Presty the DJ for Jan. 26

The number one single in Great Britain today in 1961 included a Shakespearean reference:

Eight years later came the live version …

… which included, instead of “Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there,” Presley’s impromptu “Do you gaze at your bald head and wish you had hair.” Which prompted a front-row concertgoer to remove his toupee and start swaying to the music.

Then backup singer Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney and aunt of Dionne Warwick, cracked up Presley further with singing what she was supposed to sing. Afterward Presley said, “Fourteen years down the drain right there.”

Five years after Presley’s death, the live version reached Britain’s top 30.

The number one single today in 1965 included Jimmy Page, later of Led Zeppelin, on guitar:

Today in 1970, John Lennon wrote, recorded and mixed a song all in one day, which may have made it an instant song:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Jan. 26”

I say, what’s on the telly?

The Decades channel apparently carries old TV, which remains increasingly popular the farther away we get from those old shows’ original broadcast dates.

That includes shows that weren’t produced in the U.S. (Or North America, given how often Toronto and Vancouver substituted for U.S. locations in the 1980s, apparently a tax thing.)

Decades lists several British TV shows that came here in the ’60s, including a few I watched. Unlike the many British shows that showed up on PBS, including “Upstairs Downstairs,” these showed up on CBS, NBC and ABC.

The British Invasion went beyond the Beatles and Herman’s Hermits, beyond music in fact. Perhaps more so than any other time, the 1960s saw Americans devouring British pop culture, from Mary Quant’s miniskirts to Mary Poppins. James Bond was the king of the big screen and MG advertised its cars in magazines.

Naturally, this carried over to television. The spy craze led to an influx of British television productions on American networks. Here were shows produced in the U.K. on the Big Three networks in primetime. Often, the imports were plugged in as summer replacements. Some of these shows were so massive — or used American actors — it’s easy to forget they were English.

Here are nine British shows with their American network and year of U.S. premiere. They were all action series. No comedies made it over the pond to network primetime, because some things just don’t translate culturally, despite the fad. In fact, the only thing that didn’t seem to click with 1960s Americans (at first) was Monty Python. The comedy troupe’s Flying Circus premiered on the BBC in 1969, but would not turn up on PBS for half a decade.

The Avengers

ABC, 1966

Though it now struggles against Marvel blockbusters in Google searches, the Avengers were once popular enough to merit its own (and admittedly regretful) cinematic remake in 1998. The sexy, tough Emma Peel and the posh John Steed made for a perfect pair, first appearing together in the fourth season in 1965. ABC paid a handsome $2 million for 26 episodes in 1966, affording the series high production values.

I actually watched the decade-later sequel, “The New Avengers,” before the original. Both were on CBS after the 10 p.m. news before David Letterman left NBC.

The Baron

ABC, 1966

Novelist John Creasey cranked out hundreds of books, page-turning adventures with characters like Gideon of Scotland Yard and the Baron. The latter earned a television adaptation with American actor Steve Forrest in the title role as John Mannering, an antiques dealer and undercover agent. Filmed in the U.K., the dialogue was overdubbed to change terms like “petrol” to “gas,” etc. Like any good agent, Mannering had an enviable car, a Jensen CV-8 Mk II.

The Champions

NBC, 1968

Why did the title have to cover up Alexandra Bastedo’s face in the opening? (Not to mention the other two.) The stunning blond would at least get to show her features on the cover of a Smiths album in 1988. Bastedo, Stuart Damon and William Gaunt starred as a trio of agents for Nemesis, a United Nations intelligence agency based in Geneva. The three trotted across the globe, taking down Nazis and madmen.

Journey to the Unknown

ABC, 1968

Iconic horror house Hammer Film Productions Ltd. turned out this deliciously dark anthology series that featured American stars such as George Maharis and Patty Duke. In the episode “The Last Visitor,” Duke plays a woman stalked at a resort. It fits nicely alongside series like Thriller and Night Gallery.

Man in a Suitcase

ABC, 1968

When Patrick McGoohan jumped from Danger Man (a.k.a. Secret Agent) to The Prisoner, much of the Danger Man crew shifted to this espionage thriller. Like The BaronMan in a Suitcase featured an American actor in the lead. Unlike the jet-setting spies of the era, this show’s hero, McGill, was pushed into the shadows, a disgraced CIA agent forced to resign and take work where he could find it. With its gray morality and increased violence, this Man was ahead of his time.

The Prisoner

CBS, 1968

The brilliant blend of spy thriller and science-fiction became a cultural touchstone despite lasting a mere 17 episodes. The premise — an agent being held on a mysterious resort island — has been repeated, parodied and referenced countless times over the last half-century. Some fans theorized that McGoohan’s character, No. 6, was in fact his earlier character John Drake of Secret Agent/Danger Man. The actor denied it, yet the debate rages on. It is fascinating to view The Prisoner as a Secret Agent sequel.

The Saint

NBC, 1967

Before Roger Moore slurped his shaken martinis as James Bond, he was another dapper secret agent, Simon Templar. The adventures were based on the Templar novels originally written by Leslie Charteris in the 1920s and ’30s. In the early black and white episodes, Moore breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience, though the gimmick was given up when the series went color. In 1997, Val Kilmer starred in a Hollywood remake.

“The Saint” also had a decade-later sequel.

Secret Agent

CBS, 1965

Sing along now: “Secret… AY-gent Man! Secret… AY-gent Man!” The twangy Johnny Rivers theme song helped popularize this American retitling of Danger Man, and the tune was later covered by Devo and stuck in the first Austin Powers movie. But this was far more than a catchy song, with McGoohan’s John Drake taking on realistic Cold War threats.


Syndicated, 1968

Puppet action! Just how popular were these marionettes? In 2015, Amazon Prime launched a new Thunderbirds Are Go series, though sadly it was computer animated, not controlled by strings. The inventive creation of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson was the Voltron for 1960s kids, mixing the family dynamics of Lost in Space with the low-budget thrills of playing make-believe with dolls. There was some serious special effects talent at work here. Effects director Derek Meddings went on to work on James Bond and Superman films. Miniature models beat CGI every time.

“Thunderbirds” was preceded by …

… both of which were on TVs all over the U.S. in the 1970s.

There were other series that didn’t make it over here, either because they wouldn’t translate well (or were already here in a different form) …

… or because Americans couldn’t understand the thicker British accents:

PBS viewers got to see “Inspector Morse” …

… who looks an awful like DI Jack Regan of “The Sweeney.” In a neat touch, the sequel put Morse’s young partner in a series of his own …

… with a young partner of his own.

Happiness, and not

Last year I was at work when a woman walked into the office and wanted to talk to me about the Gross National Happiness project.

At the time, I wrote that it looked to me like an effort to make that which is subjective and personal objective and societal. It was certainly communitarian as well, something I don’t buy in a country founded on individual freedom.

Dennis Prager tackles the subject:

Here are some unhappy statistics:

— In America between 1946 and 2006, the suicide rate quadrupled for males ages 15 to 24 and doubled for females the same age.

— In 1950, the suicide rate per 100,000 Americans was 11.4. In 2017, it was 14.

— According to Grant Duwe, director of research and evaluation at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, in the 1980s, there were 32 mass public shootings (which he defines as incidents in which four or more people are killed publicly with guns within 24 hours). In the 1990s, there were 42. In the first decade of this century, there were 28. In all the 1950s, when there were fewer controls on guns, there was one. Fifty years before that, in the 1900s, there were none.

— Reuters Health reported in 2019, “Suicidal thinking, severe depression and rates of self-injury among U.S. college students more than doubled over less than a decade, a nationwide study suggests.” The study co-author Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, said, “It suggests that something is seriously wrong in the lives of young people.”

This data is not only applicable to Americans. As social commentator Kay Hymowitz wrote in City Journal in 2019: “Loneliness, public-health experts tell us, is killing as many people as obesity and smoking. … Germans are lonely, the bon vivant French are lonely, and even the Scandinavians — the happiest people in the world, according to the UN’s World Happiness Report — are lonely, too. British prime minister Theresa May recently appointed a ‘Minister of Loneliness.’ … consider Japan, a country now in the throes of an epidemic of kodokushi, roughly translated as ‘lonely deaths.’ Local Japanese papers regularly publish stories about kinless elderly whose deaths go unnoticed until the telltale smell of maggot-eaten flesh alerts neighbors.”

Though people have more money, better health care, better health, better housing and more education, and live longer than at any time in history, they — especially young people — are unhappier than at any time since data collection began.

Why has this happened?

There are any number of reasons. Increased use of illicit drugs and prescription drug abuse, and less human interaction because of constant cellphone use are two widely offered, valid explanations. Less valid explanations include competition, grades anxiety, capitalism and income inequality. And then there are young people’s fears that because of global warming, they have a bleak, and perhaps no, future.

But the biggest reason may be the almost-complete loss of values and meaning over the last half-century.

Let’s begin with values.

America — and much of the rest of the West, but I will confine my discussion to America — was founded on two sets of values: Judeo-Christian and American. This combination created the freest, most opportunity-giving, most affluent country in world history. This is not chauvinism. It is fact. And it was regarded as such throughout the world. That is why France gave America — and only America — the Statue of Liberty. That’s why people from every country on Earth so wanted to immigrate to America — and still do.

Chief among American values was keeping government as small as possible. This enabled nongovernmental institutions — Kiwanis International, Rotary International and Lions Clubs International; book clubs; the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; bowling leagues; music societies; and, of course, churches — to provide Americans with friends and to provide the neediest Americans with help. But as government has gotten ever larger, many of these nongovernmental groups have dwindled in number or simply disappeared.

Another set of values is what is referred to as “middle-class” or “bourgeois” values. These include getting married before one has a child; making a family; getting a job so as to be self-sustaining and sustain one’s family; self-discipline; delayed gratification; and patriotism.

All of these have been under attack by America’s elites, with the following results:

One in 5 young Americans has no contact with his or her father (not including fathers who have died).

In 2011, 72% of black children were born to unmarried mothers. In 1965, it was 24%. In 2012, 29% of white children were born to unmarried women. In 1965, it was 3.1%.

The majority of births to millennials are to unmarried women. Yet, according to a 2018 Cigna study, single parents are generally the loneliest Americans.

Marriage and family are the single greatest sources of happiness for most people. Yet, the percentage of American adults who have never been married is at a historic high. More Americans than ever will not get married, or they will marry so late they will not have children. In 1960, 9% of blacks ages 25 and older had never been married. In 2012, it was nearly 40%.

And I haven’t even mentioned the biggest problem: the loss of meaning in young people’s lives.

Which Prager intends to address in his next writing.

All of what Prager asserts is despite, or maybe because of, what Marian L. Tupy writes:

Judging by a 2016 poll of close to 20,000 people in some of the world’s richest countries, you could barely overstate the extent of the gloominess.  In response to the question “All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better nor worse?”,  just 10 per cent in Sweden, 6 per cent in the US, 4 per cent in Germany and 3 per cent in France thought things were getting better. Why? Because, it turns out, we are pessimists by nature.

Over the last 200 years or so, the world has experienced previously unimaginable improvements in standards of living. The process of rapid economic growth started in Europe and America, but today some of the world’s fastest growing countries can be found in Asia and Africa – lifting billions of people from absolute poverty. Historical evidence, therefore, makes a potent case for optimism. Yet, pessimism is everywhere. As the British author Matt Ridley noted in The Rational Optimist:

The bookshops are groaning under ziggurats of pessimism. The airwaves are crammed with doom. In my own adult lifetime, I have listened to the implacable predictions of growing poverty, coming famines, expanding deserts, imminent plagues, impending water wars, inevitable oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, mad-cow epidemics, Y2K computer bugs, killer bees, sex-change fish, global warming, ocean acidification and even asteroid impacts that would presently bring this happy interlude to a terrible end. I cannot recall a time when one or other of these scares was not solemnly espoused by sober, distinguished and serious elites and hysterically echoed by the media. I cannot recall a time when I was not being urged by somebody that the world could only survive if it abandoned the foolish goal of economic growth. The fashionable reason for pessimism changed, but the pessimism was constant. In the 1960s the population explosion and global famine were top of the charts, in the 1970s the exhaustion of resources, in the 1980s acid rain, in the 1990s pandemics, in the 2000s global warming. One by one these scares came and (all but the last) went.

Ridley raises a more specific point that general pessimism: Why are we as a species so willing to believe in doomsday scenarios that virtually never materialise?

The Chairman of the X Prize Foundation, Peter H. Diamandis, offers one plausible explanation. Human beings are constantly bombarded with information. Because our brains have a limited computing power, they have to separate what is important, such as a lion running toward us, from what is mundane, such as a bed of flowers. Because survival is more important than all other considerations, most information enters our brains through the amygdala – a part of the brain that is “responsible for primal emotions like rage, hate and fear.” Information relating to those primal emotions gets our attention first because the amygdala “is always looking for something to fear.” Our species, in other words, has evolved to prioritise bad news.

The Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker has noted that the nature of cognition and nature of news interact in ways that make us think that the world is worse than it really is. News, after all, is about things that happen. Things that did not happen go unreported. As Pinker points out, we “never see a reporter saying to the camera, ‘Here we are, live from a country where a war has not broken out.’” Newspapers and other media, in other words, tend to focus on the negative. As the old journalistic addage goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

To make matters worse, the arrival of social media makes bad news immediate and more intimate. Until relatively recently, most people knew very little about the countless wars, plagues, famines and natural catastrophes happening in distant parts of the world. Contrast that with the 2011 Japanese tsunami disaster, which people throughout the world watched unfold in real time on their smart phones.

The human brain also tends to overestimate danger due to what psychologists call “the availability heuristic” or a process of estimating the probability of an event based on the ease with which relevant instances come to mind. Unfortunately, human memory recalls events for reasons other than their rate of recurrence. When an event turns up because it is traumatic, the human brain will overestimate how likely it is to reoccur.

Consider our fear of terror. According to John Mueller, a political scientist from the Ohio State University, “In the years since 9/11, Islamist terrorists have managed to kill about seven people a year within the United States. All those deaths are tragic of course, but some comparisons are warranted: lightning kills about 46 people a year, accident-causing deer another 150, and drownings in bathtubs around 300.” Yet, Americans continue to fear terror much more than drowning in a bathtub.

Moreover, as Pinker also points out, the psychological effects of bad things tend to outweigh those of the good ones. Ask yourself, how much happier can you imagine yourself feeling? And again, how much more miserable can you imagine yourself to feel? The answer to the latter question is: infinitely. Psychological literature shows that people fear losses more than they look forward to gains; dwell on setbacks more than relishing successes; resent criticism more than being encouraged by praise. Bad, in other words, is stronger than good.

Finally, good and bad things tend to happen on different timelines. Bad things, such as plane crashes, can happen quickly. Good things, such as the strides humanity has made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tend to happen incrementally and over a long period of time. As Kevin Kelly from Wired has put it, “Ever since the Enlightenment and the invention of Science, we’ve managed to create a tiny bit more than we’ve destroyed each year. But that few percent positive difference is compounded over decades in to what we might call civilisation … [Progress] is a self-cloaking action seen only in retrospect.”

In other words, humanity suffers from a negativity bias or “vigilance for bad things around us.” Consequently, there is a market for purveyors of bad news, be they doomsayers who claim that overpopulation will cause mass starvation, or scaremongers who claim that we are running out of natural resources.

Politicians, too, have realised that banging on about “crises” increases their power and can get them re-elected. It may also lead to prestigious prizes and lucrative speaking engagements. Thus politicians on both Left and Right play on our fears – whether it is a worry that crime is caused by playing violent computer games or that health maladies supposedly caused by the consumption of genetically modified foods.

The negativity bias is deeply ingrained in our brains. It cannot be wished away. The best that we can do is to realise that we are suffering from it.

One reason I am somewhat skeptical about these two points of view is the reality of American life when our ancestors arrived from other countries. Unless your family became Americans after World War II, your ancestors’ lives were a daily struggle for survival. Those of you reading this are descended from people who survived infections before antibiotics, fatal illnesses without hope of treatment, commonplace workplace accidents, commonplace accidents of other sorts, unsafe-by-today’s-standards vehicles and roads, and two world wars. They were also people who, at least before the next generation was born, didn’t answer unfortunate events or despair with suicide.

(Personal example: My mother got very seriously ill with pneumonia as a child during the very early days of antibiotics. Also before I was born, my father almost died in a car crash when the car he was in was hit by a drunk driver. I have an older brother who died at 23 months old of a brain tumor, something that wasn’t found until after his death. Our existence is more tenuous than you might think.)

I highly doubt anyone trying to survive in a strange land spent much time pondering whether or not they were happy. That is a curse of sorts of prosperity, given that today we don’t have to hunt for or gather that day’s food, among other improvements of today.

This could be called “affluenza,” or “First World problems” — the idea that the world is supposed to make us happy. The Founding Fathers specified in the Declaration of Independence our “inalienable rights” including the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” which, again, is obviously an individual, not collective, thing.

Whether or not there is a political cause, it seems logical that the fading of religion in our culture is tied to an increase in societal malaise. Among other things, religion teaches gratitude for what we have (except for those who preach the irreligious “prosperity Gospel”) and thinking of and serving others.

Religion has been replaced in some areas by politics, which is a guarantee of unhappiness, because (1) there are winners and losers, and everyone will lose at some point, (2) no one ever has as much power as they want, and (3) no one can accomplish as much as they want.

I’m not sure whose fault it is (probably parents and schools at minimum), but ultimately whether we are happy or not is our own responsibility and no one else’s. Consider how many big lottery winners turn out to have unhappy lives after they win. The fact that all of their money troubles are answered (until the money runs out) doesn’t mean that all their troubles are answered. In contrast, think about people you know who either have very little in terms of wealth or material possessions, or have horrible personal tragedies, and yet press on with their lives.


Presty the DJ for Jan. 24

The number one British single today in 1958 was the first in British chart history to start at the top:

Today in 1969, New Jersey authorities told record stores they would be charged with pornography if they sold the John Lennon and Yoko Ono album “Two Virgins,” whose cover showed all you could possibly see of John and Yoko.

The number one album today in 1976 was Bob Dylan’s “Desire”:

The number one single today in 1976:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Jan. 24”

The corrupt phony moderate

Daniel J. Mitchell:

Given their overt statism, I’ve mostly focused on the misguided policies being advocated by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

But that doesn’t mean Joe Biden’s platform is reasonable or moderate.

Ezra Klein of Vox unabashedly states that the former Vice President’s policies are “far to Obama’s left.”

The rhetorical clash between “leftists” and “moderates” is obscuring the deeper truth: This is the most progressive Democratic primary in history, and even if, say, Biden won the nomination, he’d be running on a platform far to Obama’s left.

— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) December 20, 2019

This is an issue where folks on both ends of the spectrum agree.

In a column for the right-leaning American Spectator, George Neumayr also says Biden is not a moderate.

Biden likes to feed the mythology that he is still a moderate. …This is, after all, a pol who giddily whispered in Barack Obama’s ear that a massive government takeover of health care “was a big f—ing deal,”…and now pronouncing Obamacare only a baby step toward a more progressive future. It can’t be repeated enough that “Climate Change” Joe doesn’t give a damn about the ruinous consequences of extreme environmentalism for Rust Belt industries. His Climate Change plans read like something Al Gore might have scribbled to him in a note. …On issue after issue, Biden is taking hardline liberal stances. …“I have the most progressive record of anybody running.” …He is far more comfortable on the Ellen show than on the streets of Scranton. He has given up Amtrak for private jets, and, like his lobbyist brother and grifter son, has cashed in on his last name.

If you want policy details, the Wall Street Journal opined on his fiscal plan.

Mr. Biden has previously promised to spend $1.7 trillion over 10 years on a Green New Deal, $750 billion on health care, and $750 billion on higher education. To pay for it all, he’s set out $3.4 trillion in tax increases. This is more aggressive, for the record, than Hillary Clinton’s proposed tax increases in 2016, which totaled $1.4 trillion, per an analysis at the time from the left-of-center Tax Policy Center. In 2008 Barack Obama pledged to raise taxes on the rich while cutting them on net by $2.9 trillion. Twice as many tax increases as the last presidential nominee: That’s now the “moderate” Democratic position. …raising the top rate for residents of all states. …a huge increase on today’s top capital-gains rate of 23.8%… This would put rates on long-term capital gains at their highest since the 1970s. …Raise the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%. This would…vault the U.S. corporate rate back to near the top in the developed world. …the bottom line is big tax increases on people, capital and businesses. There’s nothing pro-growth in the mix.

And the ever-rigorous Peter Suderman of Reason wrote about Biden’s statist agenda.

Biden released a proposal to raise a slew of new taxes, mostly on corporations and high earners. He would increase tax rates on capital gains, increase the tax rate for households earning more than $510,000 annually, double the minimum tax rate for multinational corporations,impose a minimum tax on large companies whose tax filings don’t show them paying a certain percentage of their earnings, and undo many of the tax cuts included in the 2017 tax law. …as The New York Times reports, Biden’s proposed tax hikes are more than double what Hillary Clinton called for during the 2016 campaign. …Hillary Clinton…pushed the party gently to the left. Four years later, before the campaign is even over, the party’s supposed moderates are proposing double or even quadruple the new taxes she proposed.

The former Veep isn’t just a fan of higher taxes and more spending.

He also likes nanny-state policies.

Joe Biden says he is 100% in favor of banning plastic bags in the U.S. …let’s take a quick walk through the facts about single-use plastic bags at the retail level. …the plastic bags typically handed out by retailers make up only 0.6% of visible litter. Or put another way, for every 1,000 pieces of litter, only six are plastic bags. …They make up less than 1% of landfills by weight… 90% of the plastic bags found at sea streamed in from eight rivers in Asia and two in Africa. Only about 1% of all plastic in the ocean is from America. …Thicker plastic bags have to be used at least 11 times before they yield any environmental benefits. This is much longer than their typical lifespans. …Though it might seem almost innocuous, Biden’s support for a bag ban is symptom of a greater sickness in the Democratic Party. It craves unfettered political power.

Let’s not forget, by the way, that Biden (like most politicians in Washington) is corrupt.

Here are some excerpts from a Peter Schweizer column in the New York Post.

Political figures have long used their families to route power and benefits for their own self-enrichment. …one particular politician — Joe Biden — emerges as the king of the sweetheart deal, with no less than five family members benefiting from his largesse, favorable access and powerful position for commercial gain. …Joe Biden’s younger brother, James, has been an integral part of the family political machine…HillStone announced that James Biden would be joining the firm as an executive vice president. James appeared to have little or no background in housing construction, but…the firm was starting negotiations to win a massive contract in war-torn Iraq. Six months later, the firm announced a contract to build 100,000 homes. …A group of minority partners, including James Biden, stood to split about $735 million. …With the election of his father as vice president, Hunter Biden launched businesses fused to his father’s power that led him to lucrative deals with a rogue’s gallery of governments and oligarchs around the world. …Hunter’s involvement with an entity called Burnham Financial Group…Burnham became the center of a federal investigation involving a $60 million fraud scheme against one of the poorest Indian tribes in America, the Oglala Sioux. …the firm relied on his father’s name and political status as a means of both recruiting pension money into the scheme.

I only excerpted sections about Biden’s brother and son. You should read the entire article.

And even the left-leaning U.K.-based Guardian has the same perspective on Biden’s oleaginous behavior.

Biden has a big corruption problem and it makes him a weak candidate. …I can already hear the howls: But look at Trump! Trump is 1,000 times worse! You don’t need to convince me. …But here’s the thing: nominating a candidate like Biden will make it far more difficult to defeat Trump. It will allow Trump to muddy the water, to once again pretend he is the one “draining the swamp”, running against Washington culture. …With Biden, we are basically handing Trump a whataboutism playbook. …his record represents the transactional, grossly corrupt culture in Washington that long precedes Trump.

I’ll close by simply sharing some objective data about Biden’s voting behavior when he was a Senator.

According to the National Taxpayers Union, he finished his time on Capitol Hill with eleven-consecutive “F” scores (hey, at least he was consistent!).


And he also was the only Senator who got a lifetime rating of zero from the Club for Growth.


Though if you want to be generous, his lifetime rating was actually 0.025 percent.

Regardless, that was still worse than Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

So if Biden become President, it’s safe to assume that America will accelerate on the already-baked-in-the-cake road to Greece.

P.S. Of course, we’ll be on that path even if Biden doesn’t become President, so perhaps the moral of the story is to buy land in Australia.

Presty the DJ for Jan. 23

Today’s first item comes from the Stupid Laws File: Today in 1956, Ohio youths younger than 18 were banned from dancing in public unless accompanied by an adult, the result of enforcing a law that dated back to 1931.

The number one single today in 1965:

The number one British single today in 1971 was the first number one by a singer from his previous group:

Today in 1977, Patti Smith broke a vertebra after falling off the stage at her concert in Tampa, Fla.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Jan. 23”

Advice Democrats ignore

Jake Novak:

Now that we’re just [two] weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and the real start to the 2020 voting process, there are still three basic facts the Democrats need to accept if they hope to have any chance to win the White House.

If you are a Democrat reading this, I warn you that this isn’t going to be easy. But no pain, no gain. So here goes:

Trump didn’t steal the 2016 election

Let’s start with what is still the toughest pill to swallow for Democrats: Trump won the White House fair and square.

The two-plus years of laser focus and high hopes connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were the clearest examples that all too many Democrats believe the only reason Donald Trump is president is because the Russians somehow helped him cheat. Even the release of the Mueller Report showing no direct evidence of that hasn’t stopped this narrative from continuing to be promoted regularly.

But let’s face it, this is a very good way for the Democrats to lose to Trump again in 2020. Just like in sports, the worst way to overcome a loss in politics is to go around believing you didn’t “really” lose and no real improvements or changes need to be made by your team to win next time.

Now just imagine if the Democrats spent as much time and effort on winning back the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin as they have been in pursuing the Russia collusion obsession and the impeachment process. If the latest polls in those states tell us anything, those other efforts have only made things worse for the anti-Trump forces. It’s time to cut bait on the stolen election illusion.

The economy is doing well, even for the little guy

Whether they deserve it or not, Democrats have consistently been viewed by most American voters as the party that is more concerned with the poor and lower middle-income earners in this country. In many ways, that’s been a golden ticket to victory for Democrats in almost every major election. They only seem to mess it up when a Democratic administration presides over a worsening economy, (like under Jimmy Carter in 1980), or when Democratic candidates latch on to non-economic themes like social issues or foreign policy.

The problem for Democrats now is not only the fact that the overall economy and Wall Street are strong, but even Americans further down the income scale are now experiencing record wage gains. In fact, new data shows that the labor market has become so tight that rank-and-file workers are now getting bigger percentage raises than the bosses and top management.

But all is not lost for Democrats when it comes to economics, thanks to the sticky issue of health care. As health care insurance costs continue to rise, voters from both parties are still ranking health care very high on their list of top concerns going into 2020.

Some of the Democratic presidential candidates have made ‘Medicare for All’ a key part of their campaign promises. But compare that to the way then-candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton actively paraded their health coverage plans around in 2008, and you can see how no Democrat has really mined this issue properly this time around.

This issue is simply not going away, and any Democrat willing to offer an attention-grabbing new idea on lowering insurance costs stands to gain substantially in the polls. Of course, that opportunity is also still available for President Trump. So the Democrats don’t have any time to waste.

Stop denigrating the voters

Even mediocre students of American history should know that politics in this country have always been nasty. If you don’t believe that, do a little reading about the election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

But the nastiness has really only been effective when it’s directed at opposing candidates or parties. One of the rules just about every major American politician has followed is to never actually go after the opposing candidate’s or party’s voters. It’s an important distinction.

More and more these days, that rule is being broken and it’s mostly being broken by Democrats. The most egregious example from 2016 was Hillary Clinton’s description of Trump voters as a “basket of deplorables,” a term those Trump supporters have since taken on as a badge of honor.

But in another example of not learning from 2016′s mistakes, we’re still seeing 2020 Democrats and their supporters following this line. That includes the Democrat with perhaps the best “nice guy” persona, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who recently said Trump voters are “at best, looking the other way on racism” when asked by a cable news host if casting a vote for Trump could be considered a “racist act.”  

So far, Buttigieg’s comments are the most egregious slam on Trump voters from an actual candidate. But prominent liberals and Never Trumpers are increasing their attacks lately. Filmmaker Michael Moore said this week that since two out of three white men voted for Trump in 2016, that means two out of three white men in America are “not good people,” and “you should be afraid of them.” Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather said last month that Trump voters are part of a “cult,” a comment that major news media outlets including CNN echoed days later. Never Trumper Republican Jennifer Rubin has recently been pushing the line that Trump voters are poorly educated.

If the DNC has any power to put a lid on these kinds of comments from Democratic candidates and their supporters, it needs to exert that power right now. The “we think you’re stupid and we hate and fear you… now vote for us” line has never worked because there’s no way it can.

The above three points may seem very simple and logical, but anyone who has been watching the Democrats since 2016 knows that this is kind of like an intervention for a stubborn drug addict. Each of the above truths is something many Democrats have been fiercely fighting against for some time.

The irony is, they need to give up that fight to win the contest that should be much more important to them overall.

If Bloomberg

Joel Kotkin:

Many in the media and political class see Donald Trump as the face of America’s autocratic future. They’ve had less to say about Michael Bloomberg, a far more successful billionaire with the smarts, motivation, and elitist mentality not only to propose but actually carry out his own deeply authoritarian vision should he be elected president.

Bloomberg, who’s quickly moved up in national polls on an unprecedented tsunami of spending and despite sitting out the Democratic debates, represents, in a way never seen in modern American politics, the melding of oligarchal power with political willfulness. His campaign remains a wild long shot, but ask New York City how that can play out—and how  difficult it is to dislodge this oligarch once he’s in office, even when the law demands that he leave.

Compared to Bloomberg, Trump’s estimated $3 billion fortune is paltry. Bloomberg is the world’s ninth richest man, with a fortune of nearly $60 billion. The two post-retirement-age party-jumpers share not only flimsy medical excuses for staying out of Vietnam, long histories of locker-room talk, and joint refusals to fully disclose their taxes while running or to step away from their private business interests while serving in public office but, perhaps most fundamentally, a habit of naming things after themselves and a narcissistic sense that common rules don’t apply to them.

Already a modern-day Crassus, Bloomberg has both the wealth and the brains to emerge as a true Caesar, albeit a short-statured and aging one. Just as Caesar used the wealth of Gaul to finance his takeover of the Republic, Bloomberg can use his private fortune to bribe, cajole and otherwise promote his ascendancy. In his 12 years as ruler of New York, he showed his willingness to “buy” elective office, spending half a billion dollars on his three runs. To match the $174 per vote he spent to win his final term, Bloomberg—who’s has already spent $200 million on TV ads—would need to spend an unheard of $12 billion. He could afford it.

None of this seems beyond a man who demonstrated his l’état c’est moi attitude in 2009, when, after reluctantly giving up a run in the 2008 presidential election, he changed city law and overrode the will of the voters to allow himself to run for a third term after personally meeting with the owners of the city’s three major papers to get their editorial boards to reverse themselves and endorse that undemocratic move. Rules, in the Bloombergian universe, only apply to people with less than ten zeros in their net worth. He spent $102 million—not counting off-the-books hush money to keep activist groups quiet, among other things—for a 15-to-one spending advantage as he eked out a narrow win in a city that was so sick and tired of him that it elected corrupt schmendrick Bill de Blasio once Bloomberg’s name was finally off of the ballot.

Bloomberg is a man of undisguised arrogance. As mayor, he already saw himself as a sort of little president, once boasting that “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh largest army in the world… I have my own State Department, to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the UN in New York, so we have entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have. I don’t listen to Washington very much, which is something they’re not thrilled about.” Should he gain access to the real Army and State Department, he’ll use them as he sees fit, and with little concern for the will of the voters.

Unlike Trump, or some of his leading Democratic rivals, Bloomberg is not playing the populist card but seeking to bury “the great revolt” that has overturned elite control of the country. A fierce defender of Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the corporate elite, he is hoping, as a recent editorial in Bloomberg Opinion suggested, that “populism will probably just fade away” so that the ruling class can again “relax.”

The plutocracy would relax with Bloomberg in a way they have not with the erratic Trump. Most of those in the big corporate suite, according to a recent poll in Chief Executive magazine, would prefer to see the president impeached and out of office. Bloomberg is a friend to many owners of mainstream media properties, and an owner of those properties himself, as we were reminded when Bloomberg News announced it would no longer aggressively cover his Democratic rivals, though Trump would remain fair game, an absurd standard that poured news on the fire of Trump’s attacks on “fake news.” The executive staff of Bloomberg Opinion, meantime, left their positions to join his campaign.

What would a Bloomberg regime look like? In contrast with Trump, Sanders or Warren, Bloomberg is offering the politics of the gentry liberals who have dominated the party’s big-dollar fundraising in recent decades.

This typically means strong support for combating climate change, advocating ever more mass immigration, free trade and banning guns—all positions that don’t cost the plutocracy money.

Bloomberg’s big idea, if you want to call it that, is that rather than buy a candidate, he can be the candidate.

Even his aggressively “progressive” stances, for example on climate, would likely benefit the plutocracy. His calls to have 80 percent of America’s electricity, up from 17 percent today, come from renewables this decade, is a blatantly unrealistic gambit that sounds good in a campaign ad. More important, it offers a golden opportunity for Wall Street to make windfall profits while imposing higher prices on ordinary rate payers.

The problem Bloomberg needs to solve lies in being a billionaire oligarch running in a Democratic Party that’s moved farther to the left, as Sanders and others have found ways to create a “party of the people” that can raise enough money to reject the policies preferred by Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the rest of the globalized ruling class. As Sanders aptly put it when Bloomberg announced his intentions: “The billionaire class is scared and they should be scared.”

Resentment of Sanders’ detested “billionaire class” is widespread and well-deserved. Over the past few decades they have consolidated both financial and corporate assets into few hands. Public support for large corporations, including key industries controlled by the oligarchs—banking, media and tech—are all near historic lows. Corporate consolidation also has been linked to ever greater inequality and a diminishing of the middle class. Despite a strong economy, roughly half of Americans, according to Gallup, have negative views of large corporations, while nearly 90 percent favor small business.

The Trump-opposed billionaire class had hoped to align behind former Vice President Biden but as his campaign has struggled they fear that the 2020 race could be gentry liberalism’s Stalingrad. Bloomberg hopes that his money can liberate him from political gravity; that while other candidates are putting scarce resources into a handful of states ahead of their caucuses and primaries that he can afford to spend nationwide, and, if none of his rivals breaks all the way through, put himself in a position to be the powerbroker at a brokered convention. That’s a long-shot bet, but he’s bet big against the odds before and won.

As mayor of New York, Bloomberg’s approach—in addition to building on Rudy Giuliani’s law-and-order regime—was to shape the city as “a luxury product” shaped by the interests and investments of his fellow billionaires. Under his watch, the city moved to the tune of oligarchy, constructing ever more expensive apartment structures, often encouraged by heavily discounted property taxes and with lots of breaks for new lavish new corporate offices.

In contrast, the city’s middle-class neighborhoods shrank, most precipitously in Manhattan, while those of the rich and poor grew. The city’s inequality burgeoned, ranking among the most pronounced in the country now. The very feel of the city changed as long-standing neighborhood retail fell from soaring rents, with once cherished outlets either replaced by chains, “pop-ups” or simply abandoned, a form of “high rent blight.” Gone increasingly are both the historic neighborhoods and blue-collar commerce areas—the food, fish, flower, and other markets—that had been part of the city’s economic culture for centuries.

In the process, he steadily weakened the city’s once diverse, if chaotic character into plutocratic-driven monoculture. His disinterest in the will of the voters, as captured in his jihad against sugar and his insistence of ever more stop and frisk policing even as popular opposition to it grew along with its overuse, was in many ways policy made possible by the power implicit in his wealth, a function of his fortune.

Another mayor with such an agenda would have faced major opposition. But as Sol Stern and Fred Siegel wrote in 2011, “the most discomfiting aspect of the Bloomberg mayoralty” was his ability to curb criticism by handing out what Ben Smith of BuzzFeed called ”protection money” to the city’s many nonprofits, activist groups, religious and community associations. Bloomberg even cleverly uses his largesse to win over journalists, offering hugely remunerative salaries to those willing to follow his party line.

In the end, however, the Bloomberg legacy proved unable to survive Midas’ reign. Without his checkbook to smooth conflicts, the city has devolved under his leftist successor, the scandal-prone Bill de Blasio, who ran on an anti-Bloomberg “tale of two cities” platform.

If there’s a good parallel to Bloomberg it would be Silvio Berlusconi, the media magnate who served, somewhat disastrously, as Italy’s prime minister between 1994 and 2011. Like Bloomberg, Berlusconi, long his neighbor in Bermuda, used his own media to promote his political ascendancy. Bloomberg has a similarly impressive media empire including the former Business Week, Bloomberg News, Bloomberg View (formerly Bloomberg Opinion), and Bloomberg TV. He has also reportedly expressed interest at times in purchasing the Financial TimesThe New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

While the media, including Bloomberg’s own mouthpiece, has compared Trump to Berlusconi, holding up a mirror might be more accurate. With his existing web of information providers, Bloomberg, like Berlusconi, has some power to create his own political reality. Bloomberg’s touch may be lighter, but the Bloomberg-controlled media tends to follow the “boss’s” party line; as a long-time writer for the magazine now called Bloomberg BusinessWeek told me, “we’re not even allowed to use the word ‘oligarch’” in their articles. One would have to wonder how thrilled progressives would be if, for example, an American-born Rupert Murdoch announced a White House bid.

A Bloomberg presidency would be very different from this one. Trump is annoying but has scaled back the power of the administrative state. Bloomberg would likely seek to expand federal power to dictate the minutiae of everyday life in terms of diet, how we use energy, the kind of houses we live in and how we get to work.

And for all of Trump’s conflicts as the chief executive of both the United States of America and the Trump Organization, his businesses have little influence on anything beyond some slivers of the real-estate market.

Yes, Trump roars like an authoritarian, and admires those with power—but that’s a trait he shares with Bloomberg, who recently made the preposterous claim that China’s Xi Jinping is “not a dictator.” He portrays the communist regime, noted New York magazine as “ecologically friendly, democratically accountable, and invulnerable to the threat of revolution.” Of course, this is the same Bloomberg whose news operation gave up on reporting on corruption in China when that reporting started damaging the terminal sales that made his fortune.

If Bloomberg somehow manages to buy this election, we would not see a repeat of the haphazard and sometimes nonetheless effective Trump presidency, but rather a softer version of Xi’s rule here in America— dictatorial, intolerant of dissent, controlling, and friendly to the oligarchy so long as it produces economic growth. Having made themselves hysterical about our current tin-pot petty authoritarian president, progressive Americans could look forward to experiencing the real thing under the all-knowing guise of Michael Bloomberg.