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A Trifle from Life


Exhibit One: How We Got Here from There

Party Primaries Must Go by Nick Troiano at the Atlantic:

Partisan primaries motivate legislators to keep in lockstep with a narrow and extreme slice of the electorate rather than govern in the public interest.

Three days after the insurrection, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the first Senate Republican to call for President Trump’s resignation; she later became the only Senate Republican up for reelection in 2022 who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial. In any other election, and in almost any other state, Murkowski’s vote would likely have doomed her chances in a Republican primary. However, in November, Alaska became the latest state to ditch partisan primaries when its voters adopted a sweeping election-reform package on the ballot.

Under the reform, rather than both parties holding separate primary elections, all candidates will instead compete in a single, nonpartisan primary in which all voters can participate and select their preferred candidate. Then the top four finishers will advance to the general election, where voters will have the option to rank them. Whoever earns a majority of votes wins. (If no candidate earns a majority after first choices are counted, the race is decided by an “instant runoff” ––whereby the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who ranked that candidate first have their second-place votes counted instead, and so on, until a candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote.)

With this reform, Alaska became the first state to combine a nonpartisan primary with ranked choice voting in the general election. Known as “final-four voting,” this system has two major advantages. First, by abolishing party primaries, it eliminates elected leaders’ fear of being “primaried” by a small base of voters within their own party. Second, by abolishing plurality-winner elections and the “spoiler” effect they produce, it levels the playing field for independent and third-party candidates.

Exhibit Two: Honor Among Thieves

From the Daily News and Daily Beast:

Students for Trump Founder Ryan Fournier Ratted Out Friend to the Feds
The younglings discover an ancient legal rule: First to rat out his co-conspirators gets the best deal:
He was a Student For Trump, but definitely not a lawyer. A judge slammed the founder of Students for Trump as a “cold-blooded fraudster” before sentencing him to 13 months in prison for posing as a lawyer. John Lambert, 25, pretended to be Eric Pope of the Manhattan-based firm Pope & Dunn. He falsely claimed to be a graduate of NYU Law School with a finance degree from the University of Pennsylvania and 15 years of experience in corporate and patent law.
The baby-faced scammer from Tennessee admitted to running the racket from 2016 to 2018, which targeted people who had little or no experience seeking legal advice. Victims sought Lambert’s help through the freelancing website Upwork. He earned at least $46,654 through the legal advice he was totally unqualified to give. Students for Trump co-founder and pugnacious MAGA Twitter star Ryan Fournier allegedly helped his friend create a fake law firm to bilk innocent clients, only to turn against his one-time partner to help federal law enforcement, according to records and statements made Tuesday by a lawyer involved in the case. The new revelations about Fournier’s alleged involvement in the fake law firm came after a Tuesday sentencing hearing where a federal judge sentenced Fournier’s Students for Trump co-founder, 25-year-old John Lambert, to 13 months in jail for operating a fake law practice.

Exhibit Three: Creeping Socialism and the (still) Pending Collapse of California

By Lydia O’Connor at Huffpost:

Two-Thirds Of Californians Expected To Get Another State Stimulus Check

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) proposed another round of stimulus checks on Monday, potentially putting $600 in the pockets of millions of California households reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.  The proposal, which will require legislative approval, would dole out billions in cash payments to all California households with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less, benefiting roughly two-thirds of the state’s population. Families with children would get an additional $500 under Newsom’s proposal. 

“California is not coming back; California is going to come roaring back,” Newsom said at a press conference in Oakland.  The proposal is part of the governor’s $100 billion “California Comeback Plan” ahead of plans to fully reopen the state in mid-June. Newsom is also rolling out a more robust rental assistance program to help people with overdue rent and utility payments, and he’s expected to announce more spending plans throughout the week.  If approved by legislators, which is likely, this will be the second time California has delivered its own stimulus checks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which took an exceptionally bad toll on employment in the state. In addition to the federal stimulus checks many received, Newsom signed legislation in February giving out $2.3 billion in checks to low-income residents and undocumented immigrants. 

The proposal is made possible by a large windfall in the state’s budget. 

Exhibit Four: Economics 101 (Follow up from Last Month)

Excerpts from Eli Rosenberg at the Washington Post:

As explained in Rosenberg’s article, the data is anecdotal, but the trend is unmistakable: once businesses start treating employees as an asset to be maximized rather than a necessity to be exploited, their hiring woes immediately vanish. Rosenberg profiles several business owners, including Patrick Whalen who owns five restaurants in North and South Carolina, all of which had enjoyed success before the pandemic. As people finally began to venture out to eat, his restaurants filled up again. Suddenly he couldn’t find enough people to staff them, and was soon facing a wave of negative reviews. But he didn’t whine about it. He didn’t try to blame anyone. He simply increased his wages from $12 to $15 and added a tip line for the kitchen workers who (unlike the wait staff) wouldn’t normally have received tips, a move that pushed their total hourly wages to over $23 an hour. As reported by Rosenberg, Whalen’s staffing problems vanished within three weeks:

The owner of Punch Pizza, a chain of pizza shops with a dozen locations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, had similar results when its owner raised wages from $11 to $15 an hour: as Rosenberg observes, “Job applications increased fivefold on its website and were 10 to 15 times higher on the jobs portal Indeed.” Rosenberg cites similar examples for restaurant chains in Buffalo, Detroit, Oakland and Philadelphia, all of which elected to increase their starting wages.

The routine objection to increasing workers’ salaries is that doing so will raise the cost of doing business to the point where the business itself cannot survive. That too is debunked by Rosenberg’s investigation. Yes, some businesses compensated for their increased labor costs by slightly raising their prices, but the increases needed to do that turned out to be minimal, for the most part:

Three of the 12 businesses interviewed said that they had raised prices for consumers to help offset the wage increase. White Castle increased menu prices in the Detroit area after increasing its minimum wage there to $15 an hour, as did another restaurant that raised wages, Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, Calif. The Midwest-based clothing and design store Raygun increased prices by about 1 percent after raising wages to an average of $15 last year, owner Mike Draper said.

Exhibit Five: More Creeping Socialism

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:

Why Republicans Could Never Tell Their Voters the Truth About Obamacare
If the suit was so absurd that liberals deserve ridicule for thinking it stood any chance of success even in a right-wing court, what does it tell us that Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch voted for the plaintiffs? For that matter, what are we to make of the fact that the Trump administration’s Justice Department, joined by the attorneys general for 20 states, signed on to this laughably flimsy case? The answer is that the passage of Obamacare was a traumatic event for Republicans. The wound it opened in the party’s psyche has not fully healed, and even more than a decade after its passage into law, they cannot reconcile themselves to its legitimacy. The passage of Obamacare, even though it merely incrementally expanded an existing program (Medicaid) and copied a program designed by a Republican governor (Mitt Romney) was met by unmitigated hysteria on the right. What seemed to unhinge conservatives was less the substance of the bill than the very idea of Democrats using their control of government to … govern. 

The pattern of the anti-Obamacare crusade has continued to define the Republican party elite’s relationship with its base. First, they make a practical decision on the basis of self-interest, then convince their voters the cause is existential, then discover they have no choice but to act as if their own lies are true. So, it was with repealing Obamacare, and so it is with supporting Donald Trump. More than a decade after the law was passed, the party still has not freed itself from its own lies. When you calculate how long Trump will own them, ponder that.

At the Exit: Yada Yada

Heather Cox Richardson reports, in her Letters of an American newsletter:

Today, (June 23rd) in Michigan, the Republican-led Michigan Senate Oversight Committee released a 55-page report summarizing their 8 months of research into alleged voter fraud: “This Committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election,” it concluded. The report added, “The Committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain.” 


Uncle Willie loves to have feedback from both readers who appreciate his point of view as well as from misguided souls who disagree.