28 July 2022

Trump candidacy? Blessing or curse?

Don't usually solicit feedback in my little commentaries. But I'm curious, if anyone feels like responding. I tend to agree with Howard Dean, to the effect that if Trump is legally able to and does run and win the Repug. nomination for the third time in a row in 2024, it will actually be good for Democrats, because he has a base of 30% but has in fact become unelectable. So, two questions, farflungs... 

1.  Do you think Trump will run (which includes "will legally be able to run" and "will win the R. nomination")? 

2.  Do you think if he does run he will most likely lose to whoever we Democrats nominate (whether Pres. Biden or someone else)?

Lying liars who're always lying

There are so many of these it's just overwhelming, but Hayes yesterday absolutely nails an instance of Trump underlings just OUTRIGHT lying, even lying about what they said under oath, in this case confirming Trump's blatant lie that he had "10,000 troops on the ready but Pelosi didn't request them because it wouldn't look good." He then played the tape where where Chris Miller, the Acting Sec of Defense, completely contradicted what he said on Fox News when he really was under oath. The point? Not only Trump, but EVERYONE in Trump world, lies ALL THE TIME, and you cannot believe a single thing they say. Democrats need to point this out. It is still true that most people, watching media like Fox, believe most of what these guys say. The truth is that almost every word out of their mouths is a deliberate lie, and we let them get away with this at our peril. People need to stop shying away. They need to say, "Well, sir, as you obviously know, that's a damn lie, and you should be ashamed to stand there and lie to the American people like that."

Record Heat arrives in the PNW

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it turns out the record heat was only delayed, not entirely evited, this year. We are experiencing "near 100°" temps all this week in the Willamette Valley, with even higher temps in the Transcascadia. (As I call it). Unfortunately, this has already become the "new norm" in all of the West. And of course similar phenomena are being experienced globally. I fear that our forests, which before being cut down in a huge wave of exploitation logging that nearly removed the entire Old Growth forest in the 19th and 20th centuries (and only partially recovering from that), were probably to some extent a relict of the Ice Ages, are going to disappear or at least be so transformed as to be unrecognizable... and within the lives of many people now living. Climate Change is not only real, it is here, and we are experiencing changes that will transform our landscapes, and, for the most part, make human existence on this planet more difficult. 

25 July 2022

SCOTUS damage

Does anyone really doubt that this Supreme Court will be known in the future primarily for the long recognized rights Americans enjoy they have removed? I would venture to say that since their only real rationale is "we have five (or six) votes and you don't, so suck it," there really is no limit to the damage they may very well do. 

22 July 2022

Historian's Quick Take

If, like me, you happened to have something to do other than watch TV coverage of the J6 hearing last night, this historian's quick take will tell you almost everything you need to know about it:  https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/july-21-2022 


21 July 2022

Calling it what it is: evil

This will be blunt, so turn away if you're sensitive. I'm so, so very tired of right wing ASSHOLES claiming to base their politics on morality or claiming to be "pro-life." Thanks to their non-democratic usurpation of the Supreme Court we now have as the law of the land zealous prosecution of people who can't raise a child properly and don't want to have a child so they end a pregnancy when the fetus is only an embryo. This policy causes children to be forced to bear children, and increases risk of serious complications and even death for millions of women. Yeah, real pro-life. (The rationale of their court decisions is barely disguised "we have five or six votes and you don't so suck it"). And here's another example. They claim they're so "moral" and "community minded," supporting "family values." Is it family values to slow walk or outright deny housing assistance to millions who need it, saying effectively to people who are left behind by society, "we don't want you, we won't help you, why not go out on the street and die?"  And they do. I just read that FIVE HUNDRED homeless people have died from exposure in Phoenix (with red state laws and little assistance), just this year. In the United States of America, it is shameful beyond belief that people die from exposure for lack of housing. And their immoral and outrageous refusal to cooperate to address climate change is only making this deplorable and despicable situation worse every year. Don't give me your moralizing, right wingers. I see you for what you are: EVIL. 

19 July 2022

Small opinionated notes on climate and energy effects right now

We had an unusually cool spring and are now having a glorious, warm but not hot (for the most part) summer here in the American coastal northwest. These kinds of summers used to be the norm, but in recent years we've often had more hot, dry weather, enough to cause wildfire storms and raise fears of climate change destroying our natural forest cover. The southwest, including all of California, has been hit harder by these kinds of changes. But this year it is Europe that seems to be suffering the anomalous heat wave like the one we endured last year. Just as we had the highest temperatures ever recorded in June of last year, London, which has kept temperature records for over 350 years, has recorded its highest temperatures ever this week

Meanwhile right wingers in our country mostly continue to deny this is human caused, and, in a related lapse of reason, they tend to blame President Biden for high gas prices. (Which are reflected in world energy prices and inflation that have very little to do with actions of the American president, and to the extent they do they resulted mostly from the collusion with the Saudis that was a hallmark of the Trump administration more than Biden's. They also tend to blame Biden for another cause of global energy and other price surges, namely the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine-- in a remarkable feat of cognitive dysfunction). But they give Biden no credit, of course, for the fact that gas prices in most of the US have actually dropped about 75¢ in the last six weeks. 

We muddle along, preoccupied with the short term, and are failing miserably to do what is necessary to bring about net zero carbon emissions. To the extent the human species is acting to bring this about, it seems to be driven mostly by technology and good ol' fashioned market economics. Technologies to produce renewable energy have emerged, not fully but to an extent. Electric vehicles have become practical and are in high demand. Even without massive government programs, solar energy has become affordable and practical, and people seem to realize more and more that conversion away from natural gas and other fossil fuels is the path forward. There are even some signs that much improved nuclear technology, which has a well deserved reputation for environmental problems and completely infeasible economics, can overcome those issues and be a successful part of the solution; and even research on fusion energy and advanced batteries is showing real promise. The solutions to climate change are technological, but the problems are mostly political. We must be willing to invest, and to pull together politically on a global scale. If we can do that, the problems can pretty clearly be overcome. Big "if." 

Hope springs eternal. We humans do lots and lots of dumb things, but we do have a track record of pulling it together somehow and moving forward before things collapse entirely. Let's hope the people alive today can do that, because pretty obviously we only have about that amount of time left to accomplish what needs to be done. 

15 July 2022

Dirty Secret Service

What is disturbing here, along with news that the Secret Service apparently deliberately (or at least grossly negligently) destroyed critical text message evidence from 1/6, is that it's strongly appearing now that some elements of the Secret Service are PARTIES TO THE TRUMP SEDITION CONSPIRACY. Congress needs to investigate the Secret Service in a major way, and perhaps completely reform it, bottom to top. 

Time to indict the "Hub" (past time!)

Sometimes, when a prosecutor feels "pressure" to indict someone, from the public or political figures, the reason is totally proper: that there is such obvious good cause to do so that he needs to realize that he's been a bit derelict in not having already done it. 

That is the case with Merrick Garland and Trump (plus a few of the "spokes" of the Hub & Spoke conspiracy which Andrew Weissman and Glenn Kirschner have recently explained in detail). 

13 July 2022


I don't worry too much about gluten, which is a wheat protein that some people can't tolerate or believe to be bad for them or whatever. But I do think it's good to minimize starch and eat high protein carbs like chickpeas rather than stuff like white bread. So here's an interesting zero gluten bread substitute that can be served in place of rice or naan with indian food or in place of bread with any meal. Doesn't really make sandwiches, but it's tasty. Rosemary is traditional but garlic and or any herbs can be used. Socca is street food in Marseille and Nice, and is probably a very ancient recipe. It could hardly be simpler. 

Use a flat oven proof skillet or better a circular cast iron griddle. 

Olive Oil
Besan (chickpea flour) 
crumbled rosemary to taste

Mix the water/olive oil in a roughly 1:1 batter, liquid to flour. Use about 1 tbs. olive oil and the rest water. If too thick, add more water. Should be fluid but not runny. About 2/3 of a cup of besan is probably about right for a 10" skillet; experiment with what you like. Add a little salt and pepper to taste if desired. Let stand half an hour or so if you have time. 

Use broiler or preheat oven to at least 450° F. Heat the pan until very hot. Put a bit of oil directly in pan. Pour in batter and sprinkle with herbs. Return to heat and broil or bake for about 7 min. Monitor. It should blister and get crisp edges. The batter will not rise. It's like a pancake. 

Remove from heat, cut in wedges and serve. It should come right out of the pan without sticking if your pan is seasoned. You can put a tiny bit of baking powder in the batter if you want, but it won't make a lot of difference. Another variant is to put in an egg, but this makes more like a besan pancake (which is actually great; you can use besan in place of flour for pancakes or waffles and it works fine). 

Markus and (Lukas) passions of Bach

I've been listening to the Jordi Savall recording of his own reconstruction of Bach's lost Markus passion, BWV 247. It's thought that most of the music in the lost original came from the Trauerode, BWV 198, and there are a number of other cantata sources. So most of the music in the reconstruction is familiar to Bachists from other sources, but some of the recitative is interpolated and composed. The libretto, by Picander, who wrote a lot of Bach's cantata librettos, survives. Anyway, it's sparkling and delightful. Seems rather cheerful for a passion, by and large (unlike both John and Matthew), but it's a very welcome addition to the Bach discography, even though it is a pastiche. I am a Bach nut from way back, so I've heard most of the cantatas several to many times, and recognize, at least "oh, that's familiar," most of the music. 

(The same cannot be said for the Lukas passion, BWV 246. It exists mostly in Bach's own hand, and he did perform it in 1730. But it was obvious to Mendelssohn in the 1830s, and is still obvious to anyone familiar with the music of Bach, that this is not Bach. Not even the 4 part chorales are up to to his standards; none of them. But it's pleasant enough middle of the road 1730 era Lutheran church music-by-an-unknown-contemporary-of-Bach. I have several recordings of Telemann, Buxtehude, etc. cantatas. This finds a place in that milieu, albeit not as good as the best of their music even. (I'd compare it to Zelenka, but as a Catholic heavily influenced by Italian opera, his music is very different). 

There is no more doubt

If anyone still doubts that it was Trump's desire and intention to subvert the election by any means available and seize power notwithstanding what he knew was electoral defeat, consider this, as related by Heather Cox Richardson in her Letter from an American yesterday. (Note that Trump has never repudiated Bannon, and was talking to him on Jan. 5, 2021). 

More and more, witnesses seem to be siding with transparency and the committee rather than with Trump. Today, Dan Friedman of Mother Jones published a tape of Bannon on October 31, 2020, laughing as he explains to a private audience that Trump will "win" in 2020 simply by declaring he won, even if he didn't.

Trump knew that Democratic mail in ballots would show up in the vote totals later than Republican votes cast on election day, "[a]nd Trump's going to take advantage of it," Bannon said. "That's our strategy. He's gonna declare himself a winner…. So when you wake up Wednesday morning, it's going to be a firestorm," he said. "You're going to have antifa, crazy. The media, crazy. The courts are crazy. And Trump's gonna be sitting there mocking, tweeting sh*t out: 'You lose. I'm the winner. I'm the king.'"

And, Bannon continued: "Here's the thing. After then, Trump never has to go to a voter again…. He's gonna say 'F*ck you. How about that?' Because…he's done his last election. Oh, he's going to be off the chain—he's gonna be crazy."

We cannot tolerate this treason

I remember shortly after the January 6 Insurrection Attempt a friend, no Trumper, said something like, "the media is blowing this all out of proportion. It was a riot. Like the riots in Portland." 

We now know that this was no riot, but part of a coordinated attempt by the president of the United States to subvert democracy, intentionally and knowingly nullify an election, and make himself a virtual dictator. Had he succeeded, and he clearly came closer than we realized at the time, it would definitively have meant the end of the constitutional republic founded in 1789 and the beginning of an American dictatorship. The forces that tried to pull this off are still active, and by and large control the Republican party. They are still trying to subvert democracy... and next time they will have learned from 2020 and will not make the same mistakes. With or without Trump himself, the threat is very real, and if you don't see that, I think you are being willfully blind. 

And speaking of willful blindness, I am convinced that the evidence is now overwhelming and the time has come to charge Trump himself and his principal co-conspirators with sedition, seditious conspiracy, and various other crimes related to attempting to subvert the 2020 election. If we do not hold these people accountable, we will lose our democracy, period. I am a patriot... these assholes are not... and I think our loyalty to our country demands that we not accept that these traitors be allowed to get away with this. We must demand that justice be done. 

11 July 2022

First Webb Deep Field image

This first JWST deep field image shows very clearly the phenomenon of gravitational lensing. When I took Astronomy in college years ago this was a theoretical but barely demonstrable phenomenon... the way relativistic effects cause massive objects in the foreground to bend the light from more distant objects, stretching them out and typically splitting the images. The concentric curves of double images of distant galaxies in this image are now typical in the these wonderful images of galaxies, some so far away the light has been traveling towards our location in space for most of the age of the universe. 

09 July 2022

Safety Warning... alcohol can explode in a microwave

 Maybe only I would do something as silly as this, but anyway. I was trying to boil off the 30% alcohol from some vanilla extract (don't tolerate even small amounts of alcohol and what I was using it for wasn't to be cooked). Put about a tbs. in a pyrex shot glass in the microwave for abt 10 sec. Bubbled a little, but still smelled strongly of alcohol. So I put it back for a few more sec. and POW!  Loud explosion. The alcohol literally exploded and most of the liquid simply disappeared, the rest forming a fine mist on the inside of the microwave. The glass didn't even break, and there was no damage, but it was kind of shocking. Won't do that again. 

05 July 2022

What then must we do to end minoritarian rule?

 Thinking about the huge minoritarian, oligarchic challenges that face those Americans... the majority... who favor democracy over oligarchy...I come up against the following as the only feasible way to achieve this goal. 

1.  Gain and keep control of a majority of the House and a Senate with at least 50 senators willing to suspend or end the filibuster to accomplish our goals. Elect a Democrat to the White House. This is a desperate fight to the death. We cannot lose. We must win. 
2.  Pass voting rights, reproductive rights, etc. legislation on a house-on-fire emergency basis. I don't enumerate the agenda because it is well known. The fact that the Supreme Court will try to eviscerate this agenda is not a reason not to proceed... see below. 
3.  "Pack the court." Yes. The hell with it. They've shown every intention and willingness to bend and break norms and rules. There is precedent to change the number of justices. So change it. Give the Democratic president four new seats to fill, immediately. This is clearly the only way to restore legitimacy, meaning some reflection of the actual views and norms of the country as a whole, to the Court. 
4.  The remaining challenges... the electoral college and the minoritarian Senate chief among them... cannot be fixed without Constitutional Amendments, which are impossible in the current climate. The only solution I can come up with is more statesAgain, they have been willing to break every norm and rule to achieve their 50-year plan. We must do so as well. Add DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands. Split New York, California, Oregon, Washington.... wherever it's possible to do it, into multiple states with at least one additional Democratic dominant state extra in each case to increase the overall representation of the majority of the population in the Senate. In some states this will not be possible, but in enough of them it is possible. Abandon any pretense that there is any purpose to this other than to increase Democratic representation in the Senate and gain the ability to amend the Constitution... for the simple reason that there are, in fact, more Democrats in the country, and there should be more Democrats in the Senate and it should be possible to amend the Constitution if a majority of Americans want it. I'm envisioning net 15+ new states, some of which would be comprised of what are now only counties, such as Los Angeles County, which has far more people than several currently existing states, or even cities, such as Seattle Metro, Portland Metro, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, East Bay, Baltimore, Northern Virginia, Buffalo... we have to get creative with traditional geography secondary to achieving a balance of political power with population as the only criterion that really matters. Once this is accomplished, Constitutional amendments to end gerrymandering, ensure rights of privacy, enshrine Constitutional principles of equity and regulatory capacity to protect the environment, end the electoral college, etc. should be enacted immediately. 

If this sounds crazy to you... "oh, we could never do that," then you are with the feckless core of the current Democratic party, and the sad truth is that we have lost these battles time and again and are about to be frozen out of power FOREVER if we don't rise to the challenge. The Republicans did both the court and the state thing once before... in the 1880s they added a whole bunch of low population states in the great plains for precisely the same sort of reasons. Now, it's our turn to remake America so that its governance actually reflects its people. 

Government legitimacy deriving from the consent of the governed

 I have come to see the core message and program that Democrats need to focus on as the simple words of the Declaration of Independence. Our country has lost its way. Our government is SUPPOSED to ensure core rights and that "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...."   But it is no longer working to do this. Of course, it never has, perfectly, but with the present Supreme Court and minoritarian governance structure, it is utterly failing at this. Our core goal as Democrats, articulated and messaged with finesse and virtuosity, must be the restoration as a goal of this principle, and its accomplishment, incrementally but deliberately, over the shortest possible time. We can no longer accept being governed by a minority whose policies and ideology is disfavored by a significant majority of Americans. This is the very kind of tyranny against which the American Revolution was fought. 

04 July 2022

Polling trending Democratic?

Obviously, not any reason to be complacent. We have a huge job to do to try to hold on to the House and gain seats in the Senate. But here at least is a small indication that the polls are beginning to move in our direction. 

01 July 2022

What will it take for Dems to wake up and FIGHT?

So now we hear that the Supreme Star Chamber is accepting a case on election law, to consider whether to turn elections over to the states so that minorities can rule our country forever. What, I wanna know, will it take for Feckless Pearl Clutching Democrats to wake up and realize that this is all out war and that if we don't fight like hell to win the next election, then use the power of the Congress to strip the court of the power to destroy American democracy one way or another, we will, in fact, LOSE OUR DEMOCRACY forever? This is not a game. It is the WHOLE GAME. 

witness tampering

 Apparently the Committee knows who made the veiled threats against Cassidy Hutchinson. I'm sure the Menace himself has insulated himself, but it seems somebody is likely to go to jail for witness tampering. Think about how awful that looks... yet his delusional followers won't even blink. 

Whatever It Takes

Here's what I want to see from any Democrat that asks for my vote. 

1.  State plainly and without equivocation that they will support eliminating the filibuster and passing progressive legislation, and will work to make that happen, no matter what it takes, no matter how hard it is; no excuses, no compromise. 
2.  Similarly state that the unchecked power of the minoritarian Supreme Court as currently constituted is a threat to our democracy, and we will take whatever action is necessary, up to and including modifying the powers of the court and changing its membership through legislation, to rein in that abuse of power. 
3.  State that they understand that the threat to voting rights and the will of the majority is under extreme threat, and that they support doing WHATEVER IS NECESSARY to ensure that the people get to decide who will be president, who will serve in the Senate, and who will serve in the House, through legislative and constitutional change, no matter how hard it is, and no matter how long it takes. 
4.  State that they will do whatever it takes to protect constitutional rights, including reproductive rights and basic privacy rights, against the threat of radical right wing legal assault. 
5.  State that they will do whatever it takes to protect our environment and enact laws to ensure that we do whatever is necessary to avoid the catastrophic effects of Climate Change, in the face of radical right wing power politics.  

The keywords in all of these are WHATEVER IT TAKES