All posts by Greg Laden

Does the turkey make you sleepy?

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.

Get some historical perspective on the embarrassing and unseemly Republican shenanigans

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

When breakthrough technology that isn’t really breakthrough technology

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.

My thoughts on Dean Phillips run for the presidency

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.

How Many Dead?

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.

What are Democrats getting wrong about Palestine and Israel?

Get almost any group of long-active Democrats together and someone will eventually point out that there are no young people (or maybe one young person) in the room, and that we need to reach out to young people. Let the conversation go on a little longer and perhaps someone will bring up Vice President Harris, and how she’s just not so great. Meanwhile:

So maybe if we want more youth involvement, we should consider not dissing a leader respected by young folks.

Get almost any group of long-active Democrats together and bring up Israel-Palestine. Any mention of that current conflict that also gives credit to the Palestinian plight MUST begin with a statement of how bad the Hamas attack was, even if that attack, and an acknowledgement of how bad it was, has already happened in the conversation. Any mention of deadly pressure on the population of Gaza, or of things blowing up in Gaza and killing Gazans, must be tempered with a clear pro-Israel statement. Even a criticisn of the absolutely awful Netanyahu government, which is essentially a MAGA-Levant franchise, needs to include something jingoistic about Isreal. This is like saying, under the Trump Era I, “Trump is a complete ass. God bless America” and if you leave off the “God bless America” part, your comment about Trump being an ass is somehow invalidated.

Polls show that the Americaucasoidsuburban world view is unabashedly pro-Israel, and acknowledgement of repression of Palestinians must always be tempered with a near-Zionistic spoon-full-of-sugar interjection among those over, say, 50. But as you get younger and younger, Americans are far more even in their treatment of the players in old Palestine, and may even be, simply, anti-Israel (while not necessarily antisemitic). (I quickly add that there is a fine line between anti-Zionist and antisemetic, and that those prone towards Zionism are the quickest to barrel past that line.) Maybe those rooms full of older Democrats should consider the fact that the way we look at the middle east of 30 years ago should be revised to keep up with the way at least half of Americans (median age in the US is 38 years old) think.

On the other hand, well, “kids these days, amiright??!!” There is a saying that you know: “Never forget.” Back when I was on the faculty at UMN, I had the privilege of co-teaching a class with Holocaust scholar Misha Penn, on race and racism, in which I handled most of the American and “scientific” racism bits, and Mischa handled most of the antisemitism and the wiping out of American Native tribes bits. Even though I had been something of an amateur scholar of Jewish History, having been married into a Jewish culture at one point, and for other reasons linked to my work in historic archaeology, I learned a lot of new stuff, from that experience, about the Holocaust. The main point: This was not a nutty idea by some Nazis that somehow came to fruition. The Nazi Holocaust was a logical next step in a centuries-long program of repression, exploitation, and eventual extermination, of Jews.

Of course, after this, the Jews of the world should get Israel, and it is incumbent on our species, in its entirety, to support that. But at the same time, the Jewish refugees and survivors in the 1940s did in fact take their new country’s land from the Palestinians, and didn’t actually pay for it. That failure to make for a fair deal is the main reason we are in this situation today. But I digress somewhat. The point is, “kids these days” seem to have lost a decade or two of “Never Forget,” and the historical plight of the Jews is sliding down the memory hole. Ignorance of the history and status of Palestine and Palestinians is run of the mill in America, and history and status of Jews is unexpectedly faded among our youth. This, in combination with the conflation of the Jewish plight with the Jewish State (currently a state that makes MAGA look normal), all twisted up in the politics of accusation and shame we are so good at in America, causes — well, a lot of bad shit on Facebook.

So how do we solve this problem? If the problem we are trying to solve is the smaller one, but an important one, of learning to have a conversation that is not self defeating and that may actually get us (us = Homo sapiens) somewhere, consider this paraphrase of Jon Lovett (who once again says smart things) on (Pod Save America): Israel will not be free unless Palestine is free; Palestine will not be free unless Israel is secure; and Israel will not be secure unless Palestinian people have hope for a better future. (He might have been paraphrasing someone else.)

Old Democrats: Start paying more attention to what the youth are saying. Mostly they are speaking a future truth that we ignore at our peril. Sometimes they are following a great time honored American tradition of forgetting the past (sometimes the very recent past, always the more ancient past) and that is partly our fault, letting that happen. And while we are at it, please stop saying that 16 year olds don’t have the maturity and knowledge to vote rationally. Voters of 18 years and over did in fact put Donald Trump in office. So just shut-TF-up old guys.

Green Ethanol and Green Hyrdogen

How to make ethanol:

1: Use diesel and gasoline powered farm equipment to grow and harvest a sugar-rich crop.
2: Use fossil fuel supplied heat and electricity to operate a cooker, which turns the plants you grew into cattle feed and ethanol.

How to make hydrogen:

1: Obtain methane from fracking or some other fossil source.
2: Process the methane to produce hydrogen.

Both processes use a large amount of fossil fuel, thus releasing a large amount of CO2 into the environment, to make a high density but inherently inefficient, potentially very useful energy source.

How to make green ethanol:

1: Use only electricity to run the farm equipment and ethanol cookers.
2: Make all the electricity using wind and/or solar.
(3 optional: You can use some of the green ethanol to run some of the above two processes.)

How to make green hydrogen:

1: Use electricity to power electrolysis to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen.
2: Make all the electricity using wind and/or solar.

How much of the ethanol we use today is green, compared to the total amount of ethanol? Zero%

How much of the hydrogen we use today is green hydrogen compared to the total amount of hydrogen: 0.04%

Right now essentially zero of the hydrogen used to send rockets into space is green. There is a move to make some of that as green hydrogen. Given the example of ethanol, there is no reason to believe that green hydrogen will ever be the main fuel supply for any ordinary earthling transportation system. However, I’m willing to give it a chance. Let’s first fuel our entire global rocket industry with green hydrogen (wherever hydrogen is used). Then, also, let’s create all the other hydrogen used in industry for things other than transportation (there is quite a bit of that) using green technology as well. Once we are making green hydrogen for all the hydrogen uses, then we can talk about hydrogen being used to fuel some percentage of our transportation industry.

Having said that, hydrogen is of limited use in this area, since fuel cells are inherently inefficient and for other reasons. There is no reason to totally write off hydrogen, but we have every reason in the world to totally write off non-green hydrogen.

A few words by Jon Lovett on the Hamas attack

Every now and then, Jon Lovett issues a rant that I want to put down in a special font and post on the wall. Since I live alone, that normally does little good. So instead, I’ll direct you to one of these extended takes preserved on YouTube. This is Lovett’s on what is going on in the Levant, and I think it is worth listening to. (The rest of the podcast is great too but you don’t have time for that).

See esp after 7:10

How close will the 2024 election be?

In 2020, Joseph Biden beat Donald Trump by 4.54%. For perspective, that is within the margin of error of most polls. In other words, it was kinda close.

But how close was it? Very. Because, in a small number of battleground states, Joe Biden won by only 0.2% of the electorate.

The margin of popular vote win over the last 17 elections, so going back to Eisenhower, has ranged from a half a percent (George W. Bush’s win in 2000) to the highs of 22 to 23% (Johnson and Nixon). Biden’s win was close to the 2012 Obama victory and the 1992 Clinton victory. So close, but not out of line in comparison with many other races. Biden beat Trump by more than double the margin with which Trump beat Clinton. It was a good, solid run.

On the other hand, the decision for this race was made in a very small number of states, included some of the states that gave Trump his victory of Secretary Clinton. If we look at the closest states that ended up in the D column, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada, the total margin was 0.2% (two tenths of a percent). If we assume most of the other states are set to go for either Biden or Trump in 2024, and that these are the battleground states, that is a very very close race.

It would only be fair to look at the states that were very close but happen to go red in 2020. North Carolina went for Trump by 1.35%. That is close enough to pull that state over to the sane side and claim those electoral votes. The problem is, after that, all the near-miss red states were not near misses. The next two close calls were Florida (3.36%) and Texas (5.58%). These states are unreachable.

Here’s the bottom line. The total number of electoral votes is 538. 17.66% of those votes are distributed among the seven closest states (those mentioned above that went for Biden, plus North Carolina), which individually range from 0.24% to 2.83% of the popular vote. This would be like the entire European conflict of World War II being fought in Germany, France, Poland and Spain. (I guess that’s why they call them battleground states.)

What does this mean if you don’t want Trump, the obvious nominee* for the GOP, to win? This means you need to do three things.

1) Fight for Biden in your own state, to the degree that your state is close. Under no circumstances vote for a third party candidate, because that is just embarrassing for you,even if your state is not close.

2) Give some money to the Biden campaign, so they can use it where they see fit.

3) If you are in one of the battle ground states, then see #1 and #2 above, and just keep doing that as much as you can. Meanwhile, fight for and do not undermine local and state level democrats. Vote for them will percolate up.

4) If you are not in one of the battleground states, look for opportunities to help both Biden and various close-race Senate and House candidates wherever they may be (including your own neighborhood).

All the signs indicate that the MAGA extremists are strong, just as strong now as last cycle. But the signs also indicate that this year is their high water mark, if we stick together and kick their assess. So don’t stray, don’t weaken, and do not be cute about this**

*We should have a plan for if that not ends up being the case.

** By cute I mean voting for a third party candidate, or splitting your ticket.

What’s a Governor To Do?

Let me start out by saying that I am neither an expert on, nor a fan of, the California political system. I sense that the Jungle Primary system has given the political process to the rich and famous, which is a very California thing to do. Living in what might be the grassiest and rootiest of the grass roots states (Minnesota), having been born in the state with the most pernicious perfectly political process (New York) and living for years in Massachusetts, the mother of Democracy (once married to the father of democracy, Virginia), I look at California, and go, like so many non-Calis, “huh?”, more often than not.

Nonetheless, I’ll venture to express my thoughts on the political process of a governor appointing a Senator writ large, as a feature of our democratic process. This is a 20,000 foot view, and it is a multi-decadal view. This is what I think governors across the nation should eventually settle on, so that it becomes traditional, expected behavior.

In short, a Governor should appoint the person who meets the following two criteria:

1) The person should be expected to become an excellent Senator to represent the state in the democracy we live in, to uphold the oath, and to do the job; and

2) The person should be the best political choice for the Governor’s party.

In other words, it is the job of the Governor to fill in for the people and enact what democracy would have done anyway, if democracy was perfect. If the governor happens to be bogus (someone who rose to that position un-elected or turned out to be corrupt, for example) then this is obviously not going to work out too well no matter what happens. But we should always strive for the ideal in our politics, and the two conditions I state above represent that ideal. So we try to put governors in state houses who will do the best we can hope for.

Why not appoint an interim senator? That would keep the governor out of the political process and allow democracy to take its course, right? Well, no. Here are the reasons to not do that.

1) The role of the governor is to appoint a senator under certain conditions. You can’t take the governor out of that process without breaking that commitment. This is what governor are for. In other words, we don’t actually want to take the governor out of the decision in order to preserve the political process, because a governor appointing a senator IS the political process we agreed to, and we all were fully aware of this (right?) when we elected that governor.

2) It is unethical to force any qualified person to agree to not run for an office for which they are qualified. The presumption of an interim appointee not running for election to that office violates this basic right.

2b) In some cases, as is happening now in California, the joint idea of appointing a person to increase diversity in the Senate (eg a black woman) who is then being instructed to not run for election to that office, is absurd and an even more severe violation of that person’s rights. This might be the situation in California right now, so it may not be a general rule, but this would not be the first or last time for this issue to come up.

3) Appointment of an interim senator breaks the political contract with the people. We pick our leaders and representatives to be leaders and representatives, using the power of the ballot box. In most instances, we then continue to use the power of the ballot box to hold those individuals responsible. An interim senator is not bound by this usually -in-effect power of the people.

4) The Teddy Roosevelt Effect. Say an interim person is appointed, and turns out to be a G.O.A.T. The interim status of that person requires that the people do not get to elect the Best Senator Ever because of some dumb arrangement made prior.

5) It makes the Senate a joke. There are only 100 Senators, and each of us is represented by only two. But if you are in a state with an interim senator, then you are only represented by one-point-something senators, because a senator appointed for a short time can not act, yield power, make deals, and otherwise perform as a true senator. A place holder is merely a place holder.

I would recommend that Governor Newsom chose among those who have already declared their candidacy, and make that decision based on the criteria noted above, which can easily include issues of the person’s diversity*, experience, and the things they are already promising to do. Polls this early in a process are shades of future truth, but why not also look to see which candidates have more election-wise oomph. Taking all these things into consideration, it is the job of the governor, not merely the prerogative, to chose the best person. Choosing an interim senator is a bad idea.

There is an election coming up soon. The chosen senator would have a presumed advantage. The job of the governor is to appoint the best senator possible. If that gives an advantage over some of the other viable candidates, so be it.

Personally, I’d have a hard time choosing among several of the amazing individuals who have already indicated that they are running for this office. This is why I am not governor of California. In case you were wondering.

*A person does not have diversity but you know what I mean.

Hurricane: 2026, Atlantic Basin

Entry of 8/17/2023

It has been a quiet Atlantic Hurricane Season. That is expected for an El Nino year, when wind patterns tend to throw sheer at the storms, messing up their plans to become giant rotating vortices of chaos and destruction. Not sure if “vortices” is a word. Anyway, it is now* expected, according to NOAA, that wind sheer is going to lose to super heated ocean surface, allowing the rest of the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Seasons to blow up to be bad.

Here, let us begin to record the high points of the season. I’ll start:

After days of quiescence, there are suddenly two stormy bits emerging off the coast of Africa. They each have a 70% chance of developing into a storm. They will be moving over very warm water.

*My friend and colleague Michael Mann and his research group had already predicted this, well before the start of the season. He has an excellent track record. The longest range and thus least reliable spaghetti map projections suggest that one of them will curve up into the midst of the North Atlantic. The same not very reliable projections allow for other stormy blog moving farther west and not recurring over the next several days, which leaves open the possibility of a meaningful relationship with land.

That is all for now, keep an eye out. As it were.

Entry of 8/28/23

This is a google map screenshot of Horsdhoe Beach, Florida. The average elevation at the surface here is 7 feet. Most of the homes are on stilts. The expected storm surge, estimated two days in advance, so this may be very inaccurate, is over 9 feet.

At the moment, this community is almost exactly at the expected eye landfall of Hurricane Idalia.

Trust the Plan: The Rise of QAnon and the Conspiracy That Unhinged America (Book recommendation)

Trust the Plan: The Rise of QAnon and the Conspiracy That Unhinged America by Will Sommer, is a must read for all of the loyal and long time readers and leaders in this blog community.

Remember the MRAs? They and others begat 4Chan. 4Chan begat QAnon. QAnon begat January 6th. And, never mind the guy with the horns. Donald Trump is the QAnon Shaman.

John Favreau interviews Will Sommer, author of Trust The Plan, on Offline:

Note: There are about the same number of QAnon followers in the US as there are “mainline Protestant,” ca 12-15%. Considering that this is a violently anti-Semitic belief system (and this Antisemitism is core to QAnon doctrine) it is concerning that there are about 17 million Jews in America, but close to 50 million Q-Anon believers (though the latter are hard to count).

Read the book. Watch the video. Don’t let your friends believe in this. Also, just so you know, children are not pizza.