12 October 2015

Robert Reich's new «Saving Capitalism»

Usually I buy these political books and then never read them, but I have found Robert Reich pretty readable in the past. And since it's been billed as a sort of American-style optimistic Piketty* for people who have a life and won't read a 1500 page tome, I plunged ahead and ordered an e-book copy of Robert Reich's new book Saving Capitalism, for the Many, not the Few. 

Reich is almost dead on congruent with Bernie Sanders on economic policy, so this book may serve as a sort of informal manifesto for Sandersism.​ (Despite the fact that, as a former cabinet member under Clinton (Labor) and longtime friend of the Clintons, Reich has not formally endorsed Bernie). 

*Capital in the Twenty-First Century, [Engl. Translation] 2014.

10 October 2015

Pres. Obama's defense of TPP is just diversionary tactic

From my work of many years, I know a little something of how to fairly and squarely rebut an argument. The argument against TPP is detailed and substantive, as presented, for example, at Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch website. Pres Obama offers conclusory statements about how great lower foreign taxes are, when the fact is that we ALREADY have low tarriffs and free trade with almost all of the TPP countries. He avoids the issues of dumping, inflated definitions of intellectual property that benefit only big Pharma, currency manipulation, and rigged dispute resolution, among other major problems with the deal, then resorts to the non sequitur that opponents only want the status quo. Of course opponents prefer the status quo to something worse! This isn't argument, it's the old magician's trick of diversion.

08 October 2015

Are Space Elevators going to be necessary?

​From a recent discussion with an interested friend of whether our potential future interplanetary civilization will necessarily rely on Space Elevator technology for traffic to and from the surface of Earth. ​

​[We have to take] into account the fact that the rocket equation applies to any rocket (i.e., any system that achieves escape by pushing against itself), whereas a space elevator (or any one of a number of other related technologies) does not, and thus is freed from the inexorable logarithmic logic of rockets, which is that the cost of lifting mass to orbit grows exponentially with mass. There's just no way around it. Chemical rockets, atomic rockets, fusion rockets, any rockets. You can improve efficiency but even with 100% efficiency you are still faced with very steep costs to lift substantial mass from a gravity well like Earth's. Only magic, i.e., anti-gravity or something of the sort, can get around this in a self-contained vessel. If you look at the curve of increasing materials strength, and the kinds of materials being researched now (fullerene and carbyne fibers, and even more exotic things), it seems to me far less speculative to infer that it's likely humans (or, by the same logic and some time or place, others), would solve these problems than that they would invent something for which no theoretical basis exists at all.

I rest my case, other than to throw in that I'm pretty sure this is the direction most people who dream of building things like Banks Orbitals are thinking. It's not so much getting up there to build stuff, because that could be done with rockets, but if you want to have traffic, i.e., ordinary people going into space and back routinely, rockets, of any kind, just aren't going to work. (The whole issue of the near impossibility of building rockets that have low environmental impact is a whole other can of worms; and if you're talking about atomic rockets of any kind, then that becomes even worse of an issue).

Of course, if you are talking about leaving the vast majority of humans to fend for themselves on Earth, while a whole new subset of humanity becomes Homo caelestis or whatever, then it won't matter. Rockets of one kind or another work just fine in interplanetary space, away from large gravity wells.

And then there's the whole issue of interstellar travel. Rockets are very poor for that, too, for a set of different reasons. No practical solution for moving significant masses to other stars yet presents itself. For example, a fusion rocket that's 99% efficient would have to carry enough fuel to power the entirety of human civilization for several years just to get a schoolbus sized payload vehicle to .1 of the speed of light, and slow it back to planetary velocities at the other end. The fuel to payload ratio has to be something like 100,000 to 1. And that's still slow enough that it couldn't be practical without some form of suspended animation.

I do believe we will eventually send long range probes to suspected habitable planets orbiting so called nearby stars (<50 l.y. or so), and even longer range, if our culture survives and becomes a thriving spacefaring civilization here in the Solar System, our descendants will figure out some way to go there. But that, I think, will require a quantum leap in technological abilities that we can't really foresee except in general at this point. Somewhere, others have probably done this, but, as I always harp on, the fact that we don't see them is prima facie evidence that it's very hard, and, at least so far in the history of the universe, doesn't happen all that often. ​

Kudos to Hillary Clinton on opposing TPP

Already said this, but I'll say it again. I am a Sanders supporter through and through, and I believe although it is an uphill battle, it is possible for him to win. I think he's better on just about every policy issue than any other candidate.

But I nonetheless congratulate and thank Hillary Clinton for recognizing that the interests of ordinary working people are not served by the corporate-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. I believe that her opposition to it will give weak-kneed Democrats in Congress cover to vote against it, and that is a very good thing.

President Obama would be well advised to backpedal the whole deal and just let it die. His own party is pretty overwhelmingly opposed to it.

Thank you, Ms. Clinton.

06 October 2015

Joshua Holland on why progressives should oppose Obama's so-called Trade agenda

​The indomitable Joshua Holland, writing on BillMoyers.com, explains how the TPP and related TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are such bad ideas, and even for Obama supporters, are something they should OPPOSE. {Link}  TPP and TTIP, if passed, will harm ordinary Americans, and the realization that they are a keystone of the Obama legacy will permanently detract from that legacy, just as the failure of NAFTA has permanently detracted from Clinton's.

The fight against these trade deals, which are supported far more by pro-Corporate Republicans than by Democrats (and that should tell you something right there), is going to be UPHILL, but public involvement can make a difference. I urge everyone to write to your Senators and Congress persons and make it clear you EXPECT them to follow the wishes of the majority of their constituents and vote NO on both of these bad deals for America. Thank you.


05 October 2015

Earth and Mars and Life

Here's something to think about.

If all these statements, which are conventional wisdom in the paleontology/paleoplanetology world, are true, there's a problem.

  • Life originated about as quickly on Earth as possible after conditions on this planet settled down to the point where water remained liquid and the planet was no longer being bombarded by numerous large impacts that had the effect of melting the surface of the planet repeatedly; about 4 by ago.
  • Given the presence of minute amounts of liquid water on Mars and the known existence on earth of extremophiles that can live chemoautotrophically deep beneath the surface of Earth, present day Earth life could almost certainly find a toehold and survive on Mars.
  • Conditions on ancient Mars were more hospitable, with a thicker atmosphere and liquid water, earlier than on Earth.
  • No evidence has arisen for the existence of life on Mars.
See, either life should have originated on Mars during its period of brief hospitableness to life (in which case a very real possibility exists that life on Earth is actually from Mars), and we should expect to find life beneath the surface of Mars, hanging on, as it were, for dear life, OR, the first premise above, which implies that life always arises very soon after conditions for its existence arise and stabilize, is wrong. Perhaps, after all, the origin of life on Earth was extremely fortuitous, and often conditions for life may exist, but life does not arise.

Stay tuned. We may have the answer to this conundrum in the not too distant future.

Paul Krugman should denounce the TPP and explain why

Here's an article from last May in which Paul Krugman calls out the Obama administration for failing to address criticisms of the TPP. It's hardly a ringing denunciation, but even Krugman, who has what you might call free trade DNA, saw that this agreement isn't really about trade at all, but corporate privilege. So, Paul, I call on you now: DENOUNCE THE TPP and explain in your inimitable style why it's a bad deal for the American public as a whole.

All the bad arguments for the Trans-Pacific Partnership suggest that it…
nytimes.com|By Paul Krugman

Everest, the movie, and those who want to climb it (Chomolungma)

​We went to see Everest. In a way, it's a horror movie, although the beauty and grandeur are there too, of course. Got me thinking.

The top 15% or so of Chomolungma (you heard it here first (probably): McKinley is Denali, Everest will revert to Chomolungma, the Tibetan name for it recorded at least as early as 1715).... is in the freaking stratosphere. Human beings cannot live there. Not even for a couple of days. 24 hours, maybe, with oxygen. So why do people do this? Up to 1990 or so one in four who tried the summit died. (The first people who probably reached the summit, Mallory and Irvine, in 1924, were never seen again: most people who die on Everest die on the way down.) After they instituted the tourist agencies that did most of the work for the climbers, it went down to about 3%. But if you had a 3% chance of dying if you got in your car to drive to San Franscisco, would you even think about doing it? Yet people paid tens of thousands of dollars to do this; so many that the principal reason the 1996 disaster (the subject of film, since surpassed by the Avalanche of 2014 and the Earthquake/Avalanche of 2015). ..was mainly overcrowding. There were 34 people attempting the summit that day. Secondarily a hellacious blizzard, which is what you expect on Everest.

I confess I don't get it. The desire to go up into near outer space, face terrible pain and serious risk of death, just to be able to say you did it (and get about 15 min. of the best damn view in the world, other than suborbital)? Is that really worth it to anyone?
And I wonder. Some of the mountaineering purists won't use oxygen, even though once you're above 7500 meters, you're basically dying. Even with oxygen, it's a ticking clock towards death. At the summit, you have to breathe 90 times a minute just to stay alive, and it's exhausting. But unless they're walking up there naked, they're using technology, so what's the deal? What I'm getting at is, why the hell don't they just wear lightweight pressure suits? You, know, space suits. Seriously, I don't get it. ​

Please tell Congress you OPPOSE the TPP!

I strongly urge everyone to write to your representatives and OPPOSE the TPP.

This accord, reached largely in secret, with many anti-democratic and pro-corporatist provisions, including governance and arbitration that favors big business over working people and consumers, is a BAD DEAL for America. Read Robert Reich's readily available explanations if you don't already know why this is so. If you disagree, I apologize for "getting in your face," but you're dead wrong and America's future, and the future of the global environment are endangered by the short-sightedness of Democrats who go along with this bad deal.

Here's a convenient way to write to both senators and your Congressional representative, no matter where you live:

http://letter2congress.rallycongress.com/698/   (free email, they'll send paper letters for $3 each).

Here's all you need to say, to keep it simple:

(salutation automatic)

"I am writing you to urge you to VOTE NO on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Leading experts have concurred that this deal is not in the interests of American working people, or those who care about the environment.

Thank you."

Of course you can make it more elaborate, but hundreds of thousands of letters saying no more than that can have an effect.

Thank you.

04 October 2015

Robert Zubrin: Merchants of Despair

Although I am extremely skeptical of many of his ideas, I decided to spring for $4 for a used copy of the 2012 book by Robert Zubrin (he wroteThe Case for Mars in 1996): Merchants of Despair; Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism. His thesis (apparently) is that there is an antihumanist strain in much of what he refers to as "radical environmentalism;" that sees the solution to human problems as constraints on human activity, population and development, rather than what he really believes we need, which is innovation and expansion into space. He is also skeptical, not so much, if I understand him right, that Climate Change is occurring, but that it's that serious a threat. He takes an anthropocentric view; that we should just modify the world; terraform Earth, so to speak, develop GMO crops that can produce more food; mitigate sea level rise by deliberately modifying the environment, etc. You get the picture. Ultimately a Right Wing libertarian utopian view; just get out of the way, let innovators solve the problems.  
I have long grappled with opposing tendencies in environmentalist thought, and I don't reject this kind of thinking entirely, although I believe that extreme skepticism is in order, and that there is a role of government in steering technology towards a relatively conservative view of mitigation and safe development. But having said that, we do need to rely on innovation to develop the technologies to get us through this century to a world where resources are not limits to prosperity but means to it, and where we understand that the universe, in terms of resources, is virtually unlimited; all that is necessary is the smarts to figure out how to manage it. But at present, as a planetary civilization, we don't have the ability to reverse serious errors. The good news is that technology seems to actually be on the verge of making it possible to produce abundant renewable energy, so that society can indeed move forward into an era of greater abundance and degrees of freedom to innovate, without risking seriously out of control and unpredictable changes to the atmosphere. It's nuts to just assume that CO2 is fine, because it promotes plant growth, when atmospheric scientists and paleontologists who know the most about the kinds of conditions that existed on Earth when, in the past, CO2 levels did reach extremely high levels, are almost unanimous in warning that the acidification and potential for anoxic conditions in the ocean could make our planet almost uninhabitable. That is just too big a risk to take, and people like Zubrin, I think, ignore these very real dangers.  
I guess what I believe is that a balanced approach is necessary. We are not going to conserve and de-technologize our civilization back to the 17th century to escape the consequences of global Climate Change. It just isn't going to happen. Nor should it. There will be mitigation, and even intervention. Because if it's feasible, and the threat is there, people somewhere in our interconnected global community are going to do it. So what we need is to understand what can be done, and try to be smart about it, try to make sure the world remains liveable, so that as we move forward, we will have the freedom of innovation and development that Zubrin and his co-boosters of a future spacefaring civilization envision.  
Anyway, although I admit to being predisposed to disagree with a great deal of what I understand Zubrin says about environmentalism and what I'll call the "case for caution," I've decided I should read his book with an open mind and see what evidence, historical and scientific, he cites for his case.

Stay tuned for my review, if you're interested. Might be a while, I have a lot of things to work on and read at the moment.

02 October 2015

Three Thoughts on a Million Year Old Civilization

I grapple with the thought experiment (grandiose term), what would a million year old civilization be like? Here are some basic parameters I've thought of. 

1.  Technology will flatten out. Eventually technological innovation will be so gradual that it will not be thought of as something that is occurring in perceptible time. 

2.  Biological manipulation will become internalized and routine. Denizens of the civilization will not be immortal, because, well, entropy. But they will be tremendously long lived, reproduce extremely infrequently, and will probably have divided into separate civilizations, those that embrace cybernetics, meaning the actual physical melding of living organism with technology, and those that prefer to remain wholly biological. There might even be purists who want to retain the essential form that they had when they emerged from animal nature into sophontism. But these distinctions may be somewhat academic, because it seems to me that the ability to control living systems will be near total. Not only the intelligent creatures (who will come to have many different forms), but other life, will be planned, not left to random events or natural selection. Much of what we use technology for, they will use living organisms to do, including maintaining the environment in optimal status. But perhaps there will also be an interest in preserving wildness too, so that will be a countervailing force. 

3. Even without magic (such as FTL), a million year old civilization will necessarily be space faring. It will occupy its home star system, and will most likely have seeded its form of life to other star systems. The gradual spread of purposeful intelligent life in and throughout the civilization's home galaxy will, if they survive a million years, be virtually inevitable (which is prima facie evidence that this hasn't happened yet, at least not in this Galaxy. Maybe we'll be the first). Eventually, the entire universe will be permeated with intelligent life. At 13.7 by old, the universe is still in its infancy; this hasn't occurred yet. But that doesn't mean it won't.

The Real Space Age

My father was a rocket scientist (no, seriously. He was a chemical engineer who managed the project for the J2, the second stage engine of the Saturn V moon rockets). As a kid and in my work my interests veered in rather different directions, but I have been interested for a long time in futuristics, astronomy, and space travel, all in a rather casual way (considering I am, shall we say, somewhat mathematically challenged). 

Anyway, if you would like to understand the simplest basic reason that we have not, as a civilization, realized the "Space Age" promise of Gerard O'Neill's cities in space, moon colonies, etc., it's this:
Tsiolkovsky was an autodidact and a genius, who, along with Fyodorov were the intellectual leaders of Cosmism, a late 19th and early 20th cent. movement that envisioned a future for man in space, and influenced the Soviet space program. But his equation, that shows that the ability to achieve escape from the Earth's gravity depends logarithmically on the ratio of mass of propellant to mass of payload, explains a fundamental truth. Which is that lifting large masses off the Earth's surface is always going to be extremely expensive. It's physics. There's no way around it. Not using rockets, anyway. 

But I do believe that humanity, if it doesn't destroy itself and our world first, will eventually move out into space. Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Paul Allen, and their ilk obviously believe this, although I think their faith in rocketry is probably futile. What is needed is leaps forward in materials science, because the way it's done (I'd be willing to bet the way it is being done by some intelligent beings, somewhere out there in the vastness of the cosmos), is with space elevators. It's an old concept. Tsiolkovsky himself wrote about it. The problem is that there is no known material strong enough to create a space elevator on Earth. Mars, almost; the Moon, yes, but not the Earth. Yet. We will have to figure this out. And when we do, which I'd guess will be in a century or two, then, and only then, will the real Space Age begin.
A space elevator is a proposed type of space transportation system.[1] Its main component is a ribbon-like cable (also called a tether) anchored to the surface and extending into space. It is designed to permit vehicle transport along the cable from a planetary surface, such as the Earth's, directly…

29 September 2015

Recommend serious study of roundabouts for improved traffic flow at key No Ho intersections.

Hon. Paul Krekroian
LA City Council

Dear Mr. Krekorian:

I would like to suggest that serious study be made of the efficacy and advisability of installing roundabouts, initially at two key intersections in your district. Studies have shown that roundabouts, especially at 3-street intersections, significantly INCREASE traffic flow, and REDUCE accidents. They are in widespread use in the Greater Boston area, for example, and in some locales in West Coast states as well, although not nearly as much as they should be. Mistimed traffic lights, gridlock caused by inadequate left turn lanes, etc. are serious traffic impediments in the Valley, and where you have 3 arteries coming together, the delays can be quite substantial.

The intersections where this should be seriously considered as soon as possible are Vineland/Camarillo/Lankershim and Tujunga/Camarillo/Riverside. In both of these locations, there is obviously plenty of room to build 2-lane abreast roundabouts to replace the current traffic light-controlled intersections. This is both a question of improved traffic flow and improved public safety, and on both issues the roundabout solution promises to deliver significant improvement.

Thank you. The favor of a response would be appreciated.
♦ David Studhalter

25 September 2015

CNN Poll today New Hampshire Democratic Primary, Sanders ahead by 16 points

CNN Poll results released today, 9/25/2015


CNN Poll results released today, 9/25/2015

Democratic Primary, New Hampshire • Only identified Democratic voters polled


Bernie Sanders


Hillary Clinton


Joe Biden


Martin O'Malley


Lincoln Chafee


Lawrence Lessig




Sanders "favorable"  78%

Clinton "favorable"    67%

ratic Primary, New Hampshire


Bernie Sanders


Hillary Clinton


Joe Biden


Martin O'Malley


Lincoln Chafee


Lawrence Lessig




Sanders "favorable"  78%

Clinton "favorable"    67%

What Sanders stands for and how conventional wisdom on his chances to succeed may just be WRONG

I realize that some of my farflung correspondents are not Sanders supporters, and, of course, that is up to them. But in case anyone is just not quite sure just exactly what Sanders stands for (even though he is probably clearer on his issue positions than any recent candidate for high office)... or thinks maybe he has great ideas, but there's "no way" he could get elected, I implore you to take the time to take a look at these 2 links.

Even if you are inclined to support Clinton or some other candidate, you owe it to yourself to at least be informed about what is driving the Sanders insurgency.

Thank you.

Proof of Republican essential nihilism

​I offer as proof of the essential NIHILISM of Republicans Boehner's statement, in announcing that he's pulling a Palin and cutting and running, that he is "proud of what this Majority has accomplished" during his five year tenure. Proud of accomplishing exactly NOTHING? What more proof do you need that all Republicans really stand for is hatred of government and preference for unconstrained exploitation and extraction of wealth by the few while everyone else is left to try to pick up the pieces, while the nation and its historic strength decline and disintegrate. Then these despicable people have the nerve to say THEY are the patriots.​

24 September 2015

Pope's remarks to US Lawmakers today

 "If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort."

—Pope Francis, 9/24/15, addressing US Congress, as widely quoted by
Bernie Sanders,
​ ​
2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate​

22 September 2015

Hillary Clinton opposes Keystone XL

Credit where due, although I must say this is a no-brainer and I suspect Clinton's position depends as much on measurement of the political winds as principle, if not moreso. The reality is that we must, as a civilization, move as rapidly as is feasible away from all forms of fossil carbon use. Programs to accomplish this should be the most important priority of every industrialized nation's government, until it is complete. The construction of the Keystone pipeline would have been sheer madness.

Supporting Sanders or not, you should read this: MOMENT OF TRUTH FOR DEMOCRATS

Apropos, if Clinton wants to prove to Democrats that SHE is the best candidate, she needs to step up and start telling us in detail what HER policy agenda would be. (Obviously, I am a Bernie guy, but I can look at the bigger picture too).

20 September 2015

A Liberty University Alumnus responds to Bernie Sander's speech at his Alma Mater

• This is an example of why I believe Bernie Sanders, if he manages to get the Democratic nomination, will easily win election as President. He appeals to many who you might not think would even consider supporting a Democratic Socialist who supports a woman's right to control her own body and true Universal Healthcare.

​Hi my name is Jim. I am the guy who recently posted onto Reddit under the Sanders4President Subreddit that I'm a Liberty University Alumni, and that I support Bernie, and think that he's a good spokesman for justice.

I thought I would take a second to, sort of, unpack that, because I could tell there's a lot of people, both Evangelical conservative folk and more liberal Bernie-supporting folk, who are very confused that I could occupy both worlds. So, I thought, I'll take a few seconds and explain myself, and maybe that will be helpful for the conversation.

So a little bit about me. I am not a current student at Liberty. If I was, I actually wouldn't have been able to post onto that Reddit board and say that I'm supporting Bernie. There is an Honor Code at Liberty University, and while it's not always enforced, if you support a candidate who is pro-choice or pro-gay marriage, you can be punished by the University, up to and including expulsion from the school. So as a graduate of Liberty University, I'm in a good position to represent folks that might go there and people from the Evangelical tradition, but not be within the world that they can, you know, punish me for my opinion.

So I got my Bachelors degree in Religion from Liberty University, and I also got my Masters degree from Liberty University in Marriage and Family Therapy. In 2004 I worked for the George W. Bush campaign. I spent about 8 years as a Conservative pastor. And also as a schoolteacher at a conservative Christian academy. And today I serve my community as a therapist and also a pastoral counselor, somebody that folks from churches might go see to get counseling whenever they want to see somebody who's both a clinical counselor but also a pastor.

So I serve all those roles. I think I'm pretty much a card-carrying Evangelical Christian. I still subscribe to a conservative evangelical theology. And what that means, a lot of people get confused when they hear the word 'conservative,' they assume you mean politically. 'Conservative theology' means that I believe the Bible is trustworthy, I think that God inspired it, Jesus was absolutely real, and really died on the cross, and really did resurrect three days later; and I am an Evangelical Christian in that way.

So, how did I come to find myself supporting Bernie Sanders? How did that evolution take place? How could it be that in 2004 I was working for the George W. Bush campaign, and today in 2015, as a double Liberty University graduate, under Jerry Falwell—when I went to school, Jerry Falwell was the Chancellor—how is it that I could be now supporting Bernie Sanders, who's a very progressive, very liberal guy; he describes himself as a 'democratic socialist.' How do I find common ground on those two things?

Well a lot of people I think falsely believe that in order to do that you have to give up one of your sides. Either you have to not really be a progressive, and you're just an Evangelical who just likes Bernie, or you have to not really be an Evangelical, and just secretly be a Progressive who's faking it and pretending to be an Evangelical, but wouldn't actually pass the litmus test of being an Evangelical.

I pass both tests, I am very much 100% legitimate in both camps, and I want to explain why that's not a mythological thing, that's not a disconnect. Some people call that a contradiction, or hypocrisy, it is absolutely not. I believe that my views are 100% consistent. And so I think that the shock value for that comes in beginning to appreciate that the Bible and Jesus, in my opinion and in my very moderate reading of the Bible and the words of Christ, leads us to a Progressive worldview. And that is shocking to a lot of people, especially folks back home in the Evangelical community, they hear that and go, "What are you talking about? That's heresy—" it's like, hold on. Hear me out. There is a Biblical argument for voting for Bernie Sanders, believe it or not, and I'm gonna walk you through it really quick on some key issues.

So that first issue that I'd kind of point your attention to is kind of what Bernie brought up during his speech at Liberty. Basically, the wealth inequality problem—and see a lot of us, on the Evangelical side think that what Jesus really cares about is gay marriage and abortion. And of course, the great irony is if you read the red letters of Jesus, there are no statements on abortion. There are no statements on gay marriage. Now, that's not to say the Bible doesn't speak about these things, but it certainly is to say that Jesus, founder and master of our faith, did not see fit to make these high-priority topics. It's not to say he doesn't care. But it is to say that we need to be careful not to 'major on minors.' We should be focused on the things Jesus did talk about.

So what did Jesus talk about?

So here's the interesting thing. When I was watching Bernie Sanders talk at Liberty University, I was just really shocked, and something kind of magical happened for me, because as I watched that guy stand up on that stage, here's what I saw. I saw a wild-haired Jew crying out in a hoarse voice, in a very forceful and forth-speaking way, he was convicting the Christian leaders and religious leaders in that University and calling us out for being complicit in the abandonment of those who suffer: "The least of these." And siding with the powerful and the rich and the masters of this world. And he was convicting us, and calling us out. And we scorned him, and we stared him down, and with sour faces we thought, "Who is this whacko? And why do all these people seem to follow him, seem to like him? This wild-haired Jew, crying out from the wilderness of the political Left, in his hoarse voice?"

And if you're an Evangelical listening to me today, you already know where I'm going with this. When I heard Bernie speaking in that way, when I saw that guy on stage at Liberty University, I saw John the Baptist. I saw the wild-haired, roughly-clothed John the Baptist, eating honey and wearing camel's hair, and crying out to the religious leaders, the Pharisees of his day, calling them corrupt and complicit with those who have all the power and all the money and all the wealth, and for abandoning the people that God loves, that God cares about. For the Pharisees, who were siding with those who already have power and wealth and saying that they will be the last in the Kingdom of God, and that the weak, and the meek, and the simple, and those who need help—they are first in the Kingdom of God.

And I saw that guy, that John the Baptist figure, who is standing up and saying "There is coming a messenger, there is coming a messenger who will bring equity and justice to the poor, and to the weak, and who will stand for 'the least of these.'" That's the wild-haired Jew that I saw up on that stage. I saw, and felt, the same voice coming from the Bible when I read about John the Baptist, who cried out in the desert to the Pharisees, warning them that Jesus was coming, the messenger of God. And that he was coming to restore justice, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and to value 'the least of these' when the Pharisees had failed.

And as I heard Bernie talking, and as I listened to his cries for justice, I remembered, suddenly, what Jesus had actually said in the Book of Luke, when he unravels the scroll in the synagogue, and he quotes the Book of Isaiah, which says that the Son of God was coming. And then he says, "This has been fulfilled in your presence here today." He quotes the book of Isaiah which says that the Son of God is coming to bring justice, and Jesus says "it is now come to pass in your presence." And he says, "I have come to bring Gospel to the poor."

Gospel—is that word we Evangelical Christians have based everything on. Gospel means 'good news.' And Jesus said "I have come to bring good news to the poor." To restore sight to the blind, to stand with the suffering, to set the captives free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.


As I heard Bernie Sanders crying out to the religious leaders at Liberty University, in his hoarse voice, with his wild hair, this Jew, and he proclaimed justice over us. He called us to account for being complicit with those who are wealthy and those who are powerful and for abandoning the poor, 'the least of these' who Jesus said he had come to bring good news to. And in that moment, something occurred to me, as I saw Bernie Sanders up there, as I watched him I realized: Bernie Sanders, for President, is good news for the poor. Bernie Sanders for President is good news for the poor. Bernie Sanders is Gospel for the poor. And Jesus said, "I have come to bring Gospel—good news—to the poor."

And lightning hit my heart in that moment. And I realized that we are Evangelical Christians, that we believe the Bible. We believe in Jesus. We absolutely shun those who attempt to find nuance and twisted and tortured interpretation of scripture that they would use to master all other broader interpretations, to find some kind of big message that they want to flout. We absolutely scorn such things. And yet somehow, we commit to the mental gymnastics necessary that allows us to abandon 'the least of these,' to abandon the poor, to abandon the immigrants, to abandon those who are in prison. I listened to Bernie Sanders, as he said he wanted to welcome the immigrants and give them dignity. As he said he wanted to care for the sick children, and mothers, and fathers, who do not have health care. As he said he wanted to decrease the amount of human beings who are corralled like cattle in the prisons. As he said he wanted to do justice for those who have nothing and live homeless. And I remembered the words of Jesus, who warned his disciples that there will be judgment, and on that day he will look to his friends, and he will say 'Blessed are you, for you cared for me, for I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick, and you cared for me; I was hungry, and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was in prison, and you came to visit me; I was homeless, and you gave me shelter." And the disciples said, "Jesus, when did we do any of those things for you?" And he said, "If you have done it for 'the least of these,' you have done it for me."

And those words echoed in my heart. As I listened to that crazy, hoarse-voiced, wild-haired Jew, standing in front of the religious leaders of the Evangelical movement, calling us to account, as a Jew once did before. Telling us that he intends to care for 'the least of these.' To clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to care for the sick, to set the prisoners free.

Yes. I am an Evangelical Christian. I believe in the Bible. I follow Jesus. When I look at Bernie Sanders, and I hear the things that he's saying, it's like he's ripping them out of the pages of scripture. I would have to try to avoid the meaning of those words. I would have to bury my head in the sand to continue to support conservative policies. I am religiously conservative but I am not politically so. And I think here is the heart and soul of it:

When we chose to follow Jesus, we decided that the Kingdom of God, and the men and women and children of this world, were more important than us. And that accidentally made us all liberals. The day we decided to follow Christ, and the day we decided that we value other human beings more than ourselves, we accidentally became liberals.

And so there is no contradiction between being a Bible-believing Christian and a Bernie Sanders supporter.

I follow the teachings of Christ: to care for 'the least of these.' And I believe that just as John the Baptist once cried out in the desert for justice, and called the religious establishment to account, and hearkened unto the day that Jesus would walk among us, and declare equity and justice and good news for the poor; and just as that day came, that Jesus stood in front of the multitudes at the religious institution and said "I have come to bring gospel to the poor," I believe that Bernie Sanders now stands in front of us, wild-haired and hoarse-voiced, and he now declares justice for the poor. He declares good news for 'the least of these.' He has come to bring gospel. And I wouldn't be much of a Christian if I didn't stand on the side of gospel for the poor. Because the last time I checked, that's where my master Jesus stood, and I'll stand with him. And for now, that means I stand with Bernie Sanders.

Rewritten Sanders Flier

After getting some feedback on my "Is Bernie Sanders a Socialist" flier, I rewrote it.

19 September 2015

Is Bernie Sanders a "Socialist?"

I think it's important to distinguish between "social democratic" and "socialist" parties and labels. Sanders is clear, when you ask him about specifics, that what he's talking about is social democracy; where most of the economy is private, but the tax and regulatory systems are structured so that basic economic fairness is assured; and, as well, those areas where the private sector does NOT serve the public adequately (such as passenger rail, the post office, parks and recreation, education (at least a parallel system to private education, free at all levels), health care funding, retirement and disability security, investment in basic science and technology advances, state of the art infrastructure, including renewable energy conversion on a fast track, etc., ... then the public sector is adequately funded and structured to provide those services. I believe that the MAJORITY of Democrats would like to see this become the official policy and agenda of the Democratic party. Then, possibly, the bankruptcy and lunacy of their current policies having at last become so manifest that only the fringe can deny it, the Republicans can morph into a Center Right party like Angela Merkel's... which would occasionally gain the ascendancy without having the ability or even really the desire to dismantle the mixed system that will serve the American people well and become tremendously popular, as such systems have in a long list of countries.

Oh, which, you ask? How about...
South Korea
Scandinavian countries
...and to a significant extent many others. 

15 September 2015

Bernie Sanders's Liberty University Speech 9/14

MSNBC saw fit to preempt its usual prime time programming to broadcast Trump's hate-filled bloviation, but here is the speech from yesterday that really speaks to the hopes, fears, and aspirations of the American people.

The 25 Reasons one Plain Dealer Columnist gives for preferring Sanders to Clinton

H. A. Goodman, of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, writes out his 25 reasons for supporting Sanders over Clinton. I've made clear that I will vote for Clinton if she's the nominee. And I put less credence in the "email scandal" than Goodman; I suspect virtually everything that is "classified", retroactively or not, in her e-mails was probably not that big of a deal. I also draw a much sharper distinction between the Republicans and her than he does; to me there is a huge gap between all Democrats and the most moderate Republican. Having said that, of the declared Democratic candidates, I find her LEAST Progressive, and LEAST satisfactory. I will support Bernie up until such time, if it comes, that he decides to withdraw. But to my non-Bernie friends and acquaintances, I say: DO NOT underestimate Bernie Sanders.


From Huffpo. By H. A. Goodman. 9/15/2015

The 2016 presidential election will be studied for generations, primarily because it's a turning point in U.S. history. Will the Democratic Party shift even further to the right, or will Democrats nominate a true progressive? Below are 25 reasons I'm voting only for Bernie Sanders in 2016. And these reasons not only highlight my value system, but also what I believe (or assumed) the Democratic Party had always stood for as well.

1. President Hillary Clinton will have a neoconservative foreign policy. Bernie Sanders says "I'll be damned" if Americans lead the fight against ISIS.

Jacob Heilbrunn, in a New York Times article titled The Next Act of the Neocons, writes, "It's easy to imagine Mrs. Clinton's making room for the neocons in her administration." Also quoted in The New York Times, conservative historian Robert Kagan says, "If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue, it's something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else."

In addition to voting for the Iraq War (and pushing for the disastrous bombing of Libya) while calling this decision a "mistake," her quotes in an Atlantic interview with Jeffrey Goldberg confirm that President Hillary Clinton could be a liberal Dick Cheney in the White House:

This is what Clinton said about Obama's slogan: "Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle."

"You know, when you're down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you're not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward," she said. "One issue is that we don't even tell our own story very well these days."

"The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad--," Clinton said.

As if the lessons of bombing Libya during Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State weren't enough, Clinton would have armed the Syrian rebels had she been president. The problem with this is not only that half the Syrian rebels are jihadists, but also that it would have pushed the U.S. into the Syrian civil war, while we were still embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If anyone wonders why I wrote an article last year on a certain GOP Senator, saying that I'd vote for that person (I'm, of course, voting for Bernie and that piece was written from a purely anti-perpetual war standpoint), the fact that Vox says Clinton's words on foreign policy sound "super hawkish," is one of the main reasons I wrote that piece.

America has suffered enough from a neoconservative foreign policy and one look at icasualties.org highlights this reality.

In contrast, Bernie says, "I'll be damned" if America leads the fight against ISIS (calling for others to put ground troops in the region, not us) and puts American soldiers and veterans first, as evident by his recent Congressional Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

2. Bernie Sanders has always been against Keystone XL. Clinton once supported the controversial pipeline and now won't answer questions.

3. Bernie Sanders has always been against the Trans Pacific Partnership. Hillary Clinton supported the trade deal 45 separate times according to CNN.

Unions that back Hillary Clinton should remember Reason # 10 as well.

4. The Vermont Senator voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and stood up for gay rights when polls were against this issue. Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, opposed gay marriage up until 2013.

Don't claim to be outraged by Kentucky's Kim Davis if you're voting for Hillary Clinton. Both had the same views on gay marriage, only Davis didn't "evolve." Like The Guardian says, Hillary Clinton's views evolve on gay marriage, just in time for presidential campaign.

5. Bernie Sanders has a Racial Justice Platform. Hillary Clinton ran a 3 AM ad with a "racist sub-message" in 2008. South Carolina Congressman James E. Clyburn denounced Bill Clinton's remarks about Obama in 2008 and stated the Clinton's were "committed to doing everything they possibly can to damage Obama to a point that he could never win."

6. Clinton's encounter with Black Lives Matter exemplifies her outlook on race. In an interview with NPR, Daunasia Yancey, the founder of Black Lives Matter Boston, called Hillary Clinton's racial justice record "abysmal."

As for commentary on Clinton's meeting with Black Lives Matter, Benjamin Dixon and Yvette Carnell explain how Clinton politicized her meeting (and in effect, hurt the movement's momentum) with Black Lives Matter representatives.

7. Bernie Sanders has advocated breaking up the banks and reinstating a Glass-Steagall Act. Clinton does not advocate either policy objective.

It's no secret that Wall Street is in Hillary Clinton's corner and few believe the populist rhetoric from the former Secretary of State. Bernie Sanders, however, is a genuine reformer who eagerly takes on the "billionaire class."

8. Hillary Clinton is constantly involved in scandal and either the victim of a "surreal witch hunt" according to James Carville, a conspiracy among intelligence agencies (a Clinton spokesman says the government has "competing views" on what is classified, apparently making it alright for a retroactively classified email to be on a private server), or controversy.

Bernie Sanders can type an email without a nationwide scandal.

9. Bernie Sanders will not take money from billionaires. Hillary Clinton accepted $100,000 from Donald Trump in donations for her foundation and Senate runs in New York.

It's difficult to debate the potential GOP nominee and tell the country you're different, when you've accepted $100,000 from the billionaire.

10. Four of Clinton's top five donors since 1999 are Wall Street firms. Bernie Sanders is running a grass roots campaign.

11. Hillary Clinton is against the decriminalization of marijuana. Bernie Sanders supports the decriminalization of marijuana.

12. It's true that Republicans have an irrational hatred of Clinton and that the Benghazi attacks have been unfairly leveled at Clinton. However, most of Clinton's scandals are based on her own decisions, not the irrational behavior of others. Not everything is Benghazi.

13. Hillary Clinton hasn't explained the political utility in owning a private server as Secretary of State.

14. I want a female president; however, I want her to be Elizabeth Warren.

15. I don't want my president to have an ongoing FBI investigation during her first term.

16. Hillary Clinton hasn't explained whether or not her server was safer or better protected than the U.S. government's server.

17. It is a fact that Clinton had classified and "Top Secret" emails flowing through her server.

18. Many of Clinton's classified emails were "born classified," meaning they weren't classified retroactively.

19. Five intelligence agencies thus far are now a part of the email saga. They can't all be part of a right-wing conspiracy.

20. Economically, Bernie is more progressive in tackling wealth inequality while Clinton addresses the issue, but continues raking in Wall Street money.

21. Bernie Sanders was active in the Civil Rights movement and also endorsed Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns.

22. Edward Snowden says it's "ridiculous" to think Clinton's email setup was secure. Freedom of Information Act expert Dan Metcalfe calls Clinton's email defense "laughable." Neither one is a part of a right-wing conspiracy.

23. Swing states do not trust Hillary Clinton and 55 percent of Americans, according to CNN, have an "unfavorable" view of Clinton.

24. I want a true progressive as president, especially in terms of the greatest powers of a president: getting America into wars and shaping foreign policy.

25. I trust Bernie Sanders. I do not trust Hillary Clinton or the GOP.

Finally, inherent in all 25 reasons above is the fact that Clinton's positions are too far to the right, therefore too closely related to the GOP's views on war, Wall Street, foreign policy, and other key issues, for me to accept in a president.

Ending perpetual war in American foreign policy is my biggest concern, therefore Bernie Sanders is my only choice in 2016. Also, Clinton rarely answers questions without carefully crafted wording; ambiguous to the point she can act in any manner she chooses once attaining the presidency.

As for other key issues, Clinton sides with the GOP (and away from most Americans) on the most controversial topics, which is why polling trajectory shows Bernie Sanders will win the Democratic nomination, in addition to the presidency.

14 September 2015

Bernie Sanders needs our help to change policy in America

​Please watch this Bernie Sanders video. E-mail yourself the link and watch from home if you don't have time. Thank you. (This is a public dropbox link I maintain, but the video is produced by the Bernie Sanders campaign).

Please spread the word. Freely share this link, or download the video and share with anyone you think would benefit from knowing about it. 

Krugman on Corbyn and Labour politics in Britain: must read

Krugman in NYT this morning is must read, on what the implications of Corbyn's triumph over Labour's Conservative Wannabes will mean for Britain. It's hard not to think about the not-quite-perfect analogy with the struggle between the Clintonians and the Sanders Wing of the Democratic Party here. (Here, the Progressives have already had some success in pulling the whole party towards a more forward thinking stance, and, it must be said, Sanders is not nearly as far to the left as Corbyn... for better or worse.

Money quote: "In short, the whole narrative about Labour's culpability for the economic crisis and the urgency of austerity is nonsense. But it is nonsense that was consistently reported by British media as fact. And all of Mr. Corbyn's rivals for Labour leadership bought fully into that conventional nonsense, in effect accepting the Conservative case that their party did a terrible job of managing the economy, which simply isn't true."

It's unusual to see someone making a convincing case that, for once, the US Media seems to be actually a little better at NOT reporting Right Wing propaganda as fact than the British media.

13 September 2015

Thinking about the Iran deal

​So, the Republicans are saying it's "Obama's Foreign Policy Obamacare" (as if that were a bad thing; Obamacare isn't ideal, but it's pretty much an unqualified success as far as it goes, as any honest analyst must admit). That it will be "the Democrats' to defend." Etc.

This is typical deceitful and delusional Republican thinking. First, the alternative to this deal was obvious: Nothing. The Iranians would, relatively soon, have developed a nuclear weapon. Whose interests would that have served? Analysts from Republicans Lawrence Wilkerson and Colin Powell, to the finest minds of all the P5 plus one intelligence and foreign service apparatuses, all agree that the deal is a good one, and actually better than seemed feasible just a few months ago.

So maybe the Republicans are right. It is Obama's Foreign Policy Affordable Care Act: a triumph that will form part of the president's legacy and help ensure the Democratic Party's nominee is elected next year. Nothing, after all, succeeds like success.

Then I think back to the 47 Republicans who signed Tom Cottons letter, in violation of the Logan Act, to Iranian leaders, basically saying: Don't trust the US Negotiators, don't place any credit in the government of the United States. Kissinger and Reagan (allegedly) said things similar to this to foreign leaders behind closed doors (shamefully). But this was out in the open, in a letter made public the same day. So much for partisan dissension "stops at the water's edge." I will say, as I said at the time: this was not a peccadillo. It was treason. ​

11 September 2015

Clinton v. Sanders on foreign policy

To a friend who expressed the opinion that Sanders is weak on foreign policy, while Clinton's plan to have a strong military and quick readiness (as expressed in her Brookings Institution speech; I saw it as codewords for an essentially NeoCon worldview), I replied with the following:

I don't see it that way at all. I thought her Brookings Institution Speech betrayed her strong neocon credentials. She is farther to the right on foreign policy than Obama, who largely continued the Bush foreign policy. Sanders is emphasizing domestic agendas, as probably befits a presidential campaign at this point, but he has read Chalmers Johnson, Lawrence Wilkerson (a Republican, but someone who understands how international power politics works), Brent Scowcroft (ditto), and Steve Clemmons, and he knows that continued land presence in the Middle East, and attempting to prop up the regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, while maintaining an irrational double standard as regards terrorism sponsorship and human rights for Iran as opposed to our supposed "allies", Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (both Sunni and both worse than Iran by any reasonable measure)... are all mistakes that need to be ratcheted back and reversed long term. Clinton may have a lot of experience as secretary of state, but her accomplishments hard to identify, and some of the projects she was involved in, such as the TPP, are clearly antithetical to the interests of working people. Kerry has accomplished far more in a shorter period of time than she did. And I keep thinking, who do I really trust on foreign policy? Someone who saw through the lies and voted against the Bush II Iraq invasion (Sanders) or someone who didn't (Clinton)? Sanders is the obvious answer. Her experience just shows that her judgment is suspect, and I sorry to say that some of the decisions she's made even in the present campaign show that to be the case as well.

And I have to disagree with the implication that she is more or less equivalent to Sanders on domestic policy too. Her position on Keystone (refusal to say), TPP (supports, called it the "best trade deal ever," but is now being coy), $15 min. wage (no support), Glas-Steagall restoration (not supporting), and other enhancements to Dodd-Frank (sound of silence); not to mention her refusal to endorse Medicare for All, breakup of the 5 "too big to fail = too big to exist" banks, major infrastructure investment, which economists and tax experts like Krugman and David Cay Johnson agree is a "no brainer" (she has failed to articulate any such plan); or universal free public higher education (she has equivocated on this), are all MAJOR distinguishing features of their respective DOMESTIC agendas.

I will support the eventual Democratic nominee (as I certainly hope her supporters will also say). But for now, I find Clinton is the LEAST desirable, from a general Progressive point of view, of all the likely Democratic candidates (Her, Sanders, Biden, O'Malley, Lessig). And I actually believe a pretty good case can be made that she is less electable than Sanders or Biden, at least, as well. Her negatives, which are a better predicter of outcomes of elections than issues positions in polling, are awful.

10 September 2015


Robert Reich posted this on FB:​

"I don't understand it," a political reporter I've known for years told me this morning. "A new poll shows Sanders leading in Iowa. He's leading in New Hampshire. It makes no sense."

"It makes sense to me," I said.

"Well then, explain it to me."

"Bernie is speaking about what's true and important – the plundering of our economy and the pillaging of our democracy by big corporations and Wall Street and billionaires."

"But that's been going on for years," he said. "Why now? Why are Americans suddenly waking up to it?"

"Because it's reached a tipping point." I explained. "There hasn't been this much inequality of income, wealth, and political power since the Gilded Age of the 19th century. Americans are fed up."

"But they're disillusioned with politics. Few even vote. So why are they suddenly becoming involved now? How do you explain the crowds?" he asked.

"Because in Bernie they're discovering someone who isn't afraid to tell the truth or to propose big solutions."

"Maybe you're right," said the reporter. "But I'll believe it if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire."

"Stay tuned," I said.

What do you think?

​Tell ya what I think. I think people oughtta start getting used to President Sanders. Cause the grassroots movement behind him is picking up speed.

Sanders LEADING in Iowa: time to pick up speed!

​I am enough of a realist to know that early leads in Iowa and New Hampshire have almost no predictive value for the nomination, and that the Clinton campaign has resources and strategies aplenty that will translate to momentum, especially in the South, almost on autopilot. But I still take note and satisfaction from this new poll showing MY CANDIDATE, Bernie Sanders, LEADING Clinton in Iowa.

Now the grassroots movement behind him has to PICK UP SPEED and work like hell if we hope to translate these gains into real political momentum.