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.