Category Archives: Politics

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.

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.

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.

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.

Conservatives Are the New Postmodernists — What Truth?

President Donald TrumpDonald Trump tweeted out a video that claims that while Google promoted a live stream of Obama’s state-of-the-union addresses, they didn’t do it for him. It’s nonsense, of course. Check out the archive.org copy. Now the producers of the video could maybe get away with ignorance, because archive.org stores pages using GMT. So instead of starting at 9:15 pm on 30 January 2018, archive.org has it stored starting at 3:15 am 31 January 2018.

But is this reasonable? For one thing, they must have understood the time change to get the Obama screenshots. But just as important, anyone making such a claim would be very careful. But its clear they didn’t care. Certainly, Trump has made no retraction, and Google corrected the record within a minute of his tweet. What else is new? It makes total sense that Trump sees lies everywhere, since that is all he produces. I’ve been talking about conservative projection for many years.

More interesting is that Jim Hoft (Gateway Pundit) produced an article, HOLY CRAP! President Trump DESTROYS Biased Google in One 24 Second Clip.

That too has been up for well past 24 hours. The page has not been taken down. (I don’t agree with it, but this is how conservatives normally respond to their idiocy.) And the page has not been amended.

I’m so tired of this. This isn’t a matter of opinion. The president just spreads lies and never retracts them. And there is a billion dollar industry dedicated to supporting his lies.

Meanwhile, the Trump Cult continues to think anything out of his mouth is gospel. Have you seen this? California Man Parroting Trump’s “Enemy of the People” Line Threatened to Shoot, Kill Boston Globe Staff, FBI Says.

This is why it is so poisonous for a president to make such claims. It’s even worse with people in the Trump Cult because there is nothing to convince them to change their opinions. Trump has already told them that the press is out to get him. So they won’t believe it. I suspect that even the man who made the threats considers the press coverage a lie.

The fact is that Trump’s “the press is the enemy of the people” is identical to what authoritarian leaders always say. It’s the only way they can justify getting rid of a free press and installing a propaganda outlet in its place.

Of course, thanks to the miracle of capitalism, we already have that throughout the right. As if Fox News alone weren’t enough to destroy a free country.

Mindless Retweets

I do, however, take a certain amount of sollace that Jim Hoft’s tween generated 33 comments — all of them contradicting his nonsense. But maybe I shouldn’t be, because 67 people retweeted.

Of course, this is nothing compared to the effect that Trump had. Almost 38,000 people retweeted. After all these years of Donald Trump being very open with the fact that he is stupid, heartless, and craven, you would think people wouldn’t trust him. But no.

Can’t Stop the Con

It reminds me of how high level managers so often fall for charlitans who workers can see are nothing but useless braggarts.

Whenever I hear someone talking about how great they are, I become suspicious. But even without that, how could regular working people not see that Trump has nothing but derision for them?

I really don’t know. But I don’t think it will change. This country is doomed.

Death Came to Senator John McCain

John McCainEarlier today, as it must to all men, death came to Senator John McCain. I don’t have a horrible opinion of the man. But I also don’t have a good opinion of him. And I don’t think death should make me forget that McCain had an almost completely bad effect on this country.

Obviously, if I thought his loved ones would read this, I wouldn’t say bad things about him. I’m not a monster. But that also means that I wouldn’t say anything at all. Because there is very little good to say about him that I don’t think is tainted.

But given that I have the luxury of obscurity, I will say my piece.

McCain Wasn’t Principled

This article really grows out Matt Yglesias’ obituary at Vox, John McCain, Who Died at 81, Explained. It’s actually better than the countless obituaries we are going to see that will portray McCain like he had been Patroclus climbing the walls of Troy in The Illiad. Yglesias at least notes that McCain’s past is spotty.

But I feel certain that Yglesias is just being a good whore of a writer and creating the general obituary for McCain that won’t offend anyone too much. I suspect that Yglesias feels rather like me. But his obituary will be read. So it ends up giving McCain too much credit.

Maybe this is how it should be. When a man dies, you give him the benefit of the doubt. But I question that. Did McCain vote against the Bush tax cuts because he was actually against them? It’s possible. But the overwhelming evidence is that he did it because he was (understandably) angry at Bush’s campaign tactics in the 2000 primary. Remember, McCain had a notoriously volatile temper. He wasn’t the cuddly guy he made out in the 2008 campaign.

If you look at McCain’s career, it seems that everything good he did was simply a way to save face for something he did wrong before. If not that, it was like with Bush, settling a score. None of these were indicative of a strong moral sense. They were indicative of a strong sense of reputation. And I’m not going to let that be something to applaud just because Trump has set the bar so low.

McCain and Torture

The one thing I did like McCain for in a big way was his stand on torture. But that was just his Gay Son.

You may remember that Rob Portman was quite the anti-gay politician. He thought that employers should be able to fire people just because they found out the employee was gay. But then Portman’s son came out to him as gay. Suddenly, Rob Portman was in favor of same-sex marriage!

But this is the conservative way. If you don’t have direct experience with an issue, you can’t understand it. This is why conservatives will always give huge tax breaks to the rich. None of them will ever have a son who comes out to them as poor.

McCain’s Gay Son

In McCain’s case, he had suffered from torture. Thus, as a conservative, he could understand it. Bush and Cheney had never suffered it so they couldn’t understand it.

I’m glad that McCain was fairly reasonable on torture. But I don’t see that he gets a big red star for it given that it was his Gay Son. He didn’t show any empathy for anything that he didn’t have direct experience with.

He was an extremist on abortion, birth control, and sex education — probably because it never affected his life. He was against same-sex marriage because he literally didn’t have a gay son. And he was for eternal war because his experience fighting it was from high above it.

McCain’s So-So Torture Record

But even on torture, McCain was far from perfect. Jennifer Williams explains this in Vox, Senator John McCain’s Complicated Moral Legacy on Torture. It’s worth reading all of it, but the main thing in it is that McCain, while he was getting lots of positive news about stopping the army from torture provided a carve-out for the CIA — the only ones who were actually doing it.

When Dianne Feinstein proposed a bill to end torture, McCain worked and finally voted against it. When it passed anyway, McCain pushed Bush to veto it. And perhaps most important of all, McCain was the one who allowed all the CIA torturers to get off scot-free — and in the case of Gina Haspel, becoming Director of the CIA.

It’s bad that McCain died because his replacement will be even worse. But that doesn’t mean we need to pretend that McCain made America better. He didn’t.

Update

I began to feel bad that I wrote anything about McCain at all. But then I watched a little of the television news coverage of his death and I knew why I wrote this in the first place. The coverage is all myth-making. It doesn’t present a man; it presents a Greek hero. And it is all wrong. Most annoying of all is the way that McCain gets credit for his face-saving political theater of telling a voter that Obama wasn’t a Muslim — after he knew he would lose the election.

Why Medicare Is Okay but Not Medicare-for-All

Centers for Medicaid and Medicare ServicesI find it curious that in America, Medicare is an accepted institution but Medicare-for-All is somehow radical. Don’t get me wrong: I understand that Medicare-for-All is popular. Back in March, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 59 percent of Americans are in favor of it. But the fact remains that the establishment of the Democratic Party is highly skeptical of it. And the media is even worse.

“Objective” “Liberal” Media Against Tax Increases

This is most telling in Jake Tapper’s recent “fact check” of Bernie Sanders’ statement that the Mercatus Center report showed that Medicare-for-All would save Americans $2 trillion over a decade. In order to find the statement deceptive, Tapper claimed that Sanders had said it would save the government $2 trillion.

I don’t think Tapper meant to misquote Sanders. I think it is simply a matter of how Medicare-for-All is seen by people in Jack Tapper’s class. They know that they would have to pay more in taxes. So there’s really no thinking involved — just a gut reaction that they might lose a little money in the name of allowing poor people to live.

Old people are far more expensive to insure. Since they would not, in general, be able to afford insurance, give it to the government!

And this is a poison of this entire class. It’s funny that these are the very people who most think they are non-ideological — that they just look at the facts. They are the self-described moderates. But the truth is, they do have an ideology — one so insidious that they can’t even admit to it. And when their errors are pointed out, they just retool their arguments without the errors and — What a surprise! — conclude the exact same thing.

For example, Tapper was going to take the error out of his online video. But that was it. The rest would be the same. And there would be no on-air recantation because Tapper doesn’t see that his entire argument fell to pieces.

Similarly, it’s funny that before Glenn Kessler had to take out all his salient points against Sanders, he gave the claim “Three Pinocchios.” After his argument was shown to be nonsense: “Three Pinocchios.” The article was changed to its core, but the conclusion remained. It’s shameful.

Why We Can’t Have Medicare-for-All

But I’m interested in the usual question: why can’t we have nice things? Why is it that Medicare is fine but not Medicare-for-All.

Part of this is just ossification: we’ve had Medicare for a long time. Thus, for most people, it is fine. For rich journalists, that money is already taken from them so they don’t have to worry that they might have to give up a day of vacation each year.

But I think the bigger issue comes down to what is best for insurance companies. In general, they are glad there is Medicare. Old people are far more expensive to insure. Since they would not, in general, be able to afford insurance, give it to the government!

This is time-honored. In our country, where the only kind of speech that matters is lobbying, we allow the government to do those things that the private sector doesn’t think it can make much money at. Certainly, if we did not have public education, we would never be able to get it today.

As it is, that’s what the charter school movement is all about. When businesses couldn’t get vouchers, they changed to charter schools. It’s never been about providing students with a quality education. If it had been, we would get rid of charter schools because there is no indication that could be notably better than public schools. But we keep with them because rich people are making money off them.

What we see in modern America is a political system that only caters to the rich. And we have a media landscape that pretends that their highly ideological dismissal of popular working class policies are objective. Both facts alone would poison a good political system. And we didn’t exactly start with the most informed and democratic system.

I Don’t Think Hans Fiene Is Funny, but He Is Arrogant

Hans FieneI was looking for a quote from Garrison Keillor where he jokes about his ancestors coming to America in search of less freedom of religion. I couldn’t find it, but I did find an article he wrote in The Washington Post right before Donald Trump was inaugurated president, Trump Has Me Searching for a New Religion. It’s okay — more a testament to how we liberals felt at the coming of President Trump than anything else. It’s well written and as funny as one could expect under the circumstances. But Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene doesn’t think so!

The Problems With Garrison Keillor

In his article, Garrison Keillor Is on a Quest to Leave the Religion He Never Found, Fiene tells us two important things: Keillor isn’t a real Lutheran and he isn’t funny. Now I have a general problem with both of these claims. You can’t really say that someone isn’t funny — only that you don’t find it funny. For example, I couldn’t make it more than 5 minutes into Dumb and Dummer, yet I know it is funny because people laugh at it. As for being a “real Lutheran,” that’s not just a classic case of No True Scotsman, it is the height of hubris.

I’m not sure what to make of the sexual abuse allegations against Keillor. They don’t seem terribly strong, but just the same, why would any woman have a reason to lie about such a thing? I’m sure that Hans Fiene would have said something about this, but these articles were both written before these allegations became known. Regardless, they don’t really have anything to do with Keillor’s humor and they certainly don’t have anything to do with his status as a Lutheran.

Hans Fiene Thinks He’s Funny

One person Hans Fiene does think is funny is himself. His bio on The Federalist explains that he is “the creator of Lutheran Satire, a series of comical videos intended to teach the Lutheran faith.” Wow. There’s nothing like pastors who think they are funny. So I checked out his YouTube channel. Here is his most recent humorous video:

I’m sure that this video is hilarious to fellow conservative Christians. But I don’t see anything to laugh at. If I hated Catholics and loved guns, I’d probably find it somewhat amusing just because it is fun to pretend you are having a debate with someone you hate and showing how dumb they are. But since I’m kind of ambivalent toward both Catholics and guns, I don’t see anything to laugh at.

Fiene used another fallacy in his attack on Keillor: appeal to authority. He claimed (more than once) that Keillor wasn’t funny. And the closest he came to defending it was to refer to The Simpsons episode “Marge on the Lam.” In it, there is a parody of a PBS pledge break. It’s a pretty tame parody and doesn’t make the point that Keillor isn’t funny but that different people like different things. But whatever.

Conservative Christian?

Normally, I would say that it takes a lot of guts for someone who supposedly makes comedy to make such unsubstantiated claims about the most successful humorist of his generation. But in the case of Fiene, it’s just arrogance. The man is full of himself. But what do you expect from a religious person who is so focused on politics?

I was going through his recent videos and they are mostly just about how awful other religions are. If they aren’t, they are explicitly political. How they “teach the Lutheran faith” I can’t say.

Hans Fiene: More Catholic Than the Pope

Probably the worst part of the video above is its presentation of Pope Francis. It’s all based on this tweet:

Hans Fiene doesn’t just tell the pope things about Christianity that I’m sure the pope knows more about he does. He also tells the pope about Catholic doctrine. Again, I’m sure this makes his fellow conservatives very happy. If you look at the replies to the pope’s tweet, it is filled with similar arrogance like “Pope needs to remember the story of Sampson and Goliath. I stand with the true God. I don’t know who the pope stands with.”

But Fiene isn’t just some idiot on twitter. He is a Lutheran pastor. Frankly, I would think he would show more humility and class. But such is not the case.

It’s all kind of a shame because the videos themselves are well made. If Hans Fiene had something good or even positive to say, I would recommend them. But it’s a waste of effort to just tell other Lutherans that they are the right kind of Christians. It reminds me of how in 17th century England, you were an atheist if you weren’t protestant. Meanwhile, in France, you were an atheist if you weren’t Catholic. It’s all very silly but also sad.