27 December 2018

Re: Punishing Trump

It's worth pointing out, also, that while impeaching any federal officer is ultimately a political decision, which the framers contemplated would be made by political leaders for at least partly political reasons, indictment is supposed to be objective, fact-based, handled by a part of the government which, like the military, is sworn to be non-partisan and non-political in its actions, namely the Attorney General and Dept. of Justice. Of course Trump doesn't get this (and his recent speech shows he also thinks the military is supposed to be loyal to him, just as dictators always do). But the point is that Democrats should have no policy, no agenda, and express no opinion, on indictment. If the US attorneys or state AGs determine that they can indict a sitting president under the present circumstances (and there is a strong current of legal scholarly opinion that they can), then whether they do so should be decided without interference from politicians of either party. 

On Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 9:55 PM Jim Heidt <jimh6951@gmail.com> wrote:
Friend Glen G in Naples, FL wants to move on
with indictments for all the criminals in the
Trump Administration including Trump himself.

Here is my "read" on the issues.     JGH 

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Jim Heidt <jimh6951@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 2:31 PM
Subject: Punishing Trump
To: Glen5272 <glen5272@aol.com>, david saylor <davidsaylor@mac.com>

Hi Glen,

I think he should be indicted and stand on
trial and go to the slammer just like Cohen,
Manifort and Flynn and others.......but....

I think putting a president in jail would tear
the country apart.  38 to 40% believe he is
a wonderful president and was "unfairly"
targeted by the "evil" Democrats.

Indict his three older children and Stone and
other criminals, but, like Nixon, it's better to
not lock up a president.  Kick them out and 
have them suffer the consequences of being
ranked as the worst president and go away.

The Democrats can overplay their hand and
push for Impeachment right away...even though
there is good evidence for it.   Come in to Congress
with a positive message and wait to see the Mueller
Report and then take it from there.

Nothing to be gained by turning the US into a
Banana Republic and have the new Administration 
put the former guys in jail.

The main goal is to get Trump out of the White House.

Peace and Love.   Jim


Je sais que ma naissance est un hasard, un accident risible, et cependant, dès que je m'oublie, je me comporte comme si elle était un événement capital, indispensable à la marche et à l'équilibre du monde.

--Emil Cioran

07 December 2018

Kevin O'Leary guest hosts MUST HEAR Background Briefing focusing on Climate Crisis

 Even if you don't normally listen to podcasts, you OWE IT TO YOURSELF to follow this link and listen to this edition of Background Briefing. Kevin O'Leary guest hosts. (Ian Masters normally hosts; this one is a guest host because Masters is on a rare vacation... the man produces 5 excellent 1 hour podcast/radio shows PER WEEK, so it's amazing he hasn't had a nervous breakdown by now!). You can just click and listen to it on your computer.

Topics: Sunrise Movement to make Climate Crisis a key issue in our politics and the Democratic party; "Green New Deal" to foster the concept that Climate Catastrophe will destroy our economy, but investment in dealing with it will actually create jobs and prosperity; and finally reform of Corporate Governance as a key to future economic growth, equity and stability.

30 November 2018

Stephan Schwartz's The Awakening

 I just finished reading Stephan Schwartz's The Awakening. He's a neuroscientist and sort of latter day Alvin Toffleresqe futurist, who obviously believes, as many of us now do, that human civilization is at a major crossroads as a result of the Climate Catastrophe. Many roads lead to very dire outcomes; a few may lead to a more sustainable world. 

Anyway, there are certain points of congruence in this novel with the science fiction ideas I've been thinking about, although his theories about universal consciousness being eternal and separate from matter and energy are, I think, either a fictional device or (more likely) systematic new agey wishful thinking on his part. As is the mostly tacit assumption that the Saganian view of the prevalence of extraterrestrial intelligence (and even humanoid form) is correct. I am about as sure, speculatively speaking, that this is not the way the world really is, as I am about anything. In my view, complex life is pretty rare, maybe even extremely rare, in the universe (so far; its prevalence has great potential to grow exponentially in the future); contemporaneously existing intelligent civilizations are at least two orders of magnitude rarer still; really long range space travel is essentially impossible; and even long range communication is hobbled by the speed of light, which means that civilizations' intercommunication, when it is even practical at all, is so slow that it can only amount to exchange of histories and broad perspectives. Science, apart from esoterica, is likely to be more a shared background than a frontier. And consciousness arises from, and is limited by, matter and energy, it does not exist apart from and without reference to the limitations of, matter, energy, or, for that matter, spacetime. I know, puritanism in space, not fun at all, etc. But I'm pretty sure these broad points are accurate.

Schwartz's novel is readable, but it's not great literature. One thing that is similar to what I've been thinking about is that it's more or less utopian, a type of literature that has been out of fashion for quite a while. 

Apropos, although you cannot rule out absolutely the possibility that extraterrestrials at some point in the 4,000 million year history of life on Earth have physically visited this planet, Sagan's dictum that "the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" at some point has to be squared with Occam's razor. I believe that if anything even remotely like the idea were true that there were some thousands of spacefaring civilizations in our galaxy, and they were for whatever zoo hypothesis/prime directive/Galactic primitives non-interference protocol or whatever essentially quarantining our planet, it would amount to the greatest conspiracy theory ever. And thing about conspiracies, is that they are only ever real when they're small scale. Think about it. Large scale secret cabals to keep the truth from the masses are always paranoid fantasies. I can think of no single exception. The fact is that it just isn't possible to keep those kinds of secrets. People tell tales. Things get out. And even on the scale of the cosmic, it's just not believable to me that stealth technology and unity of purpose among the ETs could keep the presence of ET technology perfectly secret for years or centuries. By the same token, if spacefaring cultures really were prevalent, even within my postulated constraints of slower-than-light travel only, within less than a very few million years, it would have been quite feasible for them to have visited and cataloged every single living planet in the galaxy and be working on the Clouds of Magellan and thinking about nearby galaxies M31 and M33. So my conclusion is that, so far, in our still relatively young universe, such technology remains really quite rare.  (In fact, we have no actual evidence that it exists at all, anywhere). Because I just don't see any reason to believe that our planet has been or is being visited by ETs, and I think we've already reached the point in the various SETI strategies that the absence of any evidence has set some quite real constraints on just how common, and how advanced, the technologies of any contemporaneous denizens of our galaxy may be. Notnecessarily none, but few; and none of them have had real spacefaring technology for really long periods of time. Yet

I rest my case, I believe it to be what the evidence (including lack thereof) shows. And while Schwartz's book is interesting for its perspective on our current global predicament, if it is intended to be a plausible scenario for something that could actually happen, well, not so much. 

27 November 2018

Topsy Turvy World

We live in Topsy Turvy world. The Guardian reports that one of the things Manafort lied about is his repeated meetings from 2013 to 2016 with Julian Assange. Look, whatever you may think about the NSA and Snowden and all that, it's pretty clear that Assange is a virtual Russian agent. So this latest revelation means one thing pretty damn clearly: Trump's campaign did indeed collude with Russians and Russian cutouts. (Not that we didn't already have quite a bit of more circumstantial evidence of that). And what is the news out of the WH? Trump says Mueller is doing "tremendous damage to the country." And the press corps acts like it's just the usual case of he-said, they-said. Our government is headed by an arch criminal and traitor, and our Congress and media mostly act like it's Reality TV.  


26 November 2018

Stephan Schwartz, Four Mega-trends

Stephan Schwartz is a neuroscientist, popular science and science fiction writer, and "trendspotter". Excellent interview with him on Thanksgiving's Ian Masters program [ https://www.backgroundbriefing.org/ ]. He identifies four major trends predominant in today's America and the World:

1. Being born white no longer confers economic and social privilege and power;
2. Being born male no longer confers dominance (for the first time in about 5000 years);
3. Western cultural and political values are no longer determinative in the World;
4. The rise of a sort of neofeudal aristocracy of wealth and technology, that is separating the world's population into a miniscule elite of corporate quasi-state owners and a small managerial elite, on the one hand, and a serfdom of workers and underclass on the other.

Me editorializing: The first three can be positives, long term, but the fourth, coupled with the literal existential challenge we face with the Climate Catastrophe, will be the test of whether human civilization can endure, or NOT.


He makes the case, incidentally, that the rise of Trump and Trumpism, which is a symptom, not a thing in itself, can be mostly attributed to FEAR, and that primarily derived from trends 1 and 2, and to some extent the other two as well. White males, in particular, fear the loss of their perceived status and power in the context of these large scale trends.

He also makes a convincing case that one of the causes of the pervasive fear that is fueling right wing populism worldwide is an inchoate, even unconscious sense of dread arising from the threat of the Climate Catastrophe. People know, on some level, that we are in for a rough time over the next however many decades; that it's real, and that there's no escape from some really serious consequences. Yet rather than reacting rationally, and demanding mitigation and remediation, which is what a rational actor would do, many people react out of fear and even panic, and lash out with hatred, vilification of the other, and all the usual nationalist and fascist trends, not because they make any sense, but just because people are scared shitless, whether consciously or not, and have no idea what to do.

This is a huge challenge, but also an opportunity, for progressive leadership.

22 November 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Brad and I will be in the Bay Area (Marin). Give me a call if you're in the area! And may we all have a peaceful and hopeful holiday. 

David & Brad 

13 November 2018

Democratic Gains Grown Stronger

Could we have, nay, DID we, hope for a more overwhelming national repudiation of Trump than the 2018 MidTerm? Of course! There is almost no scenario in which we wouldn't have said that! But you gotta admit, there's something kinda sweet about today's NYT headline: "A Week After the Election, Democratic Gains Grow Stronger."

Most of the late counted votes have broken our way, for a variety of demographic reasons (and not because of nonexistent voter fraud, as screamed by Repubs with no evidence at all).

Nelson in a recount in FL remains unlikely, but Sinema and Tester were far from sure things on election night, but now their victories are beyond doubt. And there are several House seats of which the same can be said.  

07 November 2018

State Legislatures

State Legislatures are important, too, and that news is reasonably good. At least there's little chance of a Koch sponsored Constitutional Convention being forced by 3/4 of the states to end democracy forever. Which was a real threat before last night.


Josh Marshall's overall sum up on the election results

Well worth a read, and for what it's worth, I agree with Josh Marshall pretty much entirely here. 

02 November 2018

Abigail Spanberger and the New National Security Democrats

See this.

I heard a long form interview with her on Dick Clark's podcast, "Future State." She is of a mold of new Democrat, call them "national security" Democrats, who are fairly but not slavishly gung ho on national security but reliably Democratic mainstream on domestic issues. And I happen to think that, at least among the more creative and smarter ones, they are the future leadership of our party. Here's why. 

Listening to the likes of Susan Rice and Dick Clark himself, and several other people who are or have become vehemently anti Trump Democrats but who come from a national security background, I've become convinced that they are right about a number of things, and the more forward looking ones realize that it isn't a question of supporting the defense establishment as it currently exists, but looking at a whole new approach. 

We again live in dangerous world. Francis Fukuyama's fantasy of the triumph of liberal democracy everywhere is a distant memory. Instead we have a global resurgence of authoritarianism and militarism. Not everywhere, but too many places. Trump, and dictators he admires like Erdogan, Putin, Duterte, Bolsonaro, bin Salman, Orban, Strache (Austria), Kim Jong Un;... the resurgence of far right parties in Germany and Sweden (!),... might as well include Xi and his "premier for life" gambit, and there are any number of countries that have essentially always been dictatorships. Democracy has essentially failed in Ukraine and the former Soviet countries in Central Asia. The Persian Gulf and "AfPac" (they actually use that term in the Pentagon) are an unmitigated disaster, with the situation in Iran largely an unforced error on the US' part under this idiot king Trump. 

Russia and China have demonstrated quite clearly that we are terribly, even terrifyingly, vulnerable to cyber attacks. And other countries, notably China and Russia, are way ahead of us in conceiving advanced technology that will make big weapons systems like the F-35 and hugely expensive nuclear submarines dinosaurs. Future weapons systems will be cheaper, automated, and multiply redundant. Instead of modernizing the nuclear triad at huge expense, we should be thinking about the strategic landscape of the 2030s and how we can make sure that we have the technology and means to regain our diplomatic prestige, to try to tamp all this down before it gets entirely out of hand. Thinking that real shooting wars can be contained and limited to places like Yemen, where the humanitarian catastrophe has barely raised a blip on American public consciousness or conscience, will just not be possible. We need to regain the diplomatic initiative, really rethink stupid outmoded policies like the Carter doctrine and the concept of global containment through projection of sea power. America should lead the world in convincing everyone that the real threat is Climate catastrophe, not each other, and that only by working together can a peaceful balance of power emerge and hold throughout this century. But we are doing essentially all the wrong things under the Tantrum Tyrant. 

That's where these smart national security Democrats come in. They've learned the lesson of the catastrophe of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the emerging tragedy of Yemen and the foolish isolation of Iran. They understand the dangers of failing to counter the cyberattacks of Russia, and China. They even realize that knee jerk support for the dangerous policies of Israel's current right wing government is a foolish policy, as is continued support and weapons sales to Saudi... a policy that will cost us many dollars, and worse much loss of life, for every dollar in arms profit as the whole region deteriorates into a major regional war many see as inevitable. But nothing is inevitable when very smart, very skillful people get the reins and start working on the issues. 

This is why although I am as socially liberal as anyone, I do favor a smart but very robust approach to global security. And I think Democrats like Spanberger are just what we need. 

30 October 2018

Gaming out the slide into dictatorship

 OK, hive mind, let's game this out. (This is a follow up to my post on the WaPo article saying that the great legal mind, Donald Drumpf, has floated his intention to end birthright citizenship by decree, which I find alarming even in an era of daily alarms).

So here's the scenario. Let's posit that Democrats manage, despite lack of message and feckless political organization, to take back the House next week. But Trump just doubles down. Realizing he can't get an (also equally and obviously unconstitutional) bill through a lame duck or later divided Congress to purportedly overturn the 14th Amendment grant of citizenship to anyone born in the US, he just issues an imperial edict purporting to do so. And of course he precipitates a Constitutional crisis in doing so. It's pretty clearly an opening salvo in an attempt at a coup, where he will gradually become a dictator and ignore the Congress.

If you doubt the great legal mind Trump could actually do this, here are his own words:

«"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," Trump told Axios.

When told that view is disputed, Trump asserted: "You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order."

"It's in the process. It'll happen . . . with an executive order," he said, without offering a time frame.»

So, maybe this is just Trump blather. He says all kinds of crazy shit, admittedly. But let's just say he actually does this. What might he be thinking?

The Right has undeniably been working assiduously for decades to get a majority of right wing ideologues on the Court. Can there be any doubt that with Kavanaugh they have finally succeeded in this? The question is just how far will the majority go? Will they endorse Trump's plan to become a dictator without firing a shot? Because that's what he just said, in his own words, in effect. Pretty clearly a post-midterm Congress will not go along.

But are there five votes on the Court? To just let him govern by decree? I wish I could confidently say no, but I'm honestly not sure. Adept legal minds without principles or morality (Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch pretty likely... Roberts, maybe not)... can rationalize almost anything.

So this happens. Some elements in the law enforcement establishment are ready to enforce the decree, and on an emergency basis no doubt, it comes before the court. And the court, by 5-4 goes along.

I think at that point, we are all but overwith as a Constitutional republic. Trump could issue edicts canceling elections, making any kind of laws he cares to, overriding the sovereign power of states to make laws he disagrees with... really at that point there is no limit. Congress could really not do anything, because he'd just nullify their acts and dissolve the Congress, maybe forever. Think not? Study history, my friends. All of this has happened before, and not just in third world countries, and not just in the distant past, either.

But change things a little. Very good likelihood that this is too much even for our present court. Even Gorsuch and especially Roberts might not go along with this. So, let's say Trump doesn't do this yet (this is his best opportunity, arguably, but nonetheless...)

Let's say he waits until the Democratic House is at least seated. And then all of the above happens. And let's say after he has issued his edict, and it becomes clear (as it would) that he intends to become a dictator by increasingly inclusive rule by decree. At that point, might it not be at least conceivable that a majority of the House and 2/3 of the Senate would be either ready to impeach him, and/or ready to impeach any Supreme Court justices who vote with him? Because, I would argue, finding such a decree constitutional despite the black and white language of the 14th amendment* would be grounds for impeachment. There are limits to the ability of the Court to simply ignore the plain meaning of the Constitution they are sworn to uphold. Or we would like to think so.

*"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Very clearly upheld in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898) 169 U.S. 649.

So there it is. Can our republic be saved from Donald Trump? Already, my friends, I really do fear that the best answer we can give is "maybe."

Josh Marshall: No, Trump cannot end birthright citizenship by decree

 For the most part, the fact that it has been virtually impossible to amend the Constitution since the failure of the EPA in the 1980s has worked against the more progressive interests in American politics and in favor of the Right Wing, which tends to benefit from the status quo and the outsize power of the low population states. (Which also tend to be Right Wing states). But this preposterous notion on the right that the Congress, or even worse, the president by mere edict, can eliminate birthright citizenship is an illustration of how the present Constitution does at least protect some of the basic norms and formal law that makes our country a republic (of sorts).

Birthright citizenship is based on the crystal clear wording of the 14th Amendment: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

The fact that Trump and his administration are floating the idea that the would be dictator for life can change this by executive order (also known as "totalitarian decree") should be of deep concern to anyone, right or left, who basically believes in the continuity of small-r republican government in America.

27 October 2018

Our house piano recital 10/26/2018

House Recital "Air Check" 10/26/2018 

Here are TEMPORARY links to an "air check" recording of the extraordinary house recital of pianist William Koseluk in our house last night.  The links are to dropbox files. The will probably not play directly from Dropbox; you'll need to download them to a local hard drive first, then play them with any app that will play mp3 files. There are two parts. The first part consists of Beethoven's "Les Adieux" sonata, op. 81a in E-flat, plus 4 pieces, op. 119, of Brahms. The second consists of the Paderweski E-flat minor piano sonata (1903, op. 21), which is monstrously difficult. There is some commentary on the audio files. 

We were elated and very grateful to Bill for making the trip to Portland to play this recital in our house. 

16 October 2018

What should we do about the Republican power plays when (if) we regain power?

A friend sent out an email to his "group" posing the rhetorical question, just how aggressive should Democrats get, in light of the hyperagressive, norm-destroying power politics being played by Republicans ever since Gingrich. (I'm paraphrasing liberally). Here's my response. 

My view on this very important question will surprise no one who's read what I've had to say on this subject before. I think we lost something when we lost the "meta-stable" system of norms that kept especially the Senate working with a certain amount of give and take and civility for more than a century (think of the cooperation between Orrin Hatch and Teddy Kennedy, or the way Everett Dirksen cooperated with Democrats in the 1960s to pass Medicare, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, etc. ) But pretending we're going to get that back any time soon is a fool's errand. The Republican party has been entirely taken over by power politics players, who care nothing for anything but their own power, and that of the elite class of economic oligarchs whom they represent. Ideology, even, which we who care deeply about public policy tend to overemphasize, is less important to them than raw power. They want to restrain government from infringing on their ability to control most of the wealth in this country, and they care virtually nothing for good government or social justice. They will lie, cheat, steal, suppress votes, burn down unwritten laws, take advantage of every quirk of law and the Constitution to maximize their power, and see to it that justices who think like them control the courts... all to the end of destroying and defeating what they see as a threat to their power. (Because it is). Which, that is, is democracy. The oppose democracy and intend to destroy it in our country. And think about it a bit. They have already come very close to succeeding on all fronts. We are fighting a rear guard action. We hope to be able to recoup and advance, and take it all back... but it requires an awful lot of optimism to think our chances are better than fair. 

So, hell, yes. We must do absolutely everything we can, including playing power politics better than they do, to defeat them and burn their anti-democratic faction to the ground. Don't worry, they'll rebuild a coalition on the right. No worries there. But to avoid the permanent takeover of oligarchy, we must defeat them everywhere. 

So, I favor using every trick we can think of. Sue, try to outlitigate them. GOTV, and win back the House and Senate. If we can't do that, and no later than 2020, all will be lost. Once in power, increase the judiciary, including the Supreme Court. Make PR and DC states. Pass the NPVC (look it up) in enough states to nullify the Electoral College's undemocratic impact. Kill the filibuster once and for all. Consider very seriously rethinking the power of the legislative branch to determine what the courts have jurisdiction over, to make sure they can't use the Kavanaugh court to hobble all progressive legislation. (Don't think that's not their plan... they already have a case out of TX that would've been considered crackpot ten years ago but which is all too likely to result not only in important provisions of the ACA being declared unconstitutional, but which may be used by them to establish a precedent that the Federal government cannot enact universal health care). And, of course, hit the ground running. In 2021, if (and we'd the hell better), we have both houses and the presidency, we should pass, within 90 days, a raft of progressive legislation that will make the first few months of the FDR administration in 1933 look like a boating party. 

12 October 2018

World Famous Kefta Meatloaf

In case anyone's interested 

World Famous Kefta Meatloaf
1.2 lb regular ground beef
½ cup grape nuts
½ med onion diced
½ bell pepper diced
1 egg
Heavy Whipping Cream to consistency
Enchilada sauce to consistency, and as topping
2 tsp. Kefta seasoning
1 tsp. Dry mustard
1 tsp. Ground sage
Minced or powdered garlic to taste
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Beat egg and add other liquids with grapenuts. Blend with immersion blender or whisk till the grapenuts are soggy. Should be a little thick... don't add too much liquid
Add all other ingredients and blend with clean hands and shape into ovoid blob
Place in clean ungreased glass meatloaf pan. Top with more enchilada sauce.

Bake at 325°F for 1½ hours  


09 October 2018

What to do about Kavanaugh?

 I actually don't think it's a good idea for Democrats to get bogged down with Kavanaugh. Better to concentrate investigations on Trump, and concentrate on procedural reforms, such as increasing the size of the Federal Judiciary including the Supreme Court, to balance the strongly biased judicial appointment hijacking that's been carried out over the last number of years by the Republicans. One thing that should be done, however, is for the New House Judiciary Committee (assuming it's majority Democratic), to subpoena the documents setting forth the scope of the FBI sham investigation ordered by Trump, to add yet another piece of evidence of what a dishonest liar he is.

Kavanaugh should probably be impeached, on the basis of perjury to the committee if nothing else. But I don't think that should be the highest priority in the New Congress. For the reason that even if we take back the Senate as well, which looks unlikely, we would still not have enough votes to convict any of the Republican evildoers in the Senate. So impeachment will be only a statement... it will not result in removal from office. And given the almost incredible blasé attitude of Congress and the media to Trump wrongdoing, it's hard to see how the Senate will impeach Trump for anything short of a complete psychotic meltdown or issuing edicts so brazenly unconstitutional that even the Repubs can't swallow it. All of which is, I admit, possible.

05 October 2018

The Fix was in but we need to start preparing NOW to fight back

 The fix was in when they decided to merely PRETEND to have an FBI investigation. It was a play. We were played. And there's nothing we can do about it until we regain both houses and the presidency, but when that happens we have to be READY and WILLING to play power politics that will make their heads spin. I wish I could say I was confident that Democratic leadership was prepared to do that!

Let me spell it out. This is all procedural, in ADDITION to a Progressive policy agenda not seen since 1933.

  • Shitcan the filibuster on Day 1 permanently
  • Outlaw gerrymandering (laws on Federal and State levels)
  • Engage constitutional scholars to determine exactly to what extent the Article II powers of Congress allow them to limit the ability of the Supreme Court to undo legislation then put those reforms into effect to the maximum extent possible, to ensure that things like Medicare for All, voting rights, reproductive rights, etc. are not undone by a right wing court.
  • Increase the size of the Federal judiciary across the board (only takes a statute) by 25%, including the Supreme Court (to 11 at least).
  • Effectuate PR, DC and Guam statehood.
  • Introduce Constitutional Amendments to eliminate Electoral College, overturn Citizens United, and change senate representation to 1 per state with the remaining 50 allocated by population, plus comprehensive Voting Rights and Privacy Rights amendments (these will be tough, as the Red States hold the cards, but we have to get the process started).
  • National Popular Vote Compact (state level) to defang the electoral college until the Amendment abolishing it takes effect
  • War Powers law making it illegal for the president to commence a war without congressional approval, including NO FIRST USE of Nuclear weapons
  • Make explicit that president not above the law, and must divest to blind trust all financial interests over minimal amount prior to assuming office

We could, if we only had the political will, do every single one of these things, and ensure the survival of our democratic republic for the foreseeable future. But will we?

30 September 2018

What to do about Republican minoritarian power politics?

 I say pack the court. Win the House, Senate and presidency and then expand the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, by 25+%. Can only work if we take and hold power for at least 8 years, long enough to change the demographics, and the conversation. Ultimately a Constitutional Amendment to adjust Senate minority rule will also be necessary.
Part of this strategy needs to be to add DC and Puerto Rico and maybe Guam as states, and pass the National Popular Vote compact to defang the Electoral College.

This needs to be the Democratic game plan for 2020 and beyond.
I realize this is an ambitious agenda, far beyond what most Democrats are willing to support at this time, but think about it. Are we not at the point where radical, even fundamental change, is necessary to break the stranglehold of minoritarian power? If we do not stand up for major changes, we will stand no chance at all that they will ever occur. 

20 September 2018

weird coincidence, or what's in a name?

I am friends and former colleagues with a very smart and capable lawyer who was born and raised in the Indian community in Malaysia. Which is quite extensive. She lived in London for a while before immigrating here about 25 years ago. She's ethnically Telugu, if I remember correctly. Anyway, her name is Meena Nachiappan. So imagine my surprise to receive a request to join my piano meetup group from a Meena Nachiappan, a young woman from Hillsboro, Oregon, complete with profile picture (not of the Meena I know). At first I thought it was some weird software glitch, but it's not. Turns out Nachiappan is fairly common among the Chettiar caste, and Meena, short for the goddess Meenakshi, is also a pretty common name. Both of them got a kick out of learning about the other. 

Help flip WA-03

If you have a few nickels to try to help flip the House, there aren't really any districts among Oregon's five that are in play. But just across the river is WA-03, currently held by Republican Jaime Herrera Butler. Very good prospects for flipping this seat. The Democrat, Carolyn Long, is more centrist than I tend to gush over, but we have to win the NUMBERS, and she's decent on most issues.

19 September 2018

Kavanaugh... two points

I'm probably repeating myself, but I posted this as a comment on social media, and it sums up my thinking on the current Kavanaugh controversy, so I'm sharing it anyway. 

 If a person, even a 17 year old, did something bad while blackout drunk, and realized at the time that he didn't remember what he did or didn't do, he should have the probity and integrity for the rest of his life to realize that he is not in a position to make any categorical denials about what others say he may have done. Big black mark, totally disqualifying. Second, this is not just a job. I agree that even very bad behavior in youth, if acknowledged and responsibility taken for it, should not disqualify someone for 99% of jobs, even elected office, even, probably, judgeships. But the Supreme Court is different. Only people of totally unquestioned probity, exemplary integrity, and lifelong reasoned and controlled demeanor should come anywhere near such awesome power, that they hold far longer than any other officeholders. This man has clearly lied under oath several times, and has treated these accusations in a grossly irresponsible manner. And the accusations are indeed credible. No one has some kind of golden passport to a supreme court slot. This guy, if he had any concern for the dignity of the court and its ability to have the credibility to stand above all other law, should simply withdraw right now (as Clarence Thomas should have... and HIS continuing conflicts of interest and obvious bias has merely reinforced that he should never have been confirmed to the office in the first place).  

18 September 2018

Kavanaugh and the Senate

 I think the chances of defeating the Kavanaugh nomination are a little better than the chances of Dems retaking the senate... but still not too good. However, one thing I'm pretty sure about. If Repubs succeed, it will cost them. In fact, the second thing may be the RESULT of their going all out on the first. Likely it will indeed turn on Murkowski and Collins, neither of whom is a reliable foil to the worst undemocratic power politics practices of the Far Right Party. Possibly, just possibly, Flake or Corker. From those 4 we need 2. Looks pretty forlorn. It does look pretty good for keeping the Democratic caucus 100% unified, which you couldn't say two weeks ago.

11 September 2018

Fear and Loathing in the White House

Woodward tells us that even Trump's own lawyer told Mueller that Trump was "disabled," and that's why he couldn't testify. My question: did he, as any right thinking person would, suggest to Pence or other cabinet members that they should invoke the 25th Amendment? Somehow I doubt it. But if you seriously believe the president is too disabled to sit down for two hours and tell the truth, then it's your patriotic duty to warn people in a position to begin the process of removing him from office that they'd better do that, post haste. Our nation is at risk with a mental deficient occupying an office of such largely unchecked power. No wonder Woodward titled his book Fear.

07 September 2018

Brett Kavanaugh is a big fat liar but will probably be confirmed anyway

Rachel Maddow just laid out a compelling case that Kavenaugh lied in his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings about 1) his role in the Pickering appointment; and, even more important, his knowledge and role in the use by the Bush administration of STOLEN Democratic judiciary committee documents in relation to judicial appointments. Will this, as it clearly should, mean his confirmation is completely scotched and he has to withdraw? Not in the crappy cesspool Republican Washington has become. 


29 August 2018

Glenn Greenwald

Quite a few years ago, in the Bush era, I found some of Glenn Greenwald's commentary interesting and insightful. But in recent years he, like Oliver Stone, has developed some kind of deranged affection for Putin reminiscent of pro-Stalin American communists in the pre-WW II era. I discount everything he says nowadays, and don't read him at all. 

26 August 2018


Hard not to take the last verse of the final motet of the Portland William Byrd Festival final concert as a commentary on affairs in Washington, as opposed to Jerusalem. Psalm 79, Deus venerunt gentes; verse 4, as set by William Byrd (1540-1623)

Facti summus opprobrium vicinis nostris,
subsannatio et illusio his qui in cicuitu nostro sunt.

"We have become a disgrace to our neighbors,
an object of mockery and derision to those around us."

23 August 2018

Godfather Part VII: the presidency

Trump muses "It started with collusion. How did we end up here?" (It's called investigation, look it up). But what I wonder is how we ended up with a president who condemns patriotic law enforcement officials for doing their jobs while he praises the crook he hired to be his campaign manager (till he had to fire him on reports of dirty foreign money)... after he's been convicted of serious crimes that can put him in jail for the rest of his life. And praises him not for being a "good guy" but for refusing to "break," meaning refusing to cooperate with the very United States government that the president heads. It feels as if Michael Corleone has become our president.

Wilson on Trump

22 August 2018

Post Trump

As far as I'm concerned, we now have substantiated evidence that Trump is a criminal, so he must resign or be impeached. Period the end. I know we have to work out how to get that done after the election and in the meantime it may not be the best issue to talk about (and it's obvious he won't resign). The investigation will go on; he can't stop it even if he tries desperation moves like firing Mueller. The evidence will hang him. His downfall is now inevitable.

So, what? I say, let's start talking about the post-Trump era; what Progressives can and will do for our country when we regain the levers of power. We'll deal with Trump, but for now the main thing is to win elections and minimize the damage he's doing. (Such as by fighting like hell to try to keep Kavanaugh off the Court).

Democrats running for office should talk about the positive things they are FOR, like Medicare for All, Renewable Energy and other Infrastructure (to address Climate Change and rebuild ageing transport and other systems), Restoring America's influence in the world, investment in science and other research, Free public higher education, Sensible Tax reform that actually helps ordinary people, voting rights, Enhanced Social Security, Labor Rights.... a long list. But the emphasis needs to be on what we will ACTUALLY DO to make America greater, not just spouting slogans or talking incessantly about the problems created by the current Crook in the White House.

I really believe that the majority that is not absolutely die-hard Trump-drunk is ready for a positive, can-do, activist message from Democrats about what needs to be done and will be done once we have the chance to get going.



21 August 2018

August 21, 2018

Someday, when we look back on the relatively brief nightmare that was the Trump presidency, we will mark this day as the day when it became clear to everyone who was paying any attention and had any respect for facts that our president was a criminal.  


Appreciate the help, but...

I am grateful to (both) Clintons, Biden and Bernie Sanders for their rallying the base and fundraising...  but Hillary, Joe and Bernie -- please! just say definitively that the torch is passing, and you're NOT going to run for president again. We need to concentrate on midterms, and then allow new leadership to emerge. 

19 August 2018

Dog scooter safety

There's something just adorable about this. 


Yo amo, tú amas, el ama, nosotros amamos, vosotros amáis, ellos aman. 

Ojalá no fuese conjugación sino realidad.

--Mario Benedetti

18 August 2018

My response to a Trumper

Probably with excess of zeal, I posted this in response to an old friend, now a Trumper (a former legal secretary), who posted one of those hyper-nationalistic anti-NFL "take an knee" videos on FB.

... you and I have been friends for a long time, but it's apparent we have drifted into different "camps" in this regrettably most divisive time in our nation's history. (At least since the Civil War). I read this (sound off, couldn't take the sappy music, sorry), and I would like to respond to it an a civil and respectful manner.

First, the question of whether someone endorses the viewpoint of the players who choose to demonstrate their opposition to systemic racism by "taking a knee" or not is completely beside the point. I happen to respect their viewpoint, as I believe systemic racism is a far, far more serious detriment to our nation's well-being than perceived disrespect for a SYMBOL, namely the flag. The Article III courts in our country, which are charged with protecting the Constitution, long since have ruled that the 1st Amendment protects the right of everyone to express political views through symbolic actions such as this. Whether they have a "right" to do it as employees of the NFL is a different issue. I happen to favor a high degree of toleration in society for expression of diverse views, in various manners, as we live in a corporatized society where the threat that our liberty will be constrained because "the boss doesn't like it" is a real threat. But, in any case, the fact is that the NFL HAS ordered the players not to do this going forward, so the issue is really rather stale anyway. I suppose if they insist on doing it, it will be like Civil Disobedience, except in the private sphere; and one of the basic tenets of civil disobedience is that you are willing to accept the consequences of your actions. Sit down at a lunch counter, and you may go to jail. And you GO. That's how it works.

The fact that football players have the luxury of using their game as a platform for political speech (whatever the consequences) is one of the things that makes our country WORTH fighting for... we have freedom of expression. Countries and societies who have been America's enemies... including our president's best buddy's country, Russia, do not. OF COURSE, if you don't like their point or their behavior, it's YOUR RIGHT to boycott them, and their employers. (I hate football anyway, but that's not the point either). And it's your right to post this, but what I want to appeal to you is to say, that this is not reasonable. It more than implies that people who have a different view are not patriotic. And, frankly, that is insulting. I love my country. I support its Constitution, its guarantees of freedom, its system, however flawed, of ensuring that the governed are asked for their consent. And I don't appreciate being preached at by people who say, or imply, that because I have a different view from them on exactly what our country needs to do better, and what is an appropriate form of expression of dissent, I am somehow less patriotic than they. We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who serve our country, even when we have opposed the wars that they had to fight in. But it is the touchstone of a democratic form of government, that service to it is precisely to preserve it, to preserve the rights of those who stay home and serve their society honorably in other ways. We are not in an existential conflict, where it is everyone's duty to fight. You notice that among the leaders of the present government (unlike, for example, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, John Kerry), almost none of them have ever done military service, so the suggestion that you aren't really a patriot if you haven't fought in a war is actually rather repellent to the core ideals of America.

And my last point (I'm sorry, I know I go on) is this. This issue is TRIVIAL. We have a president who stands with a murderous thug in Helsinki and says the suggestion that he should turn over a US Ambassador to be interrogated by the modern successor to the KGB is a great idea. Who, alone among presidents in our entire history, stands there and says the trial of a man credibly accused of tax fraud, bank fraud, and receiving MILLIONS of dollars in illegally concealed income from foreign bank accounts; money he undeniably received by supporting the dirty political tricks of a pro-Putin would be dictator in Ukraine..is a "disgrace," and that this accused criminal "happens to be a good man." (Any employee of the justice department who commented thus on a case before a jury would be fired immediately, and even Nixon, who inadvertently referred to Manson as "guilty" before he was convicted, apologized profusely for having done so and claimed to have misspoken).

A president who, from day one, has used his office to PROFIT from the taxpayers, by staying in his own hotels at the costs of millions to the taxpayers, and effectively pressuring those who would do business with our country to do likewise. All in violation of the Constitution. Yet his party does nothing about that, and he has the gall to call a Republican serving as a special counsel who has served his country honorably throughout his entire career, including as a commander in Vietnam (while the president got deferments for bone spurs) "heavily conflicted," because (!) there are some Democrats on his staff (Justice Dept. regulations forbid even ASKING what an employees political affiliations are) and because Mueller once had a minor billing dispute with a Trump resort (which the Ethics Bureau already ruled was not a violation). I could go on and on. But my point is that becoming incensed at some people because you don't like the OPTICS of their form of Constitutionally-guaranteed protest, when our president is making mincemeat of the rule of law and violating not only norms but actual legal strictures designed to limit the power of the executive, while the Congress of his party is supine and doing nothing whatsoever to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, as is their mandate, seems to me to be complaining about a crooked cabinet door when a hurricane is raging and about to take the roof off.

OK, enough. I know we don't agree. But I hope you will at least realize that people like me, who loathe and detest Donald Trump for the horrible, divisive damage he is doing to our country, are also patriots.

16 August 2018

I Don't THINK I'm being paranoid. . .

 I don't
I'm of an unduly paranoid frame of mind, although my 1%
right wing (probably former-) friend thinks I'm deeply involved in "Trump Derangement Syndrome," which, by the way, ISN'T a thing. Anyway, watching the signs
and portents
, I'm increasingly worried that Trump's plan is, in a nutshell, to BLOW IT ALL UP. Once they really push him into a corner, and they will, he'll fire Rosenstein, order Mueller fired. Pull his security clearance (as Clapper suggested he might). Pardon everyone involved. Cut a deal with the Russians to not just interfere on the fringes but actually hack into and disrupt actual election tallies in the midterms
(if he hasn't done that already)
. Declare a state of emergency, martial law, whatever. And then the
question will be completely unavoidable. Will the entirely debased Republican party just bend over and take this, or will some critical mass of them join with Democrats to take action to save our Republic? Because it is totally clear that Trump has no moral compass, no loyalty to the United States
or the Constitution
, no respect for the rule of law or the checks and balances that are institutionalized to limit the power of a rogue executive, like him.

Think it can't happen? I'm sorry... it can. I don't know if it will; I truly, deeply hope not. But we can't rule it out. There are hundreds of historical precedents, some quite similar to this. And the personality type and authoritarian narcissistic personality of a dictator is right there for all to see.

If any country in history was
to stop something like this before it tears the country apart, it is ours, but there are no guarantees. We depend on the honor, integrity and courage of (mostly) men, who have to date shown none of those things.

f I were religious, I'd say pray for our country. But what I say instead is, prepare for the greatest Constitutional crisis of our nation's history, which is very likely coming soon, and everyone will have to choose whether they will stand with those who defy this monster, or not. It will be up to us. Whether it is as bad as I'm suggesting, or something a little less drastic, the choice will have to be made, and we will know those who are loyal, patriotic, and brave, not to a man but to the ideal of our republic, and those who are not. There will be no middle ground.

15 August 2018

THE Central Concern of our age

 I want to emphasize something to my farflung correspondents. We talk about various issues, and they are important. Criminal justice reform. Racist monster in the White House. Medical care for all. Education reform. Inequality of opportunity, and rigged economic system that perpetuates income inequality, On and on, all important. But if you answer anything other than Climate Change, and taking action to deal with this crisis, when asked what you think is the most important political issue facing us, you are ASLEEP. Almost alone among the issues facing us politically (the only other one being the threat of nuclear annihilation), this issue concerns an existential threat to our civilization. Indeed, best scientific understanding is that "business as usual" over the next century or so will all but guarantee the collapse of advanced economies including our own, because the devastating environmental disruption will likely literally cause a billion people to die in our world. If we are moral human beings, and politics is the art of practical morality (what else can it be?), then we simply cannot allow that to happen. The clock is ticking. It is very late. Bad things cannot be entirely avoided. We will have to do things that would've seemed unthinkable and reckless 25 years ago, such as deliberately modifying the atmosphere's chemistry (after careful consideration, modeling, and examination of all consequences)... and expending major resources to artificially remove CO2 from the atmosphere. But there is simply no excuse not to treat this crisis as the moral equivalent of a war like WWII... a genuine existential threat, and to make it, and the actions that need to be taken to deal with it, THE most central concern of our political consciousness for the duration, which means for all the rest of our lives, and all the rest of the lives of our children and grandchildren, AT LEAST.

04 August 2018

deep time optimism

«They will know that before them lie, not the millions of years in which we measure the eras of geology, nor the billions of years which span the past lives of the stars, but years to be counted literally in trillions...But for all that, they may envy us, basking in the bright afterglow of Creation; for we knew the universe when it was young.»

---Arthur C. Clarke

I haven't been able to find the origin of this quote. But it expresses a kind of deep time optimism about conscious beings; the kind that wants to call the coming epoch the Sapiezoic Eon, rather than the dingy aftermath of the Sixth Extinction. Thing is, it's increasingly clear, as Peter Brannen writes in the epilog of his brilliant book «The Ends of the World,» that the key to a bright future for humanity and its remote descendants may hinge on events of the next few decades. If there is to be an "age of wisdom," we had damn well better start employing some of that wisdom in our stewardship of this planet right now, because if we manage to destroy our ability to survive to a long future where our birthplace on earth is just one of many worlds, well, there will be no second chance.

Quoting Anthony Aguirre (UC Santa Cruz cosmologist): 
"I think we're at the point where essentially--depending on what happens in the next 100 years--I think it's likely that either civilization and potentially all life on Earth is going to self-destruct, or if it doesn't, I think the likelihood is we will manage to get to nearby planets, then faraway planets and ... spread throughout the galaxy. And so, if you compare those futures, one of them basically zero interesting conscious stuff going on in it--depending on where you count animals and things--and one of them that has an exponentially growing supply of interesting conscious experience. That's a big deal. If we were just one species among many throughout the galaxy, it would be kind of like, 'well, if we do ourselves in, we had it coming. We got what we deserve.' But if we're ... the only one in the galaxy--or one of very few--that's a huge future that we've extinguished. And it's just because we're being stupid now."

So let's don't be stupid, whaddaya say?

01 August 2018

Some rambling musing on Deep Time and Carbon Dioxide

I have been thinking lately that along with history and some degree of exposure to literature, art, and music, every kid in Middle or High school should have to take a fairly exacting, albeit age-appropriate course in Earth History and Paleontology. Maybe incorporate a basic overview of astronomy and cosmology, which are actually fairly closely related disciplines when you're talking about general education. Every human being should have a basic understanding of "deep time", and should have some concept of the extent of space and time, not as abstractions but as they actually are, in the universe we live in. Along with that would come an appreciation of the fact that the Earth is far, far older than we can imagine, and that human existence occupies but a tiny fraction of the time the Earth has existed, while the Earth itself is just one planet in a universe so vast and varied that it quite literally beggars the imagination. These insights, commonplace among the scientifically educated, are almost entirely absent in the population at large, and it creates a chasm in the ability of most people to truly appreciate what's at stake in issues involving science and scientifically-based understanding.

Principal among such issues is Climate Change, which can't really be fully understood without understanding what fossil fuels are, and why burning all of them is like releasing the environmental impact of pent up sunlight and the chemical storage of that energy over millions of years, all at once. If you don't really understand that, you can't truly appreciate why burning through all that fossil fuel is so dangerous. Or that it's not actually the first time in Earth's history that this has happened (!). One of the reasons past volcanic events, like the vast, continental lava flows that caused and/or contributed to the End -Triassic, End -Permian, and likely even End -Cretaceous Extinctions,* actually resulted in release of vast quantities of fossil carbon, from literal incineration of fossil fuel deposits. And that was one of the main "kill" factors in those extinctions. Let that sink in, and you'll realize we are quite literally playing with fire. But my point is that if the education to acquire this kind of awareness were more universal, our people would more easily grasp these vital issues. And the time has come when we cannot afford to ignore reality any longer.

The difference between full on ice age and peak interglacial (like now...a swing that occurred about 20 times in the last 2.6 million years) is only about six to seven degrees Celsius.

So when climate scientists speak of a 4° shift by 2100, they are talking about totally unprecedented climate change in so short a period of time. Again, never in the almost 4 billion year history of the Earth's atmosphere has there been such a rapid spike in CO-2. And what effect that will have on the Earth's climate systems is just not well understood. If that doesn't scare you, at least a little, you aren't paying attention.

When people are told that every single human being on average produces tons of extra CO-2 each year, they simply can't conceive of that... but it's true.

I sometimes hesitate to get into the sort of counterintuitive facts  about CO-2 long term, though. Few people realize that the current epoch of Ice Ages actually reflects a very long term deficit in CO-2, which promises to become a very serious problem in the more distant future. At 150 ppm at the glacial maximums, we were at the lowest levels of CO-2 in the atmosphere in many tens of millions of years, and there is some indication that the CO-2 cycle is actually failing, so that it would eventually drop to the lowest levels since the Cambrian era, and threaten the ability of plants on land to even survive. (See Oxygen, a Four Billion Year History, by Canfield, highly recommended).

Our current brief episode of radical global warming may have short circuited that. But you don't really want to just plunge into wild swings and unknown territory without making sure you understand what's happening and can control it, and reverse it if necessary.

The fact that human activity is  the principal agent of geological change in the present epoch needs to be drilled into the head of every single person living on the Earth, because it's a genuinely awesome responsibility. The fact that we are stewards of the Earth is not poetry. It is literal truth.

* The role of the Chicxulub Asteroid is coming to be regarded as both proximal and distal as a cause of the End-Cretaceous Extinction. The Deccan Trap lava flows in India (then atop the Réunion Hot Spot in the Indian Ocean) were already underway when the asteroid, the largest in the 500 million year history of complex life on Earth, hit Yucatan, about 66 million years ago, triggering a 12 Richter Scale earthquake. (An earthquake that massive can only be caused by an extraterrestrial impact event). An earthquake of that magnitude will necessarily trigger global volcanic events, and it did, with a vengenace, turning a Oregon/Idaho lava flow like event into a mass extinction level event, where the earth's interior just flowed out onto the surface in miles deep magma flows the size of half of Europe. And all the coal and oil in the crust over that entire area was destroyed and its carbon released into the atmosphere. But even so, and this is hard to grasp but true, it was still slower than the spike in CO-2 since 1850.

21 July 2018

A Theory of Trump Kompromat

Everyone is overloaded with this stuff these days, but this article is revelatory and covers ground no one else has explained in any detail. 



18 July 2018

What we're up against

The NYT has an article about "cracks" appearing in the Trump base. But we Democrats have to get real. For 2018, the fact that Trump has only a roughly 35% core of voters who will probably vote for his reelection in 2020 no matter what DOES NOT REALLY MATTER. What matters is analytics, GOTV, and, especially, giving voters GOOD REASONS TO VOTE DEMOCRATIC in states with Senate races we can win, and in every single Congressional district in the country, regardless of whether there is that much of a chance of winning this year. Because we need to take back the House (pretty good shot), AND the Senate (much harder), but more than that: We have to lay the foundations for retaining control of both houses for a good, long while. If we do this work and succeed in 2018, I think 2020 will follow as night the day, and Trump and Trumpism can be defeated and swept into the dustbin of history. (The Republican party will have to regroup and reorganize, like it hasn't had to do since 1964... even 2008 was not quite like what I'm envisioning here). The stakes are very high. My friends, we simply cannot lose. Because it is no exaggeration to say that the fate of the American republic is at stake. We are closer to losing the checks and balances of our constitution to permanent autocracy than at any time in more than a century. EVERYONE must get involved and think seriously about what they can do to help make sure we win these elections and put forward a governing agenda that attracts a permanent base that the Republicans will be unable to overcome for quite some time.


Cross posted to Facebook. 

17 July 2018

Judy Woodruff interviewing John Sipher

​​... career CIA guy based in Moscow in the 1990s. Something pretty close to this seems to be the consensus among intelligence people. Trump has consistently attacked and disrespected them, and their proclivity to accept presidential authority without question has been shaken to the point that they have a pretty clear view of what's going on with this guy. 

There are always positive consequences from even the most awful developments (along with the bad ones, obviously). One good thing that may come out of all this is that the intelligence community will be skeptical of blind allegiance to presidential power. 

That is, assuming we do manage to get through this with the American republic still more or less intact. A reasonable, but not safe, bet. 


Yo amo, tú amas, el ama, nosotros amamos, vosotros amáis, ellos aman. 

Ojalá no fuese conjugación sino realidad.

--Mario Benedetti