. The problem is, Warren’s argument with Trump — and the release of her DNA test results — have nothing to do with her being Cherokee.

Chuck HoskinThis whole thing started when she first ran for Senate in 2012. She was challenging Scott Brown, who made a big deal about it. And his supporters began calling her Pocahontas. Warren’s only claim has even been that according to her family members, they had a Native American ancestor. This is pretty common. Most families have one or more such stories. “Thomas Jefferson was the brother of our great-great-…-grandfather.” Or whatever.

What’s more, her listing herself as part Native American while in college is hardly cultural appropriation. I listed myself as Portuguese, and I certainly have no cultural connection to even the local Portuguese community. There certainly is some question about whether people should do this. But the issue is a mess and Warren certainly shouldn’t be held accountable for the fact that our society has (and probably will) never come to terms with its continued history of racism.

Warren Isn’t Claiming to Be a Tribal Member

Regardless, this is not the issue that Cherokee Nation leaders have been complaining about. They have been complaining about the DNA test. And the DNA test was taken to answer one question: did Elizabeth Warren have a Native American ancestor. And the results of the test indicate that she did, in fact, have an ancestor “living around the mid-1800s, which is similar to Warren family lore.”

The result of this attack on Warren has been that the release of her DNA test results is reported as being as bad or worse than Trump’s vile and loud racist comments. In fact, as you will see in the NPR interview above, Chuck Hoskin has no comment about Donald Trump’s racist bullying of Warren that caused her to release the results in the first place.

Elizabeth Warren Makes the Cherokee Case

And in the video that Elizabeth Warren released, she acknowledges all the points that Hoskin makes about DNA not being an indicator of tribal identity. Yet Warren’s video (which must have taken some time to produce) was released a day before Hoskin’s interview.

Yet if you do a Google search on “warren cherokee,” you will find article after article about how angry the Cherokee Nation is at Warren. And it is all about stuff that she did not do. It is all presented as explaining to Warren things that she clearly knows based on her video.

I really hate this because it allows Republicans to run around spreading lies — including their favorite lie that Democrats are the real racists. And I’m really unclear what the Cherokee Nation gets out of all this. Yes, it was an opportunity to educate the public. But it didn’t provide any more information than Warren’s video. And the Cherokee Nation could have educated the public without the false equivalence, which is all most people will take away from this debacle.


Elizabeth Warren’s Family Story (15 Oct 2018)

[1] Trump’s full statement was, “I will give you a million dollars, to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian.” A DNA test can’t actually prove that one is a Native American in any scientific sense. Race is not a scientific thing. But in this context, Trump can mean nothing other than that she was telling the truth about having a Native American ancestor. As for the claim that she has less Native American DNA than the average American, that is completely false.

Why You Should Read Don Quixote

Why You Should Read Don QuixoteIt’s often been said that Shakespeare is the broccoli of English literature: people consume it because they think it is good for them but they don’t really like it.

And this is generally true of any of the Great Books that we are all supposed to read and pretend to love. Yet there are major exceptions like any Jane Austen book. But the single biggest exception is Don Quixote. You shouldn’t read it because it is important; you should read it because it is supremely entertaining.

I’ve read it dozens of times and yet you can still see me sitting on a bus reading it — laughing like a crazy man. And you too can be a crazy man like me!

The Boring Windmill Story

If you know only one thing about Don Quixote, it is the following story:

Don Quxiote rides over a bluff on his emaciated horse. There in the valley are dozens are windmills. But Don Quixote thinks these windmills are giants. So he charges toward them with a lance and is dashed to the ground.

Not very funny, is it? It’s no wonder that people think it isn’t worth their time. I wouldn’t either!

The Real Windmill Story

Now consider what is actually in the book:

Don Quixote is a Spanish gentleman: a man who doesn’t really do anything. He’s spent too much time reading exciting adventures about knights errant. So he’s decided to be one. He needs a squire, so he convinces a local working man, Sancho Panza, to come with him offering the prospect that Sancho will become governor of an island Don Quixote will win for him.

They come over a bluff — Don Quixote on his horse and Sancho on his mule. They see windmills and Don Quixote says, “Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have shaped our desires ourselves… [T]hirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we shall begin to make our fortunes…”

Sancho is an uneducated peasant, but not an idiot. He says, “What giants?”

After a bit of conversation during which Don Quixote insists that the windmills really are giants, the crazy man rushes toward the windmills. Sancho yells after him, “You idiot! Those are windmills!”

Sancho races after Don Quixote, begging him to end this folly.

Don Quixote gets to a windmill and stabs one of its sails — thinking it a giant’s arm. This breaks his lance and dashes him to the ground.

Sancho soon arrives and says, “Didn’t I tell you those were windmills!”

But Don Quixote is having none of it! Sure, they are windmills now. But that’s just because his nemesis, the evil magician Friston, turned the giants into windmills “in order to rob me of the glory of vanquishing them!”

The First Modern Novel

If there is anything else you know about Don Quixote, it is probably that it is the first modern novel. In my experience giving talks about the novel, this is a claim that people have a lot of trouble with. What does it mean?

There are a lot of reasons why scholars claim that Don Quixote is the first modern novel. But the most important is the centrality of character in the story. Before Don Quixote, characters in novels weren’t individuals so much as archetypes. But even more important, the stories were not generated out of those characters.

In Don Quixote, the two primary characters are as vibrant and honest as any character in a modern novel — and that’s with 400 years of later novels stealing from them. In addition, the story is entirely driven by Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The plot moves along because of their actions; they aren’t characters dropped into a given plot. And as you can see in the windmill story, the humor derives from the characters — Don Quixote chasing glory in his fantasms and Sancho trying to limit the damage caused by his lunatic friend.

The Postmodern Novel

Another reason that Don Quixote is so fun to read derives from the fact that it is actually two novels. If Part 1 is the first modern novel, Part 2 is certainly the first postmodern novel.

One of the conceits of Part 1 is that the story is true. So when Cervantes wrote Part 2, he did so in a world where the character was literally world-famous. But if the character was famous, then the supposed real man was famous. Thus, the entirety of Part 2 has Don Quixote and Sancho going on their adventures in a world riddled with people who knew them from the first novel.

Luckily, Don Quixote is too insane and Sancho too unsophisticated to realize that people are mocking them. Of course, in many ways, this isn’t very different from Part 1 where people quickly determined that Don Quixote was crazy and had much fun at his expense.

But the merging of fiction and reality is very fun. It makes Don Quixote resonate greatly with a modern reader.

Summary

In 7 minutes, it’s hard to explain why Don Quixote is such an enjoyable read. That’s especially true when I’m limited to a single story that takes up less than a page in the book. But I hope that I have whet your appetite about the book and at least made you realize that Don Quixote is more than just the story of a crazy man doing battle with windmills.

Andrew Cuomo, the IDC, and Democratic Traitors Everywhere

Andrew CuomoYou probably know of my great hatred of Andrew Cuomo. A big part of this is simply that he has coasted on his father’s reputation — but in the name of policy that his father would have hated. He’s even claimed that his unpopular support of Wall Street is equivalent to his father’s principled stand against the death penalty. Really, the man deserves to fall through a manhole.

Independent Democratic Conference

One of Cuomo’s worst aspects is his support for the traitor Democrats in the New York Senate. These are the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). They caucused with the Republicans, depriving the Democratic Party control of the Senate from 2013 through 2014, even though the Democrats had more representatives.

The IDC has been a free-floating group. It seems there are always New York Democrats willing to betray their voters in the name of corporation-friendly policy. That’s especially true when they are wedded to big campaign contributions and later industry jobs.

Andrew Cuomo’s Gang

But even though Andrew Cuomo has claimed to have nothing to do with the IDC, it is clear that the group has everything to do with him. By giving power to Republicans, Cuomo avoided having to take a stand on actual liberal policy. Cuomo was thus positioning himself to run for president. Given that Democratic Party voters have decided that they would like it very much if the party offered them, you know, liberal candidates, it seems Cuomo’s quest for the presidency is done.

Most damning is that Cuomo met with the IDC in April. One meeting and the IDC disbanded — what a surprise! The meeting was part of Cuomo’s rush leftward. It’s important to remember that in addition to all his horrible qualities, Cuomo is also craven and lacking in principles.

Defeat of the IDC

There seems little doubt that the IDC would get back together as soon as they (and Cuomo who, like other New York cockroaches, is hard to kill) got re-elected. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

Of the eight current IDC members, six lost their primaries. Since the IDC was disbanded, and it wouldn’t work with only two members anyway, I assume these traitors will caucus with the Democrats.

It seems odd though. I would think there would need to be some punishment. Public whipping, perhaps. But New York is an odd place. You only have to look at Chuck Schumer who doesn’t seem much interested in fighting the Republican take-over of the federal judiciary so long as his corporate bosses keep sending him those sweet, sweet campaign contributions.

Less Bad Than Fascists

This is why we in the democratic wing of the Democratic Party are so upset with the Republican wing. These people have convinced themselves that they are the reasonable ones. But the fact is that there is almost no constituency for them. Democratic Party voters want liberal representation. Republican Party voters want fascist representation. The only people who want these “moderates” (read: corporate sell-outs) are pundits who will always see the right policy as that which is hated by the greatest number of people.

It’s great that the IDC went down in flames yesterday. Just the same, two of them won. And Andrew Cuomo won decisively. As long as people like Cuomo can coast to victory despite working against the interests of their constituencies, we are lost.

It isn’t enough for a Democrat to simply be less crazy than the fascist opposition party.

Why Didn’t Trump Nominate Merrick Garland?

Brett KavanaughToday, I listened to a fair amount of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I found it offensive.

There was a time when I thought that Supreme Court justices could be reasonably objective. But I was young and foolish. Also, neuroscience was not as advanced then. Now we know that people aren’t “objective.” Instead, like the Stephen Colbert character, we decide with our gut and then use our reasoning ability to justify it.

This is one of the reasons I find libertarians so annoying. They are, with almost no exceptions, privileged people who are either rich or assume they are going to be. And then, they cling on to libertarianism and come up with a lot of pseudo-intellectual nonsense to justify it. I’m thinking of you, Penn & Teller!

Brett Kavanaugh Is Above Ideology?!

But this morning was particularly hard to take. Democrats questioned Kavanaugh’s ideology. But one Republican after another claimed that Kavanaugh was not guided by ideology. Indeed, I even heard that he would just call balls and strikes — a reference to John Roberts who has been incredibly ideological. His “balls and strikes” claim is certainly an outright lie (or he is self-deluded).

If we are to believe Ted Cruz and Benjamin Sasse, Kavanaugh isn’t guided by ideology. No! He’s just following the law.

Why Didn’t Republicans Support Merrick Garland?

But if this is the case, why didn’t the Republicans allow Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland?

Certainly, to listen to Republicans now, there was nothing wrong with him. So what was the problem?

Obviously, the issue is that Republicans are completely ideological. They only approve of people for the courts who will reliably act as extreme right-wing ideologues.

Republicans Always Push the Limits of Hypocrisy

That’s their right. But I don’t think the rest of us have to pretend that they are honest when they claim that Brett Kavanaugh is not ideological.

The truth is that the situation could not be more unsymmetric. Look at the three people Obama nominated: Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Merrick Garland. All of them moderates — typical of Obama’s “if I’m a centrist, the Republicans will join me” failed logic.

But Republicans nominate extreme ideologues and then claim that they are above ideology.

If these judges were above ideology — or just not extremely conservative — they would never be nominated.

Will Democrats Wimp Out?

The only question now is whether the Democrats will fight fire with fire. When Washington is back in Democratic hands, it will be time to increase the size of the Supreme Court to 12. The Court needs to be larger anyway. And this is the only way that we will ever get a Supreme Court that isn’t bought and sold to the power elite.

Of course, Democrats will almost certainly not have the guts to do this. And if they did, the Republicans would just increase the seats on the Court to 500 as soon as they got in power.

This is why I think this nation is doomed. But what’s bad for us is doubtless good for the world.

Sexual Assault and the Abandonment of Norms

Sexual Assault and the Abandonment of NormsAlleen Brown and John Knefel at The Intercept wrote an amazingly interesting article, The FBI Used the #MeToo Moment to Pressure an Environmental Activist into Becoming an Informant. The main point of the article is interesting enough: that the FBI is using the #MeToo movement for its traditional purpose of destroying all leftist political movements. But I want to discuss the other story: the sexual abuse allegations.

The Assault of Julie Henry

In 2014, environmental activist Julie Henry seems to have been sexually assaulted by environmental folk-hero Rod Coronado. My personal opinion is that this absolutely happened. But I don’t think that either of them is lying, but it certainly seems as though Coronado at least realizes to some extent that his behavior was wrong — even if it was only after he started to be attacked.

I don’t want to go into detail about all of this. You really should read The Intercept article. But the main thing is that Coronado forced himself on Henry in a motel room. But she didn’t really fight back in a physical way. And she could have.

But here’s the thing: I completely understand.

I’ve been in similar situations several times — although never to the point that Henry suffered. It’s hard not to blame yourself. Because in these situations, it seems very much like two people are playing the same game with totally different rules.

Norms and Sexual Assault

For me, it is all about social norms. I had one experience on a bus going to Los Angeles about ten years ago. This drunk guy (Coronado was, not surprisingly, also drunk) was coming on to me. I didn’t want to make a scene — I very rarely do. So I used all of my social skills — and everything I’d learned from decades of being the placator in a dysfunctional family — to tell this guy I was not interested.

It got to the point where he grabbed my penis and I moved. That was the end of that.

But the whole experience was so surreal. It’s easy to say that he was willfully avoiding all my clear signals. But I don’t really think that is the case.

I think this is how most men are socialized. And I’m hardly unsympathetic. The truth is that no does not always mean no. And men are not generally very socially sophisticated. So a polite but firm no is often taken as nothing but a negotiating tactic.

On the other hand, when women have said “no” to me in a playful way, stopping always allows them to clarify. So while I am sympathetic to how confusing sex can be for men, I am most definitely not defending it. Quite the opposite.

Socializing Men

I think as a society, we need to do a much better job of socializing men. And given all the problems men have anyway, they should completely eschew sexual encounters when drunk.

Sadly, I believe the only way that this will ever happen is if women like Julie Henry keep coming forward. That’s not to say I believe we should all pile on Rod Coronado. When reading what he had to say, I got the impression that he really doesn’t understand.

What we really need — what would be most effective — is for men to see what they’ve done. And I mean see. I don’t mean generic apologies that really come down to, “I’m sorry I was caught.”

I’m not just talking about other men. Decades ago, I was on a date with a woman whose hand I held about two seconds too long. I know it doesn’t sound like much. But it was a physical battle of wills — and something I’ve been greatly embarrassed about ever since. (Not that the woman made me feel bad about it. She absolutely did not. She was actually very sweet.)

Obviously, for a lot of men, sexual assault is something else — something uncontrollable. But I firmly believe that the vast majority of men can be socialized. Sadly, regardless of #MeToo and other similar movements over the decades, men are generally not. And it hurts us all.

Broader Social Problem

The fact that Henry’s account of what happened would likely find little sympathy in the nation as a whole is telling. Too many people think that if a woman could scream or gouge out some eyes or otherwise avoid the attacker, she couldn’t have been assaulted. But that shows a fundamental disconnect about the way people exist in a broader social context.

And I don’t want to live in a world where people have to destroy their good social behaviors for the sake of being physically safe.