25 April 2016

Trump as Trojan horse?

What are the chances that years from now in a tell all, Trump will let fall that, sure, he was always a big ego and all, but he never wanted those RIGHT WINGERS to run the place, and running for president was terrific publicity, so he went along with the House of Cards style machinations of the Clintons and ran as a Trojan horse in 2016 to ensure HRC's victory AND Senate flipover? And it succeeded beyond everyone's wildest dreams?


24 April 2016

Atheism as a belief system

An FB post noted that no atheists have organized terror or jihad based on their belief system, to which I commented the following.

Valid point. But atheism isn't a belief system. Just the opposite; it's a considered working empirical conclusion based on the foremost principles of empirical science; skepticism and adoption of theories only after falsifiable test, OR when that's infeasible, substantial cross linked evidence that strongly disfavors alternate hypotheses in comparison (as in cosmology, where lab experiments aren't possible).

Any serious consideration, without a priori postulates, of the hypothesis of an active, conscious God capable of and engaging in changing events in the physical universe, will have to conclude that there is no consistent evidence for the existence of such a being. People are free to believe whatever they like, but there is no REASON to adopt this belief based on the only reliable method we have for testing truth claims; the scientific method. Indeed, the hypothesis that God-belief resembles other forms of wishful thinking found in the study of human psychology, finds considerable support.

19 April 2016

No Bernie Sanders independent run!

In response to Facebook posts proclaiming "Bernie or bust" and advocating an Independent run, I posted the following reply:

I disagree. We must think longer term. Bernie himself has made clear that if he is not the nominee, he will endorse Clinton, and THEN continue to work to build a Progressive coalition to elect real progressives at all levels, and to reform the party so that next time a candidate espousing the SANDERS AGENDA will emerge victorious. Political change requires patience as well as enthusiasm, strategy as well as tactics. Bernie will go to the convention, and the result will be FAR BETTER than it would have been had he not run. And he has done a huge (YUGE) amount to move the Democratic party to the left, and towards far more transparency and responsiveness to its voters. The structure of elections in this country isn't going to be wished away, it will have to be transformed by a sustained effort. But fragmenting the party and ensuring the election of all three branches of government to the party that's closer to fascism than EVER BEFORE in America is foolhardy, and terribly, terribly bad for the future of our country.  

17 April 2016

To any of my friends who continue to believe that Sanders is less electable, and not a candidate of serious issues...

Please take the time to watch Cenk Uygur's interview from several weeks ago. 

Note in particular what he says he's trying to accomplish in the event he is NOT successful in getting the nomination (about which I believe he is perfectly realistic about his chances).  

Another exchange with HRC supporter

​I admit I'm getting a little tired of this kind of exchange, but here's the latest in an ongoing exchange with a Hillarist. 



Here is how I see the affect Sanders has on the electorate:  We live in a news cycle of TV news. Programs on TV come and go with rapid regularity. Bernie, along with Trump, represent the allure of the New and a break with the same, old stuff of hum-drum American politics.  Hillary who has been in the public sphere for more than 25 years comes across as yesterday's news no matter the fact that she has had first-hand knowledge of the levels of government as First Lady, US Senator for eight years and as Obama's choice for the most important post in the cabinet as Secretary of State.  Highly intelligent, years of significant experience appear to count for little among those who like something new on the TV screen.

Senator Sanders ( not even a Democrat ) is the new show. He appeals to the aspirational desires of the Center Left with his lofty rhetoric and defiance of the financial system which, in this globalized economy, has left the less-educated in fear of declining living standards as their manufacturing jobs and their middle class lifestyles disappear.   American education is the best in the world when it comes to Undergraduate, Graduate and Professional Education but has significant shortcomings in Secondary Education and Job Training.  Sanders rails at the big banks and the decline of the Middle Class, but seems lacking in the necessary means of achieving those goals.  That does not seem to matter. He is new and interesting. His speeches appeal to the current fears of American decline. Hillary is the old model.  Bernie is the new car in the showroom. But, we may ask, what's under the hood? 


Oh please. This is so condescending. And I for one have posted and emailed about "what's under the hood" so many times I'll just refer you to my post on gyromantic.com, "Why I'm supporting Bernie Sanders."
But seriously, the implication that support for Sanders is the result of ill- educated addiction to novelty is outright insulting. Do you think the most celebrated economic analyst of recent years, Thomas Piketty, who has said that Sanders's economic agenda is the right prescription and would be transformative, is some dopey kid who just wants a shiny new toy? Or that Andrew Bacevich, probably the foremost military historian of the present time, whose analysis of US middle east policy is in complete accord with Sanders, is likewise?  People support Sanders because they prefer the policies he promotes to what Clinton is offering. And generally for very sound reasons. At present, irrespective of the way the nomination process works, which will probably make her the nominee, MORE DEMOCRATS FAVOR SANDERS. If she's smart, (which she is), she won't ignore that. And if they're smart, her supporters will cut out the ad hominem insults. (And so will Bernie's...I don't deny some of them are doing that, too, and it's not helpful. )

16 April 2016

Ongoing discussion of Bernie vs. Hillary

In an ongoing conversation with a Hillary Clinton supporter correspondent, I recently sent the following: 
I understand why people support Clinton. I will vote for her if she is the nominee, as I've always said and as Bernie has always said, and still says.

But when you say ...

the vast majority of opinion indicates Clinton is better prepared to be president.

...That's Just not true. We're entitled to our opinions but not our own facts. The majority of democratic politicians believe that, and the majority of the talking head class will say this, too. But actual data shows that support for Clinton has declined to where it's close, but nationally, Sanders has higher approval rating among Democrats and is actually ahead in head to head matchups.

And when you say

If it's Trump vs Clinton it will be like LBJ and Goldwater in 1964.   ...

That's true, but it's even more true that it's Sanders who does better against Trump, and all Republicans, than she does. In fact Kasich [who will not be nominated] beats her in national polls, but Sanders beats Kasich.

This won't determine the nomination, but as rationale for supporting Clinton you cite prepositions that are actually contrary to available evidence.

And there's no reason to believe the Senate is more likely to go Democratic with her than him. I happen to believe the enthusiasm and turnout factors suggest just the opposite.

Fortunately, whoever wins the nomination, and it will of course most likely be Clinton, will win the general, the way things look right now.


15 April 2016

Reply to a correspondent

In response to my observations about Andrew Bacevich and his new book about the failure of American foreign policy in the Middle East ever since 1980, and that this is one of the main reasons I'm supporting Bernie Sanders, a correspondent said, "Enjoy being in the Minority. Bernie will lose."

Apart from the, well, frankly, smugness of this remark, I felt constrained to reply with this: 

«Ah, well, that may be, but it's hardly the point of my post. And even the most die hard Clintonistas recognize (if they're honest) that Bernie Sanders and the movement he has instigated has moved the center of gravity of the Democratic Party significantly to the left, so that the era of "Democratic Leadership Council" style wannabe-Republicanism in our party is finally over. Certainly positions taken in this campaign by Clinton herself reflect this undeniable reality. And for that alone, Sanders' and his supporters' efforts in this campaign have been worthwhile and salutary for the future of our country. As it happens, I believe that his policy positions reflect an emerging majority (hence recent polls that show him leading Clinton in head-to-head national matchups). The undemocratic party-procedural election process in this country is what it is and his road to a nomination at this point is incredibly steep if not actually impossible, but that doesn't make him a "loser" and it doesn't change the reality that: by and large, it is Sanders's positions on issues that are the new mainstream of the Democratic Party. 

And, perhaps ironically as it supposed to be her wheelhouse, but this general trend also applies to foreign policy.» 

Andrew Bacevich

Fixing to read Andrew Bacevich's «America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History», about the folly of the 35+ year attempt by the U.S. to control events in the Middle East. Starting with the "Carter Doctrine"in 1980. He notes that between the end of WW2 and 1980 virtually no American soldier was killed in action in the M.E. Since 1990, virtually no American soldier has been killed in action ANYWHERE ELSE. And what have we gained from that? We have become conditioned to it, but it's time at last to face the fact that our direct involvement there has been a colossal mistake whose only parallel is the abject failure of the War on Drugs.

Apropos, Hillary Clinton's apparent failure to understand either of these crucial policy insights is a major reason I'm supporting Bernie Sanders.

12 April 2016

Longman on Paul Ryan's presidential ambitions

Wa Mo's Martin Longman says Paul Ryan is just being coy in denying presidential ambitions. I say, who cares? The Democratic nominee, even if it's Hillary Clinton, will defeat any Republican. That might not have been the case four years ago, but now, with half of Trump's supporters refusing to vote at all if they don't nominate him, I'm not too worried.  

Blackout warnings bogus ... of local LA interest mostly

Yuge surprise! An article in the Bus sec of the LAT today sez just what I suspected. Sempra (The Gas Co) is planting this fearmongering about blackouts this summer in order to scare people into tolerating the sweetheart deal they're cooking up with the regulators to keep the Aliso Canyon gas storage facilities open with minimal disruption to their bad practices of the past.  

11 April 2016

Separation of Church and State

I saw this posted on social media. Not absolutely sure it's authentic, but it sure is an appealing and well said message:

"The reason we separate Church and State is because the Founding Fathers believed government should be guided by a balance of morality, and reason, not blind religious faith. Practice your religion in freedom; just don't make everyone else practice your religion."

Kareem Abdul Jabbar

10 April 2016

The price of civilization

I do consulting (legal writing) and earned more doing that last year than I anticipated. Can't complain. I have a very modest retirement pension. No complaint. I'm fortunate enough to have some investment income, although I don't actually see any of it to spend. That's for later. I'm deferring Social Security till "full" retirement age, 66 for me. (Born 1953). My tax bracket is actually pretty fair and reasonable for people at my modest income level. And I do nothing to try to take exemptions or deductions that I'm not 100% entitled to. I believe in a role for government and that taxes are the price of civilization as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr said in the 1920s. So when I found that my federal and state income, estimated 2016 first installment, and self-employment taxes added up to thousands of dollars... enough for a moderate budget weeks long European vacation, I was, well, not exactly delighted, but accepting. This is my dues.

If we had a progressive, fair, watertight tax system where everyone, including the 0.1%, had to pay THEIR fair share in just the same way, we would have more than enough for the infrastructure, education, research and development, housing, health care, and jobs investments our nation DESPERATELY needs to be making. So I accept my responsibility without complaint.

And this is yet another reason I believe Bernie Sanders should be our next president.

08 April 2016

​Reasons to support Bernie Sanders:

​Everyone has their own views, and that's the way it should be. But if anyone has any doubt at all, please read my reasons for supporting Bernie Sanders. 

·       Consistent record of supporting working peoples' interests against oligarchic mega-rich corporations and individuals, including rapacious and actually, literally criminal banks and other wall street institutions (for example nearly all of them participate in illegal assistance to the very rich to hide offshore assets from taxation; and participate in illegal and fraudulent derivative-related activity even after the meltdown they created in the first place; contrary to attempts to mischaracterize Sanders's positions, this includes so-called "shadow banking.")

·       Supports legal regime to actually enforce and reinforce statutory and regulatory control on Wall Street excesses (including breaking up the "too big to fail" banks under existing Dodd Frank powers (the recent flap over how to do this is totally distorted; if you read his answer he understands perfectly how the legal regime would allow this to be done) & 21st Century Glass Steagall, etc.

·       Non-interventionist foreign policy, 100% voting record going back to 1980s. Opposes sweetheart defense contract deals and rampant privatization of national security, military, and intelligence infrastructures in the US. Supports international cooperation wherever feasible, and even handedness and rethinking policies of "projection of power."

·       Supports tax reform to undo the trend towards rigged tax code favoring the very rich and offshoring of individual and corporate wealth, as recently revealed in truly wretched excess in the Panama Papers… 100% record on this issue going back decades. To include significant realignment of marginal rates on very high incomes to resemble the tax system we had in this country during the great prosperity of 1950-1974, before Reaganomics and tax changes to favor the rich, which are still in effect

·       Favors free trade, not regimes of so-called Trade Agreements that are really systems of rigging the rules in favor of big corporations and deals with foreign governments to switch jobs overseas.

·       Favors realistic transaction tax on Wall Street to discourage financialization of the economy and encourage actual production

·       30 year record of slow, steady legislative progress on liberal reforms

·       Supports infrastructure investment to build trains, bridges, public transport, libraries, public universities, research and development, renewable energy infrastructure and technology research, etc. both to create jobs and address the no. 1 environmental AND national security issue in America, which is Climate Change (military strategists agree)

·       Supports free tuition for public universities and colleges, like many states had until the 1970s in this country, financed by the transaction tax and tax reform

·       Supports moving towards a system which recognizes that health care is a right not a privilege, including ending special interest deals with Big Pharma and for profit medical industry

·       Supports ending Citizens United and other methods to take the power of money out of politics and end the oligarchic superstructure has used to control policy with money; public financing of elections

·       Supports programs to put people to work and ensure that no one goes without decent housing and nutrition support

·       First to support $15 min. wage among national candidates

·       Supports rational gun control; has D- rating from NRA (only supports some restraint in making non-intentional gun dealers liable for sale of guns), including total assault weapons ban and registration of handguns

Economists like Thomas Pikkety, author of the hugely influential Capitalism in the 21st Century, have said that this program would be transformative and ensure a robust and growing economy with a much fairer distribution of the wealth resulting from American innovation and productivity.

Contrary to many characterizations of Sanders's ideas of how to do this, he has created the largest political movement of citizens demanding change, and the greatest amount of enthusiasm for political change in a long, long time. It is defeatism on the part of the Centrists of the Democratic party to say, "get real, you can't do this, you need the Republicans and they won't vote for anything." You don't need the Republicans if you persuade enough of the people to join this peaceful political revolution, and if you take money out of politics so legislators are free to actually represent what their constituents, not their financial backers, want. We can change the rules of the Senate in one vote to do away with the filibuster, and with a 50 state, fight every race strategy, we can take back both houses of Congress within a few years, and enact a Progressive New New Deal. This is perfectly possible, but it requires bold, big thinking, not the kind of compromise-in-advance, triangulate, play the incremental change game favored by Centrists like Clinton and Obama.

Hillary Clinton has compromised, one might say triangulated, positions on every single one of these issues, and has refused to commit to vetoing TransPacific Partnership and many other more progressive positions she has articulated, but failed to actually commit to. She has taken huge amounts of money from special interests, which necessarily implies a quid pro quo, while Sanders has refused to do so (similar to how Russ Feingold has refused to do so, and is about to be elected to the Senate again). This election, where the Republicans are cracking up and will almost certainly lose, is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to elect a real progressive to the White House and commence a years-long movement to reinvent American government as much more progressive, which is what the majority of Americans want, according to all impartial polling.

Lastly, it is simply not true that Sanders is less electable than Clinton. A poll in Wisconsin on election day showed 90% of Democrats thought Sanders was honest, only 58% thought Clinton was. Her "negative view" numbers, long known to be the best predictor of electoral success, have always been higher than his. He consistently polls higher than her against either Trump or Cruz. And, recently, national polls have shown the Democratic electorate favors him, by a slight margin, overall.

If you have not yet voted in your state's primary or caucus, please consider voting for Bernie Sanders, to bring about REAL CHANGE in America.  

06 April 2016

Successful bone anchored hearing assist surgery (BAHA)

To everyone who was kind enough to express good wishes, my surgery today went well and I expect a fast and uneventful recovery. In six to twelve weeks I should get the actual sound transducer appliance, which will allow me to hear close-in, quiet sounds on the left side of my body through my (good) right ear, conducted through the bones of my skull. 

♦ David Studhalter

28 March 2016

Bernie's issues and Bernie's prospects.

Governor Brown is announcing a deal to raise the minimum wage over time in California to the standard advocated by Bernie Sanders as a major part of his campaign agenda: $15/hr.

Will Clinton budge from her Centrist compromise-before-the-fight advocacy of $12? Which, may I point out, is LESS than the minimum wage in 1970, adjusted for inflation? I see this as a possible bellwether for whether she is going to be responsive to the leftward trend of the "Overton Window" on issues of importance to Democrats. It should be obvious to her by now that support for a $15 min. wage has reached "popular," and is well on its way to "policy." Will she be in front of that or behind? And what will that say about her ability to be the leader of an increasingly Progressive party?

If Clinton is smart, she will absorb the lessons of the Sanders candidacy, and unite the party not just politically but by actually representing the concerns and views of the majority of Democrats.

Since 1) there is no certainty
​...just yet...​
that she will be the nominee; and 2) there is no certainty that she will do this,
 say, onward! We
​ of the Democratic Branch of the Democratic Party​
must fight against the odds and try like hell to get Bernie nominated.
Which means barnstorm campaigns to win, and win by the largest possible margins, in 

WISCONSIN  .... open primary, favors Bernie
PENNSYLVANIA  ... closed primary, and tough, tough slog for Bernie
... close
primary, and tough, tough slog for Bernie
CALIFORNIA ... semi-closed primary, and Clinton leads in most recent polls, but not by insurmountable numbers. 

The toughest nuts will be Pennsylvania and New York, and the reality Bernie's campaign is facing is that he pretty much HAS TO WIN both, and by much better than near-tie numbers. 

​I believe most Sanders supporters will support Clinton if this very-difficult effort is unsuccessful, but I also believe that the more support, even late in the primary process, that goes towards Sanders's insurgent campaign, the more of a progressive line Clinton will need to hew to in order to unite the party. So no effort on behalf of the truly progressive politics Bernie Sanders represents is wasted. 


27 March 2016

Great Article in Washington Monthly about more than Marijuana Policy... talks about the Overton Window and the fallacy of Centrism

This article is actually about much more than its title indicates: it touches on the whole fallacy of "Centrist" political positions. Terrific must-read.


Gotta Love this


Doesn't Bernie have to win the election to "change the world"?

Someone posted that question ​ (See subject)​ on Facebook (in response to someone else saying Hillary is trying to win the election, Bernie is trying to change the world). Here was my reply: 

​>>   ​
Actually, no, not really. Of course, it would be better if Bernie were to win the presidency. But he has created a movement, with more than twice as many names and e-mail addresses of activist supporters than Obama generated in 2008. And, I really believe, unlike Obama, Bernie and his organization intend to use that movement base to continue to work for progressive change, and to create and maintain the "political revolution" he's always talking about, whether or not he wins the Democratic nomination.

(I take it as a given in this climate, with Trump (or just possibly Cruz) the likely Repub. nominee, that the Democrat, whether Bernie or HRC, will win the election​. And that is a good deal better situation than I expected even six months back to be in at this point​).

25 March 2016

E. O. Wilson's critique of mainstream economics

This, from E. O. Wilson's 1998 book Consilience, is probably one of the most devastating indictments of the whole intellectual underpinning of (most of) economics, and by extension, political economy and politics itself:
> "The single greatest intellectual obstacle to environmental realism, as opposed to its [merely] practical difficulty, is the myopia of most professional economists. [Earlier in the book] I described the insular nature of neoclassical economic theory. Its models, while elegant cabinet specimens of applied mathematics, largely ignore human behavior as understood by contemporary psychology and biology. Lacking such a foundation, the conclusions often describe abstract worlds that do not exist. The flaw is especially noticeable in microeconomics, which threats the patterns of choices made by individual consumers.
> "The weakness of economics is most worrisome, however, in its general failure to incorporate the environment. After the [1992] Earth Summit, and after veritable encyclopedias of data compiled by scientists and resource experts have shown clearly the dangerous trends of populations size and planetary health, the most influential economists still make recommendations as though there is no environment. Their assessments read like the annual reports of successful brokerage firms. ..."

He makes a convincing case that thinking in terms of conventional economic theory will lead us right of the cliff in this century, when the kinds of trends that in the past have caused empires to fall and whole civilizations to collapse are in play: exceeding the carrying capacity of an environment to the point where the kind of well being bloated populations have become accustomed to can... rather suddenly... become no longer sustainable. Except this time, we're talking about, if you'll pardon the French, THE WHOLE FUCKING PLANET.


21 March 2016

No, it's NOT time for Bernie Sanders to "wrap it up" (Huff Po headline)

Calls for Bernie Sanders to "Wrap it Up" are premature. It is true that his path to the nomination has narrowed further after last Tuesday, to the point where it is delusional not to admit that it's unlikely. But put the shoe on the other foot. If the pledged delegate counts were reversed, do any of the HRC supporters who are calling for Bernie to "wrap it up" really believe SHE would do so at this point? Unless and until the numbers become truly impossible, a candidate has every reason to stay in the race. After all, politics is ultimately unpredictable. While it's not likely, it's POSSIBLE that something will happen that will make Clinton unelectable. And, even more importantly in my mind, the Sanders candidacy has undeniably shifted the entire Democratic Agenda closer to the issues he has raised, and made the focus on the economic issues of chief concern to Democratic voters the focus not only of his campaign, but Democrats in general. This is a great service he has performed. And the longer he continues this pressure the better. It is also arguably the case that the presence of Sanders on the Democratic side has actually contributed to the crackup going on among the Republicans. There are no guarantees, but right now it looks like the Republicans are more likely than not to go down to historic defeat; it's even plausible to talk about regaining the House, not just the Senate (or at least making significant inroads towards taking it back in the next cycle.) Others will probably not acknowledge his positive role in that, but I believe Sanders should get some of the credit for that.

19 March 2016

Denying Trump

Big ol' left column article in the NY Times about how the Rightnuts in the Republican party are going to take their toys and go home if their plan to scheme and sway their way to denying Trump their nomination falters. At which point they'll run some failed idiot like Perry or Coburn as an Idepenndent Nuttocrat candidate in the general election.

Please, Great Unseen Power that Governs the Universe When It Feels Like It, please, please, make it so!

09 March 2016

Encouraged by Bernie's win in Michigan? Sure...

​A friend asked if I was encouraged by Bernie's win in Michigan. My answer: 

Well, of course a win is a win, and this one was rather unexpected. In fact, before the votes started being announced, I was heard to say "This one is do or die for Bernie, and the polls say it doesn't look good." (And they did; some showed her with a 20% lead). 

Thing is, she has a tremendous advantage in delegate count, even without counting the superdelegates, who mostly stack up for her (but are unpledged and would possibly mostly go to Sanders if he ends up with a majority of elected delegates). Every additional delegate she gets makes it more difficult for Bernie. Even if he wins a bunch of big states, she gets delegates, because the Dems (unlike the Reps) DO NOT have Winner Take All in any states. Bernie does much better among Independents (which is one of the reasons I believe the electability argument for Clinton is totally WRONG; he will get more Independents than she does). So, he does better in open primary states not in the South. (New Hampshire, Michigan, and upcoming big states Ohio and Illinois, possibly). Where only Democrats can vote, she tends to poll well ahead of him, even in the North and West. She has Southern African Americans locked up, and even outside the South African Americans go for her 2:1. 

So, sure, I'm very glad to have this win, but it's still a tough slog. If Bernie manages to win Ohio and Illinois, he will still be in the race, but there's a fairly high chance that by the end of this month he will be locked out of any realistic path to the nomination. Just being realistic here. 

Now, what he should do, in the upcoming debates, is ask her to pledge to do some things she's said she'd do. So she can't wiggle out. 

Like this, 

"Madame Secretary, will you commit to the voters right now that if the Trans Pacific Partnership ratification comes to your desk if you are elected president, you will veto it? The voters have a right to know."

"Madame Secretary, will you commit right now to signing a bill adding a Public Option to the Affordable Care Act? The voters have a right to know." 

"Madame Secretary, will you commit right now to signing a bill closing the carried interest and offshore stashing of cash loopholes, to help address the income inequality problem plaguing our country? The voters have a right to know. "

Madame Secretary, will you commit right now to signing legislation implementing and strengthening Dodd Frank, to make sure that Wall Street doesn't wreck the US economy all over again? The voters have a right to know."

It's all about leverage, and it looks likely the only leverage Bernie will have will be of this kind, and the clock is ticking. 

Hope the Bernie folks are heeding this advice, which is not just coming from me. 

Sanders's upset victory in Michigan is the biggest poll-fail in US Primary history

Nate Silver had this to say:

I said earlier today that I had an intuition Sanders could beat his polling in Michigan tonight, but I didn't expect things to be quite so close. If Sanders winds up winning in Michigan, in fact, it will count as among the greatest polling errors in primary history. Clinton led by 21.3 percentage points in our final Michigan polling average. Previously, the candidate with the largest lead to lose a state in our database of well-polled primaries and caucuses was Walter Mondale, who led in New Hampshire by 17.1 percentage points but lost to Gary Hart in 1984.

[Update, obviously: although it tightened as the last Wayne County and Flint results came in late, Bernie won by nearly 2 points].


And see this as to what it was the persuaded Michigan voters to cast their votes for him in the end:


No one should kid him or herself. The inexorability of delegate counts still favors Clinton. But I would venture to say that her nomination is NOT as inevitable as people seem to think it is.

07 March 2016


When I was in high school (back in the Middle Ages) I read C. P. Snow's ​T​he Two Cultures, (1959) about the seemingly unbridgeable split between the "Literary" culture and the "Scientific". (Snow was a physical chemist, but also a polymath of sorts, who wrote a rather good Whodunit, ​​Death Under Sail (1932) and a biography of Trollope). In the 1960s this seemed to be an increasing split, that would remain forever unbridgeable, and in fact grow wider. Now I'm reading another polymath's book somewhat on the same subject, Ant-expert and philosopher Edward O. Wilson's Consilience (1998). Wilson mentions Snow, but he says that the "border" between the Natural Sciences and the Humanities and Discursive Fields (some referred to, with a sort of physics-envy, as "social sciences") is not a boundary line but more like an insufficiently explored terrain. Which (paraphrasing wildly here), increasingly people from both sides of the divide must venture into and explore, for the good of the species and the planet, because we need the whole picture, not just the specialists' perspectives, to engage our collective noggin and figure out where to go from here. We've made a hot mess of things in many ways, but we have some fantastic tools: our cultural adaptations and incredible genetic heritage that has somehow given us a brain capable of understanding everything from how to save seeds to grow next year's crops to the metaphorical extravaganza of ​​The Odyssey to deducing the age of a galaxy billions of light years distant from a the record of a point of light on a complex device that wouldn't exist without the intersection of technology and quantum mechanics. These will be our means to survival, and to thriving in the universe beyond even our home planet, but only if we learn to overcome the maladaptations that inevitably come with them. But I remain guardedly optimistic.

02 March 2016

Another rant on Bernie and the Electability Thing

I've run into a lot of people who say things like this (actual quote): "Most of us, progressives, would love to see Bernie win, and his ideas become law. But we are realists and not starry eyed idealists. We are old enough to remember the McGovern debacle. Can't let this opportunity go up in smoke, again! Even if Bernie get's the nomination, he won't win the general, against whatever clown the Republicans nominate."

I interpret this as "I'd really rather vote for Bernie, but the expedient choice is Hillary, because she'll win and he would lose."

(In some cases, one or two I'm quite sure of, in fact, (not the writer of the above), the reality is that they DON'T really prefer Bernie, they are what I refer to as Eisenhower Republicans who have found refuge in the Democratic Party, and they really prefer her on the issues, which of course is their prerogative, but they should just say so).

But back to the "expediency" argument. Here's the thing.

First, although we don't like to remember, McGovern got the nomination without a having won any primaries outright; he was not the choice of the majority of Democrats, and 1972 was an election against a popular (I know, it's hard to believe, but look at the press at the time, it's true)
president. So 1972 is nothing at all like this year, where our opponent is likely to be a clownish con-man on whom a
of oppo research has yet to spring. But I digress, because this isn't really my point.
​Which is: ​
the data shows otherwise. Sanders consistently does better in matchups against Trump, Cruz and Rubio since the first of the year. Consistently. I'm not making this up, it's just the facts. There aren't a huge number of polls, so one could say that the degree of uncertainty is relatively high, but it's a question of data vs. no data. Starry eyed idealism  has nothing to do with it. The "electability" charge against Bernie is almost entirely based on people's suppositions or instincts. If you look at the actual polling data, it's just not true. I am citing data to back up my view
​, but people who say this​
are just assuming that she is more electable, based on preconceived ideas. I wouldn't deny that it could turn out that she would win and he wouldn't, because this isn't an exact science, but, seriously, idealism has nothing to do with it. If you just look at the numbers, the conclusion has to be that the "electability" factor favors Bernie, so I really wish HRC supporters would make some other argument. Like that she's going to be the nominee anyway, which is very probable.

That is, we're mostly likely going to find out if she is "electable," because the delegate count is going to become insurmountable pretty soon; if this race doesn't break in a major way for Bernie (
​which is still possible
), she will
​ inevitably​
be the nominee. In which case we better hope they nominate Trump, because polls show her
to Rubio. (Bernie wins against Rubio, they both win against Trump). I am not a fool. I will support her if she is the victor, which seems very likely at this point. But not because she's more electable, because that
just ain't so.

28 February 2016

HRC and Sanders do not "really want the same things."

• To those, if there really are any, who sincerely believe that Bernie and Hillary

want the same things,
but either that she is "more electable" (data says otherwise) or that she is "more pragmatic" (I'd argue he has a BETTER shot at bringing the Senate over and House sooner, too, and the Republicans clearly hate her even more than they hate him)...

Please ask yourself honestly:

Who do you REALLY believe would appoint people to the SEC, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and the FCC, just to name the most prominent agencies, who will actually be dedicated to enforcing the letter and spirit of the law in the interests of ALL the people? (I would give Obama at best a C-minus on this).
​ ​

​Who do you REALLY believe will ​refuse to support or implement or the anti-worker Trans Pacific Partnership and will appoint trade negotiators who work for ordinary working people, not corporatist interests? (I give Obama an F here, and HRC touts "continuity.")

Who do you REALLY believe will appoint genuine Progressives to ALL the cabinet posts?

Who do you REALLY believe will give ear to the ideas of Progressive intellectuals, and not professional special interest lobbyists?

If you can genuinely say you think Clinton is likely to be the equal of Bernie in any of these respects, I gotta say, I wonder what planet you're living on.

But, then, my experience is that most HRC supporters are not, in fact, particularly Progressive. They WANT a Centrist candidate who will keep the status quo. (Some will even honestly say so). Fine. But those of us in the Core of the Democratic Party are not going to accept that. We will vote for Democrats (most of us), but we will work our tails off to change the party into a real Progressive Party going forward.

27 February 2016

The emerging Progressive Majority

A friend took exception to my arguing (with citation to an article in Jacobin) that Clinton represents a faction of the Democrats that don't really believe in Progressive reform, and have no real intention of implementing it in a broad fashion. I risked alienating him entirely by writing this back:

I don't agree with a single word of what you say here. Which proves my point. There are very real differences within the Democratic Party, and we who see great necessity for real reform will not give up. This may not be our year, but our time will come.

I believe that a carefully documented, and entirely correct, case can be made (because it has, quite a few times, by many very thoughtful and well-informed political scientists and economists), that the Centrist Democrats after 1992 such as both Clintons and Obama (and in fact most elected Democrats in this country today) do not intend, and do not accomplish, much in the way of actual progress towards what I'll refer to in shorthand as social democracy. (Something we almost had in this country, and did have at least as an aspirational goal, in Democratic politics and policy between roughly 1940 and 1974). There are a few steps forward, such as the ACA, but just as many steps backward, such as capitulation on the very idea that "entitlements" should be cut or scaled back. The Centrist Democrats have basically sold out on the idea of social progress altogether; I equate them to Eisenhower Republicans (although in several important respects Eisenhower was more small-initials social democratic than most Democratic elected officials today... the voters having, to a great extent, moved on to a much more Progressive stance). Of course vastly preferable to the Right Wing nuts that the actual Republicans have become, but not really interested in using political power to make society more equitable, fairer, or more small-d democratic. There is a growing base in the Democratic Party that is fed up with this attitude, and will not stand for it going forward in their leaders.

If you find that offensive, I'm sorry, but that's just how it appears to me.

Clinton: The WRONG Kind of Experience / Jacobin

Here's a piece that argues that Clinton is more likely to use presidential power to STYMIE progressive reform than to promote it. I am not one to pretend there's no difference between Clinton and Republicans, or to argue that "It's Bernie or Nothing." But there IS a difference between Sanders's political revolution and Clinton's Business As Usual Democratic Party politics. And as long as there's any chance at all of getting Bernie and not her, I will work for realizing that opportunity for a better future.
​ Because it's what I believe in.


26 February 2016

Shortage of Section 8 Housing in Urban Areas a deprivation of equal protection?

Due to shortage of rental housing, it's essentially impossible to get Section 8 Federal Housing subsidies in large cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, etc. I think the state AGs in the states where this is the case should sue the Federal Government... on the grounds of failure to ensure equal protection of the law. The taxpayers in these jurisdictions pay their taxes, but, effectively, are denied a benefit that they're paying for people in other jurisdictions to receive (including, disproportionately, in red states, ironically enough).

25 February 2016

Edward O. Wilson and The Meaning of Human Existence

Just finished the rather short (200pp) valedictory essay, I guess you'd call it, by the eminent sociobiologist (a category he more or less invented) and ant expert, 86 year old Edward O. Wilson. The Meaning of Human Existence. (Not exactly a modest little piece). But seriously, whether you're "dogmatized" by what he refers to as "tribal" religion-based concepts of reality, or a free thinking humanist, you owe it to yourself to pick up this clearly written and thought-through little book. 

Wilson is a bit controversial, but he's backed away from some of the objectionable implications of the form of selection dynamics he championed in Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in the 70s, and the two terms he either coined or brought to prominence in thinking about the interface between the "two spheres" of the humanities and science, Consilience and Biophilia, tell you a lot about his perspective. (Those are also book titles).

24 February 2016

My Nefarious Plan for Ensuring a Progressive (or at least Centrist/Progressive) Supreme Court Majority for a Generation

In light of the current nonsense from the Republicans, it would appear that it's too late for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire so that Obama can appoint her successor. The best gamble on that is also to bet that the next President will be a Democrat, and that the Senate will either also be Democratic or that that the Republicans will simply be unable to prevent nominations from being confirmed for an entire term. What I am hoping for is the following (informed by the complete, anti-democratic, exclusionary and obstructivist stance of the Republicans, who are the least patriotic of political parties since the Civil War, without doubt):

1. Elect a Democratic President. (I'm for Sanders, but any Democrat).
2. Elect a majority of Democrats in the Senate.
3. The new leader proposes and enacts with a majority vote a Rules Change: no filibuster (period, or at least not on ANY judicial nominations, including the Supreme Court).
4. Breyer and Ginsburg do their duty and retire during the first couple of years of the new president's term.
5. The new president nominates, and the Senate confirms, THREE genuinely progressive Supreme Court judges, ensuring a 5-4 Centrist/Progressive majority for a long time.

Fait accompli.

At least, that's the plan.

19 February 2016

The Impossible Clavichord

The following is a first draft for an introduction to program notes for an informal recital I plan to do sometime in the future, featuring some well known works of Bach and a rarely heard, but quite lovely, little suite by his favorite pupil, Maynard G. Krebs. I mean Johann Ludwig Krebs. Who invented the Krebs cycle. Oh well. ​(Just trying to counter the essay's rather too serious tone). If this kinda thing doesn't interest you, by all means, click delete forthwith.


It's likely that most of you have never even seen a clavichord close up, and most people, even if disposed favorably towards "classical music," are a little unclear, if they know at all, on the difference between a clavichord and a harpsichord. So here's a quick primer. The clavichord, which has antecedents dating back to antiquity, is a very simple instrument. It consists of a resonant soundboard, a box with a stiff block with pins in it to hold the strings under tension, a bridge with pins in it to stop the strings at a certain resonant length to make a tuned note, and a set of keys with little flat brass strips of metal called tangents embedded in them. These, when they are levered up so that the tangents strike the stings, both stop the strings… i.e., give them their sounding length that determines their pitch, and impart the actual energy to the strings to produce the sound. There can be no simpler keyboard instrument.

Well made Clavichords have a lovely, sweet sound, and, like the later pianoforte and unlike the harpsichord, they are capable of dynamics… if you strike the string harder (faster, actually)​, the sound is louder. Music of exquisite expressiveness is possible on the clavichord. Harpsichords, the earliest versions of which date from approximately 1450, entail a mechanism whereby the string is plucked by a complicated mechanism with a plectrum embedded in a moving piece called a jack. They cannot vary the volume of the sound, although they are capable of articulation, meaning whether the notes are connected together in time, or more separated (legato vs. staccato).

The problem with clavichords was always that, while they are capable of dynamics, the range is meager, to say the least. From pianissimo to piano. The earlier single-strung instruments, in particular, were not loud enough to accompany a singer or string instrument, or even be clearly heard, alone, in a big room, still less any kind of hall. Later, larger instruments were made, but they aren't significantly louder, because there are physical limits to the sound the simple lever mechanism can produce.

It's generally assumed that the impetus for Bartolomeo Cristofori, in the early years of the 18th century, to develop the first fortepiano, the ancestor of the modern piano, was to create an instrument with the harpsichord's volume and the clavichord's ability to play loud and soft (hence the name). This theory is actually rather dubious, as clavichords were not particularly popular in Italy at the time, but it makes a good story. In any case the lack of dynamic expressiveness of the harpsichord was always recognized as a deficiency. Still, as with any kind of limits, it also represented an opportunity for the creative use of the instrument in ways in which this lack of dynamics did not matter. In fact, much of the instrumental style of the so-called High Baroque can be associated with the style of music that harpsichord composition gave rise to.

Certain composers, notably Bach, his son C.P.E. Bach, and their predecessors Johann Kuhnau and J. J. Froberger, are particularly associated with the clavichord and its more subtle capabilities. The instrument has long had its champions, for its sweet sound, and its delicate and nuanced expressiveness. Some music, such as Froberger's suites and Bach's French Suites and the Well-Tempered Clavier, seems particularly to have been written for the clavichord. I believe, from stylistic considerations, that some of the keyboard music of Bach's favorite pupil, Johann Ludwig Krebs, was also clearly written with the clavichord in mind.

The Pianoteq keyboard modeling software I am using contains a modeled clavichord, based on a German copy, made in 1941 by the Neupert firm (noted for its rather clunky harpsichords). Note that the date indicates that this instrument was made during the depths of the Nazi regime, but I guess that just shows that music persists despite everything. Anyway, this instrument is a "C.P.E. Bach" style clavichord, in other words, similar to the largest, 61-key double strung clavichords ever built, from around 1740. The instrument has a clear sound, but the actual physical instrument still lacks volume, and it also has a certain deadness of tone, resulting from pushing the physical limits of the instrument to ​an extreme.

But the software, because it is ​digitally ​modeled rather than sampled, allows the user to tweak various parameters. It's possible to increase the "string length" parameter from the actual instrument's 0.6 meters or so to 2½ meters (or more, but if you go too far it starts to sound rather artificial). This decreases the "inharmonicity," making the sound purer and less "tinkly." You can also increase the soundboard resonance, to give the sound a rounder, fuller quality. You can amplify the volume of the sound, across the board. Obviously, none of these things is possible with a real instrument. The real soundboard is made from spruce. No real soundboard can be magically made half again as resonant. If you made the strings 2½ meters long, the case that would hold their tension would be heavy enough to deaden the sound overall, and the brass strings would break before you could tune them to the correct pitch. The sound the instrument produced with such long strings, even if they could exist, would be so weak it would be almost inaudible. Hence, the wonders of technology: a recognizable, even idealized, clavichord sound, sweet, expressive, reasonably loud, and absolutely impossible in an real acoustic instrument.

I have tweaked the Clavichord model on the software in just this way, to produce a playable but physically impossible instrument, that I believe makes a very nice vehicle for playing music by composers such as the great Bach and his star pupil, Krebs; music which was almost certainly written with the clavichord in mind. (Although it can be, and often is, played on the harpsichord, modern piano, or sometimes even organ).

18 February 2016

Linda Greenhouse on Scalia • Must Read

If you only read a few things a month in the NYT (...if you're a regular reader, you'll have already seen this...), please read Linda Greenhouse's excellent piece on the Scalia legacy. Here.   

Bernie Sanders's policy agenda and proposals to pay for it.

Here is a good set of links and descriptions of the details of Bernie Sanders's policy proposals, and how he proposes to pay for them. Every Democrat should at least take a look at this, to have an idea what Sanders stands for. After all, even if you are leaning Clinton (for whatever misguided reason! :)), you will want to know what the nominee of the party stands for when Bernie wins!  :) ! !  
​<div id="fb-root"></div><script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/david.studhalter.3/posts/950104751733049" data-width="500"><div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><blockquote cite="https://www.facebook.com/david.studhalter.3/posts/950104751733049"><p>Read down into the comments. This post contains LOTS of specifics about Bernie Sanders&#039;s proposals and how he proposes to pay for them.</p>Posted by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/david.studhalter.3">David Studhalter</a> on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/david.studhalter.3/posts/950104751733049">Thursday, February 18, 2016</a></blockquote></div></div> ​

16 February 2016

Fwd: Pete Williams made completely unsubstantiated statement

I sent this to viewerservices@MSNBC.com (prompted by TPM piece). 

​ ​

I was dismayed to hear Pete Williams FALSELY state on the air that there is precedent in both parties for simply blocking the nomination of a Supreme Court justice during a president's final year. This is just buying into the false propaganda of the Republican party, which has become all too common in the network media. The FACT is that, throughout the 20th century and the present century, this kind of obstructionism is COMPLETELY unprecedented. The most recent close parallel is Justice Kennedy, appointed by Reagan in the last year of his presidency, and PROMPTLY CONFIRMED 97-0 by a majority Democratic Senate.

I demand that Mr. Williams issue a retraction of his false statement and apologize to the viewers. A factual historical statement should be made in place of the propagandistic and false statement Mr. Williams initially made on the air.

Thank you.

15 February 2016

DEMAND that the Republicans in the Senate hold hearings and a vote on confirmation for SCOTUS nominee!

Of course, I am hardly a typical voter. I am a lifelong Progressive Democrat in a blue state with two female Democratic senators. But I am so outraged by the attitude of entitlement to power, regardless of the system of checks and balances the Constitution REQUIRES, that seems to be the knee-jerk response of virtually all of the Republicans, that I find it hard not to imagine that MOST Americans will find this unfair and objectionable, even if they tend to be a little on the Conservative side. I urge everyone who lives in a state with a Republican senator, and even everyone period, to barrage the Republican senators, and Mitch McConnell in particular, with calls, e-mails, and letters DEMANDING that they proceed to consider President Obama's nominee in a timely fashion and vote on confirmation promptly. 

Here's what I sent to several Republican Senators, including McConnell: 

"Our constitution requires the president to nominate a successor to a Supreme Court justice in a timely fashion, and for the Senate to consider and vote on confirmation of the president's nominee in a timely fashion. Sen. McConnell himself voted to confirm Justice Kennedy, in a Democratic Senate, in the last year of President Reagan's term, and Justice Kennedy was confirmed. This is the way it is done in our country. Now the Republicans are threatening to return to the dirty politics of the Reconstruction Era and block the legitimate nomination of the president. We the people are outraged. We will not stand for it. We DEMAND that the Senate promptly consider and vote on confirmation of the president's nominee for the Supreme Court."

Republican plans to block a Supreme Court nomination

• If the Republicans want to sit there and advocate a return to the Reconstruction
ra dirty politics, which was the last time a Senate tried to deny a sitting president with many months in office the right to name a Supreme Court nominee, we will give them a fight. (Note: Mitch McConnell voted
​to confirm Justice
 Kennedy, appointed by Reagan in the last year of office, when many in Washington KNEW Reagan was already suffering from mental lapses due to Alzheimers
. The Democratically controlled Senate held timely hearings and consented to the nomination of Justice Kennedy, part of the Right Wing majority today. This is known as HYPOCRISY in all caps).

I believe public pressure can force the Republicans in the Senate to hold hearings, and to approve a qualified candidate for the empty SCOTUS seat over the coming months. This is, after all, their CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

At worst, we will make this a battle royal campaign issue. They want to use every trick in the book to keep their special privilege, their minority rule against the will of the majority. Vote for the Democrats, for Senate, for president, for the House, to restore the Rule of Law to our country where the Republicans believe only in Bosses' Rule.

Framed properly, this is a powerful message.

Of course, I am hardly a typical voter. I am a lifelong Progressive Democrat in a blue state with two female Democratic senators. But I am so outraged by the attitude of entitlement to power, regardless of the system of checks and balances the Constitution REQUIRES, that seems to be the knee-jerk response of virtually all of the Republicans, that I find it hard not to imagine that MOST Americans will find this unfair and objectionable, even if they tend to be a little on the Conservative side. I urge everyone who lives in a state with a Republican senator, and even everyone period, to barrage the Republican senators, and Mitch McConnell in particular, with calls, e-mails, and letters DEMANDING that they proceed to consider President Obama's nominee in a timely fashion and vote on confirmation promptly.