Odds and Ends Vol 31

Odds and Ends

Welcome to another Odds and Ends. Yet another week has gone by without my working on this at all.

The problem is that I’m busy. I try to watch one to two films per day. That may sound like entertainment, but I assure you, it isn’t.

Like yesterday, I watched the John Wayne film Brannigan. It’s a pretty good film. I am a fan of the director, Douglas Hickox. And it’s filled with a lot of good British actors. The problem is Wayne. I’m planning to write a whole article about it soon. So let me leave it at this: he reminds me of Bruce Willis at his worst. It isn’t acting; it’s more like guest-hosting on SNL.

Anyway, it’s time for a couple Odds and Ends.

Democratic National Convention

This week was the DNC. I didn’t watch it. I find political conventions hard enough under the best of circumstances. The idea of a Zoom convention is terrifying.

I did, however, watch the main speeches on C-SPAN and I thought I would share the better ones.

Bernie Sanders

I’ve come to see Sanders and Warren as the dad and mom of leftist politics in this country. And Sanders presented a much-needed indictment of the Trump administration. And he weaved that together with the policy positions we know him for.

Michelle Obama

Watching Michelle Obama was cathartic. She seemed to be channeling my own anger. And it’s mixed with frustration. So many days, my overall feeling is, “Really?! This is what we are now?” I also like that she clarified that “going high” does not mean rolling over. We have to fight.

Trump attacked Michelle Obama for having a pre-recorded segment because she mentioned that there were “over 150,000” COVID-19 deaths. Jonathan Chait noted that this was probably not as good an argument as Trump thinks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC gave a short speech. I’m only highlighting it because many tried to say it was an attack on the Democratic Party because she nominated Bernie Sanders for president. This was a convention necessity and nothing more. She is very good, though! And it’s constantly amusing that conservatives ignorantly claim she’s stupid. She understands economics better than any major figure on the right. Belittle her if you want. I suspect one day she will be Speaker of the House.

Jill Biden

Jill Biden was great. But what I really want to talk about is the opening tracking shot as she walks into the classroom and then completes the whole speech with a single camera. Very cool! And that hokey ending was sweet too.

Barack Obama

Obama’s speech was spectacular. I think it was the high point of the convention. He was angry. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a former president speak about a sitting president in this way. And rightly so! Of course, after Trump is out of office, he’s going to talk about the sitting president the way he currently talks about all former presidents. If you only watch one speech, this is the one to watch.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris was more on in her speech than I ever saw her during the primary. One thing that has been much on my mind recently is the way that many on the left have attacked her as a “cop” and a centrist Democrat. It isn’t just the mainstream press that grabs onto convenient narratives as this proves. Because other than Warren, Harris is the most liberal Democrat in the Senate. How does that happen? We on the left need to do better.

Joe Biden

It is hilarious that it has become an article of faith that Joe Biden is a decrepit old man who is suffering from dementia. This narrative would anger me if I didn’t know it is going to crash down on conservatives when the debates come.

Congratulations America!

I understand that a lot of people are disappointed that Joe Biden ended up as our nominee instead of Bernie Sanders or another candidate. I share that disappointment, to some extent. But I think leftists need to appreciate what has been accomplished over the last 5 years.

The Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ticket is the most liberal ticket that the Democratic Party has ever run. And frankly, I’m kind of tried hearing leftists-come-lately bitch and whine about a ticket and a party they would have been thrill about just four years ago.

Who are these people who thought a political revolution was just one election cycle away? Too many of the disgruntled leftists remind me of Carey Wedler, the young woman her burned her Obama shirt in 2014 because she was disappointed in him. “But, like a lot of Obama supporters, I sat back for the next couple of years and figured I’d let you handle all that change, because you were the one that was selling it anyway.”

That’s what I saw from a lot of Sanders supporters and I had this vision of him becoming president and then sitting on their asses for six years and then burning his shirt. That’s not acceptable.

The current situation is that the Democratic Party is about 30 percent leftist. The rest are liberals and centrists. What we on the left need to do is change that. We need to convince some of the others that we are right on policy (because we mostly are). And we need to get other people involved.

This is what we need to talk about. All this nonsense about the DNC conspiring to stop us is just nonsense. If we get the numbers, they will join us in an instant.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has nominated an exciting presidential ticket. This is a good day for the party. And it’s a good day for America. And I will continue contributing both my time and my money to help us take over Washington.

Pamala Harris

My father really likes Kamala Harris. But he’s old and hard of hearing. So he always calls her “Pamela Harris.” But he pronounces it with a soft-a, so he clearly hears the way it is pronounced. He just can’t hear that K. It’s one of the most charming things about my father.

William reminded me of this SNL skit that sums up the issue nicely. If you have an elderly parent, you probably interact with them very much as the Amazon Echo Silver does.

The Jim Jefferies Show

In preparation for when it is reported that Jim Jefferies really has been doing the bad thing that everyone pretty much knows he must be doing because, hey, Louis CK, I feel I must put down a marker and admit that I love Jim Jefferies.

He’s makes me laugh in a way that other people I like never do. Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert? I like their work but Jim Jefferies is the only one I consistently find funny.

Politically, I disagree with him about a number of things. But if the world were filled with people like him, it would be a thousand percent better. And I like his straightforward, populist take on the world — even when I disagree.

Here’s a playlist of 11 videos. And if Jim Jefferies ever does turn out to have been like Louis CK, well, it won’t make him any less right about all this.

Valley of the Zombies

Valley of the Zombies is a classic B-feature. What that means is that it was made to be the minor film in a double feature. And as such, it has something that we just don’t see much of these days: a short running time!

It’s just 55 minutes long. And what’s great about this is that there’s no padding. Most films these days are so long because the second acts are extended. And that’s really bad because most second acts are a muddle anyway. So it’s just a bunch more scenes to sit through before the film finally gets around to resolving itself.

That’s not always the case, however. John Woo is famous for third acts that go on and on. But that’s the same thing. The best third acts and quickest third acts. A 45 minute third act is just a short film shoehorned into another film.

Valley of the Zombies isn’t much of a horror film. In fact, much of it is quite funny. And it’s overall effective. Also: it treats cops with the disdain that they deserve.

Valley of the Zombies is playing over at Psychotronic Review. Watch it now!

Until Next Time

I won’t even promise anything for next week. I’m a very busy man!

Odds and Ends Vol 30

Odds and Ends

Welcome to another Odds and Ends. I don’t have as much this week as before because the whole thing got past me. I was busy working away, making money. And then it hit me, “It’s Thursday night!”

A lot has been going on. In fact, I’ve been really depressed. I’ve been concerned about the Post Office and Republican efforts to kill it for over a decade. But now that process is on warp speed — at the moment when we need it for the upcoming election.

What’s always most bugged me about the Republican attacks on the USPS is that they make such ostentatious claims about loving the Constitution. “It’s the greatest document in the history of history!” You’d think that they would thus love the Post Office. Of course, that assumes they’ve read the Constitution — and it was always clear that they haven’t. It’s a holy relic, not a document.

Anyway, it’s time for a couple Odds and Ends.

Racist US Senate

We all know how non-representational the US Senate is. Jonathan Chait noted the following: the four least populous states (Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, and North Dakota) represent 2.7 million people. The four most populous states (California, Texas, Florida, and New York) represent 110 million people. Yet both groups get equal representation in the Senate.

That’s a ratio of roughly 40 to 1. But if you look at just California and Wyoming, the ratio is 70 to 1. It is totally unjustified. But Chait also notes that the more populous states are more diverse. And he quotes some numbers worked out by David Leonhardt.

This table shows how much representation different groups have per one million people.

GroupRep
White0.35
Black0.26
Asian0.25
Latino0.19

You might think that the equal protection clause of the Constitution would have something to say about that. But it seems that only applies to rich white men.

Washington Generals

When I was a kid, the Harlem Globetrotters were a big thing. They had their own Saturday morning cartoon! (With Scatman Crothers as Meadowlark Lemon!) And you would occasionally see them on the Wide World of Sports. So I knew about them. In fact, I knew that they always played the Washington Generals. But I was all wrong about what they were.

I figured that they were just local teams who came to play for the money or charity or something. But not that I think back on it, that would be an organizational nightmare. So instead, there was a standing team that traveled around with them called the Washington Generals (and other things at times).

Better Than You’d Think

The team is generally thought of as a bunch of clowns, but of course, they are all excellent players. All over the world are people who are almost at the top of their professions. In most areas, it doesn’t much matter. In anything entertainment-related, it matters a great deal.

So the guys on the Generals aren’t as good as people in the NBA or on the Globetrotters. Looking at the players, they mostly seem to have been very strong players in NCAA Division II teams. They mostly have degrees in business or communications. Many of them also play in professional leagues outside the US.

I love this. It’s a great joy to be good at something. There’s a certain point you reach in a skill where doing it is something akin to a religious experience. And the fact that these guys get to do this for a few years, I think it should be applauded.

What’s more, it pushes against the idea that you should only do something if you can be the best. That’s the philosophy of a society that is on its way down. These young men, who are employed to lose to the Globetrotters are probably better at basketball than I am at anything I can do.

Now I want to pay the ridiculous prices for a Harlem Globetrotters game just so I can see the Washington Generals. (Of course, the Globetrotters are interesting for the same reasons.) There is, however, the question of which Washington Generals. The truth is that there are three different Washington Generals squads. That’s because there are three different Harlem Globetrotters squads. On a given night, they all play in different cities. Each squad plays about 130 games during their 5-month season — sometimes two games in a day!

The Legend of Haggard Vance

This is from a recent episode of Late Night With Seth Meyers. I seem to be the only one of my friends who likes Meyers. I’m not sure what the problem is.

Anyway, they presented the following film poster parody that I had to grab. It reminds me of the great days of The Daily Show — you know: when it was still hosted by someone who cares about politics.

The Legend of Haggard Vance

The Woman in Black

Back in 1989, a filmed version of Susan Hill’s Gothic horror novel The Woman in Black was made for British television. (This is not the Daniel Radcliffe film!) Normally, this would be the moment to yawn. But it’s amazingly good.

The truth is that I find most modern horror films amusing. I’m easily startled, but otherwise, there’s just a lot of silliness to them, as in last week’s film Frogs. Ghost stories are one kind of horror that consistently scares me.

And this film is amazing in this regard. What’s more, it does it with some of the simplest things. That’s the thing about ghosts: you don’t know what they are going to do. So just showing them hanging around is enough to give you chills.

But we get a lot more than that here. There are a number of really effective moments. I highly recommend watching this. In fact, I’m so keen on this film that I ordered the new Blu-ray release of it from the UK. As is becoming a thing with me, the films I most like aren’t released here at all. Thank God for all-region Blu-ray players!

The Woman in Black is playing over at Psychotronic Review. Watch it now!

Until Next Time

Hopefully, I’ll have something different in the next couple of days.

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.

Odds and Ends Vol 28

Odds and Ends

Welcome to another Odds and Ends. Herman “Shucky Ducky” Cain just died. Unlike most Republicans, he at least had some charm. In fact, he reminded me a lot of George W Bush in that his conservatism was mostly based on a deep unseriousness. It wasn’t that Cain disagreed with liberals; he just didn’t care. And I have more respect for pure grifters than I do psychopaths. Regardless, he had a net negative impact on the world. And as usual for such people, he had a long and happy life. There really is something wrong with our society.

When Tucker Carlson Whines Freelancers Are Doxed

Last week, Tucker Carlson aired a segment where he accused The New York Times of trying to dox him. This is despite The Times being in communication with him and explaining that this was not happening. But really?

Is it reasonable to think that The Times goes around doxing major celebrities? Of course not! This is just the old conservative trick of keeping everyone distracted from what really matters. Social safety net destroyed and clean water gone? No problem! Just imagine what it’s like for Tucker Carlson with the liberal media literally trying to get his children killed!

Scared Little Rich Man

But Carlson didn’t just go after the evil newspaper. He said the names on air of the freelancers who were writing and photographing the nonpolitical story. According to the photographer, Tristan Spinski, “The story would be about this community, this rural community in Maine that is very small, very rural and very kind of Americana and happens to be the location of this massively popular cable news show.”

And what happened? Well, the writer, Murray Carpenter, had his home address was posted online. Even worse, someone tried to break into Spinski’s house when he was home with his wife. So in the name of countering an obviously mythical doxing, Tucker Carlson got two freelancers (not employees of The Times) doxed.

But there’s good news: Carlson saw that he was wrong and apologized. Just kidding! He doubled down because demagogues can’t admit being wrong. It’s off-brand.

I especially take offense to this because I’m a freelancer. I like my life. But you’re kind of alone. If Spinski or Carpenter get into trouble, none of the people they work with is going to run to aid. Anyway, check out some of their work:

Animal Consciousness

I just found an article in The Atlantic, A Journey Into the Animal Mind. It’s a personal essay about animal consciousness. There’s a great story in there about how fruit flies that don’t have good mating prospects seek out alcohol. Amazing!

But I don’t understand why people have for so long questioned animal consciousness. Humans are so self-impressed! As far as I can tell, the best thing about us is not are ability to think but rather our ability to communicate. So it’s the passing down of information that has been key to our success — not are relatively minor individual insights.

I’ll Go On

Barry McGovern is an Irish actor that I know for the excellent Beckett on Film Waiting for Godot. I’d heard that he created a one-man show based on Beckett’s work called I’ll Go On. I still haven’t seen it, but I did find this selection of scenes. It looks great!

A Good Brain

Stephen Colbert made a trailer based upon Trump’s claims about acing that cognitive test. It’s pretty good. Of course, it also indicates that our president is an international embarrassment.

Sexist Hypocrisy

Digby pointed out an interesting contrast.

At The New York Times

In The New York Times, Peter Beinert wrote an excellent article, The Real Reason Biden Is Ahead of Trump? He’s a Man. He notes:

A major driver of the public’s extreme dislike of Mrs Clinton was its perception of her as duplicitous. In a poll taken just days before the 2016 election, Americans deemed her even less truthful than Mr Trump. By contrast, in a Pew Research Center poll late last month, Americans rated Mr Biden as more honest than Mr Trump by 12 points.

Now, you might be able to dismiss that as the result of decades of conservative fear-mongering about her. That doesn’t really explain the moral outrage that people felt toward her. And not just here:

But the same “moral outrage” that plagued her four years ago also plagued this year’s most prominent female presidential contender: Elizabeth Warren. If Mrs Clinton is far less popular than Mr Biden, her fellow centrist insider, Ms Warren has proved far less popular than Bernie Sanders, her fellow progressive insurgent. The data is striking. Most polls show that a majority of Americans disapprove of the gentlewoman from Massachusetts. By contrast, most Americans approve of the gentleman from Vermont, usually by double digits.

That’s all very interesting I think, although I know what some people will say. They will point to this or that aspect of the women that explains it. But to me, this is like conservatives who complain, “But new immigrants aren’t assimilating like they did in the past!” But of course, they are. The same thing was said about past immigrants.

And so too here where there will always be people who claim, “This isn’t sexism! It just so happens that all these women suck and the only good politicians are old white men!”

Meanwhile, at The New York Times

But none of this is the hypocrisy. For that, we have to turn to an article by Rebecca Traister, The Poison of Male Incivility. It notes that just 3 days before The Times ran Peter Beinert’s article on the way female politicians are treated, it ran AOC Unleashes a Viral Condemnation of Sexism in Congress. Traister characterized the article:

All these words somehow cast Ocasio-Cortez and her female colleagues as the disruptive and chaotic forces unleashed in this scenario, suggesting that they shattered norms in a way that Representative Yoho’s original, profane outburst apparently did not.

The bottom line is that a man acted crudely toward a woman and when she responded, she is the one who is analyzed. It’s disgusting. And this is in a “liberal” newspaper.

And speaking of crude men, here’s one who at least is very funny:

Parts: The Clonus Horror

I can always tell if a film is great if while watching it via Mystery Science Theater 3000 I start to get annoyed that they are talking over the movie. Such was the case many years ago with Parts: The Clonus Horror. The first half of it is a great mystery and the second half is the kind of paranoid action that only the post-Watergate era could provide.

It was remade my Michael Bay in 2005 as The Island. The problem was that they never told the original filmmakers. There was a lawsuit and Bay & Co had to pay up. But despite having only 1/200 the budget, Parts: The Clonus Horror is the better film.

It’s playing over at Psychotronic Review. Watch it now! It is really good — like Coma but not boring!

Until Next Time

You know how sometimes you hurt yourself badly? So you go to the doctor and they start treating you? And you feel better just knowing that soon the problem will be fixed? Not knowing if Trump will be re-elected in November is like hurting yourself badly and waiting for a ride to the hospital from your really flaky brother.

I’d feel so much better if I had confidence in the American electoral system or the American people. But I don’t. See you next week.

Odds and Ends Vol 27

Odds and Ends

What a week! The way things are going, I won’t be surprised if Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies before this post goes live. Of course, I’m not sure that it would matter. If Biden is elected in November, he will need to act boldly to stop the judicial take-over of this country that has largely already occurred. And I doubt he will. So we will limp into the future. As usual.

Secret Police in Portland

Trump is going full authoritarian on Portland. But since he hasn’t said the exact words “I’m going full authoritarian in Portland,” most news sources are equivocating or just talking about how it will affect the November election.

What’s happening in Portland is just a replay of what we’ve seen before. Each week, he shows that our government is extremely fragile. The only thing stopping a president from doing almost anything he wants is his own conscience. The American people finally picked for themselves the perfect president. And our system is crumbling.

If it weren’t for the fact that most of the military command doesn’t like Trump, we’d have troops in every major American city. I assure you, however, the next authoritarian who becomes president will be much better liked.

Libertarian Reactions

I watched the reaction to the secret police action in Portland among libertarians over the weekend. Nick Gillespie’s timeline mentioned Portland. But it didn’t rank high in his priorities. Politics is ultimately about what you are willing to fight for. The clearest authoritarian moves don’t animate libertarians like “tyrannical” clean water rules.

One libertarian I saw called out leftists as hypocritical because we believe in mask mandates. So: mask mandates are as bad or worse than secret police kidnapping protesters? This is the kind of intellectual nonsense that drives the libertarian movement. “Hitler was bad but a social safety net is worse because it leads to Nazism!”

This kind of sums up what was happening on Twitter:

I appreciate that libertarians on Twitter didn’t think they should be blamed for not speaking out about Portland. Many of them did so. But going through endless Twitter threads, the vast majority of people who call themselves libertarians were fine with what’s going on.

Libertarians Missed the Mark

One argument I found particularly annoying: “We’ve been talking about this for years!” True. They have! But it’s mostly been theoretical nonsense that focused more on the supposed threat from the dreaded “political correctness.” Actual authoritarian behavior on the right was simply ignored.

The libertarian movement does much of the heavy intellectual lifting for the Republican Party. It has allowed the GOP to go off the rails while proclaiming that leftists are the real threat.

Most libertarians are just neo-Confederates anyway. But the movement has never been interested in cleaning house — or even pretending to. Because if they did that, there would be no movement left. I’m willing to admit there are principled libertarians. But they are small in number and cowardly.

Trump Repetition

The media are reporting that Biden called Trump the first racist president. Thank God for that, given it is an absurd claim. What Biden did say was also not true. But he is right that no recent president has been so overtly racist.

What’s more interesting is how Trump responded:

Trump has very little to say. We know that he speaks at a very low level. But the main thing about him is that he is repetitious. It’s just the same thing over and over again. I suspect that some of the slip in his approval rating is pure boredom. And I suspect the only support he maintains is simply because he outrages people like me.

John Lewis Dies

Last Friday, John Lewis died of the pancreatic cancer that he was diagnosed with six months ago. I don’t know what to say about him. Truthfully, I’m not that good with commenting on people deaths because I don’t think it is a bad thing. That’s especially true if they’ve had a life worth living.

I can’t think about him without the image of him being beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. It’s not pleasant. Just the same, check out this video. It doesn’t look much different from what we’ve seen by law enforcement during the protests the last couple of months.

If the police and others don’t think they are going to look just as bad in a decade or two, they are delusional. There will be no apologists to protect them. They will be busy apologizing for the current events. Conservative ideology has a very short shelf life.

In an amusing story, Senators Marco Rubio and Dan Sullivan both posted pictures of themselves with Elijah Cummings in memory of John Lewis’ death. But you know what they say, “If you’ve seen one bald African American congressman…”

Michael Brooks Is Dead?!

Long-time co-host on Majority Report and more recently on his own show, Michael Brooks died. He was 36. It came out of nowhere. The reports indicate that he died suddenly of a medical condition. One thing I remember about him is that he meditated and ate well.

Anyway, he was always brilliant — especially about international affairs. And he was very funny. His Obama impression easily fooled people.

One thing I especially liked about Brooks was his cackle. Most funny people have restrained laughs. Brooks showed that he was fully plugged in the absurdity of life. It’s a sad loss.

Splatter Farm

Over the last week, I’ve watched about a dozen films by pioneering no-budget filmmaker Mark Polonia (sometimes with his late twin brother John). They are pretty well-made and always feature notable elements. But most of the time, due to budget constraints, they seem more like proof of concepts.

I finally saw what is probably the Polonia brothers’ masterpiece, Splatter Farm. They made it when they were 18 years old. And it is twisted. I’ll just describe one bit of it. There’s these psychopath who works on the farm. He kills someone. Then he cuts off his hand. Then he eats part of it. Finally, he sticks the hand inside his pants and masturbates with it.

It’s playing over at Psychotronic Review. You can watch the whole thing. It’s the kind of film that you’ll want to share with someone you love. Really. It’s amazing!

Until Next Time

I hope there is enough to write about in the coming week…

Odds and Ends Vol 25

Odds and Ends

I thought since I don’t have much time these days to sit down and write a long article, I’d try to put one of these things out each week and add to it over time. We’ll see how it goes.

The Dum-Dum Left

It turns out that the left has consolidated behind Joe Biden. According to a poll by The New York Times, people who supported Sanders during the primary now support Biden over Trump 87-4. And people who supported Warren during the primary support him by 96-0. Amusingly, people who supported Biden in the primary support him slightly less than Warren supporters: 96-1.

But on Twitter and YouTube, the Dum-Dum Left continues to make a lot of noise. In 2016, this group was represented by Jimmy Dore. But this year, it is represented by Krystal Ball. I’ve been pleased to see that a lot of the people who kind of lost it during the primary have come back. Here’s Nathan J. Robinson:

Kyle Kulinski is another member of this group. What I find interesting about them is that they all used to be pretty generic liberals. But the rise of Bernie Sanders was greeted by them like welcoming Jesus into your heart. And as the the saying goes, they are now holier than the Pope — more socialist than their hero (not that this is saying much).

The Lincoln Project

In one way, I’m not fond of The Lincoln Project. If it took Trump for you to realize something is wrong with the Republican Party, one of two things is true. You are an idiot. Or you don’t actually care about what he does but only about his crude performance.

But this is an all-hands-on-deck moment and The Lincoln Project are allies for the moment. Also, they create political commercials like this one: Names.

What I like about this ad is that it goes after Republican senators: a combination of the worst and the most vulnerable. We see: Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Thom Tillis, Cory Gardner, Martha McSally, Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst, Marco Rubio, Susan Collins, John Cornyn, Jim Inhofe, Mike Rounds, and Steve Daines. (Links are to the opponents’ websites.)

“Never, ever trust them again!”

Not to be outdone, the Biden campaign has released a great ad of its own.

Why Do Conservatives Hate George Soros?

I’ve long wondered why conservatives hate George Soros so much. On one level, it’s simple. Conservatives are mostly authoritarians. Elite conservatives have told them to hate Soros and so they do.

How do I know? Because whenever I hear someone blasting Soros, they always bring up the same untrue story about his being a Nazi collaborator. Ben Shapiro even does it in a concern-trolling way of, “The poor kid!” If Shapiro were an honest broker, he wouldn’t bring it up. Even his telling of it is wrong.

But I found an excellent article about Soros in The Guardian from a couple of years ago, The George Soros Philosophy — and Its Fatal Flaw. It goes through Soros’ intellectual development and the current state of things where his dream for the world really isn’t possible with the kind of inequality that we have. In other words: in order to have the Open Society that Soros wants we need to prevent people from becoming as rich as he is.

One thing that the article highlights is that he was a student of Karl Popper. That makes sense. I’ve read a couple of Soros’ books and they are very much in that tradition. But that highlights what’s so bizarre about the hatred of Soros. Popper was a conservative. And ultimately, so is Soros.

I think the right hates Soros because they hate Jews. And it’s telling that Shapiro gets in on the action because he’s shown himself again and again to be more accepting of antisemitic conservatives than liberal Jews.

Speaking of Karl Popper

I found this video of Karl Popper discussing the Open Society. This is what I consider a thoughtful conservative. It doesn’t sound at all like what we think of as a conservative.

And let’s be clear: conservatives never did sound like this. For as long as the masses have been able to vote, conservatives only got power by appealing to bigotry. Look at the people who adore Trump. They aren’t interested in an open society. They are interested in a closed society — but one where they (or people who look like them) are in charge.

In Defense of the Ayn Rand Institute

There was a bit of crowing online last week when it was reported that the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) had taken upwards of a million dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program. Oh, the hypocrisy! Well, maybe.

If there is a sin here, it isn’t ARI; it’s Ayn Rand herself. Despite her claim that the government was terrible and that it shouldn’t do much of anything, she claimed that as long as it existed with its evil taxes, you should get all you can. She argued that Objectists should take scholarships and government jobs in her newsletter.

She famously collected her Social Security check and used her Medicare benefits. Her argument was that as long as the government was “stealing” from you, you had this right. In the utopian Objectivist World it wouldn’t be necessary. (Because Fairy and Elf doctors work for cheap, I assume.)

The problem is that taxation is not theft. It is part of the social compact. It is the price we agree to pay to live in society. If you don’t want to pay it, you can disappear into the wilderness. But, of course, Rand and her followers have always assumed that the social goods would exist magically if the John Galts of the world were just free from government interference.

Regardless, it makes no sense to accuse the ARI of hypocrisy. They’ve already justified the matter to themselves. And there are far worse things they do than collecting a government handout.

The Andie MacDowell Murders

And finally, America’s Finest News Source (Which is true!) called my attention to an under-reported story, 10 Celebrities You Never Knew Were Abducted And Murdered By Andie MacDowell. I’ve always had my problems with her. She’s beautiful but her acting is kind of awkward. That’s a shame but this is a crime.

Corbin Bernsen is perhaps best known for his role in the hit ’80s TV drama LA Law, but we bet you didn’t realize he was yet another victim of Green Card star Andie MacDowell! In 2010, the Hollywood actress dragged a screaming Bernsen into the trunk of her car before driving him out into the Mojave Desert and shooting him in the head.

Who knew?

Now Playing at Psychotronic Review

You know you can always find a film that is worth watching at Psychotronic Review. This is in contrast to what you probably will watch. This week, we are highlighting the Lucio Fulci classic, The House by the Cemetery.

It is the last of his Gates of Hell trilogy. And frankly, it’s the least of them. But it is also the one people will like the most because it is relatively conventional. My favorite is The Beyond, which seems to be the one that most film nerds prefer.

Here’s the trailer:

We’ll Meet Again

As you may have heard, Vera Lynn died last month. She was 103 so it wasn’t a shock. Anyway, we too shall meet again. Next week, I assume.

Odds and Ends Vol 24

Odds and EndsThere are lots of things on my mind these days. In fact, two of the sections below were going to be full articles. (It shouldn’t be hard to figure out which ones.)

But as serious as some of these issues are, three of them also come with a lot of humor. Humor seems more and more the only way to process political events — especially with Republicans constantly gaslighting us.

Ilhan Omar and her Pro-Israel, Anti-Jewish Detractors

Jonathan Chait has been one of the most hysterical critics of Ilhan Omar. But after all his claims of antisemitism, I thought it was interesting that he said the following:

Is the Democratic Party going to normalize dual-loyalty accusations as part of the Israel debate — not directed against Jews per se but against American Zionists?

Note that Omar never said anything about dual-loyalty, but let’s leave that aside. What’s interesting here is that it is no longer about antisemitism; it’s now about anti-Zionism.

Chait himself has said that he’s getting soft on support of Israel because of the behavior of its hard-right government. Somehow, that’s okay but Omar’s beliefs are not. (This is typical of Chait: anyone to the left of him is an extremist.) That in itself is interesting.

But his comments destroy an important myth among the chattering class: that they make any distinction between being against Jews and being against Israel. This is something that Chait shares with many on the right, although those on the right are generally pro-Israel and anti-Jewish. The charge of antisemitism is just a club wielded to attack anyone who isn’t a booster for Israel. And this tactic only makes real antisemitism worse.

Facts Don’t Care About Ben Shapiro’s Feelings

I have a visceral hatred of Ben Shapiro that goes well beyond his vile beliefs. Mostly, it is that he is the ultimate snowflake while being completely intolerant of others’ vulnerabilities. In order for him to admit racism against, say, blacks, Shapiro requires overwhelming evidence over years. But when it comes to himself, one needs only give him the wrong look to start him screaming, “Antisemitism!”

There’s nothing new about this. What’s annoying about Shapiro is what’s annoying about conservatives generally. We see this with the constant complaining about “political correctness.” Student’s not wanting bigots speaking at their school? Political correctness! Outrage at sports figures kneeling during the national anthem? Simple patriotism — in fact, there should be a law against that!

Ben Shapiro’s comments about Ilhan Omar show what a snowflake he is. And I would accept it if he would show one-tenth of the concern for different oppressed groups. This meme shows what’s going on.

Ben Shapiro Antisemitism Hypocrsy

Brad DeLong Embraces the Left — Kinda

In a Zack Beauchamp interview with neoliberal economist Brad DeLong, he says that it is time for the old guard of the Democratic Party to allow the younger, most leftist, members lead. It’s gotten a lot of coverage. But most people miss what he’s actually saying.

He’s not saying that the New Democrats (and don’t kid yourself — they are still powerful within the party) should roll over to the left. Rather, he’s saying that there is no point in even trying to work with the Republicans. In fact, he said one thing that warmed my soul:

Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George HW Bush’s foreign policy. And did George HW Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.

Of course they didn’t! As John Dean explained over a decade ago, the Republican Party is authoritarian. They aren’t not against the Democrat because of their policy; they are against the Democrats because they aren’t Republicans.

So all DeLong is saying is that neoliberals should form a coalition with leftists. And in a sense, this is radical because there are a lot of Democrats who have looked at the way many in the Labour Party have sabotaged Jeremy Corbyn and thought, “Good idea!” So DeLong’s awakening is a good thing.

Just the same, as Mike Konczal responded, The Failures of Neoliberalism Are Bigger Than Politics. Although neoliberal policy hasn’t failed as utterly as conservative policy has, it has nonetheless failed in terms of helping ordinary workers.

#NeverBernie

Speaking of Democrats who would rather Republicans win than elect someone too far to the left:

#NeverBernie

Now I understand: some in the Democratic Party have what seem to them to be substantive criticisms of Sanders. I’m not going to litigate that here, but my experience is that the anti-Sanders hysteria is the result of online echo chambers. People can believe whatever they want about Sanders.

When I came upon #NeverBernie on Twitter, I responded as modestly as I could:

Overall, the response was positive. But I did get an interesting response, “And are you telling the Bernie people that too??” I have, of course. And she would have known that if she had simply read the headline of my article.

My point is not about Bernie Sanders, per se. My point is that there are a lot of Democrats who support Bernie Sanders. These are people who overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election. (And note: Sanders supporters appear to have abandoned Clinton less often than Clinton supporters abandoned Obama.)

So is it really a good idea for the Democratic Party to vilify dependable Democrats who just happen to like Bernie Sanders?

Obviously, I don’t think so. These #NeverBernie people are doing exactly what they themselves (rightly) complained about Sanders supporters doing in 2016.

This skit isn’t nearly so funny now:

Brazil’s New President

Back on 25 Feb 2019, Brazilian actor José de Abreu announced that he was the president of Brazil. He is making fun of both Brazilian president Bolsonaro and Venezuelan opposition leader and — according to hypocritical and evil countries like the US — the “real” president, Juan Guaidó.

José de AbreuRight after this announcement, someone changed the Wikipedia entry for Brazil’s president to “disputed.” This is great because that’s what Wikipedia did the moment that the US decided that it could say who controls the Venezuelan government.

The thing is, Abreu has a stronger claim than Guaidó — at least when it comes to the validity of the current presidents. It is often reported that Maduro’s election was invalid because the opposition didn’t run. But it didn’t run because it chose to boycott the election. Maduro didn’t stop it from voting. And there is every indication that it could have won.

Bolsonaro, on the other hand, only won because Lula da Silva was wrongly imprisoned and then forbidden from running. Polls indicate that he would have won in a landslide.

Of course, the US won’t take Abreu seriously for the same reason they don’t care about the imprisonment of da Silva: they aren’t the right kind of leader — the kind that gives away all its resources to corporations.

Fact-Checking Trump’s State of the Union Address

This is from last year, but it’s very funny and insightful. If only our regular media outlets were this good.

See you all later!

Odds and Ends Vol 23 (2019 New Year’s)

Odds and EndsHappy new years, everyone. I have a few random thoughts to bring you down if you’re feeling hopeful. My new year’s resolution for 2019 is not to end the year in the same state as Frank in the video at the bottom of this post. My experience talking to people is that most feel as I do. I’m starting to think that the greatest compliment one can get is to be called “sad” or “loser” by Trump. That would certainly make my life.

Where Are My Ultima Thule Pictures?!

There was so much chatter about the New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule over the last few weeks. It did so about midnight last night. But thus far, no pictures.

There is one extremely coarse image that I’ve seen, and it is cool. But after Pluto, I’m waiting for something better.

But here’s the thing: I know it takes a while to send back information (roughly 4 hours, I think). And the probe has sent back an all clear. But this is America. We are all children. We want our pictures!

Government Shutdown

It’s hard to say how this government shutdown is going to end. Trump has done the same thing he did early on with North Korea: creating a big and stressful situation. But there is no authoritarian on the other side of this confrontation that he can fall in love with.

And I don’t see the Republicans doing anything but what they always do: enabling the Toddler in Chief. The only way out seems to be to find something to give Trump that will allow him to save face. I don’t know what that is. I hope that Nancy Pelosi does.

Why Bother?

Why do we go on? Well, I suppose we know: the Will — that hungry force that makes us irrational. But at the moment it’s really hard to get past, “Why bother?”

Some time ago, I read about Obama giving a pep talk to his staff after the 2016 election. He gave them the same line as King’s “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I guess that’s true for politics, but even there, you have to understand that the arc isn’t long, it is loooonnnngggg. It is so long that it is mostly meaningless for humans.

And I can’t help but notice that the great capitalist era has brought us back to a kind of feudalism. But in a general sense, the universe bends toward nothing. It is cruel beyond imagining.

Police in The Grapes of Wrath

Last night I watched The Grapes of Wrath (1940). When I first watched it, I really didn’t like it because I felt it blew the ending. Actually, I largely still think that. It’s far too upbeat. And I have other problems with the film. Unlike most movie lovers, I’m not that fond of John Ford. I like a lot of his films, but I think he is overrated as a director.

Anyway, what struck me in the film was the portrayal of the police. They were shown as they really are: inherently corrupt because they are used by the powerful to keep the working class down. I may write more about this later.

There’s no doubt that a Hollywood studio could not make this film today. There is one okay cop in the film, but if Wrath were made today, you’d have to created a major cop character who was a good guy or you’d have to show that most cops are really good. (How’s that for political correctness?! The right has always had more political correctness than the left. What do you think all the complaints about the NFL protests are?)

You couldn’t stop conservatives from screaming that it was anti-cop. Of course, they would be right. But when you have an institution that was explicitly created to oppress the poor in the service of the rich, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with a film being anti-cop.

God Bless America

I came upon this old article of mine, Giving Up on America in God Bless America. It’s worth a read if you don’t remember it. And the movie is definitely worth watching. Basically, it is about a couple of spree killers whose targets are just rude people. This scene is fantastic:

That’s all for now. I’ll talk to you later.

Odds and Ends Vol 22

Odds and EndsEven though I don’t get nearly enough time to read normal stuff, I find things are piling up without my having the time to write articles about them. So it is time for another edition of “Odds and Ends.” And in this case it is indeed a varied collection of things from cat gun safety to productivity to the Gymkhana Girl, so I guess we ought to get to it.

The Only Thing that Stops a Cat With a Gun…

Elizabeth sent me this article, Cat Shoots Owner With 9mm Handgun. This happened all the way back in 2005, but apparently, Joseph Stanton of Michigan was cooking with his loaded gun sitting on the counter. One of his cats jumped up on the counter, knocking the gun off, causing it to discharge, shooting Stanton in the lower torso. He seems to have survived and no cats were harmed.

What I find interesting about these kinds of cases is that they show how one-sided people are about looking at benefits and risk. I’m sure that Mr Stanton, like most gun owners, felt that he was safer for having that loaded gun around. I suspect he had visions of some intruder coming to attack him. But the truth is that the odds of some accident (like your cat jumping on the counter) are far more likely. This is why I don’t have a gun; I play the odds.

Night Owls Are Diseased

Over at Vox, Brian Resnick reported, Late Sleepers Are Tired of Being Discriminated Against. And Science Has Their Back. It turns out that chronobiology shows that we all have our own internal clocks, and some people are getting tired (!) of being expected to live according to other people’s idea of the proper time to be active.

I’ve never thought about any of this in terms of when I wake up. Growing up in a family inclined toward late nights, I’ve always seen it in terms of when I was awake. But I’ve lived a charmed life in that I’ve gotten away with going my own way. At most places I’ve worked, I’ve been important enough that management was willing to put up with my eccentricities. But even if that were not the case, it’s kind of hard to get too upset. There are a million ways that the majority oppresses the minority; just look at the world from the perspective of left-handed people. What’s more, I don’t find this chronobiology all that interesting because I’ll always felt my sleep patterns were biological.

Now, of course, I have no problem. I go to sleep late and wake up early. It’s because I’m old and apparently my brain doesn’t need as much time to process information. That’s probably helped by the fact that I rarely leave this room.

Spying Makes Us Timid

Glenn Greenwald reported, New Study Shows Mass Surveillance Breeds Meekness, Fear, and Self-Censorship. It’s not a shock. If people know that they might be under surveillance (We all know that we might be now, right?) it tends to makes us more conformist. And you have to wonder if that isn’t the main point. Would the world be notably less safe if the NSA wasn’t recording and storing every conversation we were having?

This reminds me of something that internet titan Eric Schmidt was asked back in 2009, “People are treating Google like their most trusted friend. Should they be?” He replied, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Oh yes! That’s the way to run a democracy! It’s an especially chilling statement when you consider how cozy Silicon Valley has been with the government and how the government’s greatest spying accomplishments have been to disrupt anti-war groups.

Gymkhana Girl

In the first episode of That Mitchell and Webb Look, there were three skits about the crime fighting duo Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit. It makes fun of lopsided superhero combinations. I keep returning to Marvel’s the Avengers, where you have a god teamed up with a guy who is apparently really good with a bow and arrow. I’ve discussed it before, but I learned something new:

At the end, after the BMX Bandit is killed, the announcer tells us to tune in next week for the adventures of “Angel Summoner and…” But I couldn’t make it out. It sounded like “Jim Conner Girl.” The woman reminded me of the women on the old British television series The Avengers. I got the joke: they were teaming up Angel Summoner with yet another inappropriate character. But it still bugged me that I didn’t know what a “Jim Conner Girl” was.

Finally, I looked it up. The word is not “Jim Conner” but gymkhana. And that is “competitive games on horseback.” In other words, they switched from someone who was good at riding a bike to someone who was good at riding a horse. And that, well, is hilarious.

Cheap Labor Leads to Low Productivity

Dean Baker wrote a really good article last week, Reason #4 for Weak Productivity Growth: Labor Is Cheap. Like most economics in the public sphere, it ain’t complicated. Productivity has been low for a long time. And a big reason for that is that businesses have little reason to invest in automation because they can get labor so cheap. If you want to increase productivity, make the political environment more conducive to unionization.

It’s funny that most people (Most Democrats too!) like to blame inequality on automation. But if that were the case, per capita productivity would be high. As I’ve written about a lot, if the rich were smart and farsighted, they would want more economic equality because it is better for everyone. But they aren’t smart and farsighted; they are just greedy.

Land of the Lost

I was given a bag of DVDs — most of them television shows of my youth. Of particular interest was the first two seasons of Sid & Marty Krofft’s Land of the Lost. I liked that show when I was a kid, so I sat down and watched the first seven episodes. It’s curious. The stop-motion animation is really good. But it’s so disjointed, going from filmed animation to videotaped segments on tiny sound stages. I could go on and on about things that are wrong with it. But it does have a certain charm, even after all these years.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m glad to get some tabs down, although I could easily add five more entries here.

Odds and Ends Vol 20

Odds and EndsWe’ve got some interesting things here. This volume of Odds and Ends is a bit screwed up because of my recent computer problems. I now have three different hard drives where things are stored, so I’ve lost a couple of funny things. One was a joke Jim Webb sign having to do with his lack of time at the debate. The other was the Gettysburg Workout, which I think had something to do with Paul Ryan taking over as Speaker of the House. Whatever. Let’s get started.

Raise Rates Before US Reaches French Employment Levels!

I love this graph from Paul Krugman for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that this bigoted American idea that the French are lazy is just wrong. But it also shows just how far we are from full employment. Still, the Federal Reserve is almost certain to raise interest rates next month and stop the employment growth that we are seeing. If you still believe we live in a democracy, it is time to wake up my friends. It was a pleasant dream we had, but it was only ever that: a dream.

France vs US Employment

Television Commercials From the 1960s and 1970s

This is a 17 minute long collection of television commercials. It’s pretty amazing for people of my age. What’s perhaps most remarkable, however, is that ads haven’t changed that much. They’ve become more slick in terms of production. But the approach to advertising is the same. There has been no revolution in that way. It’s also interesting to see beloved actors like George S Irving (White Owl cigars), Vic Tayback (Parkay margarine), Nancy Walker (Bounty paper towels), John Houseman (Smith Barney), Ricardo Montalbán (Chrysler Cordoba), Bobby Short (Charlie by Revlon), James Harder (Fig Newton), David Naughton (Dr Pepper), Geoffrey Holder (7-Up), Mickey Spillane and a bunch of other people (Miller Lite), and of course, Orson Welles (Paul Masson). If you notice any others, mention them in the comments. Obviously, you can’t mention the three who gave their names!

Health Inequality

This graph is from a paper on health inequality. The data are from 2007 — so before Obamacare. I think it is shocking in how well it correlates with the red state and blue state maps. The truth is that most of the conservatives I read are of the intellectual variety. But when you look at this graph, it’s clear how much nonsense that all is. Conservatives are just selfish and don’t care about anyone but themselves. And as a result, people die. It is not the case, as most centrist pundits claim, that we are just arguing over the best way to meet the needs of everyone. Conservatives don’t care about that at all. They just care about how much wealth they can accumulate, and screw the rest.

Average Life Expectancy by County - 2007

Angels In The Outfield

James Fillmore always seems to get embarrassed when I highlight his work, but his article on the two Angels In The Outfield films is really good. I had wanted to just cross-post it here, but I don’t want to get in a copyright dispute with SB Nation. So just click over and read his article, it’s really good. If James has anything to feel bad about, it is that he didn’t offer the article to me first.

Racist Liberals

This 12 August 1996 cover of New Republic comes via Matt Bruenig. Over the last year, I’ve been really pleased with the magazine. But during the 1990s, it was horrible. And this racist cover is amazing. How do I know it is racist? Well, how do we know that woman is on welfare? How is it that “The Editors” signified that this woman was on welfare? By making her black. Notice that this is 8 years after the Willie Horton ad. And it is coming from a “liberal” publication. And the welfare “reform” bill that they thought the president should sign has been a catastrophe. But I doubt any of those editors is suffering as a result of it.

New Republic - Welfare Reform

That’s all for today. I had some other things, but they were from Late Show With Stephen Colbert. And the images I created are on my backup computer. And I can’t get them from the show because CBS, in its greedy stupidity, only allows non-subscribers to watch the last five episodes. So we’ll have to leave this edition of Odds and Ends on kind of a downer. Oh well. You’ll survive.

Odds and Ends Vol 19

Odds and EndsAll day today, I’ve been seeing articles that I’d like to comment on but don’t feel like there is enough to say for a full article. And then I thought, “What about another Odds and Ends?!” This is exactly the situation that I originally started the series for. Just the same, in this case, it may just be that I’m tired. I stayed up very late last night and then didn’t sleep well. You would think it would be because I was drinking, but I was actually working. Oh well.

Peak Uber?

Michael Hiltzik brought my attention to something interesting, Has Uber Already Peaked? There is a new study out by some investment types that looked at what’s going on in New York. Apparently, at this point, Uber drivers are as likely to cannibalize each other as the regular taxicab drivers. It looks like the reason for this is that Uber has saturated the market with its drivers and they quickly find that they don’t make much money. It comes as no surprise that this “new economy” job — despite the fact that all the upfront costs fall on the worker — only pays about minimum wage.

Mathematical Genius

John Nash was one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century — a century that had some great minds. You know, he’s the guy in A Beautiful Mind. He is known primarily for his work in game theory, and as such, he’s had a great influence beyond mathematics — most especially economics. He died earlier this year at the age of 86. He was also mad as a hatter.

In 1948, Nash apparently asked physicist Richard Duffin to write him a letter of recommendation for graduate school. The letter is wonderfully on point:

Richard Duffin Recommendation Letter for John Nash

Trump Got Boring

Matt Yglesias got it exactly right in an article last week, Donald Trump Used to Be the Most Interesting Person in Politics, but His Tax Plan Made Him Boring. As I said many times around here, Trump’s actual policies were better than any of the other Republicans running for president. His rhetoric was bad on certain issues, but his policies were no worse than the others. And on economics, he was talking like an actual populist. But then he brought out his tax plan and it was not qualitatively different from Jeb Bush’s — it was just worse. And you have to wonder: if this is what a self-funding Republican is for, it must be that the party is not dysfunctional because of its dependence on courting billionaires. They just really believe all their supply side claptrap.

Airbnb Thinks You Should Trust It

I’ll end with another Michael Hiltzik article, No surprise: That Airbnb Study of Rentals in LA Isn’t What It Seems. Airbnb put out a study claiming that its influence did not incentivize the transfer of long-term rentals into short-term rentals. But the company implied that it had analyzed data with a UCLA professor, when all that he had done was go over their procedures — he’s never seen the data and does not vouch for it. Of course, no one has seen the data. Airbnb won’t make it available — even to government regulators. So should we trust them? The business community does not have a good record of putting out objective research that just happens to prove that the best thing is for them to do exactly what they want to do.

That’s all for now folks. Have a good evening and I’ll check in with you in the morning.

Odds and Ends Vol 18

Odds and EndsRight now, my other job involves rewriting all the pages of an old website that was rather tedious in its prime. A lot of the work I do does not involve tech, but most of it does. And I have found that one thing tech writers most lack is a sense of narrative — the idea that they are telling a story. Trying to create a narrative by rewriting the pages from scratch is rather easy to do; trying to do it through editing is difficult indeed. So I thought I would take a break and quickly write an Odds and Ends.

Ironic Political Ad

After last week’s Republican presidential debate, most of the sane viewers laughed when Jeb Bush said, “There’s one thing I’ll tell you about my brother: he kept us safe!” I just assumed this would be forgotten by the next day, or at least that Jeb would try to bury it. But no! He made a political ad out of it:

Jeb Bush Ironic Political Ad

This is bizarre. Here is George W Bush, standing on the rubble of the worst foreign attack on American soil ever. It was an attack that happened while Bush was president. It was an attack that he did not keep us safe from. Is irony dead? Or are Republicans just that ignorant? Or are they just so convinced that they are “strong” that George Bush protecting us is axiomatic: George Bush protected us because he was a Republican and they protect us?

Chicken Hawk Dick Cheney

Speaking of Bush, I found this somewhere. It was probably over at Job’s Anger — but I’m not going to go over there and find the exact link — especially given I’m not sure. This does sum up Cheney. The thing is, Cheney and Trump are about the same in terms of doing whatever they want and feeling no culpability whatsoever. I do wonder if they aren’t both psychopaths — in the technical sense.

Dick Cheney: Chicken Hawk

Hats for Sale

This is an image from Esphyr Slobodkina’s excellent children’s book, Caps for Sale. I find it so charming now. But when I was a kid, I thought this odd little peddler with all those hats on his head was evil. Slobodkina wrote a sequel to the book that is not quite as good, but still very charming, Circus Caps for Sale. My friend Andrea tells me this style of image is an example of foreshortening. What that means is that all the perspective is screwed up. That’s something I’ve come to greatly admire as I’ve gotten older. Regardless, you should really check these books out. I’m sure they are in your local library. My library has 20 copies of the first book, but only four of the second.

Hats for Sale

Real Life Facebook

I don’t know where this came from, but it is very amusing. It shows how bizarre Facebook behavior is. I was having lunch with a friend of mine last week. She told me she had been feeling great, but then she went on Facebook and saw all the great things her “friends” were doing and got really depressed about her life. I thought that was interesting because this is a known phenomenon. I tried to explain that people don’t post the bad things that happen in their lives. It’s all about mythologizing what your life is. None of this made her feel better.

Real Life Facebook

That’s all for today kiddos. I’ve got to get back to the grind. Talk to you later!