17 December 2019

Discovery of a galaxy so distant we're seeing it as it was less than 1 billion years after the Big Bang

This article doesn't really focus on what I consider the main point. Which is that the morphology of this, the most distant galaxy yet observed, confirms the fact that all galaxies are approximately the same age, and that early on they were very different from later epochs. Which is confirmation of the FACT that the Big Bang is real. It is true that there are problems with all the detailed models of the Big Bang and the inflationary period that resulted in an enormous physical universe beyond even the part of it that's even theoretically observable, but the basic fact that the universe we live in is finite and finite in age is the only plausible hypothesis consistent with the data... including this data. The simple question, how much of the universe lies beyond the horizon where light from there could ever reach us on Earth, is unanswerable. It is pretty clear that it's "most of it," but it could be anywhere from 90% to a power of ten so enormous the mind literally boggles and fails to comprehend. 

Happy Holidays, everyone. 


Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


09 December 2019

The threat to the Rule of Law

I think most people, who get most of their information about public affairs from television and social media, are not really grasping just how serious a threat to the rule of law Trump's outright refusal to cooperate with the Article I branch in investigating him and his administration actually is. If you talk to people with knowledge and interest in Constitutional law, they, almost all of them, feel like their hair is on fire at the complacency with which the Cult of the Republican Party is treating this threat.

But Democratic candidates need to do a much better job of conveying the gravity of this situation to their constituency and potential voters in the upcoming election. One point they should be... and mostly aren't... making is that our economy depends on a fully functioning and impartial system of law and justice. Of course it isn't perfect, far from it, but one of the reasons even China invests in American financial securities, and investors worldwide have hitherto seen the US as a safe haven for investment and as a place to locate businesses and manufacturing, is that they can be confident no oligarch will seize their property, like in Russia, and that if they become involved in a dispute they won't have to bribe someone or play politics to get due process of law and reasonably honest dispute resolution. We devolve into authoritarianism, autarchy, systemic corruption... all the hallmarks of Trump and his administration... and our very economic security, as well as our political liberties and rights, will be severely threatened. Get even a glimmer of awareness of this situation to dawn on some folks who don't usually think much about politics, and Trump's support will start swirling down the toilet even faster, as it should.

05 December 2019

The decision to move forward on impeachment

I share the oft expressed doubt about the wisdom of pressing ahead on impeachment without forcing the WH to cooperate on witnesses and documents, which would probably take until well into the election season. But, in weighing the obvious factors, I find myself agreeing with Josh Marshall, who also has doubts but comes down in favor of getting on with it NOW.


"Medicare for All"

I've come to dislike the meme "Medicare for All" even more than "Single Payer," which was coined by opponents to frame it as something scary. But what we're talking about is NOT Medicare as we know it. It is decent, maybe not absolutely perfect, but decent medical care, including care for catastrophic illnesses, that is truly universal. This is a commitment society must make to its members in order to qualify, at this stage of our development, as truly civilized. Full stop. Simple as that.  

Since nearly every developed country, including South Korea, Taiwan, almost all European countries, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Israel, and even some Latin American countries, come a whole lot closer to this ideal than we do, there is simply no way anyone can convince me that we cannot "afford" this. 

27 November 2019




I am an atheist. Have been nearly all my life. And I am one of those who, faced with the old saw that an agnostic is little more than an atheist who lacks the courage of his convictions, I gave it some thought. A personal God, that created and cares for the universe, answers prayer, keeps everything virtuous, etc. Well, nah. Don't see any evidence for that; literally none at all. Pretty sure that isn't the way it is, so I'll commit. Agnostic, no; atheist. But I make a distinction between religion, which to me is a belief in some supernatural agency like this, and spirituality, which does not, necessarily. An atheist is not required to be narrow minded, and to exclude consideration of the magisterium that is normally relegated to religion, just because of semantics. Indeed, an honest examination of one's circumstances, Aristotle's considered life, requires it.


For a time I studied, and gained a lot from, traditional Buddhism. Still think of myself as a Buddhist, albeit a secular Buddhist. There are basic truths, some spiritual and some actually objective psychological truths, in Buddhist thought. The idea that (at least most) suffering is caused by attachment to the delusion of "self" and the happiness of one's own being. That wisdom is not knowledge, per se, but a realistic view, almost literally, seeing  what existence really is. And that from such seeing necessarily flow compassion, lovingkindness, and a clear eyed understanding that one's own happiness is not something you gain by grasping at it, but, just the opposite, that well being of ones's self comes from caring for others and seeking well being of others.


When Buddhist teachers I associated with started talking about having "faith" in "holy beings," at first I thought of them as merely metaphorical paradigms for states of mind that are beneficial to seek to emulate. But after a while, I came to see it more as just the usual regression to norm: people have a strong tendency to seek out comfort and reassurance that the universe is not cold and indifferent, but actually caring and reassuring, filled with superior beings that look after us, answer prayers, etc. But, to me, this is a mistaken view. What Buddhists refer to as "precious human life" is precisely that quality that enables us to honestly perceive, and create realistic mental models of the way things are. So we have to be honest. Clear-eyed. The Buddha himself cautioned his followers not to believe what they were taught, perhaps out of respect for their teachers or the tradition they arose out of; but to believe what they perceived themselves, from their own practice of the proven effective and practical techniques of clearing the mind and really seeing what exists and is real. And, while I can imagine that some people honestly see the world as filled with supernatural, caring entities that help us in our hours of need, I don't. I see the universe as beyond humanity; essentially indifferent; existing on a scale so vast that our existence is of scant importance. The universal compassion, lovingkindness, joy, and balance of view that make up human wisdom are qualities of mind, not of existence beyond ourselves. It is these things that constitute what we call meaning of life; we should not, and will fail if we try to, find meaning in the cosmos, in the externality of our existence. The meaning of our existence is in our own mind, in our own ability to summon virtue, love, compassion, and other states of mind that make human life transcendent and significant. These things are not supernatural. But neither are they external, created by some intelligence outside ourselves. They are, in fact, our essence, our unique existence, available to us if we use our innate ability to develop genuine awareness, also called wisdom, to allow us to perceive the truth about ourselves, and not to wallow in delusion. We, our minds, our being, is what gives the universe meaning. I don't try to tell other people what they should believe, but, well, everyone of course prefers their own view of things, and mine is that the universe is contingent. Life arises from nonlife, over time so vast we cannot imagine it, and, through processes which are not supernatural but which we, as limited and finite beings, do not fully understand here we are. We don't need a magical mystery religion to have a profound and abiding sense of the mystery and wonder of existence, and to have a genuinely spiritual outlook.


Which brings me to Thanksgiving. The "thanks" in Thanksgiving are traditionally thought of as thanks to God. We thank thee, God, from whom all blessings flow, and all that. So what meaning does gratitude have for an atheist? It's a good question. We atheists have to face and address the natural human inclination to feel grateful. And I do. Very much so. My theory is this. We humans have evolved, over the depth of time, a highly developed ability to construct reasonably accurate models of reality. Of course, we easily delude ourselves, but we are much better at this than other animals, and it has led us to the civilization we have, because we would not have it but for our ability to figure out how systems work. Including the whole shebang, the cosmos. Not that we have final answers, but we have more knowledge and ideas about it than any other living things we know of. And what we learn, from personal experience as well as systematic investigation, is that the universe is contingent; that the laws of physics, particularly entropy, make the success that is the enterprise of life on Earth remarkable in so many ways, and unlikely in so many ways, that it is a genuine marvel that we are here, and that we are able to sustain ourselves and live in any degree of harmony at all with the other living systems of our world. And this makes us feel, if we are paying attention, very, very fortunate. Which is, I think, a pretty good definition of gratitude. We don't have to posit the existence of a personal God, or believe in anything supernatural, to be suffused with a powerful feeling of gratitude to be alive, and to be able to experience existence, in a vast cosmos of which we are only a tiny flicker.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


18 November 2019

Some interesting Supreme Court history and its implications, as uncovered by Thom Hartmann

 This is really interesting. Back in the early days of the Reagan administration, when the shoe was very much on the other ideological foot with regard to the Supreme Court, the Righties, in fact none other than CURRENT Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts (then a DOJ lawyer), thought seriously about a fairly radical interpretation of the Constitutional provision whereby the Congress determines exactly what the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over, as a means of reversing landmark decisions like Brown v. Bd. of Ed. and Roe v. Wade. The truth is that the period from about 1935 to 1990 or so, when the SC was a force for progress and human rights in America, was the aberration. Since then, the court has mostly reverted to norm, and the Court is, as it was before FDR almost throughout all of American history to that time, a reactionary force that exists mostly to protect the interests of the already powerful. Wouldn't it be delicious, if perhaps too risky to actually contemplate doing, to use Roberts's idea against THEM, and undo not Brown and Roe but Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United v. FEC, Heller v. DC, and Shelby County v. Holder?

If you don't know what all four of those cases stand for, look them up, because every citizen should know in detail just how and when the Supreme Court took our rights away, step by step.

Supreme Court History includes John Robert's memo how to bypass court by enacting statutes with provisions removing judicial review.

10 November 2019

PLEASE vote for the Future of our World

Posted this to Facebook.

I really hate Facebook. Its format seems to force discourse to devolve into quibbling over relatively unimportant details, and to invite name-calling. I regret having fallen into some of this kind of back and forth with people with whom I want to share insights and ideas, only to end up in futile bickering about the "little picture" details where we disagree.

But I want to try a different tack. So please don't add comments to this post quibbling about policy details. If you truly disagree with the thrust of what I have to say, please explain why, and how you believe what you advocate is more likely to be of benefit.

I believe that this upcoming election demands something more of us than conventional politics. And that is that we SET ASIDE our narrow self-interest, and vote as if the future of the world depends on our choice. Because it does.

The present regime in the United States has at its head an oligarch; a kleptocrat; a lawless would be dictator who, if re-elected, will probably do just about everything he can to undermine the long term interests of our country and subvert our democracy. I don't think it goes to far to say he is a traitor. His elimination from our body politic is a matter of the gravest urgency. Essentially any other political figure would be an improvement.

But in addition to that, the election of a Democratic Senate is equally important. We have, at present, a Trumpist party that will do nothing at all, other than continue (if they get the chance) to approve Right Wing judges who will do nothing to stop the continued subversion of Democracy. They might even try to repeat their one and only legislative "achievement" in Trump's term, which was a massive tax giveaway transferring even more wealth from the already hollowed out middle class to the tiniest tranche of the super-rich, who are their real constituency. Their politics is entirely based on lies, and it refuses to face facts or to take any action at all on the greatest existential crisis in the history of civilization, the Climate Emergency.

I see us as living on borrowed time. We have failed to take action on critical infrastructure, especially to do what is necessary to face this crisis. We have hollowed out our manufacturing economy, failed to maintain excellence in public education, failed to ensure the health care of all our citizens, failed to ensure that government works for the people and not for extremely narrow vested interests. We are at the abyss. We cannot go on with this. We must turn back, elect leaders who will base policy on facts, and who will be able to convey to the people the enormity of our predicament.

We will, like it or not, soon be faced with a full scale emergency on the scale, at least, of World War II. We cannot face this emergency with crooks, fools and liars in charge of the government. Even if we may disagree with details of the policies of some of our candidates, we MUST ensure that our government is returned to people who believe in science, who act on the basis of facts, and who will do their level best to represent the interests of the people of the United States. All of the people of the United States.

Look, we can worry about disruption to the economy of this or that policy. But we will not face recession or specific ruffled feathers of narrow self-interest, such as not being able to renew a particular health plan or having to pay higher taxes than we thought in this or that area, if we fail to overturn the Right Wing government we now have. We will instead be marching towards complete collapse. If we allow the Climate Emergency to go unchecked, as scientists tell us is right in front of us, actually happening right now, we won't have a recession, or even a depression. We will have a collapse. And the economy will be utterly destroyed. It is that stark. And the choice is that clear.

Please set aside whatever specific and narrow interests you may be worried about and consider the long term well being of our world, and coming generations. Vote Democratic, no matter who the candidates are, as if your future, and the future of your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and everyone else's progeny depend on it. Because IT DOES.



09 November 2019

Why I support a securities transaction tax, and other tax increases primarily aimed at wealthier Americans

There's a great deal of discussion among Democrats these days about taxes. It is clear that Republicans are LIARS when it comes to taxes, as they basically just want to transfer wealth to the top and don't care a whit about long term debt, OR about investing in our nation's future. As the Trump Tax Giveaway to the Superrich proves.

One of the proposed progressive taxes Centrist Democrats object to is the idea of a securities transaction tax. Such Democrats have, over the past 30 years or so, largely bought into Republican economic theories, but it's time to return to an earlier view that realistic taxation is, as Justice Brandeis put it, "the price of civilization." First point. Proposed transaction taxes are TINY, and would probably be structured to not apply to IRAs and 401(k)s. But apart from that, the average investor would pay at most a few hundred dollars per year. MOST developed countries have these kinds of taxes, and in many cases higher than what is proposed here.

But, secondly, this is an example of a tax that's actually designed to disincentivize economically destructive behavior, namely large scale short term trading, which is basically gaming markets to take the equivalent of rents from the top, as opposed to the rational and original purpose of securities markets, which is to raise capital. Investors who are primarily interested in investing in successful businesses to build capital value and participate in a production economy tend to buy and hold stocks, rather than trade them short term, and this is better for the economy. Such investors would be little affected by a small transaction tax, and if it were deemed to be an issue, it would be a simple matter to exclude the first $1000 or even $5000 of tax, which would then mean that the tax would apply ONLY to people and institutions who are engaging in relatively massive short term trading. It is perfectly legitimate and actually a positive good to discourage this behavior, as it does not contribute to growth in the economy but only serves to transfer of wealth from production upward to the very richest.

Even with these considerations, which are an example of the use of tax policy to regulate the economy as opposed to raising revenue, it is estimated that the tax would in fact raise a fair amount of much needed revenue. Which brings me to a third point. WE NEED TAXES which fall more on wealthier people in this country. Wealthy people, even moderately wealthy people, NEED TO PAY MORE IN TAXES. This includes me, although I don't qualify as wealthy, just reasonably comfortable.

We have before us a truly desperate situation, where we must rebuild nearly our entire energy and transportation infrastructure in a fairly short period of time (because of deferred maintenance in part, but mainly to address the Climate Emergency). We must also revamp our medical care system to ensure that everyone is covered, because it is our national shame that alone among the wealthy nations of the world we have failed to do this, and there simply is no valid reason why we should not. Further, we must make up for a longstanding funding deficit for education and basic research. To name just a few key things. The enterprise of American civilization has been choked by greed and hoarding at the top, and it is time to come together as a people and make the decision to use more of our resources and economic strength as a nation to ensure not only our survival but our character as a country of social mobility and a robust middle class into the future. Much of this will come from policy reform, but some of it must come from MORE INVESTMENT. The ONLY way to do that is to increase spending on these critical factors. Given the Climate Emergency, it is no exaggeration to say that we need to mobilize in a way equivalent to the mobilization of World War 2, and sooner, rather than later. This cannot be done for nothing... everyone must contribute. But from those who have been rewarded with outsize, even excessive wealth, more must be asked. And from those who have modestly more, modestly more must be asked. It is time for us to ACCEPT THIS REALITY, and even embrace it, for it is the only path forward that makes any sense long term.



27 October 2019

A few comments on intelligent life in the universe in response to an article in Daily Beast

[You can't actually read this without joining DB for $1 for a month, but DB is kind of good anyway, so you might want to. Anyway, my comments]:

First, the article fails to make a clear distinction between reasonable estimates of the probability that we will discover extraterrestrial LIFE, which could mean only microbial life with a non-terrestrial origin, at some point in the relatively near future (seems quite plausible), vs. the likelihood that we will encounter or find actual evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. The latter divides into evidence of relatively nearby intelligent civilizations somewhat more advanced or comparable to our own vs. evidence of very distant extremely advanced civilizations. Such very advanced civilizations would likely be detectable across extragalactic distances. Any realistic estimate of the probability of finding intelligent life requires a full examination of the logic and evidence involved in the so-called Fermi Paradox, which this article entirely ignores. 

I have discussed these issues on my blog, www.gyromantic.com (search for Fermi Paradox). The gist is that there are very good logical reasons to conclude that intelligent life is exceedingly rare in the universe. So rare, in fact, that the chances of detecting or encountering another civilization close enough to make even centuries-long dialog times possible are vanishingly small. I see no reason to think that we are "alone" in the universe (chiefly because the universe is so very large that anything that can possibly happen likely will have happened, and repeatedly).  But I see EVERY reason to suppose that advanced civilizations are so rare, and so distant from one another, that for all intents and purposes they are on their own, and must make their own way, independent of others in the same general situation, in a vast, dark, and mostly empty cosmos.

This predicament is not as bleak as all that, however. We have every prospect of developing sustainable energy on our planet, and practical space flight and even space colonization in the general vicinity of our star, the Sun. From there, our civilization and its remote descendants could, with no foreseeable serious impediments, proceed to colonize other stars, spreading life and civilization that originated on our little world throughout first our region of space, star-hopping from one stellar system to the next. Exploiting the resources of material and energy to make new habitats for life and, specifically, intelligent life: us, and our descendants, who will gradually evolve into something trans-human, no doubt. And there is nothing foreseeeable that will stop this process. Stars are very, very far apart from one another, but time is vast, and the possibility of colonizing the entire Galaxy in something like 1 to 2 million years is not prohibited by anything. In fact, if we survive the next century or two, I would venture to say that it is nearly inevitable, and once our descendants have filled enough niches and established beachheads in enough locations, the complete extinction of the enterprise of terrestrial life will become a very unlikely occurrence. We will evolve into forms unrecognizable to our current incarnations, most likely, but there will be literally nothing to stop us. Even the complete colonization of the Galaxy will just be the beginning, because on the scale of galaxies (hundreds of thousands of light years), other galaxies are not far from each other. The Magellanic Clouds (smallish companion galaxies to the Milky Way) are roughly 180,000 and 210,000 light years, respectively. The huge Andromeda Galaxy is just under 2 million. This is a vast distance, but if we have developed the technology to build colony habitats to spread life in space over centuries, the later stages of the evolution of that kind of technology could cross such distances, and spread our civilization, or more properly its offspring, even to other galaxies. 

And there's every reason to believe this might well have already happened elsewhere in the universe, but space is so vast that we would not necessarily know about it... ever. Space is expanding so fast that more and more of the universe every moment is beyond the reach of any form of communication, forever, because nothing, not even radio or laser signals, can travel faster than light. But the point is that humanity's future in a universe that is mostly empty of intelligent life, is actually very bright. Eventually our region of the universe will be very full of intelligent beings and their handiwork. And they will be our children. 

Most people don't really think about the far future at all, but it actually is a reason for us to be very, very serious about preserving the ecosystems of our planet and making sure that we survive the next century or few centuries. Because we have every prospect of giving rise to intelligent civilization of a truly cosmic scale, that does not now exist, except so far from here that it resounds no echoes, sends no signals that we can receive, and might as well not exist for all that it matters to us here and now. But that situation will not persist, at least not everywhere. And if we want humanity's particular mode of existence to persist, and thrive, and develop in ways we cannot now even imagine, then we must ensure our survival into a future time when that becomes not only a dream, but a reality, even an inevitability. 



Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


18 August 2019

Portland's "big riot"

As I, among many local folks, fully expected, the Antifa/Proud Boys riot turned out to be pretty much nothing. I believe these things are being blown entirely out of proportion by the sensation-hungry media, where in actual fact both the Antifa overtestosterone infused tiny minority of the left and the Redneck Right are unrepresentative and not really a threat to civil order or anything else. Let's focus on issues and the election; and nonviolent demonstrations, which outnumber these things by orders of magnitude. 


Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


13 August 2019

Maybe there really is a conspiracy with regard to Epstein

 I know the whole Epstein conspiracy theory thing seems to have spun out of control. But sometimes people really do conspire. Consider that all the leaked information about public figures... former NM Gov. Richardson, former Sen. Mitchell, Bill Clinton... has concerned Democrats. Consider that Barr "unrecused"himself (which wasn't even a thing before the great legal scholar Emperor Donald the Munificent invented the idea), and that it is Barr who is in charge of the Bureau of Prisons and any investigations and reports that come out of it, and HE who will spin the results of any FBI probe. MAYBE taking Epstein off suicide watch, wherein protocols were simply ignored, was just a normal SNAFU. But mainly, as David Cay Johnston noted,* from personal knowledge: the Federal lockup ("MCC") where this occurred is not an old fashioned jail. The cells are like dorm rooms, except with high ceilings, no attachment points specifically to avoid suicide and violence. And the bedclothes are not cloth, they are a paperlike material DESIGNED to tear if an attempt is made to use them as a rope. One last fact. Epstein credibly was reported to have told a visitor that the prior suicide attempt was not that, but an attempted murder. His cellmate was a big beefy ex cop on lockup for accusations of corruption. So, tell me again that this is all just normal judicial screw up and nothing to see here.

The Trump administration, of course, is doing their usual: accusing others of what it is that they are the ones most likely guilty of. The Clintons couldn't even rig the election to get their candidate in (that was Trump and the Russians). How could they gain access to a Federal prison under the watchful eye of the attorney general (really Trump's Roy Cohn), to murder Epstein? The biggest fish that has something to gain from hushing up the Epstein case is not Bill Clinton. It's Trump himself.

This is the kind of thing that used to only happen in countries that had a history of swinging back and forth between barely functioning democracy and dictatorship, like Brazil, Argentina, the Philippines. That, my friends, is what we are well on the way to becoming right here in the USA.

03 August 2019

Obama Legacy and What, now, shall we do?

 Farflung correspondents, 

Below is an excerpt of a reader comment on Talkingpointsmemo (which if you don't know you should), on the legacy of Obama.

His first full term was spent trading in his political capital to address a healthcare system that was refusing to care for sick people because greed. He also did the little things like helping to pull us out of the worst recession since the depression and kill OBL. So, yeah, I forgive him for acting in good faith at those moments in history when the world needed the GOP to step up and act like adults. The GOP did the exact opposite and that is the real story here. Literally nobody new the depths they would go to sabotage Obama. The fact they are still getting away with is all the more infuriating.

I agree with this, more or less, but I do argue that Obama reflected the same overly cautious attitude of many Democrats (still, and most of them are less visionary and capable than he). Progressives (hell, let's start calling ourselves LIBERALS, for starters) in our country have become afraid of our own shadows. This is one of the reasons that many younger Democrats are angry and frustrated. I really do believe that decisive action is critical, and is actually popular.

We should not be hemming and hawing about impeachment, for example. Of course the Senate won't convict. Acknowledge that. Bring the impeachment inquiry, conduct it expeditiously and quickly (since we've already wasted two years), lay out the case, censure Trump, and vote not to refer it to the Senate with an explanation that it is deemed a foregone conclusion that the partisan gridlock in the Senate would prevent fair consideration.

Meantime, and I've been saying this since Jan. 1; PASS the damn progressive legislative agenda that we want to enact as soon as we have both houses and the presidency. Write the damn bills. All of them. Talk them up. Go on the political shows and refuse to talk about Trump and his BS and say, we want to talk about the solutions WE HAVE for America. Then our candidates need to run on those issues. Do we disagree about details? Of course. But hash it out. Make the compromises in our own caucus, hammer out the bills, and pass them. Presidential candidates can talk about the tweaks and improvements they'd like to see, but they can all agree to run on the broad outlines of an ALREADY PASSED in the House agenda for America. If Nancy Pelosi were the great master legislator that her admirers claim she is, this is what she would be doing. Schumer is a caretaker; he can do nothing legislatively. But she can. Passing bills, even in only one house, is a way to SET AN AGENDA.

I am deeply disappointed in the leadership in our party and very fearful that a combination of cheating, con-man politics, and poor turnout could even spell defeat for us in 2020 if we don't up our game and soon. And I don't think I need to convince many Democrats, or even many Republicans, that that would be utterly catastrophic for our country.


25 July 2019

My letter to my blue dog Democratic congressman

  Dear Congressman Schrader, 

The leaders of our party have wasted the last two years, in the face of abundant evidence that the president of the United States is a criminal, a traitor, and wholly unfit for office. First, unncessarily waiting for a special counsel investigation that was never intended to address the question of whether the Congress should do its constitutional duty and investigate whether this president should be impeached. Then, when that investigator's report made clear that he didn't believe he could do anything about the president's crimes and malfeasance, because it was purely a job for the Congress to deal with, doing nothing at all, for more than 13 weeks already, in the face of open defiance of Congressional authority by the subject of the inquiry and his lawless administration. Now, that the overly cautious special counsel has testified. The facts are already clear, but need to be exposed, in daily televised hearings, with real, enforceable subpoena power. No more time can be wasted. It is critical, and a constitutional duty of the Congress, to investigate and lay bare before the American people, the facts of this case: the most egregious malfeasance and criminality in a president in our history. The fact that the locked down partisan Senate will not convict is immaterial: this is a DUTY of the Congress. If the facts are adequately shown, in public, in readily accessible form, in televised hearings, a resolution of Censure may be sufficient, whereupon the American people can decide, fully informed of the facts, in the 2020 election. But regardless, AN IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY MUST BE COMMENCED AT ONCE.

Thank you.
David Studhalter
Oatfield, OR 


05 July 2019

Fareed Zakaria's mild take on George Will's book lamenting the fall of American conservatism.

This is a good example of why I don't much care for Fareed Zakaria. He laments the fall of American conservatism in a mild review of George Will's latest book attempting the same, while hardly mentioning that its main cause was that American conservatism is, was, and always has been rotten to the core with greed and corruption. It failure is the failure of utter lack of integrity. 

Reading Henry George's 1879 Poverty and Progress, it is readily apparent to me that the underlying philosophy of conservatism in our country is based on provable fallacies, and that it was then and remains fundamentally dishonest. 


Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


16 June 2019

"Is Poverty Necessary" by Marilynne Robinson, from Harper's

I was really struck by this truly excellent, even inspiring article in the current Harper's. It actually goes beyond what its title implies, and makes you think about exactly what our impulse to economic reform is all about, and exactly what it is in late stage Capitalism, to use a term Robinson does not use, that is so repellent to those of us who grew up with some sense of the value of public wealth, and repulsion at the idea that labor is no more than a commodity. 

If you read nothing else on this topic this month, please read this. You will not regret it. 


Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


13 June 2019


Think the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact can't possibly go into effect because there are too many Republican states opposing it? With the enactment this week by Oregon bringing the electoral college strength of enacting states to 196, all that is needed are MN, WI, (or VA in place of either); MI; OH, PA, and any 2 of NH, ME or NV. I would venture to say that this is far from impossible, although unlikely to be done in time for 2020. There is definitely momentum. Whether getting close to the magic 270 will make it easier or harder to get the last few states is an interesting question to which no one really knows the answer.


Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


05 June 2019

National Popular Vote Compact passes in Oregon

Finally! My adopted state, Oregon, has joined the other West Coast states in passing the National Popular Vote Compact.* Momentum is building for this important work around, which, when it takes effect, will ensure that no one is ever elected president with fewer votes than his or her opponent(s). Not perfect, presidents could still be elected with less than a majority of votes cast, but at least the travesties of Bush 2000 and Trump 2016 would never happen again. We need more states to pass it to reach 270. A Constitutional amendment on popular election would be better, but since that is not currently in the cards, this is our best shot to correct the worst effects of the Electoral College.

In case you don't know, the NPVC provides that each state that passes it will direct its electoral college delegation to vote for the popular vote winner nationwide. The compacts only go into effect when enough states have passed the same provisions such that enough votes are automatically cast to be elected president.

It was quite a fight, due to inexplicable DEMOCRATIC opposition in the State Senate, but it finally passed. Gov. Brown has said she will sign it.

This is a little out of date, but indicates where we stand. We need NV, NH, MI, PA, MN, AZ, VA, OH, and ME, all of which should be doable. NV, like OR, has already passed it in both houses in 2019 and so only needs the governor's signature.


Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


23 April 2019

The time is come to impeach Donald Trump.


The pattern of open defiance to Congressional inquiry is now unmistakeable, and is, all by itself, more than sufficient reason to impeach this president. Let me be clear: the Mueller Report is a sideshow. This president has committed obstruction, emoluments violations, election law violations, and, (apparently, per extensive news investigation); tax and real estate fraud. He has compromised himself to our nation's principal adversary, in plain sight. He had ordered his minions and other federal employees to break the law, and openly dangled pardons (a gross abuse of power) to induce them to comply with his orders. In plain sight. The Mueller investigation was limited to the Russian interference in the election and specific obstruction of justice related to that, and, despite the Trump administration's outright lies and slow walking the release of the report, it does not clear him; instead it makes clear that he did in fact obstruct justice and coordinate with his campaign's open cooperation with a foreign adversary to illegally interfere in our elections. Any other president having done any one of these things would've been impeached, and, depending on political winds, likely convicted and removed from office. You cannot escape from history, and it is time to bite the bullet and impeach Donald Trump.

As for the politics of impeachment, I believe the old guard pols in the Democratic caucus, including Speaker Pelosi, are misreading this situation. People disrespect Congress by and large because of its lack of decisive action. In Watergate, Congress acted. They held televised hearings. They put the facts before the American people, and, despite Nixon's having won re-election by a huge landslide, public opinion was changed by the facts. And face it, the facts now are vastly worse than they were for Nixon. Trump will fight, more than Nixon did. We will have to go to right wing judges, and possibly the right wing Supreme Court, and point out the obvious facts that there isn't a shred of legal justification for the open defiance by this president of the power of the Congress to inquire into his actions.

Might we lose? Of course! It's possible, more than possible, that our system is nowso deeply corrupted that even the Supreme Court will not uphold the rule of law. It's likely that no matter what we do, the Senate will not remove this president from office. But those are not reasons, nor excuses, for not fighting aggressively to conduct the inquiry, bring the articles, and move forward. Hold the hearings, every day, aggressive scheduling. Don't even bother with letters. Issue subpoenas, with minimum time frames, and file in court immediately after they are disobeyed. If the witnesses don't show up, have the hearings anyway, and put up whoever we can find to testify to what's been going on, and point out on television, day after day, that the president and his administration are in open defiance of the rightful powers of the Congress. If that is not enough to convince the majority of Americans to vote these people out of office, nothing will, and our republic will in fact be destroyed. But if we do nothing, that will only happen more assuredly and more rapidly.


14 April 2019

Another milestone on the road to authoritarianism

If our constitutional system were functioning even reasonably well, THIS, if confirmed to be true, would NECESSARILY result in the impeachment and conviction by near unanimous vote in the Senate. There could not be a clearer case of executive misconduct for which the impeachment power was included in the Constitution, short of overt military treason in time of war. If I need to spell it out for you: (if true), the president of the United States, sworn to uphold the constitution and "take care that the laws of the United States be faithfully executed," is 1) ordering employees of the government of the United States to violate the law AND ignore the orders of the duly constituted courts of the United States; and 2) promising to engage in the gross misuse of the pardon power to stymie any potential prosecution of those whom he has ordered to so do. This is just exactly the sort of thing that would be dictators do in the run up to all out seizure of power and decapitation of all other centers of political power in societies where democracy has completely failed.

And, any deluded folks who still cling to their emotional support for this dangerous maniac, I will say this: if you cannot see that, then you either have no understanding, literally none, of how constitutional democracy is supposed to work, or you, yourself, are part of the slide into dictatorship that our country has clearly commenced.

I am not by nature a pessimist. Trends can be reversed. No matter how bad it gets, an engaged citizenry can work to make it less bad, and can, eventually slow, stop, and even reverse such a slide. But the trend is definitely, unquestionably, there for all to see who can see.


Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


20 March 2019

My take on Medicare for All and acceptable variants

I think we need to be crystal clear on one point concerning Medicare for All, and we need to insist on it from all our candidates. And that is that while we may need to utilize a mixed system, at least as a transition, and allow something like Medicare Advantage as it now exists (which is where private insurance provides Medicare services plus additional services, for regulated additional premiums, in lieu of the Single Payer Medicare standard). Alternatively, we may allow for supplemental plans that provide additional coverage as a supplement to the standard, now-expanded to cover everyone-Medicare.

But what is absolutely essential, and which must be part of any plan on a quick phase-in at minimum, is that ALL HEALTH INSURANCE PROVIDERS MUST REORGANIZE AS NONPROFITS. This is crucial to the insurance based systems in France, Switzerland, Japan, and Germany. The for profit insurance model simply does not work for health care. There is too much of a conflict of interest: profit depends on denial of care, not providing the best care. Private nonprofits will compete to provide the best care, and grow their businesses based on performance and awards of contractual advantages from excellent performance, not profitability. Any companies that don't want to function in that market are free to go into some other line of business, because, as Dennis Kucinich used to say at every opportunity, there is simply no place for profit in health care.


12 March 2019

Pelosi on impeachment

I don't know what Nancy Pelosi is thinking, or what she knows. But EVEN IF she knows enough from classified and unpublished sources to conclude that the Mueller investigation will not convey enough information to Congress, for whatever reasons, to strongly support impeachment, I can't fathom how she doesn't believe the American people deserve to have the entire matter of Trump's unfitness for obvious thoroughly investigated, and that she, and other Congressional leaders should just say that and not prejudge the outcome.  


10 March 2019

Our species can... and must... rise to the challenge of the Climate Catastrophe

I watch... but don't necessarily entirely buy into... futurist Isaac Arthur's youTube channel videos on things like the Fermi Paradox, megastructures in space, far future space development and colonization, etc. He's a very far-seeing thinker, and tackles with surprising lucidity some of the objections to the sillier notions of many who long and dream for the lost "future" of OUR recent past (if that makes sense). (For example, he's a pretty extreme Fermi Paradoxer (as am I), concluding from the facts already known that advanced civilizations are NECSSARILY quite rare in the universe, Exhibit A being the logic (which I've delved into at length on gyromantic.com) that unless nuclear war or the Climate Catastrophe kill us off, WE will likely colonize our entire galaxy and beyond in a million years or so; coupled with "Deep Time," (the universe has been much as it is now for a long, long time, at least 6 or 7 billion years), QED there haven't been a lot of beings like us on the cosmic stage and aren't any close by now, or they'd already be here, and flying saucerites peace, they aren't).

Anyway, a point I want to make is that we as a species have to start thinking in terms of much broader and more adventurous solutions to the problems of our existence. The Climate Catastrophe can not be solved with just minor tweaks to the global market system and continued nonsensical regional conflict. Either we get it together and form the "Federation," and engineer our way out of this crisis, or we, too, will be an also-ran that doesn't warrant a blip on the Fermi filter scale. RIP Earth.

But I'm not betting against our species. We have many faults, but we have proven ourselves the most inventive of creatures THIS world has ever produced, and I have a very strong belief that the Earth is truly extraordinary. Not one in a million, not one in a billion, one in many tens of billions if not even more. We're the lottery winner. We can survive and thrive, and become much more than we have ever been before. But only if we overcome our petty greed and rivalry and come together to solve our greatest yet global crisis, which, in case you haven't fully accepted it yet, is UPON US. Now.


Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


09 March 2019

A rhyme in return

To my friend Jas, who penned a fine rhyme for my birth,
Noting pathways and pastimes long I dropped on dear Earth--
      I'll not dwell in self-pity
      Here's my own grateful ditty
To new friends in the City of Music and Mirth.


Nature simply does not care what we believe.


07 March 2019

Birthday Limerick

Here's the limerick my dear friend and musical mentor Jas Adams wrote for my birthday. (Needless to say, I was most touched). 

March 6, 2019

"I'll tickle the ivories," thought Dave, 
"After reading the Sci-Fi I crave,
"Plus political news
"And much more to peruse."
(Not retired, just on a new wave!)

Thanks, Jas. No one's ever written a birthday limerick for me before. 



Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


05 March 2019

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

I've now heard two interviews with David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after Warming. (Ezra Klein and Chris Hayes's Why is this Happening? podcasts). Not cheery. Terrifying. We are on the very cusp of the rest of the century, during which the Climate Catastrophe will impinge on every facet of our lives, and, if we fail to act very soon, will make life very very nasty for hundreds of millions before those who come after us will have been forced to take real action to make the Earth livable. And no one will be immune. It's become increasingly clear that we're not just talking about sea level rise. The consequences of the Climate Catastrophe will have mostly very negative effects, and they will affect every human being on Earth to some degree, and be devastating or even fatal for a huge number. And some of that effect is already unavoidable.

Here's an eye opener, which I admit I did not know. Since Al Gore wrote his first book, 30 years ago, in other words, SINCE we as a species knew what we were doing to our planet, more than half the fossil carbon ever emitted into the atmosphere has been emitted. In 1989 the climate was still stable (relatively), and a forthright and serious effort to address the problem would have been quite feasible. Now, the UN goal of keeping warming under 2° C by 2100 is all but impossible, and that means severe economic and physical disruption is unavoidable. And no one talks about going beyond 2° ... or what happens after 2100. The consequences of continuing to do nothing will be literally fatal. At 8°, all clouds will permanently disappear, which would cause an additional 8° of warming almost immediately. The Earth has not had 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere in millions of years... long before there were humans. The last time the Earth's average temperature was 4°C above the baseline, there were palm trees in the arctic, and even our great ape ancestors had not yet evolved.

This is an important book. Everyone should read it. Complacency is the enemy, and we can no longer afford it. It will literally kill us if we don't shake it off and get busy. To paraphrase Wallace-Wells, we didn't fight WW2 out of optimism. We mobilized and transformed our economy out of FEAR. And that kind of fear is what will cause us to mobilize against the Crisis too. But it is not just us, in America. Already (and this is completely changed since the turn of the century too), the US is producing only 15% of the fossil carbon being added each year to the atmosphere. China and India together account for over half. This is a global problem, and the solution must be global. The enemy is not other nations, it is our own folly; our own unwillingness to make the changes necessary to avoid catastrophe. Time is running out, and the longer we wait, the harder and more terrible will be the journey back.


Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


01 March 2019

It's early days....

I've declared that I'm supporting Elizabeth Warren, and I'm sticking with that for the time being. But I approve of Jay Inslee, governor of Washington, who I think has a lot to offer especially on the critical Climate Crisis issue. And, even more so, I heard a long form interview with Pete Buttigieg (Boot-e-jedge) on Pod Save America. I may disagree with one or two of his more calculatedly "centrist" positions (he favors, for example, "Medicare for All Who Want it" as opposed to "Medicare for All," an important distinction and I can see his point). But at 37, he makes a convincing case that it's time to pass the torch. He thinks long term, talking about how we need to make decisions about structural things and not just take for granted, for example, that we can't fix the supreme court, the electoral college, etc. He talks about making choices based on what effect they'll have in 2054, not just next year (happens to be the year he'll be as old as Trump, Bill Clinton, and George W Bush are now). He's openly gay but has managed to win several elections in deep red Indiana. And he's the most articulate and smartest candidate for president in a generation (with the possible exception of Warren, who's also truly brilliant intellectually). So Warren, Inslee, Buttigieg, I'd be happy with any of 'em, and pretty happy with several others (including Sanders and Harris, although I think Harris may be temperamentally problematic as a presidential candidate). 

The one Democratic candidate I DON'T favor is Biden, who I think has too many issues (support for very bad financial legislation and criminal justice "reform" in the 90s that did huge damage), and, like Sanders, I he's just too old. We need a younger, fresher, less compromised candidate. Of course, if we're foolish enough to nominate Biden, I will vote for him, but I will not support him before the 2020 convention and I really hope he flames out early. 


Nature simply does not care what we believe. 


07 February 2019

Green New Deal!

World War II quickly led to full employment. The Green New Deal, in Carter's phrase, the "moral equivalent of war," can mean the same. We MUST do this. Hooray for Sen. Markey and Rep. Ocasio Cortez! 

Old School Dems! Get ON BOARD NOW!  


17 January 2019

Music Workshop, 10 AM Wednesday Jan. 23, featuring amateur performances of Bach and Beethoven, plus clarinet character pieces

My friend Phil Mandel will be playing Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata, Sonata quasi una fantasia, in c# minor, op. 27, no. 2, and possibly one other piece, and I will be doing a run-through of the Bach Partita in e minor, BWV 830, at the Music Workshop, at the Community Music Center, 3550 SE Francis St., Portland, affectionately known as "the old Firehouse," on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 10 AM. Jules Elias, an accomplished clarinettist, will also be playing to characteristic pieces for unaccompanied solo clarinet. Anyone able to and inclined to attend is more than welcome. Free. 

(Sent to out of towners just to let you know what I'm up to these days!) 

David Studhalter 


16 January 2019

Barr confirmation and where this is heading

William Barr will be confirmed. And every self-respecting Democrat should, and most will, vote no. They should've read the transcript of the confirmation hearing for William Saxbe, Nixon's 4th AG. Rachel Maddow did a whole segment on it. They actually had Jaworski (now it would be Mueller) IN THE ROOM, and swore both of them in and got them to say they would not interfere or accept interference in the ongoing investigation or block any release of information to the Congress or the public. Instead, we got mealy mouthed wiggle room non-answers.

Of course the HUGE difference is that Democrats controlled the Senate in 1974, and they don't now.

The GOOD news is that I really think this thing has gotten so out of hand that a fairly significant cohort of Senate Republicans are starting to realize that Trump is doomed, and at some point they will have to make their break. They're just so timid and self-interested that they won't do it until they feel safe that it won't backfire on them. But I definitely got the impression that Barr EXPECTS a devastating report from Mueller, and that he realizes it's not in HIS best interests to try to go to the mat for Trump, because there will be no winning that fight. The facts are there, and they will come out. Trump will not finish his term as president. I didn't think this 6 months ago, or even two months ago, but now I think this outcome is considerably more likely than not. When the undeniable facts reach a certain critical mass, it'll be like a point of repose for a rock on a slope. That point is reached, the rock slides down the slope.