29 May 2016

Sanders v. Clinton on ELECTABILITY

As this signed editorial in Huffington Post argues, the possibility that Sanders really is more electable than Clinton is not entirely to be dismissed. I for one find it hard to imagine a scenario in which Sanders is the nominee at this point, but the fact is that it is entirely possible that Clinton will lose, where Sanders would not have, and that being the case, voters in the remaining primaries (which, of course, includes the biggest prize of all, California), should think long and hard before concluding that Clinton is inevitable anyway, so why bother to vote for Bernie.


♦ David Studhalter

Sara Benincasa: I'm voting for the Democrat in November Because I'm Not a Human Tire Fire

​Comedian Sara Benincasa wrote the following, and I am ignoring copyright and reproducing the entire thing because I doubt she'd mind, and it bears repetition. (Warning: some profanity).

I'm Voting For The Democrat In November Because I'm Not A Human Tire Fire

This is for anybody wasting time online blathering about how Hillary and Trump are the same; how if Hillary gets the nomination, they won't vote at all; or how they're super-stoked to vote for a third party candidate because THEY HAVE PRINCIPLES, GODDAMMIT.

Hi. I'm your Auntie Sara. Time to wake the fuck up. If you are decent, you are going to vote for the Democrat in November. Not because you love Hillary (or Bernie, for whom I will vote if Hillary doesn't get the nomination!) Not because you love the two-party system (I don't! Do you? That's weird! We deserve better!) But because we're dealing with brass tacks reality here, not our dreams.

No, I don't assume you're sexist because you want to vote for Bernie. Of course not. I know many good and decent people, men and women and gender queer folks, who want to vote for Bernie, or for Hillary, or for Jill, or for ALMOST anyone but Trump. Yes, Bernie Bros are real. Yes, Hillary people can be annoying. Yes, any folks can be awful. I am not a woman who thinks everyone who loves a dude is sexist. I love dudes too! Sometimes ladies also! Sometimes folks who don't conform to gender! Anyway, read on.

When I was a tiny baby woman of 20, I loved Michael Moore's assertion that Gore and Bush 2 were EXACTLY THE SAME, MAAAAAAAN. I loved this because he was funny and smart, this Michael Moore, in my opinion. I still dig Michael Moore, though only in part and not in an idolatrous way, because I have put away most childish things like blind devotion to anyone who says something that sounds good but does not bear up to actual analysis. He is a wonderful filmmaker and storyteller with whom I do not always agree. He has evolved and so have I.

Other people who I thought were funny and smart and sensible loved Ralph Nader, too! Especially this one girl I knew with expensive dreadlocks (yes she was white, you silly billy, but you knew that already!) I thought Nader sounded great! I recognized he would never ever win the general, so I advocated for Gore. But still, this Nader was a delight! Also he made sure we had seatbelts! Were you aware? History is fun!

Then Bush 2 won.


Remember No Child Left Behind? AHAHHAHAHAHAHA. Oh, how fun it was to contend with that gem of legislation a few years later when I was teaching in the public high school system. Remember abstinence-only education? Of course you do; it's how you had your first child. And your second. They're so cute now! Hooray!

My point is this: don't throw your vote away because your ego and your "personal brand" says you've got to Feel the [fill in the blank thing that sounds great but will not lead to the Democrats actually winning the presidency in November 2016.]

I get it if it makes you feel really good personally and like a great liberal with super awesome true blue standards to vote for Bernie and support Bernie. He has many good things to say! He's done some lovely stuff! He is smart and amazing and I admire him a great deal. I admire many people. That's great. I also enjoyed Ralph Nader for a time. You know who's also great? Dr. Jill Stein, the Green lady! She seems great! But when Hillary gets the nomination, and she will, it is imperative to vote for the Democrat because the DNC platform is vastly superior to the GOP values. And if it makes you feel good in your feelings to stay home from the polls because you don't like Hillary or don't agree with things that she has done or said, you are effectively voting for Donald Trump.

And I'm not voting for Hillary JUST because I think she's more electable. I admire many things about her, too. Too many to list here, in fact! I don't know her personally. I don't know Bernie personally. I don't know Trump personally. This is about the work. This is not about being a fangirl or fanboy or doing what will make my friends (most of whom love either Bernie or Hillary) happy. This is what I think is right for my country in the pragmatic long run where feelings cool and your angry or elated reaction to this post is but a mere memory and you and I and everyone we know has to actually contend with the policies enacted by our president.

So get your fucking shit together once Hillary is the nominee, unless your ego and need to talk about stuff at your organic locally grown dinner parties for the next four years is greater than your respect for and compassion for the people who would suffer terribly under a GOP presidency and the Supreme Court for the next 10 to 40 years.

Sometimes you make the best choice and you still don't love it. But this is real life, not your copy of "Be Here Now." I had that book too. It was great! It was written by a wonderful man who comes from a world of white privilege. I do too! Isn't it crazy that I can make sense in some ways and be annoying or odious to you in other ways? This is how life works: things are not always all great, and neither are people.

Yes, we ought to have a system in which two parties are not dominant. It'd be great to have more than two viable candidates for president. Can you magically make that happen by November? No? Cool. Don't vote Green. Don't vote Libertarian. Vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Because it matters, and your choice this fall, barring an act of a God who does not exist, is Hillary or Trump. That's your choice. Hooray!

You don't like Hillary's past support for military actions in XYZ? Cool! Me neither, sometimes! Show me a president who has never made a decision that led to the deaths of women and children and innocent humans at home or (more likely) abroad and I will show you a lie. You think Bernie wouldn't take military action if necessary? You think our bombs wouldn't land on kids even if he took every precaution to ensure only military targets were hit? In what fucking world is the leader of any country a saint? Saints don't exist. Saints are a lie.

You think that's an endorsement of policies that kill innocent children? Then you're sorely in need of a course in reading comprehension.

I supported Hillary in the primary back in '08. Then I supported Barack Obama in the general. Why? Because, as the title indicates, I am not a human tire fire. Barack Obama has done amazing things for queer people here! He has also okayed the use of drones that killed innocent children in Pakistan and elsewhere! If you cannot look critically at your candidate, you will not look critically at your President. You're a cult member. Cult members never do anything good ever, except for the Amish people who make really great soft pretzels. But they still oppress women, even with their charming bonnets! Can you hold many truths in your brain at once? No? I'm sorry about that. Please read more and then talk to humans who are not like you, sometimes.

In the real world, sometimes you do not get all of the candy. Sometimes you get a little bit of the candy and that is better than getting a pile of actual flaming garbage. Don't just think about yourself… Think about the people who will be affected by the policies of the next president, as well as the people who will be affected by the Supreme Court. Unless your politics is just about whatever T-shirt you wear, in which case you really ought to get more into football.

You think this is condescending? I'm using small words to help you understand what many, many, many of us get: your assertion that you can't in good conscience vote for Hillary is an insult to me and women and queer folks and all the people who benefit and even have a chance to thrive under Democratic policies. You'd consign us to 4 years of Trump and two or three decades of a disgusting, vile Supreme Court because you have a sad feelz in your tum-tum?

You're goddamn right I'm condescending to you. You deserve this.

Get with the fucking program.

27 May 2016

Drone Program is an Illegal Assassination Program, let's call it what it is.

​On the issue of Drone assassination, Jeremy Scahill has pointed out that there's no difference between Sanders and Clinton, and they BOTH, disturbingly, seem to endorse the idea of a "unitary executive" when it comes to the exercise of arbitrary military power by the president. The fact is that, by declaration at least, the US is SUPPOSED to have a policy against assassination. (Because it's not a DRONE program; it's a program of poorly targeted remote assassination, and it is ILLEGAL). In reality, they have made a calculation: the American people are more interested in apparent "progress" against terrorists than the fine points of international law or even basic ethics. A program that just automatically classifies virtually everyone it kills as an "enemy" when, in reality, almost all of them are unidentified, is preferred to appearing to be accomplishing nothing at all. But, again, the reality is that not only is assassination immoral and illegal, it is counterproductive. Essentially all we are accomplishing in the Middle East right now is blowback, more blowback, and still more blowback. Please read Andrew Bacevich's excellent new book on the folly of America's 35+ year war in the Middle East, and why it will NEVER succeed, "America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History," or see http://www.democracynow.org/2016/4/8/andrew_bacevich_americas_war_for_the 

20 May 2016

People like me, planning to vote for Bernie in the last primaries, are not "dead enders," and we're not undermining Clinton!

Robert Reich, whom I greatly admire, posted the following on Facebook. My reply follows.

Many of you who support Bernie ask me what you should do at this point. My suggestion:

1. Continue to work like hell for Bernie, especially given upcoming primaries in California and New Jersey on June 7. Putting aside superdelegates, the difference between him and Hillary Clinton isn't huge. So far, Bernie has won nearly 10 million votes and has 1,499 pledged delegates. Hillary Clinton has won 13 million votes and has 1,771 pledged delegates. California could make a huge difference.

2. Don't demonize or denigrate Hillary Clinton. If she wins the Democratic nomination, I urge you to work like hell for her. She'll be the only person standing between Donald Trump and the presidency of the United States. Besides, as I've said before, she'll be an excellent president for the system we now have, even though Bernie would be the best president for the system we need.

3. Never, ever give up fighting against the increasing concentration of wealth and power at the top, which is undermining our democracy and distorting our economy. That means, if Hillary Clinton is elected, I urge you to turn Bernie's campaign into a movement – even a third party – to influence elections at the state level in 2018 and the presidency in 2020. No movement to change the allocation of power succeeds easily or quickly. We are in this for the long haul.

What do you think?


Ah, the breath of sanity. I'm a total Bernie supporter, but I also recognize reality. I have had to defend my position... that every last vote and voter should be able to, and should, REGISTER their preference for Bernie and his agenda until every primary (and especially in my state, the largest of all) is over. Bernie should leverage his votes and his voters for as much of his agenda as the platform, symbolic and real, on which Clinton will run, assuming she is to be the nominee. THEN, Bernie will full throatedly endorse her, and we, Progressive Democrats energized and determined to advance his agenda going forward, will support her election against the proto Fascist Trump. And we will win that, while continuing to work for reform in our party and a genuine Progressive agenda for the country.

Sadly, I've had to defend this not only against "Bernie or Bust" folks, but against Clinton supporters who seem to think her weakness as a candidate, and the fact that her neocon foreign policy and Progressive-lite domestic agenda are failing to catch fire, is somehow Bernie's and his supporters' fault. The recordation of who supports who, and what, is what primaries are for, and Clinton supporters who say we're disloyal, or "harming" Clinton, for exercising our franchise are the ones who don't seem to understand how our democracy is supposed to work.

A better test case for why a short primary season and national primary with runoff or automatic runoff should be instituted as soon as possible I can hardly imagine.

18 May 2016

PLEASE READ: Clinton as presumptive nominee despite the fact that Sanders has at least half the party behind him

As a from-before-he-announced Bernie Sanders supporter, and wholehearted believer in the general outlines of Bernie Sanders's agenda, I don't endorse the behavior of every single Sanders supporter. Some are understandably frustrated by the dysfunctional primary system in this country, under which, legitimately, Clinton is on the way to nearly certain nomination, and as a result, have said some intemperate things. Still there is an undeniable late momentum in the Sanders campaign, which has won the majority of primaries in the last month and a half and has at least a shot at carrying California, the largest prize of all.

To those Clinton supporters who say Sanders is a spoiler, and are angry that he won't "drop out," I say: your argument is hollow and indefensible. Clinton herself waited until almost literally the last minute herself when she was in a somewhat similar situation in 2008. But that's not really the point. The point is that the Sanders campaign is not just a personality contest. The candidate must remain in the race to advance the agenda his supporters, now clearly at least half the Democratic Party, believe in. His campaign, in other words, is a movement for Progressive realignment of the Democratic Party. Sanders and his supporters expect to be taken seriously, and to have a significant voice at the convention. They expect the nominee to take their views seriously, and to address the FACT that Sanders's policy positions in general are currently favored by the majority of Democrats.

In short, Sanders's supporters demand to be heard, and we expect anyone who claims to be the leader of the Democratic Party to represent the views and aspirations of the rank and file. Which means no more neo-liberal Centrist "Clintonism." Hillary Clinton, if she expects to unite the party and turn this into a wave election with a very good chance of flipping the Senate and making significant inroads in the House, must articulate and actually put into effect major small-d democratic reforms in the way the Party functions, and, more importantly, must articulate and honestly work to execute a far more Progressive policy agenda than what she has articulated in the past. The fact is, as of the present, she is barely winning the unqualified support of half the party. To unify the party, she had better realize that she needs to move towards, and stay with, the Progressive base. That means no backtracking on the disastrous, failed trade policy of the Obama administration. Rethinking the neocon interventionism that is probably the most disturbing thing about her record, personally. Supporting significant movement towards single-payer or public option in health care with major reform in out of pocket costs to working people and America's vast marginalized underclass. Supporting labor interests over finance in all aspects. Ditching the centrist Wall Street compromise mentality underlying Dodd Frank and working to enact serious, effective and permanent Wall Street reform, as articulated best by Elizabeth Warren. Supporting major tax reform to shift the burden of taxes more onto the wealthiest Americans and closing the loopholes and offshore havens that allow many of them to (legally) evade taxes. Expand, not cut, retirement security. Work to enact massive infrastructure investment, especially in renewable energy. And work for family leave, paid child care, enhanced job programs, enhanced food security, and free public education through college. (Which we once had in this country, in case anyone has forgotten).

If she gets smart, and embraces substantially all of these things, she will not only win the White House in a landslide, she will have a real mandate to make major changes in this country, once we are able to gain control of the Congress, which, with this kind of mandate, could actually be within reach while she is still president.

But if she does not, if she reverts to form, tacks to the Center, brings in Larry Summers and Robert Kagan and their ilk as advisers, the chance that she will face the kind of gridlock that's hobbled the Obama administration, and that a rebuilt Republican party could come back to power sooner rather than later, will be much greater. And our country cannot afford that. Clinton could win the election but effectively lose the ability to govern, and squander an opportunity for real change, that she owes in a significant measure to the insurgent campaign of Bernie Sanders. And if she does not understand that, she is not nearly as smart as people say she is.

I wish I could say I was optimistic, but I'm not, particularly. I see many signs that Clinton is already reverting to the kind of compromise-in-advance, Republican lite politics that have disaffected, justifiably, so many in the natural consistency of a Progressive Democratic Party that should be there representing them. I hope against hope she gets a bit more of the "vision thing" before the Summer campaign season is fully underway, and campaigns on, and then put into effect, real Progressive policies. Clinton is supposedly a "fighter." If, as seems almost certain, she is the nominee, she will have to prove it.

03 May 2016

Reuters: Sanders leads in national poll

It's so painful to contemplate. Reuters has a poll showing Sanders with a national lead. And there is every reason, based on analysis and polling, to believe that he would be a STRONGER, not weaker, candidate against the Trump insurgency on the other side. Which most people recognize as quasi-Fascist demagoguery that we simply CANNOT allow to come to pass in our country. But the Byzantine electoral math, and protracted primary process, in this country has made it almost impossible for Democrats to simply assess their situation NOW, and choose the stronger, more popular, more electable candidate (notwithstanding conventional, but wrong, conceptions).

So if the machine grinds out Clinton as our candidate, I can only hope that she is smart, and wise, enough to recognize that the Sanders revolution is the future of the party, and that the way to counter the Trumpeter movement is to come out strong and bold with a policy and rhetorical campaign that presents a dramatic reform agenda and a promise of a "New New Deal" that will transform our ossified, oligarchic, and plutonomic political/economic system in a historic reform. Because if all she offers is establishment politics as usual (which is what her entire career represents), I really do fear that she could just possibly lose. And that would be a TOTAL DISASTER for our country. So, please, PLEASE, Ms. Clinton and all ye Clintonistas...

If ye have not and will not feel the Bern, at least GET THE MESSAGE. We need a genuine, strong, and determined Progressive alternative. And if it must be led by Hillary Clinton, then SHE MUST STEP UP and rise to that occasion. So far, I've seen very little evidence that she's capable of it. But hope springs eternal.

And meanwhile, I will continue to hope for a miracle, which is that Sanders becomes our nominee some kinda way. Hey, a guy's gotta have hope, don't he?

02 May 2016

Trappist-1, nearby (40 ly) brown dwarf with "Earthlike" planets?

I can never resist commenting on this sort of thing. Geek alert! If you aren't interested in life in the universe in its broadest sense, turn the page!


There are three issues the articles about this fail to cover adequately. 1. Brown dwarfs, to remain hot enough to warm even quite nearby planets to Earthlike temperatures, are likely to be quite young. Young celestial bodies translate to insufficient time for the evolution of complex life, which took several billion years on Earth. 2. Complex life insofar as we have any grasp of how it does or might possibly come into existence, requires photosynthesis. Chemoautotrophic life could exist, but no examples of such life developing sufficient energetics to evolve into complex microscopic organisms, are known on Earth, and there are pretty good theoretical reasons for concluding that the "engineering" of such organisms simply would not support that. And, as a corollary, the peak of the light curve of a dim star like this is so far in the infrared that the chemistry of photosynthesis, no matter how liberal you are in allowing for variations, simply DOES NOT WORK. There just isn't enough energy in the photons for the quantum states in the atoms involved in the reactions to change. No one can even suggest how photosynthetic reactions using infrared light might be made to work. And, again, there are pretty good theoretical reasons to believe this JUST DOES NOT HAPPEN, anywhere, at any time.

Artificial habitats in such places might be made to work; there is energy and matter. But it's highly unlikely that complex life (beyond the most rudimentary heterotrophs and chemoautotrophic bacteria-like organsims) could evolve there naturally.


Andrew Sullivan on Donald Trump and the threat of Demagoguery: "America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyrrany"