A Belated Post-Thanksgiving Check-In

Not much to report recently save the somewhat frustrating experience I had on Thanksgiving. I was visiting some old friends in Seattle, and one of them, who works as a hydrologist, was having no end of trouble analyzing a batch of huge data files. The root of her troubles was that the software she was using was attempting to load the entire file in memory before operating on it.

That was highly frustrating for me to observe, because:

  1. All indications are that it was probably unnecessary to load the entire file into memory (i.e. it was possible to process it on a record-by-record basis).
  2. If so, I could easily correct the above problem.
  3. That their lack of computer expertise is causing this one project to be adversely impacted indicates that it’s unlikely to be the only such project; odds are this is merely the tip of an iceberg.
  4. I don’t work there, therefore I am not allowed to address such problems.
  5. I’ve been unable to convince anyone who does work there and who has the authority to hire me (either as a contractor, or as an employee) to so much as meet with me.

The Coup in Bolivia

Mind you, the original ouster of Evo Morales was a popular uprising, not a coup. The problem is, what’s happened since then is sounding more and more coup-like with each passing day. Particularly this (source here):

The IACHR decried as “grave” a decree from the Anez government exempting the armed forces from criminal responsibility as they preserve public order.

The rights group, an autonomous arm of the Organization of American States, said the effect of the decree could be to “stimulate violent repression.”

Just like I can think of no plausible excuse for Morales (or anyone else) to cling to power for term after term, I can think of no plausible excuse for a government placing parts of itself above the law when it comes to committing acts of violence against the people.

In fact, it’s even harder to think of any excuse for the latter. Clinging to power is merely the sort of egoism on the part of a leader that smooths the way to becoming a tyrant in the future. Giving the military a blank check to kill and maim basically is tyranny.

An Impractical Fantasy

This is an amusing liberal fantasy, but is it really practical? Probably not.

If Bloomberg or Steyer (or Bloomberg and Steyer as a partnership) buy Fox News, and tell their employees to run a real news outlet instead of a right-wing propaganda mill, what will Fox News’ talent do? Some of them might comply with the new boss’s orders, but many wouldn’t.

Murdoch would be flush with cash thanks to the transaction, and use it to start a brand new right-wing propaganda mill. (The market viability of such things has already been proven by today’s Fox News, of course.) The disgruntled talent from the old Fox News would jump ship to the new network, as would the audience for that talent.

It would all amount to nothing more than a very expensive game of Whack-a-Mole.

Mind you, there is a problem with Steyer and Bloomberg using their money to run as primary candidates, and there are much better ways that both could be spending their money, but buying Fox News is not one of those ways.

Pelosi Hits One out of the Park

Her use of the term “bribery” was an excellent piece of messaging.

First, it’s accurate. What Trump did to Ukraine is by any common meaning of the term “bribery.”

Second, it’s damning. “Bribery” is explicitly mentioned in the Constitution about grounds for impeachment. There is no distinction made between being on the giving or receiving end of a bribe; as such, either is forbidden.

Third, it’s simple and direct. Not everyone knows what “quid pro quo” means, but the meaning of “bribery” is understood by nearly all.

A shockingly high fraction (and probably a decisive majority) of the electorate is either lazy, stupid, or ignorant. To admit this is electoral suicide, so no even marginally competent politician is ever going to say it out loud. (Just revisit where Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comment helped to get her.) But it’s still true. As such, keeping it as simple as possible is generally the best strategy.

Democrats often drop the ball when playing politics. Not this time.

Morales is Out — Good Riddance

When he took office, he represented much-needed change, and Bolivia has gotten less unequal and more prosperous since then. Now, however, he represents most of all how the seats of power corrupt whomever happens to sit in them.

He initially promised to serve only the single five-year term the constitution he was elected under allowed. Then he argued that the new constitution his government passed in that first term (which allowed for two terms to be served) meant that only terms under the new constitution counted, and ran for re-election, twice.

That gave him three terms: one under the old constitution, and two under the new. That wasn’t enough for Morales, so he tried to amend the new constitution to allow him to serve a fourth term. Amending the Bolivian constitution requires a popular referendum, and that amendment went down to defeat. So Morales turned to the Supreme Court. Thanks to having now served in office for well over a decade, his appointees controlled the court, and dutifully ruled that the Constitution didn’t actually mean what it said, and that Morales could run for a fourth term.

Initial election returns showed him losing that election, then returns mysteriously stopped being reported for about a day. When they began to be reported again, they showed (surprise, surprise) that Morales had secured just enough votes to be elected to a fourth term.

It was in that context that the popular uprising against Morales commenced.  It is critically important to note that the army and police revolted against Morales only after weeks of popular unrest; what has happened in Bolivia is not a coup d’etat. In a coup, the army leads the process. In Bolivia, the army followed the lead of the masses. In fact, Morales himself took power as a result of a similar uprising against his predecessor, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada.

As popular uprisings give, so should they take away. Political revolutions often get to the point where they become corrupt and require a new revolution. They only seldom get this needed second revolution; in this respect, what has just happened in Bolivia is as much a miracle as the revolution that unseated the old guard and installed Morales in the first place.

Of course, the new president is a member of that very same old guard, so there is absolutely no reason to think he won’t be a disaster of a different sort. At least he’ll be a weak disaster, and vulnerable to being unseated by yet another popular uprising. (And if he is, he will probably whine about being the victim of a “coup,” too.)

So be it. Morales had lived well past his period of usefulness, and his shenanigans with the Supreme Court conclusively demonstrated that things had gotten the point where he deserved to be the target of a revolution himself.

Bolivia’s public finances, which in the first decade of Morales’ administration did very well, have been getting undermined by corruption-fueled unsustainable spending in recent years. Bolivia’s part of the Amazonian jungle is on fire as much as Brazil’s; just like Bolsonaro, Morales had decided to de-emphasize enforcement of environmental laws there.

Had Morales stayed, all evidence indicates that Bolivia would have gone down the same path Venezuela did. Good riddance.

WTF, Democrats?

Willfully choosing to enable illegal tactics by Trump-supporting fascists? Why must you always, always be the party of weakness, Democrats? Why?

And yes, Democrats, you did willfully choose to enable those tactics. You should have had the Capitol police arrest the intruders and remove them. You should have, but you chose not to.

As such, any whining about “lawlessness” on the part of the other side will find exactly zero sympathy in my ears. Laws only matter to the degree that they are enforced, and you just chose not to enforce them.

The correct course of action I proposed above is, far from being an extreme one, actually a very moderate one. You will note that I didn’t propose filing charges this first time. Just let the perpetrators experience what it’s like to be arrested, and what the interior of a holding cell looks like. Then release them (without filing charges), because it’s a first time. Let them decide if they want to push things further or not.

You blew it big time, Democrats, but you still have a chance to learn from your mistake. Announce that next time there will be arrests. And pass a resolution censuring everyone involved in today’s intrusion.

Or just shut the fuck up and stop claiming to be enforcing the rule of law.

A Wince-Worthy Debate

I hate to say it, but Tuesday night’s debate underscored just how good Trump’s chances are in 2020, assuming his term doesn’t end early.

Sanders and Warren

First, you had Sanders and particularly Warren evading the hard questions on single-payer health care. They’re liable to get eaten alive in 2020 if the Trump campaign raises the issues of how to pay for it or scare-mongers about taking away people’s private insurance. (And trust me, if it comes to that, it will.) Warren’s performance was particularly depressing given how well she did at the LGBTQ forum.

There are other hard single-payer questions to ask, of course (like how realistic it is to trust a broken political system with a health insurance monopoly), but that same broken system will ensure that one doesn’t get raised. Paying for it, and taking away people’s private insurance are the ones that can sink Sanders and Warren.

It is theoretically possible to resolve both the above problems with appropriate messaging, of course (single-payer has been successfully introduced in other countries). The rub is, I have as of yet seen no evidence that either Sanders or Warren are good enough at messaging to accomplish that.

Biden

That leaves Biden as the only likely eventual candidate who doesn’t have that liability. The trouble here is that Biden is an exemplar of the stereotypical Democratic Party failure-seeking missile of a candidate. Just like Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton, he is a purportedly “safe, responsible” choice which is in fact neither, because he represents a failed status quo that for decades has seen the rich get richer while everyone else slips further behind.

The Democratic Party elite was sure that Barack Obama was unelectable in 2008, and threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton, yet Obama won that election handily. The party establishment prevailed in 2016 with Hillary, who lost against the weakest opponent any presidential candidate has faced in recent history. That alone should underscore how piss-poor the judgment of the party elite is about electability.

Nominate Biden and enough voters will choose to sit the election out to make another Trump win likely.

Buttigieg

He’s an interesting guy. Atypically for a political moderate, he’s actually a fearless thinker. As such, he is not afraid to embrace ideas from the left if his logic leads him there; he outright mentioned the Biden problem I touched on above. He also mentioned some of the single-payer pitfalls. The trouble is he’s not even 40 years old, and he has no political experience save being the mayor of a mid-sized Indiana city. Plus, at best he’s polling at just a hair above 5%. Odds are he’s an also-ran.

The Other Also-Rans

They are, well, also-rans. They’re not going to get the nomination, either.

The Depressing Take-Away

Simply, no candidate capable of winning the primary seems likely to prevail against Trump in November.

Democrats are Still Bringing Knives to Gun Fights

As soon as Trump decided to betray the Kurds, the House Democrats should have announced with much fanfare that they are adding an investigation of Trump’s dealings with Turkey to the list of impeachment investigations. After all, Trump is himself on record as saying in 2015:

I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers—two towers, instead of one, not the usual one; it’s two… They have a strong leader.

To that add an investigation into Trump’s willful complicity with the genocide Saudi Arabia is currently committing in Yemen. Trump has business links with the House of Saud, too.

What’s particularly tragic about this failure is that carping on these issues could be expected to have a significant degree of cross-party appeal, and thus be able to peel off a fraction of the GOP vote. And it doesn’t require compromising any way on core principles, unless for some reason being weak on corruption is a core principle.

But, neither announcement happened. The institutional incompetence of the party that couldn’t win against a candidate as flawed as Trump marches on.

The LGBTQ Forum

In case you weren’t aware, was a Democratic Candidates’ forum in Iowa recently that specialized on LGBTQ issues.

Not a Shitshow

Many Republicans, even those of the Never Trump variety, found it wince-inducing. And yes, if you search through the whole 2½ hour forum, you can easily compile a video of the “worst of the worst” excerpts. That’s more a function of the length of the event than of how bad (or not) it was. Any 2½ hour forum is going to have its off moments.

Only to Be Expected

The LGBTQ community is one of the Democrat’s core constituencies, and it is an identity politics issue*. Thus, such issues can be brought up without the perceived risks of class politics, something the Establishment wing of the party is loathe to broach. Given that partywide consensus, such a forum is only to be expected.

* Note that labeling something “identity politics” is not a dismissal of it as an issue unworthy of concern. Most so-called identity politics is tightly bound to the cause of human liberation, and thus critically important. The rub is, so is class politics. Identity politics only becomes a problem when it is pursued in place of class politics, not in addition to class politics. Focusing on class politics without identity politics is as big and glaring an omission as is focusing on identity politics without class politics.

There Were Problems

There was little or no effort made to standardize any questions, making comparisons between the candidates more difficult. Moreover, the moderators really slipped up on the format, allowing Williamson to give an opening statement but not any other candidates.

Biden Did Poorly

He stumbled when he wasn’t allowed his opening statement. Clearly, candidates had been informed they were to give one, then the moderators slipped up. He should have been pushier. Then he really stumbled when his past record was brought up, in many cases trying to employ technicalities and weasel words to deny his past positions.

Look, Biden has a problem: no other candidate has held an an office as high as he has, and public attitudes on LGBTQ issues have shifted a lot in the past quarter century. To get where he did, he had to espouse ideas, whether he believed them or not, which are now considered unacceptably backward. Biden probably couldn’t be that frank, but he could have said that despite his age, he’s open to learning, and his evolution on LGBTQ issues is evidence of that. Instead, he came off as slimy and evasive.

Sanders Did Worst of All

He was a no-show. To reiterate, focusing on class politics without identity politics is as big and glaring an omission as is focusing on identity politics without class politics.

Warren Did Well

There wasn’t much schoolmarm on display that night. She really connected with her audience. Her answer on the marriage issue was a classic. If this is a representative sample of how Warren is now presenting herself, she is a much more viable candidate than she used to be, and probably now the most viable candidate, period.