30 November 2022

Democrats must END the debt ceiling NOW

I certainly hope Democrats in the Lame Duck take seriously the insane threats by the American Fascist Party leadership in the House to hold the world economy hostage to their ridiculous demands to cut Social Security and Medicare. And that they promptly pass either an outright forever-repeal of the debt ceiling (preferable) or at least take care of it for as long as possible. It probably comes down to Manchin... again. Hopefully there's something he wants that would be worth letting him have in exchange for his cooperation in not destroying either the world economy or America's signature public retirement benefits. Being held hostage by these abominable excuses for humanity is bad enough, but having one of our own (supposedly) standing in the way of fighting back is just too much. 

The EV paradigm shift continues apace

I'm guessing some of my farflung correspondents are tired of my seeming obsession with what I think of as the "Big Paradigm Shift" in automotive technology and business... towards electric cars. But bear with me. It is crystal clear to everyone involved that the Chinese got out way ahead of the curve on this, and will reap rewards. The US has Tesla, which is poised to increase its market share enormously, but the Chinese have BYD and no fewer than 18 other manufacturers poised to make electric cars that will soon be cheaper than comparable internal combustion cars. This is a solid fact that will be absolutely devastating to the Germans and, especially, all of the Japanese makers, who have simply failed to get themselves ready for the rapidity of this shift. 

But Ford and GM (not so much Stellantis, which owns Chrysler) are working hard, and US policy to discount US built cars, are poised to hold their own. GM just announced it will sell EVs in the near future at parity with ICE cars in price. This is the angle of repose, where the landslide will begin. I think it's now inevitable that makers who cannot be ready for 80% or more sales of EVs by 2030 will be left in the dust. But Ford, GM and Tesla... US based companies, will likely survive and thrive. 

29 November 2022

Conviction of Proud Boys

Some of the more or less nonstop Trump related news seems fairly trivial in perspective, but I do think this conviction of Proud Assholes leader Rhodes and others is a big deal. One more indication that there really still is a good deal of resistance to the ending of democracy in America.  

28 November 2022

Elon Musk threatens to wreck.... Tesla

 There are... possibly wrong... reports that Elon Musk, mad that Google and Apple might "deplatform" Twitter, is threatening to have Tesla make a phone with its own operating system. Look. Tesla is an amazing success. They have dominated the EV market just as the paradigm shift to EVs is beginning to really pick up steam, especially in China and Europe (where Tesla is actually competitive, even in China). But if he thinks associating his businesses with radical right wing libertarianism and, by extension, fairly or not, Trumpism, he is an idiot. He could actually destroy the phenomenal success of Tesla, because there really is such a thing as a boycott, and they can be extremely effective. To tell the truth, I, for one, would already think twice before buying anything from an Elon Musk company, including Tesla. Business and politics don't always play nice together, and he has nothing to gain with this kind of showboating. 

26 November 2022

Alexa as an instance of "AI"... not.

I use an Amazon Alexa (more properly, an "Echo," which is the choice of how I prefer to address it). I know, I know, privacy violation and all that. But here's my impression. If you ask it what level of AI it is it says it doesn't understand the question. If you ask it which is smarter, it or a cockroach, it says, "Hmm. I don't know that." According to various sources on the web, Alexa is an instance of "weak AI." I reject that notion entirely. I ascribe to it no intelligence at all. It is merely a machine capable of executing relatively elaborate algorithms. It has no capability to divine meaning, interpolate or interpret concepts or complex sentences, or do anything other than respond to certain formulaic instructions and questions, and repeat certain information or "content" if adequately identified for it to locate it in a database. I classify this as moderately effective computing, but zero intelligence. I am, in fact, generally very, very skeptical about machine learning and intelligence, and even more skeptical about "machine consciousness," a verbal construction which as near as I can glean corresponds to no actual phenomenon currently in existence on this planet. 

I have my suspicions about whether machine consciousness is even possible, but one thing I am sure of is that the current efforts towards that goal are on entirely the wrong track. Computers do not work like biogenic brains, and so far, anyway, they display no evidence of internal experience or self-awareness. At all. I welcome anyone who can refer me to actual evidence to refute this assertion. 

24 November 2022

Thanksgiving for the preservation of Democracy

Reading this morning Heather Cox Richardson's historical précis of the origins of our November Thanksgiving holiday (in the Civil War, not the Wapanoags and Pilgrims), I'm somewhat cynically prompted to remark that it is only the abysmal ignorance of the likes of Lauren Boebert, Donald Trump, and Marjorie Taylor Greene that cause them not to oppose the celebration of Thanksgiving. Since, in all other respects, they despise the United States and all that it stands for, and no doubt would've been among the traitors who warred against in in the 1860s. 

Still, we can set all that aside and be grateful for many things, not least of which that, by the narrowest of margins, it appears the people of the United States are prepared to defend democracy against those amongst our own people who would gladly bring it to an end. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. 

23 November 2022

Another new technology that promises to help reduce carbon emissions

Not that many people realize that about 8% of civilization's carbon emissions come from the limestone (Calcium Carbonate) used to make concrete. This is another form of fossil carbon.... the atmosphere of the Earth has been saturated with oxygen for well over a billion years, creating a carbon cycle that incorporates what would otherwise be a crushing greenhouse load of atmospheric carbon dioxide in rocks. Venus, an otherwise somewhat similar planet to Earth, did not go this route, and lacks oxidated rocks and has all that carbon in the atmosphere as CO2. Which is why the temperature on the surface is hot enough to melt lead... not because it's closer to the Sun, but mainly because of greenhouse gas. 

So, back to concrete. What can be done? Turns out it is possible to manufacture high quality concrete without releasing the CO2 from fossilized carbon in rocks. The process is still in its infancy, but just as microorganisms such as foraminifera and radiolarians were involved in the creation of carbonate rocks in the first place, it is possible to utilize microorganisms to process carbon from CO2 to produce carbonate, then utilize that as the cement in the manufacture of concrete. It would be energy intensive, but it's at least theoretically possible to make carbon neutral concrete. 

As with many technologies, such as biofuels, it all comes down to energy input. Civilization requires enormous amounts of energy, more per capita by at least an order of magnitude than we use now, to be truly carbon neutral. Solar and wind will never be enough. We will have to develop nuclear fusion or other advanced energy technology to make this work. But, somehow, I have to believe the human race is clever enough to do that. The question is more: are we smart enough to avoid killing ourselves off before we get there? 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

Chinese "bug" EV

 After some delay, and, remarkably, with no serious objections from Volkswagen, the Chinese company Ora is about to start selling its "Cat" (various iterations, including "Good Cat" and "Funky Cat," they lose something in translation) worldwide. Except, not, for now, in the US. This is a 400 km. range 5 passenger sedan that people simply love, and it will sell for under $30,000 without subsidies. And Ora is ramping up to build millions of them. Still think the EV revolution isn't upon us? 

22 November 2022

Supreme Court declines to rule in favor of Trump on tax returns

So, after more than two years, the Treasury Dept. is obligated to turn over the requested tax returns to the Ways & Means Cttee. (Which unfortunately will soon be dissolved in favor of a Republican version). So, my question is, they've had two years to prepare, so why aren't the boxes being delivered to-f*ing*day, thank you very much?  Something tells me that isn't happening.  

Probably shouldn't let on.... but...

Earth to Republicans. Nobody but your most die hard cult followers gives one single shit about Hunter Biden.  

20 November 2022

Barr and Gonzalez think there's a good case against Trump on the Mar a Lago case

I find it very telling that two well known former Republican AGs, Barr and Gonzalez, both of whom were severely criticized for their own compromised conduct, have just opined that the appointment of a Special Counsel was a good move, and that there very much appears to be a fairly straightforward case to be made, particularly on the documents at Mar a Lago. (Neither dismissed the insurrection case, either, but both commented on the obvious truth that that is a much more difficult and complicated case to prosecute).  

19 November 2022

Twitter embraces Traitor Trump

If I had any doubt (didn't), the fact that Musk's Twitter has now allowed the insurrectionist traitor Trump back on the platform is confirmation that I made the right decision to delete my account and banish Twitter from my life forever. 

Demographics favor Democrats. Period.

Ya want a single fact to "take to the bank" as to why the Republicans should be really worried about their future as a national party?  It's this: the highest percentage of voters under 29 voted Democratic in 2022 than in any election in over 50 years, and the highest percentage of them voted period over the same time. First time voters tend to vote again, and more often than not for the same party as the first time. Go figure: Democrats' share of the electorate is increasing; Republicans' is decreasing. The outcome of that process over even a few election cycles, with the electorate even in many "red states" close to evenly divided, is obvious. 

A pack of losers for 24

DeSantis, Christie, Haley, Scott, Cruz, Youngkin, Abbott, Noem, Rubio, and Trump. Sure looks like a pack of losers to me. Our challenge, if Biden chooses not to run again as I've indicated I think he should, is to make sure we come up with a far, far better list, from the point of view of the tiny marginal group of independents who actually decide presidential elections. I think we can.  

Florida man accused of false imprisonment

Gotta say. It's on video. Trump's bodyguard thugs physically prevented people from bailing out on Trump's interminable low energy "announcement" speech at Mar-a-Lardo (which he seems to think will somehow immunize him from having to pay the piper for his crimes). I submit that if Joe Biden's staff tried that, the new House would launch a multimillion dollar investigation into "false imprisonment." Hmm. Come to think of it, that's exactly what it was. Yet another Trump felony. Or at least a tort... I'd love to see one of those folks sue him. 

Further comment on the appointment of a Special Counsel

Once again, we see the just overwhelming hypocrisy of the Right Wing Party in this country, and this (unlike "Trump Cult") includes most of the Republicans in public office. After the almost universally acknowledged abuses of the old Independent Counsel law, which gave us Ken Starr and the absolutely ridiculous endless investigation of the non-story Whitewater followed by endless delving into the personal life of President Clinton, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to the taxpayers and untold damage to the country and its international reputation, both Republicans and Democrats early in this century acquiesced in the sunsetting of that law, replacing it with the current Special Counsel law. The Mueller investigation I think demonstrated the fecklessness of this situation when a partisan Attorney General is in place. But this is different. Here, the use of the Special Counsel law is almost literally bending over backwards to avoid even the slightest suggestion of a conflict of interest when the public record is clearly indicative of the commission of serious crimes. And there is no question of prosecuting a sitting president. Yet they object. Do they really think they would have fared better under the old Independent Counsel law? The current procedure will cost some delay, but will ensure, insofar as is humanly possible, that the completion of investigation and anticipated prosecution of this criminal will be fair. The alternative, clearly, is to simply declare that former kings are above the law and can never be brought to justice. And does anyone seriously believe the Right Wingers would apply that standard to a former Democratic president? I call BS and say, seriously, shut the f* up and let Mr. Smith get on with the job. 

18 November 2022

Special Counsel for Trump Prosecutions

If you're worried about delay and possible "fizzling out" of prosecution of Trump because of today's appointment of a special counsel, watch this. I believe that although at least some delay is unavoidable, Garland really had no choice, and this is the best course to ensure that the law is carried out and the criminal Trump is actually prosecuted, based on the facts and the law, not politics.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p87mljBLXdg 

Free fonts for fun and fantasy

Most people are barely aware of, and care little about, fonts (more properly referred to as typefaces), but to some of us, they are graphic art and make reading either more pleasant or sometimes very much more unpleasant, depending. And this includes screen fonts. Few, for example, change the font on their phone (not sure it's even possible on an iPhone), but I did. I hate simple sans serif fonts like Arial and Helvetica and wish they were never invented. But, anyway. My reason for posting, which unfortunately does not lend itself to demonstration because the font I am using will almost certainly not appear in what you are reading, is to tout an unexpectedly pleasant font. It's free, just google it and install it on your PC (don't know about Mac). Doesn't work on phones. What's odd about it is that it wasn't designed. It's an average. It takes all the well known serif fonts and averages them to produce a sort of consensus font. But I actually like it. It's calle Averia Serif. There is also a more gothic font which is also a nice alternative to sans serif fonts, called Averia Gruesa Libre. If you like fonts, try them. 

#RIPTwitter

Not exactly a stunningly original observation, but anyway: Elon Musk may be a really smart businessman when it comes to creating enterprises that actually build advanced technology, like electric cars 15 years ago (he's built the biggest electric car company in the world and electric cars are about to wipe out the internal combustion industry)... and amazing reusable rockets. You can't just joke these accomplishments off. But as a manager of people, and in particular social media, his ineptness appears to be epochal. After spending $44 billion, not all his own money, to buy Twitter, there is serious discussion of the possibility that his management since the sale went through has killed a company whose only real value was its social functionality, maintained by its people. He has shown no respect or understanding of that, and the possibility that Twitter will simply implode and cease to exist entirely is actually a real danger for them. For me, I do not care. I used Twitter very little, and objected strongly to his plans to remove reasonable controls against abuse, so I canceled my account and removed the app and links to it from my devices. And many millions of other people did the same. Trending now: #RIPTwitter. We shall see. Likely there's enough momentum to bring it back from the brink, but wow, what a debacle. 

17 November 2022

Jeffries considered almost certain to take on Leadership role for Democrats in the House

With Nancy Pelosi's announcement she will not seek re-election for the leadership post, it's widely anticipated that Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) will be more or less "acclaimed" as Democratic House Leader, which means he will likely be Speaker eventually. I can't pretend to intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of party leadership, his skills at negotiating with members, etc., but I've heard him commenting on various issues over the last several years and I respect and admire his intellect, grasp of issues and political realities, and concern for core Democratic principles. In short, as a Democrat, I'm happy to see him step into the leadership role. It's time to pass the torch, and while Pelosi has certainly shown great skill and ability, it seems like it's definitely time for this change. And this is someone who can, I hope and believe, appeal to the more centrist and the more Progressive Democrats alike, and help prepare for the time when we once again have the ability to promote and pass major legislation. Because to my thinking, it is a given that the Republicans will almost certainly fail, since they have no real policy agenda at all. And, as Lincoln famously (supposedly) said, you can't fool all the people all the time. 

16 November 2022

Consequences of extremely thin Republican Majority in the House

Question for the collective mind: if, as appears likely, the Republicans hold the majority in the House with only one or two votes to spare, what are the chances of cross-party defections, deaths, forced resignations due to corruption convictions, or other events to actually change the majority back to D before the 2024 presidential election? I would advise Nancy P to continue exercising with a spare gavel just in case. 

Of course similar events conceivably could actually widen the gap and make the R majority larger, but there will be at least some pressure on the NY moderates, for example, and possibly one or two others, to consider shifting parties; pressure which will not have much of a counterpart the other way around. 
 

No red wave, but. . .

Somehow I didn't expect the debacle most seem to have expected. I listened to people like Simon Rosenberg and Tom Bonier, who said the polls, especially the polling aggregates like Fivethirtyeight, were being systematically skewed by junk polls like Trafalgar and Rasmussen, and that the early vote actually indicated a strong showing for Democrats. So for me, the results were a bit disappointing, because I honestly thought we had a decent chance of holding onto the House. Which, in fact, we did (have a decent chance), but the chips fell a bit short. Especially in New York. 

So it is with great pleasure that I read that, more than a week after the election, it is finally clear that my hero Katie Porter (D-CA) won re-election to her seat from Orange County, California. 

Donald Trump as a disease

You often hear Donald Trump and his cult following analogized to a "cancer" on the Body Politic. (The latter term itself a rather blunt, cliché metaphor with its origins in Spinoza and Hobbes). I think the metaphor of a serious but not necessarily fatal infection is more apt. We have tried various remedies, and none have completely cured the disease, although they do appear to have weakened it and perhaps reduced the probability of fatality. But even in this analogy there is a place for radical surgery... to excise the necrotic tissue that is Donald Trump himself. Whoa! I am not advocating assassination. But I am saying that this man needs to be prosecuted for his provable crimes to the full extent of the law, and as as expeditiously as possible. Because a nation that does not enforce its laws against the highest profile criminals, who thumb their nose at its ability to reach them, cannot last. 

15 November 2022

Lock him up

 Since the Jan. 6 committee will cease to exist December 31 (almost for sure)(hopefully with its job taken up by a new Senate Committee in a 51 seat majority Democratic Senate)... I want to see the Lame Duck House refer Trump for Criminal Contempt for blowing off a Congressional subpoena and failing to attend his deposition today. I then hope to see the DOJ add it to the lengthening list of crimes for which Trump will be prosecuted expeditiously in the coming months. It cannot be overstated how important it is to clearly show the nation that no one, including no former president, is above the law. 

51 seat majority DOES matter

For anyone who doesn't realize why it's very important to have 51, and not merely 50, seats in the Senate (in other words, why Warnock's runoff is so important), see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DXoAnzqx0M 

14 November 2022

Status of the House a long shot for Democrats, will "definitely" come down to California

With the OR 5th district now conceded to the Republicans (chagrin!), this LA Times piece about the NINE still undecided races in California is particularly telling. There is the slimmest of chances for a Democratic majority in the House, and it's all down to California. 


There is of course no remaining chance for a real working majority in the Senate, so the miracle result of actual improvement in our legislative position overall which I secretly hoped for and thought might actually happen is out of reach. There is even an argument, advanced rather halfheartedly by Josh Marshall of talkingpointsmemo.com, that Democrats would be better off without a House majority at this point, because otherwise they will be blamed for everything that doesn't get done due to obstruction in the Senate, and may be more likely to lose in 02024. I don't buy that, but it probably won't matter, because this really is the slimmest of reeds.   

13 November 2022

And Cortez Masto makes it... at least... 50

As crappy as it is likely to turn out to be to have the legislative branch divided between the Constitutional Party (aka Democratic Party) and the Authoritarian Party, the control, even 50/50, of the Senate is, in Biden's phrase, a Big F*ing Deal. If only because McConnell will not be majority leader and will be unable to prevent the appointment of many, many non-insane Federal judges. There are other things, too, for example, at least in theory the Senate could take over the Jan. 6 investigation. And it's still at least remotely possible we will have, or later gain, House control. But this alone is something to really celebrate. 
 
 

11 November 2022

New York and Florida! WTF!

What the hell happened in New York and Florida this election? In 02000 Gore and Bush were within a few hundred votes; now, 22 years later, DeSantis beat Crist by almost 20 points! What happened to Florida? And, thanks to that complete scum Cuomo and his conniving with Republicans to gerrymander New York, we have probably lost the House. Where everywhere else, almost (one other anomaly being my district, which pisses me off), close races went to Democrats, in New York, apart from the governorship, Republicans did much better than in, for example, neighboring Pennsylvania. 

Democrats have a lot of work to do before 02024 to make sure that every Democratic vote turns out, and we overcome these structural problems. Since MAGA is clearly very unpopular, and the Republicans have no policy platform at all, this should be doable. We should defy conventional wisdom again and win the 02024 elections thoroughly and systematically. 

Why I think Biden should not run for re-election

In the primaries in 02016* I was a Bernie guy. But, like easily 90% of us, maybe more, I voted for, and contributed to, Clinton's campaign. Of f*ing course. In retrospect, I wish I'd done more, as I have done in elections since, but the blame for her loss, in my view rests squarely on three main factors: social media algorithms, with included Russian interference (the latter frequently overstressed, in my view) which combined grossly distorted information many voters received; the ridiculous and unlawful manipulation of the FBI investigation communication by Comey; and, probably most important, Clinton's own failure to connect with working class voters in the heartland. Democratic overconfidence is another factor, which has now, if anything, swung all the way to lack of confidence being a big negative, but I think that is actually not as significant. We almost won, and the main reason we didn't was that Clinton was actually not the right candidate. I know many people disagree with that, but that's my view. Of course, Trump was unpredictable, but we have to focus on our side of the street... assume the worst from them and you won't be disappointed. 

In 02020 I supported Elizabeth Warren during the primary season. But, again, once it was clear the nominee was going to be Biden, I supported him as best I could, including donating what was a lot of money, for me, to his campaign. With both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, in 2020, I had a significant concern, which was only slightly less in the case of Warren. And that is that these folks are all too old to have begun a two-term presidency in 02021. Not legally, maybe not even in terms of basic competency. But it's just not a good idea to elect someone, and attempt to re-elect them, when they will be in their mid-80s before their term is up. If this is ageist, so be it. I think it is merely pragmatic. We should be looking to younger leaders to be our candidates for president next time around. And this alone is sufficient reason, in my view, to want 02024 to be that "next time."

In addition, Biden's approval is at 41%. The charges of "cognitive decline" are overstated to the point of outrageous slander, but the fact remains that, with circumstances, his age, his demeanour, his fairly lackluster speaking style, and his inability (even if not his fault) to bring his party into functioning as a legislative juggernaut despite having, just barely, a majority in both Houses, all point to a presidency that, at best, can be called a mixed bag. I think he is much better than many feared, but he is not the best candidate to lead us forward. History is moving at an accelerated clip these days. We cannot wait and hope for the best by trying to re-elect Biden. And Biden should see this, and voluntarily, even enthusiastically, make way for a new generation of leadership, this time

I am a progressive. Progressive wing of the Democratic Party. But our party is unified, by and large. I would support most any Democrat (not Sinema, Manchin, Menendez (who is a crook), or anyone in their cohort, which would include my former congressman, Kurt Schrader, for example). Hell, I would no doubt vote even for them, but enthusiasm, zip. And if Joe Biden ends up running in 02024, which seems likely, I will, of f*ing course, support him. But. But. 

I think Joe Biden should decide and announce now, or soon, that he does not intend to run for a second term. He should not endorse anyone to replace him, and should give a short, dignified speech saying that he thinks for the good of the nation and Democratic electoral prospects, he wants to concentrate all of his efforts on navigating the difficult waters of (likely) divided government, doing the very best job possible for the American people, and assisting in setting up the agenda and program for major policy reforms if we are successful in electing an efficient and committed Senate, House, and Presidency, in 02024. Which will be his goal, and the goal of every committed Democrat, to actually achieve the ability to enact the policies and programs that the majority of the American people clearly want and need. 

I honestly believe that this is the best way, the optimal way, to make that outcome as likely as possible, and that Joe Biden will be remembered as an important and accomplished president who paved the way for a Democratic wave and new progressive era. 


-----
* I am adopting the "Long Now Foundation" idea of putting a leading zero before the year, to emphasize that we are stewards of a vast future, and that we should keep it in mind at all times. longnow.org


Multnomah County (Oregon) report: gas stoves are hazardous to your health

 Purely anecdotal, and there could be other causes, of course, but I have definitely noticed a "breathing easier" improvement in my respiratory health since moving to Portland's SE suburbs into a house with an electric stove. 

  

10 November 2022

Beginning my campaign

.... for a lame duck wallapalooza of legislation, principal among which must be permanently eliminating the debt ceiling (a dumb idea to begin with), to take away the ability of the Republican monsters to hold the entire world economy hostage for their deeply, deeply unpopular agenda. It's amazing how many Americans vote for fascists who intend to enact policies that huge majorities oppose. The conclusion is inescapable that most people just don't grasp how representative democracy works and how you have to vote if you want something even vaguely resembling your own views to prevail.  

Nissan, Toyota, Subaru EVs? Better rethink that.

Just in case you were thinking you'll wait for the Toyota or Subaru EV (same car, essentially) or get a Leaf, out of brand loyalty to Toyota, Subaru or Nissan, take note. EV international expert Sam Evans ("the Electric Viking") has disclosed test results that show: 

1. The new Leaf is ok, but subpar in range and important features such as battery temperature control and advanced infotainment, for the price.
2. The BZ4 Toyota and Subaru Solterra (same car) fails utterly to live up to its advertised range, and, for the price, is basically a rip-off. (Also, Toyota is whining that it cannot make the car at a profit and will therefore only make as many as it has to to be compliant with laws... a "compliance car.")

Subaru is no doubt really sorry they decided not to make their own electric vehicles... because it's probably too late to save the brand. That's how fast this paradigm shift is occurring. 


The cases against Trump, notwithstanding politics

There is a rational argument that slow walking the prosecution of Trump, by, say, appointing a Special Counsel to handle all the Federal cases against him, might actually benefit Democrats in 2024. By preventing the Republicans from shifting the blame to Democrats for indicting the cult leader, but at the same time keeping him tied up in various long-dragging legal woes. (Maybe then proceeding to nail the bastard once and for all in December, 2024?) From a purely political-strategic point of view, this could actually be the best course of action. I think the election results demonstrate that Trump is now very probably a liability to the American Fascist Party (so-called Republican party) for 2024. But, as Glenn Kirschner likes to say, Justice Matters!.... so I oppose this idea (which has actually been floated as a trial balloon). The most legally sound procedure based on the facts and the law, and given that quite a lot of time has passed since the optimal time to appoint a Special Prosecutor, if there ever was one, is to simply proceed to indict him for each and every crime where there appears to be a very good case for conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. And since the great majority of reputable former federal prosecutors who've weighed in on this have concluded that just the public record alone is enough to convict him of several very serious felonies, this should now move forward with all deliberate speed. 

Chagrin in Oregon's 5th District

I am chagrined about the election in the congressional district I live in. The control of the House is very close, although it's now accepted that the Rs have it nationally. But it's very unsettling that my district is one of the flips, apparently. They haven't called it yet, and it's theoretically possible for the Democrat, Jamie McLeod Skinner, to win, but at this point it has to be considered unlikely. The SE sector of the district, which is Bend, and the northern 1/3 of it (Oregon City, Clackamas (where I live), part of Milwaukie, Gladstone, some of "the road to Damascus," an unincorporated but largely residential area east of here) are Democratic, but the rest, in the middle, is all R and some of it is real "Trump country." There is more than a point separating the two candidates and the Repub. Chavez DeRemer is ahead. So, in all likelihood, she will win, and the supporters of defeated former Blue Dog Congressman Kurt Schrader will all say we should've voted for him, he would've won. And, much as I hate to admit it, it's possible they're right.  I just hate this winner take all / calculate the margins pseudo-democracy we have in this country. We know there is a better way, because quite a few countries already have it (proportional representation, automatic runoff, etc.) 

This means, by the way, that Oregon's representation will  have gone from 4 Ds and 1 R to 4 Ds and 2 Rs, which is not an improvement, obviously. (Oregon picked up another House seat in the 2020 census, at California's expense). 

04 November 2022

DOJ cold feet?

I sure as hell hope reports of leaks from DOJ to the effect that they're biting their nails over whether they should indict Trump in the Mar a Lago case (and/or the Insurrection case?) because of... well, political considerations... are untrue or at least merely reports of ordinary consideration of the posture and strategy. Because significant weight given to political considerations is just not the way it's supposed to work. If they have a strong case by the standard applied to any other citizen, they must proceed. And if they don't, then there had better be some pretty weird-ass evidence we don't know about, because in both cases many former respected DOJ prosecutors have agreed the public record already constitutes a pretty solid case. 

Clarence Thomas must go

Heather Cox Richardson summarizes facts relating to the Eastman documents that were leaked to the press ... by Eastman's stupid lawyers who left a live dropbox link in a public document. Seems Eastman, who clerked for Clarence Thomas, not only communicated with Thomas's wife, Virginia Thomas, about an illegal coup involving fraudulent election schemes, he also conspired with her and with others to try to get a faked-up petition "of some sort" before Clarence Thomas, who would be expected to rule in their favor, in order to get "the Georgia legislature in gear" to, pretty explicitly, overturn the actual vote of the people of Georgia and try to throw the election to the House. Where, under archaic and undemocratic rules, Trump would simply win by fiat despite losing the election popularly by 7 million votes nationwide. 

This is not merely disgraceful. It is not merely conspiracy to defraud the United States by Eastman and others. And it is not merely grounds for recusal or even merely an ethical violation on the part of Thomas (if he could be inferred to have known about it). With that same caveat, scienter... meaning he knew about it and didn't report it or recuse himself from the related documents case, this is a dead bang impeachment case against Thomas. 

We are maybe going into a dark period. But, as Glenn Kirchner likes to say, "Justice Matters." We cannot allow this to simply slide along as business as usual. One way or the other Clarence Thomas must be removed from the Supreme Court. The man has no ethics, no respect for democracy, and no fealty to the Constitution. If that's not "bad behavior," which is all it takes under the Constitution, I do not know what possibly could be unless he were to just take a gun out while in session and shoot one of the lawyers or something. 

03 November 2022

A poem for our music club

Our music club of old timer Portlanders usually begins with a whimsical verse by one our member, Jim A., but he will be out tomorrow so I had to come up with a substitute. Since the only poetry I've ever written is, well, rather personal, I chanced on this, and I think it's appropriate for the day. 
«
If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones—nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi's stream:
—This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name—the still small voice vibrating—America's choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadrennial choosing),
The stretch of North and South arous'd—sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's): the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.

»

[Election Day, November, 1884]   • Walt Whitman  (1819-1892

Widely reported that Trump will "almost certainly" run in 2024

Shortly before I retired in 2014, I said to one of the secretaries in our office, a Jamaican American who had just opined that Donald Trump was going to be elected president in the near future, "Well, I can tell you right now. Donald Trump will never be president of the United States."

Obviously, my ability to predict the depths of depravity to which the electorate might sink in this country was not up to snuff. 

But I just cannot grasp how it is possible that Donald Trump will be able to run again. It seems very likely he will have to either settle or face trial in the NY lawsuit that threatens to unpend his fraud... I mean business... and he will very likely be indicted in at least two pretty serious criminal matters, those being the interference in the Georgia election and the Mar a Lago documents case. In both of those, conclusive evidence against him is already a matter of record. And the Insurrection case and the criminal case which should have... and still might... grow out of the same evidence as the NY civil case are also potentially extremely dangerous for the Don. Even if the midterms go badly for Democrats, it strains belief that a criminal with those kinds of legal trouble could run for and win the White House. Never before in American history would such of thing be given even a moment's consideration as a possibility. But... well, we are living in strange times indeed. You simply cannot rule out anything. 

I will say this, and it's hardly a novel notion: if Trump is elected to a second term (with hiatus, which is not unprecedented)... American democracy will be over and done with. We can not recover from the damage he would almost certainly do if put in that position. 

So, whatever happens next week, if you care a fig for the United States of America, you will do everything you possibly can to ensure that never happens. 

Biden's remarks on preserving democracy.... bear repeating

Last night, President Biden gave a speech on the precarious state of our democracy, starting with a description of the attack on Paul Pelosi. He reminded us that the words of the attacker,  "Where's Nancy?", echoed the words used on January 6, 2021, words "used by the mob when they stormed the United States Capitol ... when they broke windows, kicked in the doors, brutally attacked law enforcement, roamed the corridors hunting for officials and erected gallows to hang ... Mike Pence." The crowd had been fomented by Donald Trump's repeating the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen; the lie that "fueled the dangerous rise in political violence and voter intimidation over the past two years."

Biden said Americans must "confront those lies with the truth," for "the very future of our nation depends on it. ... We must, with one overwhelming unified voice, speak as a country and say there's no place... no place for voter intimidation or political violence in America. Whether it's directed at Democrats or Republicans. No place, period. No place ever."

As Biden said, democracy itself is at stake in this election. He appealed "to all Americans, regardless of party, to meet this moment of national and generational importance." Democracy is not guaranteed, as Biden made explicit, echoing Lincoln: "Every generation has had to defend it, protect it, preserve it, choose it. For that's what democracy is. It's a choice, a decision of the people, by the people, and for the people."

"We the people must decide whether we will have fair and free elections and every vote counts. We the people must decide whether we're going to sustain a republic, where reality's accepted, the law is obeyed, and your vote is truly sacred. We the people must decide whether the rule of law will prevail or whether we will allow the dark forces and thirst for power put ahead of the principles that have long guided us."

Farflung friends: Please, please, please vote, and make sure everyone you know or care about is voting. Drive them to the polls. Harangue and harass them. Nag them and cajole them. (But don't bribe them, that's illegal). 

Thanks and may democracy prevail. 

Electric Car Paradigm Shift Redux

If anyone is unclear on the fact that the electric vehicle paradigm shift is ALREADY well underway and that legacy automakers, especially Nissan, Toyota and the Stellantis (Fiat/Peugeot/Chrysler) group, which have failed to prepare to make all EVs very soon are going to lose out hugely or even go out of business, consider these facts. 

1.  Only BYD (China) and Tesla are currently able to make EVs at a profit. But battery costs are decreasing according to something akin to Moore's law, so EVs will be the only profitable products for automakers in the near future. Everyone knows this, except for those auto executives suffering from paradigm blindness, who seem to be in charge at Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Stellantis, and a few other companies (although not so much Ford and GM, anymore, to their credit). 
2.  Only EVs are able to backlog hundreds of thousands of orders for cars before they even go on sale. Many ICE cars' sales are anemic at best. 
3.  Tesla can make $10-15,000 on a car, where Toyota or VW, when you factor in warranty and recall costs, barely break even. 
4.  Nissan has posted a loss 2 years running and Toyota, hanging on to the title as the world's biggest automaker by the slenderest of threads, just posted a 2022 3Q LOSS in North America. In both cases, it is largely because they are continuing to produce cars no one wants to buy. 

Companies that have not already prepared to manufacture mostly or entirely EVs within 5 years are going to lose market share massively, and some of them will not survive. It's like the Wild West, like the early 1920s, a total paradigm shift. In 2030 the largest automaker in the world will likely be either BYD or Tesla, companies that did not even exist 20 years ago. 

02 November 2022

Popular Vote Election

As I see it, we in the US will never return to the kind of acceptance of the electoral process as fully legitimate we once enjoyed until we adopt some form of the National Popular Vote for president. In case you are not aware of it, google this phrase and read about how this could be accomplished without a Constitutional Amendment. Clearly there is spillover: people (of both parties) feel (as opposed to rationally conclude) that the vote is unfair, and I think it's largely because it is inherently unfair. The majority does not elect the president. And this affects their view of all elections. It even has an effect in other countries (Jair Bolsonaro apparently is accepting defeat in Brazil, but he has not conceded or congratulated his opponent; the parallel with Trump is all too clear). Ironically, since the late 19th century this has only happened in the presidential election twice. And both times it was the Democrat who won the popular vote but was not the winner in the Electoral College. In 2020 Biden won the popular vote (it wasn't even particularly close), and the electoral college. But Trump fairly won the electoral college in 2016 despite losing the popular vote by more than 3 million votes, many in California. (The second time was 2000; Al Gore won the popular vote handily but lost the Electoral College). This wholesale illegitimacy affects the psychology of the minority party, too, and, ironically, it is they who seem to be rejecting the very idea of democracy by and large. 

The National Popular Vote Compact would go a long way to fixing this, on the presidential level. The inequity of Senatorial elections will have to wait until some fine future day when beneficial amendments to the Constitution again become possible. And then, an even better fix to the presidential electoral process is obvious:  At the quadrennial election, the candidate who receives 50% +1 vote nationally is elected. State boundaries have no bearing; the Electoral College is abolished. If no candidate receives this margin, a runoff occurs two weeks later between the top 2. (Alternatively, there could be ranked choice). 

If this were adopted, I believe the faith and credit the people put in elections in general would also be restored. 

01 November 2022

Boycotting Twitter

After his insane conspiracy theory nonsense about the Pelosi attack, I have decided to boycott Elon Musk's Twitter. Wasn't much of a user anyway, but I've deleted the link. If his $44B ends up having been spent on a platform no one uses anymore, it will have been deserved. 

The crucible... will American democracy survive?

Steve Bannon says Bolsonaro "can't leave office" after losing the election in Brazil. (Bolsonaro himself has said nothing, and some of his allies have accepted Lula da Silva's victory, so I guess that means Brazil is more democratic than the US, since our former guy, with Bannon's help, did not do that). Does anyone honestly believe Bannon has information, or any cause to believe, that the Brazilian election was anything but essentially fair? It was close. But counting votes actually isn't all that hard, and other advanced countries which have a fundamental respect for the rule of law do it all the time. Almost 2% in an election of millions of votes isn't that close, and a forensic analysis would assign essentially 100% to the validity of the outcome. It was indeed much closer than the 2020 presidential election here. So what is Bannon, the quintessential Trumper, actually saying? Simple. They don't believe in elections. They believe in their power. Elections are useful for idiots who believe in them, when they win. If they don't win, roll out the Big Lie, because power is everything

This is not American. Those who support this are traitors to our country. Simple as that. 

Rachel Maddow (who, whether you like her or not, is a patriot), said yesterday that this election, "top to bottom" is about whether we will still have elections, and democracy, or not. And "not" is force and violence. The kind of force and violence, like the attempted kidnapping of Nancy Pelosi and attempted murder of her husband, committed by a Trumpist lunatic, that people like the absolutely disgusting Kari Lake (Trump candidate for Governor of Arizona) thought was real funny. The same Kari Lake who, when asked if she would accept the results of the election were she to lose, refused to say she would. She kept saying, I will respect the results when I win

I say again, this is not American. It's just not. Not all Republicans think like this. But the de facto leader of their party, the increasingly deranged Donald Trump, does, and his rallygoers are now openly embracing the absolutely insane and out and out fascistic QAnon conspiracy. (Trump's podium is now emblazoned with the QAnon slogan "WWG1WGA," which I refuse to even explain (look it up), and he speaks over the creepy fascist song they all swoon over). 

If you believe in prayer, pray for our country. If you don't, please, please do everything you can to ensure everyone you know who believes in fairness, in democracy, in the Constitution, as a guiding principle, hell, just in civil order and the rule of law, actually votes next week. Because a whole hell of a lot is at stake. It's not primarily about policy, although of course there's a lot to say about that, too. It's about whether the winners of elections take office; whether there is any honesty or rules of the road to our government. The very continued existence of America as a republic is being threatened. 

If you think this is hyperbole, or hysteria, I'm sorry, you are just not paying enough attention. Political violence has increased over 100% since Trump was dragged kicking and screaming from the White House after losing the election. Over half the candidates in his party openly endorse the Big Lie and refuse to acknowledge the validity of our electoral process. If you are familiar with historical precedents, such as Italy in 1921 or Germany in 1933, the parallels are absolutely terrifying. Wake up, my friends. It is time to take this threat very, very seriously indeed, because if we lose the civil order and orderly transition of power our foreparents fought for so fundamentally, there will be an enormous amount of pain and death before it can ever be recovered.