What I’ve been reading

1. Josh Rosenblatt, Why We Fight: One Man’s Search for Meaning Inside the Ring.  An actual conceptual phenomenology of fighting, there should be more books like this about more different topics.  Think of the model “X is actually like this.”  Recommended.

2. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, State Capture: How Conservative Activists, Big Businesses, and Wealthy Donors Reshaped the American States — and the Nation.  A serious and scholarly book, rather than the kind of hysterical falsehoods we’ve come to expect on such topics.

3. Peter Doggett, Are You Ready for the Country? Elvis, Dylan, Parsons and the roots of country rock.  Five hundred pages of text, and consistently interesting throughout, at least if you care about the topic.  Otherwise not.  I have pre-ordered the author’s forthcoming biography of CSNY.

4. Tony Spawforth, The Story of Greece and Rome.  Highly readable and useful, not comprehensive on say the economics side but a fresh look and what we know and do not know and how the various pieces fit together.


2 - Why would anyone read it? The title says all you need to know, evil conservative businesses and individuals have used their wealth to pervert US politics. I would bet that the left is either ignored or presented as decent donors trying to do the right thing not trying to impose their agenda on the US. Funny how for all it's supposed wealth the conservatives appear to be losing big time. Trump is not a conservative.

You are correct that its not really news.

The summary says it all in the firrst paragraph:

"Most Americans pay little attention to the massive number of elections that occur at the state level every year. Yet cumulatively, a party's success in state-level races across the country can produce major shifts in policymaking and governance. That is precisely what has happened in the US since 2010. In a wave election that year, the Republican Party began their ascendancy in state-level elections, and by 2016 had solidified their dominance. The party now fully controls 25 state legislatures and governorships-one of the largest advantages either party has had since the New Deal."

I think conservatives got civics eliminated from public school education or something. Every two years, at least 400,000 elected offices are filled in the US. When there were thousands of newspapers, perhaps 4000 of these elections would get coverage as proxies for local party positions on local and State matters.

Today, few read local newspapers, and radio and TV locally cover maybe 50 elections in even minor detail, so its rare to people to think of more than 50 elections of any consequence. Out of 400,000 elections.

The summary continued to note the effort began in earnest in the 70s.

When it seems civics was removed from public education with no debate.
Note, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor brought this to my, our, attention in the 90s. As Senior Justice, she started iCivics.org in 2009, retiring from that effort this past fall.

Jefferson's warning is certainly relevant, which the Justice also referenced.

Trump is a conservative. He calls himself a 'commonsense conservative.' Americans who call themselves conservative love the guy as does Fox News. He appointed conservative judges, passed tax cuts for the rich, and opposed Obamacare. He behaves like most conservatives who reach the White House, that is he can't get spending under control and blows the debt sky high.

Me too!

I love you, man.

The problem is spending not taxes receipts, which are at record highs.

The most recent conservative who reached the White House was Reagan. A mistake made by Reagan was not vetoing the ruinous 1986 Immigration (amnesty) Law, which is being resurrected by the left.

You forgot: stopped IRS enforcing (a tax cut for working people) ACA individual mandate; defeated ISIS - regardless of what the Orwellian (think 1984) intel state says; reduced regulations; lowered corporate and individual income tax rates; decreased unemployment to low for 50 years; raised wages; accelerated GDP growth; achieved soaring stock and housing prices (third fastest rise in house prices in US History); moved to end constant wars;, actually negotiated denuclearization of NK; ended horrid Iran nuke deal, etc.

Fun spending fact: the Obamacare web site cost the endangered species/taxpayer more than the $5.7 billion President Donald J. Trump wants for The Wall.

Progressives need open borders and to import 12 to 25 million illegals voting because Americans won't vote that bull shit no more. "White Nationalism!"

Build the Wall.

Trump 2020.

"achieved soaring stock and housing prices (third fastest rise in house prices in US History)"


"Tax cuts for the rich". As soon as you say that you show all your cards. I actually favor tax for everyone. Everyone over the age of 18 should pay taxes, at least 10% of their income regardless of the source of that income. Then and only then will tax cuts be across the board.

One wonders when a lefty spews that "tax cuts for the rich" lie if they understand that the lower 50% of the income don't pay any federal income taxes.

"Trump is not a conservative."
Only if Stalin was not a Communist. Conservatives seem pretty happy following Trump and making ezcuses for him.

@Renan - not clear what you mean, was Stalin a communist? Capitalists like me would argue yes, while communists would argue no. Trump did one thing right IMO: he doubled the minimum estate needed before taxation from $5M in 2016 to $11M in 2017. Very welcome for people like me and others in the USA 1% in net worth, where the minimum starts at about $10M.

Bonus trivia: as late as 2003, the federal estate tax minimum exception was a mere $1M, with a 50% tax rate above that limit! Wow, even a single paid-off house in northern Virginia is worth more than that. Outrageous and counter-productive to soak the rich that way, agree? Hello? Anybody besides me, Raymond and D the B have money here?

As I've heard it said, the only thing Old Money hates more than New Money is New Old Money; hence, the estate tax.

Similarly, the income tax isn't a tax on being rich; it's a tax on getting rich.

Yeah, that's a disaster. Estate tax is literally a tax on unearned wealth. There's a much better case for lowering income taxes than there is for the estate tax. Sad that Trump, Ryan, and McConnell did this.

You can't earn the right to give your kids your stuff?

Your kids need more than $23 mil + whatever leverage a good attorney can do to make it multiples more? And that's just tax free. If Warren Buffett weren't giving most of his money away he could give his kids $50 billion with a b even after paying the tax (or rather his kids paying it)

Estate taxes set at a high level like they are now make perfect sense. They limit dynastic wealth. They encourage charity. They allow for the people who are smart enough to make the money to enjoy it, not the dumb trust fund kids.

What is the hobgoblin of "dynastic wealth?" If Warren Buffett is worth $50B, and after his death five people are worth $10B each, what am I supposed to be worried about?

2. Well, just in time for the Koch network to announce its split from the Republican Party and a less political agenda. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/at-koch-gathering-a-turn-away-from-partisan-politics/2019/01/28/5fcf3dac-22a2-11e9-90cd-dedb0c92dc17_story.html Kumbaya! A cynic might observe that the Koch network won the political war so what's the point of continuing it. My observation is that Charles Koch and his now retired brother David didn't build an extremely successful company by being stupid. What Charles Koch knows is that today's Republican Party under Trump risks the business that the Koch brothers have built. Sure, the Koch brothers helped create the beast, but Charles Koch recognizes that the beast could turn on him and destroy his business. Does this mean that the Koch network will support government programs that would help the lower and middle class? Not on your life.

#2 - note from the Amazon preview state legislators only average about $23k/yr in salary, when they are paid at all, not enough (cue Singapore's philosophy about pol corruption) and thus susceptible to a conservative state legislature lobbying group like ALEC, which offers free policy advice and pre-written bills ( bills are hard to write in legalese, which some state legislators lack). Note also however that Enron failed to pass their pro-energy trading bill in pro-environmentalist Oregon, showing even lobbying has its limits, and is countered by counter-lobbying.

#4 - there's a limited amount of primary source material on ancient Greece and Rome, so the interpretation of this material is the 'value-add'. I bet a specialist on classical humanities like Mary Beard would find this book boring.

Bonus trivia: is it right to put away Enron's Jeff Skilling for nearly life in jail, and MCI/Worldcom's "Bernie" Ebbers (actually a Canadian, lol, pretending to be a southern good ole boy)? I think not, considering that in Europe a first-time murderer gets only 7 years in jail, and in the US it's not that much longer, that the principle of 'caveat emptor' should apply in stock sales (greed fueled these stocks) and to a degree the US Sup Ct agreed with Skilling, who nevertheless spent 13 years out of the 24 years in prison and was released last year.

Note this, which Skilling learned from Harvard Business school: (Wikipedia): "Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene was Skilling's favorite book and served as the foundation of his managerial philosophy.[11] Skilling held, by his own interpretation, a Darwinian view of what makes the world work. He believed that money and fear were the only things that motivated people. He set up the performance review committee (PRC) in which employees were graded from 1 to 5, 5 being lowest. Fifteen percent of people had to be graded five, regardless of absolute performance. Those were given two weeks to try to find another job at Enron or be fired. The scheme came to be known as "rank and yank". Skilling said "The PRC process is the most important process we conduct as a company".[40] (This process is similar to the grading system in place at Harvard Business School while Skilling was a student there. In each class, instructors were required to grade 15% of the students with either of the two lowest grades available – "Low Pass" or "Fail".) "

2. While gerrymandering Congressional districts is somewhat of a problem, gerrymandering state legislative districts has made a mockery of democracy in many states. Conservative groups such as the Koch network realized that it's much easier to control state legislative elections than Congressional elections and devoted their resources accordingly. There was no comparable effort from the other side. That's meant as a compliment to Charles and David Koch. But it's also an acknowledgment that money can greatly influence elections. I don't believe that's what the founders and framers had in mind, but unlike the late Justice Scalia, I wasn't there.

>There was no comparable effort from the other side.

Up yours, there wasn't. MA is Dem-gerrymandered to oblivion.

You are a lying sack, rayward.



Governor Elbrigde Gerry is credited with the term gerrymandering, but that was a very lone time ago. Today, Massachusetts is not a state with a high degree of gerrymandering; it doesn't have to be since registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans three to one. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-maps/massachusetts/

Which is why it is properly pronounced Gerry- rather than the popular Jerry-

Illinois legislators are part-time and get paid a base salary of $67,836, plus a $111 per diem for each day in session. Yet, they couldn't pass a budget for 793 days. Perhaps if they were paid less, the incentives to get back to their regular job would have resolve matters much quicker.

And Illinois corruption is almost always about power, not money.

“#4 - there's a limited amount of primary source material on ancient Greece and Rome, so the interpretation of this material is the 'value-add'. I bet a specialist on classical humanities like Mary Beard would find this book boring.“

Sometimes you are sloppy as hell Ray Lopez. Tony Spaworth is a most serious scholar and academic. Like Beard, he’s a presenter for the masses (BBC), His book is a pleasure to read. But unlike — at times — Beard, he doesn’t make it all about himself. Reading it now I can’t believe how much information he imparts and how much he’s synthesizing, plus the little comments he throws in adds greatly to the reading pleasure. His judgments are presented as such but they are sound. Great book.

OT: Your interest in rayward’s contributions is odd. He’s just a “needler” (provocateur) with a lot of time on his hands.

@God of Thunder - I see you have a keen interest in this field, and I'll look into Spaworth's work. As for trolls, I think everybody here is one...

This too will pass, but it will take a while. Conservatives can't get straight on the political economy until Trump is put down the memory hole.

Until then, what? Hide in the intellectual dark web? I sense that many are tempted. Beats taking responsibility.

Just downloaded the Spawforth book, and it's good, but the author is not against calling attention to himself a bit: "At my school we studied for the exam in Ancient Greek the Agamemnon of Aeschylus. At that age I didn’t particularly relish this high-minded and deeply moral tragedy about the relentless exaction by the gods of ‘debts of justice’ owed by sinning mortals, be they ever so high and mighty. Now I recognize its grandeur."

"but the author is not against calling attention to himself a bit"

Reminds me of a poster here with a name reminiscent of a chess opening.

Says the food allergy hockey freak who belittles others to bring itself up. How much you worth, msgkings?

More than you, less than your parents

That’s a great sentence by Spaworth!

Thank you Tyler for taking time so consistently to share your thoughts beyond academia!

#4 related: Mr Cowen I highly recommend Domina: The Women Who Made Imperial Rome by Guy de la Bédoyère

Seconded. Anything by Guy de la Bédoyère is worth reading. I will look for this now. Thanks.

#1. TC is a fan of boxing and other ways people intentionally injure one another. I suppose he'll next recommend books subtitled: "female genital mutilation, our cultural legacy" and "sex work, why it's natural." In the case of boxing, the laws should be similar to those he supports on marijuana: decriminalize the users, but keep distribution illegal. (Competent) Individuals should have the right to do irreparable self-harm (even by proxy) but no one (else) should make money on it.

Tyler once shot a man just to watch him die.

#1 and books like it are so dull. "One man's search for a book deal inside the ring." Who cares, you're not actually a fighter.

He's just taking a cue from that old lady who blew the 2016 election, I forget her name.

"If you can't win, write a book about losing."

And so old hat - George Plimpton comes to mind in this regard. But maybe Prof. Cowen isn't interested in "participatory journalism" - which in Plimpton's case included competing in professional sporting events, acting in a Western, performing a comedy act at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and playing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and then recording the experience from the point of view of an amateur.

I actually read this one and thoroughly enjoyed it - it's a great history of fighting and combat sports, told through his own personal lens. He's certainly not a professional fighter, but his story speaks to the hundreds of thousands of amateur fighters. If he got a book deal out of it, so what? Isn't that the goal of writing, to get a book deal or to pitch a story to an editor that gets published?

I think the holy grail of writing is to see your book -- or even just a magazine piece -- draw movie offers. Bonus points if someone attractive will be playing you.

What makes one a fighter?

I did SCA rattan combat for a long time. Got injured pretty badly, and kept fighting. I only quit because my job has me traveling too much (and TSA does NOT like armor). Do I qualify?

I think perhaps you're not the audience here. Folks like me are. I'd be interested to see why he chose to fight, why he chose the martial art he did, and the technical details of the martial art training/sparring/lifestyle (and it IS a lifestyle--the joke is the SCA is that if one spouse is a member, both need to be).

I have a similar book in paleontology. It's a list of stories from British paleontologists about their (mis)adventures in field work. It'd be boring as sin to anyone outside the field--it includes a lot of lithology and anatomy--but as someone with my share of "field work gone wrong" stories, it's really interesting.

State Capture: How Book Titles Got So Long You Barely Need to Read the Damn Book.

I can see Orwell walking into a publishing house today. "1984? Meh, needs some work if we're gonna get you on Fox & Friends, Georgie -- How about " 'Sixteen Years Until 2000: Or How I Learned to Love Big Brother and Come to See That War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Bliss.' "

Well, many of the books are also getting longer.

Shouldn't a thousand-plus-pager get a longer title? Assuming the author actually needed those thousand-plus pages to say what the author wished to say.

It's just history repeating. In the 1700s/1800s long titles were common. "On the Origin of the Species" isn't the full title, for example--the full title is "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life".

Some say Trump is conservative, some say not ..

Because the presidency is the foremost prize of American politics, the president is also normally the nation's principal political leader and regarded as the leader of his political party. The president's skills in that task influence the success of the president's party in electing members of Congress and holders of state and local offices.

The president chooses the chairperson of the party's national committee and oversees the national committee and the national party bureaucracy. The president seeks to win and maintain the support of state and local party organizations, which in turn can aid in obtaining congressional enactment of the president's programs.

You may recall for instance that until recently Michael Cohen was national deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

If Trump leads the Party, and if the Party defines conservatism in the US, then Trump isn't just a conservative, he is the current definition, the model, the template.

Which might explain why Trump fans are reduced to shitposting trolls. They have nothing better, and that is after all, how Trump himself spends his days.

2. The man's 'scholarly' interests are okupier talking points. ("Koch Brothers", "ALEC", blah blah). It's a polemic with a bibliography. An inclination to write that sort of book lands you a spot at Columbia.

...and yet, overall, Republican states are in better shape and are better places to live than ones run in to the ground by Democrats. (I say this as someone who holds a very dim view of both conservatives and progressives.)

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