Oldsplaining The Young Is Cheugy

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How many times have you been to a political meeting and someone says “we need to get more young people on board” or “we need to reach out to yoots” or words to that effect? Lots of times. Maybe almost every meeting that goes longer than a half hour, and they all go longer than a half hour. The conversation often veers into a discussion of strategies to find and recruit young folks, and sometimes, into a complain session about what the young folks are doing wrong….

Read my latest Substack. Also, bonus section on why you are wrong about polling. HERE

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Worried there won’t be a Trump-trial before the election? Don’t worry. That is what we want!

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“I think the last two or three years of watching the criminal justice system has resulted in two very important changes in our culture, at least in the subculture of the oddballs that pay a lot of attention. 1) We all have law degrees from Podcast University; and 2) Historic events have knocked the judges and the high level prosecutors off whatever pedestals on which we might have previously set them. The Supreme Court can decide to set the Constitution on fire, when it is convenient. While there are many excellent judges on the Federal bench, there are some real scoundrels. Special prosecutors have always been suspect, but we now know that our absurd tradition of always siccing Republican prosecutors against Democratic electeds is, well, absurd. ”

See my latest substack HERE.

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Mann’s victory seems to be timed perfectly to match its significance in today’s political climate

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Michael E Mann, climate scientist, has won a law suit against iffy academic Rand Simberg deplorable radio jock Mark Steyn, for defamation. The details are in the statement released by Mann and his legal team, below.

This entire drama started with the famous “climategate” episode, in which emails passed among scientists were kidnapped and tortured to make them look like admissions or proof of a conspiracy to rig the climate data to show that global warming is real. There were conspiracy theories before that, of course, but this one was firmly tied into science denialism by the global right wing, and ultimately, the American right wing and republicans in Congress. This and related parallel shenanigans involving Congressional committees set the cultural stage for neo-conspiracies such as birtherism, and ultimately, conspiracies related to election denial.

We are seeing multiple juries of ordinary citizens and judges with diverse backgrounds awarding all of us with truth in the E. Jean Carrol case, the Michael Mann case, and elsewhere. The arc of the universe does not bend towards justice. Clearly, when left on its own, it bends away from justice. But persistence and simply being right can push it in the right direction, and that is what we are seeing now.

Thank you Mike Mann, congratulations!

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This is How Trump Ends

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Trump’s support comes from a minority of Americans who are true believers mixed with a similar number of individuals who support him out of either convenience or fear. Among those fearful of him, or more exactly, fearful of attacks or undermining by violent supporters or politically equipped sycophants, are elected or appointed officers of the state, including members of Congress and the likes of Supreme Court Justices. I’ll let this idea digest for a moment while I provide an important digression.

Consider the question, “What if Trump is convicted of a crime, are you not concerned about the violence that would ensue?” That is a self defeating and misguided consideration, and here is why.

We are concerned about violence, don’t want violence, and are thus compelled to consider options that reduce violence even if they involve putting aside justice and the law. This happened after the Civil War when Jefferson Davis and other luminaries of the defeated South were not put on trial for their obvious crimes. This may have happened when Nixon was pardoned by his fellow Republican after having crashed the Presidency with his crooked behavior. This happens whenever some kid hands over their lunch money to some bully to avoid a punch in the nose (even when the punch in the nose is extremely unlikely, since most lunch-money seeking bullies are weak weenies).

Consider these three possible scenarios implied by this question:

1) Trump becomes president
2) Trump loses the election to Biden
3) Trump is jailed or somehow kept out of the race because he is an insurrectionist, a massive fraud, and an unredeemable crook.

Which one of those three gets us violence? Let’s look at each case, in reverse order.

3) Trump gets busted out of the presidency, with some combination of state and federal prosecutors and administrative rulings taking him out. Trumpers attack various government buildings, maybe some people get shot, there is some threatening behavior, maybe violence, at polling places, and so on. We have a country of justice and laws, police and other entities to enforce those laws, and, when push comes to shove, a stalwart citizenry that loves democracy and will not stand for this behavior. A period of significant violence happens but ends in several weeks, and after that, we have mostly stern looks and the occasional bar fight.

2) Trump and his followers repeat the January 6th series of events, but this time their starting position is weaker and everyone is ready for them. There may be more violence than the last January 6th insurrection, but it is better contained. The level and kind of violence is much like option 3 (above), but with different timing, happening mostly after the election or inauguration, rather than mostly before.

1) If Trump wins, there will be violence. Reporters will be jailed, concentration camps will be built, the “justice” department will prosecute and detain Democrats across the board. Wars of convenience will happen, all the usual dictator stuff. There will be violence against all of us, INCLUDING Trump’s supporters. Democracy will end, a fascist state will be implemented, and even when Trump dies, that will continue under his replacements, for a hundred years or longer.

So which of those do you want? The squirming and whinging about violence, and avoiding it by doing the wrong thing rather than the right thing, gets us option 3. I assure you, you want option 1 or option 2.

Now, back to the point, how it ends.

Given the context I’ve provided above, that there are different categories of supporters of Trump, and different kinds of threats from Trump, I suggest the following may happen.

Right now, the Supreme Court is being handed an opportunity to affirm that Trump carried out insurrection. They do so. they are also given the opportunity to affirm that Colorado should not put Trump on the ballot because of the appropriate section of the Fourteenth Amendment. They do so.

But this is the Fourteenth Amendment of the US constitution, not the Colorado constitution. With this matter before them, SCOTUS also determines that Trump, insurrectionist that he is, can not be on any ballot. SCOTUS ends Trump.

The support within SCOTUS for Trump is not really support for Trump. It is a combination of conservative ideation, a power opportunity with Trump’s Republicans in charge of the narrative even if they are not in charge of the country, and fear. But that fear will become nightmare if Trump is elected. After his election, the Supreme Court will have to do exactly as Trump directs, with every decision, or they will be jailed or made moot. But, nobody has ever been able to follow Trump’s directives over the long term because he is an out of control nut-bag. The members of SCOTUS know that if Trump is elected, their lives are in danger, and their careers are over.

So, SCOTUS tears off the band-aid and takes Trump off the ballot in all 50 states with one swift unappealable but very appealing decision.

That is how Trump ends.

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Does the turkey make you sleepy?

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Maybe tryptophan, an ingredient in turkey makes you sleepy. Maybe not. I suspect it is has either no effect or a small effect. But when people say “the turkey makes you sleepy because it has tryptophan in it,” they are repeating an easily disprovable myth.

Let’s say tryptophan makes you sleepy. Why does turkey take the rap? Other things with tryptophan: Cattle, swine, chickens, fish. Pretty much, animals. Plants too. Tryptophan is a basic building block, aka amino acid, in your basic biological protein.

So if turkey makes you sleepy because of tryptophan, then when you mix up that whey protein super shake, to up your protein intake on a gym workout day, you should pass out. If you consume 120 grams of protein in your workout juice, that’s 2,160 mg of tryptophan.

If you look at a USDA list of nutrients, and search for tryptophan, you’ll find that pork, steak, hamburger, turkey breast, etc. etc. all have almost identical amounts of the amino acid, because the are, after all, almost identical animals (all tetrapods) at the 20,000 foot level (but don’t drop your turkey out of a helicopter at any altitude). But turkey breast has a tiny bit more than the other, for random reasons.

I think the real reason you take a nap is because you need a nap and the turkey takes the rap for your nap. The turkey is none the wiser, so go for it.

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Get some historical perspective on the embarrassing and unseemly Republican shenanigans

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In Field of Blood, historian Joanne Freeman describes, using newly discovered and newly analyzed evidence, the world of partisan and political vitriol and hate that was the sense of the Congress prior to the American Civil War. Soon after the election of Donald Trump, I sought understanding, wisdom, and distraction by delving into 19th century American political history, and this is where I started. Freeman’s monograph did not make me feel much better, but it did make me feel a little wiser. You should read it.

I mention it here because of an item way down on the front page in today’s newspaper. This is an item that should be front page news, and would have been had the journalistic context been a decade earlier. Not really one story, but a bunch of disgusting little stories. Decontextualized snippets:

… when Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) came up behind Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and began yelling in his ear, accusing him of elbowing him in the back as they passed each other in a crowded hallway….

… Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) brought a hearing about corporate greed to a standstill as he confronted one witness, stood up and challenged him to a fistfight.

Not coincidentally, right after I read those snippets and resolved to post on the matter, Professor Freeman herself made an appearance in the same WaPo piece.

Freeman told The Washington Post on Tuesday evening that it was important for lawmakers to denounce belligerent behavior and threats of violence, particularly when it comes from a member of their own party. “If no one speaks up it becomes representative of what that party stands for,” she said.

Description of the fray continues:

“Hey Kevin, why did you walk behind me and elbow me in the back?” Burchett asked as The Post interviewed McCarthy. “You have no guts.”

“I didn’t do that,” McCarthy replied. As Burchett continued to yell, McCarthy laughed and said, “Oh my God.”

Burchett was one of eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy as House speaker, a rebuke the California lawmaker has bitterly noted, publicly and privately.

“You are so pathetic,” Burchett said before slowing his steps to avoid being directly behind McCarthy.

“Thank you, Tim,” McCarthy said.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Bernie Sanders does an excellent job as WWE referee:

And the past and possible future president of the United States, Donald Trump, subtly calls for the jailing and/or extermination of, well, Professor Freeman, me, and you (probably), and everybody else:

We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections. They’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy the American Dream…. the threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within. Because if you have a capable, competent, smart, tough leader, Russia, China, North Korea, they’re not going to want to play with us.

And there is parallel WWE video of The Fascist’s tough guy act as well:

One might hope that the deplorables that control half of our representative government (plus or minus a few percentage points) would self destruct, or at least, bloody each other enough to get frustrated and go home. Read Freeman’s book and see how it went in the 19th century. (See: American Civil War.) Yeah, it didn’t go that well. Slave power, the juice inside the belligerence that arose in the 1830s, persisted, ballooned, and continues today in some festering quarters. It is true, however, that the response to the bullying in Congress that made the most difference was standing up to it, having none of it, like Bernie pulled off in the clip above. I can tell that there are several Democratic members of Congress who must have read “Field of Blood” because they are standing up to it.

I think we face two obstacles to ending the evil clown show known as MAGA. One is the fact that the hate is not being reported as an outstanding and unique outrage, but rather, is being treated as more of the usual dysfunction. This is the fault of the mainstream media. The other problem is that 80% of the population isn’t really paying attention. This is actually the fault of the purveyors of the vitriol themselves, their minions, and their allies. By “flooding the zone with shit,” as so aptly phrased by Fascist Bannon, and sewing discord using a number of agents and agencies across the population and even within progressive communities, everyone has become tired, fed up, and is self-caring themselves into a state of silent-majority. It is up to us activists to identify and reach out to our “normie” colleagues, and help them to find their inner enthusiasm for ending this mess, bursting the rapidly growing fascist balloon, and restoring normal.

Over the next year, we have this job to do: Stop the bleeding, and clean up the field of blood.

Sources: This and This

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When breakthrough technology that isn’t really breakthrough technology

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Two very important papers are just out by Joe Romm. Hae a look.

1) Why scaling bioenergy and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is impractical and would speed up global warming

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) has generated great interest as global emissions have soared to 50 billion tons (Gt) a year of CO2 equivalent. In theory, biomass could remove CO2 out of the air as it grows, and a CCS system on the bioenergy power plant could permanently bury the CO2, making BECCS potentially a “negative” emissions technology.

But a growing body of research casts doubt on whether either bioenergy or BECCS are scalable climate solutions—or solutions at all. Those doubts are reinforced by findings from the first dynamic, integrated global modeling of BECCS by the researchers of Climate Interactive:

Click through to see the entire paper.

2) Why direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS) is not scalable and ‘net zero’ is a dangerous myth

As global emissions have soared to 50 billion tons (Gt) of CO2 equivalent, carbon dioxide removal (CDR) strategies have generated great interest. The three most widely analyzed and modeled are direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS), which pulls CO2 directly out of the air and stores it underground; planting trees; and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, whereby growing biomass removes CO2 from the air and a CCS system on the bioenergy plant could permanently bury it.

In theory, by combining deep emissions cuts (achieved by substituting carbon-free energy for fossil fuels) with a scaled-up CDR effort, we could bring total emissions down to “net zero.” But as other white papers in this series have explained, scaling tree planting faces major challenges, and scaling BECCS is impractical and would speed up global warming this century.

Click through to see the entire paper.

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My thoughts on Dean Phillips run for the presidency

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First, why do you care what I think? For these reasons: 1) I live in Congressman Phillips’s district; 2) While we are not buddy buddy, I consider him a friend, and we have a mutually respectful and trusting relationship; 3) I’m not really going to make much of a statement about the Congressman’s run, but rather, what I hope you consider when thinking about, and reacting to, that run.

I do not agree with Dean’s assessment of President Biden, though I do respect it. I’ve not personally been in the same room, or on the same airplane, with President Biden, but Dean has. So, I think it is reasonable to pay attention to what Dean says. But I know a half dozen other people who have been in the room and who have a different assessment, so I am not convinced.

I do think that Biden is on the older side of ideal for running for, or being, president. At the risk of being ageist, there is some point when one is ready to be President, Senator, or Congressional Representative (or Governor), and I think that as a nation, that our electoral will is not properly calibrated. I think we too easily reject younger candidates for their youth, and I think we don’t prefer younger to older during the electoral process as much as we should. In both these areas, I think Dean and I agree.

However, incumbency and a record of beating Trump are also considerations in this election year. Let me tell you a secret about politics that I’m sure you already know. There is a difference between the construct and the ideal. The construct is where we get our strength, and it is the framework that holds together our coalitions. For example, I was recently in a series of meetings where two specific environmental stances — political and legislative constructs for solving an environmental problem — were criticized by a smart person in the room as being imperfect. The criticisms were not accurate, but there was a modicum of truth in them. However, those constructs had been built over a 15 year period. Abandoning those policies and the associated rhetoric, to develop a different version that might or might not be slightly better, would literally destroy the entire existing movement over these issues, built over years and with much effort, and set us back to zero. Two really important very bad things, which we are effectively stopping, would happen to the environment, because of the search for exactness and perfection.

The Democratic Party typically rallies around the incumbent, and that is what we are doing now. I will support Biden in this race, because he is one of the best presidents we’ve ever had, he is still effective, and I see no reduction in that effectiveness. And, I do understand that parties are power building mechanisms, and I’m sticking with my party.

Nothing I’ve said above will change anything, but there is something I’d like to say now that I believe might have an effect. I am in communication with many people in Minnesota politics and activism. Among them, most that I talk to agree with my view of Biden vs. Phillips. There is a subset of people who are on board with Dean, and it is not a small number, but I think if I took a vote among of names on the Minnesota part of my contact list, the majority would pick “Dean, stand down” over “Dean, go for it!”

And it is to these folks that I speak now.

I see anger. I see people disagreeing with Dean. I see people starting to build up a resentment that will put Dean Phillips out of the running for anything he tries to do in the future. I see the growth of a phenomenon that is the very phenomenon that caused us in this district to be defeated, again and again and again, in our effort to unseat a really bad Republican. Local experts will give you a list of reasons that each of those DFL candidates lost, and that may be a valid list, but few will include this item, that I’m absolutely certain is relevant: Every cycle, there was anger and resentment about some dumb-ass thing some earlier candidate or ally of a candidate had done in some earlier cycle, often many cycles back. This made it harder for us to bring in the independents, and it probably kept some DFLers home — not home from voting, but home from door knocking and phone banking and donating. It was not the single reason we always lost, but it was certainly on the short list of reasons, no single one of which was determinative.

If I, or you (depending), or some other person, wants to run for office, and they fill out the forms correctly and honestly, it is their right to run. Every one of us has to remember that at all times. It is easy to be mad at someone running, and sometimes those reasons may be serious political considerations, but we have to separate respect for democracy, which includes respect for the process, with our political instincts. We need to have two trains of thought running at the same time. In this case, disagree with Congressman Phillips, and let him know that. Shout it from the rooftops. But don’t use this disagreement to start a list of long term resentments for a person doing something they have a right to do. Indeed, we LIKE IT when people run for office. Sometimes we don’t have enough good candidates. Indeed, when I work out the calculus of what happens if Dean Phillips gives up his seat in Congress, I see a lot of really interesting things happening in local politics. I’d like Dean to stay as my rep in DC, but I have a nice list in mind of people who can win and would also be great, and I suspect some of them might be interested!

The point by point list of resentments that I see developing is going to hurt. Or, we could just not make that list, stand back, and be ready to pick a great candidate on May Fourth (endorsing convention for this district), wish Dean well, and hope that he stays involved in local politics, one way or anther, after Biden shows him what’s what. He is a respectable person, and he is also — a person! And all of us persons can disagree non-destructively, and even, respectfully.

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How Many Dead?

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Does it matter that everyone across the world knows how many people are dead when some deadly disaster happens, as the event unfolds? Does it matter at all that as the death toll of an earthquake, train wreck, or mass shooting solidifies, that everyone is informed, repeatedly and at short intervals, of the ever changing death count?

I think it does, but for subtle reasons that I’ll address below. But I might be wrong, and if you think this is just prurient voyeurism, and maybe even offensive, you may be right about that, and I’m not going to argue with you. Either way, I am interested in the process of counting the dead at the outset of such disaster, because it is a window into how our system of sharing information operates, and how the press itself operates. If it turns out that we agree that counting the dead as they are still dying, or very soon after as they are still being found, is important and legitimate, then we really should have best practices for doing so, rather than what we have now.

As the (onging as I write) mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine of 2023 unfolded, the number of dead soared to 20, and most notably, the number of wounded soared to 60, before both numbers came down to about a dozen or so each. I still don’t know what the numbers are. The press has been reporting “at least 13” for the last 10 hours or so, which I find astonishing. Do they not know yet? Or are they being told by hospital people, subtly, that there are individuals on life support and they are just waiting for the families to give the nod? In any event, I cannot explain why the numbers changed so dramatically in this case, but I can tell you a story about a disaster that happened several years ago in which the number of dead soared to well over a dozen, but in reality, was always exactly 3, and known to be that number from the moment authorities arrived on the placid and un-confusing scene.

It was Saint Paul, Minnesota, in April of 2004. Four teens found their way past the barrier built to secure an old mine in the high bluff over the Mississippi River, in a suburban neighborhood. The horizontal mine shaft is part of a complex known as the “Wabasha Street Caves.” They are not caves. They are mines from early in the state’s European history, dug by the corporate ancestor of 3M, and never filled in or properly secured after they fell out of use. Some of the caves have been upgraded to use as commercial facilities for parties and tours, the value of this use enhanced by the elaborated and hyperbolized history of the caves as gangster hangouts and as haunted venues. But some of the caves are just holes not comfortable or useful for these purposes, and these have supposedly been secured by capping off the entranceways.

These four kids had a way pas the cap, and on that April day in 2004, went into one of the caves, built a fire, and three of them died of carbon monoxide poisoning. A fourth was sickened, but escaped, and went to get help.

The cave was probably about two thirds of the way up a steep heavily vegetated bluff. If one were to remove a body from the cave and move it to an ambulance or coroner’s wagon, one would have to move the body down, not up, owing to the steepness of the upper third of the cliff. But the heavy vegetation meant moving very slowly. Just climbing as a fit climber from the bottom of the cliff to the cave would take a person some 30 minutes, but a bunch of fire fighters, police officers, or sheriff’s deputies moving a stretcher to which a shrouded body of a child is strapped would take a long time to reach the bottom. Hours, as it turns out.

The press was on the scene. Various reporters from the four local news stations were camped out in people’s back yards above the curved bluff, where they could barely see activity, including authorities moving with a stretcher. Others were camped out in various nearby parking lots in the commercial zone down on the flats below the bluff. They also could barely see through the vegetation if anyone was moving up or down the bluff. And, of course, some reporters could see the bodies being loaded into a vehicle, but for the most part the public and the reporters were all kept well back from the parking lot to which the bodies were being moved.

For some reason I decided to watch this event unfold from my office, with all four TV stations running either on a TV, a computer, or a radio. As I observed, I notated that reports of a body being removed would come first from a particular reporter, then some 15 minutes later or so, a different reporter, and after another 15 minutes or so, another reporter. Meanwhile, all the reporters were listening to each other. The process of removing a body and moving that body to the parking lot below took a long time, and no one was coordinating the information, so over time the total number of bodies being removed became a function of one or more reporters reporting that they could see a body, with those reports happening in a short period of time, separated by long periods of no reporting, but a lot of yammering about earlier reports echoing among the various news stations. Every cluster of observations was counted as a body, even though one body’s movement was triggering between two and four clusters of reports.

So every kid got counted about four times, causing the death toll to creep up to about a dozen. It stayed that way for most consumers of the news until much later that night or the next morning, when authorities reported the number of three dead.

I would wager that something like this happened in Lewiston. In a chaotic environment, with reporters and witnesses both providing information and hiding out at the same time, some, perhaps many, of the dead were counted more than once. This way 13 got to 20. I suspect the injury counts were from garbled information from hospitals and treatment centers. Three hospitals hear that there are a total of 20 injured people, but that count is for all the hospitals. Reporters hear “20” three times and gets 60.

We know people can’t count. Have you ever been at a four-way stop with five cars at it? Then you know people can’t count. Reporters are not hired due to their ability to handle numbers, but you would think editors and producer would know by now that these numbers are always garbled.

And I think getting it right is important. Roughly concurrent with the Lewiston tragedy is the ongoing analysis of a missile strike in Gaza, where the number of dead killed in an explosion at a hospital went from 500 and climbing to 300 then, according to one source, 50. This is all tragic no matter what, but 500 would have been equal to a third of the number of Israelis killed a couple of days earlier by Hamas, while 50 is yet another Israeli air-strike on an occupied building. Politically, this matters a lot.

So why does the immediate as-it-happens death count matter? It might not, but there are a few possible reasons it does. One is the basic principle that everyone wants to know everything all the time; telling the press to not be an immediate conduit of information for one thing may be the first domino in a series of domino falls that are not good. Another is that there may be agents that need information right away and act on it. I’m sure that hospitals and such have phone trees to call people in during a disaster, but I can also imagine a hospital worker, a nurse, or an ER doctor hearing about a disaster in their geographical area and, learning that the number of casualties is high, heading towards their workplace even before a possibly semi-broken or otherwise ineffective call to action happens. Politically, is is important that a broad range of people know about some bad thing some bad person is doing. Potential donors to disaster relief have to get softened up as soon as possible. That sort of thing.

But at the same time, having the information be inaccurate can cause more problems than it can solve. This argues for best practices to be developed and deployed. There should be a manual for counting the dead. At the very least, officials need to change the way they prioritize the transmission of information. Instead of focusing on presenting laundry lists of agencies involved (which is the de rigueur yammering we tend to hear these days) perhaps they should focus more on accuracy in describing what is happening. It seems that at present, there is not much of a focus on accuracy.

When I started writing this post the death toll in Lewiston was “13 or more” according to NBC. As I finish it (a couple of hours alter, having had an interruption or two), the same news agency is saying “at least 18.”

The suspect remains at large.

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