Sunday, March 29, 2020

I Cough on Jared Kushner

I see so much written as though the shortage of tests and ventilators was a natural disaster, something that just happened. This is not true. This deadly failure is the result of inaction by Donald Trump and his criminal family.

Whenever we hear of triage, of patients denied care because of a lack of ventilators, of doctors and nurses sick because they lack gloves and masks and gowns, remember: This is the work of Donald Trump and his family.

Towards a New Democratic Vision

Since Karl Marx, socialism or progressivism or whatever you want to call it has focused on the material conditions of life. There is no doubt that improving these conditions improve lives. That has not persuaded the public to be progressive. Against all evidence, progressives keep thinking that if they make the reasonable case, people will believe. Something else is necessary; we cannot make philosophers of all the world.

On the one hand, according to Converse’s work (and I don’t think matters have changed much since he first published in 1962) the largest plurality makes its voting decisions based on what he called “group identification” and what we now call representation, it is a minority, perhaps 10-15%, that are even aware of policy. Yet any good or bad we get from government comes from policy and from the conduct and character of the people who govern. The largest group votes based on nothing that affects their lives and they get unpredictable results.

Ideally, democracy would create a bridge between the two; the candidate you identify with, that feel you could have a beer with or would like to have in your sewing circle should also be, or be able to pick, the people whose policies will be good for you. In practice, we get affinity scammers: Reagan and Trump and the like, but also various Democratic leaders, though they are less toxic.

In the end, voting for people you identify with is nothing more than voting for a warped mirror of yourself, a kind of self-regard. And every now and again, a great leader slips through the haze of self-regard, but it’s not common.

A successful progressive movement, if such a thing ever comes to pass, would combine the sense that the various leaders and elected officials were people you could trust with the choice of people of good character who could make good policy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Stimulus Bill

There is a bill. Reports are it’s a big few strings attached bill for the richest corporations (6 trillion), loans for small business, a too-small one time payment for individuals. David Dayen is apoplectic.

To her credit, Warren managed to get something for individuals, and reportedly Sanders managed to get gig economy workers included, but the overall deal stinks.

Meantime, we are still on track for genocide in the red states.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Premonition of Genocide

Me writing nearly three years ago (edited, the original was about the last Republican attempt at health care “reform”): “This is a deliberate part of a program of culling the unfit and purifying the race. Someone, several someones, somewhere, has a vision of a purified American with women enslaved and without black or brown people, without weakness or illness.” – link

Call this what it is: a genocidal program.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Republican Republican Republican Nazi Nazi Nazi

It seems that Trump and the Republicans intend to do as little as possible about the epidemic and its economic impacts. If this goes as badly as seems likely, the Republican Party is going to go down in history beside the Nazis.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Plaguing the Senate: Things Just Got Real

(This is an update of my 1,000 Plagues on the Senate post; refer to the original for the assumptions used.)

So I reran my model with a current list of Senators.

(I didn't include the frequency numbers this time because I can't figure a simple way to insert them with Excel.)

So, a bit different. The chance that no Senators die is up to 13%, which is bad odds; almost 9 in 10 for at least one death. The chance of one to three Senators dying is now 73%, roughly 3 in 4.

This is about to get real. Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for SARS-nCoV-2. He is thought to have been exposed on March 7ᵗʰ and his test results came back today, March 22ⁿᵈ. He did not self-quarantine and could easily have been contagious for over a week. It is likely that Sen. Paul has exposed the entire Senate to SARS-nCoV-2.

There is a bitter, bitter late Isaac Asimov story, “The Winnowing,” about a scientist who, threatened by some world government council, devises a poison that would reduce the world's population by randomly killing some percentage of the public. Instead, he uses it first on that council, poisoning himself as well, and saying, this was what you wanted, this is what you asked for – wasn't it? And so, here we are.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

COVID-19: 1,000 Plagues on the Senate

(It turns out the list of Senators I used was out of date, so here is an updated version.)

So I got to wondering just how many Senators, that body of old mostly men, could die of COVID-19.

So, I simulated a plague on the Senate. The ages of Senators are public information. I assumed a 50% infection rate and use the Italian death-rate-by-age statistics and for each Senator I calculated a probability of death. Since this is simulation, I could plague the Senate over and over. In each plague, for each Senator, I took the probability of death, a number between zero and one. I then had my computer pick a random number between zero and one. If it was below the probability of death, I said that that Senator had died. I did this for each Senator, then I did it over and over for each plague. I could then count how many Senators died in each plague, and this chart summarizes the result: most likely between one and three. The odds of none dying were quite low – 7% – and the odds of more dying were 23%.

Critique: my editor argues that the infection rate would be higher. The age brackets I had were ten years wide, assigning the same probably of death to a 70-year-old as to a 79-year-old. But the data we have is not precise and this is probably as good an estimate as any. 

How will the Senate react if we see those deaths? How will Donald Trump and Mike Pence react?

In Praise of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.

Regardless of what I think of the man and his record (not much) he is most likely going to be the Democratic Presidential nominee for 2020. So here are some of his positives.

I believe Joseph Biden will keep his oath to uphold the Constitution.


  • Biden would have acted wholeheartedly against the coronavirus epidemic.
  • He will appoint competent people to his cabinet.
  • He will appoint an honest competent jurist as his Attorney General.
  • He will not have white supremacists as advisors.
  • His Supreme Court appointments will be honest and competent. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be able to retire when she wants.
  • He will appoint honest competent justices to the Federal Courts.
  • He has repudiated his support for the Hyde Amendment. He has made promises to adopt parts of Warren's bankruptcy proposals and Sanders education proposals; a big shift for him. These are campaign-year conversions. But with Warren and Sanders in the Senate, we may be able to make him keep these promises.

In Foreign Policy

  • Biden will work to preserve US international alliances.
  • Biden would never have abandoned the Kurds in the Middle East
  • He won't be making concessions to North Korea.
  • He won't be holding secret meetings with Vladimir Putin. 


Indications are that Democratic voters will turn out for Biden – primary voters overwhelmingly have. He is popular with many African-Americans. He is less so with women, but if he chooses Kamala Harris as his running mate he may well be unbeatable; Harris may even become the first woman to be President.

So, I give you – Joseph Biden!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Considering Biden

The man has skated for years under the protection of the Mediocre White Guy Full Employment Act. This is so awful. Not surprising, but it is still  awful. The man is racist, sexist, and classist, and is going to give away the store, if he even wins.

So here's a list of what he has done so far, and why I say he is racist, sexist, and classist:
  • He voted for the Hyde Amendment for decades, and changed his mind just for this campaign.
  • Anita Hill
  • The incredibly punitive and racist Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. 
  • The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.
When he reaches across the aisle as he has promised to do, what does he have left to give to the Republicans? More tax cuts? Medicare and Social Security cuts? More losses to women’s rights? Will he close the concentration camps?

Michael Bloomberg can relax; his tax cuts are safe with Biden. All the corruption issues are going to be let go and people will go around asking “Was this what we voted for?”

Warren is not a likely VP; she’s been Biden’s opponent for decades and she’d have to give up on ideals she’d pursued for decades to back Biden. I think the VP pick almost has to be a woman, and a woman of color would be a better choice. Harris is likely VP because of her skin color and sex, and because she let the banks off in California.

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Monday, March 2, 2020

The Sex of the Revolution

On the eve of 14 Democratic primary elections
We have the big money (Bloomberg), the voice of financial services (Biden), the democratic socialist (Sanders), and the woman's candidate (Warren) who is also a social democrat. Biden and Bloomberg have both been sexist in their careers. Sanders has been a decent ally of women, but his main focus has always been his socialism. And Warren, who is a social democrat by choice and a feminist by necessity.
Warren is being asked to step aside by both the Wall Street Democrats and the Sanders faction. The Wall Street faction is simply sexist. The Sanders faction believes she should take one for the team.
My mind goes back to the hippie girl who said in frustration, “The only place we women have in this revolution is on our backs.” My mind goes back to figures like Jenny Marx and Mary Burns, socialist leaders, both less known than their famous lovers (Burns was Engels long-time paramour and has been almost erased from history.) My mind goes back to the geisha who helped make the Meiji Restoration in Japan and were then outlawed by the government they helped bring to power. My mind goes back to Sybil Ludington, who rode twice the distance Paul Revere did to warn the colonial militia that attack was imminent and yet is almost forgotten.
Women help make the revolution, are necessary to the revolution, and then are thrown under the bus after the revolution.
Does anyone believe a victory for any of these men will be a victory for women? Certainly not Biden or Bloomberg. Sanders is in some ways very good for women – for one thing, he is adamantly pro-choice – but he would be leading the government and will have to make compromises.
I want Warren to stay in the running as long as she thinks appropriate. I want her to get a bunch of votes tomorrow. I want her to stick.