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AvatarComments by Brandon Berg*

On “Breaking Bad: Picard

I've never watched TNG, but if there wasn't supposed to be interpersonal conflict, how did "Shut up, Wesley!" become a catch phrase?

On “This One Really Hurts

Now that's not fair. Sure, if you take that one sentence out of context, it sounds unforgivably reasonable. But it was preceded by four and a half minutes of truly breathtaking ignorance and vapidity:

On “If I Ran Facebook

I would have so much more respect for my casual acquaintances if politics were banned on Facebook.

On “How You Can Advocate for the Disabled When Our Government Doesn’t

I thought it might be the so-called (by cranks) "true unemployment rate," e.g. 1 - EPR, but the EPR for individuals aged 16-64 who have disabilities is only 29%, so it can't be that.

I have no idea how they got that number, and of course the claim isn't sourced, so I'm stumped.

On “Comment Rescue: The Underclass

The fundamental premise here is simply wrong. We don't need an underclass. For one, the actual underclass is defined by being employed only sporadically, if at all. They add negative value to society, and the rest of society would be pretty much unambiguously better off without them.

That aside, I assume Rufus was actually talking about the working lower class, whose members do low-paid work for most or all of their working lives. Historically, societies have tended to have such a class, but this is due to the fact that humans vary widely in terms of cognitive ability, and some people simply aren't capable of any other kind of work. Due to comparative advantage, they end up doing this kind of work, and due to the abundance of people capable of and willing to do it for low pay, it tends not to pay well.

But an economy can function perfectly well without such a class. If everyone were totally equal in ability, then everyone would be capable of doing any job. In such an economy, the most pleasant jobs would pay the least, and the least pleasant jobs would pay the most, because you'd have to pay people more to do those jobs.

To see why this is, imagine you and a bunch of your clones are starting a business. Say, a theater. Everyone wants to do the interesting jobs like act, write plays, and design sets, but someone has to work the ticket booth, and someone has to clean the bathrooms. If any of you can do any of the jobs, the only way you can come to an agreement is if the clone who cleans the bathrooms gets paid more than the clones who do the interesting jobs.

On “How You Can Advocate for the Disabled When Our Government Doesn’t

A fun game to play is to compare stats given out by advocacy organizations to the actual stats and try to figure out why they differ. For example, compare the 34% unemployment rate for disabled workers given here to the 8.0% given by the BLS.

On “Epstein Dead

Didn't he already have at least one confirmed suicide attempt? I don't think we should rule out the possibility that, having gone from billionaire on top of the world to pariah almost certainly doomed to spend the rest of his life in prison, he just didn't see much left to live for.

On “Songs!

I'd like to share Miyuki Nakajima's "HALF," a story of lovers who missed their chance to be together and swore to meet again in the next life, only to miss their chance again. Unfortunately, her label has her music locked down hard, and other than a few of her recent songs, none of it's available on YouTube. My next choice is a song Nakajima wrote for Shizuka Kudoh in 1998. Honestly, Kudoh's kind of a weak singer, but she had brilliant songwriters backing her, first Tsugutoshi Gotoh and later Nakajima.

The title, "Setsu-getsu-ka," literally means "snow, moon, and flowers." It comes from a phrase in a poem from the classical Chinese poet Bai Juyi ("When I gaze upon the snow, moon, and flowers, that is when I miss you the most."), and refers to sublime natural beauty. Anyway, this isn't a sad song, but for some reason it makes me feel sad. The lyric's superficial silliness serves to deepen its portrayal of the intensity of young love. I'm not really doing Nakajima justice, but here's rough translation:

Between the waves of the sheets,
I searched for you, hoping I might find you.
I want to be with you, and though I hold you tightly,
I want only to be with you more.

No matter where you go, I can find you.
When I ask you, you don't understand.
Here I am, you laugh; I want to be with you more, I insist.
You, who know nothing!

Snow, moon, and flowers
It is a loving heart which never yields.
Snow, moon, and flowers.
But only grows ever stronger

If you would grant me a wish,
I want only one thing:
Grant me freedom.
Grant me the freedom to love you.

Quickly, set me free!
Quickly, do not tie me down!
Set me free from a future without you,
And set me free from loneliness.
You, who know nothing!

On “Endorsed: Other Options

I get that you're mad, but you need to calm down. Take a few deep breaths and tell us what you think the problem is.

On “Indict the System, With an Expert in Indictments

If you grind up "team," you get meat.

For some reason none of my coaches ever mentioned this.

On “Possibilities For the Future

As a libertarian, I strongly disagree that Yang is libertarian-friendly. Support for civil liberties is a necessary but not sufficient criterion for identifying a libertarian. A candidate who's good on (some) civil liberties but also supports a huge increase in government spending is a lefty, not a libertarian.

Andrew "NEETBUX" Yang fits the bill. He's out-Bernie-ing* Bernie and proposing to double federal spending. Marijuana legalization and cop cameras are already on their way, and will get soon here with or without Yang, but huge new entitlement programs will be a dead weight around our economy's neck for all eternity.

I also disagree that he has a particularly good handle on economics. Particularly embarrassing is his claim that the stimulus effect from a UBI will increase economic growth enough to produce an extra $600 billion per year in tax revenue. In a best-case scenario, if it's used correctly, stimulus can produce short-run economic growth by increasing employment and getting the economy out of recession. But it doesn't produce sustainable growth at the top of the business cycle (which is part of the reason why running trillion-dollar deficits right now is terrible policy). If you don't believe me, take it from Paul Krugman.

Yang is asserting that stimulus can produce a sustained 10% increase in GDP, which is just nuts. No responsible economist would endorse that claim. More likely, shifting that much money from savings to consumption would reduce the resources available for real investment, slowing long-run growth.

*Bernie, verb, to aggressively court the gimme-gimme-gimme vote, named for the signature move of joke candidate Bernie Sanders.


Historically, those kinds of proposals have tended to come from Democrats. Causal and low-info voters like teenagers and people who can't be bothered to register.

If you don't think that's a fair assumption, keep in mind that proposals to make voting easier tend to come from Democrats and Republicans tend to oppose them. Even if we assume that Democrats are motivated by a sincere desire to make democracy better (ha!), Republicans would have no reason to oppose such proposals if they thought they would help Republicans.

On “Democratic Debates: The Moderates Strike Back

Note that being "possible" isn't even enough. The US is a pretty rich country. Most of the stuff far-left wing of the Democratic Party wants to do is technically possible, just not good policy. It's possible to raise the minimum wage to $25 tomorrow. It's possible to legally require all prescription drugs to be sold at marginal cost. It's possible to cancel all outstanding student loans. It's possible to impose rent control nationwide. It's possible to build the wall.

These are all just really bad ideas. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Warren's outburst above basically puts her on the intellectual level of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.


What's with those non-functional links ("Feature Unfeature Bury Unbury") along the bottom of the comment? I gather they're moderator actions, but why are they showing up for a mere mortal like me?


This is probably just my cishetwhitemaleness speaking, but I think that whether a policy is actually a good idea is actually kind of important. I wouldn't expect someone who throws around the word "anti-intellectual" as much as you do to be so hostile to the idea.

On “When The Landscaping Crew Stages a Walkout

As riots go, this one is the GOAT.

On “Andrew Yang: Think. Different.

Medium: Neither rare nor well done.

On “Win it Warren

To be fair, this is not inconsistent with being smart and knowing her shit! As a former law professor, economics isn't her shit. But her agenda is pretty heavily economics-focused, and on that front, she seems to be very highly in sync with my least-informed acquaintances.


In brief, she is smart and knows her shit.

This is the same Elizabeth Warren who went viral by not understanding why overnight, fully-secured loans have lower interest rates than long-run, unsecured loans?

As I recall, she also got famously confused about the difference between the average productivity of all workers and the marginal product of minimum wage workers.

On “Love Will Win

That actually never occurred to me, since I'm not quite old enough to remember him from the radio and my first exposure was via a Rick roll. For a while I thought Rick Roll was actually his name.

Aside from her voice, Tennille really sounds like a black name. I just checked Wikipedia and it's actually her last name.

Also, the Captain, whose real name was Daryl Dragon, died this January :(. I feel like that's a cool enough name that a nickname was entirely superfluous. They could have given her a nickname and been Dragon and the Princess!


Wait....Tennille is white?

On “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Voice of Reason

Yes, court-packing is technically legal, but it's an exploitation of a clear loophole that would have effectively neutralized a key Constitutional check on the power of the President and Congress. And the reason Roosevelt wanted to do it was to install cronies who would turn a blind eye to him and Congress passing laws that they were not legally allowed to do.

That aside, you seem to have lost the thread of conversation. The things Chip mentioned were also legal. Here's his description of the general phenomenon:

What about 40% of the country wants is a politicized judiciary, which has as its primary function to implement the political program of the party.

The Roosevelt administration was a textbook case of this. He decided that the Court's refusal to rubber stamp the unconstitutional laws passed by Congress and signed into law by him was proof of its illegitimacy, and wanted to add additional justices until he got one that recognized that its primary function was not to uphold the Constitution, but to implement the political program of the Democratic Party.

On “Actually, the Film Was Better Than These Books

On the topic of cliches about movie adaptations, I'm getting tired of claims of childhoods having been ruined by adaptations/reboots. Films do not actually violate the laws of causality. The original versions still exist.

On “Bernie Sanders vs Bernie Sanders for President 2020

To be fair, he's reducing their hours without cutting their pay. From the staffers' perspective, it may not be what they wanted most, but getting the same amount of money for less work is a clear win.

That said, this is clear evidence that the demand curve for labor does in fact slope downwards, even below $15/hour, which obviously is not a fact to which Sanders would like to have the nation's attention drawn.

As with Trump, there are so many legitimate and damning criticisms to be made of Sanders that there's really no need for cheap shots.

On “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Voice of Reason

It stretches back a lot further than that. Recall that the original court-packing scheme was part of the temper tantrum Roosevelt threw when the Supreme Court insisted in noticing the Constitutional problems with his policies.

And long before that, Jackson proclaimed, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."

Don't pretend this is a game only one side plays.

*Comment archive for non-registered commenters assembled by email address as provided.