Sunday, September 15, 2019

Tweets: On the Election and General Political Attitudes

A coalition of women, people of color, and young people could swing the election. – link

I'm not even sure [Biden would win.] If it's old rich white guy vs old rich white guy, would people vote for Biden? – link

We have suddenly had a great deal of reality weighed in on us on a very short period of time. Denial is the natural stubborn reaction. There is, unfortunately, no guarantee that acceptance will eventually follow.  – link

Monday, September 9, 2019

Fascist Disaster Planning

I think most major world leaders have decided that planetary disaster is inevitable and that there isn’t enough space in the lifeboats, and so are starting to throw people into the ocean.


Me, writing in 2017:
2020. Look to 2020. The country will be a shambles by then, but with luck, organization, and leadership an opposition can win in 2020. We can try things in 2018, but by 2020 I hope we are ready.
Well, we did try something in 2018 and it worked – the Democrats took back the House … and then starting slow-walking action against Trump and the Republicans.

The USA certainly is a shambles and I see no signs the opposition is going to be ready for the 2020 elections.

… and what will we do if Trump and the Republicans lose, yet refuse to leave office? What will we do about the outbreak of right-wing terrorism likely to follow the election, regardless of which side loses.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Cost of Clean Power

It is a commonplace on that we are building no more nuclear plants and shutting down existing plants because they are too expensive. But…

They are less expensive than wind and solar – variable renewable energy (VRE.) Good, fine. But VRE has its limits, and somewhere between 60% and 90% of grid power, and something more reliable is needed for the balance, either fossil energy, large-scale long-term storage, large-scale hydro, or nuclear. Right now, that something is fossil energy, derived from natural gas and coal, both environmental problems. Natural gas plants is what we currently building and we have to stop burning natural gas. Not only is it a fossil fuel, and therefore a contributor to carbon emissions, it is itself a potent greenhouse gas, though a less persistent one than CO₂.

So, a bit of qualitative economic modeling. While we are building the smart grid, everything is fine for a while. VRE is ramping up and fossil fuel plants are shutting down. But when we arrive the limit of VRE (60%? 70%?) we have to either keep the fossil fuel plants going, driving the warming of the world, turn out the lights (or life-support) somewhere, or find something else to fill in the gap. By that time it will be very late and the necessary work will be very expensive. It would be wiser to start investing and researching now.

Friday, September 6, 2019

What We Now Are Building Instead of Nuclear Plants

Natural gas plants. Burning natural gas creates CO₂, a greenhouse gas. Natural gas production leaks methane which is itself a greenhouse gas, more potent but less persistent than CO₂. This is all crazy and this is what we are doing.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Genocidal Acts in Kashmir

“Just returned from Kashmir. Twelve year olds detained and beaten in midnight raids. Women threatened with rape. Young boys given electric shocks, families unaware of their whereabouts. This is the NORMAL you talk about. This is the worst I have seen in the valley yet.” – Rana Ayyub, Tweet

BBC reports, “Security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir have been accused of carrying out beatings and torture in the wake of the government's decision to strip the region of its autonomy.”

France 24 reports: “A magistrate speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said at least 4,000 people were arrested and held under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.”

Guardian Kashmir page.

Added 9/1: in the Indian province of Assam, some 1.9 million people have been declared non-citizens, though their families have lived there for generations. The Indian government is building 10 giant concentration camps to hold them.

To the Indian defenders of their current government: if there is nothing wrong, and the Indian government wants the world to see there is nothing wrong, they need only restore normal communications and travel to Kashmir. As it is, it seems that India is concealing genocidal acts, if not outright genocide. Discouragingly, it appears that having the experience of colonization does not prevent a people from itself become colonizers.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Trump, Granting Wishes

For Trump, in his dementia, there is no line between his desires, his wishes, and reality. He really believes that his trade war is good for the USA, that incarcerating refugees is a reasonable thing to do, that there were "very fine people" on both sides at Charlottesville. For his followers, Trump provides exculpation of their cruel beliefs. Since the highest official in the land believes them, like the white supremacists who have come out of the woodwork, it's OK for them to believe. He is like an evil genie, granting wishes that rebound on the people who make them.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Brief Note: Why is the USA so bad at recycling?

We started recycling when I was a young bird. 40 years on, we are still burying a huge amount of garbage. It is not that more products could not be reused or recycled. Rather, we have not been willing to mandate that manufacturers spend the money necessary to make more products recyclable.

If we are to prosper in the future, this has to change.

Brief Note: Plastics in an Age without Fossil Fuels

Plastics are a byproduct of fossil fuel refining; they're largely made from what is left over after fuel oils are refined out of crude oil.

My initial notes for this series of posts were written while I was sitting in campsite. I was looking around at a tent and a screen house and various other things that make modern recreational camping possible and realizing that almost all of them are made of petroleum byproducts, all the synthetic textiles, all the plastics that make up the various containers. The main thing that wasn't is the little stove – which uses fossil fuel, it's a propane stove. If we stop using fossil fuels what are we going to replace these materials with?

The answer seems to be, plant-based products. In principle, with enough energy and engineering, any chemical, including any plastic, can be made from any other chemical which contains the right elements, any usable “feedstock” in the language of chemical engineering. In practice, some feedstocks are more suitable than others for particular products. Since the energy for producing plastics from fossil fuels itself comes from the petroleum used to produce the plastics, there is going to a significant increase in the demand for energy to the process. To some extent, this perhaps can be mitigated by using embodied solar energy in appropriately-chosen plants, but this is going to take time to work out.

So there is going to be a generation where we rebuild our base of knowledge and products. Time to get started.

Brief Note: the Costs of Supplementing Green Electricity

One of the chief arguments against building more nuclear facilities is that various forms of renewable energy are less expensive. The problem there is the one that energy researchers are finding; some predictable source of power or long-term large-scale ("grid scale") energy storage technology is necessary. Yet all current designs for grid-scale energy storage are physically large, with extensive environmental impacts, and expensive as well. The cost argument against nuclear power is much weaker when one considers the costs of grid-scale storage.

Some links:
  University of Michigan's Center for Sustainable Systems Grid Energy Storage Fact Sheet
  Stanford's Energy's Grid Scale Storage page.

Brief note: restarting research into nuclear energy

I think we need to reactivate nuclear energy research. The energy industry has the large-scale light water reactor and no interest in doing other designs. These are hard to operate and extremely expensive. But there is utterly no interest in the industry in researching and developing better designs. So it is time to put the nuclear engineers at the national labs back at to work. We also need to pull together and archive the design work from early nuclear power plant design. A lot of that material is buried in reports, probably not even digital form, and it is important to preserve it because we may need it now.

The Green New Deal: Running the Numbers

The technologies definitely exist to meet our 2030 requirement reaching 60% [renewables] by 2030. We think that we have all the technologies in hand to reach 100% carbon-free or 100% clean by 2045, but it's a little bit less clear what that pathway looks like. And the reason is because when you start talking about really high levels of renewable energy generation technologies on the grid, you need to find ways to store that electricity because it's coming from sources like the wind and sun, so it's not coming 24/7 the way something like stored natural gas is. So, there are some unique technical challenges associated with running a grid with very, very high levels of renewables. We are making a lot of progress on figuring out how to run a grid like that, and we are very confident that by 2045, we will be able to get there. – Laura Wisland, interviewed in Union of Concerned Scientists podcast “Got Science: Clean Energy Momentum: From Goals to Gigawatts.” Accessed August 24, 2019.

The Technical Issues

In other words, the technologies we need to make the Green New Deal work do not yet exist. California can provide about 60% of its electricity via renewables. After that, what is needed is technology that can store energy not just for hours and days but for weeks and months. Currently that technology does not exist. It is hoped that it will be available by 2045. Lacking that technology there is large-scale hydroelectric or nuclear energy. There are not many greenhouse gas neutral electric generation technologies.

Laura Wisland is an expert on and advocate for green power with over a decade’s experience. But she must be politic in what she says. I do not need to be, and ravens are supposed to be harsh-voiced, so I will say it plainly: The Green New Deal is not enough. If we believe otherwise, we are deceiving ourselves and putting our nation and perhaps our world at risk

I wrote the Got Science producers on Twitter, and they wrote back with citations. Wisland herself was quoted: “We ‘think’ we can get to 100% carbon free power, but work continues to identify the most cost-effective pathways. E3 (consultant that runs electricity models for the energy agencies in CA) has done some analysis showing that we can get to about 90% and it's that last 10% that is the hardest to decarbonize. SB 100 (the law that created the 100% clean power goal) provides the state with flexibility to decide whether ultimately the power sector will be completely decarbonized or whether it's better to keep a little bit of carbon (gas) on the system to manage cost and reliability issues.”

A very bad mistake was made in the unequivocal opposition to nuclear power on the part of environmentalists. The nuclear plants were not built. Instead, coal and natural gas plants were built, both directly aggravating global climate change and producing the huge pollution and waste of coal and natural gas production and use. Worse still, this set an example for the developing world, with India and China building energy systems heavily relying on coal. Yet the Sanders Green New Deal proposal has the USA shutting down nuclear power plants before that technology exists.

The Political Issues

The credibility of environmentalism

What is going to happen to environmentalism when the public realizes that they are in part responsible for putting us into this position? The opposition to nuclear power, all the unfounded rumor-mongering all the lies, it played right to the hands of the fossil fuel industries and brought us to crisis more quickly then had we built those nuclear facilities.

This is not to say that nuclear power does not carry real risks, but these were dramatically overplayed by the environmental opposition to nuclear power. Worse still, no comparison with alternatives was done. Voices in the environmental movement who pointed out that coal was in many ways more environmentally troublesome than nuclear power were not heard.

Climate change is not the only environmental problem. The success of humans on earth depends on the human ability to manage our population and use of resources. If the environmental movement loses credibility in one area, we may lose many voices that defend our world and its ecosystems.

Policy Conclusions

My preference would be to roll forward on the Green New Deal, to continue research into the smart grid and long-term energy storage, and also to restart research into nuclear power generation. This seems to me likely, though, to be a counsel of perfection. I fear we are likely to come up short when it is too late to act, and many people will be left, literally, out in the cold, or perhaps the burning heat.


California Public Utilities Commission. “Proposed Preferred System Portfolio for IRP 2017-18: System Analysis and Production Cost Modeling Results.” California Public Utilities Commission, January 11, 2019.

Herman K. Trabish. “Getting to 100% Zero Emissions in California: Beyond CAISO’s Eight-Solution Menu.” Utility Dive, January 3, 2019.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Democratic Leadership, Courage, ACORN, The Squad, Al Franken

There has been (you may know) a reevaluation of Al Franken from the estimable Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. Franken, you probably know, was pressured out of the Senate by the Senate Democrats despite there being clear evidence both from the published image files themselves as well as the history of Leeann Tweeden that the charges were at best distorted.

But this is not about Franken. I went on to consider the bipartisan defunding of ACORN, the low-income voter registration group, based entirely on forged video evidence from conservative activists. And then I went on to consider the treatment of “The Squad” – Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who Trump told to return to where they came from. It took effort to get the House Democratic leadership to support them, despite Trump’s outrageous racist remarks.

When there are attacks on liberal Democrats, the Democratic Congressional leadership can be depended on to fold. Democrats of vision, courage, and ability are discouraged and, often, forced out. The result has been Congressional Democratic Caucuses filled with people who are at best very cautious and at worst weak and cowardly. And now that we need bold action from Congress, there is now almost no-one in the Congressional Democratic Caucuses to undertake it.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Pelosi Opened the Gates to Trump

"I think [Ocasio-Cortez] is being very disrespectful to somebody who's been there a long timeI deal with Nancy Pelosi a lot and we go back and forth and it’s fine, but I think that a group of people is being very disrespectful to her. And you know what, I don’t think that Nancy can let that go on." – Friday, July 12, Bloomberg

AOC tweeted, "Members of Congress have a duty to respond to the President’s explicit attack today. ’s life is in danger. For our colleagues to be silent is to be complicit in the outright, dangerous targeting of a member of Congress. We must speak out. 'First they came...'

Then, on Sunday, July 14, he tweets "Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." – The Hill

Shaun King (The Intercept) tweets:
It’s 1:43AM here in NYC and I’ve been studying white supremacist message boards for 4+ hours tonight. THEY ARE BUZZING WITH EXCITEMENT over the openly bigoted attacks from Trump against 4 women of color today. I literally have not seen them this excited since Charlottesville.
As AOC says, their lives are in danger.

That was a foolish move on the part of Speaker Pelosi. May it energize young voters.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Pelosi Widens the Split in the House Democratic Caucus or, We're So Scrod

The official House Democrats account is using @AOC’s words about Pelosi and targeting her chief of staff? I’ve never seen anything like this. – Yashar Ali on Twitter

This reminds me of how LBJ broke Humphrey, back in the 1950s. LBJ arranged a series of legislative defeats for Humphrey and, over time, Humphrey just folded. What AOC will do, under relentless attack from the leader of the House Democratic caucus, I do not know. I don't think she will fold. But, if this continues, this will break the caucus, and quite possibly keep young voters and people of color home in the 2020 elections, leading to Democratic losses.

If Trump Wins in 2020…

If we don't defeat the Republicans in 2020, taking at least the Presidency, Trump and the Republicans will:
  • Militarize the Southern border. In this case, it is likely the southern border of the USA will be turned into a killing field.
  • Seat more radical-right judges, and perhaps more rapists, on the Federal bench.
  • Go to war, perhaps in Iran.
The destruction of US institutions will continue and we will see more grossly unqualified people appointed to senior government positions.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Two and a Half Parties: Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party's Dilemma

Why don’t the House Democrats impeach Donald Trump? Why didn’t they oppose the blank check supplemental appropriations bill (S.811, H.R.2157) for Homeland Security and its concentration camps? Why aren’t the Democrats doing, well, anything?

We know about the appropriations bill, because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told us. “Because the Problem Solvers Caucus said, ‘We have enough votes to kill the House amendments.’ And they held. These 40 members led by Representative Gottheimer that worked with Republicans to say we’re going to pass the McConnell bill and so they handed over the Democratic Party.” (Link.)

There’s a lot of blaming of the Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. I think this is misdirected, and this is why:

Over time, as the Republicans have become more fascist, the Democratic right has become the refuge for conservatives who are not full-on fascists. The United States now has two-and-a-half parties: the Republican Party, which is fascist, the right of the Democratic Party, which is conservative, and the left of the Democratic Party, which is liberal and sometimes socialist. As I wrote nearly 10 years ago, the two wings of the Democratic Party exist in an uneasy alliance. Pelosi is having difficulty holding her coalition together. Should the Democrats initiate impeachment proceedings, the Problem Solvers Caucus would likely prevent the House from actually impeaching Trump, and then where would the party be? In this light, Pelosi’s blast directed at the four Democratic Representatives who voted against the supplemental funding bill becomes understandable; she is frustrated that she cannot maintain discipline within her caucus.

I am frustrated, too. I understand that inaction and working to defeat Trump in the next election seems to best thing which can be managed. I doubt any other Democratic Speaker could do better than Pelosi at reconciling the Party’s two wings in the House. At the same time, Democratic voters want to see bold action from the Party, and inaction appears as cowardice. Can a course to victory be charted?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Dementia, President Trump, and History

The other day, Twitter commentator Tom Joseph (@TomJChicago) remarked Trump was demented and that this was being covered up by his medical examiners. @duty2warn, a group of psychological professionals, has make similar remarks but instead adds that Trump will never submit to a proper examination. Let us, for the purpose of argument grant the possibility that Trump is demented.

If so, then various Trump officials, as well as foreign heads of state, are taking advantage of this. It seems likely enough; Trump’s pronouncements on Putin and Kim Jong-Un do not seem the thoughts of a sensible person, and there is precedent for this in Ronald Reagan, who had memory lapses and public bouts of confusion. It is hard to be sure; dementia hides itself. In early stages the victim has good days and bad and remains competent at activities they are already skilled at, even though they will be bewildered and lost when they leave their area of competence.

If this is so, part of the reason Trump relies on family, and especially his daughter Ivanka, is likely that they have been covering for him for years, and so Ivanka putting herself forward at inappropriate times (most recently at the 2019 G-20 meeting) is a matter of her trying to cover for her father, similar to the way Nancy Reagan covered for her husband Ronald.

Now I turn to history. King George III was said to be mad, with fits of mania, as early as the 1770s. Diagnosing a historical figure is difficult at best; physicians of King George’s period did not have a modern concept of illness, so that their diagnoses do not translate well into modern terms, and not only does mental illness often hide itself, but King George’s courtiers, friends, and family had excellent reasons to conceal his difficulties. Again, let us grant the likelihood. It is fairly high, with a modern study of his letters showing symptoms.

It seems likely, then, that the king’s mental illness contributed to the grievances of the founders of the United States. It is all rather mythic. The mental illness of a ruler contributed to the foundation of the United States and now the mental illness of a ruler may end the United States.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Democratic Party, Splitting in Two

“And then all of the sudden, maybe an hour later or whatever, they call the vote, and the vote is for the Senate bill with no amendments. It caught the entire caucus blindsided. And there were literally members that were like: “What’s in this bill? I don’t know what’s in this bill.” […] Because the Problem Solvers Caucus, they said, we have enough votes to kill the House amendments. And they basically held. It was like these 40 members led by Representative Gottheimer that worked with Republicans to say we’re going to pass the McConnell bill. And so they effectively handed over the Democratic Party.” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, quoted in Mother Jones,

“Bipartisan” from Democrats means collaboration with fascists. Do not forget this.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Iconography and Presidents

(Written not long after the election of Donald Trump.)

Let me suggest that not only the Trumpites who are dug in, but also the Berniebros and, yes, the Clintonsistas, too. People are making what ought to be simple fact-based questions (did Russian propaganda influence the election? what was the influence of the Clinton campaign over the DNC?) into identity-based beliefs, which cannot be touched.

Once identity becomes an issue in politics, we start to see behaviors analogous to family dynamics (perhaps these are actually the same.) Roles take precedence over actual behavior: “Dad” may be an abusive alcoholic, but he’s still Dad and deserves some sort of respect. So we have the precedence of image over the person’s actual behavior: Trump is making American great again, Hillary Clinton the great feminist hope, Bernard Sanders is some sort of saint and so on. Everyone is supposed to be the messiah.

What I find striking is the divergence between the image and the person. It is most evident with Trump, of course, many of whose followers still believe even as he works hard to elevate his ego and ruin their lives, but there is some of it in all the leaders. Hillary Clinton is indeed a feminist, but she is also a devout Methodist and conflicted on abortion and charity. (And the less said about her beliefs on foreign policy, the better.) Sanders plainly believes in his socialism, but he is more of a tough practical political survivor than a saint.

As analysts and commentators, we may pay attention to the person behind the curtain, as it were – we supposedly study these matters and pay attention to the actuality as well as iconography – but we have difficulty bringing these insights to a wider public.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Getting Started: the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal proposes to solve environmental problems by hiring a lot of people to do the work, but what is the work? We don’t know what those jobs are, yet. We don’t even know what is to be done. Build wind, solar, tidal, nuclear? (I suspect a lot of GND supporters don’t want to think about nuclear, but nuclear power does not produce greenhouse gases.)
If only there are experts to consult.
And there are. There are 17 US national laboratories. One, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), is focused on renewables. Several of the others do renewables work as well.
I recently wrote an old colleague at one of the US national labs (we corvids get around), asked him how things were going, and what, if anything, was being done by the labs on the Green New Deal. They said that their work was going well though they now had to seek high-level approval for publication and that he had not read anything about the Green New Deal beyond the headlines.
If anything like a green new deal is to be implemented, the US national labs will be the primary research and development institutions. So, what are the national labs doing?
Each of the 17 US national laboratories has their own particular history and research focus. One, The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is focused on renewables. Another, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, does all kinds of civilian research, including renewables work, a third, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), was founded in 1910 to support fossil fuel production and use and continues in that role. The other 14 are largely focused on high energy physics, nuclear weapons, and nuclear energy, though many do work in other fields. Notably, Argonne National Labs in Illinois houses the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), which works on battery technology, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) near Hanford in Washington State, has its Energy Policy and Economics Group.
And this is all very good, and all very fine, and we still don’t have a plan.
We don’t know how to make the Green New Deal work, yet, but we do know how to build a nuclear power system that will do the job – that’s where we have spent most of our efforts over the last 70 years.
Whatever we do, we need to get started.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Kristallnacht, US version

“DHS is planning to target families as part of stepped up effort to deport undocumented immigrants, a senior admin official told me, in response to Trump’s tweet last night. But the official said there are ‘not a lot of happy faces’ at DHS, as Trump revealed plans in the works.” – Jim Acosta,

@Adam L Silverman over at Balloon Juice comments: “We don’t have enough Customs & Border Patrol officers, we don’t have enough Immigration & Customs Enforcement officers, we don’t have enough US Customs and Immigration Services personnel.”

If some local police and paramilitaries join in, would that be enough? It sounds like DHS is working on an updated version of Kristallnacht. The one good thing I can see about this is that support for our immigrants is broader and deeper than that for Jews in Nazi Germany.

In related  news, AOC called the concentration camps concentration camps on Twitter. Liz Cheney (!) wrote to disagree, objecting, “6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.” The conservative never-Trumpers, Tom Nichols, Max Boot and the like, are Very Concerned.

“If, in the course of defending your political positions, you find yourself clarifying that you only support concentration camps, not death camps, I feel like maybe you ought take that as an occasion to rethink some things.” – David Roberts of Vox,

While I was writing this in BJ comments, I  got a spam call from the American Law Enforcement United Alliance (ALEUA), a dark money pro-police PAC. They are a project of something called “Security in America,” also a dark money pro-police anti-immigrant PAC.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Erasure of the History of Collective Activism and Non-Violence in the USA

Americans have been heavily propagandized against collective action exactly because it is effective and is the particular tool of movements to leash the power of wealth. The entire history of US socialism has been erased for many people. Equally, distorted versions of the histories of the Indian independence movement and the US civil rights movement has been promulgated, ones that erase the sternness of their leadership and the sacrifices of their followers.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Tweetety tweety tweet!

“At this time, there are three main political factions in the USA: fascists, who dominate the Republican Party, conservatives, who make up the right wing of the Democratic Party, and liberals, who make up the left wing of the Democratic Party.” –

“Let's start a Twitter campaign to get this app killed.” “@AppleSupport @Android Take this fraudulent thing down.” “Revealed: women's fertility app is funded by anti-abortion campaigners” –

“While the Democratic leadership is waiting its moment, Trump and the Republicans are stealing everything that isn’t nailed down. Was this what we voted for in 2018?” –

“Judge Moore blocked me. I feel a sense of accomplishment.” –

Friday, May 17, 2019

Political Courage, the House, W. Bush, and the Mueller Report

This article includes a 1963 picture of Bernard Sanders being arrested at a protest of racial segregation in Chicago by the brutal Chicago police force, still notorious for racism. In 1963 that force was Mayor Richard J. Daley’s iron hand. Five years later, that force was to brutally assault demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In 1963, protesting racism in Chicago took physical courage. Sanders would more likely have been treated as a race traitor than a privileged white man, possibly a Jewish race traitor.
From that day to this, Sanders has taken uncompromising political stands. After being arrested by Mayor Daley’s brutal force, I suspect that any purely political threat seemed small in comparison. He was not alone. Many activists of his generation faced brutal consequences and political ignominy for opposing racism, sexism, ableism – and they won.
Over 50 years later, the House Democrats face the question of how to respond to Donald Trump and the Mueller Report. In 1980, following the election of Reagan in an outburst of reactionary politics, the Democratic leadership decided to move to the right in the hope of attracting some of the reactionaries. The strategy worked, for a while. But the reactionaries, seeing success, continued to move to the right, impeaching President Clinton, one of the leading conservative Democrats. On the advice of William Barr, now Attorney General of the United States, President G. H. W. Bush (the first) pardoned the traitors of Iran-Contra, and the House Democrats did little in response. When W. Bush (the second) came to the Presidency, he pursued an ill-advised war in Iraq, using numerous illegal tactics and, again, the Democrats failed to act, ceding more and more to the Republicans, including, disastrously, the Supreme Court majority.
All through that time, there were explanations that this was strategy, that the Democrats would eventually fight.
Which brings us to the present day, when special counsel Robert Mueller III wrote a damning prosecutorial report on President Trump and his administration. Even what remains of the report, after redactions by Barr, is damning. Administration officials openly defy Congressional subpoenas and orders under the law. And the House Democrats, newly empowered by the 2018 election have done … what, exactly? So far, make public statements.
It is hard to see this as anything but cowardice. If the House leadership had 1/10 of the courage shown by the 1960s activists, they would be acting.
I have come to believe that one reason Sanders has such devoted supporters is courage. Equally, it seems to me one reason the Democratic Party has so little respect among the public is its seeming lack of courage. I am left wondering how much of the slow erosion of democracy in the USA is down to cowardice.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Meanwhile, in the Marketplace

Amazon’s Warehouses Are Crappy Places to Work (My sister blog, with the occasional story of life in the marketplace.)

Also, a pro-tax tweet:
The USA has been on austerity budget since the 1990s. It hasn't made us richer, or even helped us get by.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Bernie and the Racists

It seems to me that one reason so many Democrats resent Sanders is because he reminds them of what the party was, and abandoned in the 1990s, to gain votes in conservative states, especially in the South.
From the early 1990s to 2016, the Democratic Party was dominated by its conservative wing. They supported and passed a series of tight-fisted laws: the Clinton tax increase, which cost the party the House; welfare and Medicaid reform; the Clinton health plan, followed by the PPACA. At the same time, we heard racist rhetoric from the party leaders: “Sister Soljah,” “superpredators,” and so on. These reassured white racists that African-Americans would be kept from rising against their oppressors.
I wonder how much of the tight-fisted conservative policies were also covert appeals to racists. How much of the conservative faction of the Democratic Party is racist? Some, surely. Most?
Scratch economic conservatism, find racism (and sexism, but I’m writing about racism.) Policies which keep property relations as they stand, dominated by a wealthy white minority, those policies are racist, even if they do not incorporate explicit bigotry. The bigotry may be there, but it only becomes visible when attacked or when some demagogue like Donald Trump makes a direct appeal to it.
I don’t believe we can address racism without addressing disparities of wealth. Do we grant people of color full civil rights and still keep them dirt poor?
Which brings us back to Sanders. Sanders critique of class divisions is profoundly anti-racist – addressing class will, necessarily, raise up African-Americans. The objection from some African-Americans is that that is not enough, that one must first have basic rights. But Sanders stands for those as well: the young man who marched against housing discrimination in Mayor Daley’s Chicago (a very brave thing indeed), the only light-skinned man who stood with the Congressional Black Caucus when the Democratic leadership turned conservative in the 1990s, the first 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate to say “black lives matter” supports civil rights for African-Americans.
I think Sanders is so hated because, just by being who he is, he shames them. Sure, there’s other reasons. There’s people who say he cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency. I don’t agree, but I can understand that. But in the end, Sanders has stood against poverty and racism for his entire career and stands in reproach to people who have not. That is why there are so many attempts to make him out to be a racist, because if he is one, there is no need to listen to him, and his conservative opponents need not be ashamed. I regard such attacks as as valid as the attacks on Hillary Clinton as a cruel entitled masculine woman: these attacks relieve the attackers of the need to consider Clinton as a strong, competent leader, and reassure them that they need not be ashamed for their own weakness.
So let us treat Sanders with respect and listen to him. I doubt he could be elected to the Presidency and he is an old man who may lack the stamina to cope with the stresses of the office, but we should at least treat him decently. He’s been fighting the good fight for most of his life and he deserves respect for that.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Representation and Ideology

Many people decide what political ideas to believe on the basis of candidates they think represents them, but how do they know if a candidate represents them without first understanding that candidate's ideas?

It ought to be the other way around: first decide if a candidate's ideas are good for you, then decide if the candidate represents you.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Bernie Sanders: Right About Everything and Unelectable

Sanders was right about everything before every other Presidential candidate, and he can’t win
  In 1962, the college-age Bernie Sanders was arrested by the Chicago police, protesting racism. He continued his activism throughout the 1960s. He was also an antiwar activist.
  In 1972, before Roe v Wade, he took a pro-choice stand.
  In 1987, when he was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders was explaining the dangers of climate change and environmental degradation to schoolchildren.
  Throughout the 1990s, Bernie Sanders, as a member of the US House of Representatives, was a reliable ally of the Congressional Black Caucus, sometimes the only light-skinned. Representative who stood with them.
  In 1995 he defended gay and lesbian service members on the House floor.
Yet Bernie could not be a national political leader for many years; there was no faction in either major party he could lead. There has been no Democratic left since the loss of the Presidency to Reagan in 1980. Since that time, elections have been increasingly dominated by wealthy donors and candidates who cater to them. The abandonment of anti-fascist media law and regulation under Reagan, the general commercialization of news, and the emergence of the major right-wing propaganda network Fox News made it impossible to be a major leftist leader within either major party. It took the crash of 2008 and the failed response to it to create the conditions that put Sanders in a position to lead a major Democratic faction.
But Sanders ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and many women are convinced he cost her the election. On top of which he is a light-skinned secular Jewish man and is therefore held to a far higher standard than a white Anglo-Saxon protestant. I remember with loathing how Sanders was painted as racist and sexist despite his long history as anything but, while Hillary Clinton, with a history of racist language and support for racist policies in the 1990s and a wobbly position on abortion, was given a pass, apparently because she was a good Methodist woman.
It remains true that the largest plurality of voters vote on representation. This is not a simple matter of voting for someone like themselves. A majority of white women, for instance, find Donald Trump representative of them. (I can only wonder why he doesn’t remind them of every harasser and rapist.) This is an impediment to the choice of good leaders. Instead, we get people who can persuade the public that they represent the public – affinity scams on the broadest scale. William Clinton “felt their pain” until he was in office, then delivered more pain.
And sometimes, usually desperate times, a great leader slips through the haze of self-regard. We get a Washington, a Lincoln, an FDR. But there are no guarantees. Sanders’ time, I think, has passed. He would, I think, have made a great Senate majority leader, if the Democratic Party had not been so conservative in his time. If elected to the Presidency, Sanders would turn 80 in office and I doubt he could survive the stresses of the office. But there seems no-one of comparable stature among the Democratic hopefuls, though I think well of Elizabeth Warren. Would that we could learn to embrace our best in their times!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Feeding the Monster: On Ilhan Omar, Antisemitism, and Islamophobia

Ilhan Omar, as a Muslim, has no reason to love the state of Israel. I don't expect her to do so, but I wish she would not to feed the antisemitic monster, either. It is almost as hungry for Muslim blood as it is for Jewish.

The only reason she's being censured in the media is because of her skin color and religion. Republican antisemites, all the way up to Donald Trump himself, have been talking antisemitism for years. No wave of outrage there. But when a black American Muslim says it, they start clutching their pearls.

But she did say it. Back in 2012, she tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She has since become more subtle, but the echoes are still in her language and she keeps repeating the offense. In 2018, leaders of Minneapolis’ Jewish community spoke with her, and came away unsatisfied.

I am underwhelmed by the response of many non-Jewish liberals and leftists of various stripes. White people don’t get to forgive racism on behalf of blacks. White people don’t get to forgive antisemitism on behalf of Jews. From Alex Zeldin, in the Jewish magazine Forward, we have an extended discussion of the problems of her language. Jews are right to be angry and scared:

I like the remarks of Rabbi Ruti Regan, no lover of the Israeli right wing herself:
Things that apparently need saying in this repetitive stale hell of a news cycle: 1) Neither the American Jewish community nor Israel is secretly hypnotizing America. 2) Congresswoman Omar is not a terrorist and the American Muslim community is not a terrorist group. –
The end result of all of this is to both offend Jews and to reinforce the position of the most aggressive supporters of Israel.

As a side comment, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's response ( was impressive, neither supporting the language nor adding fuel to the fire. AOC will be Presidential material, if there is still a Presidency when she is old enough.

Social liberal, economic conservative, racist

“Social liberal, economic conservative” is another way of saying a candidate will preserve the wealth of old white people. –

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Selected Recent Tweets 2019-02-24

[on Clobuchar’s student loan debt plan] At least, go back to allowing student loan debt to be dissolved in bankruptcy, and go back to allowing a dignified bankruptcy, none of this "reform" garbage. That's not enough, but it would for sure be better than what we have now.
But you know, she can't. I think she's a bought and paid for creature of the big money - that's what this shows

If we wanted to aid the people of Venezuela, we could lift the sanctions on the country. But, no, gotta get that oil. It's cooking the world, but gotta get that oil. –

[On preferring Warren to Sanders for reasons of representation] The black union people in Milwaukee, they loved [Bernie]. He was speaking their language.

In what world is rectifying economic inequities not a part of eliminating racism?

Fk. USA declares war on Venezuela, more-or-less. –

[In response to Paul Krugman, on health plans] One thing you are missing is how very much most people hate the [health] insurance companies. No medieval landlord was crueler. –

We have taken small steps, while the destroyers of the Earth have taken strides.

[On climate change] When packs of wolf packs are arriving it's OK to cry wolf. –

[on the idea that one needs a racially uniform population to successfully implement universal health care]
"All of our history is a coming together
  You want pure you're gonna have caves again.
Anyway who needs a freak like the grand dragon,
  So full of s..t his breath makes acid rain." [Bruce Cockburn lyric, slightly misheard] –

[On Sanders remarks on “humanitarian aid” in Venezuela] Or maybe he's a politician, doing what he needs to do. People forget that Sen Sanders is a pol. An unusually decent one, but he still has constituents to answer to. –

[On the sophisticated plagiarism that has emerged in Amazon ebooks] Hack writing and scam publishing for the 21st century, and Amazon doesn't care. Amazon makes money from it, hand over fist. –

Chavez, Maduro's predecessor, nationalized the Venezuelan oil industry and the US can't tolerate that. –

It's not so much that they want Venezuela's oil, though they do, but they hate having Venezuela's oil taken away from them. –

[What do white rural voters want?] Someone to represent them. They don't see themselves in the sophisticates, often children of the rich, they are usually offered. They're one rung up on the social ladder and they're determined to keep someone below them.

A lot of white suburbanites want the same thing.

Let me suggest that a lot of what goes wrong [in US foreign policy] is that we are using the military to resolve our internal conflicts, much like a man who has problems at home picking bar fights. It doesn't resolve problems at home, and it makes new problems outside. –

Cornyn, while people who sounded like you were building camps and ovens, socialists were dying to stop them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Reading the Tea Leaves: the Democratic Presidential Nominee

I think we are likely to get a “socially liberal, economically conservative” woman of color. (And no, not necessarily Kamala Harris.)

I have a sick feeling. I am not sure that any economic conservative can win the necessary votes. The Democrats who vote will vote for her, but it will be hard for her to get the black working class and the youth vote to work for her enthusiastically, or to turn out for her.

Assuming she does win, we will then face more years where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Better that than the party of rape and treason, to be sure, but hard years. And who knows how any “economic conservative” will deal with the fossil fuel industry?

Sanders is in. Sigh.

He made the announcement this morning, on Vermont Public Radio.

On the one hand, I like him and his politics. On the other hand, he will have trouble winning both the nomination and the general election. There's a lot of women and blacks who hate him. His hippie and socialist past will be dragged out by his Republican opponent. And I fear that just running will kill him. The Presidency ages people, just running ages people, and Sanders is already an old man.

And where will the born-again progressives of the Democratic Party get their ideas from, if they cannot steal them from Sanders?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Bernie Sanders on sexism among his supporters

(More old business. I get tired of Sanders being blasted as sexist. I don't think he is, and he definitely doesn't condone it among his supporters.)

"It's disgusting. [...] Anybody who is supporting me and who is doing sexist things, we don't want them. I don't want them. That is not what this campaign is about." – Sen. Bernard Sanders

On the Sanders Medicare for All Proposal and the Problem of Health Care in the USA

(Old business; I'm cleaning out my backlog of "To be writtens.")

"Medicare for All," as advocated by the social democrats and democratic socialists, means universal coverage without out-of-pocket expenses. The Sanders proposal can be read at What would be covered and how the system would be funded is spelled out.

"A method to stop price gouging by insurers and providers with market power." But this is why the insurance companies were brought on board; without guarantees that their profits would be maintained, even increased, they would have made the plan impossible to pass; it barely passed as it was.

As of 2017, the CDC found that 28.9 million Americans had no health plan. Full report:

The ACA has huge coverage gaps (one of the largest is due to the Roberts Court.) Once people have enough income for the system to require insurance, the expenses fall mostly on working poor and lower middle-income people. This could, of course, be changed, but it would require either price regulation or higher taxes, both of which are going to be difficult.

The health insurance companies used to have full-time employees devoted to finding reasons to deny care to cancer patients, and other high-cost insureds. I see no reason beyond expediency to give those businesses anything – they've made their pile. Capitalism-worship is the only reason they still exist.

Considering pragmatic politics, I don't see good solutions to any of this. We need to fight to keep what we have, however poor it is. I don't want to lose the ACA trying to get something better. And the fight divides the opposition to the fascists.

Reflections on the Green New Deal

It's good, it's not perfect, and it's not enough.

It's a resolution. I support its passage. You can read it here. The bill as it stands mandates nothing and collects no revenue. Instead, it sets out an ambitious list of goals. The basic proposal is to switch the USA off of fossil energy and onto "renewables" (not completely defined – is nuclear power renewable?) and to hire a lot of people to do the job. There is also something of a laundry list of moderate left goals: indigenous rights, "equal pay for equal work," and so on. It's not a bad list. Some of the goals probably conflict with others, global policy must be addressed, and I hate the callout to family farms. (See Sarah Taber's critique.)

But it should have been passed 25 years ago.

By now we should have run the numbers and be implementing the programs. That we have not run the numbers worries me. A lot. We are near to the breaking point, and we haven't even tried to figure out a plan will work. Will wind and solar power be enough? How many climate refugees will there be? We don't know any of this. We don't even have estimates.

If it were up to me, I would put some of my old colleagues at the national labs on the job. Time has run out.

We need a real plan, not just ambitious goals.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Wealth and Race: Reflections on Two State of the Union Responses

I have watched the official Democratic response (10 minutes) from Stacey Abrams and the unofficial and resented response (30 minutes) from Sen. Bernard Sanders.

Abrams gave a short response, heavy on solidarity and consensus. It was impressive, the moreso since this is a woman who probably lost the governorship of Georgia due to Republican electoral shenanigans, and there are voters who just eat this stuff up, but I doubt that any meaningful compromise with the extremists who control the Republican Party is possible. Yet this is apparently the official position of the Democratic Party, as it has been for decades as much of the country was lost to Democrats.

After Abrams, Sanders gave a well-organized long response on social media, giving credit to Abrams. His response contrasted a democratic socialist position with that of President Trump and the Republicans. He started with a scathing critique of wealth inequality, moved on to the trade deficit and off-shoring of jobs, infrastructure, privatization, and health care. He quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. in support of this. And he went on. It was a very good speech – I have seldom seen Sanders given credit as an orator, but he is a very good one, and there was substance as well as style in his response.

I wish the Democratic leadership would take more of this up, but Sanders criticizes the very wealthy who fund many of the party's campaigns. It is striking how, even before Sanders gave his speech, there was talk about his trying to upstage Abrams, how even just giving a response on social media, which he has now done for three years, was somehow an attack on women and people of color. I don't see it. He spoke after Abrams, on platforms with much less reachthan national television, and gave her credit. He's a sitting Senator, he represents the views of a substantial faction of the Democratic Party, and I can't see any reason why he shouldn't give a response. No-one criticized Kamala Harris for giving a pre-response before Trump's speech – why does Sanders get slammed for it?

I think it is because critics of the disparities of wealth are always attacked, and this is an easy way to do it. Sanders is called racist and sexist. Elizabeth Warren is called racist. The people who do this haven't yet figured out how to call the Puerto Rican Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez either racist or sexist, but there is already talk of running a Democratic candidate against her in the next primaries. Abrams, who probably privately is as much a critic of wealth as anyone, gave a speech which didn't touch on wealth at all, instead calling for consensus when she knows better than any of these that consensus would be unjust.

True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Angry: Perjury Charges Are Not Enough

We have here a BuzzFeed News report that Trump pressed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Russian property deal, suborning perjury. From BuzzFeed, the source of gossip, memes, and sexy photos. Multiple Congressional Democrats are (finally!) talking about starting impeachment proceedings. Not for mass child theft at the border, not for withholding emergency aid that could have saved thousands of lives in Puerto Rico, not for probable treason. For lying to Congress.

We have Oregon Senator Merkley referring Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen to the FBI for perjuring herself. Not for stealing thousands of children. For lying to Congress.

I am glad these criminals (alleged criminals, all right) have been caught out and are probably going down. Maybe, eventually, there will be some sort of truth and reconciliation commission that will deal with the crimes against humanity. Maybe there will be actual charges against the so-many Homeland Security officials who participated. Maybe there will someday be a trial for treason for Trump and all the people who probably sold out to Vladimir Putin's Russia. But not today, not yet. For now the only penalties are bad names among obscure bloggers and Twitter commentators.

And maybe all the criminals will die in their beds, untroubled by any significant punishment beyond bad names.

Fk Trump. Fk the Republicans. Fk the child thieves. Fk the rapists. Fk the millions who support these crimes.

“Fuck every cause that ended in murder and a child screaming.” – Iain Banks

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Information Warfare: the Media and Trump and Russia

And all of a sudden the Trump-Russia connections are all over the news. But these are not news; the basics have been known for two years, and all that has been done is filling in the details. Which is important, but why is it suddenly worth headlines, when it was not before the election, or early in Trump's term, when it might have made a difference?

Near as I can figure, the answer is that the owners of the big media corporations have noticed that Trump is a threat. Too late, suckers!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Climate Change: Reconsidering Nuclear Power

We may be able to use nuclear power if we become competent socialists.
I have been reading James Mahaffey’s Atomic Accidents, an account of failures of nuclear technology. This is merging in my mind with responses to climate change, which are now desperately needed.
For a long time, my position on nuclear power has been that it would be an excellent technology if we could find saints and angels to run the system. Lacking a supply of those, we had probably best solve our energy problems in another way. This book, if anything, confirms me in that position. But time is running out to avert planetary disaster from climate change and nuclear power does not contribute to global climate change. Perhaps it is time to rethink nuclear power.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Reflections on Conservative Attacks on AOC

I find the attacks on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez troublesome, and not just because I largely support her politics.

AOC's family was and is living the American dream. The father had a moderately successful career as an architect and the family moved to the 'burbs. The father died young, while AOC was in college during the crash of 2008, and AOC and her mother were poor for a while. She graduated from Boston University with honors. Now AOC has been elected to the House of Representatives and is earning a decent civil service salary, like all Representatives.

This is exactly what conservatives keep telling us poor non-white people should do. They did it, and AOC is, for the moment, successful. She has maintained her connections with her community and the values of her family. If anything, they should celebrate her!

Apparently some conservatives don't really believe one should work hard and make good. Secretly, when they say that poor people should work hard and hold to their families and values, they really expect poor people to fail.

Not a surprise, no, but sad.