Booksellers versus Bestsellers
by John MacBeath Watkins
In the Bizarro world that American politics has become, everything seems to the the opposite of what it is, at least in Donald Trump's mind.
Howard Dean says Trump might have been snorting coke, so Trump says Hillary should take a drug test.
Trump has a record of disrespect to women, so he attacks the Clintons for disrespect to women.
Trump can only win the election if the voting is rigged, so he claims his opponent can only win if the voting is rigged.
His chance of winning is now 1 in 8 by the most popular measures. If he should win, wouldn't people suspect something? Unless, of course, he had some way of immunizing himself.
by John MacBeath Watkins
I've just witnessed the ugliest presidential debate ever seen, at least until the next one. And the worst thing is, it's exactly what one would have expected of a debate in which Donald Trump participates. The reason it happened that way is that a large minority of voters agree with Trump's statement that "I am your voice," and want him to scream their rage at the world.
Trump got a big rise out of his supporters in the audience when he said that if he were in charge of the country's laws,. Hillary Clinton "would be in jail."
This was reminiscent of Chris Christie's performance at the Republican Convention, when he had the crowd chanting "lock her up!"
Now, Hillary Clinton has been investigated repeatedly by the Republican-controlled senate and by less political agencies such as the FBI. No one has found a legal case against her that would hold up in court, and given the effort that has gone into it, if she were really guilty of a crime, she would have seen the end of her career by now.
But "you would be in jail by now" is exactly the sort of thing Trump's supporters want to hear.
But why? Not because it will help get Trump elected. While the fever swamps of the far right seep out a miasma of allegations which, if true, would certainly merit prosecution, these are a symptom, not a cause, of the hatred Trump's followers have for her.
Hillary Clinton has spent her adult life fighting for social justice. She is that figure greatly derided on the right, a Social Justice Warrior, or SJW.
Wikipedia defines an SJW as "a pejorative term for an individual promoting socially progressive views; including feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism,  inclusiveness, and identity politics."
But who would oppose social justice? Those who perceive themselves as benefiting from social injustice. Not that they would put it that way, even to themselves.
Arlie Russell Hochschild, a sociology professor at the University of California at Berkeley, researched the sort of people who became Trump supporters, interviewing 60 people over a period of about five years. She wanted to research an area as far to the right as Berkeley is to the left, and she chose Louisiana as the place to do her research. (Nationally, 39% of whites voted for President Obama in 2012, in Louisiana it was 11%.)
a world in which a "feels like it's true story" is "...a story of unfairness and anxiety, stagnation and slippage--a story in which shame was the companion to need."
It's a world where people aren't doing well, and they want to know who's to blame. This makes them vulnerable to mountebanks peddling conspiracy theories. One example she gives is that 66% of Trump supporters think President Obama is a Muslim.
Horchschild appeals to me in part because her portrait of this group is sympathetic. She describes a "deep story," a sort of central myth, that describes how they feel.You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black--beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you're being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He's on their side. In fact, isn't he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It's not your government anymore; it's theirs.
Of course this story isn't true in any conventional sense. But it feels true to the people she's talking about.
Now let me tell you another story about standing in line. I was born in 1952 in Louisiana, on an Air Force base. My parents, both from Oregon, experienced a certain amount of culture shock. One story my mother tells is about standing in line to register for the vote in 1952 outside the base.
She joined the end of the line, behind a black woman. As time passed, white people would join the line ahead of the black woman. At last, near closing time, only two people remained in line. The clerk looked around the black woman and said to my mother, "can I help you?"
"She's ahead of me," my mother said, indicating the black woman.
The clerk closed her station and left.
The only thing unusual about that story at that time and place was my mother's behavior, which was completely out of keeping with the norms of local white culture. You can see why people born into that culture would feel the world turned upside down, with a black man in the white house. A world that relied for so long on giving one group rights over another is not well constituted to deal with equality -- it feels all wrong.
The Trump campaign, like the tea party, is a backlash against our first African-American president. The same people who think Barack Obama got into Harvard because of minority preferences yearn for a time when all the preferences were for whites, because without those preferences, they feel their place in the world is precarious. The people they've looked down on all their lives could end up doing a lot better than them, and that's really not okay with them.
This is not a policy-driven group of voters, and they are not part of a coalition to accomplish some carefully thought-out agenda. These are desperate people who feel their world is not just threatened, but disappearing. They are angry, and they are less worried about whether the person who represents them is electable, than whether he will truly represent them, shout out their rage, give expression to their sense of grievance and their sense that their enemies are those who have made an alliance with those they fear will supplant them.
Donald Trump represents the primal scream of an injured group. He is an almost perfect symbol of white, male privilege, exactly what his followers wish they were. His privilege is what they wish they shared with him, his resentment against the allies of minority groups is what he has in common with them.
How is our country to deal with these people? By making them better off. White males working for wages haven't seen real incomes rise since the 1970s, as illustrated by this chart from the Washington Post's Wonkblog.
The pteranodon is hung by the till with care...
We're definitely going to be open Oct. 1 at noon. The shelves are up, we're getting the books on them, and customers are trying to wade through a barricade of boxes insisting, against all evidence, that we are open. Once we're sure nobody will kill themselves tripping over boxes, and get the section signs in place and a number of other tasks, we will welcome all.
by John MacBeath Watkins
Here are some pix of our new, magnificent locations, which will give us twice the room we've had before:
This is what the outside looks like now. We need to figure out the signage.
This is the inside looking out.
And this is what it looks like from the doorway. So much room!
by John MacBeath Watkins
Well, we have at last signed a lease for our new location, at 2419 NW Market St. We will be out of our current digs at 2001 NW Market by the end of September.
The new space will be about twice as large as our current space, and will have a storefront with a big window, so we're pretty happy about it.
We're still open to volunteers to help move, just call us between noon and 7 p.m. at 206.545.4226.
by John MacBeath Watkins
Twice Sold Tales in Ballard is moving from our current location in the back of Bauhaus Coffee at 2001 NW Market to either a location three blocks east of there or one four blocks west of there. We will still be on Market Street. Our lawyer is currently reviewing both leases before we make a decision.
We've got to be out of here by the end of September, so we need to decide soon! Either location will give us a lot more visibility than the windowless back room we currently occupy.
So, we're having a moving sale, currently 30% off. It applies to the books on the open shelves, not to the stuff that's cataloged on the internet.
The next question is, how the hell am I going to move all these books and shelves? Anybody out there willing to help? If so, drop me a line. The shop email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
by John MacBeath Watkins
Donald Trump has a well-earned reputation for stiffing vendors, creditors, and investors. But what about the Russian money that's been flowing into his business? Could exploiting those investors have far worse consequences?
Most American banks won't lend to him, according to the Wall Street scuttlebutt. And, as the Washington Post has reported, Trump has found a new source of financing.Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world. "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets," Trump's son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. "We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."
Bayrock, a company that helped finance the Trump SoHo project, was accused of getting its money from some questionable sources. From the New York Times:Shortly before the condo buyers' lawsuit was filed, another suit appeared, this one by Jody Kriss, a former finance director of Bayrock. It claimed that by concealing Mr. Sater's criminal record, Bayrock had committed fraud on banks and investors with which it did business. Mr. Trump is not a defendant in that case, which is continuing. Mr. Kriss's lawsuit was filled with unflattering details of how Bayrock operated, including allegations that it had occasionally received unexplained infusions of cash from accounts in Kazakhstan and Russia.
Now, Donald Trump's finances are fairly opaque, because he has refused to release tax returns either for last year, for which he's being audited, or from any of the years for which he is not being audited.
But the fact is, there is virtually no clean Russian money. If you are rich, you support Putin, or you won't be rich for long, as some have discovered. For example, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia, financed parties critical of Vladimir Putin. He was arrested, tried for a series of crimes that were either not illegal when he was alleged to have committed them or were still not illegal, convicted, and imprisoned. He has since been released and lives in exile on a much diminished fortune.
So, if you are getting much Russian money, it probably has ties to Putin and his ruling clique. This may explain Trump's constant praise of Putin, and his financial interests being tied to Russian sources of finance may have something to do with his heterodox views on foreign policy, like questioning our commitment to NATO.
But Trump is unlikely to win the presidency, and it is quite likely that his Russian investors will be as disappointed as some of his past investors.
How will they respond?
Well, consider what Masha Gessen, who wrote a book (The Man Without a Face)about Putin, described his background, starting with the period in East Germany prior to the fall of the Wall:'Everything Putin had worked for was now in doubt,' Gessen writes. 'Everything he had believed was being mocked.' He would not return home until after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. 'I think a lot of his resentment goes back directly to that period,' Gessen says. 'Having been in the KGB at a bad time, having been outside the country when everything was changing... He's a very vengeful man - that's one of his particular traits of character. And that vengefulness has carried through. He's pursuing a vendetta against everybody who was ever opposed to the Soviet Union.' Putin returned to St Petersburg, where he became assistant to the mayor, while continuing in the KGB. For all the reforms that were taking place in Russia, St Petersburg, Gessen writes, was 'a state within a state': a place where the KGB remained all-powerful, where local politicians and journalists had their phones tapped, and the murder of major political and business players was a regular occurrence.' In other words, very much like Russia itself would become within a few years, once it came to be ruled by the people who ruled St Petersburg in the 1990s.' In other words, Putin.
I think the nature and extent of his ties to Russia may have a bearing on Trump's business future and even on his own health and that of those close to him. Suppose he were to change his tune, and start to criticize Putin, and stiff his friends who invested with Trump. Here's some guidance from Gesson:'There is a theory that is popular among journalists that to Putin there are enemies and there are traitors. And enemies have a right to exist; he might not like them, but they have a right to exist. Traitors don't have a right to exist. It's a nice theory. I like it because I'm such a clear-cut enemy that I should be safe.'
Can Trump afford to have Putin see him as a traitor? He's not going to win the election, and he won't always have the protection of the Secret Service. So I think we can expect to see him continue to toady to the Russian leader.
Trump is heavily in debt to Deutsche Bank AG, but the Russians seem to have taken equity stakes in his ventures. We don't know how much money is involved, or which Russian oligarchs are involved, or how close all that money is to Putin. We don't know how his Russian investors will react if they suffer as badly as investors in his casinos did, or how dependent the continuation of Trump's empire is on their continued investment.
I think it's a pretty good bet that he is more financially beholden to foreign investors than any previous presidential candidate, and that it's likely his investors are heavily entangled with the Russian kleptocracy. That, if true, would mean that Trump is himself entangled with a government that has shown a willingness in the past to poison or otherwise kill its critics.
Now, there is a way for Trump to set our minds at rest, and assure us that he is not entangled with a foreign power. Let's see some transparency on his finances, starting with those pesky tax returns.
by John MacBeath Watkins
Agnotology, or the science of creating ignorance, is now firmly entrenched in our politics. The Republican Party, which has become associated with the use of this science, is facing a dilemma as a result.
Once they had used it to undermine the legitimacy of other elites, they discovered that they had also undermined the legitimacy of the Republican Party elite. They have created so much ignorance and distrust, they are not trusted to be informed about what is best for their constituents.
The name of this science dates from 1995, but its use in public discourse started in the 1960s.
It started with the tobacco industry, after the Surgeon General's Report tying tobacco use to cancer. The industry responded by trying to undermine the science behind the report.
First, they said that the research had been done on mice, and did not indicate that humans would suffer similar problems. Then, they engaged in a program of sponsoring studies to put against the science the Surgeon General used. Some of it was to show that other things cause cancer as well, so why blame cigarettes? Some were shaky science to put against more solid studies to argue that "some scientists say one thing, some say another."
A 1969 memo called the Smoking and Health Proposal, written by an executive of the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, said "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy."
If the notion of "establishing a controversy" after the science has been settled seems familiar, it's because this is the tactic used by climate change deniers to argue that "the science isn't settled" on climate change.
Agnotology entered the political realm when a corporate lawyer who had represented the tobacco industry laid out the game plan for business interests to take control of public discourse.
Lewis Powell, who Ronald Reagan later appointed to the Supreme Court, wrote the memo at the request of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1970.
In it, he suggested a series of steps to take, including founding think tanks, funding seats on university faculties, and using radio and television to spread their message.
Powell suggested a sort of ideological siege of academia by establishing a staff of friendly faculty, speakers, speaker's bureau, and attacking views they didn't like that were expressed in textbooks.
He had a special place for business schools:The Chamber should enjoy a particular rapport with the increasingly influential graduate schools of business. Much that has been suggested above applies to such schools.Should not the Chamber also request specific courses in such schools dealing with the entire scope of the problem addressed by this memorandum? This is now essential training for the executives of the future.
In short, business schools were to indoctrinate future business leaders. He also thought there was a neglected opportunity in the courts:
American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.
Appointing Powell to the Supreme Court can be viewed as one way business took action on this proposal.
Most of what Powell proposed was to change what people thought they knew about their world.
Flash forward to the present. The Republican Party, funded to a surprisingly large extent by the fossil fuel industry, contended for years that climate change was a hoax, that the president of the United States wasn't a citizen, that the Affordable Care Act was a socialist job-killer, that President Obama was a Muslim, & etc.
Every half-baked conspiracy theory could get a hearing from the party elite as long as it stirred up the base and got more Republicans elected.
But a strange thing happened. One of the conspiracy theorists was a rich man with a need for attention. Donald Trump entered Republican circles through his adherence to the Birther conspiracy theory -- the outlandish notion that our president was born not in the United States, but in Kenya. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president, even courted his endorsement.
The idea was clearly racist, an attempt to delegitimize our first African American president. But party leaders never disowned the theory, or that of President Obama being a Muslim. Instead of ridiculing the conspiracy theories and trying to win based on reality, they allowed the mechanism Lewis Powell had called for -- the radio, news, and now the internet conservative echo chamber -- to spread these theories far and wide.
Believing this nonsense became a tribal marker for conservatives, adhered to even by seemingly intelligent people who should have known better.
When Donald Trump came for the Republican Party elites, they had no other elites trusted to speak up for them. The party base of whites without a college degree had no faith in any of the elites, including that of their own party. They had been asked to believe in lies so often that the nature or even possibility of truth seemed to be illusory, as if all that continued to exist was the Republican Party's reptile brain, threat sensitive and emotional, raging against unfairness with no clear notion of how they had been betrayed, but aware that in their lifetimes, they were one group for whom things had gotten worse. For them, there was no longer any real truth, just whose side you were on.
The party had taught them not to blame the rich, but to blame the people they competed for directly for jobs and prestige -- immigrants, people of other races -- and the people they might have turned to for information -- those intellectuals they had been told time after time not to trust.
And now, the Republican Party faces the dilemma they have created. The party's base no longer trusts any elite, even their own. They can no longer tell the rank and file, "this guy's a nut, he can't win and shouldn't be nominated." They have unwittingly abdicated the party's role as the gatekeeper who gets them to select a viable candidate.
The people who thought they were running the party aren't in control any more. They can see the cliff, but they can't reach the wheel, can't press the brake. They know that to save the party, they must get control again, but they have created too much ignorance in the service of temporary goals.
The base is acting as if it believed all the convenient lies, all the conspiracy theories that were just supposed to be used to manipulate them. They don't even care if they lose, they just want a voice to shout their rage at their supposed enemies.
They are the beast who shouted hate at the heart of the world.
by John MacBeath Watkins
In a universe parallel parked just two down from ours, buying a used cat is just like like buying a used car.
We will illustrate the pitfalls with the case of Bill.
One day, Bill's old cat died. We need not dwell on the causes of his old companion's death, and we turn away from Bill's private grief. However, when the tears had fallen, Bill was left with a universal truth. To paraphrase Jane Austen:
"IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a cat."
But the search for the cat is like the search for a used car, so this will not exactly be Pride and Prejudice. Not even Pride and Pedigree.
Bill set out hoping he could afford a new cat. He looked into the exotics, just because a man can dream, even if he can't really afford something fast and dangerous that isn't really suited to his lifestyle.
The Savannah cat struck his fancy, but it cost about half as much as a hose in flyover country, and he was still renting.
A brand-new Manx kitten had a muscular, aggressive stance with a sort of Kammback look that enticed him, but after it ran up his pants leg leaving a trail of fresh wounds on his leg, he realized that even if he could afford the sticker price, the insurance on his drapes would be ruinous.
This is when he fell into the hands of a used-cat salesman.
"This is your lucky day," said the salesman, clad in cheap, chequered sport coat and polyester pants. "I've got a used cat that will just knock your eyes out."
It was an old cat, sleeping rather noisily in the back row of the cat lot. Aside from the snoring, it had long, tangled fur and more than a few notches in its ears.
"This cat looks like it's got a lot of city miles on it," Bill said.
"Let me tell you about this wonderful feline," the salesman said. "It would never have come on the market at all, were it not for a fortunate accident. I mean, fortunate for you."
"What's that smell?" Bill asked.
"This cat was the beloved companion of a large and demonstrative family, the kids carried it everywhere and it never once scratched them," the salesman went on.
"Is it leaking fluid?"
"No, no, we had another cat parked here before we sent it to be repaired. Can't sell defective merchandise, can we?"
"So, anyway, the family so loved this cat, they would never let it out of their sight. They took it to church of Sunday, and the rest of the week, I tell you, they worshiped that cat like ancient Egyptians."
"So how did it end up here?"
"Well, one day, the whole family was walking to church, and little Willie, who had fallen in with fell companions on the second-grade playground, said a naughty word. Well, you know how God feels about that, he sent a bus to run them all down and wiped out the whole family."
"That's terrible, but wouldn't that have killed the cat, too?"
"God so loved the cat, he spared it. And now, it's your good fortune that the cat is here, before you, ready to begin a new life with you."
"Um...I kind of swear a lot, is that a problem?"
"You go to Church every Sunday?"
"Not so's you'd notice."
"I wouldn't worry about it."
"Think I'll pass, anyway."
"Well, sir, what will it take to put a cat in your arms today?"
Bill told the salesman his budget.
"What else have you got in my range?" he asked.
"Yer lookin' at it."
So, Bill bought the elderly, flatulent cat and began waking home with it in his arms. It woke, farted again, and began to purr. He began to like it, when suddenly, he stubbed his toe.
"Fuckshitcuntcockpiss!" he said, before considering the consequences. "Oh, God, that hurts," he amended.
Just then, a severely depressed neighbor with bad aim tried to kill himself, and instead took off Bill's hat. Bill picked up his ventilated hat and looked reproachfully at the cat.
"Did you tell God I said that?" he asked.
The cat yawned hugely, revealing some bad teeth and breath that would make a passable paint stripper.
"Well, God dammit, I don't believe a word that salesman said," Bill declared. The cat scratched him, causing him to lurch away from the road just as a dump truck ran into a light pole next to him. Bill realized that the truck would have pinned him against the light pole if he hadn't lurched.
"Cat, are you cursed?" Bill asked.
The cat avoided his gaze, nonchalantly licking a paw.
Bill went back to the cat lot, where the salesman showed himself extraordinarily agile, dodging him and locking himself in the office.
"Open up, you sold me a lemon, dammit," Bill shouted. The salesman dived under a divan just before an eagle dropped a turtle on Bill's head, crushing his battered, bullet-riddled hat and leaving him dazed.
"Don't curse!" the salesman called from under the divan, "one lightning bolt could wipe out this office!"
"I want my money back!"
After a moment's consideration, the salesman said, "You can have your money back if you take the cat with you."
The salesman wouldn't open the door. He slid an envelope under it and dived back under the divan.
Bill checked the amount in the envelope, then put down the cat and walked away. "Serves the S.O.B right," he thought. That only resulted in distant thunder.
As he neared his home, Bill stepped into the crosswalk without looking, and a car screeched to a halt inches away from him.
"Watch where you're going, you God-damned idiot!" the driver yelled, and the engine of the car immediately caught fire. That's when Bill looked around, saw that the cat had followed him home, and resigned himself to cleaning up his language.
by John MacBeath Watkins
One of the puzzles of this election year is why long-standing elements of the Republican platform aren't resonating this year.
Republicans have long advocated small government and free markets, including free markets in foreign trade. But Donald Trump won the most delegates in the primaries by advocating higher tariffs and promising not to cut Social Security.
The theory has been that both tariffs and the social safety net are government interfering in the marketplace. But there is now a clear division between the Republican donor class, which believes this, and the white blue-collar base that wants government to protect them from both foreigners and foreign competition.
For decades, the donor class of rich Republicans have dictated the economic agenda of the party while working-class whites have provided the votes, based on promises that the economic program would benefit everyone and the exploitation of culture war issues such as "the war on Christmas," gays, and abortion, and guns.
They've also exploited racial resentment. The Southern strategy Nixon used grew out of the Republican right's rejection of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the party at this point has managed to purge itself of the sort of moderate Republicans who voted for that law.
But the basic economics were always against that strategy. Even prior to World War I, the nations most open to foreign trade have had the largest governments.
Kevin O'Rourke, in a July 1 post on The Irish Economy blog, explained how this works:
In short, liberal trade policy requires liberal government policy. One reason Donald Trump became the voice of the white working class was that he was more explicit in exploiting racial resentment, of course, but another reason was that he did not buy into the Republican orthodoxy regarding free trade and small government. He doesn't really favor either.
Those who favored both free trade and small government tended to be those rich enough to insulate themselves against the risks free trade exposes the economy to. That's the donor class which has always set the economic agenda for the party.
In Britain, whatever the polls might say, the areas that voted most in favor of leaving the European Union have been those most impacted by competition from competition with Chinese manufacturing. From The Monkey Cage blog at the Washington Post:Regardless of what voters or pundits might be saying, we find that Leave votes were systematically higher in regions more affected by the surge in Chinese imports over the last three decades. And we find no evidence that the presence or influx of immigrants correlates with a region's support for Brexit.
So, the solution to problems caused by competition with China is to distance Britain from Europe, where a lot of its exports go. It doesn't make sense on an economic level, but it motivates voters on an emotional level.
And in America, workers who feel economically insecure because of economic globalization often support Donald Trump, who as Forbes magazine notes, outsources items produced for the Trump brand
We are reaching for the wrong solutions because we are misunderstanding the problem. The problem is that if we are to have free trade, we need to provide a reliable safety net for workers, and if we're going to cut the safety net, we need to reduce the risk to workers by having less free trade.
This is a much bigger problem for Republicans than for Democrats. Most of the supporters for the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement are Republicans
, not Democrats, and Democrats generally consider it a no-brainer that workers need a good safety net.
Now, it might seem odd for the party that most supports the safety net to be the one that also is less enthusiastic about free trade. After all, they support what is needed to have free trade without excessive backlash. But both things are part of the Democratic Party's history of supporting working families.
And Trump is just another stage in the long history of Republican's using cultural and racial issues to get working class whites to vote against their economic interest. For all his bluster, the economic plan he has presented is just designed to make the rich richer