Saturday, December 24, 2022

To a covid minimizer

This came out of an unhappy Twitter discussion. I am not sure, even, why I kept on with it as long as I did, but it did get me to organize some of my thoughts about covid and so I’ve saved it and present it here. If you take nothing else away from this rather cranky article, take this: Covid is above all a disabling disease, and it can disable people of all ages, yes, even children.

Living with Covid

Covid Mitigations

So covid is here, perhaps to stay. What do we have to do to control and survive it?

If these steps are undertaken, I believe we could drastically reduce the spread and impact of covid, to the point where we might be able to relax most precautions.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Facist Revolutionaries

When people as rich and powerful as Elon Musk and Peter Thiel support terrorism, it isn't terrorism anymore – it's revolution.

And our leaders still don't seem to understand the danger.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Trial of Donald J. Trump

“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founder’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections.” – Donald J. Trump

Now can we try him for treason?

(I know, I know, it would be a risky prosecution, therefore a case probably won't be brought.)

My impression is if he is brought to trial, probably for stealing classified documents, he will lose. It is one thing for him to be a creepy criminal in New York City, where the system is rigged to protect the very wealthy, and another to do so in Federal court, where even his hand-picked justices will think twice about blatant corruption. It would be a huge symbolic victory. HOWEVER…

It is not clear to me that convicting him would destroy or even very much weaken the fascist movement he jumped out in front of. We are still going to have to fight the political battles.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

A Few Notes on Treason in the USA

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

This I said to a moderately famous defense lawyer (I got chewed out for saying it, too.):

The Framers were tired of the Crown throwing around charges of treason for simple disagreement. Yet is it reasonable to view Trump's secret meeting with Vladimir Putin as anything but treasonous? I think the definition of “Enemies of the United States” needs updating, now that the USA is involved in global multipolar conflicts that seldom turn into declared wars.

The legal current definition, by precedent, of “Enemies of the United States” requires that an enemy be a nation that the USA has declared war upon. The United States has not declared war on Russia, yet Russia has worked to incite violence in the USA, and to turn US elections – at this time, Russia is no friend. Trump carefully insured there would be only one witness to his secret meeting with Putin (mobster!), so that, at least, cannot be directly prosecuted, but he was impeached for doing Putin's will in Ukraine.

The “corruption of blood” and “forfeiture” clauses are intended to ensure that penalties not be placed on a family of a traitor, yet there is little doubt that Trump's children were complicit in his crimes and would be far less destructive were they not so very rich. The Founders did not, I think, look far enough ahead (perhaps no-one could have) in writing those clauses.

Since the Framers so limited the definition of treason we dance around the concept in law, laying charges of sedition and espionage instead. These have become as problematic as charges of treason in the English monarchy. I am very glad to see the leaders of the Oath Keepers be convicted of seditious conspiracy. Yet both the Espionage and Sedition Acts have been abused, and in the same way as treason charges in Britain. I don't have even suggestions as to how to make this better. It is an area where the rigidity of written law meets the complexity of human character – not only of the criminals, but of the judges and juries as well.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The worst thing Elon Musk has done in his life

Yesterday, Elon Musk did possibly the worst thing he has ever done in his life: he has ordered the Twitter administration to stop moderating covid misinformation. Nothing he could do short of starting a war could be more destructive and I am not all that sure that a war, even, would be more destructive. This utterly ends any claim he has towards concern with the future of humanity: he is either incompetent to guide humanity or so careless of humanity that he is willing to allow and encourage the spread of a disabling and sometimes lethal disease.

He wishes he were Heinlein's Delos D. Harriman, The Man Who Sold The Moon, but it seems to me he is closer to the Dr. Baines of James Blish's Black Easter, who hired the black magician Theron Ware to let 48 major demons out of hell for the lulz.

O my people!

Friday, November 11, 2022

Over On Our Sister Blog, a Discussion of Issues of Twitter and Mastodon

First, general issues:

Second, problems of ideology:

Third, practical problems of Mastodon:

Fourth, prospects and reflection:

What I find most discouraging is how short the sections on ideology and prospects are. The problems I am describing are well understood and not complicated, but ideology and unwillingness to commit resources to resolve them stand in the way.

Shadow, and other tweets

  • The shadow behind this election, and every election since the Citizens United election in 2010, is money in the electoral system. Without it, the cranks would be reduced to screaming in corners.
  • The only way they can make Dobbs stick is to disenfranchise women.
  • There do seem to be an awful lot of fash on Mastodon. Pushed into dark corners, but they're there. And the limited filtering tools means you can't entirely shush them.
  • The Democrats pulled off a historic upset. Yay Democrats! But Congress is still balanced on a knife-edge, and the Supreme Court is still dominated by religious fanatics. // Gonna be a rough few years. // Oh, and shout-out to the women and young people who made it happen!
  • Many of the fascists we call idiots are just playing dumb. They’re perfectly competent at taking over things and trashing them.
  • Exactly how does this work? Businesses aren’t going to pay money to be advertising next to Nazi propagandists, even if the House harasses them.
  • Would they rather have smart people who are at least decent if a bit clueless or dumb people who hate them in charge? // American anti-intellectualism is a mighty thing and a mighty stupid thing.
  • Why would blacks vote for a racist party? Well, if one looks at German history, there were Jews who supported the Nazis.
  • I suppose there will be a lot of unhappy men who can’t find girlfriends and wives in Ohio.
  • I wonder if Twitter is even going to last the year. If it just turns into gab or whatever who is going to come here?

Tuesday, October 18, 2022


  • Trump’s antisemitism reminds of 19th-century fantasies of repatriating US blacks to Africa. Most US blacks wanted nothing to do with the idea; they were Americans.
  • Covid can cause miscarriages. Damn.
  • To all the people going on about how wonderful throwing tomato juice at a van Gogh was: oh, do shut up. It’s not raising awareness, it’s not persuading anybody who wasn’t already persuaded; it was just a jerk thing to do. So far, these activists have not done irreparable damage to irreplaceable art, but sooner or later someone probably will. Afterwards, the environment will be in just as bad shape and we will have one less beloved piece of art in the world.
  • If the Republicans win, it's going to be Amexit. In ten years, they will have the popularity of the Tories, their leaders will be rich, and the rest of us will be poor.

Brief Note on the Speed of the January 6th Prosecutions

Legal analyst and emeritus UCLA law professor Peter L. Arenella tweets:

Can you imagine working 16-18 hrs every day including mot of your weekends while you partner and kids complain about never seeing you. Becoming a ghost to your family for an extended period of time because you believe your work is a necessary component of the effort to save our democracy. And, then having to listen to “know nothing” TV pundits complain for over a year that the DOJ is doing nothing while you are working like a slave and taking sleep medication at night to stop your brain from going into overdrive so you can get a few hrs of sleep. [etc., etc.] – tweet

I have decided that Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice staff are doing their jobs, but that, for the past three decades, the Democratic leadership did not. For those decades, we needed leaders to stand up and for three decades they didn’t. There were off-ramps. Conceding the presidential election of 2000 and the confirmation of Alito come to mind. In every case the Democratic leadership folded until finally insurrectionists led by Donald Trump built a gibbet outside Congress.

Where was the Nancy Pelosi the January Sixth Committee showed us on video during the years leading up to the insurrection?

Elizabeth Cheney has had huge positive publicity from her prosecution of the inssurectionists in the January 6th committe. But she was one of the arsonists who laid the fire that Donald Trump finally lit. It would be horrible if she parlays this into a Presidential campaign.

There is something badly wrong with our democracy and it was wrong long before the election of Donald Trump.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Brief Snarky Notes on UK Politics

They could let the Scots run the UK. They seem to know what they're doing.

No? Is there no-one the country might rally behind? Anyone? Leaders of vision and courage are now needed - are there any who might emerge?

The problems of the UK are the problems of modern democracy writ large. The US founders, classical republicans all, expected that the country would elect wise far-seeing statesmen to lead the USA. Instead the country was dominated by mechanics and shopkeepers, and the demagoguery was beyond belief. It elected the slaving, genocidal Andrew Jackson, who left the USA in a shambles for generations.

They didn't know. They couldn't know. But we do know. What now?

The Party of Rape

There is a feminist theory that the oppression of women is the model for all other forms of oppression. If men are willing to abuse women they are intimate with, even to turn intimacy into abuse, goes the theory, who will they not abuse?

And so, in the United States. A 10-year-old rape victim sought and was granted an abortion. And what is the response of the reactionary right wing in the United States? To blame the doctors who diagnosed her and who aborted the pregnancy. To blame her. To object that her rapist ought not have been in the United States. Anything but accept the responsibility for putting that girl in a horrible position or acknowledge that there are men who rape children and that this has been done before and will be done again. The girl and her doctors have come in for enormous harassment, while the antiabortion Republicans did not trouble itself to find out anything about her rapist.

And this is what the Republican Party is now fighting for: the right to abuse the victims of rape and the women who defend them, while ignoring their rapists. And, indeed, if they will fight for that, what form of oppression will they shun?

Kaiju Democracy

“But I sometimes wonder whether in this respect a democracy is not uncomfortably similar to one of those prehistoric monsters with a body as long as this room and a brain the size of a pin: he lies there in his comfortable primeval mud and pays little attention to his environment; he is slow to wrath—in fact, you practically have to whack his tail off to make him aware that his interests are being disturbed; but, once he grasps this, he lays about him with such blind determination that he not only destroys his adversary but largely wrecks his native habitat.” - George F Kennan

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Notes for a review: Hitler’s American Model

Whitman, James Q. Hitler’s American Model The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2018.

These are notes for a review I never finished and don't want to spend the time to write.

  • The Nazis regarded the racism of the USA as, rather than something reprehensible, something encouraging and they hoped for its triumph. They modeled the infamous Nurmeberg Laws on US race law.
  • Nazi antisemitic policy was at first aimed at immigration, getting Jews to what we would now call “self deport.”
  • Whitman was interviewed over at Truthout; you can get a sense of his thesis reading the article, “Racist US Laws Provided Inspiration to the Nazis: An Interview With James Q. Whitman.”
“ have a common law system like that of America is to have a system in which the traditions of the law do indeed have little power to ride herd on the demands of the politicians, and when the politics is bad, the law can be very bad indeed.” – James Q. Whitman

Saturday, August 27, 2022

A Democracy, not a Republic

Also, local maximums

Democracy and Republic

I've just finished reading Gordon S. Wood’s The Radicalism Of The American Revolution. It's a stunning and strange history. I had no idea how different the democracy the founders created was from the republic they envisioned.

Friday, August 19, 2022


The monkeypox that is now spreading around the world is a new variant that was discovered in 2017 by Dr. Dimie Ogoina, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Niger Delta University in Nigeria. Original monkeypox was not very transmissible between people, so children would get it from monkeys, it would spread a bit, and it would die out. This variant is more transmissible between people. The Nigerian outbreak was never controlled and has turned into a global epidemic. NPR report.

Reportedly (preprint paper, not peer-reviewed) neo-monkeypox continues to evolve through recombination.

I keep hearing that the epidemic is dying out but testing is thin and there isn’t testing a lot of testing outside the gay community. I hope it is dying out; if it breaks loose in the schools or jumps to an animal vector it’s going to be incredibly hard to control.

As of the NPR report on July 28th, not a single Nigerian had been vaccinated against monkeypox.

And, yes, poxviruses can infect birds. Croak!

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Redemption Arc

I recently read a rather fun YA book series wherein all the characters who were not completely evil got some sort of redemption. The author herself says that these were her pandemic comfort writing project. There’s a lot to like about the books; the ethics of empire are discussed, and the ethics required of superheroes are demonstrated – if you, in your person, are a weapon of mass destruction, what rules do you live by, so that you do not turn into a monster?

But I don’t believe. Not everyone can be redeemed. Some people lack empathy. Others lack the capacity for introspection that allows them to recognize their failings. Still others have made irrevocable choices that turn them into monsters in human skin suits. What redemption was there for Hilter’s captains? What for the people who decided, monstrously, to spread covid throughout the United States? To the group that probably plotted to give the cruel murderer Mohammed bin Salman the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and may have successfully done so? Not only do I not see redemption for these, I do not even see that they ought to be allowed to live.

Yes, Donald J. Trump has led me to reconsider the death penalty. He is not only an alleged rapist and a likely traitor, he has not only likely started a civil war in the USA, he seems to have taken actions that might yet cause World War III. He has had numerous opportunities to recognize the damage he has done and make amends and has not done so – he is one of those who both lack empathy and the capacity for introspection. Do we allow him to continue his depredations?

Friday, July 22, 2022

The Compromise of 2022

Having watched the last January 6th hearing, I have a different reaction from many viewers. Elizabeth Cheney comes off as a hero and she is, indeed, an able prosecutor. She now has much undeserved fame. So while women are lionizing her I remember how she exploited Guantánamo Bay for her politics, participating in the continuance of that illegal prison. I remember how she supported Trump almost to the end. She is now knifing him and Josh Hawley. This reduces the competition and puts her in a position to lead a rejuvenated Republican Party, full of, I suppose, racist white women. As the excellent blogger and podcaster Driftglass observes, the conservative faction Ms. Cheney is senior is working hard on throwing the Trump administration down the memory hole, just as they did with the Bush II administration, while maintaining Trump’s destructive policies.

The objections of so many of the anti-Trump Republicans is not that Trump is a traitor, or a rapist, but rather that he is vulgar and an embarrassment. So they would be rid of him, but his tax cuts and his judges, those they want to keep. They want to keep spreading covid. The fossil fuel industry will continue to burn the world. Virginia Thomas will continue to be a backchannel, connecting the Supreme Court to the Dominionist movement. The attempt to turn women into second-class citizens will continue and, oh, by the way, Elizabeth Cheney is anti-abortion and has spoken in support of Dobbs.

This is the Compromise of 2022. Trump will try to return. He is popular, and probably will remain so even after yesterday’s embarrassing video. His followers will, if anything, find new hope in the revelation that he intended to lead them into the Capitol, and was only kept from doing so by his guards, who he fought. Republicans and conservative Democrats will work to maintain the legislative deadlock that maintains this situation. Meanwhile, the country teeters on the edge of civil war. We are running down to the midterm elections, and until Dobbs, the Republicans were likely to retake the House. Now, who knows? Perhaps the hearings will make a difference. The Proud Boys are engaging in anti-abortion terrorism and there is much feminist anger. Perhaps women will turn out en masse for the Democrats, but always before women have voted with their social milieu, not their interests as women.

I hope at least the 1/6 hearings change a few minds. I hope we see prosecutions of the leaders of the coup.

The struggle continues.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Biden Administration's PR Problem

Back in 2010, twelve years ago, I wrote that the Obama administration needed to act on policy; that messaging wasn't going to solve its problems. We now have the reverse situation: the Biden administration is doing many good things, the economy is booming, and no-one seems to know anything about it. Yes, the Biden administration has fallen far short of its goals, apparently due to the betrayals of Senators Manchin and Sinema. Still, a substantial amount has been done: the infrastructure act was passed, many of the worst Trump administration policies have been reversed, and Biden, apparently personally, has built a network of support for Ukraine.

There is apparently a timidity on the part of the administration that I do not understand at all. Texas and Florida are in all but open revolt. An epidemic is on-going and for some reason the Biden administration does not even fight for measures to control it. Then there was the tone-deaf response to the overturning of Roe v Wade where, despite ample warning, the administration seems not to have prepared at all. Biden even made a deal with the Senate Minority leader to appoint an anti-abortion judge.

There's so many people who have explanations for this. I do not; I don't know what is going on in the White House. Biden faces a hostile media, but as President he has a great deal of ability to move the news; I don't know why the administration is not using it. Trump was a master showman; the media, and some of the public, miss the theater of the Trump administration, regardless of how monstrous. Biden is not that, but this administration could do more.

Friday, July 8, 2022

The Segregationist Slogan “Republic not Democracy”

Written in exasperation. Right-wingers seem to think that saying “republic not democracy” is an excuse for any bad idea they have and I'm here to remind them that that is white supremacist nonsense.

This, it turns out, comes from a 1955 pamphlet “You and Segregation” by Herman Talmadge, who was elected Senator from Georgia in 1956. It was a pro-segregation tract written in response to the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v Board of Education, containing a mass of incoherent argument, similar to the white supremacist articles we see today. Here’s a taste of it from the section entitled “A Republic—Not a Democracy:”

Could it be possible that these Americans, who talk and write so much about "our democracy” do not know that this nation is a republic and not a democracy?

Could it be that they desire a gradual overthrow of our republic and the establishment of a “democracy”—as is advocated by the Communists and fcllow-travelers.

Could it be that these groups desire a “democracy” here in the United States where they will be only one race, one religion and one state?

It is evident that many of this group believe only in one mixed, amalgamated race; the anti-God Marxist religion; and one all-powerful central government not segregated by state lines or Constitutional barriers. This is obviously the “true democracy” they talk, write about and proclaim so brashly. – p. 17-18

So there we have it. If one reads on, one finds that Talmadge defined republic as a federation of independent states and democracy as a one governed by a powerful central government–one of the many iterations of the states rights theory that defended slavery and racism.

Talmadge won his Senate seat in 1956. I suspect that this pamphlet played a part. I am told that “republic not democracy” went on to become a John Birch Society slogan.

So the next time you see someone quoting this, you can call them on using a white supremacist slogan.

Oh, and the publisher? An outfit called “The Truth at Last” based in Marietta Georgia, which I found on the Nazi Stormfront site. It was operated by the neo-Nazi Edward Reed Fields. The edition scanned for was printed in the year 2000.

Addendum, July 21, 2022: the idea, it turns out, is older than the Talmadge pamphlet. The original sources appear to be libertarian. Historian Henry Steele Commager, in his lecture series that was published in 1943 as Majority Rule and Minority Rights, cites founding right-wing libertarian theorist Isabel Paterson and John Corbin, who I have never heard of, as sources. I do not know when the idea went from libertarian theory to racist slogan; that might have been Talmadge's work.

The 1943(!) Commager lectures are a ringing endorsement of the “living constitution” theory of legal interpretation and a scathing critique of constitutional originalism; that will be the subject of another post. Thanks to $1000man on Twitter for putting me on to Commager's remarks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The long-term consequences of allowing COVID to spread among children

Many years ago I had a friend who died in his early twenties, falling out a window. An autopsy found that he had a previously undetected heart condition and had had a heart attack and fallen. I don't think the CT scan technology that would have shown the defect even existed at the time. In any event, he was a healthy young man and there was no reason to think he might have had a heart defect.

We know that among the possible long-term consequences of covid are lung damage, heart damage, and kidney damage. I wonder how many of those schoolchildren who are infected with covid are going to develop unforeseen lethal or severely disabling conditions in their twenties.

This is, of course, speculation. I think it very likely that many children will grow up and turn out to have long-term consequences of covid, but I don't know that it will actually happen. But neither do the leaders who are allowing the unchecked spread of covid among children.

Prosecute Corrupt Supreme Court Justices

It looks like the Second Taney Court, er, Roberts Court is poised to blow up the administrative state tomorrow. As I wrote eight years ago, “I cannot imagine how the USA can survive with an early 19th-cenutry legal system.” They may not do it. Justice Roberts seems to prefer vast buckets of dull grey paint to the bright lines which conservatives famously advocate, but the more extreme of the Court's reactionaries seem to prefer knives, and they seem to be in the driver's seat.

The character of some of these people is so, so poor that they are actual criminals. So I say, prosecute them. Justice Clarence Thomas's wife Virginia Thomas is allegedly an insurrectionist leader, and allegedly communicated with Justice Thomas during the insurrection. Investigate them for seditious conspiracy and, if there is a case, as I believe there is, prosecute them. Justice Brett Kavanaugh is an alleged rapist. Investigate him properly and, if there is a case, prosecute him.

Lock 'em up!

Monday, June 6, 2022

On Electing Fascists

I think what the election of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and all tells us is that pretty much anyone without a conscience and a large media presence can now win elections as a fascist.

Tweet To a Sanders Hater

You don't like Sanders, sure, I get it. But part of politics is making deals with people you don't like. So stop dissing the man and his supporters and deal. You've got a better chance of getting their votes than the white suburbanites the Democrats are still courting. – tweet.

The coming overturning of Roe v Wade may shift some suburban white women, but I am not counting on it. So far, suburban white women have shown an extraordinary willingness to vote for people who hate them.

Tweets on Covid

The US health care system has returned to its pre-covid state, showing its utter incompetence at dealing with public health problems. – tweet

If covid damages your lungs, your heart, your kidneys, what-have-you - these things are not coming back. Some long covid will never be treatable short of transplants. – tweet

China has made a serious effort to control covid. For at least the next half-century, China's population will be healthier than that of any western nation. – tweet

Sunday, May 29, 2022


Or, Are They Crazy?, part 2

I recently had a long and unpleasant discussion with a “constitutionalist” who had a collection of unshakable-by-facts beliefs. And I realized; this is what they used to call paranoia. So I went off to DSM-5, the handbook of names and descriptions of mental illness, to find out more.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

On Twitter, and What Will Be Lost If Elon Musk Takes It Over

Summary of a series of tweets.

If Elon Musk takes over Twitter, and it becomes toxic, well, it's been nice knowing you. Twitter, for all its faults, has helped me find news and people I wouldn't otherwise have known. Some of you I'll follow on to other platforms. Some of you can follow my blog.

The Twitter algorithm, despite its flaws, has helped me find people and news, and no-one seems interested in implementing another version or operating a service that would run it. Mastodon, with no algorithm, is not a useful substitute; it drowns one in toots (and why did the author not know that is an English euphemism for "farts?") and doesn't allow weighting by author, content, or anything else.

So here's hoping Musk's deal falls through! – tweets

Monday, May 9, 2022

The Next Move in the Second Civil War

A while back, in the context of discussing our current situation as a second civil war, I wrote “It is not yet clear to me what the next move of our would-be traitors will be. Perhaps a campaign of domestic terror on the lines of the first Klan?”

It now appears to me that the overturning of Roe, and the consequent passage of numerous misogynistic state laws will be the third move. Liberal states are already preparing responses. State laws are coming into conflict, which are going to have to be litigated in federal courts.  I am not hopeful the Roberts Court will decide the cases in any positive way.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Cowardice and Covid

There is a form of cowardice that refuses to believe that danger exists, even when it is patent. I believe that is what we are seeing in the surrender to covid.

And that explains Abbott and DeSantis and Trump: they let cowards believe they are brave, true, right and upstanding. And the cowards will not abandon their belief, for then they would have to face their cowardice.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Thinking About Elon Musk's Purchase of Twitter

Everyone talking about whether to leave the platform is missing the point. Everyone talking about whether this is a new era for free speech is missing the point. A child […] is about to have the largest vehicle for temper tantrums anyone ever had.” – tweet, Laura Jedeed.

The thought of Twitter led by someone devoid of empathy is terrifying.” – tweet, Brianna Wu.

A lot of people are incorrectly framing Elon Musk purchasing Twitter as being left versus right. It's about the richest man in the world wanting to be sure that powerful white men can say whatever they want - about whoever they want - without consequence.” – pull quote from podcast, Shaun King.

“Collective noun for people who misdefine ‘free speech’ on Twitter: A musk of trolls.” – tweet, Tom Levenson.

(Added on day of publication) “I’m stunned that amidst the coverage of Elon Musk buying Twitter, his very clear ties to Beijing have gotten so little attention.” – tweet, Isaac Stone Fish

All immediate reactions, all good. What do I think? Well, I think that, at least, criticism of Elon Musk will draw a swift reaction from the New Management at Twitter. Likely enough pro-union and anti-racist talk will be modded down. Musk has hinted he will bring Donald Trump back. Musk, a petulant and vindictive man-child, may personally attack critics on Twitter; he is rich enough to destroy the life of anyone of modest means.

Equally seriously, if Musk allows the worst of the haters back, we can expect to see spillover into the wider world of discourse. Without moderation, Twitter is an excellent platform for organizing mass harassment and we may expect that, especially from Donald Trump if he returns.

We need to take the regulation of social media seriously. The likes of Musk and Zuckerberg ought not have such an outsize role in shaping our public discourse.

In any event, I am now as well as @RavenOnthill on Twitter.

Monday, April 18, 2022

A Note on Russia's Zealous Nationalism

Russian nationalism seems to be mystical in a way which Western European nationalism is not. To Vladimir Putin, I think, the invasion of Ukraine is some sort of holy war. But this is an old element of Russian culture. I remember Solzhenitsyn talking up Russian nationalism. Ideally, such mystic nationalism serves to unify and strengthen a nation, but it slides easily into the sort of zealotry that has overtaken Russia, where all who are not members of the body mystic are heretics, to be put the flames. I don't know enough; this is what I understand from my fragmentary knowledge. But this explains much of the Russian zealotry we are seeing.

Rallying the Troops

The position for Democratic campaigners to take this year is "It's a tough fight and we have to keep on pushing," not "The Democrats are useless, let's surrender." The Ukrainians would be in death camps if Velenskyy had taken that position!

The Biden administration has, within the limits imposed by the arcane rules of the Senate and a hostile Judiciary, done quite a bit, but also far less than what was hoped for. And so, disappointment may cost the Democrats Congress the House and Senate. People under 40 are just not interested.

Biden is a consensus-builder, not a firebrand, and what he has accomplished in his long political career has been through compromise, but right now we need firebrands. Some Democrats have to step up and rally the troops.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

On Cutting Off Fossil Fuel Imports From Russia

Or, “In Russia, energy buy you.”

One of the contradictions of the Western support of Ukraine in her defense against the Russian invasion is that Western Europe is still buying fossil fuels from Russia. So, on the one hand, Europe opposes the Russian invasion. On the other hand, Europe is funding it. Without those fossil-fuel exports, Russia would probably not be able to sustain its invasion of Ukraine. And it is not clear that anything is going to persuade the Russian leadership to back down. They seem prepared to fight to the last Ukrainian.

The genocidal invasion of Ukraine continues. There is increasing support for direct NATO intervention, which would bring nuclear powers into conflict, something the world has avoided for 70 years. A massive war would be inevitable. It might escalate to nuclear war. And the fuel imports would be cut off. So, instead…

Cut them off ourselves. Immediately abandon European fossil fuel imports from Russia, restart the German nuclear power stations, and start a crash alternative energy program. The privation in Europe would be enormous, but it would still be less than a war between Russia and the NATO powers.

Perhaps, perhaps. I am not an international relations expert, so I am not sure of either the economics or the politics here. Before taking such a momentous decision, people who know more than I ought to be consulted. Still, we know that eventually Europe and the entire world is going to have to stop relying on fossil fuels. This might be the moment to start.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The Constitution as Mutual Defense Pact

The US constitution, I think, is better understood as a mutual defense and cooperation pact made by the original colonies, with some rules about rights bolted on, rather than a statement of the organizing principles of a democratic republic. I don't denigrate mutual defense pacts; as recent events in Europe remind us, they are still necessary, but neither do I believe that mutual defense pacts are the whole of the needed documents to organize a democratic republic. It was intended that the states provide those elements.

This was not as unreasonable as it now seems. The original colonies were widely separated, and in 1789 when the Constitution was ratified, rail transport was only beginning to emerge, and the electric telegraph was not even dreamt of. Local governance was, for most places, the only governance. In practice, of course, what this meant was that slave states stayed slave states (and were protected by constitutional provisions) and every state had its own idiosyncratic laws, bound only by the few restrictions of the original constitution. There was Article IV, Section IV, which said that “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government” but the Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, he of the Dred Scot decision, deferred to the deadlocked slaveholder-dominated antebellum Congress, and this precedent has stood.

Where are we now? By 1850, the United States east of the Mississippi was covered by a thin but comprehensive rail network. By 1869, the golden spike was driven and the rail network extended to the west coast of North America. In 1844, Congress funded the construction of the first electrical telegraph. By 1869 (again!) it reached San Francisco. By 1877 the Bell Telephone Company was founded. In the 21st century, the USA, indeed the world, is bound together by networks of telecommunications and fast transportation. (“For I can travel half the world / and return in half a day / And I fear that only death remains / to take me far away.” – Jordin Kare. It is not entirely a welcome change.)

The old distance is gone, and it is past time to consider national organization of a democratic republic. The first steps towards this new order were taken with the Reconstruction Amendments, but progress was then stopped by the Compromise of 1877. In desperation, the New Deal was passed, though not without strenuous objection, in the 1930s. Again, forward motion began in the 1960s, and stopped by 1980. All these steps, though, were buried in complex laws. A second part of the constitution, something short, simple, and straightforward, but more specific than the Bill of Rights, is needed. Something that addresses the organization of the republic of the United States of America, something more than the general promises of the Bill of Rights. What exactly it ought to say we are probably going to be a generation determining. But we should get started.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Russia, Ukraine, and Reaganism

Or, Owned by George F. Kennan

Writing in 1998, George F. Kennan, interviewed by Thomas Friedman:

I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. […] [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.

I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don't people understand? Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.

Russia's democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we've just signed up to defend from Russia. It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong. – George F. Kennan, 1998, “Foreign Affairs; Now a Word From X.”

When the USSR fell, its citizens turned to the United States, the arsenal of democracy, for aid, and we sent them Reaganist plutocracy. There were no guarantees of democracy, of course, but the USA did nothing to prevent the rise of the Russian oligarchs, even helped them emerge, in the naïve belief that capitalism necessarily gave rise to democracy. The United States could, instead, have worked to promote democracy in Russia, rather than allowing it to become subordinate to the oligarchs. Russia would then have been a much easier neighbor for the eastern European states.

It is an utter shame that so many of our most influential legislators are so ignorant.

And here we are.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Covid: Long Notes

The people who are spreading covid, they want us to get used to the deaths, to treating some people as disposable. That way when they build the death camps and start the summary executions, some of the public will already have accepted mass killings.


(Largely from a number of tweets directed at anti-maskers.)

  • Three dose vaccines are not uncommon – the polio vaccine takes four. The three-dose mRNA covid vaccines are some of the best ever, but no vaccine is enough by itself.
  • Covid, it seems, is going to enter the ranks of those diseases that cause long-term post-viral syndromes of obscure origin.
  • The rate of full recovery from Covid is probably below 90%, not 99.8%. It could be as low as 50%. One cannot look only at deaths in doing the accounting.
  • Covid has a five day pre-symptomatic infectious period when you don’t know if you have the virus or not. When covid is widespread in the community masking is one of the effective steps to control it.
  • The anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers seem to think that controlling an infectious disease is like shooting an enemy – one good shot and it's over. It's not. To control an infectious disease takes multiple measures, each of which reduces the odds of transmission. So: vaccines, masks, distancing, quarantine, ventilation and air purification. If enough steps are taken, the infection dies out. This “Oh, this isn't perfect therefore it's useless” is nonsense. WHO has just approved a malaria vaccine that is only 50% effective – this after decades of research. Malaria is tough. But, in conjunction with other measures that vaccine makes a difference, so it's being distributed. The best covid vaccines are much better than 50% effective. If vaccination, masking, distancing, quarantine, ventilation and air purification were seriously undertaken and well carried out, we could kill covid.
  • It is striking how the advocates of individual responsibility refuse to take even the most modest steps to control a deadly disease.
  • These people who are so gleefully unmasking: they don’t have any idea of what is about to hit them.


The fight for adequate infection control measures for covid and other new diseases, like the fight to get seat belts and other automobile safety measures accepted, will be won over a generation. Over time building codes will be rewritten to require better ventilation. We could work towards modernization of the legal response to infectious disease. It seems to me that, at least, the laws about spreading an infectious disease could be modernized – currently there is no legal standard and limited legal grounds for action against even egregious abuses. Another thing activism could do is normalize mask-wearing when people have symptomatic respiratory infections. This will at least control flu and colds (not a small thing) and prepare us for future waves of airborne infectious agents.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Is the Department of Justice Investigating Donald Trump?

Well, I don't know. The Department of Justice can't, really can't, comment on an investigation before they bring charges. FBI Director Comey did that, and look how it turned out.

I do know that the Department of Justice has been steadily climbing the chain of command of the insurrectionists in their January 6ᵗʰ prosecutions. They started with the small fry, getting some of them to turn states evidence. Now they've gotten Oath Keeper Joshua James to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of Congress in exchange for his testimony, the first conviction for seditious conspiracy in these prosecutions. I expect they will charge Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes at least. But James was also one of Roger Stone's bodyguards, and Stone was and probably still is one step away from Donald Trump.

So I don't know that Trump will be charged, but the investigation is getting close to him.

If you want to know the details of these prosecutions, there is no better source than Dr. Marcy Wheeler, at her blog emptywheel.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Ukraine: Peace In Our Time and Climate Change, Too

This is outside my usual ambit, but it seems important enough to comment on.

Germany is apparently preparing to throw Ukraine to the tender mercies of Vladimir Putin. Germany, remembering World War II, is all for not fighting, as long as someone else is doing the not-fighting. Besides, they want that gas. Germany should have kept those nuclear reactors going. France, on the other hand, is equivocating, though my earlier remarks, based on an inflammatory Politico article, were incorrect. (For future: do not trust Politico.)

Peace in our time” and climate change, too – what's not to like?

Energy budget charts: France, Germany.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Aristocracy in the United States

About two weeks ago I found myself wondering how it was that the deadlock in Congress in our time looked so remarkably like the deadlock in Congress in the antebellum period. Different players, but still the same game. This is my attempt to explain the game. This is a historical opinion piece; it runs from the founding of the United States of America to our time. For a blog post this is a long piece. Printed, it would run six pages. Bear with me, please. There is a lot of ground to cover.


1. The Slaveholders Constitution
2. After the ratification: the fight for the government
3. Postbellum
4. The Great Depression
5. World War II, the Cold War, and After
6. In the Second Gilded Age
7. Prospect

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Brief Note on For-Profit Health Care

When the whole health care system’s goal is first to make a profit, and when the state also supports the health care system in that goal, the system becomes an extortion racket. This doesn’t mean that individuals or organizations in the system must be forbidden to make a living or even a profit, but that their goals cannot be allowed to override the goal of keeping people healthy.

The Biden administration’s solicitude of health insurance and pharmaceutical industry profits is discouraging, though it is probably politically necessary. Yes, Jeff Zients, Biden Administration White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, I am looking at you.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Taney Court II: the Right to Infect

And once again, the Supreme Court's liberals are acting like jurists, while the "conservatives" are acting like Twitter trolls. Dahlia Lithwick, writing at Slate, offers a horrified summary. It seems that the conservative wing of the Roberts Court is ready to declare that the emergency measures the Biden administration is undertaking to control covid are to be forbidden under doctrines that cannot be found anywhere in precedent, statute law, or the Constitution. The Roberts Court is living up to my description as Taney Court II.

Three-and-a-half years ago, I wrote: “Federal law is now a matter of whim. The full extent of this failure will be felt in all aspects of our lives. Our very lives will be in danger.” And now, it seems, the Supreme Court is ready to declare plague-spreading a constitutional right, or at least one that can only be forbidden by a deadlocked Congress.