30 August 2022

Tax Credits and EVs not assembled in North America

I already own a Kia Niro EV and a Kia Niro PHEV (plug in hybrid), so this doesn't affect me directly, but the Korean manufacturers are big losers in the new tax credit regime. Their vehicles are assembled in Korea, so after the first of next year, they will not qualify. This includes the popular new Kia EV6 and the Hyundai Ioniq 5. Both Kia and Hyundai have major plans to convert to almost all EVs more quickly than most manufacturers, so having a big dent taken out of North American sales will affect them very negatively. I would imagine that Hyundai Group will be considering opening an assembly plant somewhere in the Western US, because they already have a big market share here, but this is no doubt a big blow to their plans. Toyota will have to manufacture its late-to-the-party EVs here too to qualify, and as I understand it their initial products were to be built in Japan, so that's an issue for them as well. Not sure about Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler (or Stellantis, which is also late to the party), but if any of them want to build or maintain a big share of the US market, they're going to have to deal with this. Same with Nissan. Mazda has produced probably the worst EV on the market, which they can barely give away, so they won't really be a player until they produce a much better product anyway. 

The main charge against the Failed Former President

I doubt I'm in that small of a minority in thinking that, bad as it is, and as worthy of prosecution under all reasonable precedents and interpretations of the statutes, the Mar a Lago classified document case is far less serious and damaging to our democracy than the failed former president's suborning of sedition and insurrection. Which the evidence put before the public by the Jan. 6 committee quite thoroughly established to be a very strong case for criminal prosecution (as well as various structural reforms which are the committee's main concern). Not that it's one or the other. But we should not lose sight of the fact that this lunatic grifter felon tried very seriously to undermine an election and forestall the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in the history of this country, including deliberately inciting insurrection and violence. And he came perilously close to succeeding, despite a certain keystone kops amateurism on the part of his accomplices. This is the main charge against him. And we should assume that the DOJ has even more evidence than the committee did from which to pursue a prosecution. I can only hope that the various distractions and (in my view misguided) "prudential" considerations don't derail this necessary process to hold the most dangerous and criminal president in American history accountable in ways that are unprecedented precisely and only because the crimes he committed are so very unprecedented and extreme. 

26 August 2022

William MacAskill: What We Owe the Future (highly recommended)

Reading What We Owe the Future by practical moral philosopher William MacAskill. Only read the first couple of chapters, but already I can safely say: I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The premise is that the lives of future human beings (I would add "and their sentient successors") are worthy of significant consideration. And, thing is, there are two really important corollaries: 1. We are at a juncture in history where what we do will affect the longest-term potential of humanity more than at any other time in the future, and most of the past. 2. The future of humanity is, potentially, almost inconceivably greater in all measures (population, space, time, lifetime, scope of movement and capacity of thought).... than its past or present. If you realize that these points are all irrefutably true, you can't escape the conclusion that we owe a pretty damn significant duty not to blow it for them, and, we are blowing it. Bad. But it's not all doom and gloom. Actually, the "practical" part is why I admire this guy's writing and ideas more than a lot of other people who write about the future. 

24 August 2022

Recent encouraging electoral development

Perhaps the most encouraging trend indicator in recent weeks is the poll numbers showing that the biggest segment in a question about the most important issue to voters (21%) selected "threats to our democracy." I suppose there are a few mental defectives among Trump true believers who somehow think Democrats are the threat, but my guess is that essentially all of those who think this is the biggest issue perceive the threat as coming from the Trump Cult essentially exclusively. This fear, which people see in voter suppression and manipulation of electoral politics to deny voting rights to as many people as possible, ties in with the increasingly penetrating perception that the Trump Republican party is bound and determined to reduce rights, especially reproductive rights, and do nothing about gun violence. These are all issues on which the Democratic party clearly comes down on the side of the views of a significant majority of the electorate, while the Trump Republican party is completely out of step. Personality, and cult leader status, is enormously powerful, but ultimately, core issues matter, too, and I think it's becoming increasingly clear that a lot of people who voted for Trump but who are not cult followers have had about enough, and are starting to realize that the Republicans offer them nothing but chaos and more narcissistic flailing around by their increasingly mentally unstable leader. There is a tipping point to these things, and I think we may have just passed it. 

Missed my chance

Like many of us horrified by the direction the US has taken, I have toyed with the idea that we might need to take refuge somewhere. My aunt always told me that as the grandchild of a natural born Swiss, I could acquire citizenship without having to go through the usual naturalization process. Come to find out I missed my chance. That was true, but they changed the law in 2017 so it only applies to the first generation. Oh well, can't afford to live in Switzerland anyway. But I would probably have been one of the most distant-in-time applicants, as my grandfather, Richard, whom I don't remember at all (he died in 1958), was born in 1889 in the small town of Kriens, near Luzern. (His father, Jost, emigrated to the US in 1892; he was born in 1849. My ancestors all tended to marry late and have few children, on both sides).  

23 August 2022

Technological Paradigm shifts underway right now

There are often brief periods of time in the history of technology during which major paradigm shifts occur. Such as the switch from wind to oil for ship propulsion, the adoption of steam power earlier than that and internal combustion after, the sudden introduction of power generation, radio, telephony, television... many others. I think we may be in the midst of several interrelated and enormous paradigm shifts right now:  1) the rapid changeover to electric propulsion for cars, buses, trucks; 2) the development of all new batteries like the promising graphene/aluminum battery being developed in Australia that if its lab performance pans out will mean low-pollution batteries made from abundant materials (rather than rare strategic metals) that charge 70% faster and hold 3x as much energy as current batteries; and 3) new reactor and battery technology that will transform our power grids to make virtually all power and energy usage ultimately electric; some from wind and solar, some from hydro (including more advanced hydro that doesn't require new dams), and some from new, advanced nuclear technology that produces minimal waste with much shorter storage times. These changes could essentially resolve our climate goals and provide abundant clean energy. 

The last thirty years have been mostly an era of rapid change in information technology, but it looks like more basic energy production and storage technology is now undergoing rather sudden and transformative change... and if so, just in time. 

Our #1 technological, environmental and economic problem: upgrading the electric grid ASAP

Years ago my uncle and his wife, who were then acting as consultants to industry and academia doing research on critical issues involving technology and economic impacts, did a study regarding the future of electric vehicles in California. This was in the 90s, and it was not at all clear that technologies that led to GM's EV1 would ever yield a practical electric car. As a non-scientist but the son of an engineer and a reasonably scientifically literate person, I was skeptical of their optimistic conclusions. The rubric oft repeated at the time, that there was no way that a multi-step energy conversion: power plant > grid > converter > inverter > battery > electric motor would end up being practical, or, more importantly, more efficient than directly burning a high-energy fuel in the car's ICE (internal combustion engine). After all, then, and for the most part, still, the electricity was generated from fossil fuels in the first place. There would be little or no climate impact. 

But I was wrong. Even then. The problem then was batteries, and range, but the overall process is so much more efficient than burning highly refined gasoline that a policy of incentives and mandates to move us more quickly to replace our ICE fleet with other forms of transport with EVs playing a central role was fully justifiable even then. Since then, with the invention of practical modular Li-ion batteries and other promising technologies, EVs have become not only quite practical, but their many advantages are winning them more and more converts. (I love my EV, even more than my plug-in hybrid, which I only bought because the charging network remains inadequate). 

So, where are we now? Sadly, not in a real good place. EVs are wonderful. They are simply superior in every way to ICE vehicles, and with reductions in battery costs, they are already cheaper to operate over the life of the vehicle. And vehicles with actually greater range than comparable ICE vehicles are just about to start appearing on the market. So, what's the issue? 

The problem, of course, is the grid. We simply do not have the capacity in this country to quickly ramp up near total conversion to electric cars, trucks and buses. We could have, had we listened to forward thinking people like my uncle and his wife. But we haven't. So now we have all these political problems but we also have a huge challenge to build out something on the order of 50% more electrical capacity in this country just as quickly as is humanly possible, since we have so much dithering around to make up for. Of course it's not just transportation. We have to stop using natural gas to heat and cool interior spaces, and essentially convert all energy usage to electricity. Even aircraft, for which there may be other solutions, will have to fly using fuel made from air and biomass... an easy chemical trick, but it requires massive amounts of power. Same with the water crisis. The earth is 70% covered with water. The problem is that the natural processes to create fresh water are insufficient in the face of climate change. But we can make fresh water from seawater or other less pristine water sources, the key, again is massive amounts of power. 

I also used to oppose nuclear power, for pretty good reasons; the cost and safety were just not that great (actually especially the cost; nuclear reactor technology has improved so that if there were new plants, especially fail safe liquid fluoride thorium or even uranium low-pressure reactors, they could be made modular, factory-buildable and safer than coal or even wind). But we now have to pull out all the stops. A massive TVA like program to build more clean power, hydro, wind, solar, and nuclear, everywhere, on a crash equivalent-of-war mobilization basis. It is the only way to achieve net zero carbon in time for best projections on climate change without making drastic and unacceptable cuts in energy consumption. 

Donald Trump and his BS are not what's important. This is what's important... and our political leaders need to get this through their heads and start pushing for this now. 

Accountability is truly essential at this point

Look, I'm not a "National Security" fetishist. Far from it. But, seriously. Does anyone believe for a single second that if anyone not commanding the fearmongering among politicos throughout the land that Donald Trump does was caught with 300 f*ing classified documents, some highest secret, in his golf club apartments, even after several attempts to negotiate an offramp, would not face having the book thrown at him and several years in prison? Really. Imagine if it had been Obama (never would happen, but just hypothetically). Or even someone like W.? Only a demagogue whom the authorities actually fear could ever get away with this, not to mention the several other dead-to-rights felonies this menace committed. I am continually reminded of O.J., who had the same kind of mentality:  What I do isn't wrong, so I didn't do that... it's you... you're making it up to persecute me. 

I'll just put it starkly: if we don't hold this guy accountable, the precedent for fraud and insurrection being successful strategies will be established, and, probably sooner but certainly later, our democracy will fail completely as a direct result. I really don't think there's any room for debate on this point. I wish we could just set this aside and get on with dealing with the very real and serious environmental, economic, and technological problems our country faces, but we can't just sweep it under the rug. There must be a reckoning. 

20 August 2022

I just ordered an Aptera super efficient EV for delivery in a few years.

I just put $100 down (refundable) on this new electric car from Carlsbad, CA. They expect to begin producing them at a rate of about 80 cars a day starting in 2023. They already have about 27,000 pre-orders, so do the math. Won't be available for a while. It's in "gamma prototype" stage right now. Here are features (variable, these are what I selected). Total price $30,400.  (Eligible for some govt. rebate, although it only has 3 wheels so it's considered a motorcycle). 400 mile range. 40 mile daily charge from sunlight (weather varies, but even in rain you get some). So for ordinary city driving, no charging needed. Seats 2. Has enough capacity for short trips luggage, groceries, etc. Gets the equivalent of about 450 mpg, but since a lot of the driving is solar charged, it's actually even more. Extremely aerodynamic, quite fast, comfortable and eye catching, to say the least. I figure, what the hell, $100 is a small risk, and if they don't go completely belly up (possible of course) and I decide not to go through with it, I can get it refunded. 


19 August 2022

What about the House?

The Punditariat seems to agree that the Democrats are now likely to retain the Senate, and even gain seats. But what about the House? I want to know where the inflection points, which seats are winnable, what is the best way to help ensure we retain the House? Any suggestions most welcome. 

18 August 2022

Lying Liars of the Out Nout Fascists on the IRS

Dare we hope that people like Joe Scarborough are right that spineless creeps like Kevin McCarthy telling their lunatic followers that "an army 87,000 Biden IRS agents" are coming for middle class voters "with AR-15s" to "hunt down and kill middle class tax payers" are going several steps too far. Scaring people actually usually isn't a good way to win elections. And even people who suffer from Trumpism (a mental illness that should go into the DSM-V) are unlikely to believe this excrement. 

I hope needless to point out to anyone, the recent reconciliation provisions with regard to the IRS do no more, and actually slightly less, than restore funding to 2011 levels, which will allow somewhere around that number of employees, almost none of them actual agents, to be replaced after retirement and other departures. Job slots which Republican-passed drastic cuts had caused to be left vacant. That and a little more money for physical costs of operation are the "army" the Lying Liars of the Out Nout Fascist Party are misrepresenting to the American People. Since in fact, estimates are that many billions of dollars of revenue are left uncollected due to grossly inadequate IRS staffing, which would return something like $20 for every $1 spent, these provisions are, in fact and obviously, long overdue. 

Some of us have had just about enough of these lies. 


14 August 2022

Molten fluoride thorium reactors as a component of the "solution"

 You may or may not find this guy annoying, but the content of this video is pretty interesting. The history of the AEC refusing to build safer Thorium reactors is all but incomprehensible. Other sources indicate that Thorium will not likely be more than a small segment of the carbon neutral energy picture to emerge, but we need EVERY option in order to get through this time until we have the technology to produce energy from fusion or other more advanced technologies at some point in the future. 

Can support for deeply unpopular policy ideas sink the GOP?

It seems the policies of the Republicans are hugely out of step with the majority of Americans in yet another major respect. Almost all of them nowadays talk openly of essentially ending Social Security. If that isn't enough to take the blinders off a good number of voters' eyes, I honestly can't think what would be. I am truly fearful that the rush to full-on fascism may be unstoppable. But deeply unpopular changes in laws that negatively affect almost everyones' lives could be what does it. 

Once again, though, Democratic messaging needs to be greatly improved. They talk about "removing it from mandatory spending" and "Congress reauthorizing spending." But what they mean is first deep cuts, then elimination through phony privatization. There is a close parallel. The Pinochet government in the 1970s in Chile did exactly that to Chile's social security system. We all remember when George W Bush tried this, and it was one of the things (in addition to an increasingly unpopular foreign war) that sunk his presidency and allowed Democrats to regain legislative power. The situation today is different, but not entirely so. 

13 August 2022

Democratic Messaging and not getting caught up in Republican talking points

 I think this analysis by Josh Marshall is probably right on. https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/into-the-storm-4 
All the bloviating about the raid, the likely crimes involved, whether Trump will be prosecuted, etc. is going to have minimal effect on the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election. Virtually no one who opposed or was just a little sick of Trump before the search warrant will change their mind, and the same goes for Trump's hard core supporters and party cult followers, who will find some way to rationalize "it's all OK." In fact, to the extent there was any significant effect from the week's events, it was to take away attention from the signal achievement of the Democrats legislatively, the "rump Build Back Better" bill, which they're calling the "Inflation Reduction Act." But that will have some legs. Democrats need to really up their messaging game, but now, at least, they have something really substantial to point to that will directly benefit millions of potential Independents and wobbly Democrats to vote Democratic in November and in '24. And, here's the point: the Republicans don't. They voted 100% against this bill and are obstructing absolutely everything that would benefit ordinary people. Democrats can point to a near total record of obstruction and elitism on their side. Our message with regard to Trump should be derision and dismissal... point out that he did nothing for his supporters and now all he cares about is keeping his sorry ass out of jail and collecting hundreds of millions in contributions that seem to always somehow end up in his pockets. Trump the Grifter and the Party of Doing Nothing for Anyone but the Superrich. That should be the message. Don't be fooled! They want you to believe the people who protected America from election fraud are the threat, but they are lying, just the way they are lying about what they will do for ordinary people. Which is nothing. Only Democrats have voted for legislation that actually helps the economy and brings real benefit to ordinary people. If we can stick to this message, we will win. 

Rubisco and Climate Change

Serious question, to which I have no idea of the answer. 

Thanks mostly to the extremely ancient enzyme Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (rubisco), plants convert atmospheric CO2 and water to organic molecules and oxygen, but not particularly efficiently. There is already serious research into modifying rubisco to create an artificial enzyme that does this much more efficiently, potentially purely chemically. (I.e., in a manufacturing plant rather than a plant-plant). Could this technology actually work to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere on a huge scale and be a significant part of the solution to global climate change? 


Possibly not the most thrilling video, but it's important. Intel is a major employer in Oregon and its health as a competitive chip builder is of crucial importance to the US economy.

12 August 2022

The state of Trump accountability and why it matters

 I think we have to acknowledge that although there is a very important and strong principle that no one is above the law, it is also true that there is automatically a suspicion when a former leader is prosecuted that politics is involved. Because, especially in most countries where the separation of the judicial/law enforcement aspects of government from the political apparatus is not very strong, this actually is usually the case. We have a special set of circumstances here, though. There is strong, not merely credible, but strong evidence that the former president engaged in a multi-pronged conspiracy to stay in power notwithstanding having lost the election by a significant margin. This is sedition, and attempting to rally crowds to violently storm the Capitol is insurrection. By any reasonable definition. The documents illegally removed to Mar a Lago is more of a sideshow. But as some wag said, don't mess with archivists if you know what's good for you. The thing about this set of facts is that it's pretty cut and dried. It's illegal to remove any documents and the Presidential Records Act requires retention of everything. But it's much worse than that. There is credible (even, reportedly, overwhelming) evidence that among the documents retained arrogantly even after Trump was told he shouldn't have them and couldn't keep them were high level classified documents. Documents whose very existence is classified. Whether they are truly important to national security is not easily knowable but, legally, it doesn't matter. This is a clear cut crime, one that others in the past have been harshly punished for (Sandy Berger, as a recent example). It could well turn out that, like Al Capone and tax evasion, everyone knows that Trump was guilty of a serious attempt to undermine the continuity of democratic government, the most serious imaginable crime for a leader of a democratic country short of outright seizure of power and mass executions. But it may be the more technical crime he was too arrogant not to be careful about that he is held accountable for. (That, and his civil troubles, which it's still possible could result in state criminal charges in New York. And don't forget the Georgia case Fani Willis is pursuing... that, too, may be so clearly established by hard evidence that he cannot skate). The verdict of history is clear, but it seems to me, finally, that there may be some actual judicial verdicts in Trump's future. He still has a core of fanatic followers, far from a majority, but if events can be so managed that he has no chance to put his "electoral coup" Version 2.0 into operation in 2024, I think we can probably escape the worst and eventually well and truly arrive at a post Trump era with the basic institutions of our government intact. 

I know some folks will insist, oh, it wasn't really that bad. It was a riot. It was Keystone Kops with no chance to succeed. They would all do it if they could, etc. etc. But it's just not true. 2020 was unique in our history of transfer of power through elections. No president in our past has actually tried to completely subvert an election and stay in power despite having lost (1876 was closer  to 2000 than 2020, and not really analogous). It is the kind of thing that if it were successful once, the continuity of the existence of our constitutional democracy would be at an end. And at that point, who knows? The climate of philosophy and political thought that allowed the American Revolution to take place in the late 18th century is long gone. I am not at all sure that anything even vaguely resembling a real, functioning republic would ever arise again in this land if once it were well and truly ended. 

Hope springs eternal. 

11 August 2022

I support Democrat Gluesenkamp Perez in Washington 3

I am laser focused on House races this year, since I regard retaining the House, uphill as it supposedly is, as crucial. Nearby, on the other side of the Columbia River from Portland, is Washington 3, where a somewhat less extreme Republican, Herrera Beutler, who actually voted to impeach Trump the second time, has been defeated in the Repug. primary by an out and out Big Lie Trumpist, Joe Kent. I deem this to be a winnable seat, so I just contributed $50 to the Democratic Candidate, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. 

Please join me in supporting Marie Gluesenkamp Perez via @actblue https://secure.actblue.com/donate/mgp We simply must defeat enough Trump cult followers to retain the House in November!

McLeod Skinner for Congress ---Oregon 5th District

I'm contributing $50 to the campaign of the candidate to replace Blue Dog Kurt Schrader as the Democratic representative of my congressional district in Oregon  (OR-5), Jamie McLeod Skinner. 

Jamie McLeod-Skinner is a true Democrat who will fight for us in Congress and help Democrats retain the House. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/jms-fr-2208

DOJ and the Fake Electors Schemes

It doth appear from reports that the DOJ is taking a real interest in the Fake Electors Scheme, especially in Pennsylvania. I regard this as second only in seriousness to the actual coordination of a physical attack on the Capitol, which came fairly close to actual violence against elected officials, with the coordination and encouragement of their cult leader. People like to make light of and laugh at these attempts, but they were serious, and they actually might have worked if things had been just a bit closer in some states so that it was a little more plausible. You have to realize that even now most Republicans think just denying the outcome of an election and substituting right wing electors is just fine... power politics, we would do it too if we could (which just is not true; look at Al Gore in 2000 for contrast). I honestly believe everyone directly involved in the Fake Electors scheme is guilty of sedition and should rot in jail. Franklin said a Republic if we can keep it. Well, the only way to keep it is to respond decisively to insurrection and sedition... by which I mean the willful refusal by a political faction to accept the outcome of lawful elections and willingness to commit crimes to install a non-elected leadership in power. This is how fascism usually gets started; the classic paradigm being the election of Hitler as a minority chancellor in 1933, once in power, they never let go of it, simply dispensing with inconvenient little bureaucratic niceties like elections

10 August 2022

Why I've concluded that SETI is a waste of time

After years of initial enthusiasm followed by gradually declining interest in their endeavors, I have reached the conclusion that classic SETI efforts (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence by means of searching for radio signals) is almost certainly a waste of time. Why? Because, at least limiting the answer to "close enough to here that there is any realistic prospect of even one-way communication," I have to reluctantly agree with the British evolutionary biologist Simon Conway Morris: the reason we don't see any evidence of Extraterrestrials is pretty simple. There aren't any. 

Conway Morris is a theist, but he is a scientist first. And he points out, correctly, that people have been looking for a long time not only for signals, but for telltale signs of the existence of advanced technology that should be detectable. (Not least in the fossil record, which would reveal any long past visitations of our planet, which has, after all, had advanced life on its surface for more than half a billion years). In the case of hypothetical very advanced civilizations (such as were famously discussed by the Russian theorist Kardashev some years ago), such telltales should be detectable even over moderate intergalactic distances. But nothing of the sort has been unequivocally identified, despite many years and considerable devoted effort at observation. 

The simplest (Occam's Razor) explanation is that advanced civilizations are just not common. Maybe so uncommon that in the entire observable universe (which is constrained by observable time as well as space), there simply aren't any to be observed. Even if we, as a sapient living species, are not unique, this thinking goes, we are certainly very, very rare, and we are not likely to encounter evidence of counterparts at any time in the near future, even at considerable remove.

All of which leads to the very reasonable inference that we humans, as a cosmically rare instance of the phenomenon usually referred to as sapience, have an enormous responsibility to steward the life on our planet so as to preserve our own existence, so that in the future we and the life of our planet can flourish and even spread life and civilization through space, no matter what the technological constraints. Already we know that this may be difficult, but it is not, almost certainly, impossible. But it will be impossible if we are extinct.  

Stellantis' Citroën C5 X

• For those of my correspondents who're interested in cars, especially electric cars.  This pic is the Citroën C5 X, just released. Probably Citroën's last gas powered new car, but it is also available as a plug in hybrid. It will be replaced in 2025 with an upgrade (already planned) which will introduce a pure EV version. As a Citroën, they have no plans to release this car in North America. 

PSA (Peugeot) bought out Fiat Chrysler last year, and the company is now called Stellantis. They also own Citroën. So a version of this car may be sold in the US eventually either as a Peugeot (which as a brand will be reintroduced to the US after more than 50 years) ...or as a Chrysler or Dodge. Or both. Fiat Chrysler had been notably behind the times on developing EVs, but this is now changing. Stellantis, like GM, has announced intention to convert their entire fleet of passenger cars to EV only by around 2030. This is a step forward on the climate front. 

What's interesting is that most Citroëns are now built not in France but in Spain. This one, however, to be sold only in Europe and Asia, was designed in Europe but is being 100% built in China. It's a new world, automotively. 


It seems illustrative of a serious cognitive divide in our country that one entire party, and a good chunk of the other, realizes that Donald Trump very likely committed several serious crimes, one of which is pretty straightforward. Namely, it is a FELONY to possess, destroy or remove government records, especially classified records. Trump, in his monumental arrogance, and among many other criminal acts but let's just stick to this one, did exactly all three of these things. Credible evidence indicates that among the documents removed from the white house are sensitive and classified documents the very existence of which is classified. Anyone taking these would be charged with a crime. When Sandy Berger took a few pages from the archives to use while writing a book, he was prosecuted and went to jail. So why, when a Federal Magistrate has found probable cause not just to subpena records but actually issue a search warrant for documents Trump pretty clearly illegally removed from the White House, the loyalists in the Republican Party melt down, is pretty hard to explain. The evidence before the public is credible. What Trump did is a crime (again, among many others). Why do these people think that the wheels of justice aren't going to operate just because he's their cult leader? Seriously, it takes some real mental gymnastics to arrive at any halfway reasonable explanation for this. It has nothing to do with schadenfreude or retaliation. Wray is a Republican. Most of the judges and many line employees at Justice are very conservative people. They are not practicing politics. They are doing their job. A crime has been committed and they are looking into what needs to be done, including prosecuting the wrongdoers. 

08 August 2022

Climate Change Bill

I don't like calling the now thrice pared-down budget reconciliation omnibus (my term) the "Inflation Reduction Act," even though the politics is pretty obvious for using that term. What it is, beaten down, bickered over, reduced by over half from original conception, and counterproductive components and all, is the most important climate change reparative measure passed by any government ever, and just as time is beginning to run out. Cynicism be damned, this is an important achievement and Democrats, NOT Republicans, deserve all the credit for it. 

07 August 2022

Letter from an American: the huge difference between Democratic and Republican politics

 A longish quote from H C Richardson's Letter from an American today (the name of her column is supposed to be reminiscent of de Tocqueville). Usually she takes Sunday off, but this is kind of a historic day, and her comments illustrate beautifully how now matter that there are some bad actors among Democrats and the party is hardly a paragon either of effectiveness or principle, the difference between the Protofascist Republicans and the ordinary political party, the Democrats, is like night and day. Not only are the only real opposition to the erosion of democratic institutions and the impetus to hold those who would have committed a coup accountable both housed entirely in the Democratic party, the Democrats have actually gotten a few ordinary policy things worth doing done. Despite headwinds and a very negative political climate (including some virtually completely uncooperative elements in our own party).  

     Republicans used [the so-called budget reconciliation process] to pass their own signature measure in December 2017: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This law cut the corporate tax rate from about 35% to 21% with the now-traditional Republican expectation that such a cut would spur economic growth, although the Congressional Budget Office estimated the measure would add about $2 trillion to the national debt over ten years. The Tax and Jobs Act did not increase employment or wages as the Republicans expected; those actually dipped slightly as corporations used the tax cuts primarily to buy back their stock, making it more valuable. That measure was the signature piece of legislation during the Trump administration. 
     In contrast, in the past 18 months, Democrats have rebuilt the economy after the pandemic shattered it, invested in technology and science, expanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to stand against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, eliminated al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, pulled troops out of Afghanistan, passed the first gun safety law in almost 30 years, put a Black woman on the Supreme Court, reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, addressed the needs of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, and invested in our roads, bridges, and manufacturing. And for much of this program, they have managed to attract Republican votes.
    Now they are turning to lowering the cost of prescription drugs—long a priority—and tackling climate change, all while lowering the deficit. 
     Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne noted accurately today that what these measures do is far more than the sum of their parts. They show Americans that democracy is messy and slow but that it works, and it works for them. Since he took office, this has been President Joe Biden's argument: he would head off the global drive toward authoritarianism by showing that democracy is still the best system of government out there.
     At a time when authoritarians are trying to demonstrate that democracies cannot function nearly as effectively as the rule of an elite few, he is proving them wrong. 
     This is a very big deal indeed.

05 August 2022


First performance of Portland's new OrpheusPDX chamber opera company: L'Orfeo (Favola in Musica) (1607)  by Monteverdi. Stunning and wonderful, if a little quirky. At PSU's Lincoln Hall August 4. 

Alex Jones punitive damages verdict

Wow. The jury just awarded $45 MILLION in punitive damages in just one of the defamation cases against royal scumbag Alex Jones. Schadenfreude triumphans!

Mandela Barnes for US Senate (Wisconsin)

Three of the four Democratic primary candidates in Wisconsin have suspended their campaigns, making Mandela Barnes the certain candidate to oppose Ron Johnson in November. This is generally considered one of the better shots at a pick up Senate seat for our party. I just kicked in $50 to the Barnes campaign. 

Mandela Barnes can beat Ron Johnson and flip Wisconsin Blue. Join me in donating! https://secure.actblue.com/donate/mandela-ads-gs-dtd-launch

Even many former Republicans, like Charlie Sykes, are supporting Barnes, because Johnson is just so, so bad. A full on supporter of the big lie and slow-roll fascist insurrection that the Republican Party has become. The House is critical, but so is the Senate. Please help ensure a working Senate majority for the second half of Biden's term!

Thank you for any help you can give in this endeavor. A hell of a lot is at stake, as we all know.

04 August 2022

Hannah Arendt and the role of lies in authoritarian rule

When I was about 13 years old, my mother had gone back to school to get a Masters in Political Science. And she read Hannah Arendt's classic tome The Origins of Totalitarianism. I remember my mother trying to explain Arendt's thesis to me, and it affected my thinking to this day. I'm reminded of this, reading Heather Cox Richardson yesterday talking about the Trump insurgency and the way they handled lies and propaganda. This is not incidental. It is CORE to the way authoritarians rule. Here's what she said about what Arendt wrote: «that the lies of an authoritarian were designed not to persuade people, but to organize them into a mass movement. Followers would "believe everything and nothing," Arendt wrote, "think that everything was possible and that nothing was true." "The ideal subject" for such a dictator, Arendt wrote, was not those who were committed to an ideology, but rather "people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction…and the distinction between true and false…no longer exist."»

We progressives, and even centrists who believe in fundamental democracy, we children of the Enlightenment who persist in thinking that reason and persuasion are going to be useful political tools in the resistance to American fascism that will be a part of our lives for a long time (at best)... we need to remember this and keep it forefront in our thinking at all times. 


03 August 2022

Windfall oil profits tax... obvious move

Why do we have to hear a call for a windfall profits tax on oil companies from UN Sec. Gen. António Guterres instead of from Democratic politicians in our own country? (He didn't use the term, but it's what he described in a recent speech). This seems to me an obvious response to the gross profit taking the oil companies have engaged in as a result of the tight oil markets worldwide. I remember when we had oil shocks in the past the idea was floated, and even enacted in a weak form in 1980. But nary a peep about it, even from the likes of Elizabeth Warren... at least not that I've heard of.  

02 August 2022

Assassination as a tool of foreign policy

I dunno. Call me impractical or old fashioned or whatever. But I cannot celebrate the assassination of Al Zawahiri. A horrible guy, terrible actor, war criminal, no doubt. But nothing good comes from the US CIA appointing itself judge jury and executioner and committing assassinations. It is supposedly illegal, but the US does it all the time. If we are going to have red lines, laws governing our own actions, then we need to follow them. Otherwise they mean nothing. And a law against assassination as a tool of foreign policy is necessary and right, even if sometimes it make efficient actions that may be on the whole beneficial beyond the scope of what's allowed. So, others may be crediting Biden and the administration for this, but not me. Certainly not because this guy didn't deserve it... I'm sure he did. But because WE are just not supposed to do that; it's a really, really bad idea and creates more blowback than people realize. And it violates the core principle of our laws that we do not administratively decide guilt and kill people without trial. The only exception should be declared wars, although that hasn't been the case for a long, long time, maybe ever.