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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Andrea sent me this.
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.
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.