Apologies for missing last week, I left early on a quick camping trip up to Vermont and didn't have time to get the newsletter out. However, the video I was talking about some time ago is now finished. It's about how Lord of the Rings contains a vision of conservatism that is wholly absent from the American political scene, and why that absence has helped make Republicans so crazy. Enjoy!
First, Joe Manchin has voted for something like $9.1 trillion in defense spending over the last decade:
Manchin voted for every single one of the military budgets over the last decade — in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. He voted for all $9.1 trillion. While he occasionally complained about wasteful military programs and asked for an audit of the Pentagon, these quibbles were never enough to get him to vote differently. He helped inflate the already-bloated war budget and regularly boasted about thus "supporting" the troops. This year, he did it again.
Second, on the sucking political vacuum of Manchinema:
The remarkable thing about the key votes on this package — Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the latter of whom increasingly seems to be the most stubborn holdout — is how they refuse to say outright what they want. This is political "centrism" as a vacuous nullity, a lidless reptilian eye ever gazing into a lightless political tomb where no truth is spoken and nothing ever happens.
Third, some thoughts on the numerous conservative regional radio hosts who have died of Covid after refusing the vaccine:
The frankly disturbing fact is that a lot of the pressure to turn Republicans against the vaccine came from the base itself, even while ICUs were being stuffed full of unvaccinated conservative voters. When Hannity issued a mildly pro-vaccine statement one night, he was deluged with furious complaints and backtracked instantly. When Trump urged a rally to get their shots, he was booed. If there's one thing conservative media does, it's pander to their viewers' desires — because if they don't, they will quickly be out-pandered by a yet more insane media network.
Fourth, I discuss the brain-melting horror of what Ritchie Neal is doing to paid leave:
The small-mindedness and brazen transactionalism on display here is staggering. This is a once-in-a-decade chance to provide a modest benefit for all Americans. Thousands of activists and politicians have sunk years of effort into reaching this point. The FAMILY Act would remove one of America's many international humiliations and help cement Democrats' hold on power at a time when staving off Republican authoritarianism couldn't be more important.
Yet none of that matters in the face of a minor lobbying blitz from interested parties. They wanted $100 billion to do a much worse job, and, by God, Richie Neal is going to give it to them.
But when the price of a single product or service can vary by a factor of 10 or more depending on where and who you are, comparisons become pointless — if not actively misleading. If you can't get your hospital to cough up the price data it's legally required to provide, which is no small task, even a misleading comparision is impossible. The whole thing is a Kafkaesque nightmare from top to bottom. It reflects not economic "rationality" but a ruthless contest between insurers and providers to bleed the most money out of individuals, employers, and the government.
Over and over, it's the same story. Facebook is obsessively focused on ways to get people to spend more time on its services so it can sell more ads and make more money, and it basically doesn't care at all when the those strategies dissolve the social fabric or fuel a genocide. Throughout the Journal articles it is clear that the company brass is far more worried about avoiding negative publicity and appearing to be concerned about these problems than actually doing anything to solve them, because that would harm its bottom line.
Leaving Africa unvaccinated is insane even on self-interested grounds:
If there was ever a case where massive humanitarian aid was unambiguously the right move, it is here. Whether you are a socialist, capitalist, liberal, conservative, or just a plain old selfish cynic, vaccinating Africa is very obviously the right move. The relative pittance it would cost would pay for itself in a matter of weeks — and per the IMF analysis, create another $1 trillion in tax revenue in rich countries over the medium term. Heck, Jeff Bezos could finance it out of pocket by himself and still be the fourth-richest person in the world. Yet as historian Adam Tooze writes at The New York Times, "none of the members of the Group of 20 have stepped up, not Europe, not the United States, not even China. Billions of people will be forced to wait until 2023 to receive even their first shot."
Finally, the case against gas stoves:
The most convincing argument against gas stoves is straightforward: They poison the air in your home. Burning natural gas or propane creates nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and particulate pollution. In unventilated spaces especially, this can lead to vastly greater concentrations of these toxic chemicals — up to 100 times the outdoor level, as shown in a literature review from the Rocky Mountain Institute — which are a risk factor in asthma, heart disease or other cardiovascular problems, and other illness, particularly for children.
See you next week!