Sunday, May 15, 2016

Corporate welfare

The term "corporate welfare" was coined by Ralph Nader in 1956 and has since become a standard criticism of government support for corporations and for the very rich.
Recently a new website has appeared called "Subsidy Tracker/Good Jobs First" that tracks in admirable detail what corporate entities receive by way of support from the federal and from state and local governments. At the same time the website shows that the idea of corporate welfare is more complicated than is often thought.

The website lists the corporations that receive the largest subsidies from the federal government. At the top of the list is a Spanish Corporation, Iberola, that owns many wind power installations in the United States. Since 2000 that company received 2.2 billion in subsidies. The Federal Government has adopted a policy of supporting alternative energy installations. So far, wind power is more expensive than electricity generated by fossil fuels. If we want to increase the proportion of electricity generated by wind power, the government needs to subsidize those installations. This is not an example of "corporate welfare."

This is an important point. Not every government subsidy to private industry should be condemned as corporate welfare. There are industries which we want to encourage and subsidizing them does not go against our national interest. Wind generated electricity is a fine example of that. 

The expression "corporate welfare" applies to government subsidies given to industries contrary to public policy. The government gives subsidies to oil companies at the same time as it is trying to move our power generation away from fossil fuels. Oil companies are reimbursed by the government for the oil they pump out of the ground. Since any oil company has limited oil available to it, they argue that they need to be reimbursed for reducing the total oil available to them. All of us, exhaust the total amount of energy available to us as we work. Over the years we loose strength, we tend to move more slowly, our memory becomes less reliable, and our competence is reduced in some areas. We loose the physical attractiveness of youth.  But older workers do not receive subsidies from the government for a exhausting their limited resources. Such payments are only given to oil companies. That is  not only an unfair subsidy but it is subsidizing an industry which we actually do not want to encourage.

Tax breaks are another form of corporate welfare  that are not given to ordinary citizens. Corporations do not have to pay taxes on profits they make outside the United States. If ordinary citizens are paid for work they do abroad, the taxman still wants his cut. Exempting foreign income of corporations from US taxation is clearly giving corporations an unfair boost.

Hedge fund managers are taxed at a 20% rate on their income which is considerably less than other people in the same income bracket have to pay. If there were some reason for encouraging hedge funds that sort of subsidy might not be problematic. But this much lower income tax rate for hedge fund managers is generally regarded as a completely unfair government subsidy for a specific financial industry. Hedge funds have contributed to financial instability. It is not clear that they are desirable and should receive special supported by the government. 

 Walmart and fast food enterprises like McDonald's pay their employees so poorly that they need to go on food stamps in order to be able to feed themselves and their children.  Programs like food stamps make it possible for employers like Walmart and McDonald's to pay extremely low wages to their employees. Food stamps are a subsidy to the very large companies who can raise their profit margins by underpaying their employees. Ordinary citizens who hire roofers or plumbers or someone to plow their driveway in the winter do not receive government subsidies to help them pay these contractors. Subsidies are only for very large and very profitable corporations.

The military is regularly being accused of wasting significant amounts of government money. A great deal of work in war zones is done by a civilian contractors such as Halliburton. These contractors increase their profit margin by hiring workers from Asia or Africa who are paid considerably less than the government allows the contractor for wages. The differential  goes into the contractor's pocket. Contractors often deliver shoddy work or no work at all but the Pentagon pays the contractor anyway.

In recent years there has been a major increase in the number of Americans incarcerated. Publicly owned and run prisons have not been able to house all these prisoners. Private prisons have become a new and rather profitable industry. Their lobbyists are found in state legislatures everywhere to encourage legislators to increase punishments for crimes, to impose mandatory sentences, to pass three strikes laws where someone convicted for three crimes is subject to many years in prison even if one or more of these three crimes is of minor importance. State legislatures subsidize the private prison industry in this way at the expense of people who run afoul of the law and of course at the expense of the taxpayer who has to pay for all these additional prisoners housed in private facilities.

A good deal of information is available about specific government programs, subsidies, reduced taxation for specific industries. Each accusation of corporate welfare is rebutted by the industry lobbyists who claim that the monies paid to specific industries are in the national interest. The accusation of corporate welfare is always open to argument although often those arguments are pretty threadbare.

Given that each individual example of corporate welfare is subject to  argument, it is very difficult to arrive at a rough figure of how much of the national budget is devoted to enriching corporations in ways that are not benefiting Americans at large but are only benefiting owners of companies or their stockholders. At the same time the examples cited here are only a small number of the corporations that are rendered profitable by favorite government action. Ours is indeed a welfare state which keeps the poor, the sick and the elderly on very short rations but is much more generous when it comes to welfare for corporations and the rich.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

You Gotta be Rich

An article in this morning's paper seems to be telling to unrelated stories, but the stories did have the same message: if you want a good life in these United States, you had better be rich.

The first story talks about the building boom for drug detox institutions. Two  are being built near where I live. Both will be functioning in the early fall of this year. In the last year more than 1500 people died in the state from drug overdoses. The epidemic continues and perhaps even increases. Investors are blissful: "Everybody is chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of the opioid issue. ” said one investor. “There is an epidemic of opioid abuse, so there is a tremendous demand.”  There is nothing like a building boom to make a good profit. Investors are thankful for the epidemic of overdoses.

The article also points out that the cost of staying in one of these detox institutions is considerably higher than what insurance will pay for detox services. If you  need to avail yourself of the services of these clinics you need to pay significant amounts out of pocket. Your health insurance will not pay enough for you to try and deal with your addiction. You have to be rich, or at least quite well to do, to attend these clinics. Your chance of beating your addiction, of leading an ordinary life, with a job, a family, children and happy retirement years, depends on how rich you are. If you are poor or lower middle class and have only your insurance payments, detox is not for you. Your chances of beating your addiction are considerably worse.

The second story seems quite unrelated. It appears that the US immigration service has a complex menu of different visa's. One of them, EB 5, makes it possible for foreigners, for instance foreign students, to remain in the United States after they finish their studies. They also receive a green card which allows them to work and have a regular job. After five years they can apply for citizenship and then become regular Americans.

All they need to do for receiving this EB 5 visa is to invest $1 million (you read that right: $1 MILLION) in such a way that it creates at least 10 permanent jobs. The article tells the story of a Chinese businesswoman whose daughter is a student in this country. The mother gives her daughter $1 million. The daughter invests it in a detox clinic and before you know it, after five years, she is an American citizen just like you and I. In the meantime the detox clinic brings a good return to the investors. She is not only an American citizen. She is a well-todo American citizen.

We need to rewrite the inscription on the statue of liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor,  your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free" and add something like "especially if they have at least $1 million to invest."

A short while ago someone asked the speaker of the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress , Paul Ryan, whether we should not accept more Syrian refugees. The speaker rejected that suggestion out of hand saying that it was too dangerous. Among those refugees there might be agents ISIS. You look in vain for worries about terrorism when we offer green cards to people investing $1 million.
We also need to rewrite the pledge of allegiance. The line that says "and liberty and justice for all" also need an added phrase, something like "if they are really rich."

It is difficult not to be thoroughly ashamed of our government.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

                            Democracy at home and abroad.

Together with untold destruction and suffering, we did bring democracy to Iraq. To be sure their elected parliament has not been able to legislate or to govern because they have been too busy yelling at each other, pelting each other with water bottles, or even getting into fist fights. They have democracy but it does not work.

But that is for us only too familiar a phenomenon. Members of our Congress have not gotten into fist fights but they also have been unable to legislate. They are too busy bickering. They have been unable to ascertain how the government is working. Congressional hearings  have become public relation events in which each party is trying to blacken the name of the other.

What is worse there are now two kinds of citizens: citizens with money and citizens without. The former have influence on the government. The latter are pretty much left out in the cold.

Citizens--the kind without money--have however rallied and during several days during the middle of April significant numbers of protesters sat in in front of the capital in Washington, DC. 400 citizens, practicing civil disobedience, were arrested on one day. Not only does  everyone know  of the blatant corruption of our democracy but there are many citizens who are not willing to put up with that. 

They are asserting their democratic rights by protesting, by committing civil disobedience, by getting arrested.

In a democracy the people rule. When the democratic system works smoothly, everyone has a say, everyone is heard, and all work together to govern themselves. When the democratic system does not work, as is the case in the US as well as in the Iraq, ordinary people need to come to the seat of government to claim their rights as autonomous citizens of the democracy.

This is what has been happening in the United States. Today's news reports that it is now also happening in Iraq. Ordinary folks in Baghdad invaded the Green zone and the parliament building and the elected legislators either ran away or hid in small rooms in the parliament building making a rather disgraceful spectacle of themselves.

That, of course, is excellent news. People in Iraq are learning the real lesson that democracy does not consist of having periodic elections, often paid for by rich citizens or corporations, but that when the government is not functioning, the people have a duty to take back their power and demand that their elected representatives either do their job with integrity, or leave town and go back to where they came from.

The Iraqi protests made the front page of the Sunday paper. The protests in Washington DC were barely mentioned in the media. The free press, which is an essential ingredient in any democratic system, is in the pay of billionaires and chooses what news is suitable for their readers to hear and what news is better hidden from them.

When, after living in the United States for five years as an immigrant, I became a citizen, the judge in the downtown Chicago courthouse insisted on reading the entire Declaration of Independence to all the new citizens before him. In his final comments he urged us to never forget that the United States was born in a revolution. It is not periodic elections that makes our republic remarkable. It is the revolutionary spirit in which citizens are willing to go to great lengths to assert their rights to govern themselves and not to be governed by corporate managers.

We are indebted to the protesters in Baghdad, in Washington DC, and many other US cities for remembering the revolutionary history of democracy and for remembering that that history has not yet come to an end. The revolutionary impulse remains the soul of democracy.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why Racial Turmoil?

Racial divisions have lately been in the news with many protests against police rampages in black communities.

Harvard University has responded to these major injustices by putting on one of its buildings a small plaque that commemorates four slaves who served presidents of the University in the 1700s. Portions of our cities are torn apart by gang wars, by unjust incarceration, by appalling poverty and Harvard University commemorates four slaves who lived more than  300 years ago!

What a striking example of how little justice and equality matter to our leaders! A university that has on its staff eminent philosophers, historians, sociologists, political scientists, students of education could have called together all these scholars to make a careful analysis of our racial problems and to make concrete proposals for overcoming them.

What would we have expected one of the world's most eminent universities to ask? Our nation has been and continues to be torn apart by racial hatred and, to tell the truth, we don’t understand that condition. From our origins, as a nation that used slaves to create wealth, to a nation that is officially dedicated to racial justice while, in reality, large numbers of whites distrust blacks and disrespect them, we have consistently been unable to understand why we continue to be plagued by the scourge of racial hatred.

In different periods of our history, our inability to overcome racial divisions will most likely have different histories and origins. How can we possibly understand why after the heroic years of civil rights struggles in the last century and after electing a black man as president of our country, the cancer of racial distrust keeps eating away at our soul?

Why is it impossible for us whites to live our lives contented and proud without despising others and believing lies about them?

These are clearly important questions to ask. What is the matter with white people in America that they cannot be happy unless they invent spurious reasons for looking down on their fellow citizens who are not white? Why must they disrespect others in order to respect themselves?

Answers to these questions are not easy to find. Which answers are reliable will be especially difficult to ascertain. But here are some obvious ideas:

For many Americans, their work life is repetitive and tedious. They do not receive the respect they deserve from their employers and often from the people they provide services for. Gaining self-respect under those conditions is really difficult.

"America’s business is business" said Pres. Calvin Coolidge. Many Americans echo that pathetic platitude. But if I am not the owner of a business, what is my source of self-esteem? We have different answers to that question. We treat ordinary citizens as consumers but being a consumer is not an occupation that strengthens your self-respect. You cannot walk down the street with your head held high because you bought the latest electronic gadget.

Alternatively, the role of citizens is to help enrich the owners of the businesses they work for by getting paid as little as possible. That too is hardly designed to make employees feel proud and valued.

There may well be other reasons why it is difficult for white men and women to feel confident in themselves. Whatever the reasons, we are experiencing a major crisis of self-respect. Recent statistics show a steady increase in the number of suicides in America. Every year more men and women, and even children, decide that their lives are not worth living and kill themselves.

And those who do not commit suicide frequently need to bolster their failing self-esteem by reminding themselves that at least their skin is white or, at least, that the government pretends that their skin is white.

Instead of installing memorial plaques, perhaps Harvard University can rally its intellectual resources to ask why Americans in large numbers cannot bear their lives at all or can bear their lives only by tormenting others. If we could answer that question, perhaps we could begin to confront and resolve our racial hatreds.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Crisis in oufr Values

The Crisis in our Values

 If the current presidential campaign teaches us anything, it is that America is suffering from a serious lack of positive goals, of projects that arouse the enthusiasm of citizens and make them feel that their life has a purpose.

The need for a positive goal is so tremendous that, however appalled they may be by his foulmouth bragging, people follow Donald Trump enthusiastically just because he promises to make America great again. Many citizens feel that our nation  is drifting without clear direction and values. They will follow anyone who promises to provide new inspiration to their lives.

More surprising even is the widespread support for Bernie Sanders. Not too long ago anything called "socialist" was completely unacceptable in the United States. Any proposed project that its enemies could label "socialist" was dead. No politician would have ever supported a socialist project. But today many ordinary Americans support Bernie Sanders with money, with great enthusiasm at his rallies, and with their votes because Bernie has a set of clear ideals. Justice and equality, he believes, are very important--important enough to fight hard for. His followers are looking for positive goals and values. They want them so badly, they are willing to support his crusade even though Sanders calls it socialist.

Whence this pervasive sense that our lives do not have much value? Why is there this desperate need for new ideals, for goals that are worth working and sacrificing for? Wherever we look in our nation we find corruption, selfishness, unwillingness to take on the obligations of citizenship. Our leaders talk about freedom and equality but seem to care only for their rather petty self-interests. In the end, making money seems to be their only goal. For thoughtful Americans it has become difficult to be proud of their country.

Our public life has become embarrassing--a series of sexual scandals like that of President Clinton or later Gen. David Petreus. Many political careers have been ruined in recent years by extramarital affairs. Defenders of family values have been put to shame by their abandonment of most ordinary marital loyalties. It is difficult to admire our public officials because they embarrass us.

The Panama papers reveal once again widespread corruption in the political classes of different countries. We learn that three states in America--Delaware, Wyoming and Nevada--allow the creation of secret corporations in which the wealthy can shelter money from the tax man. These states allow citizens to evade their civic obligations by paying the taxes they rightly owe to support the government that has allowed them, in the first place, to gain the wealth they have. Some of this money, whose owners remain unknown, ends up financing political campaigns. Our democracy is being manipulated by people whose names remain secret.

Very large sums of money, given by a relatively small number of individuals, play a significant role in our elections. For ordinary citizens who cannot do more than give $25 here and there to Bernie Sanders, it is clear that their participation in our democracy counts for very little. Citizens’ votes are not equal because some spend millions of dollars trying to determine who will get elected; the voice of ordinary citizens is silenced by these large contributors. It is difficult to feel any enthusiasm for our political system of which we have been proud for so long. But that pride has been seriously undermined by the role of 187 families who essentially control political giving in our country today. Large corporations and their owners have debased our democracy. Political offices are for sale.

Global corporations, like Exxon or General Electric, pay no income taxes in the United States. The major drug producer, Pfizer, almost succeeded in moving its mailing address to Ireland in order to evade its obligation to the US government and pay much lower corporate taxes in Ireland instead. Major businesses model the prevailing attitude toward our democracy: take what you can get but be sure to avoid supporting it.

Lacking the tax support owed but not paid by large corporations, the government must increase the tax burden on working people whose economic situation is  precarious. Governments are short of money and, under pressure to cut their budgets, they save on services for ordinary people, often working people of color. The result is an epidemic of high levels of lead in the drinking water and many children affected by lead poisoning, such as in Flint, MI. We are not wiling to guarantee good health to our children in spite of our great wealth.

The nation’s main goal seems to be ever larger profits for global corporations. The well being of ordinary citizens who produce those profits is not considered important. The nation’s motto has become “Get Rich!” and only the already rich succeed in meeting that goal. We may be the richest nation in the world but we distribute this wealth without any regard for fairness..

On a series of scales of international comparisons such as educational achievement of our youngsters, such as infant mortality, such as cost effectiveness of medical care, our country does very badly as compared to many other countries, even ones that have considerably fewer resources than we do. Yes we are rich but we do not know how to use our money wisely.

Not everyone knows all of those facts. Not everyone is willing to admit that our military adventures have ended in embarrassing failures. For different groups of Americans, their sense of futility, that America has lost its greatness derives from different experiences. For young Black men and women, the continuing violence perpetrated  against them by the police, by prosecutors, juries and judges leaves them profoundly disenchanted with their country and their outlook for their own future. For white working class men whose pay has stagnated for almost 50 years and whose jobs continue to be insecure, the promise of America has been broken that if they worked hard their condition would improve. Their condition has slowly deteriorated; their future looks grim.

Profound disillusionment of different groups of Americans flows from their different experiences, from the different ways in which they have been betrayed by powerful businesses and powerful political groups.

No wonder that we have an epidemic of drug overdoses not only among the young, both white and brown and black, but among middle-aged white men who have worked hard and see no reason why they should continue to do so. No wonder that we have gangs of young men who are willing to kill each other in the pursuit of illegal gains because for them, too, life is not worth a great deal. Their gangs offer a source of pride that their country  does not provide.

Yes, we need a living wage for many hard-working Americans, we need free education for all of our young people, we need to tame the high cost of medical care due in considerable part to drug companies, to physicians, to the manufacturers of medical machinery trying to get rich.

But none of these reforms will do us a whole lot of good, as long as we drift through our lives without a sense that our lives are worth living, that we stand for important ideals, and pursue noble goals. Whatever political or economic improvements our political leaders might devise, will not make a significant difference unless we are willing to recognize this crisis in our values and to overcome it. As long as the nation is dedicated to getting rich and allows success in gaining wealth only to those who are already too rich, many citizens will find their lives empty, their work unrewarding, and their country an embarrassment.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Lesson from the Arizona Primary

The word "democracy" is a composite of two Greek words--"demos", the people and "kratein", to rule. Democracy is the rule of the people. That is what we keep saying, and that is what democracy theorists keep telling us. But the recent primaries in Arizona demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that our democracy does not consist of the rule of the people.
In the recent Arizona primaries, many voters, especially in neighborhoods where the majority of people were poor and/or persons of color, had to wait in line for many hours in order to be able to exercise their right to vote. The Republican legislature and state government cut back sharply on the amount of money available for opening polling places. The number of polling places was reduced. Hence the long waits.
No doubt the shortage of polling places prevented a number of citizens from voting as they had planned. Parents needed to pick up their kids in school. Workers needed to be at work and could not stand in line for hours. Parents needed to be home to cook dinner for their children. They needed to be elsewhere to take care of aging parents. They had other obligations and commitments. There was not enough time for standing in line for hours in order to be able to vote.
The decisions of the state government excluded significant numbers of citizens from being part of "the people." They were prevented from exercising their citizenship rights; they were effectively prevented from acting as citizens.
In this situation the people did not rule because the government decided who was going to be a citizen. It was up to the government to allow some people to be active citizens and to prevent others from doing so.
When the government decides who is a member of "the people," the people no longer rule. On the contrary the government has the power to determine the membership of the people. Our Constitution begins with the words "We the People . . . “ But in Arizona you need government permission to be a part of that people.
Nor is the regulation of polling places the only technique by which the government decides who may vote and who may not. Many states have passed laws that make it much more difficult to vote. In some states you need to have a birth certificate in order to register as a voter. Once again the people, people of color, people whose lives are difficult and often chaotic, are likely to be excluded because they don't have the needed pieces of paper. Other states require photo IDs for anyone to go and vote. Photo IDs are hard to come by, especially for people living in the country, who have transportation challenges, little money and find it difficult to procure these identity cards with their picture on it.
“Gerrymandering” is a venerable American expression referring to drawing the lines of electoral district in artificial ways in order to deprive some populations of any chance of having an influence in elections. Drawing districts with smaller pockets of African-American voters, assures their failure to ever elect an African-American candidate. By distributing African-American voters over a number of different districts, their votes are made ineffective unless they vote for the dominant white candidate. By drawing electoral districts so as to effectively disenfranchise certain groups, the government, specifically state legislatures, deprives certain groups of effective voting rights. Gerrymandering steals the civil rights of targeted groups.
Our government effectively limits who might have a chance at being part of the people that rules. Eliminating significant groups from the electorate it determines what kind of influence voters have on government. The political interests and goals of upper-middle class whites are different from those of a more mixed electorate. What people will want and what they will strive for is seriously shaped by filtering the membership of the citizenry allowed to vote. The people do not rule. The government determines in significant ways what voters will demand.
They then insult our intelligence by telling us that we live in a democracy where the people rule. Of course, they had their fingers crossed behind their back when they say so.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Our Educational Caste System

I said in an earlier blog that the ascendance of Donald Trump is an embarrassment to our educational system. Donald Trump is an uneducated person. He appeals to people who are also uneducated. Given his large-scale support it is obvious that this country is awash in uneducated people in spite of the fact that we have a functioning public education system.

I still stand by that but it does need some explanation. I must begin by pointing out that being uneducated has nothing to do with ability. Most of our fellow citizens are capable of much higher achievements. The ability to think straight demonstrated by many of our leaders is put to shame by the same ability displayed by ordinary citizens. Our schools fail to develop the abilities widely distributed among us.

Many of our schools fail in transmitting elementary information to our students who often do not read well, do not write well,and have little information about our history or our political system.
What is worse, our educational system is constructed to maintain an educational caste or class system.
It is really instructive to listen to call- in shows about the political primary. Clearly thoughtful persons call in and admit that they are supporting Donald Trump. Sometimes, interestingly enough, they vacillate between Trump and Sanders. Most of these callers will add a sentence or two saying that they are not well educated. Americans are very much aware of what educational caste they belong to. They are very much aware of the educational caste of the persons they are talking to. Our people is divided into separate strata that are never mentioned but are rarely out of mind.

Many years ago when I was a more alternative teacher than I may be today, I asked my students--most of whom belonged to the well-to-do middle-class--to address me by my first name. They tried but could not do it. In some way that never got spelled out I was too different, my world was too different, they were not able to address me as, in some important way,  equal. Although I was obviously older and knew more about some things than they did,  I was not actually that different but the world in which they saw me and the figure I cut in the world was totally extraterrestrial for them.

You may think that is an insignificant anecdote but I do not think so. For a college student to call the teacher "Professor" provides important security by clearly marking social lines and social differences. From their perspective my world, how I talk, what I talk about, are unknown lands, for which they have no maps and where their compasses do not work.

I am reminded of a friend from college who told me of her complete shock the first time she saw one of her instructors eating lunch. It had not occurred to her that this person would eat. Because professors are completely different.

There are many different important implications of this caste system concealed just under the surface of our lives. The sharp line between the learned and those who are not means that those who do not know something cannot, by themselves, find out what they want. They need to take courses. Ignorance is not easily remedied. You'll need help to do that.

If you work, say, for a nonprofit organization and are doing an exceptional job, but the other person in the office has an advanced degree and you do not, the other person, however incompetent will be the queen and you will be the working bee. In order to get more powerful, better paying jobs, it is not enough to know things, a recognized institution needs to certify you. There is no easy transition between layers of the educational caste system. You may be as smart as anyone, who may read more and think better than many people with higher degrees than yours, they will get the power and the prestige and you will get the minimum wage.

The educational system with its different institutional levels has become a means for choking off access to positions of power, to positions of directing institutions, to prestige, and social recognition.
The educational caste system gives the lie to our protestation that we are dedicated to "liberty for all" because liberty and power depend on educational credentials.

Our schools cooperate in this system of progressively restricting access to the most desirable positions in this society and our educational system cooperates with other forces to limit social mobility and to keep many people in the working class. (Calling them "middle-class," as is now customary, is just a way to conceal this issue.)

Our schools do a very specific job: they teach our young to internalize the caste distinctions of the educational system. They must learn to apply the differences between the educated and the not educated to themselves. They must learn to feel powerless to remedy this situation. They must learn to blame themselves for not knowing more than they do and for belonging to their specific layer of this pyramid.

If I were a person who found myself uneducated, confined to the lower layers of the educational hierarchy and if I were one of the millions of people who felt apologetic and in some way incomplete for that reason, I would love Donald Trump who is in the same educational layer. But that does not hold him back from being a loud braggart, from talking about himself non-stop, from glorying in his real and imaginary accomplishments. What is not to like about a man who does not hesitate to parade his ignorance and take pleasure in it?