Disaster is Brewing

Published at 21:15 on 29 February 2020

Someone is going to be the Democratic Party nominee for president. Barring a brokered convention that appoints someone completely unexpected, it will be either Sanders or a centrist. The centrist will probably be Biden.

There are two main sides in this primary struggle, and only one of them is going to win. The losing side will be upset and bitter.

I’ve already mentioned the Sanders supporters unwilling to support anyone else in the general election. Well, it turns out there’s also no shortage of centrists who will refuse to support Sanders. So far as the small (but not zero) chance of  dark horse, it won’t be Sanders, so the Left will be upset.

Humphrey v2.0 or McGovern v2.0. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Did the Washington Post Get Hacked?

Published at 11:16 on 28 February 2020

I use “hacked” here in the sense of someone manipulating an organization, much like someone might manipulate a computer, to get access which in normal circumstances he or she would not be entitled.

It was a shock and a disappointment to notice this article in the Post, because I had been observing Bolivia trend worryingly in the directions of leader-worship and authoritarianism for some time before the events of last October transpired, and I have believed the elections then to have been every bit as fraudulent as the Bolivians in the streets rioting against them did.

It is necessary at this point to summarize those events, because very few sources understand the totality of them correctly. There was an incumbent president, Evo Morales, who had initially promised to only serve one or two terms, go back on his word not once but twice. In other words, he was now running for his fourth term.

It gets worse. He managed to do so by getting the Supreme Court to issue a convoluted ruling that the Bolivian constitution (in which there are presidential term limits) itself is unconstitutional, because the term limits were an infringement on the right of Evo Morales to run for the office of the president. Yes, they ruled that the constitution is unconstitutional. They might as well have ruled that up is down or black is white; the ruling made that little sense.

Morales had originally tried to lift the term limits the legally correct way, via a constitutional amendment. Such amendments require a popular referendum in Bolivia, and the voters had shot down the measure in a free and fair election. Who wrote this constitution? Why, none other than a government led by Morales himself, at an earlier time, before Morales got so power-hungry.

Anyhow, Morales seemed to have gotten away with it. He ran for an illegal fourth term. Enter people power: when it became clear that the election was in all likelihood fraudulent, riots broke out. The police started refusing orders to suppress the riots. Morales ended up being driven from office and fled the country.

Then came the coup d’etat. The right wing proclaimed one of their own, an anti-Indigenous bigot, as president. Acts of repression and brutality towards the Left (which includes backers of Morales’ own party, since Morales is a socialist) began to be reported. And this is basically where we are to day: where the Left is struggling against a right-wing coup government, trying to compete in elections scheduled to happen in May.

The leading candidate in opinion polls is from the same party Morales was, MAS-IPSP. This should not be a surprise. Unlike in Venezuela, Bolivia’s leftist government has run the economy well. Bolivia has some of the healthiest finances on the continent, and there has been significant progress in modernizing infrastructure and reducing poverty and inequality. Plus, the treachery of the Right in installing a coup government automatically acted to delegitimize the opposition parties.

Also unlike in Venezuela, Bolivia’s social revolution happened as a result of multiple social movements acting on many fronts; it wasn’t just people following a single charismatic leader like Venezuela’s Chávez. It is therefore no big surprise that it was relatively easy for MAS-IPSP find another head to replace the one that was lopped off and to rebuild popular support.

End of historical background summary. Or, shall I say, what I believe to be an accurate summary. I was then shocked to see the article linked above, which claimed that the elections were not in fact fraudulent. Had I been snowed by the Establishment media? It was an unsettling possibility.

It turns out that, no, I have probably not been snowed by the Establishment media. Quite the contrary: it appears that the Post has been snowed by an apologist for left-wing authoritarianism. It was not terribly difficult to find the Twitter account of one of the study’s authors. In it, he approvingly retweets a sneering dismissal of an article critical of left-wing authoritarianism (particularly that in Venezuela) in Jacobin magazine.

The dismissal ludicrously claims, “This article may as well have been written by the State Department.” I read that article. It was written by an evident Trotskyist. Its criticism, given all that happened in Venezuela, is very timid and mild. It spares no effort to see things in as favorable a light as possible to the Maduro regime. Yet, it still arrives at the inescapable conclusion that the Maduro regime has done inexcusable things (not a surprise, as that regime has done many, many, truly awful things). As an example of its general tone, it contains the following paragraph:

Koerner’s habit of making false statements continues in his discussion of a May 2019 article I wrote for Jacobin. Following a bizarrely worded and inaccurate contention that “The university professor backpedaled on some of his previous claims,” Koerner pens another fabrication: “Hetland appeared to be entirely unaware that the opposition attempted a coup d’etat scarcely three weeks before.” It seems Koerner is “entirely unaware” the article references and condemns “[Juan] Guaidó’s desperate and comically ineffective April 30 coup attempt” and “appalling recent opposition violence.” [emphasis added]

To put it mildly, I am not aware of any analyses from the U.S. State Department that claim Juan Guaidó is the leader of an illegitimate coup d’etat. It doesn’t matter. Gabriel Hetland issued some mild criticism of Venezuela, therefore Hetland is guilty of apostasy against St. Chávez and is obviously a running-dog lackey of Western imperialism.

I have studiously avoided the use of the phrase “useful idiot” to refer to Jack R. Williams, because if there is one thing he is not, it is an idiot. He is obviously very smart, and skilled at using statistics to prove whatever point he wishes. I am sure that the statistics he presents are accurate, but I am also sure that he spent much time selecting precisely the subset of statistics needed to paint the election fraud as something other than what it really was.

Mayor Pete Steps in It

Published at 16:46 on 27 February 2020

In one fell swoop, he managed to alienate:

  • The Left (because he’s sneering at the Left),
  • Queers (because he’s dismissing the politics of Stonewall), and
  • Blacks (because he’s dismissing the direct actions that forced the government to pass the Civil Rights Acts).

I was going to cast my protest vote (against the two nearly-unelectable old white men at the top of the ballot and the general sorry quality of the entire gaggle of candidates) for him. No more. If it is acceptable for Cuban-Americans to get turned off by a weak stance on Castro (and it is), then it is acceptable for queers, the Left, and Blacks to get turned off when someone sneers at our gains (and I am in the first two groups).

Compromise is one thing. Expecting people to sell out the core of their own dignity is quite another.

I think I’ll vote for Warren. I don’t consider her terribly electable (she lets people troll her too much), but then again, I don’t consider anyone in the field terribly electable (yes, I have a generally bleak outlook right now). She is, after Sanders, the leftmost candidate, which is another plus.

She probably won’t win. However, I’ve long predicted that she would make the logical running mate for Joe Biden, and a higher turnout for her may well encourage that decision to be made. And Biden needs encouragement to do the right thing here (if, indeed, it ends up being his decision to make). Hillary probably lost the election when she gave the Left a big F.U. by nominating not a progressive but another centrist as her running mate.

It’s Not Taking Long

Published at 10:34 on 27 February 2020

The CDC is starting to publicly come on board with my predictions about coronavirus.

Note I said “publicly” above. They doubtless have known the awful truth (and know the awful parts left unsaid by them so far) for a week or more. They’re just letting it out in small chunks, instead of all at once, to reduce the shock value and thus minimize the chance of causing panic. A responsible agency really can’t do otherwise, after all.

Sanders is Probably Doomed

Published at 09:49 on 26 February 2020

Doomed to lose either the primaries or the general election, that is.

As much as I’d personally like to see a socialist in the White House, when you stand on stage and get booed for praising a dictatorship and your reaction is to cluelessly ask “Really? Really?,” your chances of winning in November are probably pretty slim. Just telling it like it is.

And yes, Bloomberg has done worse. He’s not merely praised certain isolated aspects of communist dictatorships, he’s praised an actual communist dictator, going to far as to deny that the dictator is in fact a dictator: “Xi Jinping is not a dictator. He has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.”

Bloomberg is not getting heat for it while Sanders is simply because Bloomberg is a capitalist, and is issuing the praise so that he can personally profit from doing business in the country the dictator rules. Yes, this is unfair. Yes, it shows what a rotten farce our bourgeois society is. Welcome to the real world. (It’s suddenly news to you that bourgeois society is a rotten farce?)

But, guess what? Sanders could have used the above facts to rip Bloomberg an entirely new asshole. Instead, he blurted out the name “Xi Jinping” without providing further context, then went back to his lame shtick of left-splaining Castro, and couldn’t understand why he got booed for it.

Sanders sounded like nothing but an out-of-touch old grandpa. An old grandpa steeped and marinated in leftist subculture, to be sure, but still an out-of-touch old grandpa. He failed to go on the offensive and eviscerate one of his opponents. His handling of the issue was political malpractice of the first order.


Of course, if when verbally eviscerating Bloomberg, Sanders used words like “bourgeois,” it would make his counterattack totally fall flat. I can get away with using that word, because I am not running for president.

After I settle in for a few more years, I could probably even get away with using such language publically and then run for local office here in Bellingham. We’re a college town, with a history of also being an industrial town where organized labor was very strong (so strong that the local newspaper of record was run by unions, not capitalists, for many years). We’re also a hippie haven.

Most people here are not anarchists, socialists, or communists, but most people here know someone who identifies as one of the above labels, and know that most movements to accomplish worthy things have had radicals in them. They wouldn’t find my my choices in labeling toxic. Quirky, yes. Toxic, no.

If my opponent tried to red-bait me, the most likely overall response would be “F.U., you corporate droid, I’m voting for the scruffy anarchist just to piss you off. The world won’t end, and unless he’s an obvious failure at preforming his office, I won’t have a problem with him representing me. That will piss you plastic corporate types off even more.”

My guess is that Vermont operates in a similar way. The whole state has something of a reputation as a haven for old hippies. But the USA as a whole is not Vermont. What can play in a hippie haven can’t always play well nationwide.

Egads. Spare Me.

Published at 16:00 on 24 February 2020

First, the whole Sanders/Castro flap. Kiss Florida goodbye, Bernie. It is simply not possible to state anything even remotely positive about Castro without pushing the hot buttons of most Cuban-Americans. That the statement was in context of criticism of Castro’s authoritarianism matters not. That the Castro regime does in fact have its positive accomplishments, amongst them the ones Sanders cited, also matters not. Logic matters not when strong emotions come into play.

Next, Bloomberg is planning to spend millions in an attempt to damage Sanders. It is simply not possible for a billionaire to say anything to the backers of a candidate whose entire marketing premise is that the “billionaire class” has too much power that would persuade them to change their minds. It doesn’t matter how many awful and self-destructive things Sanders does; nobody in his base is going to pay attention to criticism coming from a billionaire. In fact, the criticism will probably make Sanders stronger; he will be able to point to its source as evidence that he is genuinely the threat to the power of the economic elite that he claims he is. The only candidates capable of effectively criticizing Sanders as the ones who are not themselves billionaires.

Both of these points are so blindingly obvious that I was shocked when I learned what Bernie had done and what Bloomberg was planning to do. Shocked and dismayed. A weak candidate, one likely to fail in November, is leading in the polls and just about to get stronger. Just great.

It’s a Pandemic, People. Prepare.

Published at 12:11 on 24 February 2020

When the Fukushima Daiichi reactors melted down, I could tell something really bad was was happening, despite the general lack of news stories that something really bad was in fact happening. (The news coming out was designed to give the impression that it was serious, but not Chernobyl-serious.)

Why? Because of how the news cycle happened. Normally, in the case of a potentially serious nuclear accident, one would expect the number of stories about it, and the details given in those stories, to rapidly increase. That didn’t happen with the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Instead, the stories only slowly trickled out, and often were not even on the front page.

Furthermore, facts were appearing in those non-front-page stories that were extremely disquieting to anyone with a basic knowledge of nuclear reactor design and operation.

The big one was when they started reporting that sea water was being used to cool the reactors. Nuclear reactors are precision equipment, operated with meticulous care to ensure outside contamination doesn’t promote unexpected corrosion or intoduce dirt that might hamper their operation. Reactor cooling water is highly purified and closely monitored for contaminants. Yet they were now pumping raw sea water into the reactors “to cool them.”

Sea water is extremely corrosive stuff. A significant part of the civil engineering is coping with how corrosive salt water is to structures. And yet they were pumping this corrosive stuff into a nuclear reactor of all places? The only way that would make sense is as a last-ditch desparate measure.

Moreover, modern nuclear reactors are closed systems: the primary cooling water is simply recycled over and over, pumping it through microfilters to keep it as clean as possible. As such, it is unusual and abnormal to have to add water to them, because this normally means that water is somehow leaking out. A leak of primary cooling water means a leak of radioactivity, since the primary cooling water is in contact with the reactor core and therefore itself becomes radioactive.

Put it all together and it meant that the reactors were leaking massive amounts of radioactivity and were on the verge of or starting to melt down, and its operators were frantically taking last-ditch desperate measures. That was the only conceivable narrative that made sense of all known facts.

Then reports started filtering in (not prominently featured reports, of course, but still reports from reliable and trusted news sources) of privately-run radiation monitors showing elevated levels. More than one monitor was showing elevated levels, which points to a distant major leak of radiation, not a nearby minor one. Obviously, at least one reactor had fully melted down, and was now spewing radiation like mad into the environment. Fukushima was, in other words, another Chernobyl.

At that stage, I tried pointing that out to people, and almost universally got the reaction that I was being a baseless alarmist. When all was said and done, the IAEA gave the catastrophe a rating of 7 on a scale of 1 to 7. The only other nuclear catastrophe to rate a 7 so far has been, yes, Chernobyl.

The overall moral of it all is that news agencies do sometimes act in concert, downplaying the seriousness of a story. Most likely, this is done out of a sense of responsibility on such agencies to avoid instilling mass panic.

The reporting about coronavirus reminds me of nothing if not the reporting about Fukushima Daiichi. Again, we have a story about something of extremely serious concern. Again, the reports haven’t been dominating the front pages as much might be expected: if coronavirus becomes a pandemic, it will by all best evidence be Spanish Flu v2.0, given that the best evidence indicates coronavirus is approximately as lethal as the Spanish Flu was. That’s a really big story. Yet it only sometimes comes up on the front pages; stories about the primary election dominate here in the USA.

Let’s review some of the basics about coronavirus, shall we?

  1. Known: It emerged in China.
  2. Known: The Chinese government admits that over 77,000 have been infected in that country.
  3. Known: China is a totalitarian dictatorship.
  4. Known: Totalitarian dictatorships tend to cover up or downplay news stories that make their countries look bad.
  5. Known: Coronavirus has a long incubation period, which has generally suspected to be up to 14 days.
  6. Known: During that incubation period, a person is contagious, and doesn’t even know it.
  7. Conclusion: Therefore there are likely far more than 77,000 Chinese infected right now, most of whom are running around infecting others, because they don’t even know they are sick.
  8. Known: Quarantines have been based on that 14-day incubation period.
  9. Known: Evidence is now emerging that the incubation period might be longer than 14 days.
  10. Conclusion: There is therefore a good chance that the quarantines will prove to be ineffective, and that coronavirus is already spreading uncontrolled in most of the world (we just don’t know it yet, due to the long incubation period).
  11. Known: Coronavirus has been reported in Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq.
  12. Known: Syria lies between Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq.
  13. Known: Syria is currently a war zone.
  14. Known: It is difficult to know or control what happens in a war zone.
  15. Conclusion: Therefore coronavirus is or soon will be in Syria.
  16. Known: Coronavirus has also been reported from Afghanistan.
  17. Known: Afghanistan is also a war zone.
  18. Conclusion: By virtue of being present in a not one but two war zones, coronavirus is now spreading absolutely uncontrolled.

All of the facts tagged as known above have been reported by well-regarded news sources. The only thing I am doing here is assembling them in one place, in a logical order, and arriving at some inescapable conclusions.

As mentioned before, the closest analogue to coronavirus is the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which spread worldwide and killed between 40 and 100 million people, or between 2.2 and 5.5 percent of the global population. If it happened today, that would be a death toll of 170 to 430 million. That is the most likely eventual outcome of coronavirus that can be predicted using the best available current knowledge.

When (not if, when) coronavirus becomes widespread in whatever country you live in, expect the same sort of severely disruptive total lockdowns of entire cities and regions now going on in China. Expect shortages and disruptions of food and common household goods. The time to start stocking up and preparing for this is now.

How Things Change in a Few Weeks

Published at 20:39 on 22 February 2020

The Nevada caucuses are over. The expected result happened. (Yes, the consensus of the opinion polls was a Sanders victory.) Yet, it’s as if the pundits didn’t expect this, given their evident shock at the outcome. Have they been asleep?

First, Sanders is not yet the nominee. It’s still early in the process.

Second, those same pundits aghast that Sanders is the presumptive nominee are acting to manifest their worst fears. The more Sanders is talked about as the inevitable nominee, the more he becomes the inevitable nominee.

Third, they are aghast at Sanders primarily because they want to be rid of Trump, and they correctly perceive that Sanders is a weak candidate. (The trouble is, the Democrats have mostly weak candidates in their field. The number of candidates is high, but they are for the most part very weak.) That, too, is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more a Sanders general election campaign is regarded as futile, the less support it will get, and the more likely it will actually be futile.

On that final point, centrists that are upset (and rightly so) about some Bernie backers’ threats to throw a big tantrum and sabotage the general election if Bernie isn’t allowed to be the nominee need to take a look in the mirror. Because that is exactly the same tactic they themselves are practicing each time they throw tantrums of their own about Bernie getting the nomination. That’s particularly the case here, because as a weak general election candidate, Bernie will need all the help he can get to prevail.

Remember, the conventional wisdom said Trump couldn’t win the Republican primary. Then it was that Trump couldn’t win the general election. Then it was that the Democrats couldn’t gain 40 seats in 2018. I suggest to centrists that the conventional wisdom which says Bernie is too far left to win in November is far less significant than they think it is.

Finally, why was this all so sudden? Because, to reiterate, the Democrats have mostly weak candidates in their field. Even Biden, as recently as a few weeks ago the long-time front-runner, turns out to have been (as predicted) shockingly weak (he would be weak against Trump in the general, too). When Biden faltered, there was really nobody to take his place. Warren (also weak) faltered, too. That left Sanders as the clear front-runner.

The possible role of social media black propaganda cannot be disregarded in Biden’s implosion, but if Biden weren’t such a weak candidate, he wouldn’t have been so vulnerable to such tactics in the first place. I’m not quite ready to write Biden off, however. If he performs poorly in South Carolina, then it will be time to write him off.

Could Sanders falter in the primary because of his weaknesses? Certainly. His main weakness is branding, and centrists are already firing up the red-baiting machine. We shall see. Leftists upset about this inevitability need to keep in mind that a) it was inevitable, and b) if Sanders cannot effectively counter the red-baiting, he has no business being the nominee; Trump would certainly attempt to red-bait Sanders.

Such stress-testing is, after all, one of the purposes of a primary. With such a large pack of such weak candidates, the only thing that can be expected for sure are more sudden changes. Two weeks from now, most of this analysis is likely to be hopelessly dated.

Mayor Pete Needs to Shake up His Campaign Team

Published at 08:32 on 22 February 2020

Or maybe just shake up his campaign strategy. I don’t know which it is: is his team accidentally not tooting his horn about things like this video, or is it deliberately doing so, as part of some strategy?

If it’s the latter, they need to rethink. Pete is clearly the smartest candidate, and perhaps he’s trying to be “crazy like a fox” by disguising his progressive side in hopes of consolidating support from centrists. The trouble is, that’s not working very well, the party is getting increasingly divided from within, and the Democrats really need an electable compromise candidate to cope with the lack of electability their most of their candidates (both centrists and progressives) have.

Maybe he has an Indiana mindset. Indiana is a pretty conservative place, and he’s managed to get elected as a Democrat there. The rub is, he’s not running to be President of Indiana. Swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania contain large, liberal, urban areas. If he fails to appeal to urban liberals, he’s probably toast.

On that video: the only reason I know about it is a leftist Facebook friend, who like me is skeptical about this whole bourgeois politics thing, but also realizes that the only practical, immediate-term way of getting Trump out is to get a Democrat in, shared it with me. The only reason he knows about the video is that he was personally at that demonstration.

Spare Me the Magical Thinking

Published at 23:30 on 21 February 2020

One one hand we have moderate and conservative Never Trumpers rooting for Bloomberg. At least the right-wingers who enabled Trump got a right-wing president out of their deal with the devil. The enablers of the centrist Trump won’t get bupkis. (Think that women, minorities, and progressives won’t get turned off big time by Bloomberg’s history of right-wing authoritarianism, sexism, and racism? Think this won’t hurt in enough key swing states to enable a second Trump term? Think again.)

On the other we have Bernie supporters looking more and more like a Bernie cult. I actually ran across a campaign on social media to get people to pledge not to support the Democratic nominee in November unless it’s Bernie Sanders. Yes, they are accepting pledges today. When Sanders has less than 1% of the delegates needed to secure the nomination. When voters in only two of the fifty states, and small states at that, have had their say so far.

I’ll sound like a West Coast hippie who’s read books on Buddhism for saying it (wait… I literally am a West Coast hippie who’s read such books), but: Such is the ability of attachment to blind people to obvious truths.

If you’re a conservative who is disgusted by Trump, you dream of being able to vote against Trump while also voting for right-of-center politics. Bloomburg is therefore a dream for you: a way to do that, even within the confines of a two-party system which would normally preclude that. This can easily blind you to how much Bloomberg himself is like Trump, and how impractical his candidacy really is.

If you’re a leftist, Bernie represents a longtime dream of being able to install a socialist in the highest office in the land. Again, this is something that the two-party system has normally precluded. This can easily blind you how much a liability the “socialist” label is likely to be in this general election, as well as how the checks and balances inherent in the US political system would act to severely frustrate any Sanders Administration’s ability to make and implement policy.

So much for understanding the cause. I just wish there were some way to wake people up and stop the tragedy I see unfolding.