"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Saturday Night Live did a skit about a hypothetical podcast award show where they had impersonations of Pod Save America - "Bros Save America" - and Marc Maron.

Here is a good blogpost on Chapo and podcasts.

They're popular b/c we can listen to them while exercising, driving, cooking, doing chores, etc. Plus they can be very entertaining and informative. I listen to Chapo Trap House, The Bruenigs, Doug Henwood's Behind the News (which was first and still is a radio show), and Ryan Avent's Left Anchor. Sometimes I will listen to other podcasts like Current Events's or Harmontown, but those are my regulars.

Avent had a good podcast about the mid-terms. He has the opinion, not that common on the Left, that a candidate's talent matters more than ideology, which kind of makes sense. Still a lot of lefty ballot initiatives won: ex-felons voting, minimum wage, expanding Medicaid, legalizing marijuana, fair districting/anti-gerrymandering, etc. And Republicans running ads about their opponents supporting M4A didn't seem to matter.


An epiphany of sorts. On Bill Maher's show, Sarah Silverman - when asked about the red state people she meets on her show - said there's a difference between the liars and those being lied to. The "lied to" are often good, nice people, but they're like cult members. They believe what they believe.

Maybe this is also how parents treat kids. They believe the kids don't know what's best but try to treat them as good people. But kids can detect insincerity and patronizing adults. So you either have to be a good actor our authentically believe they're good kids for you to get past their bullshit detectors.

I think the approach by @interfludity or @briebriejoy is the best, one where you are open to people who believe differently than you. It is the best long-term strategy even if at the moment the instinct is to close ranks with your tribe and just best the other side.

The wealthy liars and the white supremacists - like Tucker Carlson - are beyond the pale, though, in my opinion. I don't care if people protest outside their homes. The liberal elite don't really care if a stagnating economy is driving the working class into the fascists' arms. We shouldn't over do it when comes to the liberals' worries about the discourse and about being civil.

Hence the appeal of the dirtbag and irony left. Feels good to give the establishment the finger, just ask a Trump voter.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Proud Boys and danger of fascism

Brazil electing a fascist, among other things, has people on edge. Some people I follow on Twitter, Dan O'Sullivan and journalist Jason Wilson* were critical of what Amber Frost said on her bonus Chapo podcast about Brazil (which figured a photo and music from the movie Brazil.)

Frost basically downplayed the danger of the Proud Boys in the US saying their like "MS13 to Rose Emoji" and Sullivan and Wilson took offence.

I agree with both sides. On Wilson's side, I agree that alt right groups are a danger and should be fought by Antifa (although I have qualms about doxxing.) I've read that the Antifa strategy has worked and that the alt right groups are in disarray after Charlottesville. Trump's election gave them a boost and they came out of hiding, but basically they've been beaten back down. Internet companies are shutting down their access to various infrastructure also so they can't recruit or communicate. Still there were recent incidents in Portland and New York City as reported on Ryan Avent's podcast and elsewhere. It's being reported that Republicans are "adopting" the Proud Boys. Still I think Frost is sort of right, but I wouldn't give Wilson a hard time about his alt right beat if that is what she has done in the past, which is what he suggests. We should take the alt right seriously even if they are laughable. These people should be on the left.

Yes the Brownshirts were underestimated, but I don't think the Proud Boys are. Yes they should be confronted but I don' think we're in danger of a fascist takeover with Proud Boys leading the way. Still it's unnerving to be contemplating the idea, and one hopes the stewards of the economy have learned their lessons.

Maybe Nov. 6 will mellow people out some.

*about whom I don't know that much, but they seem standard liberal left. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


"Bad ideas just won’t die. Ronald Reagan’s goal was to “leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history.” But they keep coming back, albeit in different forms. Of today’s bad ideas—from net neutrality to open curriculum and living wages—the most dangerous is the universal basic income."

A Universally Bad Idea by Andy Kessler

Response to Andy Kessler on the Social Wealth Fund by Matt Bruenig

Saturday, October 20, 2018


The Multiverse with multiple timelines seems to have become more popular or salient in popular culture. Rick and Morty. Berlanti-verse's The Flash.

When Trump was elected, many people felt as if we somehow slipped into a crazy timeline.

Does it mean anything? The importance of choices; the focus on the individual and philosophical voluntarism in late capitalism and neoliberalism. The focus on the individual will. Do people try hard enough. The end of history. (Blaming the victim.)

Personally I don't believe any of this stuff has to be true. Maybe we live in Hellworld. Maybe things can get better. Some positive things: the election of socialist Ocasio-Cortez (who can be seen on Colbert or Jimmy Kimmel) the fact that Missouri voters voted down a right-to-work law in a referendum.

The direction the November 6th Midterm elections go could make some people believe we live in Hellworld or that things are getting "back to normal." I always thought things were heading in a bad direction after Bill Clinton's welfare reform (and everything surrounding it even though liberals thought they had it good with West Wing and then Obama.)

That's why it's refreshing to see Bennet-Brown's American Family Act in 2017 which doesn't help non-parents but does expand the welfare state for parents - even those without income.

Kamala Harris's LIFT act has the trapezoid problem which focuses on "rewarding work" but given the option to receive monthly checks based on last years income, it is almost a UBI (except it doesn't cover those without earned income and those earning more than 100k, so no not universal. But it does give monthly checks to most of those who could use it without strings attached.)

Still it's good to see. Things may be turning for the better despite the many bad things like Climate Change and a feckless liberal elite. Another sign things might change for the better: the Republican base no longer believes Republican economic orthodoxy.

The fact that different governments continue to legalize marijuana (Canada last Wednesday, on the ballot in North Dakota and Michigan) always made it seem to me like the Flash had kicked us over to another timeline (despite strong opposition from conservative racists like Jeff Sessions). The Drug War was always a racist endeavor. Nixon used it as a dog whistle (as the FX show Snowfall pointed out via a CIA drug runner.) Gay marriage. America electing a black man. Pleasantly surprised to see those things happen in my life time.

My personal life hasn't had as many lucky breaks, but I prefer to focus on the larger state of the world. No doubt my conservative, bootlicker friends consider me to be lazy, whereas I see their insult to mean that I don't kiss enough ass. Gotta brownose to move up in the world. That's what I would tell the kids. Ingratiate yourself. Socialize. Find a mentor to suck up to.

Still no matter one's personal problems, when Chapo Trap House's new book hits the New York Times best seller list and the New York Times Style Section tweets @ Taylor Swift to "go on Chapo," one get the vertiginous feeling that perhaps you're in the wrong timeline.

It's not just Trump who makes liberals feel like they have been moved around in the multiverse. Kavanaugh's recent nomination to the Supreme Court, making it safely Republican, has thrown many of them also even though it's a logical extension of Trump's election victory.

Listening to Doug Henwood's radio show/podcast on the Supreme Court, I was reminded of the many ways it's an anti-democratic institution and how even though the Republicans have a lock now on the court, gay marriage and marijuana legalization are moving forward.

Maybe it's social media that is making things weird?

The Wall Street Journ op-ed pages are attacking UBI and Matt Bruenig's SWF-UBD. The White House just put out a paper on why socialism doesn't work. As Jeff Stein tweets: "White House report on socialism cites @ryanlcooper, Piketty, and Jacobin's Meagan Day..."

Part of it is what Corey Robin talks about when he says the conservatives have won (with Macron, Clinton, Blair, Schroeder) and so they are sort of flailing around and hooked on griping about the culture war (which they are losing).

In some ways we've moved to a state of political economy reminiscent of the 1850s pre-Civil War period. A minority, property elite is gaining a lock on political institutions and power and using it to thwart the popular will. The Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision did not legalize slavery for all time. It led to the Civil War and the end of slavery.

Bennet-Brown from 2017: a return to pre-welfare reform welfare

per the discussion on the Bruenig podcast

Senate Democrats have a plan that would cut child poverty nearly in half by Dylan Matthews

The American Family Act of 2017

Avoid the Trap(azoid)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Welfare for Everyone: interview with Matt Bruenig

Welfare for Everyone - an interview with Matt Bruenig (Jacobin)

She's running, Kamala Harris edition

"The lift the Middle Class Act would provide monthly cash payments of up to $500 to lower-income families, on top of the tax credits and public benefits they already receive."

Sort of a misnomer.

Kamala Harris’s Trump-Size Tax Plan by Annie Lowrey (via Neera Tanden)
Harris is offering as much as $3,000 a year for a single person or $6,000 a year for a married couple, on top of existing tax and transfer programs, disbursed either as a lump-sum tax refund or as a monthly payment. Working families making less than $100,000 a year would qualify, including those making close to nothing. As many as 80 million Americans would benefit, Harris’s office has estimated, with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculating that the proposal would lift 9 million people out of poverty, including nearly 3 million kids.
Her proposal joins a growing number of aggressive plans coming from Democrats concerned with economic stagnation, competing to win over younger and more progressive voters, and emboldened by the success of President Donald Trump. They differ in their mechanisms, costs, and effects, but all point to the same Robin Hood goal: not just raising taxes on the rich, but shunting vastly more money to the working classes and the poor. In Harris’s case, that means something like $200 billion a year more.

Senator Harris Seeks To Raise Incomes Using A New Tax Credit by Elaine Maag (TPC)

On one hand, Harris’s LIFT proposal is probably the best Dem tax proposal put forward in while. On the other hand, it’s still EITC-like (predicated earned income) and therefore excludes the very poorest. The front yellow line should be vertical IMO.
As Matt notes, Dems need to get out of the trapezoid trap. Just make it a UBI or make it a backdoor UBI by letting people declare a trivial amount of earned income. LIFT is better than EITC, but it still shares its work-centric problems.

Saturday, October 06, 2018