16 January 2019

Barr confirmation and where this is heading

William Barr will be confirmed. And every self-respecting Democrat should, and most will, vote no. They should've read the transcript of the confirmation hearing for William Saxbe, Nixon's 4th AG. Rachel Maddow did a whole segment on it. They actually had Jaworski (now it would be Mueller) IN THE ROOM, and swore both of them in and got them to say they would not interfere or accept interference in the ongoing investigation or block any release of information to the Congress or the public. Instead, we got mealy mouthed wiggle room non-answers.

Of course the HUGE difference is that Democrats controlled the Senate in 1974, and they don't now.

The GOOD news is that I really think this thing has gotten so out of hand that a fairly significant cohort of Senate Republicans are starting to realize that Trump is doomed, and at some point they will have to make their break. They're just so timid and self-interested that they won't do it until they feel safe that it won't backfire on them. But I definitely got the impression that Barr EXPECTS a devastating report from Mueller, and that he realizes it's not in HIS best interests to try to go to the mat for Trump, because there will be no winning that fight. The facts are there, and they will come out. Trump will not finish his term as president. I didn't think this 6 months ago, or even two months ago, but now I think this outcome is considerably more likely than not. When the undeniable facts reach a certain critical mass, it'll be like a point of repose for a rock on a slope. That point is reached, the rock slides down the slope.


27 December 2018

Re: Punishing Trump

It's worth pointing out, also, that while impeaching any federal officer is ultimately a political decision, which the framers contemplated would be made by political leaders for at least partly political reasons, indictment is supposed to be objective, fact-based, handled by a part of the government which, like the military, is sworn to be non-partisan and non-political in its actions, namely the Attorney General and Dept. of Justice. Of course Trump doesn't get this (and his recent speech shows he also thinks the military is supposed to be loyal to him, just as dictators always do). But the point is that Democrats should have no policy, no agenda, and express no opinion, on indictment. If the US attorneys or state AGs determine that they can indict a sitting president under the present circumstances (and there is a strong current of legal scholarly opinion that they can), then whether they do so should be decided without interference from politicians of either party. 

On Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 9:55 PM Jim Heidt <jimh6951@gmail.com> wrote:
Friend Glen G in Naples, FL wants to move on
with indictments for all the criminals in the
Trump Administration including Trump himself.

Here is my "read" on the issues.     JGH 

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Jim Heidt <jimh6951@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 2:31 PM
Subject: Punishing Trump
To: Glen5272 <glen5272@aol.com>, david saylor <davidsaylor@mac.com>

Hi Glen,

I think he should be indicted and stand on
trial and go to the slammer just like Cohen,
Manifort and Flynn and others.......but....

I think putting a president in jail would tear
the country apart.  38 to 40% believe he is
a wonderful president and was "unfairly"
targeted by the "evil" Democrats.

Indict his three older children and Stone and
other criminals, but, like Nixon, it's better to
not lock up a president.  Kick them out and 
have them suffer the consequences of being
ranked as the worst president and go away.

The Democrats can overplay their hand and
push for Impeachment right away...even though
there is good evidence for it.   Come in to Congress
with a positive message and wait to see the Mueller
Report and then take it from there.

Nothing to be gained by turning the US into a
Banana Republic and have the new Administration 
put the former guys in jail.

The main goal is to get Trump out of the White House.

Peace and Love.   Jim


Je sais que ma naissance est un hasard, un accident risible, et cependant, dès que je m'oublie, je me comporte comme si elle était un événement capital, indispensable à la marche et à l'équilibre du monde.

--Emil Cioran

07 December 2018

Kevin O'Leary guest hosts MUST HEAR Background Briefing focusing on Climate Crisis

 Even if you don't normally listen to podcasts, you OWE IT TO YOURSELF to follow this link and listen to this edition of Background Briefing. Kevin O'Leary guest hosts. (Ian Masters normally hosts; this one is a guest host because Masters is on a rare vacation... the man produces 5 excellent 1 hour podcast/radio shows PER WEEK, so it's amazing he hasn't had a nervous breakdown by now!). You can just click and listen to it on your computer.

Topics: Sunrise Movement to make Climate Crisis a key issue in our politics and the Democratic party; "Green New Deal" to foster the concept that Climate Catastrophe will destroy our economy, but investment in dealing with it will actually create jobs and prosperity; and finally reform of Corporate Governance as a key to future economic growth, equity and stability.

30 November 2018

Stephan Schwartz's The Awakening

 I just finished reading Stephan Schwartz's The Awakening. He's a neuroscientist and sort of latter day Alvin Toffleresqe futurist, who obviously believes, as many of us now do, that human civilization is at a major crossroads as a result of the Climate Catastrophe. Many roads lead to very dire outcomes; a few may lead to a more sustainable world. 

Anyway, there are certain points of congruence in this novel with the science fiction ideas I've been thinking about, although his theories about universal consciousness being eternal and separate from matter and energy are, I think, either a fictional device or (more likely) systematic new agey wishful thinking on his part. As is the mostly tacit assumption that the Saganian view of the prevalence of extraterrestrial intelligence (and even humanoid form) is correct. I am about as sure, speculatively speaking, that this is not the way the world really is, as I am about anything. In my view, complex life is pretty rare, maybe even extremely rare, in the universe (so far; its prevalence has great potential to grow exponentially in the future); contemporaneously existing intelligent civilizations are at least two orders of magnitude rarer still; really long range space travel is essentially impossible; and even long range communication is hobbled by the speed of light, which means that civilizations' intercommunication, when it is even practical at all, is so slow that it can only amount to exchange of histories and broad perspectives. Science, apart from esoterica, is likely to be more a shared background than a frontier. And consciousness arises from, and is limited by, matter and energy, it does not exist apart from and without reference to the limitations of, matter, energy, or, for that matter, spacetime. I know, puritanism in space, not fun at all, etc. But I'm pretty sure these broad points are accurate.

Schwartz's novel is readable, but it's not great literature. One thing that is similar to what I've been thinking about is that it's more or less utopian, a type of literature that has been out of fashion for quite a while. 

Apropos, although you cannot rule out absolutely the possibility that extraterrestrials at some point in the 4,000 million year history of life on Earth have physically visited this planet, Sagan's dictum that "the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" at some point has to be squared with Occam's razor. I believe that if anything even remotely like the idea were true that there were some thousands of spacefaring civilizations in our galaxy, and they were for whatever zoo hypothesis/prime directive/Galactic primitives non-interference protocol or whatever essentially quarantining our planet, it would amount to the greatest conspiracy theory ever. And thing about conspiracies, is that they are only ever real when they're small scale. Think about it. Large scale secret cabals to keep the truth from the masses are always paranoid fantasies. I can think of no single exception. The fact is that it just isn't possible to keep those kinds of secrets. People tell tales. Things get out. And even on the scale of the cosmic, it's just not believable to me that stealth technology and unity of purpose among the ETs could keep the presence of ET technology perfectly secret for years or centuries. By the same token, if spacefaring cultures really were prevalent, even within my postulated constraints of slower-than-light travel only, within less than a very few million years, it would have been quite feasible for them to have visited and cataloged every single living planet in the galaxy and be working on the Clouds of Magellan and thinking about nearby galaxies M31 and M33. So my conclusion is that, so far, in our still relatively young universe, such technology remains really quite rare.  (In fact, we have no actual evidence that it exists at all, anywhere). Because I just don't see any reason to believe that our planet has been or is being visited by ETs, and I think we've already reached the point in the various SETI strategies that the absence of any evidence has set some quite real constraints on just how common, and how advanced, the technologies of any contemporaneous denizens of our galaxy may be. Notnecessarily none, but few; and none of them have had real spacefaring technology for really long periods of time. Yet

I rest my case, I believe it to be what the evidence (including lack thereof) shows. And while Schwartz's book is interesting for its perspective on our current global predicament, if it is intended to be a plausible scenario for something that could actually happen, well, not so much. 

27 November 2018

Topsy Turvy World

We live in Topsy Turvy world. The Guardian reports that one of the things Manafort lied about is his repeated meetings from 2013 to 2016 with Julian Assange. Look, whatever you may think about the NSA and Snowden and all that, it's pretty clear that Assange is a virtual Russian agent. So this latest revelation means one thing pretty damn clearly: Trump's campaign did indeed collude with Russians and Russian cutouts. (Not that we didn't already have quite a bit of more circumstantial evidence of that). And what is the news out of the WH? Trump says Mueller is doing "tremendous damage to the country." And the press corps acts like it's just the usual case of he-said, they-said. Our government is headed by an arch criminal and traitor, and our Congress and media mostly act like it's Reality TV.  


26 November 2018

Stephan Schwartz, Four Mega-trends

Stephan Schwartz is a neuroscientist, popular science and science fiction writer, and "trendspotter". Excellent interview with him on Thanksgiving's Ian Masters program [ https://www.backgroundbriefing.org/ ]. He identifies four major trends predominant in today's America and the World:

1. Being born white no longer confers economic and social privilege and power;
2. Being born male no longer confers dominance (for the first time in about 5000 years);
3. Western cultural and political values are no longer determinative in the World;
4. The rise of a sort of neofeudal aristocracy of wealth and technology, that is separating the world's population into a miniscule elite of corporate quasi-state owners and a small managerial elite, on the one hand, and a serfdom of workers and underclass on the other.

Me editorializing: The first three can be positives, long term, but the fourth, coupled with the literal existential challenge we face with the Climate Catastrophe, will be the test of whether human civilization can endure, or NOT.


He makes the case, incidentally, that the rise of Trump and Trumpism, which is a symptom, not a thing in itself, can be mostly attributed to FEAR, and that primarily derived from trends 1 and 2, and to some extent the other two as well. White males, in particular, fear the loss of their perceived status and power in the context of these large scale trends.

He also makes a convincing case that one of the causes of the pervasive fear that is fueling right wing populism worldwide is an inchoate, even unconscious sense of dread arising from the threat of the Climate Catastrophe. People know, on some level, that we are in for a rough time over the next however many decades; that it's real, and that there's no escape from some really serious consequences. Yet rather than reacting rationally, and demanding mitigation and remediation, which is what a rational actor would do, many people react out of fear and even panic, and lash out with hatred, vilification of the other, and all the usual nationalist and fascist trends, not because they make any sense, but just because people are scared shitless, whether consciously or not, and have no idea what to do.

This is a huge challenge, but also an opportunity, for progressive leadership.

22 November 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Brad and I will be in the Bay Area (Marin). Give me a call if you're in the area! And may we all have a peaceful and hopeful holiday. 

David & Brad 

13 November 2018

Democratic Gains Grown Stronger

Could we have, nay, DID we, hope for a more overwhelming national repudiation of Trump than the 2018 MidTerm? Of course! There is almost no scenario in which we wouldn't have said that! But you gotta admit, there's something kinda sweet about today's NYT headline: "A Week After the Election, Democratic Gains Grow Stronger."

Most of the late counted votes have broken our way, for a variety of demographic reasons (and not because of nonexistent voter fraud, as screamed by Repubs with no evidence at all).

Nelson in a recount in FL remains unlikely, but Sinema and Tester were far from sure things on election night, but now their victories are beyond doubt. And there are several House seats of which the same can be said.  

07 November 2018

State Legislatures

State Legislatures are important, too, and that news is reasonably good. At least there's little chance of a Koch sponsored Constitutional Convention being forced by 3/4 of the states to end democracy forever. Which was a real threat before last night.


Josh Marshall's overall sum up on the election results

Well worth a read, and for what it's worth, I agree with Josh Marshall pretty much entirely here. 

02 November 2018

Abigail Spanberger and the New National Security Democrats

See this.

I heard a long form interview with her on Dick Clark's podcast, "Future State." She is of a mold of new Democrat, call them "national security" Democrats, who are fairly but not slavishly gung ho on national security but reliably Democratic mainstream on domestic issues. And I happen to think that, at least among the more creative and smarter ones, they are the future leadership of our party. Here's why. 

Listening to the likes of Susan Rice and Dick Clark himself, and several other people who are or have become vehemently anti Trump Democrats but who come from a national security background, I've become convinced that they are right about a number of things, and the more forward looking ones realize that it isn't a question of supporting the defense establishment as it currently exists, but looking at a whole new approach. 

We again live in dangerous world. Francis Fukuyama's fantasy of the triumph of liberal democracy everywhere is a distant memory. Instead we have a global resurgence of authoritarianism and militarism. Not everywhere, but too many places. Trump, and dictators he admires like Erdogan, Putin, Duterte, Bolsonaro, bin Salman, Orban, Strache (Austria), Kim Jong Un;... the resurgence of far right parties in Germany and Sweden (!),... might as well include Xi and his "premier for life" gambit, and there are any number of countries that have essentially always been dictatorships. Democracy has essentially failed in Ukraine and the former Soviet countries in Central Asia. The Persian Gulf and "AfPac" (they actually use that term in the Pentagon) are an unmitigated disaster, with the situation in Iran largely an unforced error on the US' part under this idiot king Trump. 

Russia and China have demonstrated quite clearly that we are terribly, even terrifyingly, vulnerable to cyber attacks. And other countries, notably China and Russia, are way ahead of us in conceiving advanced technology that will make big weapons systems like the F-35 and hugely expensive nuclear submarines dinosaurs. Future weapons systems will be cheaper, automated, and multiply redundant. Instead of modernizing the nuclear triad at huge expense, we should be thinking about the strategic landscape of the 2030s and how we can make sure that we have the technology and means to regain our diplomatic prestige, to try to tamp all this down before it gets entirely out of hand. Thinking that real shooting wars can be contained and limited to places like Yemen, where the humanitarian catastrophe has barely raised a blip on American public consciousness or conscience, will just not be possible. We need to regain the diplomatic initiative, really rethink stupid outmoded policies like the Carter doctrine and the concept of global containment through projection of sea power. America should lead the world in convincing everyone that the real threat is Climate catastrophe, not each other, and that only by working together can a peaceful balance of power emerge and hold throughout this century. But we are doing essentially all the wrong things under the Tantrum Tyrant. 

That's where these smart national security Democrats come in. They've learned the lesson of the catastrophe of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the emerging tragedy of Yemen and the foolish isolation of Iran. They understand the dangers of failing to counter the cyberattacks of Russia, and China. They even realize that knee jerk support for the dangerous policies of Israel's current right wing government is a foolish policy, as is continued support and weapons sales to Saudi... a policy that will cost us many dollars, and worse much loss of life, for every dollar in arms profit as the whole region deteriorates into a major regional war many see as inevitable. But nothing is inevitable when very smart, very skillful people get the reins and start working on the issues. 

This is why although I am as socially liberal as anyone, I do favor a smart but very robust approach to global security. And I think Democrats like Spanberger are just what we need. 

30 October 2018

Gaming out the slide into dictatorship

 OK, hive mind, let's game this out. (This is a follow up to my post on the WaPo article saying that the great legal mind, Donald Drumpf, has floated his intention to end birthright citizenship by decree, which I find alarming even in an era of daily alarms).

So here's the scenario. Let's posit that Democrats manage, despite lack of message and feckless political organization, to take back the House next week. But Trump just doubles down. Realizing he can't get an (also equally and obviously unconstitutional) bill through a lame duck or later divided Congress to purportedly overturn the 14th Amendment grant of citizenship to anyone born in the US, he just issues an imperial edict purporting to do so. And of course he precipitates a Constitutional crisis in doing so. It's pretty clearly an opening salvo in an attempt at a coup, where he will gradually become a dictator and ignore the Congress.

If you doubt the great legal mind Trump could actually do this, here are his own words:

«"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," Trump told Axios.

When told that view is disputed, Trump asserted: "You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order."

"It's in the process. It'll happen . . . with an executive order," he said, without offering a time frame.»

So, maybe this is just Trump blather. He says all kinds of crazy shit, admittedly. But let's just say he actually does this. What might he be thinking?

The Right has undeniably been working assiduously for decades to get a majority of right wing ideologues on the Court. Can there be any doubt that with Kavanaugh they have finally succeeded in this? The question is just how far will the majority go? Will they endorse Trump's plan to become a dictator without firing a shot? Because that's what he just said, in his own words, in effect. Pretty clearly a post-midterm Congress will not go along.

But are there five votes on the Court? To just let him govern by decree? I wish I could confidently say no, but I'm honestly not sure. Adept legal minds without principles or morality (Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch pretty likely... Roberts, maybe not)... can rationalize almost anything.

So this happens. Some elements in the law enforcement establishment are ready to enforce the decree, and on an emergency basis no doubt, it comes before the court. And the court, by 5-4 goes along.

I think at that point, we are all but overwith as a Constitutional republic. Trump could issue edicts canceling elections, making any kind of laws he cares to, overriding the sovereign power of states to make laws he disagrees with... really at that point there is no limit. Congress could really not do anything, because he'd just nullify their acts and dissolve the Congress, maybe forever. Think not? Study history, my friends. All of this has happened before, and not just in third world countries, and not just in the distant past, either.

But change things a little. Very good likelihood that this is too much even for our present court. Even Gorsuch and especially Roberts might not go along with this. So, let's say Trump doesn't do this yet (this is his best opportunity, arguably, but nonetheless...)

Let's say he waits until the Democratic House is at least seated. And then all of the above happens. And let's say after he has issued his edict, and it becomes clear (as it would) that he intends to become a dictator by increasingly inclusive rule by decree. At that point, might it not be at least conceivable that a majority of the House and 2/3 of the Senate would be either ready to impeach him, and/or ready to impeach any Supreme Court justices who vote with him? Because, I would argue, finding such a decree constitutional despite the black and white language of the 14th amendment* would be grounds for impeachment. There are limits to the ability of the Court to simply ignore the plain meaning of the Constitution they are sworn to uphold. Or we would like to think so.

*"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Very clearly upheld in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898) 169 U.S. 649.

So there it is. Can our republic be saved from Donald Trump? Already, my friends, I really do fear that the best answer we can give is "maybe."

Josh Marshall: No, Trump cannot end birthright citizenship by decree

 For the most part, the fact that it has been virtually impossible to amend the Constitution since the failure of the EPA in the 1980s has worked against the more progressive interests in American politics and in favor of the Right Wing, which tends to benefit from the status quo and the outsize power of the low population states. (Which also tend to be Right Wing states). But this preposterous notion on the right that the Congress, or even worse, the president by mere edict, can eliminate birthright citizenship is an illustration of how the present Constitution does at least protect some of the basic norms and formal law that makes our country a republic (of sorts).

Birthright citizenship is based on the crystal clear wording of the 14th Amendment: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

The fact that Trump and his administration are floating the idea that the would be dictator for life can change this by executive order (also known as "totalitarian decree") should be of deep concern to anyone, right or left, who basically believes in the continuity of small-r republican government in America.

27 October 2018

Our house piano recital 10/26/2018

House Recital "Air Check" 10/26/2018 

Here are TEMPORARY links to an "air check" recording of the extraordinary house recital of pianist William Koseluk in our house last night.  The links are to dropbox files. The will probably not play directly from Dropbox; you'll need to download them to a local hard drive first, then play them with any app that will play mp3 files. There are two parts. The first part consists of Beethoven's "Les Adieux" sonata, op. 81a in E-flat, plus 4 pieces, op. 119, of Brahms. The second consists of the Paderweski E-flat minor piano sonata (1903, op. 21), which is monstrously difficult. There is some commentary on the audio files. 

We were elated and very grateful to Bill for making the trip to Portland to play this recital in our house. 

16 October 2018

What should we do about the Republican power plays when (if) we regain power?

A friend sent out an email to his "group" posing the rhetorical question, just how aggressive should Democrats get, in light of the hyperagressive, norm-destroying power politics being played by Republicans ever since Gingrich. (I'm paraphrasing liberally). Here's my response. 

My view on this very important question will surprise no one who's read what I've had to say on this subject before. I think we lost something when we lost the "meta-stable" system of norms that kept especially the Senate working with a certain amount of give and take and civility for more than a century (think of the cooperation between Orrin Hatch and Teddy Kennedy, or the way Everett Dirksen cooperated with Democrats in the 1960s to pass Medicare, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, etc. ) But pretending we're going to get that back any time soon is a fool's errand. The Republican party has been entirely taken over by power politics players, who care nothing for anything but their own power, and that of the elite class of economic oligarchs whom they represent. Ideology, even, which we who care deeply about public policy tend to overemphasize, is less important to them than raw power. They want to restrain government from infringing on their ability to control most of the wealth in this country, and they care virtually nothing for good government or social justice. They will lie, cheat, steal, suppress votes, burn down unwritten laws, take advantage of every quirk of law and the Constitution to maximize their power, and see to it that justices who think like them control the courts... all to the end of destroying and defeating what they see as a threat to their power. (Because it is). Which, that is, is democracy. The oppose democracy and intend to destroy it in our country. And think about it a bit. They have already come very close to succeeding on all fronts. We are fighting a rear guard action. We hope to be able to recoup and advance, and take it all back... but it requires an awful lot of optimism to think our chances are better than fair. 

So, hell, yes. We must do absolutely everything we can, including playing power politics better than they do, to defeat them and burn their anti-democratic faction to the ground. Don't worry, they'll rebuild a coalition on the right. No worries there. But to avoid the permanent takeover of oligarchy, we must defeat them everywhere. 

So, I favor using every trick we can think of. Sue, try to outlitigate them. GOTV, and win back the House and Senate. If we can't do that, and no later than 2020, all will be lost. Once in power, increase the judiciary, including the Supreme Court. Make PR and DC states. Pass the NPVC (look it up) in enough states to nullify the Electoral College's undemocratic impact. Kill the filibuster once and for all. Consider very seriously rethinking the power of the legislative branch to determine what the courts have jurisdiction over, to make sure they can't use the Kavanaugh court to hobble all progressive legislation. (Don't think that's not their plan... they already have a case out of TX that would've been considered crackpot ten years ago but which is all too likely to result not only in important provisions of the ACA being declared unconstitutional, but which may be used by them to establish a precedent that the Federal government cannot enact universal health care). And, of course, hit the ground running. In 2021, if (and we'd the hell better), we have both houses and the presidency, we should pass, within 90 days, a raft of progressive legislation that will make the first few months of the FDR administration in 1933 look like a boating party. 

12 October 2018

World Famous Kefta Meatloaf

In case anyone's interested 

World Famous Kefta Meatloaf
1.2 lb regular ground beef
½ cup grape nuts
½ med onion diced
½ bell pepper diced
1 egg
Heavy Whipping Cream to consistency
Enchilada sauce to consistency, and as topping
2 tsp. Kefta seasoning
1 tsp. Dry mustard
1 tsp. Ground sage
Minced or powdered garlic to taste
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Beat egg and add other liquids with grapenuts. Blend with immersion blender or whisk till the grapenuts are soggy. Should be a little thick... don't add too much liquid
Add all other ingredients and blend with clean hands and shape into ovoid blob
Place in clean ungreased glass meatloaf pan. Top with more enchilada sauce.

Bake at 325°F for 1½ hours  


09 October 2018

What to do about Kavanaugh?

 I actually don't think it's a good idea for Democrats to get bogged down with Kavanaugh. Better to concentrate investigations on Trump, and concentrate on procedural reforms, such as increasing the size of the Federal Judiciary including the Supreme Court, to balance the strongly biased judicial appointment hijacking that's been carried out over the last number of years by the Republicans. One thing that should be done, however, is for the New House Judiciary Committee (assuming it's majority Democratic), to subpoena the documents setting forth the scope of the FBI sham investigation ordered by Trump, to add yet another piece of evidence of what a dishonest liar he is.

Kavanaugh should probably be impeached, on the basis of perjury to the committee if nothing else. But I don't think that should be the highest priority in the New Congress. For the reason that even if we take back the Senate as well, which looks unlikely, we would still not have enough votes to convict any of the Republican evildoers in the Senate. So impeachment will be only a statement... it will not result in removal from office. And given the almost incredible blasé attitude of Congress and the media to Trump wrongdoing, it's hard to see how the Senate will impeach Trump for anything short of a complete psychotic meltdown or issuing edicts so brazenly unconstitutional that even the Repubs can't swallow it. All of which is, I admit, possible.

05 October 2018

The Fix was in but we need to start preparing NOW to fight back

 The fix was in when they decided to merely PRETEND to have an FBI investigation. It was a play. We were played. And there's nothing we can do about it until we regain both houses and the presidency, but when that happens we have to be READY and WILLING to play power politics that will make their heads spin. I wish I could say I was confident that Democratic leadership was prepared to do that!

Let me spell it out. This is all procedural, in ADDITION to a Progressive policy agenda not seen since 1933.

  • Shitcan the filibuster on Day 1 permanently
  • Outlaw gerrymandering (laws on Federal and State levels)
  • Engage constitutional scholars to determine exactly to what extent the Article II powers of Congress allow them to limit the ability of the Supreme Court to undo legislation then put those reforms into effect to the maximum extent possible, to ensure that things like Medicare for All, voting rights, reproductive rights, etc. are not undone by a right wing court.
  • Increase the size of the Federal judiciary across the board (only takes a statute) by 25%, including the Supreme Court (to 11 at least).
  • Effectuate PR, DC and Guam statehood.
  • Introduce Constitutional Amendments to eliminate Electoral College, overturn Citizens United, and change senate representation to 1 per state with the remaining 50 allocated by population, plus comprehensive Voting Rights and Privacy Rights amendments (these will be tough, as the Red States hold the cards, but we have to get the process started).
  • National Popular Vote Compact (state level) to defang the electoral college until the Amendment abolishing it takes effect
  • War Powers law making it illegal for the president to commence a war without congressional approval, including NO FIRST USE of Nuclear weapons
  • Make explicit that president not above the law, and must divest to blind trust all financial interests over minimal amount prior to assuming office

We could, if we only had the political will, do every single one of these things, and ensure the survival of our democratic republic for the foreseeable future. But will we?

30 September 2018

What to do about Republican minoritarian power politics?

 I say pack the court. Win the House, Senate and presidency and then expand the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, by 25+%. Can only work if we take and hold power for at least 8 years, long enough to change the demographics, and the conversation. Ultimately a Constitutional Amendment to adjust Senate minority rule will also be necessary.
Part of this strategy needs to be to add DC and Puerto Rico and maybe Guam as states, and pass the National Popular Vote compact to defang the Electoral College.

This needs to be the Democratic game plan for 2020 and beyond.
I realize this is an ambitious agenda, far beyond what most Democrats are willing to support at this time, but think about it. Are we not at the point where radical, even fundamental change, is necessary to break the stranglehold of minoritarian power? If we do not stand up for major changes, we will stand no chance at all that they will ever occur. 

20 September 2018

weird coincidence, or what's in a name?

I am friends and former colleagues with a very smart and capable lawyer who was born and raised in the Indian community in Malaysia. Which is quite extensive. She lived in London for a while before immigrating here about 25 years ago. She's ethnically Telugu, if I remember correctly. Anyway, her name is Meena Nachiappan. So imagine my surprise to receive a request to join my piano meetup group from a Meena Nachiappan, a young woman from Hillsboro, Oregon, complete with profile picture (not of the Meena I know). At first I thought it was some weird software glitch, but it's not. Turns out Nachiappan is fairly common among the Chettiar caste, and Meena, short for the goddess Meenakshi, is also a pretty common name. Both of them got a kick out of learning about the other. 

Help flip WA-03

If you have a few nickels to try to help flip the House, there aren't really any districts among Oregon's five that are in play. But just across the river is WA-03, currently held by Republican Jaime Herrera Butler. Very good prospects for flipping this seat. The Democrat, Carolyn Long, is more centrist than I tend to gush over, but we have to win the NUMBERS, and she's decent on most issues.

19 September 2018

Kavanaugh... two points

I'm probably repeating myself, but I posted this as a comment on social media, and it sums up my thinking on the current Kavanaugh controversy, so I'm sharing it anyway. 

 If a person, even a 17 year old, did something bad while blackout drunk, and realized at the time that he didn't remember what he did or didn't do, he should have the probity and integrity for the rest of his life to realize that he is not in a position to make any categorical denials about what others say he may have done. Big black mark, totally disqualifying. Second, this is not just a job. I agree that even very bad behavior in youth, if acknowledged and responsibility taken for it, should not disqualify someone for 99% of jobs, even elected office, even, probably, judgeships. But the Supreme Court is different. Only people of totally unquestioned probity, exemplary integrity, and lifelong reasoned and controlled demeanor should come anywhere near such awesome power, that they hold far longer than any other officeholders. This man has clearly lied under oath several times, and has treated these accusations in a grossly irresponsible manner. And the accusations are indeed credible. No one has some kind of golden passport to a supreme court slot. This guy, if he had any concern for the dignity of the court and its ability to have the credibility to stand above all other law, should simply withdraw right now (as Clarence Thomas should have... and HIS continuing conflicts of interest and obvious bias has merely reinforced that he should never have been confirmed to the office in the first place).  

18 September 2018

Kavanaugh and the Senate

 I think the chances of defeating the Kavanaugh nomination are a little better than the chances of Dems retaking the senate... but still not too good. However, one thing I'm pretty sure about. If Repubs succeed, it will cost them. In fact, the second thing may be the RESULT of their going all out on the first. Likely it will indeed turn on Murkowski and Collins, neither of whom is a reliable foil to the worst undemocratic power politics practices of the Far Right Party. Possibly, just possibly, Flake or Corker. From those 4 we need 2. Looks pretty forlorn. It does look pretty good for keeping the Democratic caucus 100% unified, which you couldn't say two weeks ago.

11 September 2018

Fear and Loathing in the White House

Woodward tells us that even Trump's own lawyer told Mueller that Trump was "disabled," and that's why he couldn't testify. My question: did he, as any right thinking person would, suggest to Pence or other cabinet members that they should invoke the 25th Amendment? Somehow I doubt it. But if you seriously believe the president is too disabled to sit down for two hours and tell the truth, then it's your patriotic duty to warn people in a position to begin the process of removing him from office that they'd better do that, post haste. Our nation is at risk with a mental deficient occupying an office of such largely unchecked power. No wonder Woodward titled his book Fear.

07 September 2018

Brett Kavanaugh is a big fat liar but will probably be confirmed anyway

Rachel Maddow just laid out a compelling case that Kavenaugh lied in his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings about 1) his role in the Pickering appointment; and, even more important, his knowledge and role in the use by the Bush administration of STOLEN Democratic judiciary committee documents in relation to judicial appointments. Will this, as it clearly should, mean his confirmation is completely scotched and he has to withdraw? Not in the crappy cesspool Republican Washington has become. 


29 August 2018

Glenn Greenwald

Quite a few years ago, in the Bush era, I found some of Glenn Greenwald's commentary interesting and insightful. But in recent years he, like Oliver Stone, has developed some kind of deranged affection for Putin reminiscent of pro-Stalin American communists in the pre-WW II era. I discount everything he says nowadays, and don't read him at all. 

26 August 2018


Hard not to take the last verse of the final motet of the Portland William Byrd Festival final concert as a commentary on affairs in Washington, as opposed to Jerusalem. Psalm 79, Deus venerunt gentes; verse 4, as set by William Byrd (1540-1623)

Facti summus opprobrium vicinis nostris,
subsannatio et illusio his qui in cicuitu nostro sunt.

"We have become a disgrace to our neighbors,
an object of mockery and derision to those around us."

23 August 2018

Godfather Part VII: the presidency

Trump muses "It started with collusion. How did we end up here?" (It's called investigation, look it up). But what I wonder is how we ended up with a president who condemns patriotic law enforcement officials for doing their jobs while he praises the crook he hired to be his campaign manager (till he had to fire him on reports of dirty foreign money)... after he's been convicted of serious crimes that can put him in jail for the rest of his life. And praises him not for being a "good guy" but for refusing to "break," meaning refusing to cooperate with the very United States government that the president heads. It feels as if Michael Corleone has become our president.

Wilson on Trump

22 August 2018

Post Trump

As far as I'm concerned, we now have substantiated evidence that Trump is a criminal, so he must resign or be impeached. Period the end. I know we have to work out how to get that done after the election and in the meantime it may not be the best issue to talk about (and it's obvious he won't resign). The investigation will go on; he can't stop it even if he tries desperation moves like firing Mueller. The evidence will hang him. His downfall is now inevitable.

So, what? I say, let's start talking about the post-Trump era; what Progressives can and will do for our country when we regain the levers of power. We'll deal with Trump, but for now the main thing is to win elections and minimize the damage he's doing. (Such as by fighting like hell to try to keep Kavanaugh off the Court).

Democrats running for office should talk about the positive things they are FOR, like Medicare for All, Renewable Energy and other Infrastructure (to address Climate Change and rebuild ageing transport and other systems), Restoring America's influence in the world, investment in science and other research, Free public higher education, Sensible Tax reform that actually helps ordinary people, voting rights, Enhanced Social Security, Labor Rights.... a long list. But the emphasis needs to be on what we will ACTUALLY DO to make America greater, not just spouting slogans or talking incessantly about the problems created by the current Crook in the White House.

I really believe that the majority that is not absolutely die-hard Trump-drunk is ready for a positive, can-do, activist message from Democrats about what needs to be done and will be done once we have the chance to get going.