Friday, January 18, 2019

I'm Not Going

I support the right of Palestinians to their own nation, to medicine, to food and to respect, but I don't support anti-Semitism in any form, even the mildest. There seems to be a touch of anti-Semitism in the new Women's March leadership, although I can't get a good reading on what is going on.

I (and many in my family) turned out for the local version of the original Women's March, and it was vital, leading to good things like many new women winning political office. For the first time in our history, the Democrats have a handful of strong women running for the Presidential nomination. 

It's unfortunate that the toxic Israel-Palestine conflict has somehow been introduced into the Women's March. That splits progressives. Some on the Left will not be turning out to march with defenders of Louis Farrakhan on the 19th, tomorrow. I'm not going.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Guilty

In a kleptocracy, as practiced by President Spanklyn T. Borderline Personality-Disorder (and crooked national leaders around the globe), the best part is the power to protect the guilty. 

As a private citizen, Spanklyn lolled about while protected by enormous inherited wealth. He could cheat the hard-working plumber with pleasure and impunity, because the plumber could not afford an attorney. Who could win against Spanklyn's 101 lawyers trained in legal abuse at the nation's most elite academies?

Spanklyn could crush a small business, trample a mid-size city and cheat anyone except the Mafia. 

Becoming President gave Spanklyn the ability to empty the offices of federal prosecutors. That felt great! He appointed an accused rapist to the Supreme Court. From the Oval Office he "sold" million dollar apartments to dozens of Russian oligarchs while lifting their sanctions. His extended family sold green cards to Chinese billionaires looking for dual citizenship. His cabinet contained one flagrant, graceless crook after another. 

But Spanklyn overreached. He doesn't live in Putin's Russia. Nothing in his slobby life of enormous wealth and privilege prepared him to cope with non-compliant people. Suddenly he can't have it all his way. 

His fear has always been that people secretly despise him, liking only his cash. Now they openly despise him, mock him every night on television; and certain implacably obsessive cops are staring at him and his family. He hasn't had a pleasant moment since 2016, except for the involuntary smile that lights up his pouting visage when he spots another villain on the dias. He can't help it. His mindless, loose,  prehensile lips curl in delight.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pence's Rebel Wife

Vice President Pence’s rebel wife has taken a job at a religious school where female employees must agree to submit to their husbands  “as the church submits to Christ.”  Some husbands have objected to the ambiguity of the requirement, given that churches sometimes submit to Christ by ignoring Him. 

If Pence’s wife is ignoring her charmless, white rat husband’s wishes, that is encouraging news; Pence is unlikely to learn about it, because his worshipful gong is too attached to Trump’s butt-cheeks for sound to penetrate. (Please remember it is discourteous to say “penetrate” in the presence of professional Republicans.) 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Inventing the Wall

Last week, in one of his minor episodes of stone-cold ignorance, President Spanklyn T. Borderline told us that the wheel is older than the wall. The wheel is old. It was invented by someone throwing clay pots in the region of Sumer (Iraq) about 6,000 years ago.  A few hundred years later, someone attached pottery wheels and an axle to a box, inventing the wagon.

But every student of the Bible knows that walls go back at least to the city of Jericho; that's about 9,000 years ago. The Torah tells us that the walls of Jericho collapsed and then an attack led by a fellow named Joshua killed nearly every man, woman and child who lived there. 

Many college graduates have heard that Genocidal Joshua fit the battle of Jericho.

My interest is in the person who invented the wheel. This potter or  the potter's descendants should get a Nobel Prize, but of course the inventor will remain nameless. No fame for the inventor of the bow and arrow or the tamer of the horse (who evolved from the eater of the horse). Who built the first fireplace? 


Knowing little about Brazil's history, I checked out a popular new tome, BRAZIL, A BIOGRAPHY by Schwarzc and Starling. I'm making my slow way through the story, much of which is focused on slavery.

The Portuguese had colonies in Africa, which made it easy for them to kidnap black men and ship them to the New World (to replace the dying Amerindians).  The Portuguese didn't ship many women or children. They weren't the strongest laborers. 

In the United States enslaved women were of value for several reasons, one of which was that they gave birth to new, valuable, baby slaves. In Brazil, where a slave's life expectancy (25 years) was ten years less than in South Carolina, it was cheaper to replace a dead slave with a new one from Angola. Brazil imported about four times as many slaves as the United States and turned their part of the New World into a living hell.

Slavery lasted in Brazil from around 1500 to the 1880s. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019


I don't normally read Nicholas Kristoff unless I choose to start my day with a downer, but he recently pointed out some facts that made me pause. In 1960 19% of all children in the world died before reaching the age of 5. Today that figure is 4%. 81% of all children have been vaccinated, despite what some parents fear in the  far western reaches of Sonoma County. 

Here is a basic question. Are human cultures around the world gradually evolving in a positive way? How would I measure that? I'm guessing there is evidence for no and for yes.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

How to Quit Smoking

In trying to recall why I quit smoking cigarettes, I had to look things up. On January 11, 1964, Surgeon General Luther Terry announced that cigarette smoking caused cancer, so I switched to cigars.

This is not to take anything away from Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who made a related announcement in 1988. Koop may have been a great man. When President Reagan, an old fool, tried to get Koop to claim that abortion was bad for women's health, Koop refused. Reagan managed to block Koop's attempt to address AIDS, but Koop did a lot for disabled children.

I cannot keep track of the damage done by Republicans.

Anyway, after Terry I switched to cigars, not mentioned in the first news reports. I didn't inhale cigars and smoked them for about fifteen years. At first people around me enjoyed it, saying it reminded them of their grandfathers, but over time objections began to arise. I switched to a pipe. By then I was a professor, and a pipe came attached to tenure. Again, pipe smokers usually don't inhale. Strangers on the sidewalk. told me the smoke remained them of their grandfathers and, in some cases, of their clay-piped Irish grandmothers. 

As time passed, the places where a pipe could be smoked grew fewer until there were none other than in my own van. I kept saying that I could give up smoking without effort or regret, and last year I did. By then the habit of combining this activity or that with smoking had already been whittled down to the nub by all the laws making places smoke-free. One day I stopped buying tobacco and immediately forgot about smoking. The whole painless process had taken less than 65 years.  I was curious about how how my kith and kin would respond to this modification in my behavior. To date not a single person has noticed. 

Monday, January 7, 2019


I'm a left-wing independent, but like many independents I often vote for Democrats, even for centrist Democrats and Wall Streeters when the Republicans nominate a slob who sits on a gold toilet. Last year I saw the Democratic Party, with people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, take a big turn toward my positions, toward the New Deal, a step driven by women, the young, unions and by people of color. The party of 2020 will not be the party of Clinton triangulation.

My early, provisional choices for the next Presidential race are Warren and Castro, if they run on Bernie Sanders' issues. (If Hillary had done that and picked a VP with a purpose, she would be President today.)

Elizabeth Warren was a working-class kid who became a professor. That's my kind of person. The central argument against her is that maybe people won’t go for her, because she is unusually intelligent and female. I don't buy that, but time and primary campaigns will tell.

For two years I've been saying that it makes no sense to nominate someone with high negatives. I want to see how well Warren campaigns and if voters are drawn to her. The Democrats should nominate someone popular with women, people of color, young voters and gays. That's the test. We'll see how Warren does.

Warren will be under attack from the Fox machine and from Democrats allied with other candidates. My hope is that she ignores the bullshit and keeps focused on what she believes the country needs.

I noticed that Hillary Clinton ran up a lot of votes in 2016.. That proves to me that an intelligent woman can win. Warren--with her New Deal agenda--may be able to bring extra votes to the polls. 

We have a year and a half to find out if Warren and Castro are the strongest candidates or if someone else might run better. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Is Democracy Even Possible?

The core of the democratic idea is that ordinary people can and should govern themselves and their nation. We've never tried that in America. It's not part of our culture.

Our founding fathers had little faith in ordinary people. Their idea (and Constitution) was an attempt to set up a system in which the governing would be done by wealthy, well-educated white males who could read Latin and had no use for political parties. They offered us a kind of tyranny by an elite minority. There are worse systems. 

About four years in, that experiment failed, and now we have political parties, minority rule and Spanky Trump as our looney babbler-in-chief. 

I'm going to suggest a genuinely democratic system that few will support outside of New England. I know this plan sounds strange, but it might work. 

The basic idea is that the job of running things will be done by a permanent, expert civil service (already partly the case). Policy will be set by a huge group of ordinary people serving short terms and chosen at random in a yearly lottery. There will be no campaigns and no campaign funds and no use for political parties, who can't affect a lottery. 

For example, in Healdsburg, a town reminiscent of Mark Twain's Hadleyburg, there are 6,000 voters Each year 50 of them would be selected at random and be required to serve on the city council for 12 months (meeting once a week). To provide institutional memory and know-how, the city would hire an expert manager (which it already does). 

Probably more than half the city council members would be women. A percentage would be gay. Some would be rich and some poor. Some might be in wheelchairs. The town is 30% Latino and has had no Latinos on the city council in this century, but in the new system there would be many Latino council members. 

In the current reality, the most important attribute needed for election to many city councils is a real estate broker's license. In the new system, the most important attribute would be citizenship. Ordinary people would set policy, using common sense. Everyone would have a chance to serve. We'd be governing ourselves.