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. 

12 February 2016

What the Kissinger meme in the recent debate means in the Sanders v. Clinton race

 Clinton seemed taken aback in the Milwaukee debate by Bernie's zinger that he was proud not to be Henry Kissinger's friend. But I think this actually is more telling about his candidacy vs. hers than HRC supporters realize. Her whole schtick is her resume, and in particular her foreign policy creds as against his supposed lack of experience and expertise. But here we have HIM schooling HER in the really awful unintended consequences of a supposed master manipulator of foreign policy in the recent past, Republican Henry Kissinger, whom she cited as someone who admired HER and whom she obviously admired back. It's a judgment thing again. There's that pesky worst foreign policy blunder in US History in 2003 that she voted for, and now she's touting the support of a truly evil man, arguably a war criminal. It really does reflect badly on HER judgment, and make Sanders look like the thoughtful and historically informed candidate that he IS.

Strong new online ad for Bernie Sanders featuring Eric Garner's daughter

10 February 2016

Contra a "feminist" argument for voting for Clinton (Maria Bustillos, LA Times)

Maria Bustillos, writing in an op ed the LA Times, takes issue with the notion that women should vote for Clinton, even if they agree more with Sanders on issues. (For example, for her, Clinton's Iraq War vote is a "deal breaker," she expresses the view that anyone who cast such a vote should not be given credence as a Democratic candidate for president at all, regardless of who they are).

Time for the truth: Bernie CAN win

Time to debunk the myth that "Bernie can't win" once and for all. New Hampshire is not typical of the nation as a whole, of course, nut NO ONE has ever won its primary with a margin of more than 16 pts. Bernie won by 21%, won every cohort of Democrats, including women,
​ except for "incomes over $200,000," and
got the largest voter turnout for a Democratic primary ever in that state
​. He 
won the under 30 vote 85/15, and has been beating Republicans in national polls by LARGER MARGINS THAN HRC. Young voters, up to the 40s in fact, do not react negatively to the"socialist"
​ ​
label, and while there's no denying the Rs will try to use it against him, it's not as if they won't smear her with equally effective crap, and there's pretty good basis to conclude that almost everyone who won't vote for Bernie because he's a (Democratic) socialist WOULDN'T VOTE FOR HIM, OR HRC, ANYWAY.
​Even so, 
demographics still favor Democrats for November.

Takeaway: Bernie can be a winner.
If our party can unite behind him, we can organize his powerful and enthusiastic grassroots insurgency into the political revolution necessary to build the coalition that will take back the Congress, if not in this cycle then the next one, and bring about a NEW New Deal in America.
​ (HRC says she can "get things done," but there's no reason to believe she has any better ability to get Democrats elected to Congress, or work with Republicans, who, if anything, hate her even more than they hate Bernie). ​


09 February 2016

Facebook exchange on Madeleine Allbright's "special place in hell" remarks.

This is a Facebook exchange between me (the original poster) and a Clinton supporter acquaintance. I get accused of taking this stuff too seriously, which may be true, but I adhere to my views as stated here.


I really do think it's disgusting of Madeleine Allbright to try to browbeat women, solely on the basis of gender, to support Hillary Clinton. ("There's a special place in hell for women who don't support each other"). Sure, affirmative action. Sure, aggressive action for equal pay and opportunity. But telling people they should support a woman SOLELY because she is a woman is no better, indeed no different, than the sexism they are fighting.​


"Browbeat?" "Sexism?"

​Me: Nope. How is it not sexist to say you should judge someone solely on the basis of their sex? I would've thought that was pretty much the definition of the term. And it's also definitionally sexist to limit the application only to one sex. Saying the objection is hyperbole amounts to merely labeling rather than addressing substance.

And saying there's a special place in hell for people you don't agree with (Allbright's words) is AT LEAST "browbeating".

Allbright's comments are out of line and indefensible. She should apologize for them.

​Reply: "...a special place in hell..." As you know is a reference to DANTE'S INFERNO. It was meant tongue-in-cheek. Albright is known to have used the idiom many times before. Kinda like "friends don't let friends vote Republican." I think you're a bit quick to umbridge on this one, my dear. I know it stings to have such a powerful and well-respected woman such as Maddy (who also knows what it means to hold a cabinet post) exhort women to stick together and create history by electing the first female US president. What you see as browbeating, I see as legitimate peer pressure. What you see as sexism, I see as an under-respected class linking arms.

​Me: As always, you're entitled to your opinion. As am I. If you substituted LGBT, or black, or hispanic, for the gender identifier, the bias of the remarks would be indisputable. Not surprising, necessarily, but not defensible as a comment made during a public campaign for public office. Racism, homophobia, sexism... all of them have their flip side. And I don't accept the idea that "it's all tongue in cheek." That just doesn't fly in a campaign that is supposed to be based on inclusiveness. People do vote on the basis of bias, but that doesn't excuse openly advocating it. You pretty much acknowledge this, by calling it "legitmate peer pressure." There's nothing legitimate about peer pressure based on identity politics; it's one of the things that's deeply wrong with our society, and IT WORKS BOTH WAYS. And I did not take it as a joke. If it were not YOUR candidate, I suspect you'd be plenty quick to level the criticism. Imagine if Sanders said "We jews have to stick together. Jewish voters should vote for me or God'll get 'em! Ha! Ha!" Maybe it would be laughed off. I doubt it. (Or substitute "Cuban" and Marco Rubio if you want). Stuff you might be able to say (even if in poor taste) in private is just not acceptable in a surrogate for a candidate for president. Clinton should have realized that and distanced herself, which she did not.

OK, this is a blip. But it's an indication, and it is hardly the only one, that Clinton wants to use a sort of feminist tribalism to her advantage, and I am hardly alone in finding that objectionable. When, if she is the nominee, there is a mostly unspoken (dog-whistled, rather), but very real, anti-feminist backlash against her on the right, we Democrats will rightly object to THAT, of course, and insist that the fact that she is a woman has nothing to do with her qualification to be president. As, of course, it does not. But it does work both ways, and she would be wise, even at this stage, to be sensitive to that.


[I had noted in a previous exchange that this gentleman was being patronizing].
I gauge the accuracy on my post by the lenghth of your response.

Which is unworthy of you. And indeed patronizing. I take the failure to address the substance of an argument as concession that it is correct.

OK,  I realize I sometimes come off as a self-righteous blowhard, but the blitheness and condescension towards my objection to tactics which, were the shoe on the other foot, would be treated entirely differently, does get under my skin a little.

07 February 2016

Responding to pro-Kasich post

An extended family member posted a pro-Kasich item on FB. I'm sure I'll have pissed her off with this response, but I couldn't just say nothing:

Kasich is not a moderate. He supports a balanced budget amendment, which is one of the most foolish proposals to come down the pike in some time. The ability to address critical infrastructure needs and respond to economic recession in a way that ensures some economic security for ordinary working people would be essentially destroyed by such a short-sighted policy. In the past, even Republicans, such as Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and both Bushes, understood this simple economic truth. Moreover, his agenda in Ohio, apart from having enough sense to accept free money under the Affordable Care Act for Medicaid expansion (in which instance he was more sensible than most Right Wing Republicans), has been to attack the ability of working people to organize, cut funding for education, and pursue essentially the ALEC / Koch Bros. right wing legislative agenda. Moderate? Not so much. The truth is that NOT ONE of the Republican candidates can be reasonably described as anything other than "far right" or, in the case of Trump, nativist crypt

02 February 2016

Bernie ties HRC in Iowa.

I had hoped for an outright win. But you have to recognize going from 50 pts behind to a draw is a historic achievement. The real test of Bernie's staying power will be the Mar 1 so called Super Tuesday. He doesn't poll all that well in southern states or among African Americans. Which just shows how important an educated electorate is. Cornel West certainly understands that Bernie is better for minority communitys' interests.

Here's what worries me. Now that it looks like there could conceivably be a path to victory, the health insurance/for profit medical provider cartel is going to pour huge amounts of cash into an effort to smear and crush Bernie's candidacy.

The people will have to organize, volunteer, and sacrifice their own money like never before if Bernie is to succeed.