Let’s play “Monopoly Socialism!”

Twitter unknown and “professor” (must be a low bar for that title) Nick Kapur was not happy about Hasbro’s parody adult board game, Monopoly Socialism. Nick went so far as to do an extensive tweetstorm that provided great fodder for Ted Cruz to demonstrate his wickedly funny sense of humor, which hit the nails on their collective heads. We could do the Venezuela edition: start out (in 1950) with the 4th highest GDP per capital in the world: end starving in the street with massive shortages of food & medicine. We could do the Russia/USSR edition: the “old timey” playing pieces are all the tech the common people are allowed. When Yeltzin toured a TX supermarket in 1989, he told his comrades that if their people—who faced breadlines—saw the choices in the US “there would be revolution.” We could do the Cuba edition: start (in the 1950s) as the world’s top sugar producer; end up earning $25 per month and risking your life to put your children in rafts seeking freedom. We could do the East Germany edition: you build a wall across your living room; put all the food, technology & prosperity on one side; erect machine guns on the wall; and shoot anybody who tries to get to the West. Or we could do the University edition: you imagine a magic money tree; you give everything free to anybody who wants it; nobody works, studies, or innovates; and everybody gets an A!

Though Kapur claims he bought a game so “you won’t have to”, I still want to buy the game, so I looked first on Amazon. $90! No way. Target claimed to have the same game for half that, and eBay had all sorts of buying choices for even less. Walmart doesn’t claim to have it…yet, but they will. Or I can wait until someone buys it, loses interest, and resells it on Craigslist or Letgo or OfferUp. That’s capitalism for you. If we had a socialist system, and you wanted to buy this game, you’re an enemy of the state, since it satirizes Socialism, but you’d still have choices—the Gulag or the gun. Personally, I would prefer 9mm to the cerebellum to 9 years hard labor, but then I’m lazy. However, let’s fantasize about buying the game in a socialist system. First, I go to the huge central market, and wait in line to get in. There’s always lines, even though there are few shoppers. The linetender‘s union insists on having a linetender to regulate the flow, such as it is. Once I get inside, there is no game on the mostly empty shelves, and the dust gathered is a sign that there hasn’t been a game there for weeks, at least. There’s no customer service person to ask. Fortunately, due to the thriving black market in popular items, an entrepreneur sidles up to me, flashing a game (and fortunately nothing else) under his trenchcoat.

He assures me that it’s in the original Hasbro shrink wrap, and that the police will look the other way for a suitable bribe. When I hesitate, he tells me with a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” that some fool from a capitalist country said he could get the game, delivered to his door, without waiting in a line, from his choice of Amazon, eBay, Target, Letgo, OfferUp, Walmart, and a bunch of other capitalist fantasy outlets. Neither of us are fooled, such things don’t exist. As of today, the Target part might be correct.

“Monopoly: Socialism” pokes fun at the flaws of command-and-control economies and also mocks health food and veganism. The game was released with little fanfare, but last week Kapur tweeted his displeasure at the game, creating a firestorm of controversy. Amid this controversy, “Monopoly: Socialism” disappeared from the Target website, and the company did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the game’s availability. Target had clearly been selling the game online, and it had been available at this link. As late as August 22, “Monopoly: Socialism” was available for purchase. Why should Target care about the opinion of a humorless so-called professor at a minor college, delivered in a tweet no less, the laziest form of communication?

Yes, I am really praising CNN for something.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders scolded the crowd at a Minnesota State Fair Q&A on Saturday for cheering on the death of billionaire philanthropist David Koch. An audience member was given the microphone to ask Sanders a question and began with, “Yesterday, oligarch David Koch passed away,” which prompted applause from his fellow audience members. “And we’re going to be dealing with his pollution and the radicalization of his politics. He’s made a killing off of the misery of other people, and I want to talk about retroactive justice,” he continued. “How would you follow up for the victims of folks who are coming down in the future generations?”

Sanders, however, wasn’t pleased with the cheering. “I don’t applaud, you know, the death of somebody. We needn’t do that,” the 2020 Democratic presidential contender said. He continued, “I think what we can say is that the Koch brothers and other billionaires, because of this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, have been able to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to represent the wealthy and the powerful, and the fossil fuel industry, which is where the Koch brothers made a lot of their money.” Note how quickly the rhetoric reflex takes over after his lukewarm admonition to the crowd. But Sanders’ lukewarm admonition is still better than brazen hostility. The incident comes as Koch’s Friday passing was met with celebration from some liberal activists. HBO’s Bill Maher gladly joined in, rejoicing on Friday’s episode of Real Time with Bill Maher.”F–k him .. I’m glad he’s dead,” Maher said. He hates Koch because Bill loves people so much.

But bless CNN, they actually dialed back the rhetoric and presented a more balanced (nuanced?) portrayal of the Koch organization. “The Koch brothers were best known-and vilified by Democrats–for their role in politics, and they used their vast wealth to build a sprawling array of think tanks, foundations and political groups to spread their small-government, free-market message. In some elections, the Koch network rivaled the spending and scope of the national Republican Party, and analysts view their activism as helping to have fueled the Tea Party movement. The organization already was in midst of transformation when David Koch stepped away from his formal roles. The Koch groups now are called Stand Together and have made more investments in philanthropy and policy issues, such as K-12 education. David Koch was most active in Americans for Prosperity. In June, Americans for Prosperity announced four new political action committees and said it would wade into primaries to help incumbent politicians, including Democrats, who side with Koch on trade, immigration and other issues.

But in the era of President Donald Trump-whom Charles Koch pointedly declined to support in 2016-the network has undergone a significant shift in focus, upping its commitment to work across party lines on top priorities, such as promoting free trade and creating a path to permanent legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as young children. Their activism made them villains to Democrats; then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, once denounced them as ‘power-drunk billionaires’ out ‘to buy the country.’ But it also put them at odds with Trump, who called them a ‘total joke’ last year after Charles Koch and his top lieutenants publicly criticized the administration’s trade policies.”

So can anyone explain to me why folks like Bill Maher, who hate Donald Trump, also hate the Koch brothers, who are at odds with Trump?