Wednesday, December 06, 2017


The Palestinian objection to US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is that they want Jerusalem for the capital of their state following an eventual peace agreement. But Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel as well after an eventual peace settlement. So what is the harm to the Palestinians of the US recognizing that fact? 
In 1947 the UN offered two states for two peoples. The Jews accepted and created a Hebrew Republic with Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians refused and have neither state nor capital. 
For 70 years they have endlessly demanded a state, and just as endlessly refused one when the condition for it was peace with Israel. Now, they grudgingly might, just might, accept a state someday in the future. 
Again, how does preparation for a state the Palestinians have repeatedly refused to have, preclude recognition of the capital of a state the Jews have long since accepted and established?

How does their objection make any sense?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


In a word, yes.  There had been compromise after compromise between proponents and opponents of slavery.

Early on there was the 3/5 compromise at the constitutional convention in 1788.  The constitution calls for seats in the House of Representatives to be apportioned according to population.  Slave states wanted seats allocated for their slave populations too.  Free states said, since slaves can't vote, they should not have representation at all.  If you insist they are chattel property like cows or bales of cotton, they should have no more representation than cows or bales of cotton do.  Slave states said, rather contradictorily, slaves were people and should be represented.  A compromise was had between the two positions and slaves, though they still could not vote, counted as 3/5 of a free person for census purposes.

As the country grew and new states were organized and admitted to the union, the custom arose to maintain equal numbers of free and slave states so as to keep the senate evenly divided.  States were admitted in pairs, one slave, one free.  Mississippi and Indiana in 1816, Alabama and Illinois in 1818, Missouri and Maine in 1820, Arkansas and Michigan in 1836, Florida and Iowa in 1845, and Texas and Wisconsin in 1845 and 1848.

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 provided that states in the territory of the Louisiana Purchase north of 36 degrees 30' would be free and those south of it slave.  The Compromise of 1850 provided that California could be admitted as a free state with the proviso it was always to have one pro-slavery senator and one anti-slavery senator.

This series of compromises worked.  The union maintained an uneasy equilibrium until 1854 when Stephen Douglas, Lincoln's antagonist in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, pushed the Kansas-Nebraska Act through congress.  That provided that each would-be state would hold a plebiscite to determine whether to apply for admission as a free state or a slave state.

We cannot thank Douglas for this innovation because the plebiscites were the occasion of a lot of violence, murder, mayhem, and skullduggery, culminating in the near-civil-war in Bleeding Kansas, as it was called.  It ended in Kansas' admission as a free state in 1861, by which time the national civil war had begun.

Then came the election of 1860.  The two main parties, the Democrats and the Whigs had both splintered in the controversy over the extension of slavery into the territories.  The Democrats split into the Northern Democrats (Stephen Douglas), the Southern Democrats (John C. Breckinridge).  The Whigs split into the Constitutional Union (John Bell), and the Republicans (Abraham Lincoln).

Of the 8 candidates for the Republican nomination, Lincoln was the most moderate and the party adopted his platform of no interference with slavery in the states while opposing extending it into the territories not yet states.

Let that sink in a moment.  Lincoln and the Republicans did not oppose slavery as it was.  They opposed only its extension into new states.

The Democratic Party convention met in Charleston.  Before they could nominate a candidate the 'Fire-Eater' extreme pro-slavery Alabama delegation walked out, followed by all of the Deep South delegations.  The Democrats adjourned and met again in Baltimore.  This time, 110 Southern delegates (led by “Fire-Eaters”) walked out again when the convention would not adopt a resolution supporting extending slavery even into territories whose voters voted not to have it. 

Let that sink in too.  This is the moment when the Civil War became a runaway train that could not be stopped.  The Fire-Eaters rejected all of the 1820 Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  

They reiterated their rejection of all compromise when they led the Southern states into secession and civil war a few months later, after Lincoln was elected president.  

Looking at the map, one can see that those areas of the territories not yet states that could support a labor-intensive warm weather crop that required a lot of water, like cotton or tobacco, were NONE.  Even today no cotton or tobacco grows in any of the lands that were territories in 1860.  Everyone knew this in 1860 better than we do today.

The Fire-Eaters knew that there would never be slavery in the territories.  What they rejected was the insult of banning slavery in the territories, the implication that slavery was morally suspect and to be banned anywhere.  They objected to the principle of limiting the spread of slavery rather than the possibility that it actually could be spread to Puget Sound or the Dakotas or New Mexico.

The Fire-Eaters disrupted their country and led it into civil war for no real reason, for the principle of the thing, because they were unable or unwilling to compromise.

Lincoln opposed the extension of slavery into the territories.  But so did the facts of geography, agriculture, and economics.  There was not going to be slavery in the territories, Lincoln or no Lincoln.

The mood of the Fire-Eaters and the antebellum South they represented is shown us in the scene in 'Gone with the Wind' when news of the fall of Fort Sumter reaches the dress ball at Tara Plantation.  The practical Rhett Butler tells the jubilant guests that the North has three times their manpower, all the cannon factories, most of the railroads, and most of the industrial capacity.  A happy gentlemen replies with a shout that "One Southerner can lick ten Yankees!".   All repeat and toast that dubious proposition and the ball continues, merrier and more festive than ever.  Rhett Butler shrugs and leaves to go into the war profiteering business.

That idiocy and the Fire-Eaters inability to compromise led directly to the secession, to the clash of armies, and to the ruin of the nation.

Trump's Chief of Staff, General Kelly, recently remarked that failure to compromise caused the Civil War.  He was exactly right.  The gotcha instincts of the press corps that he was suggesting that slavery was OK are just reprehensible.  The press are often just as nasty, ignorant, and dishonestly partisan as the Trumpniks.

The inevitable local angle is that the Bay Area counties were for Lincoln, and the rest of the state was for Breckinridge and Douglas.  The Bay Area counties carried the state for Lincoln because of their greater population and because the vote against Lincoln was split.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Iran is an empire, a prison of nations, like the Russian Empire before the Revolution.  Iran is ruled by the Persians.  The Persians Farsi speakers rule over the Kurds, the Azeris, Arabs, Armenians, Baluchs, Rajis, Turkmens, and many other peoples.  Maybe it is time to free the subject peoples? 
The Persian Farsi speakers claim to be a majority of the population by counting Luri, Bakhtiari, Bandari, Hazara, and Khuzi speakers as Persians because their languages are similar to Farsi. That is like claiming that Frenchmen are Englishmen because French and English share so many words. The Persians are a minority in Iran yet rule the country with a dictatorship of ayatollahs.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


The Trump administration has been in office for 88 days as I write this.

---Declining Support

The persistent incompetence of  Trump personally and his administration generally will get no better. But their continuous exposure to the realities of governing and their inability to assuage interest groups with empty promises as they could during the campaign will become more and more obvious.

It is one thing during a campaign to denounce China as a currency manipulator when the people you are talking to both don't know any better, and you don't care whether what you are saying is true or not.

It is quite another to talk to President Xi who, I suspect came here in part because the yuan is tanking against the dollar.  It has fallen from 6.2 to the dollar a year ago, which it had been at for many years, to 7 today, a decline of 13%.  Chinese investors are the same indifferent-to-patriotism whores as American investor-whores are, so they are moving their money out of China as fast as they can before the yuan falls any further.

Xi apparently does not have the command economy authority to forbid such transfers as his predecessors had, so he has to deal with the currency markets.   One thing he came here for, I suspect, was to ask Trump to ask Janet Yellen, chairman of the Federal Reserve, to increase the money supply in the US.  Which would reduce the upward pressure on the dollar against the yuan and other currencies.

My guess is that this came as a complete surprise to Trump, who seems to know only what he sees on television, and does not read his briefing papers.   After the Xi visit, Trump announced that China was not a currency manipulator.

One can only imagine the look on Trump's face when he had gotten himself all worked up about how he was going to demand that Xi revalue the yuan, demand it right to his face, and then found out that Xi had come here to ask him for help to do just that.  Trump also announced that the dollar had "gotten too strong", i.e. is too high against the yuan.  Conversely, one can only imagine how hard Xi had to work to show no expression when he realized what an ignorant putz the American president is.

So Trump has now admitted that Obama was born in the US, and that China is not a currency manipulator.  It seems to be the consensus of both Republicans and Democrats that the less said about the wall on the Mexican border, the better.  Obamacare remains in place.  He has not prosecuted Hillary Clinton.  If China is not a currency manipulator then those "good-paying factory jobs" are not coming back when Trump forces the Chinese to revalue the yuan.  Trump was going to defeat ISIS and then get us out of the Middle East. But he just bombed an Assad airbase and the siege of Mosul grinds on as before, so those campaign promises are gone too.

While it is the general opinion of Democrats that Trump supporters are opaque to facts, I think that is an over-simplification.  A small hard core of Trump supporters are, but I think a majority of those who voted for him are not immune to facts.  Many are already experiencing buyer's remorse as one Trump issue after another withers and vanishes.  I think that has a great deal to do with his rapidly declining public approval ratings.

Further, the White House will continue to stumble from incompetence to corruption to incompetence again, in a constant drip drip drip of bad news.  The press, whom Trump has gone out of his way to alienate, will be merciless in pounding away, making sure none of the stories goes away.  Trump's support will continue to erode, a percent a month.

---Democrats will win the House in 2018

Which at last brings us to the near future.  Extrapolating Trump's declining popularity, currently 37%, into the future, it should be under 20% by the mid-term elections, 18 months from now.  Republican congressmen who screamed their lungs out for him during the campaign last year, will claim not to have heard of him.

The Democrats will crush them with footage of the Republican congressman in a 'Make America Great' cap, smiling and waving next to the one he claims to have never met.  My guess is that the Democrats will win majority control of the House of Representatives in 2018.

BUT they will actually fall further behind in the Senate.  Not because anyone has any love for Republican senators, but because far more Democratic senatorial seats are up for election than Republican seats.  When everyone hates the government, incumbents do not fare well so one can expect some turnover.  23 Democratic seats are up for election in 2018, and only 9 Republican seats.


With the House of Representatives in Democratic hands, the gloves will come off in the Russia investigations.  There will be damning revelation after damning revelation.  There will be other scandals from the two years of the corporate hogs feeding at the government trough that we are seeing now.

Attorney-General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions will stonewall demands for indictments of various high government officials and corrupt businessmen in spite of overwhelming evidence.   That will feed the general sense of anger and resentment against the government generally, and against the White House in particular.   Trump's approval ratings will fall to the same levels as Congress' are now, low teens or high single digits.

--Impeachment in the House

Sometime in 2019 or 2020, the then-Democratic House will vote articles of impeachment against Trump, based on the results of the investigations.

Which will present a problem for the then-still-Republican Senate.   They will be facing the reverse of the 2018 situation.  In 2020, 22 Republican seats will be contested, but only 11 Democratic ones.

The Republican senators in those seats, almost half of all current Republican senators, will be looking at political extinction if they side with Trump, and with extinction of their party if they don't.

There will be two strategies.  One will be to try to win the trial but go where the evidence goes, to leave Trump and his White House officials slowly twisting in the wind.  Another will be to stall in hopes the impeachment trial will take place after the 2020 elections.  I predict that won't work because the Democrats will be using footage of the Republican senators dodging and evading at the hearings leading up to the trial.  It will finally be in the Republican senators' interest to get the trial to a vote and get it over with and hope the public will have forgotten how individual senators voted by the 2020 elections.

---Conviction in the Senate

As to the trial in the Senate, my speculation is that Trump will lose and be removed from office.  He will be the fourth American president to be impeached (Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton), and the first one convicted by the Senate.

Among the reasons:  a) the evidence will show he is guilty; and b) if he is acquitted, as a sitting Republican president, he would still be the presumptive Republican nominee in 2020.  If Trump were the Republican presidential nominee in 2020, the landslide against him would widen the Democratic majority in the House and give them the Senate as well as the White House.  It would destroy the Republican Party for a decade or more.  Republicans would be swept out of state governments across the country.

What happens next depends on the charges he is convicted of.  There will already have been a prolonged fight and endless negotiations in the House Judiciary Committee and with the House Democratic leadership about what to charge him with.

My guess is that the facts will show at least a prima facie case of treason.  The problem with treason is that it carries the death penalty.  No chief of state has legally been put to death by a common law jurisdiction since Parliament beheaded Charles I in 1649.  That ended badly for Parliament and the monarchy was restored eleven years later.

Trump's defense will be that he had no duty to protect and defend the Constitution until he had sworn the oath of office, not as a candidate.  This will be correct but so politically unviable that he will be convicted of something else and then sentenced as though he had been guilty on the treason charge.

With Nixon, the problem more or less solved itself.  Nixon resigned when it became clear he would be convicted.  His successor, President Gerald Ford, dutifully fell on his sword and pardoned Nixon.  Nixon tastefully spent the remainder of his days secluded on his estate at San Clemente.

Imagine the situation in 2019.  Trump has been convicted.  Vice-President Pence has already in 2017 shown a clear intention to remain sufficiently aloof from Trump to avoid getting splattered with Trump's mud. Pence may well want to run as the incumbent in 2020 and he knows what happened to Ford as well as anyone else does.  He lost decisively to the Hillary Clinton of 1976, Jimmy Carter.  What if he doesn't pardon Trump?  What should the penalty be?


Death is pretty much off the table.  But there will still be discussions about guillotine, lethal injection, electrocution, and so on.  Liberals will be torn between their opposition to the death penalty and their hatred of Trump.  As a traditionalist, I support public hanging.

That leaves prison as a possibility, and removal from office without prison as another.

If Trump goes to Leavenworth, the United States looks like Egypt sending Hosni Mubarak to prison,  like a third world country.  Plus Leavenworth would become a pilgrimage site for Trump loyalists.  And knowing our boy, Trump would exploit it to the max.  He would still be able to tweet from there.  Imagine how that would work.  The better solution would be for him to go to Guantanamo where presumably there would be no pilgrims and no tweeting.

Alternately, the Senate removes him and does not sentence him to jail time.  They couldn't duck by referring the case to the US District Court for the District of Columbia because the constitution explicitly assigns trial to the Senate, so the court would give the hot potato right back to them.

Now here's the hard part.  If they go with the Nixon precedent and settle for removal and no jail time, what comes next?  Not tastefully vanishing into San Clemente.  That is not Trump's style.

If he doesn't go to prison, Trump goes back to New York and Trump Tower, to Mar a Lago, he plays golf with celebrities, he builds more hotels, he is in public as much as anyone can be, he gives interviews, he signs autographs, he even goes back on 'The Apprentice' which he owns, he does cameos in movies, he hosts Saturday Night Live, he continuously tweets that he is innocent and that everybody else is crooked.  He leads a right-wing political movement, a la Marine LePen.

You know he will.  That is just who he is.  He has no other way to be him.

That is not acceptable to me nor to you, and it won't be acceptable to the Senate.  He has to go to jail.  It can't be Leavenworth so it has to be Guantanamo.

Can we really send an American president to prison?  On the other hand, can we let him commit treason, prove it, convict him, and then have him laugh in our faces?  There will be no good outcomes.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Vernal Equinox

Pope Gregory IX  (1552-1614)

If this were not a leap year, today or yesterday would have been the vernal equinox, the first day of spring.  Instead it was on the 19th.  It is a testimony to the accuracy of the Gregorian calendar that the equinoxes and solstices otherwise come on the same dates every year.  

The differences between the Gregorian and Julian calendars are so slight that few of us will experience them in our lifetimes.  In the Gregorian calendar, century years are not leap years, unless divisible by 400.  Then they are.  Thus the year 2000 was a leap year in both calendars.  1900 was not and 2100 will not be.  In the Julian calendar all were leap years.

The Gregorian calendar reform was adopted by Catholic countries in the 16th Century and by Protestant countries in the 18th Century.  Russia, as a Russian Orthodox country, was not interested in reforms promulgated by the Pope of Rome.  As a Czarist country they were not interested in reforms.

To this day, Lenin and the Bolsheviki storming the Winter Palace in 1917 is known in Russia as the October Revolution and everywhere else as the November Revolution.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

How to Get Organized

Full disclosure statement:  Google gave me a free copy of GoTask before I wrote this review.  On the other hand they give everybody a free copy so my venality "will not influence me".

I suffer from the bane of the retired or otherwise indolent in that I am unable to get organized and get things done.  So it feels like life is passing me by while I dither.

One way to get organized is to make a list of things that I should do.  And I have.  As the saying is, "there's an app for that".  The app I got after reading reviews was ToDoist.  I was initially so hot for it that actually spent $5 and bought the upgrade.  (Having once owned a Commodore 64, it is against my principles to pay for software if there is any possible way to avoid it.)  It is great for making lists of things to do.  One can assign dates when they are supposed to get done.  One can organize sets of things into projects.  One can even make tasks hierarchical within a project.  For example "oil the chain" and "inflate the tires" are subtasks of "ride the bicycle".

Sadly, after a while it became a list of things I hadn't done.

Another useful  software / app is Google Calendar.  Again full disclosure:  Google gave me a free copy of Google Calendar before I wrote this review.  And again, they give everybody a free copy.

Google Calendar is part of the suite of utilities that now come with Gmail.  (Google gave me a free copy of that too.)  It is a fairly complete scheduling system which can also be used by several people together, typically in an office or an unusually active and over-scheduled family.  One can set out tasks and appointments for every hour of the day or even every fifteen minute increment, assign a color to each of them, add extra notes and particulars, make them repeating if you like, set up up to five reminders for each, and so on.

Sadly, after a while it became a schedule of things I hadn't done.

Recently I got a copy of Google's GoTask.  I have already admitted that Google gave me a free copy of GoTask and so on.   It is fairly similar to ToDoist in that one makes tasks and organizes them into lists, and one can organize the lists into some larger unit.  One can assign dates here too.  Actually there is a lot of overlap among these three softwares.  The real basis of choosing among them is not the software's features so much as your features.

Since I am hopeless at keeping a schedule and am readily overwhelmed by a long list of tasks to do, I realized that I need to have lists of tasks which can be readily organized such that what is presented is not so much the list as the first thing on it.

Ever so slowly, confronted with only one task, I will eventually undertake it.   So far so good.  I have done very little, but the difference between that and doing nothing is huuuuge.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Keeping illegals illegal while forgetting to deport them just happens to be the sweet spot of a strategy to keep a whole class of people working for sub-par salaries with no bargaining rights and no social protections like unemployment insurance, workman's comp if they get injured, no social security, no withholding and so on. Illegal employees are a huge gravy train for the employer class, both Republicans and Democrats. They are an underclass of super-exploited employees.

At the same time the presence of a large class of employees being paid sub-par salaries keeps constant downward pressure on salaries for everyone else. Which again improves profits for employers at the expense of their employees. Every politician who talks smack about the illegal immigrant "problem" is lying to you to your face. The two political groups perpetrating this immense fraud on the American public are the Democrats and the Republicans.

Donald Trump is in effect calling the Republican Party on its perennial hypocritical lying about being against illegal immigration when in fact they are all for it because they make so much money off it. Of course he is lying too but he is upping the ante on the rest of the Republicans who will still be in Congress trying to maintain the system long after Trump is gone.

Maintaining a class of millions of illegal immigrants is the edge of the sword of class warfare in the US.

Let's say Trump were elected and not assassinated and actually made good on his campaign promise to deport the illegals. (Because American politicians always keep their campaign promises.) There would be major dislocations in the US economy as agriculture and construction both collapsed. Service, manufacturing, and other industries would contract sharply.

Prices would shoot up because of labor shortages and because employees would no longer be as disposable as fast food wrappers as they are now. Salaries would rise and inflation would return. Interest rates would rise to accommodate inflation. Rising costs of borrowing would slow the economy and profits would fall or vanish. The economy would contract.

How do you think the economy can expand so much as it has in the past few years without causing any inflation? Because the presence of the illegal immigrant class keeps salaries from rising so labor costs remain flat while productivity and profits both rise.

What would be the effect of sending 17 million unemployed people to Mexico, a country whose government can barely maintain itself in power as it is? Between Mexico's revolutionary traditions and its modern cartel warfare, the influx of 17 million angry unemployed people could easily lead to the collapse of the Mexican state and the descent of Mexico, a country of 140 million people, into anarchy. Imagine that on our border.

An example of what happens was the mass deportation of 300,000 Palestinians whom Kuwait kicked out for siding with Saddam Hussein during the Iraqi occupation. The return of those hundreds of thousands of unemployed men to Palestinian towns and cities led directly to the Second Intifada - a year of rioting and guerrilla warfare against Israel. Imagine the same thing, but 50 time bigger, happening in Mexico.

Trump, in his own way, is pointing out on what rotten foundations our economy stands.