Periodic Posts

Posts made periodically by a particular author. The periodicity may be totally random.

The catastrophic fall of the Democratic Party   Recently updated !

The Week has the article The catastrophic fall of the Democratic Party.

So, who’s the culprit? Obama and Pelosi, certainly, but also Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, and everyone else who ignored the frustration of voters for the last six years. Until they replace that leadership with people who can at least acknowledge the reality of those failures, it will be a long time before voters give Democrats another chance to govern at any level.

The Hilbots who refused to listen to those of us who warned that Clinton was unelectable, and who now want to place the blame for the loss on us, certainly deserve a lot of “credit” for the demise of the party. They succeeded in driving me and many others out of the party.

What the Hilbots do not understand is that weakness in a candidate includes being vulnerable to obvious attacks from the opposition. Weakness also includes not knowing what to do when the obvious attacks start to occur. That can be an insurmountable barrier when you have a public political record that people know about independently of what your attackers say. Donald Trump knew what to do when attacked. When Obama ran, he knew what to do when attacked. Even Bernie Sanders knew what to do when attacked. Poor Bernie did not know what to do in the face of vote rigging and voter suppression.

Having closed primaries is a sure way to get candidates that enough members of your party like, but does not consider that the great majority of voters in the general election are not members of your party. If you don’t care enough about the opinion of potential supporters who are not members of your party, do you expect for them to say “Thank you very much for refusing to pay attention to us”?

Tillerson Refuses to Acknowledge ExxonMobil’s Efforts to Deceive the Public on Climate Change   Recently updated !

Naked Capitalism has the article Tillerson Dodges Discussing Who Knew What When about ExxonMobil’s Efforts to Deceive the Public on Climate Change. The features an interview on The Real News Network Tillerson Refuses to Acknowledge ExxonMobil’s Efforts to Deceive the Public on Climate Change.

Kathy Mulvey of the Union of Concerned Scientists says the oil giant is continuing to avoid accountability for its disinformation campaign.

Senator Tim Kaine really blew his opportunity to question Tillerson. The most important question that he failed to ask Tillerson was what his position would be as Secretary of State on the validity of the science on global climate change. Also, what role would he or could he play in the Trump administration in the face of climate change deniers who could possibly be heading the Environmental Protection Agency in the administration and on the President himself.

I had hoped that perhaps with ExxonMobil’s knowledge of the subject that Tillerson could play a positive role in the administration. Tillerson may have dashed that hope in his confirmation hearings. Most assuredly, the Demcocratic Senators at the hearing missed their golden opportunity to pin the administration down on this topic. Why would the Democrats do that? All these Senators are trained lawyers. Surely they know how to question a witness. Just as assuredly, if the Democratic Senators really cared about the climate change issue, they would want to know the answers to the questions I suggested. I wonder what they think is the purpose of these confirmation hearings.

This display of dereliction of duty is one of the reasons why I have given up on and have quit the Democratic Party.

China: No negotiation on ‘One China’ policy despite Trump remarks   Recently updated !

CNN has a surprisingly even handed report China: No negotiation on ‘One China’ policy despite Trump remarks as long as you don’t read too much in the headline.

China’s Foreign Ministry firmly pushed back Saturday against President-elect Donald Trump’s suggestion that the “One China” policy on Taiwan is negotiable, calling it the “political foundation” of the relationship between the US and China.

China views Taiwan as a renegade province and, since 1979, the US has acknowledged Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China, with US-China relations governed by a set of protocols known as the “One China” policy.

I am sure that unlike President Obama’s poor negotiation skills on either side of an argument, that Donald Trump realizes that calling something non-negotiable is a standard negotiating ploy. Part of the negotiations will be to try to get China to negotiate this point.

I am loath for our country to make a decision on the future of Taiwan without giving the people of Taiwan a say on the agreement. China may be “right” in how they view Taiwan, but the fact remains that the people may like the life they have established for themselves in Taiwan over the last 60 years. What right do we have to decide for them how they should live in the future? This is especially true now that the Government of mainland China and the government on Taiwan have made contact with each other. They can negotiate the outcome between the two of them.

China has the perfect right to explain to us what their concerns over Taiwan are. We have a perfect right to explain to them what our concerns are. We should understand this is part of negotiating. Neither side should be forced into making an agreement that they do not want to accept. Saber rattling from either side should not sway the negotiations in any direction. Each side needs to make that clear to the other side.

I suppose in a negotiation each side could come to the understanding that you can rattle your saber, and we will rattle ours back, but in the end we will have a peaceful negotiation.

I wonder if this is too much for the corporate media, the oligarchs, and eventually the citizens of our country to understand.

Sanders Amendment to Lower Rx Prices   Recently updated !

Bernie Sanders posted a press release about his amendment Senate to Vote on Sanders Amendment to Lower Rx Prices. The article has a link to the amendment’s wording.

AMENDMENT intended to be proposed by Mr. SANDERS
1 At the end of title III, add the following:
6 The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of
7 the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or
8 committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in
9 this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions,
10 amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions,

1 or conference reports relating to lowering prescription
2 drug prices, including through the importation of safe and
3 affordable prescription drugs by American pharmacists,
4 wholesalers, and individuals with a valid prescription from
5 a provider licensed to practice in the United States, by
6 the amounts provided in such legislation for those pur-
7 poses, provided that such legislation would not increase
8 the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years
9 2017 through 2021 or the period of the total of fiscal
10 years 2017 through 2026.

The New Republic has the article Cory Booker’s explanation for voting against cheap prescription drugs doesn’t track which quotes Booker’s explanation.

I support the importation of prescription drugs as a key part of a strategy to help control the skyrocketing cost of medications. Any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards. I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test. The rising cost of medications is a life-and-death issue for millions of Americans, which is why I also voted for amendments last night that bring drug prices down and protect Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. I‎’m committed to finding solutions that allow for prescription drug importation with adequate safety standards.

Booker can say this with a strait face as if Sanders’ amendment did not have the words “including through the importation of safe and affordable prescription drugs”?

William Kilmer posted a comment on the article “Cory Booker’s Crucificion Has The Attention of Every Democrat in DC”.

For those of you who have not been playing along at home, Senator Bernie Sanders offered a measure, along with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, which would have permitted the re-importation of U.S. made pharmaceuticals. This would have substantially reduced the cost to American consumers.

Kilmer explained about the comment about U.S. made drugs.

The comment was made during the debate that importing drugs from Canada would in many, perhaps most cases, be re-importing drugs manufactured in the United States.

When I read the doubts that Booker claims to have about safety, I think that he is really implying some astounding things that we need to emphasize. As for the re-importation of drugs made in the USA, he is either implying that something goes wrong with the drugs when they cross the border and come back or he is saying the US manufacturers make an inferior product to ship to Canada. The second interpretation should shake to the roots our trust in the ethics of drug makers. Surely they would not want people in the US, nor people in Canada to have questions about the safety of what gets shipped to Canada. Also take into account that the cost of a drug does not primarily depend on the cost of the ingredients nor the cost of the of the manufacturing process. Most of the cost is an effort by the drug companies to recoup their cost of research, development, and testing for certification by the FDA. Of course costs of advertising also play a huge role. There really would be little point to making an inferior product to sell at a lower price in other countries.

Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works   Recently updated !

Counterpunch has the article Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works.

The primary aim of official propaganda is to generate an “official narrative” that can be mindlessly repeated by the ruling classes and those who support and identify with them. This official narrative does not have to make sense, or to stand up to any sort of serious scrutiny. Its factualness is not the point. The point is to draw a Maginot line, a defensive ideological boundary, between “the truth” as defined by the ruling classes and any other “truth” that contradicts their narrative.

Come to think of it, this technique is so powerful that both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have fallen to this power. At least Bernie Sanders seems to still be figting it although he had completely succumbed during the general election. The evidence I see is the support Warren and Sanders gave to Clinton, even though they couldn’t possibly have believed the supportive things they said about Clinton. If you think they really believed what they said about Clinton, then everything Bernie Sanders said about Clinton in the primary season and everything that Warren had said and written about Clinton before her endorsement of Clinton were lies. If you know that one of the two sets narratives had to be lies, how do you know which one to believe? One way to figure it out is to look at which narrative comports with the facts about Clinton that you have learned over the years independently of what Sanders or Warren have said.

Two examples should suffice to give you the idea of what I mean. I don’t think there is any doubt that Bill Clinton pressed the case for bank deregulation and NAFTA against the will of the majority of the Democrats in Congress at the time. He enlisted Republican help to get these two things passed. These two things match what Warren and Sanders have been saying for years. These two things directly contradict what Warren and Sanders said about Clinton after Clinton became the official nominee.

Gaius Publius: Who’s Blackmailing the President & Why Aren’t Democrats Upset About It?

Naked Capitalism has the article Gaius Publius: Who’s Blackmailing the President & Why Aren’t Democrats Upset About It?

As I said above, there only three elements to “get” to get this story. First, there’s the blackmail element. According to the 35-page dossier, Russia (supposedly) prepared blackmail material on Trump but isn’t using it.

But it’s clear that American intelligence services certainly are using it, or using the threat of using it, and doing so very publicly

This article and the links that are in it get to the seriousness of what is going on here. It may all unfold before the inauguration on Friday. This is going to be an interesting week.

Why Is Ranked-Choice Voting Bad for Third Parties?   Recently updated !

Michael Goldman posted this YouTube video Why Is Ranked-Choice Voting Bad for Third Parties?

This simulation looks at ranked-choice voting (a.k.a. instant runoff voting, hare method, alternative vote). In particular, it looks at how voters still get punished for ranking their honest favorite as first.

The video is interesting. It would take me too much time at the moment to study it closely enough to find the fly in the ointment, but I suspect there is one. In the example of the problem with rank choice voting, I think he made a couple of questionable assumptions, First, on a bell shaped curve it is not the width of a segment, but its area that counts. If you take a wide segment that includes parts of the curve with a low height, then the area will not be comparable to the width. Second is the assumption that the blue segment being squeezed out from below would all go red. In the current election I found some voters who were truly torn between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. So there may be people on the far right who would also vote for some one who is pretty far out on the bell curve to the left. In the world of infinities, sometimes the far left merges with the far right.

These are my suspicions, but I would really have to write my own computer model to test my suspicions. I have the skills to do it, but not the time or inclination right now.

I want to keep track of the link to the video because it does point out that it is complicated to figure out what voting method is “best” in all cases if there even is one that is “best” in all cases. The other reason for keeping track of it is that when I have time to write my own model, I might find out that this video is correct.

January 15, 2017

Found the Fly in the Ointment

First, the video plots people in a bell shaped curve along a political spectrum. That in itself is a fantasy with no real-life meaning. There is no tight correlation between a place in a political spectrum if you could even define what that means and how a person would vote for one of three candidates. If you could find a valid way to plot people along a political spectrum, you could not bunch together all the people who voted for one of three candidates along the whatever that measure was that you came up with to judge their place in the political spectrum.

Second, the example where a shrinking middle of blue people who are on the left side of the middle put a red candidate as their second choice, you cannot say that they failed to get their preference when the red candidate won. If they voted the red candidate as their second choice, then that has to be who they deserved to get as their second choice. If they did not understand how the voting rules worked and they voted a red candidate as their second choice when the green candidate was really their second choice, then that is the equivalent situation of the butterfly ballot in the 2000 election in Florida. By a fluke or a trick many people did not vote for the candidate they wanted. That is an issue that is entirely separate from ranked choice voting versus the current system.

You have to be suspicious when pseudo-science enters the realm of human behavior. In this case, making a choice between three candidates just does not fit on a smooth, continuous bell shaped curve. To plot it this way is to put mathematical precision on something that is not even measurable. To then have to misuse the meaningless plot to prove your point, you must really not have a valid point to make.

Donald Trump Lashes Out at Hillary Clinton, Calling Her ‘Guilty as Hell’   Recently updated !

The New York Times has the story Donald Trump Lashes Out at Hillary Clinton, Calling Her ‘Guilty as Hell’

The New York Times can dish it out, but it seems to have its own problems taking it.

They try to dismiss the one thing that really gets their goat.

Mr. Trump likes to dismiss the “failing New York Times,” but he clearly reads it closely.

I actually think that Trump is right about The New York Times. It fails to live up to its belief that it is a newspaper of record as far as reporting the truth. Some people (not I) listen to Faux Noise despite knowing that it is faux and just noise. They do it to see what the crazies are saying lately.

The one thing that I find heartening about all the things that Trump has reportedly tweeted is the following:

My people will have a full report on hacking within 90 days!

Of all the reports that Trump may have caved in to the “intelligence” communities false story that it has proof of “Russian” “hacking” this quote seems to indicate that he will look at this issue again when the “intelligence” community it no longer under the control of the Obama administration. I have no delusion that Trump is necessarily any more honest than Obama is, but at least the new report will show how fast the “intelligence” community can reverse itself on what is true depending on who is the President.

Before critiquing what I have said, please read my words carefully. I have chosen them carefully to convey what part of the “Russian” “hacking” I dispute, and what I don’t dispute. To be clear, I dispute that the “intelligence” community has published proof. They may or may not have proof, but what they have published so far is not proof. I have no opinion on whether or not Russia has or has not done what the “intelligence” community claims.

Glenn Greenwald on Bernie Sanders   Recently updated !

Democracy Now, one of those purveyors of fake fake news (meaning the truth), has this episode Glenn Greenwald on Bernie Sanders.

Worth watching and wondering if we aren’t being too clever by half to think we can use politicians like Elizabeth Warren to further our goals when she has shown she does not care about us any more? Who do you think is more adept at using people, we using politicians, or politicians using us? I think playing it straight and not trying to be devious is the road to success in the long run. When you are devious, you eventually destroy your own credibility.

We can also learn from Sanders’ example about handling Trump. If we keep disparaging Trump voters, that will not help unite them with us to fight on the issues that need fighting. Where I disagree with Sanders is that the constant harping on the issues we used to disparage Trump voters may be counter-productive. I am not saying to ignore these issues. It is just that I think their must be a better way of winning the hearts and minds of people than disparaging them all the time.

Tom Ferguson: Monetary Policy Can’t Levitate a Broken Economy   Recently updated !

Naked Capitalism has the article Tom Ferguson: Monetary Policy Can’t Levitate a Broken Economy.

Two generations ago, almost every economist knew what a catastrophe a deficiency of effective demand could create. And in a real crunch, they knew what to do about that. They realized you couldn’t push on a string, so somebody — the government — had to borrow and spend when private markets would not. From the 1980s on, though, the fundamental Keynesian point — the Principle of effective Demand —disappeared in a cloud of statistical double-talk that, when you deconstruct it, turns out to imply estimating potential output as a lagged function of whatever foolish policy is being pursued.

Of course I like this article. This is what I have been trying to tell people for more than the 10 years I have been publishing this blog. I have been waiting for someone to talk about pushing on a string so I could quote them, and not pretend that I invented the phrase.

Running across this article is a rather fortuitous bit of luck given my previous post Deficits Matter, Paul Krugman Doesn’t. Paul Krugman is one of those economists who learned his economics two generations ago like I did. Krugman’s problem and my good fortune is that he made a living being a noted economist while I had to work as an electrical engineer. He had the privilege of being on top of the economic thinking of the 1980’s to participate in making “the fundamental Keynesian point — the Principle of effective Demand — disappeared in a cloud of statistical double-talk.” Since I was too busy earning a living in my profession, I failed to realize that what I had learned about economics in college was being dismissed by the professionals. Now that I am retired and can pay more attention to economics, and it has become obvious that what I learned in college was correct, I can be ahead of the game compared to some of the professionals that sold themselves a bill of goods.