Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Road Map from Jesse Jackson

Jamelle Bouie's article in Slate got me to thinking about how we build a stronger Democratic Party at this juncture in history. In recent campaigns, most politicians have built laundry lists of issues where each issue has an appeal to some subgroup of the voting population. But what they haven't done is make it clear how all those issues support one another and how all the subgroups need to support one another to get their particular issues addressed. The successful candidate must take seemingly disparate progressive agendas and knit them into a whole picture that include all of his or her constituents.It's like sewing a quilt in that each scrap of cloth is not really useful in itself. Yet when securely sewn together, all those scraps make up something extremely useful and even beautiful.
Candidates at each jurisdictional level should make a clear-eyed assessment of the needs and interests of their voters. Then they must make the case that in order for that variety of needs to be satisfied, all the various groups have things in common around which they can unite. Business is good when workers have the wages to buy things. Schools are good when the community takes the time and resources to support the children and the system that provides that education. People feel more secure when law enforcement has earned their respect. The institution of democracy is stronger for everyone when a few very wealthy people don't have the power to dominate campaigns and the crafting of legislation.

Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 4

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Monday, November 28, 2016

This is Pro-Life


I believe that to be part of the battle in favor of life from the moment of conception until a dignified, natural death This includes the care of the mother during pregnancy, the existence of laws protecting the mother postpartum, and the need to ensure that children receive enough food, as well as providing health care throughout the whole length of life, and taking good care of our grandparents, and not resorting to euthanasia. Nor should we perpetrate a kind of killing through insufficient food or a nonexistent or deficient education, which are ways of depriving a person of a full life. If there is a conception for us to respect, there is a life for us to care for. --Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis)
I just want to add that if you are going to be "pro-life", don't just do part of it. Be pro-life all the way and you will have my respect.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Environmental Good News

Amongst all the bad environmental news lately, here's a piece of good news. It seems that declining mercury emissions have resulted in a decline in the mercury concentration in tuna. Contrary to some opinions, it seems that environmental regulations actually work.

Wicked weeds may be agricultural angels

Getting it right in agriculture. This article talks about how having a few weeds mixed in with your otherwise monoculture field can help control pests.

12 Notes From A Political Autopsy

Here are some good notes for measuring our progress forward.
The short version is below. Read the article for a fuller explanation of each point.
  1. The people aren’t the problem.
  2. Even when you’ve been cheated, there can be room for improvement.
  3. Don’t pretend you didn’t lose.
  4. Accept responsibility.
  5. It’s not about settling scores. It’s about changing the game.
  6. Trade was decisive.
  7. Some people got it right.
  8. Bigotry and economic fear aren’t mutually exclusive.
  9. It’s hard to win the votes of people you dislike.
  10. The Democratic Party needs a “Democracy Spring.”
  11. The left isn’t the enemy. It’s the future.
  12. This is the call-up.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Can we meet global energy demands with nuclear power?

An international team of scientists suggests that we must ramp up energy production by nuclear power if we are to succeed in warding off the worst effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change. The team suggests that beginning in 2020 we could achieve an annual electricity output of 20 terawatts without needing to develop carbon dioxide trapping and storage technology for the tens of billions of tons of emissions that would otherwise drive global warming to catastrophic levels.

Problems with the Press

The press was played by Donald. The question is, what are they going to do about it? Are they going to continue to normalize him? Or are they going to take the focus off ratings just a bit and point out the unprecedented threat he is to the way our democracy works?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Krugman: The Long Haul

Paul Krugman looks ahead:

The true awfulness of Trump will become apparent over time. Bad things will happen, and he will be clueless about how to respond; if you want a parallel, think about how Katrina revealed the hollowness of the Bush administration, and multiply by a hundred. And his promises to bring back the good old days will eventually be revealed as the lies they are.


But it probably won’t happen in a year. So the effort to reclaim American decency is going to have to have staying power; we need to build the case, organize, create the framework. And, of course, never forget who is right.

It’s going to be a long time in the wilderness, and it’s going to be awful. If I sound calm and philosophical, I’m not — like everyone who cares, I’m frazzled, sleepless, depressed. But we need to be stalwart.

LAPD and Deportation

The LAPD plans to continue its existing policy of not participating with ICE in any immigration enforcement. It isn't a political statement, it's just good policing. You can't fight crime when victims are too afraid to talk to the authorities. Sometimes you have to decide what has the higher priority, protecting a vulnerable population or making them more vulnerable to criminals because they themselves might be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hypocrisy Lives Here

It's OK to expose the Secretary of States's email but don't don't try to find out how much Pence wasted on a lawsuit that didn't involve Indiana. It's the Pence double standard.

What Democrats should do about the Supreme Court.

Dahlia Lithwick is just pissed.

His 100 Days

For reference, here's a summary of what has been promised for the first 100 days.
  1. Term Limits
  2. Federal Hiring Freeze
  3. Two regulations removed for every regulation added
  4. Five-year waiting period for officials becoming lobbyists
  5. Lifetime ban for former White House officials lobbying for foreign governments
  6. Complete ban for foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections
  7. Renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA
  8. Withdraw from TPP
  9. Label China as a currency manipulator
  10. Identify foreign trading abuses that affect American workers and eliminate them
  11. Open production of oil, natural gas, and "clean" coal.
  12. Lift roadblocks on pipelines
  13. Cancel support of UN climate change projects and us money on American infrastructure
  14. Cancel all "unconstitutional" executive actions
  15. Replace Scalia
  16. Cancel federal funding going to Sanctuary Cities
  17. Deport 2 million "criminal" undocumented immigrants
  18. Suspend immigration from "terror-prone" areas. Vetting so extreme that no one can pass through it
  19. Tax gift to the rich and corporations
  20. Magical revenue neutral infrastructure development
  21. Redirect public education funding to private schools
  22. Repeal ACA and loosen approval requirements for drugs
  23. Enact a deduction for child care and elder care
  24. Build the wall, put illegal immigrants in prison. Remove foreign workers from the labor force
  25. Poor money into law enforcement to stop a non-existent surge in crime
  26. Remove requester on defense spending. Magically protect infrastructure from hacking. Only people who like America can immigrate
  27. Ethics reform. Magically drain the swamp while leaving the stinkiest  denizen in the White House.

Pick your poison and pick your activism target.

Even Paul Ryan disagrees with the coming administration. Likewise with Kevin McCarthy.

We will see how this goes. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pop the Bubble

There are parts of the country that get forgotten. The people who live there 
don't see the country like the rest of us.
When you grow up in rural America, denying rights to people is an abstract concept. Denying marriage rights to gay people isn't that much different that denying boarding rights to Klingons.
We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.

We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Liquid fuel from CO2 in the air

Given how bad our atmosphere is likely to get, there could be a great deal of use for this.

Young Aussie inventor builds a better Band-Aid dispenser

On a lighter note, why didn't anyone do this sooner? A 10-year-old figures out how to dispense Band-Aids with one hand. Hopefully, coming to a drug store and medical facilities near you.

Now What?

Krugman:
First of all, it’s always important to remember that elections determine who has the power, not who has the truth. The stunning upset doesn’t mean that the alt-right is correct to view nonwhites as inferior, that voodoo economics works, whatever. And you have to hold to the truth as best you see it, even if it suffers political defeat.
That said, does it make sense on a personal level to keep struggling after this kind of blow? Why not give up on trying to save the world, and just look out for yourself and those close to you? Quietism does have its appeal. Admission: I spent a lot of today listening to music, working out, reading a novel, basically taking a vacation in my head. You can’t help feeling tired and frustrated after this kind of setback.
But eventually one has to go back to standing for what you believe in. It’s going to be a much harder, longer road than I imagined, and maybe it ends in irreversible defeat, if nothing else from runaway climate change. But I couldn’t live with myself if I just gave up. And I hope others will feel the same.

Scott Walker's Law Crushing Unions Helped Trump

Daniel Marans looks at how the loss of unity in labor set the stage.
Workers who turn on their peers must realize they are next in line to get steamrolled...

Sadlowski, who now represents public-sector workers in northwest Illinois, warns workers who were looking for answers by voting for Trump that Trump will betray the workers who trusted him as well.

Just as the seeds for this debacle were sown at the state and local levels, the recovery must be done there as well. We need to be sure we fight the real enemies, not each other. 

Mourn. Then Organize.

Peter Dreier:

This is no time for liberals and progressives, Bernie supporters and Clinton followers, to point fingers. This is a time for cooperation and strategizing. Unions, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, the NAACP, community organizing groups, LGBT activists, and wealthy progressives have to collaborate. They need to raise the money, hundreds of millions of dollars, to send an army of paid organizers to key swing states and House districts now. We can’t just parachute organizers into swing states a few months before the next election. We need to build and expand the base by getting ordinary people organized around local and nation issues. We need to ramp up protest and civil disobedience to stop Trump’s initiatives. And we need to register voters so they’ll be “fired up and ready go” for the mid-term elections in two years and the presidential election in 2020.
We need to lay the foundation for Democrats to take back the Congress in 2018, and then elect Elizabeth Warren president in 2020.
Mourn our losses. Then organize.

George Takei's Advice For How To Prevail

  1. We may not have prevailed, but we must not despair.
  2. This does not feel like the America you love and honor. We are in unchartered waters.
  3. In times like these we must reaffirm the values we cherish and have fought for: equality, justice, the care of our planet.
  4. We must stand up defiantly to any dark or divisive acts, and look out for the most vulnerable among us. It is more important than ever.
  5. Within our hearts we know the society we wish to live in. No one can take that vision from us. We are each of us keepers of that promise.
  6. This country has seen wars and grave injustices, slavery and even civil war in its past. Yet we found our way through. We will now, too.
  7. Hold your loved ones close. Tell them that it is in times of sadness and in the toughest of days where we often find our true mettle.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Forget Canada. Stay and Fight for American Democracy.

Never in my lifetime has the United States seen a period of darkness like the one that lies ahead of us. But we have seen periods of darkness before — segregation, McCarthyism, the internment of the Japanese, the Civil War, slavery. The American story is fitful progress punctuated by frequent reversals, some of which appeared at the time like they would last forever. None of them did.
The Trump years will be a horror. When I set out to write my long story in the magazine about Trumpism and the future of the Republican Party, I originally intended to focus on the immediate possibilities that lay before the Republican Party if it could capture full control of Washington. As this scenario grew less likely, I gave it less emphasis, but it is there. The Republicans will pass massive regressive tax cuts; they will take access to medical care from the poor and sick; they will deregulate the financial industry and fossil-fuel emitters.

And that is just the beginning, the best-case scenario. Trump is an impulsive, egotistical bully, intolerant of criticism and dissent and drawn to the ruthless application of power. Many liberals have been warning that American democracy is far weaker than we believed, and this was before any of us imagined a monster like Trump commanding the Executive branch. Trump will shake the Republic to its foundations.
I do not believe that the people who elected Trump will be helped by his program in any way. Trump avoided policy specifics to a comical degree. His health-care plan is “something terrific” that will take care of everybody at no cost to anybody. His wall paid for by Mexico is not even a punch line — it is a symbol of his supporters’ fascistic willingness to subordinate all critical faculties and endorse an obvious absurdity. What he will do is sign a quick succession of donor-driven laws written by Paul Ryan whose authentic support is confined to a trivial proportion of the party outside its big-money wing. To whatever extent people voted for Trump for reasons other than racial and cultural resentment, Trump will do nothing for them. He is a buffoon surrounded by a party apparatus that is unable to govern, as the Republican elite demonstrated during the George W. Bush era, and that has grown worse. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Selective Outrage

It should be noted that the voter fraud Republicans are so afraid of is not only vanishingly rare but is very difficult to do. They don't seem to care because the processes to prevent this rare fraud also make it more difficult for folks who tend to vote for Democrats to vote at all.

But the kind of voter fraud that is easy to do (with absentee and mail-in ballots) tends to occur with folks who tend to vote Republican. So once again we see that the true motivation about "voter fraud" is nothing more than an attempt to win an election that you can't win fair and square. They should be ashamed of themselves, but I guess that is asking too much. 

Democrats' Shot at Taking the House

An analyst has a key indicator.
Geoffrey Skelley, who closely tracks congressional races at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, suggests there’s a crude shorthand for evaluating the battle for the House: Look to see if Clinton can beat Trump by 6 points or more in the presidential race. If that happens, Skelley projects 50 seats would be in play.
And recent polls show that she may be doing better than that. 

Grow Your Own Liver

We may be getting quite close to being able to grow a functional new liver from skin cells

"Based on the success in my lab generating tissue-engineered intestine and other cell types, we hypothesized that by modifying the protocol used to generate intestine, we would be able to develop liver organoid units that could generate functional tissue-engineered liver when transplanted," said Tracy C. Grikscheit, MD, a pediatric surgeon and researcher at The Saban Research Institute of CHLA and co-principal investigator on the study. Grikscheit is also a tenured associate professor of Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Closing Off Coal Trains

Since coal cars have to be open to keep them from spontaneously igniting and since Wyoming coal has to pass along tracks adjacent to the Columbia River in the Columbia Gorge, a lawsuit against the BNSF railroad may make it impossible for coal trains to cross the state at all.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Divide in the Electorate

This isn't surprising, but there are real, fundamental differences in how the two camps view the type of people who should be in charge.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, mainly released Sunday, finds that majorities of Hillary Clinton’s supporters believe minorities and women have too little influence in American society, while half say men and whites have too much influence. For all his outsider appeal, Donald Trump’s supporters, by contrast, are far more apt to endorse the status quo in this regard.

Universal flu vaccine

‘Alice in Wonderland’ mechanics of the rejection of (climate) science

Here is a paper on how climate change deniers have to believe multiple contradicting things to justify their position. 


There is considerable evidence that the rejection of (climate) science involves a component of conspiracist discourse. In this article, we provided preliminary evidence that the pseudo-scientific arguments that underpin climate science denial are mutually incoherent, which is a known attribute of conspiracist ideation. The lack of mechanisms to self-correct the scientific incoherencies manifest in denialist discourse further evidences that this is not the level at which rational activity is focused, and we must move to a higher level, looking at the role of conspiracist ideation in the political realm. At that political level, climate denial achieves coherence in its uniform and unifying opposition to GHG emission cuts. The coherent political stance of denial may not be undercut by its scientific incoherence. Climate science denial is therefore perhaps best understood as a rational activity that replaces a coherent body of science with an incoherent and conspiracist body of pseudo-science for political reasons and with considerable political coherence and effectiveness.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Truth About Social Security

Nancy Altman talks about Social Security.
We are committed to revealing to policymakers, the media, and the American people how distorted the debate about Social Security has been. For decades, the conversation has been falsely premised on the lies that Social Security will not be there for young workers, and that the program is unaffordable, and therefore must be cut or, worse, radically transformed into savings invested on Wall Street.
...
The truth, of course, is that Social Security's benefits are extremely modest by virtually any standard, and the program is extremely efficiently run, spending less than a penny of every dollar on administration. As the wealthiest nation in the world, at the wealthiest moment in our history, there is no question that the United States could have a vastly expanded Social Security program if it chose. The issue is one of values, not affordability.
....
The idea of expanding, not cutting, Social Security is an idea that, once spoken and understood as possible, makes sense to people. This year's Democratic Party platform, with its strong Social Security plank calling for expanding, not cutting, Social Security shows how the party now has coalesced around that position. And President Obama announced, in a speech on June 1, that he is in step with the rest of the party in advocating expanding, not cutting, Social Security. The current Democratic position is best seen as a return to the position it has held historically. In some ways, moving away from expanding, not cutting, Social Security was the surprise. After all, expanding, not cutting, Social Security is both profoundly wise policy and winning politics.
The next step is for Republicans to feel the heat, see the light, and join the bandwagon or be voted out of office.
...
Social Security is projecting a modest shortfall which will require legislation sometime in the next decade or so. It will be a victory if that legislation expands and does not cut Social Security while restoring the program to long range actuarial balance. Given where the debate has been, it will be a victory, though smaller, if the program is restored to long range actuarial balance by increasing Social Security's dedicated revenue without cutting benefits.
...
Now it is our turn. In addition to increasing benefit levels, we should add paid sick leave, paid family leave, caregiver credits, children's allowances, and more. We should also expand Medicare, including by lowering the age of eligibility from age 65 to age 62 and then to age 55, add a counterpart program for children, and eventually have Medicare for All. These and other expansions will take many decades, particularly in light of the moneyed interests that always have been and always will be arrayed against Social Security.
...
supporters of Social Security should be part of the fight to make college debt free and affordable. Indeed, the right to receive free public education through high school should be extended through the receipt of a bachelor's degree. Social Security supporters should be part of the fight for raising the minimum wage, as well. Those who care about Social Security should be part of the fight to protect workers' rights to bargain collectively, too.
And everyone should be part of the fight to expand Social Security, which is best understood as a family program. Social Security is a program for all generations.
In addition to providing the nation's most secure source of retirement income—income that cannot be outlived—it generally is Americans' most important, and often, only, source of disability insurance and life insurance.
It provides children with monthly benefits when a working parent dies, becomes disabled or retires. Those benefits now stop at age 18 (or 19, if still in high school). Those benefits used to continue until age 22, if the child was in college, university, or post-secondary vocational training. Those benefits should be restored. As I said in response to the last question, paid sick leave, family leave, and other benefits that assist all generations should be added.

Beyond the Foundations

Let's compare how the candidates have performed in their personal charitable giving.
The total of all Donald Trump’s donations since 2001 comes to  0.038% of his supposed net worth. That’s not pocket change. That’s pocket lint.
...

The Clintons have donated 37.6% of their net worth. Simple math shows that the Clintons are almost 1,000 times more generous with their money.

A Tale of Two Foundations

Clinton Foundation has an excellent track record of doing good. The Trump Foundation 
may soon be in legal trouble and has done little good. Hillary is the real deal, while Trump is nothing but a slimy imitation.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Local case makes national headline

Data Reveals Trump’s Base Is 'Deplorable’ and Clinton Is Right

When Hillary Clinton says that most of the people who support Trump are unsavory, she isn't engaging in political hyperbole. It actually turns out that she is understating her case. They really are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Islamaphobic. What a country we are! 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How Melanoma Spreads

There's some big news on the melanoma front. Science now understands the mechanism by which melanoma metastasizes. And with that knowledge, it shouldn't be so hard to stop it from doing so.

AP’s big exposé on Hillary is not so much

In an effort to generate some sensational headlines, AP does some sloppy reporting.
There's no there there. No unethical conduct has been discovered. It's just another example of trying to generate dirt on the Clintons when there is none. Compare this to how fast wheels have come off the scooters for Roger Ailes, Donald Trump and other notables.

An effective and low-cost solution for storing solar energy

An article in Science Daily talks about progress on smoothing out the intermittentcy problem of solar energy. They have a demonstrated solution that uses proven technology without exotic elements.
The approach taken by EPFL and CSEM researchers is to combine components that have already proven effective in industry in order to develop a robust and effective system. Their prototype is made up of three interconnected, new-generation, crystalline silicon solar cells attached to an electrolysis system that does not rely on rare metals. The device is able to convert solar energy into hydrogen at a rate of 14.2%, and has already been run for more than 100 hours straight under test conditions. In terms of performance, this is a world record for silicon solar cells and for hydrogen production without using rare metals. It also offers a high level of stability. 
The other side of the equation would be an efficient hydrogen-base fuel cell and there has been much recent progress on that front as well.

Longterm Cause of Climate Change

You guessed it. It's us. Humans have been warming the planet for 180 years. If it takes that long to reverse it, we are probably doomed.

'Cocks Not Glocks' Anti-Gun Protest

Sounds like they are having some fun times down at my alma mater. In protest about the legality of concealed-carry of guns on campus, students are protesting with technically illegal open carry of sex toys.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

SMR Plant would create more than 1,000 jobs in Idaho Falls

Our liberal friends on the wet side of the mountains probably helped Washington State
miss this boat. Our state needs to take another look at good ways to provide for Washington's economic future.

Who Wants Trump?

Here's a good analysis of who Trump supporters are. As you might expect, the results don't align with conventional wisdom.

What makes a Trump supporter? Surveys show that racial resentment is a much bigger factor than income, education, or view of the economy. A person with a higher income is more likely to support Trump than on with a low income. A large segment of Trump supporters are less-educated, blue-collar workers who are gainfully employed. A Trump supporter is likely to live in a zip code which is homogeneously white. Folks who have contact with immigrants are not Trump supporters. Manufacturing areas are less likely to support Trump as are areas which have high exposure to Chinese imports. It isn't the poor whites who are experiencing global economic dislocation who support Trump. His base seems to be reasonably well-off white folks who are concerned about maintaining their de facto segregated white bubble.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Sweden does guns right

There is a strong and deep hunting culture in Sweden that not only co-exists with strong gun regulation but is instrumental to it. Hunters don't want guns being used to kill people either and they are willing to do what it takes to make that happen. Getting responsible hunters in the U.S. on board with common sense gun safety regulation could help greatly.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The New Standard of Health Care Programs

As political forces wrangle about the future of health care policies in the U.S., it would be near-criminal if changes cause low-income people to lose the gains that have been made. Regardless of political philosophy, we have a moral obligation to maintain this minimum baseline.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Private Health Insurers Are Problematic

Wendell Potter has a good essay on how highly profitable insurance companies  want to drop ACA participation. They miss the good ol' days of being able to cherry-pick their clientele and to hell with the sick folks who really need good insurance. I think that forcing insurance companies to stay in the ACA will have constitutional problems. Eventually, there will have to be a public option. Perhaps the cost of that can be paid in part by taxing insurers who don't offer ACA plans.